Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 05 :: Conversations

05 • Conversations

In actuality, it took the better part of two weeks of dedicated watching whenever Harry had the opportunity in order to find a quiet, secure place in which he and Neville could meet, and even then it required a little extra help.

The Tuesday prior Harry had stayed behind after his Transfiguration class, shuffling uncertainly as he waited for the room to empty so that he could speak to Professor McGonagall privately.

When she saw him standing there she nodded and Harry finally approached. “Professor, I was wondering if you could tell me if my quidditch ban is still in effect. I know that it was a lifetime ban, but. . . .”

“But you wondered if it had been revoked given the circumstances under which it was invoked,” she finished, giving him a knowing look.

“Yes,” he admitted. “And if it hasn’t been, then I guess I’ll just live with that. But I saw no harm in asking, especially as no one has mentioned it so far.”

“True, we have not. I suppose we’ve all been too busy for it to have come to mind, it being a relatively minor matter in the grand scheme of things.”

She adjusted her spectacles and gave him a hard look, one that Harry took no offense at. “To the best of my knowledge it is a strictly internal matter, so I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and get back to you.”

Harry gave her a quick smile of gratitude. “Thank you, Professor.” Hiking his bag up he left, thinking that all of it was quite strange. There had been no crowing on the part of a Gryffindor at the beginning of the term over having received the title of Captain and no real talk of tryouts or even practices.

When he mentioned the conversation to Ron afterward in the common room, Ron reacted vehemently.

“What do you mean? Of course you’re still on the team! Aren’t you?”

Harry shrugged. “Depends, doesn’t it? I mean really, Ron. People have tried to kill me how many times during games? First year, second year, third year—fourth year doesn’t count, and fifth year, well—that didn’t last long enough to matter. They might decide it’s just as well the ban was made and think it wise to uphold it.”

“They wouldn’t dare!” protested Ron, working himself up into a fine froth.

“I’ve asked and she said she’d check. Nothing more to do but wait.”

“Wait for what?” asked Ginny, who appeared behind Ron’s chair.

“To see if Harry’s quidditch ban is lifted,” said Ron in disgust, twisting himself around to scowl at his sister.

“Well I hope they do lift it,” she said with a smile. “Then I could try out for Chaser and Harry could go back to being Seeker. And who’s Captain, anyway? How come we don’t know? Tryouts are supposed to be this weekend and we’ve got at least two places to fill, possibly three.”

Ron continued to scowl. “Harry has seniority. I’m next with a mere year of being on the team. Then you, Jack and Andrew. But those two aren’t much good since they graduate this year—they’d only have to pick again next year.”

“But that’s silly,” protested Harry. “I’m just a Seeker. I fly because I like flying. I was put on the team because of a fluke! I’m not supposed to be Captain. I’m not even sure I’d have tried out on my own. Besides, it shouldn’t be about seniority—it should be about who’s best at that sort of thing.”

Ron shot him a disgusted look while Ginny laughed behind him. “You may not have a choice, Harry.”

“Well, thanks, but I’ve had about enough of people making decisions for me. I’m not sure I’d take it if it were offered to me. And, if you recall, I didn’t make Prefect because I supposedly had too much to deal with already, so why would they ask me to be Captain?”

“You never told us that before,” said Ron.

“Didn’t I? No, I guess not. He didn’t tell me until af—it’s not important. The point is I doubt they would, even if the ban is lifted. What’s more important is the holes we have in the lineup, and the two more we’ll have next year.”

“So we fill them, and bring in reserves as well,” said Ron with a careless shrug. “Just so long as any reserves understand that being one does not guarantee that they’ll take over a spot when someone leaves, since tryouts might reveal an even better player waiting.”

Ginny was nodding her head slowly from where she stood, catching Harry’s attention.

“Ginny, you really wouldn’t mind? If I became Seeker again, that is.”

“Of course she wouldn’t,” said Ron hotly. “She’d be—”

“Ron, no offense, but I didn’t ask you,” Harry interjected gently. “Ginny?”

“No, I don’t mind. I already told you I’d like to try for Chaser. I filled in, that’s all.”

Harry noticed she gave him an odd look though, despite her words, one which he ignored. “Thanks, Ginny. Now all we have to do is wait to see what McGonagall has to say.”

She nodded and wandered off, giving Harry an opportunity to try and clear something up with Ron.

“Look,” he said quietly, making Ron lean in to better hear him. “I meant that. I don’t want to be Captain. Would you take it if offered?”

“But, Harry, you have been on the team the longest.”

“Yes, but does that make me qualified to be anything other than Seeker? I love to fly, but that doesn’t mean I feel I’d be a good Captain, and you know loads more about quidditch than I do. I also happen to know you want the position.”

“Well, yes, but—Harry, it just doesn’t seem right somehow.”

Harry snorted softly. “So long as you aren’t as obsessive as Oliver, who am I to mind? It’s not going to hurt my ego, Ron, honestly. I’m happy enough being Seeker.”

“Are you sure?” asked Ron uncertainly.

“Definitely.”

“Then I reckon I would say yes, if they asked, but I’m certain they’ll ask you.”

“That’s settled then. What say we get our Transfiguration homework started?” Laughing at the groan Ron immediately produced, Harry got out his things.

*

McGonagall answered the next morning at breakfast, by way of a note delivered via owl. It stated that Harry had been reinstated and that tryouts would be held on the fourteenth at two in the afternoon. She also wrote that Harry and Ron should meet with her after classes, along with any other team members who wished to come along.

Ron immediately shoved the note at his sister, and Ginny passed it along to Andrew and Jack once she’d finished reading it. As the only class Harry had that day was Apparition Theory, it was a very long wait.

Ron dashed off during his open periods to read up on quidditch strategy. Hermione began bugging him about the book again though.

“Yes, Hermione, I’ve been reading it, and no, I don’t need any help with it,” he said patiently. “In fact, I’m off to go read more of it now since my homework is already done.”

She shot him a suspicious look at that and said, “Since when do you jump on assignments without being reminded?”

He smiled sweetly at her and replied, “Since I decided there was no point in giving you the opportunity to do so. I should think you’d be pleased.” He gathered up his things, gave a slight nod to Neville, and escaped before she could think of a response.

Having commandeered another empty classroom, Harry and Neville sat down to do more watching of the map. As Neville had been indoctrinated in the ways of pure-bloods almost from the cradle, it was no great task for him to lecture Harry on the things he’d read about in the first few chapters of the book Hermione had given him, and explain in translation what it all actually meant.

Unlike the author, Neville actually explained why these customs had come into being and was able to explain the back story and history of each. Harry had to wonder why Neville had so little confidence when it was obvious to him that Neville had a very capable mind when he chose to use it.

“You’re really good at this,” he finally said when Neville paused, making the other boy flush, though whether from embarrassment or pleasure Harry wasn’t sure. “I mean it. And you don’t lecture so much as explain. It makes a big difference knowing the why of these things, and easier to remember when it’s more than just a dry fact.”

Neville averted his eyes for a moment, then looked straight at him. “She bothers you a lot lately, doesn’t she.” It was more of a statement than a question, and Neville’s face was quite serious.

“Pardon?”

“Hermione.”

“Er . . . I wouldn’t like to sound critical of a friend,” Harry temporized.

“Yes, I know that. Just making an observation. I’m sorry if I’ve upset you.” And Neville was back to looking like his usual self, uncertain and slightly wary.

“No, it’s all right. It’s—” Harry sighed and ruffled his hair, gazing at the map again. “I’m starting to think it’d be easier to ask Dobby again.”

“Dobby?”

“He’s the one who told me where to find the Room of Requirement. Maybe he could help me again. Want to come down to the kitchens with me?”

Neville nodded, so Harry wiped the map and packed up, and together they went to the kitchens. Once inside Harry stopped the first house-elf he saw and asked for Dobby. Seconds later he was standing before them, bouncing up and down in happiness.

“Oh, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is being so glad to see you!”

Harry grinned and said, “I’m glad to see you too, Dobby. I was wondering if you could help me?”

“I is doing my best, Harry Potter, sir! What does sir need?”

“Remember how you told me about the Room of Requirement? Well, I was hoping you might know of another private spot I could use. Too many people know about that room and—”

“Dobby is knowing the perfect place, sir!” Dobby looked around as though checking for spies then crept closer to Harry and Neville. In a low, conspiratorial voice he said, “Dobby is knowing just the place, Harry Potter, sir. There is being a secret room off the library, sir, behind the statue of Fulbert the Fearful on the second level.” Dobby nodded his head vigorously.

“How do you get in, then?” asked Harry.

Dobby glanced around again and whispered, “Sir is to place a hand over the statue’s eyes and say, ‘Salvus Domus’, Harry Potter, sir.”

Harry looked at Neville and said, “That doesn’t sound too difficult,” then back at Dobby. “You’ve been a great help, Dobby. Thank you.”

Dobby squeaked and wrung his hands together. “Oh, sir is being most kind to poor Dobby!”

Harry smiled awkwardly. “We’d better get going, Dobby. I’m sure you must be in the middle of preparing dinner and I don’t want you to get in trouble. Just . . . don’t tell anyone about this, all right?”

“Dobby will say nothing to anyone, Harry Potter, sir! I is keeping sir’s secrets, oh yes!”

“That’s great, Dobby. See you later!” Harry waved and started stepping back, then turned and went for the door, Neville right behind him. Once outside he paused to say, “Dobby is a bit enthusiastic, you see. . . .”

*

After dinner Harry trooped up to McGonagall’s office along with Ron and Ginny. Jack and Andrew had declined to come.

“Well, I see you are here in good time,” she began, eyeing them each in turn over the rim of her spectacles. “As you no doubt already know, Mr Potter’s ban has been lifted, so he may return as the team’s Seeker.” She paused to look at Ginny, who merely nodded in response.

“Now, since Miss Johnson has left, there is the matter of the new Captain.”

Harry, having purposely stayed slightly behind Ron and Ginny, jerked his head toward Ron a few times and raised his brows, smiling when he saw the professor blink.

After a brief pause she said, “I have decided, for various reasons, that Mr Weasley will do admirably in this position.”

Harry couldn’t see Ron’s face, but he was willing to bet his friend was smiling hugely at that point.

“However, I must set forth a few ground rules for that decision.” McGonagall gave Ron a sharp look. “If it becomes apparent that your duties as a Prefect suffer, the decision will have to be looked at again. Likewise if your marks do not remain at an acceptable level. I trust you do not misunderstand me, Mr Weasley.”

“You can count on me, professor.”

“Splendid. Well then, you’ll want to put up a notice directly about the tryouts on Saturday. Mr Potter, if you would stay behind for a moment?”

Taking it as a dismissal, Ron and Ginny left, and Harry moved up.

“Yes, professor?”

“Are you quite sure about that, Mr Potter?”

“Very, professor,” he affirmed.

“You understand that if Mr Weasley allows this position to overwhelm him, I will have to place the Captaincy in your hands as the senior member of the team.”

“I understand. Though, I think he’ll have plenty of incentive, professor.”

“Very well. You may go then. Your broom will be returned to you forthwith.”

“Thank you, professor.”

When Harry arrived back at the common room Ron had already posted a notice, and several Gryffindors were clustered around it. Ron was over in a corner with Hermione talking excitedly based on his movements and expression.

As he drew closer he caught what Hermione was saying in response.

“Now, Ron, you simply must keep up with your work. If you were to do your assignments as soon as you had free time, you wouldn’t be so rushed all the time just before they come due, and you’d have plenty of time for frivolity without feeling any guilt.”

Based on Ron’s expression Harry judged that guilt had never once crossed his friend’s mind when it came to chess and other amusements. He carefully repressed a smirk and continued forward, pulling out an empty chair and sitting down.

“I see they’re already looking it over. Hopefully we’ll get a good bunch for tryouts.”

Ron frowned slightly. “Hopefully better than who came when we had to replace you and the twins.”

“Ginny should be all right, I expect. And don’t you dare not try her as Chaser just because she’s your sister either.”

“If she’s any good, that’s all that matters,” said Ron firmly.

Hermione, however, gave Harry an odd look, opened her mouth, then shut it abruptly and went back to reading.

Ginny cornered him a little while later, holding an envelope out to him. “This came for you. If it had been Hedwig she probably would have waited, but it wasn’t, so I took it for you.”

She gazed at him curiously as he examined the return address; it was from Martin. “Look, Harry, can we talk for a bit? Privately?” she asked, twirling a strand of hair with her fingers in what looked to be a nervous gesture.

Harry felt a bit alarmed. “It’s after curfew, Ginny. It isn’t as though we can go elsewhere.”

“I’m well aware of that, Harry, but most everyone is down here. Can’t we go to your dorm for a few minutes?”

Harry looked around and felt his heart sink; the common room was crowded with Gryffindors working on assignments, talking and playing games. “All right, but just for a few minutes.”

Once in his dorm room he crossed to his bed and sat down. She took a seat on Ron’s bed and folded her hands in her lap.

“It’s no good, is it,” she said.

“Sorry?”

“Me. You’ve been very kind, I admit, but I’m not blind, Harry. Is it because I’m not pretty like Cho? Or because I’m Ron’s sister?”

“Er . . . you are pretty, Ginny, but. . . .”

“But?”

Harry ran a hand through his hair nervously. “I meant what I said. You are like a sister to me, Ginny. I think you’re capable and smart, kind and pretty, and I think anyone would be lucky to have you by their side, but that person isn’t me.”

She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, a slight frown creasing her forehead. “There’s something you aren’t telling me, Harry. You have such an odd way of putting things at times. Does it have anything to do with that letter, perhaps?”

Harry glanced down quickly, then back up. “Sort of, but not in the way you think. It’s not like I’m seeing anyone.”

Her expression softened, her head tilting to one side in thought. “I don’t suppose you’d care to tell me about it.”

“I haven’t told anyone, Ginny. Not even Ron. I’m not sure—I don’t think—”

Ginny held up a hand. “Never mind. But I want you to know I’m willing to listen if you ever want to talk, Harry. It will be nice to have a ‘brother’ who sees me as more than just a nuisance or a test subject.” She grinned at him and stood up, coming close enough to drop a kiss on his cheek. “I had to try, just once, for real. Later, Harry.”

He watched in disbelief as she left, then ripped open the envelope to pull out Martin’s letter. A faint noise off to one side was ignored in favor of reading what his friend had to say.

Dear Harry,

Hello! And yes, blast you, I am bored! Life isn’t nearly as interesting now, but I reckon that means I should get out more, right? No sense moping around. Have you started practicing then?

You’re right—you will lose form if you don’t, though I know it was more of a way to get your mind off things than an intriguing new form of exercise. I could send you a good book on the subject if you like since I don’t know if you’re able to get out and about much from that school of yours.

The shop is doing well, thank you. Still, I had so much fun teaching you that I’ve considered putting up flyers or taking out an advert in the local to see if I could get a basic class going.

It’s certainly a nice way to meet new people. Though, what happened between us was an entirely different matter, and one I don’t regret in the least, even if it was unexpected.

I wanted to say that you sound much better. Happier even. It’s good to know that you’ll push back, though I hope your sister-figure has started looking elsewhere. We both know there’s no hope on that score.

Are you doing all right in classes? I hope so. I was never very fond of school to be honest. I couldn’t wait to be done. I’m just lucky I ended up with the shop.

But, Harry, is there anyone you can talk to? I don’t necessarily mean me, but I expect eventually you’re going to want to confide in someone. I’m not trying to pry or push, honest. I just worry about you a little bit, that’s all.

Well, time to go I suppose. I’ll be waiting to hear from you. By the way, you use odd paper, don’t you. Any special reason?

Martin

Harry smiled and folded the letter, putting it back in the envelope to answer later. He slipped off his bed to hide it in his trunk, then changed and got into bed.