Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 04 :: Apparitions & Assignations

04 • Apparitions & Assignations

Harry came to wakefulness slowly, the sounds of his dorm mates filtering in as they moved about or tossed in bed. Cautiously cracking open one eye he realized it was morning, and proceeded to open both eyes and reach for his glasses, then sit up.

Looking over he saw that Ron was apparently having a fight with his blanket. Dean and Seamus were still sleeping peacefully, though Neville was awake and looking at him blankly. Harry summoned up a smile and was rewarded with seeing an answering, though tentative, smile.

Harry slipped out of bed and stretched, then grabbed supplies and padded off to the bathroom. After a shower he dried off and dressed, pausing to brush his teeth before shuffling back into the dorm to find put away his things and locate his socks and shoes.

Ron was still asleep, his fingers tightly clenched in the folds of his blanket. The clock read 6.45 so Harry grabbed his bag and quietly stuffed it with what he thought he’d need for the day and left again, this time for the common room, where he found he was alone.

Worried that he could be interrupted at any time, he chose to read instead of writing a reply to Martin, and pulled out the book from Hermione, having seated himself in an armchair near one of the windows.

He was not surprised when he was joined a short time later by Neville who, after a hesitant smile, took the seat across from him and produced an Herbology book. They read in companionable silence for several minutes when Harry decided to speak.

“You know,” he said softly, “I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for that time at the Ministry.”

Neville looked up, startled.

“I had a lot on my mind after that, but still, it’s no excuse. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me. If not, well, I’ll think of a way to make it up to you.”

Neville appeared to be even more surprised, but finally found words to speak. “Really, it’s all right, Harry. I know it must be hard given what—” He broke off abruptly and frowned.

Harry waved his hand in dismissal. “I’m not fine, but I’m well enough.” After a momentary pause he said, “Listen, I have a proposition for you. You’ve got a new wand, right?” When Neville nodded he continued, “So maybe we can trade off a little. Hermione gave me this book for my birthday and it’s about Wizarding Traditions. Maybe you could help me with this stuff and in return I could help you with Defense?”

Neville crinkled his brow. “Why not Ron?”

“Well, he’s pure-blood and all, but his family isn’t exactly. . . .”

Neville’s face cleared. “Whereas my Grandmother made sure I learned everything a good little pure-blood should.” He made a slight face then smiled. “Aren’t you going to continue the DA though?”

Harry shrugged and looked away for a moment. “I’m not sure. We won’t have Umbridge again. The whole point was to learn something since we certainly weren’t learning anything from her. And to make sure people actually understood how to use the spells.”

Harry cracked a wry smile and said, “I mean, most people weren’t even proficient with the disarming charm and that’s pretty basic stuff. Anyway, we might have a competent professor this year.”

“But isn’t that a good reason to continue? There were a lot of people really bad at the basics, like me.”

Harry frowned. “Yes, but—I’m just a student like anyone else, Neville. The DA was a good idea at the time, and even necessary, but it’s too much like leading a growing army. Honestly, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea to begin with, though I went through with it. I’m still not comfortable with it. Don’t misunderstand—I think if the DA continued that would be great for people to get extra coaching, but I’m not so sure it should be me leading it.”

Neville gave him a thoughtful look, then nodded after a moment.

Steps sounded, causing Harry to glance over. Hermione was descending the girl’s staircase along with Ginny. He looked back at Neville and said quietly, “Think about it anyway, all right?”

Hermione strode up, frowned, and said, “Ron’s not awake? It’s already 7.30!”

“He was still asleep when I came down,” provided Harry as he closed his book and shoved it back into his bag. “I’ll go kick him out of bed I guess.” He stood up and swiftly walked away.

Ron was still sleeping, though whatever dream he’d been having appeared to be over as his blanket was no longer in danger of strangulation. Harry grinned and leaned over to poke Ron in the side a few times, causing him to sit up straight and utter, “What!? Oh, is it morning already?”

“Get up, before Hermione comes charging up here.”

Ron gave him a horrified look and swept back the covers, so Harry went back downstairs and sat down again to wait. Hermione and Ginny had taken over the couch so Harry got his book out again. Fifteen minutes later Ron appeared looking scrubbed but sleepy. They went as a group to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Schedules were handed out and Harry was pleased to see that he didn’t have a class until that afternoon. Perhaps he would be able to write to Martin. In fact, with only five NEWT classes, his schedule was fairly open. He was equally pleased to note that no well-meaning persons had managed to slip him into Potions.

The only odd thing about it was a class called “Apparation Theory” on Wednesdays before lunch. He stole a look at Ron’s schedule to see it was identical to his, then glanced over at Hermione.

“I didn’t realize we had a class on apparation this year, but I suppose it makes sense,” he commented.

“It doesn’t last the whole year,” she said. “Just a preparatory class.”

Harry nodded, having expected she’d have additional information.

“Well, not exactly anyway. It’s supposed to be theory first term, and practicals second, but. . . .”

Harry arched his brow.

“I’m not sure they will this year, considering what’s been going on.” She shrugged and went back to eating.

Harry wasn’t sure what to think of that, having never before considered just how people were taught the skill. He considered it essential knowledge though, and resolved to find out more if their first class didn’t answer the questions he now had.

When Hermione left early for class, Harry lingered at the table, wondering just where he should spend the morning. He’d decided against the outdoors when he realized Ron was staring at him quizzically.

“It’s odd not having a class first thing Monday morning,” Harry explained. “I was trying to decide whether to go to the library or back to the common room.”

“I’m all for a nap,” replied Ron, eyeing another piece of toast.

“But you just woke up,” protested Harry, then rolled his eyes when Ron shrugged. “I’m off to a quiet corner of the library then.” As he stood and collected his bag he noticed Neville looking at him. He flashed the boy a smile and walked off, dodging other students who were getting ready to leave as well.

At length he found himself a perfect spot toward the back of the library and sat down so that he could see anyone approaching, then got out some parchment and writing supplies.

Dear Martin,

I’m glad to hear you’re well. I am back at school now and have found that I don’t have a class today until this afternoon, which is nice. I’m sure that fewer classes won’t mean fewer demands though.

I do miss our workouts. I’ll have to look into practicing on my own perhaps so I don’t lose too much form while I’m here. If nothing else, it’s a relaxing way to spend time.

Things are fine with my friends, mostly. One of them is being a bit pushy, but that’s not exactly unusual for her so I just put up with it. Though, I am taking a perverse pleasure in tweaking her nose a little, so to speak, because of it.

You know that I was depressed, not that I’ve ever explained why. What’s odd is that they do, and none of them have even brought it up. Either they’re being sensitive or walking on eggshells. I simply can’t tell.

I also find it odd that only one person noticed I had changed a bit. She’s like a sister to me (not the same girl as before), so it was a bit disconcerting to realize what was on her mind. Or at least what I think was running through her head. I think I’ve got that gently sorted out though. I hope.

I trust things are going well at the shop and I hope you don’t get too bored. I’m sure you got along fine before I showed up, right? Well, I’m going to read my textbook for my first class to get a head start on things.

Harry

He had placed the letter into an envelope and addressed it when he heard soft footsteps. Looking up he noticed Neville approaching and smiled briefly, then tucked the envelope away and pulled out his Charms text. Presumably the smile was invitation enough, for Neville continued into Harry’s alcove and pulled out a chair.

“You feel it’d be too much like him, don’t you,” said Neville without preamble as he sat down.

“Him?” asked Harry, momentarily confused.

“V-Voldemort. When you said it was too much like leading an army,” Neville said with uncharacteristic insight. Or was it? Harry didn’t know, because none of them really knew Neville that well, and Neville had never been forward about getting to know others.

“Yes, actually,” he finally said. “There are already similarities I’m not too happy about, and leading the DA pushes me one step too far for comfort.”

Neville tilted his head to the side a bit and raised his brows, but didn’t press the point. “I’ve thought about it,” he continued in a staunchly firm tone. “I think your proposal would be a good idea.”

Harry blinked, then smiled. “Brilliant.” Internally he was wondering just who was impersonating Neville, or if the events of the prior year had really made such a difference. But even as the thought crossed his mind, Neville’s expression and bearing slipped back into something much more familiar. Harry was given a shy smile before Neville ducked his head and rummaged around in his pack.

Producing a Charms text of his own, Neville said, “Thought I’d read up. You don’t mind if I stay?”

Harry shook his head and said, “Please,” then opened his book to refresh his memory of the first chapter or so.

*

Charms class proved to be interesting; Professor Flitwick announced that they would be learning some simple healing charms during the term. Harry flipped through the table of contents of his text, but saw nothing that resembled what the professor had just outlined.

Flitwick continued speaking so Harry abandoned his book and listened again lest he be noticed by either the professor or Hermione and be accused of inattention. After class he took the time to head up to the Owlery and ask Hedwig to deliver his letter for Martin along with some coins to the office in Hogsmeade, then went to his common room to drop off his things before dinner.

Dinner itself was uneventful, though Harry felt eyes watching him at one point and looked up to see Professor Snape giving him one of his patented glares. Harry could only assume that Snape was displeased to see him still breathing, or perhaps unhappy about his inability to torture him in classes any longer. One could never tell.

Much later, after he’d done his first homework of the year—causing Ron to give him several disgusted looks—and had changed for bed, Harry went through his routine and fell fast asleep.

*

The next morning after breakfast they trudged down to Hagrid’s class and stood slightly apart from the students from other houses. At first Harry couldn’t figure out what the class would be on given the series of crates arrayed in front of them, not recognizing the creatures inside.

When Hagrid arrived, cheerful and hearty, he beamed at the crates and then turned his attention toward the class. After he explained that they were studying mackled malaclaws a number of faces changed from confusion to dismay instead.

By the time Hagrid had explained their characteristics, Harry was also well determined to go no closer than necessary, as he had enough bad luck on his own. He was therefore quite relieved when the class was over and he had not been bit. His only regret was that Malfoy wasn’t present to provide some entertainment. Then again, even Neville made it through class without trouble.

Dinner brought a mild interrogation from Hermione. “Have you read that book yet, Harry? You know how important it is.”

Harry gave her a blank look. “Some of it, yes.”

She huffed and said, “But, Harry, you really need to get going on it. And you’ve only to ask if you’re having any difficulties with it. I’d be happy to help.”

“That’s quite kind of you,” he said in a noncommittal tone. “I’ll be sure to remember that.”

Hermione gave him a slightly suspicious look and turned to her meal as Ron gave him a sideways glance and pulled a face. Harry let his eyes briefly sweep the table to see if anyone else had paid attention and noticed Ginny’s bright brown eyes on him before she looked away, as well as thoughtful looks from Neville, Lavender and Parvati.

Sighing inwardly, Harry dropped his gaze to his plate. After staring at it for a moment he lifted his head to look at Neville, raising his brows slightly. Neville gave a tiny nod in return, so Harry began to eat.

When he was done he announced to no one in particular, “I’m going to the library to get my homework out of the way,” and took himself off. He sat down in the same quiet corner he’d used before and pulled out his Transfiguration text.

He realized as he finished the essay due that the library was no place to actually practice the things they were learning. And, he thought, neither was the Room of Requirement, as far too many people know knew about it and where it was located, even if they weren’t sure how to call it into being.

Certainly he could not expect any privacy there from his two best friends. With one bent on getting in all the studying and revision she could and the other bent on wasting as much time on fun as he could, it was not, and never had been, the best mix. And if he left the map with his things in his trunk, they could always use it to find him.

As he pulled out his Care of Magical Creatures text he wondered how to best approach the problem. Even the library, filled with innumerable nooks and alcoves was no place to find real privacy, though it did have the incredible advantage of having so much information available. It would be far too easy for someone to stand behind one of the cases and eavesdrop.

He had just re-read the assignment when footsteps alerted him; he glanced up to see Neville approaching.

“I’ve been thinking,” Harry said as Neville sat down, “that this isn’t the best place to meet for a number of reasons. At least not for our agreement.”

Neville nodded.

“And it’s not that I want to fool anyone or—whatever. I just don’t think anyone else needs to get involved. I was thinking of using the map to find a nice quiet spot somewhere so we can give each other that hand up.”

“Map?” Neville asked, then wrinkled his brow. “You mean that thing you used when we were found out last term?”

Harry nodded. “Exactly.” He felt a twinge of elation run through him, which confused him. “If I can use it to find a spot, then no one would be the wiser, especially if I kept it on me.”

“When do you think you’ll be able to?” asked Neville.

“I’m not sure. Possibly tomorrow morning if Ron goes back to bed, or Thursday morning. At the weekend worst case. I suppose it’s a matter of watching who goes where and see what’s not touched, and what’s not too difficult to get to.”

He stopped speaking at the sound of footsteps, but as they passed on into silence he spoke again. “I suppose we’d better get on with these assignments. The sooner we get them out of the way, the more time we’ll have for other things, right?”

Neville heaved a sigh and got out his supplies. A minute later there were no more sounds aside from the turning of pages and the scratch of a quill on parchment.

*

Harry actually started watching the map later that evening, having ostensibly gone to bed early with his curtains drawn and secured, and a silencing charm cast. Though curfew was technically in effect by then, there were still plenty of people wandering around the castle—more so than just prefects on patrols, Filch or Mrs Norris, or even professors.

Having a shaky handle on what names went with what years, Harry found it interesting to note that certain people headed for certain places, and different year groups rarely ever mingled. It was as though each year had its own favorites for privacy and/or illicit recreation spots.

With a shake of his head Harry wiped the map and tucked it safely under his pillow. After his usual bedtime routine, he fell fast asleep, once more not tormented by nightmares or visions.

Harry was lucky enough the next morning that Ron indeed yawned his way off from breakfast back to his bed, and luckily for Ron Hermione had already left for the library else he’d probably have gotten a lecture on sloth.

Harry jerked his head at Neville and was shortly thereafter leading the way to a classroom he knew was unused at this hour. Locking the door behind them, the two pulled up chairs and spread the map out over a desk and proceeded to watch the ebb and flow of movement about the castle.

“We don’t want anything too far onto the grounds else it’d take too long to get there and back, but we also don’t want anything too near much activity,” Harry said absently as they observed.

“Then the forest is out along with most of the outdoors. Not,” Neville added, “that I’d want to go anywhere in the forest. You might be all right, but I wouldn’t.”

Harry chuckled and said, “I don’t know. It just takes a bit of confidence and the occasional helping hand. I certainly didn’t make it out on my own first year, and definitely not second. Even I had help. But yes, it’s too far away. Let’s shoot for something in the castle itself if possible.”

The morning’s first period passed far too quickly and it was soon time to wipe the map and pack up, Harry to head back to the dorms and wake Ron from his nap, and Neville off to who knew where.

The class on Apparition Theory was horribly boring in Harry’s opinion. It covered nothing that wasn’t already in the text they had—just a lifeless regurgitation of the written word along with the occasional dire warning for emphasis. He reckoned he’d be just as well off reading the text and committing it to memory. Either way, the knowledge was just that, and useless without the practical aspect to put it to use.

However, its end left the remainder of their day—though not Hermione, as she had a class on Arithmancy to attend—quite free, so Harry gave in to Ron’s importunings and played several games of chess while listening to a running monologue on quidditch. It was that that made Harry realize he had no idea if he’d be allowed to play that year.

Not sure whether Professor McGonagall would be annoyed at a dinner or after-dinner note from him, he resolved to wait until his next class with her and waylay her at the end.