Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 16 :: Back At It

16 • Back At It

“You’ll be okay by tomorrow, won’t you?” Harry asked, then bit into a sandwich.

“I’ll still be tired, but yes, I’ll be fine. And don’t eat too much. If I know anything, I know that Molly will send up a huge dinner later on.”

Harry wrinkled his nose and took another bite. Thirty seconds later he said, “I suppose that’s true, but you should also know by now that she’ll do her best to stuff me at every opportunity. If that means having me eat five times a day, I think she’d try it.”

Remus chuckled and tweaked Harry’s arm. “You could always do something wicked and grow your hair out.”

Harry gave Remus an odd look. “I don’t see how. It’s always looked like this. The one time Aunt Petunia tried to chop it all off it returned by the next morning.”

Remus frowned and studied Harry carefully. “The one time?”

“Did you think someone was giving me haircuts at school, Moony? I assure you, they never have.”

“Well, your hair growing back could have been accidental magic, Harry.”

“Sure, but that doesn’t explain why it never gets any longer. Don’t you think that’s kind of odd?”

“You’ve never asked about this before?”

Harry shrugged and gestured with his sandwich. “I was taught early not to ask questions, and they would never have brought it up because it was probably something freakish.” After a quick glance at Remus he said, “Don’t look at me like that. It would have been their opinion. I’m simply being honest.”

“You aren’t a freak, Harry,” Remus said firmly.

“A great deal of my life is freakish, Moony, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a freak.” Harry took another bite and chewed industriously, giving Remus a vaguely belligerent look. “As I recall,” he said once ready, “we agreed to be straight with each other.”

Remus coughed quietly and nodded. “All right, then we’ve established that you never brought this up. I still think it would be interesting to see Molly’s reaction if you grew it out,” he said with a mischievous grin.

Harry finished up his sandwich with a thoughtful air, then asked, “Know any spells for that?”

Remus nodded and fetched out his wand, then twirled it in his fingers as he spoke something too low for Harry to hear and pointed it at him. Almost immediately Harry felt something weird going on and started to reach up to touch his hair. Remus caught his hand and stopped him, saying, “Shoulder length ought to do it.” A minute later, after Harry had experienced some of the strangest sensations of his life, he was released.

“Mirror?” he asked, then accepted one as soon as Remus conjured it. Remus hadn’t simply lengthened his hair, he had shaped it so that it gradually got longer from a vague center part. He would not be able to pull it back into a tail, but that didn’t much bother him. It was like having a compromise between his original hairstyle and pure-blood customs. “Thanks, Moony. How long will it last?” he asked as he placed the mirror on the bed.

“I put plenty of power into it, so quite a while. If you decide you’d like to keep it, I can teach you the spell later on. Now, who do you want to see after we finish this snack?”

“I think I’d like some fun, so the twins.”

Remus nodded and both went back to trying to demolish the remaining sandwiches. The twins were let in shortly after, looking terribly subdued by their brother Bill. The moment the door was closed they bounced onto the bed and grinned widely.

“Thought up any new prank items yet?” Harry asked innocently.

“I’ll say!”

“That book was wizard, Harry.”

“Well, you can thank Moony for helping. I asked him to pick up the muggle stuff since I couldn’t.”

“Moony?” they asked.

“Yeah.”

“As in—”

“Yeah,” Harry repeated.

Within seconds they made the connection, and nothing could stop them from embarking on a discussion of everything pranks, frequently begging Remus for advice or his thoughts on ideas they had. Bill eventually shooed them out, standing firm against their pleading expressions. “Who’s next?”

Harry frowned slightly, then said, “Hermione, please.”

“Coming right up,” Bill said cheerfully, then disappeared.

Several minutes later Hermione arrived and seated herself in a chair. “I’m happy to see you’re both looking so well,” she said with a smile, then hesitated and continued with a hint of stiffness, “And I think it was a nice gesture of Seamus to send you a gift, Harry.”

Harry had the presence of mind not to react other than to smile and say, “I thought so too. I admire that he’s so willing to set aside everything his mum said about me and come to his own conclusions.”

Hermione’s brows contracted at that. “Does it . . . really not bother you that he. . . ?”

“Why should it?” Harry replied. “I was quite flattered. At least with him I can be reasonably assured that he was asking out of true interest in me, and not because of my image, you know? Thank you, by the way, for the book. I was so surprised when I read the one lent to me by Madam Pomfrey because it was so interesting. It makes me wonder if there is a way to take the Potions NEWT without the class, doing self-study or something.”

She seemed relieved that he had provided her with an out. “I have no idea,” she said, “but I’m sure we could find out. Do you know, professor?”

“I have not been your professor for years, Hermione. Call me Remus or Moony, all right? And no, I don’t, though I expect Professor Dumbledore would. You’d have to put in a great deal of time on it, Harry, if it were.”

“I know. It’s just a thought. It’s nice to consider something other than defense or quidditch for once. How did you know, anyway?” Harry gave her a curious look.

“You were sleeping during one of the times I came to visit and I saw the book you’d been reading,” she said with a shrug. “Considering how far into it you were, I figured you were interested, so I’m very glad to know I was right. And the revision guide you got me is very well organized—it’s super, Harry! Thanks.”

Harry nodded and said rather casually, “I wonder if we’ll ever have the option for lessons in becoming an animagi.”

“I wouldn’t expect so,” Hermione said confidently. “It does take a long time, so what would be the point? So few people actually become one that I can’t imagine they’d bother.”

“That didn’t stop Rita Skeeter,” Harry pointed out.

“Yes, but she didn’t register, as required,” she said primly.

Remus chose that point to chuckle and say, “And neither did James or Sirius. Of course, they had ulterior motives for their actions that were not related to spying on people for the purposes of exploiting them in the media.”

“That’s all right,” Harry said with a grin. “Hermione can blackmail with the best of them.”

She shot him a somewhat disapproving look, then smiled abruptly. “She deserved it.”

“Still, I wonder what it would be like to be one.”

“Then why don’t you ask Professor McGonagall? I’m sure she could explain about the process, and registering.”

“Perhaps,” Harry said, then changed the subject.

After she left Ron was let in. After flinging himself onto the bed he said, “And how come I get to be last?”

Harry arched a brow at his friend and said, “Because I didn’t want Hermione to be and think that something was up, okay?”

The scowl on Ron’s face cleared. “Oh. All right. You almost better? Because it’s really boring around here right now and I keep having to dodge the twins and their new stuff. Did you have to get them that book?” he asked plaintively.

Harry snickered and glanced at Remus. “I thought they’d like it. Isn’t that part of the point of giving gifts?”

“I don’t have to like it,” Ron said darkly.

“Of course not. By the way, have any of you worked on any rooms today? I’m really wanting to get back to that myself. Especially the second floor.”

“We have, actually, a little. Today, that is. No one did anything like that yesterday, of course. We also went back over the plans earlier in preparation for tomorrow. You will be able to join us, right?”

“I think we both will, Ron,” said Remus. “I keep having this urge to make the meeting room bright and cheerful.”

Harry shot him a curious look, then grinned. “That would be nice, wouldn’t it. I expect plenty of people in the Order would appreciate that. Maybe a nice . . . sunshine yellow?”

The corner of Remus’s mouth twitched in response.

Ron straightened up and said, “Oi, I bet Snape’d love that. With gold trim, of course.”

“I agree,” said Harry with a straight face. “I think he’d find it quite striking. You should mention it to the twins, Ron. I’m sure it would be a lovely surprise. In fact, I can’t wait to get started tomorrow.”

“We might have to take turns distracting mum, though.”

Remus chuckled. “Because of Harry? Don’t worry, Ron. If I’m there, I’m sure things will be just fine.”

“Which reminds me—well, it doesn’t, actually, but it does,” said Ron. “Did Hermione say anything. . . .” He turned his gaze on Remus for a moment before looking back at Harry.

“Yes, Ron, Moony knows about that. And yes, she did. I think she’ll be backing off.” Harry gave a slight shrug. “If not, I guess I’ll have to come right out and say something.”

Ron nodded, then brightened. “The book was wizard, Harry, thanks!”

“I had hoped you’d like it. And thanks to you, my sweets supply is topped off again for a while.” Harry grinned, then added, “Or will be so long as you don’t nick the chocolate frogs.”

Ron shot him an offended look. “I would never.”

*

The next morning Harry was released from his relatively cozy prison and allowed to actually eat breakfast downstairs in the kitchen, though Molly fussed over him quite a bit. Still, Harry was happy enough with being able to get back to normal that he could more or less let her behavior wash over him.

Once they were able to escape and head up to the second floor—Remus took the time to assure Molly that he would keep an eye on things—they immediately began tackling the room designated for meetings, disdaining the others that had been worked on the day before.

Harry was taking a bit of a breather when Remus came to sit with him. “I don’t think this will take all that long.”

“No,” Harry said, then lowered his voice to a whisper. “I’m sad, though.”

Remus listed to the side casually and whispered, “About?”

“Sad that I had to tell Martin I couldn’t visit. And I know that even over the summer I won’t be able to see him. He really helped, Moony, and I never actually told him anything.”

“Quietly supportive? Creatively distracting?”

Harry shot Remus a suspicious look, then whispered, “Yes. The defense lessons helped. I felt like I could take out my frustrations, even though martial arts is supposed to be about acting without anger. Still, I guess it’s just as well in some ways. Until this is all over, I’d only put him in danger if they found out about him.”

“That’s true. Would you like me to talk to him?” Remus offered.

Harry fiddled with his hair for a moment, absently amused at how much different it felt, and furrowed his brow. “I’m not sure what you could tell him.”

Remus shrugged, then nudged his shoulder against Harry’s briefly. “Stretch the truth, I expect. Tell him you have a very persistent stalker after you, which is why you’re more concerned about his safety than in pleasing yourself.”

Harry turned his head sharply to give Remus a wide-eyed look, then let his gaze drift away, back down to the floor. “You don’t think that would scare him off? I mean, wouldn’t he assume that he was in real danger given that the Dursleys ended up dead?”

“He might. But that’s why you’re sending letters rather than visiting, right? It’s only a suggestion, Harry. The Dursleys supposedly died because of a gas leak. I know, that could have been caused by a stalker, but then again, it could have been coincidence. Suspicious minds would assume the former. If it was made clear that the stalker has only ever come at you when at school. . . .”

“Oi! Harry! Stop lazing around,” called Ron from the other side of the room.

Harry snorted softly and turned to face Remus. “I’ll think about it?”

*

After lunch they all trooped back to the meeting room and began painting—Harry and Ron had a marked tendency to snicker as the cheerful yellow covered the walls. They decided, after some discussion, that they should attempt to tackle the kitchen next, though they realized that painting would probably be out of the question until after an evening meal. They assumed that by the next morning it would be all right—that the fumes would have dissipated and not cause issues when it came to cooking, or eating.

Past that, it was an issue of tackling either spare rooms on the second floor, or addressing the more commonly used rooms for casual gatherings. Harry had no real expectation of being able to whip the entire house into shape before they left, but it was rather enjoyable to do such work. That is, when it was a choice rather than an order which prompted it.

Later that evening Harry stole away to Remus’s room and flopped onto the bed. “I’ve been thinking about what you suggested.”

“All right.”

“I guess it would be okay, but only if Martin wasn’t worried about his own safety. I think he’s going to worry about me no matter what, though. Telling him that might make him a bit frantic.”

“Why don’t you dash off a letter? I can take that with me, then explain a bit.”

“You’re sure—no, never mind. You wouldn’t have offered it you didn’t want to. When do you think you might go, then?”

“I can go tomorrow. The twins hadn’t planned to reopen their shop until after the holiday, so they’ll be here to help out with magic. I wouldn’t be gone for more than a few hours anyway. Do you think it would be better to approach him at home?”

Harry nodded. “I guess you could stop by before he closes up, then follow him home if he’s willing. That reminds me. I’d sort of like to set up a room here where I can practice. Now that I’ve got that book from Martin, I can start up again. I should be able to use the secret room at Hogwarts as well.”

“Have you thought any more about the animagus studies?”

Harry grimaced and looked directly at Remus. “I think, even with all the hints, that Hermione would be a bad choice, Moony. I’m pretty positive that Ginny would hold her tongue. I think Ron would stay quiet. But still, I’m not sure how all of us could keep sneaking off to practice and have Hermione be clueless.”

“Quidditch is always an excuse, I suppose. But, I think you’d all have to have your work completed beforehand. As it is, Ginny has more classes than you lot, so evenings would be better anyway.”

“Well, all right. I’ll talk to Neville about it.”

Remus gave him a rather intense look and said slowly, “I think it’s quite nice that you and Neville are getting on so well.”

Harry gave an absent nod. “It’s amazing just how smart he is. Once you take the time to get to know him better, it’s like there’s a whole different person lurking underneath. I’m only sorry that it took me so long to realize it. And apparently, he’s so unprepossessing that most people never even notice he’s around. I guess he learns a lot that way.” Harry laughed softly. “He certainly overhears a lot. He’s kind of like a mixture of Ron and Hermione, but with something very distinctly all his own.”

“I find that very interesting,” Remus said casually. “Maybe I should spend more time talking to him.”

Harry suddenly realized what Remus was implying and sat up. “Moony,” he said repressively.

Remus unleashed an unrepentant grin at him. “What? If you like him, I’m sure he’s worth getting to know.”

Harry snorted. “Uh huh. Don’t meddle, Moony.”

“Would I do that?” Remus asked innocently, raising one hand to splay across his chest.

“You might. Besides, nothing says he’s gay. I don’t care to make a fool of myself.”

“But he doesn’t care either way if you are.”

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head. “He made it quite plain he doesn’t care who is and who isn’t. I think he said . . . orientation doesn’t really change who a person is. Something like that.”

“I still think it might be interesting to get to know him better myself, Harry. No, I won’t interfere, but I am allowed to tease you a bit in private. He suspects, though.”

“Yeah. Actually, he’s a bit like you, now I think about it. After all, if you weren’t so much older. . . .”

“Harry!”

“What? You’re not bad looking, you’re kind, patient, understanding, and you actually see me for me. What’s not to like?”

“I’m also a werewolf.”

Harry blinked at him. “So? What’s that got to do with anything?”

Remus shook his head, bringing his hands up to cover his face, and sighed. After a moment he dropped his hands and said, “Every so often you just love to shock the hell out me, don’t you?”

Harry shrugged a shoulder. “I’m just being honest, Moony.”

“That’s just it. You aren’t trying to shock me, you just do. In any case, thank you for your unvarnished opinion.”

“You’re welcome, I think.” Harry smiled and shrugged a shoulder again, rather sheepishly.

“Why don’t you go take care of that letter before bed, hm? Tomorrow we can tackle the kitchen and I’ll go see Martin later on.”

“Okay.” Harry scooted over to give Remus a hug, then bounced off the bed and left.