Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 17 :: Will You?

17 • Will You?

Dear Martin,

As you already know, Remus has come to visit with you, mainly because I cannot. He will try to explain some of what’s going on. I wish things could be different, because I really would like to spend some time with you. Yes, letters just aren’t the same.

I know you’re going to worry. I cannot prevent that. But you can trust Moony. He’s my godfather, silly, so stop saying things like he’s that lovely older man. I nearly choked on what I was eating when he passed that along after meeting you the first time.

I hope everything is going all right. I really liked the book you got me—now at least I know why you’d never give me a title. Wicked of you. Hopefully you enjoyed my gift. Those are definitely things I enjoy, so I hoped you might as well. The butterbeer is sometimes a little difficult to come by, but I can get more if you’d like some.

Anyway, I’ll let Remus explain.

Harry

He thought perhaps it would be easier, also, if Moony were to tell Martin about Sirius. At least then Martin would know why he had been so depressed, even if Remus couldn’t be entirely frank about the situation. After drying the ink, Harry folded the letter and slipped it into an envelope, then wrote Martin’s name on the outside.

Tucking it into his pocket, he rose and went off to find Remus. “Here,” he said, handing over the letter. “I thought . . . maybe you could tell him, sort of, about Sirius? He never knew. I never explained why I was so. . . .”

“If you want, Harry. I think I can be just as vague about that as anything else. But for now, how about we go check out the kitchen and see what can be done, hm?”

Once breakfast was out of the way and the dishes had been taken care of, everyone got to work cleaning the walls and stripping them down. They stopped for lunch, then moved everything out and began work on the cupboards and cabinets. By the time dinner rolled around they were tired and hungry, and preparing it was not easy considering that they did not yet wish to bring everything back inside.

Remus had disappeared shortly before five, so the rest continued their efforts in the kitchen. When Remus did return they had finished, and no one wanted to go anywhere near the place, not so much because it smelled, but because they were deathly tired of the place.

Remus pulled Harry off to the side and whispered, “We should talk.”

Harry nodded and followed Remus up to the man’s room. “So how did it go?” he asked a touch reluctantly.

“He wasn’t happy, Harry. But at least he understands why you can’t visit. And yes, he’s very worried about you, though not for himself. I don’t know if I should be surprised or not that his feelings haven’t changed. He seems quite steadfast.”

“So he’s not scared off?”

Remus shook his head. “He’s just worried for you. On the other hand, he was really happy that you were willing to explain, so to speak, about Sirius. He doesn’t make the connection, though. Scotland is a fair distance from Surrey anyway. He’s a very nice young man, Harry. I can quite see why you like him. And . . . handsome.”

Harry huffed and shot Remus a dark look. “That wasn’t it at all, Moony. It just happened, okay?”

“And you couldn’t have picked a nicer guy for it to happen with.” Remus smirked.

“Moony!”

Remus reached out and ruffled his hair.

Harry ducked away, then looked at Remus curiously. “What is it, Moony? Are you interested in Martin for yourself?”

“Harry! He’s much too young for one thing.”

“Oh, sure. Since when does age have to do with much? And, if you can tease me, Moony, I can certainly tease you. Fair is fair. So, do you like him?”

“Let’s not even get into all the issues we can’t speak of with him, huh?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “That’s right. Be logical. You know, the same thing goes for you as for me. I’m not saying you should simply forget Sirius. But if you don’t take some chances, too. . . .”

“I think it’s a bit early for that, Harry, but I’ll keep what you’ve said in mind.”

Harry crowded in close and snaked his arms around Remus in a hug. “He said something to me once—that the ones we love never really leave us. I don’t think he would want either of us to be unhappy.” After giving him a squeeze, Harry said, “Then I guess Martin will keep writing.”

“It looks that way.” Remus pulled back and smiled. “He really liked your gift, too. You should be worried. He’s quite fond of butterbeer.”

“Then hopefully I’ll hear from him soon.”

*

Harry sat down with a huff and stared tiredly at the floor. One more day of freedom and then it would be back to Hogwarts. He thought, after some reflection, that it was a good thing all told. He and Neville would be able to continue their tutoring sessions with each other in the privacy of the hidden room, which meant he would not be quite so close with everyone else all the time.

It was difficult to find privacy at headquarters. The biggest drawback was his loss of constant contact with Remus. He was starting to like him a great deal, though he still wondered if everyone he felt in any way close to was an easy candidate for Voldemort’s hit list. He shook his head and gazed around, not really focusing on what was before his eyes.

“Harry?”

He blinked and tried to focus properly, his eyes coming to rest on the speaker, and smiling when he realized it was Neville. “Hey,” he said softly.

“Are you all right?” Neville took a hesitant step closer, then sat down when Harry waved a hand to the spot beside him.

“I’m just tired. All of this has been fun, but. . . .”

Neville cocked his head, then said, “But it was worth seeing Ron with his head in a paint can, don’t you think?”

Harry grinned and looked to the side, then sobered. “I just wish it could always be like this, but not for these reasons.” He looked back at the gentle, fleeting touch on his hand.

“Yes, but let me ask you a question. Do you think we would even be sitting here otherwise, or that you’d have the same friends?”

“No,” he admitted.

“The only person who can stop you from enjoying what you do have is you, Harry.” Neville gave him a small smile, then rose and left.

He wondered just what was that supposed to mean.

*

The train ride back brought on disquieting thoughts of security. How exactly was the train protected? How was it that no one ever seemed to be worried that they might be attacked at any moment? Could it be that the next bridge they crossed would be their last, if the supports had been weakened, or if entire sections of the tracks had been removed?

“Why am I so depressed?” he whispered.

“What was that, Harry?” asked Ron, who then shoved a chocolate frog under his nose.

Harry’s head shot up as he took the treat automatically. “Oh, nothing. Just talking to myself for some reason.” He flashed a lopsided grin at Ron and opened the box, twisting to the side so that Ron couldn’t see the card he had got even as he nipped off the frog’s head swiftly.

“Aw, c’mon!” Ron protested, trying to reach around to steal the card.

“You shouldn’t have given me one if you wanted the card so badly,” Harry said reasonably, hunched over and facing the window. Without even looking at who was portrayed, he dropped the card inside his shirt and felt it slip down until it rested at his waist. He glanced around to see Neville’s eyes on him, then sat back properly and took another bite of his frog, casually tossing the empty package on Ron’s lap.

“Harry!”

He shook his head stubbornly and finished his treat, then licked his fingers.

*

Harry tossed himself into a seat and dropped his bag, then reached into his pocket to pull out the letter he had received during breakfast. Given that it was from Martin, he was both excited and nervous over what his friend might have to say at that point.

Dear Harry,

I expect a letter back from you immediately, if not sooner, you hear? Gods, Harry, I never expected what it was that your godfather had to tell me. How on earth have you been able to bear all of this? Well, now that I think about it, I suppose I do understand in some respects, having lost my parents several years back and been landed with the burden of my grief and my new responsibilities as a result, but still. . . .

I’m so glad I made that offer. You looked so completely lost and weary that day, I just couldn’t stand it. Presumptuous of me, I’m sure, but I cannot be sorry. Can you believe, one of the first things I did was to blow part of my inheritance on remodeling the house so it looked different? So that I wasn’t always staring at the past?

On a brighter subject, I absolutely adored the butterbeer, and that chocolate was super. I don’t know where you get this stuff, but I would surely not mind more if you can get your hands on some. Is it some sort of obscure Scottish concoction? You’d have to let me know about cost, though. I can’t very well expect you to cover it, now can I.

Speaking of your godfather, how old is he anyway?

My students are coming along just fine. Actually, the grandmother is the best of the lot. She’s very keen on learning to defend herself, and I think she likes that it makes her feel more healthy and energetic. She also makes wicked lemon tarts, let me tell you. I’m half tempted to try to convince her to hire on.

The lads in the back are all very well at breads and such, but none of them could make pastry to save their lives. Neither can I, for that matter. I think it takes a special touch, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. I also think she enjoys my flattery as much as she enjoys my obvious enjoyment of the tarts.

I have, actually, spent the odd night out with that fellow I mentioned, Joe, but I’m not sure I see things going anywhere. He’s quite casual and carefree, and I get the feeling he doesn’t like the idea of being tied down to any one person. That’s fine, of course. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, either. Still, it’s something I need to keep in mind.

I swear, my wits are completely scattered. I nearly forgot to ask—did you have a good Christmas? Remus assured me that you did, but I wanted to ask for myself. Speaking of which, he’s got an awfully peculiar nickname. Was he a bit . . . free spirited when he was younger, perhaps?

Anyway, I really want to hear from you soon, Harry. Don’t worry—I won’t ask for you to tell me anything you can’t, or would rather not talk about. Just let me know you’re all right.

Martin

By the time Harry was done reading he had laughed several times, especially at the image of Martin flirting with someone’s gran because of her talent in the kitchen. He wasn’t entirely surprised at Martin’s comments on Moony, though. After setting the letter off to the side he pulled out supplies and began composing a reply.

Dear Martin,

I’m fine, I swear. I suppose if you want to be technical, I do still have a cousin left. He was at his school when the accident happened. I’m fairly certain he’ll be living with his aunt, though, from now on. Thankfully, I won’t have to. She and I get along even more badly than I did with my aunt and uncle, and she’s not a blood relation to me anyway.

I’m not quite sure what you mean about my godfather’s nickname, though I can say he was a bit of a prankster when he was younger. Anyway, since he was the same year as my dad, I guess he’s in his mid-thirties, approaching forty?

It’s funny you should mention remodeling. It’s what we spent quite a bit of time doing this holiday, me and my friends. With so many of us working at it it was rather a lot of fun, and after hearing Ginny’s (that’s the girl I had to turn down) ideas for names for the rooms, my guardian provided us with a set of engraved door plates to assist in the fun.

Aside from a couple of minor issues, though, I had a lovely Christmas and was very pleased that everyone liked what I got for them.

Harry looked up as Neville slipped into the room, then felt his face burn with a mixture of embarrassment and guilt. He had hardly been back at the school when he’d bent his promise to Remus. After giving Neville a rather sheepish smile he said, “I’m sorry.”

Neville shook his head and took a seat. “I won’t tell, Harry, this time, but I will if you do it again. What are you doing, anyway? Surely that isn’t homework.”

“No, it’s a letter to Martin. I’ve been waiting to hear from him, so when the letter arrived earlier the first thing on my mind was to get up here so I could read it without worrying. The fewer people who know we correspond, the better, and the less chance he might end up a target. Here, you can read his letter while I finish this.” Harry grabbed it and passed it over, then went back to writing.

My friend Neville just arrived, so I’ve got to go for now. It’s our weekly revision session. I’m going to try to teach him what you taught me, also. Well, if he wants to try. He may not find the same release in it that I have. I hope to hear from you soon, and sorry this is shorter than I’d intended.

Harry

A minute later his reply was dry and in an envelope, and sealed and addressed. Harry pushed it into his bag for later and pulled out several books, then smiled when Neville handed the original letter back over to him. That also went into his bag.

“How does he know . . . Remus?”

Harry tilted his head for a second and replied, “I wasn’t able to send his Christmas gift by post, so Moony took it for me. Martin still doesn’t know anything, just some sketchy details. I feel guilty.”

“Why?” asked Neville with obvious puzzlement.

“Well, it’s not like I meant to make a friend over the summer, but it just sort of happened. And then I had to leave so abruptly, and he’s such a nice person. I feel guilty because I can’t be straight with him. Even if everything was over I couldn’t be. It’s not like he’s a family member, or going to be one. He’s the first real muggle friend I’ve ever had. I’m beginning to wonder how other people handle having to hold so much back.”

“If you feel like saying, what exactly did Remus tell him?”

Harry shrugged and scratched the back of his neck. “Well, he sort of vaguely explained about Sirius for one thing. He also implied that I’ve gained a stalker of sorts up here, which is why all the cloak and dagger.” He paused at the sound of Neville almost snickering, and grinned.

“A stalker? Voldemort?” Neville actually let loose with a bit of laughter. “I suppose that’s one way to put it.” Then he frowned slightly and said, “What about Easter?”

Harry blinked. “It could happen. I’m a little worried about that, actually, and I hope Moony can be here just in case.” When Neville gave him a curious look Harry explained about how Bill and Molly had made him feel during the episode at Christmas. “I just thought if he were here, and something happened, he could help me the way they did.”

Neville nodded, though Harry could not tell if he agreed, or was being agreeable. “We’ve been back a few days now, and I haven’t noticed Hermione being, er, unkind,” Neville offered.

“I hope she’s decided to just let it go.” He paused to bite his lip, then said, rather boldly, “I think I might be interested in someone.” The sensation of a suddenly elevated heart rate confused him, but he mentally brushed it aside and gave Neville a sidelong look.

“I think that’s probably a good thing, Harry.”

“Yeah, maybe. Still, I’m not sure. I feel like . . . if I were to do something about how I feel, it might not work anyway.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I feel as though I’d need to keep it a secret.” He hesitated on feeling a rather odd sensation sweep him, a mixture of trepidation and desire, and finally understood what it was that had been going on since the summer holiday. He felt rather like slapping himself for being such an idiot. And then he understood the reason why he had experienced any measure of fear. “After all,” he said quickly, “I am already horribly concerned about my friends. I feel as though they would be targets. If I were to act on my interest, don’t you think that person would be in as much, if not more, danger?”

“Yes, they might be.”

“Of course,” he continued, “it is also true that I wouldn’t want to deal with the fit Hermione would undoubtedly throw, not to mention the fact that she seems to believe that Ginny and I are two steps away from a wedding arch.”

Another twinge ran through him, this one distinctly spiked with confusion. Harry took a deep breath and said, “I think I need to see Dumbledore soon. I’ve just figured something out about myself and I don’t know how important it is or what to do about it.”

Neville’s head came up sharply. “What is it?”

“I think I’m empathic, Neville. I think I’ve been sensing some of what you’ve been feeling just now, and even in the past at times. I think I understand part of what those damn dreams meant.” He paused when he realized Neville had turned a rather unhealthy shade of red. “I’m sorry, Neville, I really am. I never meant to . . . intrude.”

“If t-that’s what it is, Harry, you can’t help yourself.”

“Maybe not, but I don’t want you to think I’m playing with you. If I had understood what was happening I would have brought up the subject in an entirely different way.”

“What do . . . you mean?”

“I was trying to gauge your reaction, yes, but—I’m not supposed to be a coward, am I. I was trying to see if you . . . were interested in me, too.” That did it. Neville went from flushed to deathly pale in a heartbeat. Harry ran a hand through his hair roughly and said, “If not, that’s okay. You’ll just want to look the other way while I bang my head against the wall for being such an idiot as to hope you might be.”

Neville didn’t say anything for a minute, though the colour did return to his face. Then he sat up a bit straighter and looked Harry dead in the eye. “I am, Harry, though I don’t understand why you would be in me.”

Harry leapt to his feet and paced the length of the room and back in frustration, then dropped to his knees in front of Neville’s chair. “Why? I admit, I’m pretty slow on the uptake, Neville. I don’t always understand why people do the things they do or see what’s going on. Well, not unless someone points it out to me in a way I can’t help but get. But why? I’ve tried to tell you, Neville. I’ve tried to show you, even when I wasn’t thinking like that, how much I admire you, and how very much I appreciate your friendship. Do you have any idea how much our Sundays mean to me? How disappointed I am when something prevents one? How many times I’ve kicked myself lately for not getting to know you better sooner?”

Harry sat back on his heels and gave Neville an odd sort of smile. “I’m really not good at this sort of thing.”

“Are you sensing anything right now?”

Harry shook his head. “Not a thing. It seems to come and go. Neville, even if you were to tell me to sod off, I’d still want to spend Sundays in here with you. I would still be proud when you accomplished something you weren’t sure you could do, and I would still be proud when you managed to pound something through my thick skull I never thought I’d understand, like those bloody traditions.”

“I won’t, Harry. But I will keep it a secret, because I don’t think either of us wants that kind of attention.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “I think I’m confused now.”

“Will you . . . kiss me, Harry?”