Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 21 :: Alpha

21 • Alpha

Breakfast was subdued, but that was normal. More than half the people there were less than awake. Blaise sat at his side and first years across from them, which was also normal. However, the first oddity that Harry noticed was the covert glances he was getting from Snape, who gave off the distinct impression that he was staring at some mysterious puzzle he had not quite yet figured out. Whether that made Harry feel uncomfortable was not something he planned on deciding just yet.

Things progressed as they were wont to do, and Harry concentrated more on the taste of his food than anything else. He was well aware by now that Dobby had taken it upon himself to be sure that nothing tainted found its way to his master’s table, so Harry wasn’t particularly concerned about ending up either as the butt of an embarrassing joke or in the hospital wing.

Harry was, in fact, a little torn about the whole thing with Blaise. He was happy that he had what looked to be a friend in Slytherin, but that also meant he could not disappear for hours at a time (any more than he could have in Gryffindor) to lounge in one of the Chamber rooms and read esoteric works. Of course, he wasn’t entirely certain what it was that he wished to learn. Better awareness would be nice, true.

He was pulled from his musing by the sound of owls swooping into the hall to deliver the morning post, giving the aerial display a few moments of his time before noticing that Hedwig was not among them, then going back to his food. It took Blaise yanking on his arm to make Harry aware of the variety of gasps coming from the other tables and the numerous stares in his direction.

“What the hell is going on now?” he whispered.

“I think it has something to do with the Daily Prophet.”

Harry rolled his eyes and sighed. “Judging from the reactions, it must be something about me.” He scanned the Gryffindor table for Ron and spotted him quickly; his friend had a rather dark look on his face.

“Then you should know that Malfoy has been sending slightly poisonous smirks up the table,” whispered Blaise.

“Has he now,” Harry replied with an arch of his brow. “Whyever does that not surprise me?”

Ron then did something very odd. After tearing the front page off the copy of the paper he was holding and folding it several times, he looked up at Harry and pointed at it with his wand, a rather strange expression on his face.

Harry dropped his wand into his hand and quietly summoned the sheet to him, and, after holstering his wand, unfolded it and checked the main headline.

Boy Who Lived Gay?

Sources within Hogwarts report that Harry Potter has secretly been carrying on with a fellow Slytherin student, Blaise Zabini. . . .

“Bloody hell.”

Harry disposed of the paper with a deft cast of Incendio and looked at Blaise steadily. “Well, I guess we’re the last to know. I certainly wasn’t aware that we were carrying on a torrid affair. Tell me, am I any good?”

Blaise smirked before saying, “I wonder who they got to impersonate us for that photograph.”

Harry shrugged. “Don’t care. But I bet Malfoy is behind this.”

Blaise rolled his eyes and snorted. “Yes, and how many galleons would you have won?”

Harry looked away as a shadow fell over their portion of the table to see Snape looming. “Sir,” he said politely.

“Is it too much trouble to ask that you stop appearing on the front page of the Daily Prophet every week, Potter?”

“I would if it was up to me, sir.”

Snape eyed him for a moment, then stalked off, robes billowing out behind him.

“Look, let’s just go. I’m sure Ron is dying to ask me about this.” When Blaise nodded Harry rose, staring over at the Gryffindor table again to catch Ron’s eye and jerk his head toward the doors.

*

“No, Ron,” Harry said patiently, “Blaise and I are not seeing each other. I suspect this is Malfoy’s way of trying to embarrass me since he isn’t supposed to come at me openly.” Harry skipped another rock across the surface of the lake and sighed. :Tom?:

:Yes, Harry.:

:Seen today’s Daily Prophet?: Ron’s staring made him turn his head. “Yes?”

“Are you even gay?”

Harry blinked and crouched down to gather more flat stones. “Are you asking because you suspect I might actually be?”

“Er. . . .”

Harry sank down to the ground and launched another rock. “I’ll ask something easier, then. How did the others react to the story?”

Ron flopped onto the grass and shot him a look. “Mixed. Some good, some bad, some immediately assuming that Blaise here slipped you a potion or used a spell. The usual.”

Blaise snickered and plucked a few blades of grass. “I’m as straight as they come. Not to say Harry’s a bad looking bloke, but. . . .”

“Well, either someone got their hands on polyjuice potion or knows how to cast advanced glamour charms,” Harry said, flipping one of the rocks around absently in his hand.

:Malfoy’s opening move?: Tom asked.

:I suppose so. I hope he isn’t too terribly disappointed when I fail to throw a temper tantrum over this.: He looked at Ron and said, “Does the idea bother you? That I might be gay?”

Ron gaped for a moment, then said, “No, actually, I was more worried that you’d be upset for being outed, or just plain pissed off that someone did this to try to hurt you.”

Harry grinned, then looked at Blaise. “Are we still friends?”

“Of course we are. I told you, don’t worry about me. Besides, you never know. This might up my attraction value with the ladies, trying to convert me and all.” Blaise waggled his brows in a ludicrous manner, making both Harry and Ron snicker.

“Hermione? Ginny?”

Ron shrugged a shoulder and gave him a sidelong look. “I think Ginny is more upset that she never stood a chance. Hermione, though, looked sorta angry.”

Harry muttered and ruffled his hair. “Angry I can accept, but it would be nice to know why.”

“Harry!” All of them turned to look and saw Ginny jogging in their direction, Hermione following at a much more sedate pace. On arrival, Ginny flopped down beside Ron and flashed a somewhat nervous smile. “Are you okay, Harry?”

Harry grinned and shrugged, saying, “It could have been worse. It might have been Filch in that picture. Don’t worry about it. It’s just someone trying to get me angry or cause me trouble.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I am. Besides, Blaise thinks it’s hilarious. We’re all dying to know who actually posed as us.”

She eyed him carefully as Hermione finally approached and took a seat primly. “Well, all right. I spoke to other members of the DA, Harry. I’m sorry, but some of them are really uncomfortable with you being re-sorted.”

Harry shrugged again. “It’s not like I didn’t expect that. Does anyone still want to continue?”

“Only a few people do. Luna,”—Hermione gave an almost unheard snort—“Neville. . . . Me, of course.”

Harry blinked slowly. “I see.”

:The wizarding world is fickle, Harry, but I think we already covered that subject. If I recall, you shouted at me.:

:Shut up.:

:Hm, do I get to take points for that kind of response?:

Harry could clearly feel Tom’s amusement, and was quite glad his rejoinder had been taken in the spirit in which it was meant. :Perhaps, but I’m sure you can find better ways to keep me from saying such things.:

:Oooo, Harry. You just earned yourself five more points. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to provoke me.:

“Harry, are you okay?” Ginny asked.

“I’m fine. I just didn’t realize it was that bad.” He turned his head and said, “Hermione?”

“Of course, Harry. I’d have to be an idiot to stop now. After all, it was my idea. I’m more interested in knowing how you’re reacting to that article.” Her expression was the same cool blank it had been since the incident caused by his revelation of his reasons for speaking to the sorting hat.

He adopted a thoughtful expression. :Me? Provoke you? How dare you accuse me of such a thing, Tom. I do believe I feel quite wounded. After all, was it not you who tempted me the last time around?: After a moment Harry looked up and smiled weakly. “I’m fine. As I said earlier, it’s just another in a long line of attempts to give me grief.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” she said. “Personally, I think it’s ridiculous.”

“Er, why?” Harry got the distinct impression that he wasn’t going to like whatever it was she might say.

“It just is. Even if it was true, which I doubt, anyone with any sense should know that you’ll do the right thing.”

Harry held back a sigh. “Could you explain further?”

“Certainly. I’m going to assume that you have not read as widely as I have, but still, I don’t think this would come as much of a shock. The wizarding community is not overlarge,” she explained patiently, “and people take steps to ensure that as a community we continue to exist, preferably to grow. Much as I hate some of the customs of pure-bloods, I can say they have reasons for some of them, such as arranged marriages. It is the responsibility of every magical person to reproduce. Survival of the species, if you will. Excessive inbreeding is dangerous.”

She paused and looked at him closely, probably to make sure he was paying due attention. “When I say you would do the right thing, I mean that you, like Ron, myself, Ginny, and everyone else, would marry, have children, and so on, especially since you are one of the more powerful wizards. That you could cast a fully corporeal Patronus at thirteen is more than indicative of that fact. I expect that by the time you come of age, you’ll have more offers than you know what to do with.”

:Is she out of her mind?:

:I’m afraid not. I’m quite sure a very large portion of the British wizarding community would agree with her. They expect you, their hero, to vanquish the evil fellow that’s been terrorizing them all, then find a nice witch to settle down with and have multiple babies to pass on your oh so attractive genes, magical and otherwise.:

:I wonder how she feels about soul bonds.:

:That’s assuming she could bring herself to believe in them. Then again, shove the right book in front of her face and she might. However, that probably wouldn’t change her mind, Harry. Not for you, at any rate. You’re too important to the wizarding world.:

:But what about my happiness?:

:Haven’t you heard? Your happiness comes when you win the big fight. After that, it’s all icing.:

“Harry?”

He looked up to see Hermione watching him. “Interesting. And are any of you going to object if Blaise joins our merry band of fake galleon toting defense associates?”

Ron spoke first. “I see no reason to object.”

Hermione gave Ron a slightly startled look and offered, “If you trust him, Harry, then fine.”

“I’m good,” said Ginny.

“Wonderful. I suppose that leaves finding out how Luna and Neville will feel about this.”

“I’ll take care of it, Harry,” Ginny said.

“Thanks. But first, do you still want to join?” he asked Blaise.

“Sure, Harry. I can even owl my parents for some books about defense you probably won’t be able to find in the library here.”

“Great!” And of course, it might help to cover up other things Harry might be introducing into the now much smaller DA.

“I’ll go take care of that now, actually. See you later on, all right?”

“Sure, Blaise, and thank you.”

“And I think it’s time you and I got to play chess, Harry,” Ron stated.

“In that case, I’ll go talk to the others,” Ginny said as she stood and brushed herself off. Hermione rose as well, no doubt of a mind to go find something new to learn.

Harry nodded at everyone, then looked to Ron. “Where?”

“I dunno. Could sit in one of the courtyards, or use an empty classroom. Merlin knows there are more of those around than anyone knows what to do with.”

*

“Ron?”

His friend looked up from the board and raised his brows.

“Do you agree with Hermione? About what people would expect of me once Voldemort was gone?”

“Let me think about that for a minute,” Ron replied evasively, then went back to studying the board. It wasn’t until after he made his move that he gave an answer. “Harry, I think that what Hermione said is, er, would be a common opinion. I think the moment you come out of this you’ll be bombarded with offers and hounded until you settle down and crank out more babies than mum and dad did.”

Harry frowned and didn’t even bother to ponder his next move. “All right. What do you think?”

“I think if you manage to defeat what’s-his-face that you can do whatever you bloody well please. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you found a way to hide in plain sight.”

Harry blinked, and gaped.

:I definitely like that young man.:

“I told you, Harry, I’m here for you. You do what makes you happy, and I’m good with that. I don’t care if you think Snape is sex walking, though I admit I might go blind at the mere thought.”

Harry choked and accidentally knocked over half the pieces on the board.

“Now look what you’ve done. We’ll just have to start over,” Ron admonished with a scowl as he began to reset the pieces to their starting positions.

:Harry, calm down.:

Harry stared at his friend with wide eyes, finally saying, “What on earth did I do to deserve a friend as loyal as you?”

“Shut up. I’m mad at you for ruining our game,” Ron said haughtily.

*

:You know, I think maybe I’m right in wanting to tell him.:

:But. . . .:

:Not Hermione. And I don’t say that because of your opinion, Tom. Maybe I’m being unkind, but she seems to believe what she was saying. Like it somehow is my duty to marry some insipid female simply to satisfy the expectations of others. I mean, come on. Shouldn’t it be more than enough to fulfill my supposed destiny? Shouldn’t it end there? When was my life supposed to become my own?:

:As I’ve said, Harry, mob mentality. And, in a way, as you’ve said. After all, people don’t like having to acknowledge a savior. I think they would come to believe they owned you in some odd fashion.:

Harry snorted. :Drove me mad is more like it.:

:Is there anyone else you might wish to tell?:

Harry flopped back and stared at the snake painting. :I’m not so sure about Ginny, unfortunately. In some respects I think she deserves to know, but on the other hand I can’t help but think that with Harry Potter and Voldemort dead she would be able to get past any lingering issues. Remus, perhaps. I don’t know.:

:Well, you may or may not like this, but werewolves do have certain issues, Harry. And yes, it is almost entirely based on the wolf. If you chose not to tell him, you would have to avoid him entirely, and Ron would have to be extremely careful as well.:

:What, scent?:

:Precisely. And, it is entirely possible that Remus’s wolf considers you one of his pack. If you think about it, Sirius going to Azkaban must have done a serious number on his psyche. Remus had good reason to suspect his friend guilty, despite knowing it could not be the truth. It is a difficult place, sitting on the fence between lies and truth.:

:I can understand that. I’m going to make the assumption that Dumbledore never explained the prophecy to any of them, but instead only hinted at it.:

:Is that wise? Though, Severus did not know, I am sure of it.:

:And he was a spy. It makes me want to speak with the sorting hat again, but I don’t see how that’s possible without alerting Dumbledore. The portraits there are loyal to him, of necessity.:

:Harry, have you written to Remus yet? You did tell him you would.:

Harry groaned softly. :It has been a week. I should do that now. But, Tom? Can you teach me soon how to do the Protean Charm by myself?:

:Of course, Harry. I would be delighted.:

Harry nodded and pulled himself up, swinging his legs off the bed so he could rise and head for his desk. After taking a seat there, he began a letter to his “uncle.”

Dear Remus,

I’ve just realized it’s been a week, so I thought now would be a good time to write to you and let you know how things have been going. I think it goes without saying that it hasn’t been wine and roses. According to Ginny, only a couple of the original members of the DA are able to accept my re-sort, though most everyone has left me alone, strangely enough. I’m not sure if they’re scared of me or just confused.

At any rate, there is one person in Slytherin who seems like a very nice person and that’s Blaise Zabini. From what I can tell his family has always been neutral. I’ve asked him to join me in defense practice along with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna. Though, I’m not sure yet how Neville and Luna will take his inclusion. You know how hard it can be for people to see beyond houses.

I have to say that there are a number of things I wish I could ask you. I will refrain from doing so in letters, though, as I realize that even owl post isn’t sacrosanct.

I suppose I can write more than, “I’m fine,” eh?

I have been diligently applying myself to my studies. I admit, that is partly due to having only one person within the dungeons I dare even be anything like myself around, partly due to not having Ron always trying to lure me into frivolous activities (no matter how much I might enjoy them), and partly due to not being nagged so often by Hermione.

I admit, freely, that she tends to make me feel quite rebellious. The more she pushes, the more likely it is that I want to do the opposite just to be spiteful. Does that make me a bad person? However, I can simply get on with it down here, and Blaise has been quite a help. He’s fairly quiet and studious, without being pushy. It’s relaxing.

But please don’t take any of that to mean that I disdain Ron and Hermione, because I don’t. I miss being able to spend time with them so freely. I’m also somewhat upset that I somehow ended up in Potions classes, but there is a good side to being in Slytherin. Being one of them means they can’t come after me. House rule. I can actually be in Potions class now and not fear being pranked by one of them.

Still, no longer being on a quidditch team is a bit disheartening. I can’t imagine playing against Gryffindor anyway, so I suppose it’s all right. Speaking of news, I’m sure you’ve seen that stupid Daily Prophet article by now. I can assure you, Blaise and I are nothing more than friends. He even thinks it’s funny, the silly git. I think I know who is behind it, though I’ve no idea how they managed it. I assume polyjuice or some sort of glamours.

At any rate, I’m not so starved that I’d throw myself at the first person to give me a wink and a nudge.

Yes, I have been eating properly. I’ve also been sleeping well. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but I haven’t been having nightmares, or . . . other issues. I must say it’s a relief. Maybe, in a very bizarre way, this exile from my usual haunts has allowed me to find some peace. At the moment I don’t care why. I’m simply grateful for the change of pace.

Lessons are fine. All of them. Though, I do wish I had had enough sense back in the day to cast aside the idea of Divination and had opted for something a bit more interesting as an elective. Then again, there’s nothing saying I can’t take up Arithmancy or Ancient Runes as a hobby, right? Did you take those classes, and did you enjoy them?

I guess that’s it for the moment. I hope to hear from you soon.

Love,
Harry

:I think that was a very nice letter. I would hope that Remus will be satisfied, and perhaps even get your subtle hint.:

:Mm. We’ll see, right?: Harry, on seeing that the ink had dried, folded the letter and hunted out an envelope to place it in, then addressed the front. :I’ve changed my mind, by the way.:

:Oh?:

:I do not think Coran.:

:Why not?:

:Doesn’t suit very well with Ash.:

:What did you have in mind, then?:

:Something equally odd, and equally metaphoric. I was thinking about using Haze instead.:

:You sound like a child of the sixties or seventies.:

Harry laughed softly. :I didn’t say Moonbeam, Tom, and I hadn’t planned on taking up drugs or wearing beads in my hair.:

:Delightful. Actually, I rather like it. Of course, you could always consider Ember.:

:No, no, no. With Ash that sounds like we’re a fire that’s nearly burnt out.:

:Or it could be that we’re sneaky, and could be set ablaze at any moment.:

:There’s always a flip side, right?:

:Of course.:

*

The following day brought about the news that both Neville and Luna were fine with the idea of Blaise being included, which took one weight off Harry’s shoulders. They simply needed to decide on what to use as a signal piece. Harry wasn’t especially keen on using another galleon, and, as he did not feel that they needed to be ever so sneaky in their endeavors, he thought perhaps a piece of jewelry might serve just as well. That is, assuming he could get the others to agree.

In the end he decided on a simple pendant to be worn under clothing. The only thing about it that concerned him was the back, which should be smooth and unadorned. Whatever ended up on the front of any of them wasn’t something he cared about.