Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 09 :: Revelations

09 • Revelations

Seamus had taken to talking with Harry again, after having made it obliquely clear that he wasn’t willing to brave the wrath of Hermione in order to go after anything more than friendly relations. He apparently still felt rather guilty about having listened so much to his mum before, and was trying to make up for it by learning for himself what kind of a person Harry really was outside of something like the DA or classes. Seamus would not, however, sit near him at meals.

Ginny was providing to be a very good person to talk to about things, and the two of them were often observed sitting together quietly. That they were usually discussing class work did not seem to register with the masses, and more than once they had deflected impertinent questions about their relationship from fellow Gryffindors. They often found themselves rolling their eyes at the knowing looks and secretive smiles people kept casting at them. Harry thought they were idiots who obviously had too much time on their hands to persist in this.

Ron had been going about with a vaguely worried look on his expressive face, though as he said nothing about it, Harry couldn’t determine what was causing it, and as he hated people prying into his own life, was not inclined to ask yet. Ron had already asked him quite bluntly one day what was going on with his sister, and Harry had told him equally bluntly that he considered Ginny to be a sister to him, and that he needn’t worry that Harry was leading her down the garden path. That appeared to set Ron aright, and the matter was closed, so Harry knew that couldn’t be what was bothering his friend.

Neville had continued to be a font of wisdom regarding wizarding traditions, and was doing so well in his defense practices that Harry had offered his help in any other classes Neville was concerned about. In turn, Neville gave Harry assistance with Herbology, in which had received an O on his OWL, and was quite comfortable in rambling on about for hours at a time if given the chance.

It was Hermione that gave Harry the most cause for concern, for if Ron was wandering about looking off-kilter, Hermione was positively snappish. She often pestered him about whether or not he had finished her book, and about the state of his marks. He was quite happy to show her that his marks had never been better. Whether that made her more upset or less, he couldn’t tell. He did wonder if his academic blossoming made her feel as though she was useless in a role she had been performing up until the end of fifth year.

Harry was sitting on the couch near the fire after practice one Saturday talking to Seamus when Ron appeared at his side, a frown wrinkling his brow.

“Seamus,” he said, “I was wondering if I could borrow Harry for a bit.”

Seamus then also frowned, nodded, and shot a look at Harry only to receive a confused look and shrug. He stood up and walked away, casting a look back over his shoulder before going to sit with Dean.

“What’s up?” asked Harry.

Ron sat down and leaned in close to whisper. “There’s something that’s been bothering me, and it’s something I think you ought to know about.”

Harry raised his brows in silent inquiry.

“Listen, I think you should go get your cloak. I thought you could make like you were going to the library to fetch a book for some assignment, but slip back in with it and come up to the dorm. You’ll see what I mean when I get up there myself, and afterward you can slip back out and return as though you’re just getting back.”

Harry was mystified by all this, giving Ron a very puzzled look.

“Just trust me,” whispered Ron.

“Well, all right. I’ll go get it now. But you’ll have to wait on whatever it is until the portrait hole opens again so I can get in.”

Ron nodded, so Harry went upstairs to grab his bag, stuffing the cloak inside. Back in the common room he paused by Ginny’s side and whispered in her ear, “Can you come out the portrait in two minutes time? I have no idea what’s going on here, but I need to get back in under my invisibility cloak and don’t want to chance it taking forever before someone uses it.”

She gave him a thoughtful look and whispered, “All right. But what about you getting back out? Or is that not a problem.”

“I’m not sure. I guess I’ll worry about that when the time comes. I don’t know how long this will take anyway, and it’d look odd for you to leave and come back immediately.”

She nodded and turned away, so Harry took himself off, and finding the hall outside to be empty, whipped his cloak out and put it on. A minute later Ginny emerged from the entrance and Harry slipped past her with a whispered, “Thanks.” When he got up to his dorm he slid under his bed, curling up and taking the time to make sure the cloak covered all of him.

He didn’t have to wait long. The door pushed open and Ron entered with Hermione in tow. The moment it was closed she exploded.

“I can’t believe his nerve!” she exclaimed.

“I know, Hermione,” said Ron patiently.

Harry wished he had a better view of their faces, but hadn’t wanted to sit anywhere that his weight would have given him away, nor chance being bumped into or stepped on.

“He’s sly, that one, sniffing around Harry even after I warned him off. How dare he,” she said scathingly.

“Maybe he just wants to be friends,” suggested Ron in a way that told Harry it was an oft repeated statement.

“Oh, please! Seamus is obviously only after one thing. And while I’m quite sure he’s a lovely person if you can look past his . . . nature . . . he’s a fool to think Harry would share his inclinations.”

Her tone was so bitterly sure that Harry frowned.

“Now, Hermione. The wizarding world holds very little prejudice against same sex pairings.”

“I don’t care. It’s wrong!”

“I respect your opinion, Hermione, but I don’t understand why you feel that way.”

“I keep telling you, Ron. Don’t you ever listen?” She huffed and said, “Fine. Intellectually I am well aware that it exists in the world and that it’s very unlikely to be simply a phase, especially since it’s been documented in the animal kingdom. And yes, I know that the wizarding world seems to think it’s just fine. But I don’t! It’s wrong and it’s immoral. Merlin, Ron, can you imagine what would happen if there were more of them? Birth rates would drop like a stone! Think of the effect it would have, not only on magical folk but on muggles.”

Harry heard Ron make a noncommittal noise before Hermione continued her ranting. “Why he thinks Harry would ever be receptive is beyond me. As if that were possible. No, there’s no question about it, Ron. Harry isn’t one of them. I’d know. And besides, it’s incredibly obvious that he and Ginny are coming to some sort of an understanding. To think otherwise would be silly.”

Harry thought she sounded like a pure-blood fanatic spouting off about muggle-borns, though he doubted she’d ever see the connection, or admit to it if it were presented to her.

After a brief silence, Ron said, “I expect we should be getting back. My essay won’t finish itself.”

“Very well.”

Harry heard and saw two sets of feet walking away. He also noticed that Ron quite purposely left the dormitory door open. As soon as the sounds of their departure faded away, he slid out from under the bed and slipped out down the stair. After lurking by the portrait for a few minutes he was able to exit without being seen or caught, and sped off toward the library.

When he returned a bit later, Ron was found to be diligently working on an assignment. Hermione was seated a short distance away, her face drawn and unhappy, but casting occasional glances at Ron to make sure he wasn’t playing the fool. Harry casually walked over and seated himself beside his friend and got out his own work, plus the book he’d picked up after all. He smiled at Hermione—a rather difficult thing to do considering—and ducked his head to finish the essay they’d been assigned in Defense the previous day.

Dinner was a mainly silent affair; Hermione spent most of her time either reading or shooting dark looks up the table at Seamus between bites of food. Harry sighed occasionally but said nothing, and Ron ate with single-minded intensity.

Afterward Harry and Ron took off on their own, ostensibly to discuss the current state of the Gryffindor team, something they knew Hermione would have no interest in. Once back in their dorm they settled on Harry’s bed and shared a long look.

“So. . . .”

“Yeah,” said Harry, ruffling his hair. “I suppose I understand why you wanted me to hear that.”

“Perhaps,” said Ron vaguely. “This might not make much sense, but the thing is, this isn’t fourth year. I let my own problems get in the way of our friendship then, and I don’t plan on that happening again. I suppose Hermione thinks that none of this is worth mentioning again, to you at least, so it can’t come between the two of you.”

Ron was right; Harry wasn’t sure he understood what Ron was getting at.

“Now, if you were to do something like . . . torture someone for fun, or kill because you felt like it, and I knew that to be true by your own words, then naturally I’d have to rethink things,” Ron continued. “But aside from that, I can’t think of anything that would cause me to be such an idiot again. It’s not worth it.”

“Not,” he added quickly, “that I’m saying anything in particular, Harry. I just wanted you to know what she’s been up to. Especially because it’s centered around you. I would like to believe that if someone were bending your ear about me, that you’d say something.”

While Ron’s speech was a bit disjointed, Harry thought he understood what Ron was trying to say. If he were to do something wrong, that even he would react badly to, Ron would drop him like a hot brick. But a little thing like suspecting he might be gay—well, what was that in the larger scheme of things?

But Harry didn’t say any of that. He said, “You really are a good friend, Ron. And yes, if the situation were reversed, I’d have told you.”

Ron smiled and changed the subject. “Halloween is right around the corner. Usually a bad time for us.”

“Yeah. I’m a little worried, to be honest.” Ron’s brows shot up so he said, “I haven’t felt anything since that one time this summer. Oh, I forgot to tell you the other thing that came up with Dumbledore. Sorry. It came up, and Dumbledore tested me to see if I wasn’t getting anything because nothing was happening, or if I was doing well with my Occlumency.”

“And?”

“He says I’m coming along just fine, but that there has been some activity. Whatever’s been happening, it’s been quiet enough not to cause me any distress. That worries me, especially after last year.”

“And Halloween is a customary time for something to go wrong,” stated Ron.

“Right. Either I’m doing better than Dumbledore let on, or Voldemort has been playing things really low key. Though how he figured out he could send me dreams in the first place we may never know. It’s just that some things seem to be a given. A new Defense teacher every year, someone usually tries to kill me or get me killed, something bad happens on Halloween, and at the end of the year we end up in another crazy situation.”

Ron’s face had become progressively more morose as he spoke, which upset Harry, even as he knew it would be foolish of them to pretend everything would be all right.

“But, Harry, is there even anything we can do.”

“I suppose that depends. Moony says we should keep an eye out on Malfoy. He’s been acting suspiciously indifferent this year. But aside from that, the best we can do is report anything we know is important, like if I do end up having a vision. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on the idea of rushing off into the middle of an ambush again. I was a fool and I admit it, but at the time I couldn’t do anything but see for myself.”

“Yeah. I know. I probably would have done the same thing, like when Ginny was taken,” agreed Ron.

“Her too,” said Harry, and flashed a grin at Ron.

“We’d better get back before Hermione comes looking for us. She’s been pretty scary lately.”

*

Perhaps it was fate, or maybe coincidence, but as Harry sat with Neville in the secret room, he was struck by a blinding pain in his forehead. Gasping at the sudden shock of it, he lowered his wand and slumped to the floor to catch his breath and try to will away the pain.

Neville was at his side instantly, concern etched on his face. “Harry! Are you all right?”

“Yes,” he breathed. “I’m fine. I will be fine. Just let me rest for a bit.” It was at that moment that a thought boldly intruded, suggesting a course of action that could be quite reckless. “Just stay here with me,” he said, and closed his eyes when Neville nodded, dropping down further to a prone position. After a moment he felt his head being lifted and a cushion shoved underneath.

He might never have a better chance to test certain theories that had been sitting at the back of his mind for some time. He definitely didn’t have time to go ask anyone, and he was quite sure if he did, he would be verbally attacked for proposing it in the first place. It took only a split second in real time to come to a decision.

Harry stopped trying to make the pain fade, and instead used it as a guide toward the mind of his nemesis, taking care to keep his own thoughts very tightly within his own mind.

“How dare you come before me and speak to me of another failure,” he said in a deadly poisonous tone. He looked up from the trembling figure on the floor and swept his gaze across the gathering. “I want those plans finalized and I want it immediately!” he snarled. “Are you all so pathetic that not one of you is capable of doing as I ask? Are the people I’ve chosen from the best and the brightest of the pure-blood lines such sniveling cowards that none of you deserve to live?”

He flared his nostril slits and hissed. “Perhaps I would be better served by killing the lot of you and using your whelps instead. In fact—” He whipped his wand around to the leader of the unfortunate group, taking a second to enjoy the sight of the kneeling man’s terror; he could almost smell it perfuming the air.

“Avada Kedavra,” he intoned, almost carelessly.

He looked back up at the cluster of hooded figures and stretched his mouth into a grotesque parody of a smile. “You have three days before we move. See that you don’t waste them and suffer his fate.”

They began to slowly back away, heads bowed, as another set of figures strode through the doors at the end of the room.

Harry knew that if he remained he might learn something of substance, but also knew that the longer he stayed the more chance there was of being detected. That might have been how Voldemort had originally figured out how to use it against him.

He closed his mental eyes, for he could think of no better term of it, and thought strongly of separating his consciousness from Voldemort’s, all the while keeping in mind his need to remain undetected. It would be of little use to spy if Voldemort could sense his arrival or departure. He blanked out his mind, just as though he were practicing Occlumency.

When the sounds around him changed, and the quality of the air, Harry opened his eyes cautiously. Neville was seated on the floor next to him, almost beside himself with worry. “It’s all right,” he said wearily, squinting against the sudden contrast of light and the residual pain he felt.

He was pulled up roughly and all but tossed into a chair, a bottle of butterbeer thrust into his hand a second later. Neville didn’t say a word until he’d drunk half of it.

“Was it. . . .”

“Yeah.” And the less he admitted about that, the better.

“Then as soon as you feel able I’ll walk with you to the infirmary, then go get Dumbledore,” Neville said firmly.

Harry felt a curious lack of surprise at that statement. Maybe it was because he felt terribly tired all of a sudden. He took another sip and set the bottle aside, then stood unsteadily.

Neville snatched his wand off the floor and handed it to Harry, then delved into his bag to check the map. Seconds later they were safely outside and on their way to see Madame Pomfrey. Directly Harry had been given over into her capable hands, Neville dashed off.

She clucked her tongue and bustled him off to a bed, getting him settled under the covers and dosing him with a pain potion. She spent the next few minutes waving her wand around scanning him for any problems, then retired silently as Dumbledore appeared and sat down on a newly conjured chair.

“So, Harry. It seems your defenses are not quite at the level we would like,” the headmaster commented in a not unkind way. “How much do you remember of what happened?”

Harry blinked owlishly and furrowed his brow as though in thought. “It hit fast and hard. He was really, really angry. I think I almost managed to fend off the vision when it happened anyway.” He sighed and let the corners of his mouth droop, feigning his disappointment in himself, then looked up at Dumbledore with sad eyes.

“I don’t know what it was about. None of it made sense. But I think it has something to do with Halloween, sir.” Harry stopped and rubbed his eyes. “He said . . . they’d failed him again. He wanted the plans finalized immediately. Then he yelled at them all and threatened them, and killed the one on the floor.”

Harry looked up again and took a deep breath. “He said they had three more days before they moved. I lost contact as they were leaving, but I saw another bunch coming in.”

“Did you recognize anything?”

Harry shook his head. “The room was unfamiliar.”

“Still, what you have said sounds promising, Harry. If you thought you had a fighting chance of blocking the episode, then you likely did. It may be the sheer strength of his displeasure that overcame your attempt to stay uninvolved.” Dumbledore paused to adjust his spectacles before saying, “Do you believe he sensed your presence?”

“No. Once I got sucked in I tried very hard to blank my mind, just like I practice every night. Like I wasn’t really there and didn’t exist.” Harry stifled a yawn and frowned. “Why am I so tired, Professor? I don’t understand.” He could feel his eyes trying to close and fought against the sense of enervation that spread throughout his body.

“Perhaps, dear boy, it is a result of your struggle to not only to prevent the vision, but to remain safely undetected. I suggest that for now you sleep, as your body is so desperately trying to do. We shall discuss this further at a later time.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said around another yawn. He closed his eyes and murmured, “My friends. . . .”

The last thing he heard before he sunk into the abyss was an amused chuckle and the far away words, “Of course, Harry.”

He woke up quite alone and unable to see properly. Madame Pomfrey, or someone, must have removed his glasses for him. After yawning expansively, he tried to figure out what time it was. Even if he could have seen at the moment, Pomfrey was not one to have clocks hanging about. Harry reached out to the side for his glasses, found them, and slipped them on.

Though there was daylight streaming through the windows, he could not tell if it were later that afternoon, or the next morning. Footsteps alerted him that someone was nearby, and as they drew closer he pulled himself up into a sitting position. Pomfrey rounded the corner a moment later and gave him a quick smile.

“You look much better,” she said and pulled out her wand for another series of scans. “I’ll keep you here a bit longer though, just to be sure. Breakfast will be here shortly, and your bag is right there in case you want something to do. Your friends have already been told, and will no doubt be along to collect you for lunch. And, as I am told you have no class this morning, it will be fine. Not,” she added, “that my decision would be different if you did.”

Harry nodded vaguely and she bustled off, returning a moment later with a tray. Once he began to eat she left him alone. He flipped through his Charms text for the remainder of the morning, stopping only when Ron and Hermione quick-stepped into the infirmary and over to his side.

“Oh good,” he said. “I should be able to leave then.”

“Harry, are you all right? Was it very bad? What did you—”

Hermione was cut off when Pomfrey appeared and said, “One more look, and then I can let you go.”