Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 27 :: One Beginning

27 • One Beginning

As it stood the next few weeks were fairly quiet. The only things of note that happened in Harry’s opinion were the Gryffindor/Slytherin game—Gryffindor won, but not by much—and his visit to the bank on the tenth. There he received a single key which was blood bonded to him, and a piece of jewelry which was bonded to Tom in case he ever needed to act as Harry’s representative.

Tom’s only comment was that he would be pleased, in the end, to rid himself of the ring and pendant currently being used as signals, as he was building up more of a collection than he wished of jewelry he thought did not flatter him. This latest piece was another ring, but at least he had been able to pick something from a provided selection.

Of course, Ron was being true to his word and getting his work done as soon as possible. He and Harry were picking places at random, Blaise often joining them, to write out their essays or practice. After researching what spells they would need they experimented on cutlery they had liberated from dinner and eventually came up with something they were satisfied with.

Though, while they were waiting for the right day to spring it, they continued to consider more ideas.

By the time the next Hogsmeade weekend rolled around, Harry knew he needed to pick a date for Ash’s birthday if he intended to try to find him something while shopping and not have it be late. So it was that he and the others headed out Saturday morning after breakfast, making the obligatory stop at Filch to be checked off.

Filch gave him a darkly sneering look and shook his head. “You, Potter, no longer have a valid permission slip.”

“I’m sorry?” Apparently with the death of Sirius, his permission no longer counted.

“Bad luck, Potter,” he said insincerely, smiling wickedly.

Harry blinked slowly just as McGonagall arrived; apparently she was also on duty that day. “Is there a problem?”

“No, professor. I was just somewhat surprised to hear my Hogsmeade weekends were being denied.”

She peered at him for a moment, then looked over at the list. “I see.”

“However,” Harry continued, “I don’t see that there’s a problem.”

“I’m not sure you understand, Mr Potter,” said McGonagall. “Your—”

“My guardian provided me with a new form this summer, just in case something like this should happen,” Harry said smoothly and pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket. After handing it over to the professor he waited.

“I see,” she repeated. “This seems to be in order.” She turned to Filch and nodded, then back to Harry. “You are doing all right?”

“Yes, professor. Thank you for asking. Maybe later on I could speak with you about Transfiguration? Some advice? Or maybe even about how Gryffindor won the first match.”

She appeared slightly startled, then almost smiled. “Of course, Potter. Enjoy yourself in Hogsmeade, but be watchful. Stick with your friends.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He grinned and stepped away to let others be checked out. It had been really quite sagacious of Tom to get another permission form signed, just in case. It had been bad enough his third year being shut out, and it wasn’t as though he could openly claim his emancipation.

A short time later they were traipsing down to Hogsmeade, pulling their cloaks more tightly around them to ward off the chill. They went through every shop, though after milling about for quite some time in Honeydukes, Harry had to forcibly drag Ron out. It was not much better at the book shop with Hermione. Harry spent a fair amount of time himself browsing the shelves in search of something for Tom, but finally decided it was most likely a useless endeavor considering how many years Tom had had to build his collection.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks was somewhat tense. Hermione was all for heading back up to the castle to start in on another round of homework and revision, but the young men were having none of that. Harry, and certainly Ron, had heard her oft repeated refrain on the nearness of the NEWTs so many times since the year had begun that he sometimes swore he could hear it wafting out of empty corridors and classrooms.

It was while he was looking through the selection at one of the smaller, more eclectic shops that he finally had an inkling of an idea, and on the heels of that promising start, Harry purchased a half dozen kits to take back to the school with him, then convinced Ron to go with him back to Dervish and Banges. One more stop at the book shop and Harry had everything he needed, more or less. Naturally, he had quietly occluded his mind during the whole thing.

That evening, since they were not having a DA meeting, Harry trailed off after McGonagall. Once he was comfortably seated in her office and had an open biscuit tin in front of him, she spoke. “So, Potter, what do you think of Gryffindor’s chances this year for the quidditch cup?”

“Well, I think that Ginny makes for a fair seeker, though it might be a bit rough. Ron, of course, is doing fine. I think experience will continue to make a difference as time goes by, though I’m not sure of the effect this year. The others, though, I just don’t know. It’s pretty awful when you’ve got to deal with replacing over half the team, and I can see where it can be extremely beneficial when you’re able to stagger the years playing, or even host reserves.

“I’d say Gryffindor’s chances are fair. Slytherin also lost a number of people, but I’m not so sure about Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. It’s quite odd, though, sitting in the Slytherin stands while rooting for Gryffindor.” He flashed her a cheeky grin and took a biscuit.

McGonagall sighed and reached for one herself. “It is a shame. Mind you, I never said this, but I did have you pegged for captain, though that is not to say that Mr Weasley is doing a poor job.”

“It’s funny you should say that. Blaise also thought I would make a good captain, but I knew that would never happen the moment the hat turned the world upside down. Well, I would have thought it had it been in any way important at the time. But I think it’s nice. Ron gets a bit of responsibility over something that’s important to him, that he’ll want to do well at, and be motivated for. And I’m not sure I would have made a good captain. I just like to fly. Avoiding the other players and the bludgers while doing so just makes it more interesting.”

She gave him another of those looks that might be mistaken for tight-lipped annoyance, but he could see that she wasn’t. If anything she was probably torn between losing her star seeker and the knowledge that Slytherin didn’t have him either. “And are you getting on down there?” she asked in a tone that brooked no lies.

“I really am, professor. Blaise is quite nice for one thing, and since I have my own room it’s much easier to revise without interruptions. I think my marks are improving, actually. No one really bothers me if I don’t count the looks I get.” He leaned in quite close and whispered, “I think even they’re scared of Professor Snape.”

She made a slight huffing noise and changed the subject. “Now, regarding Transfiguration—you said something about advice?”

Thankful that she hadn’t reprimanded him for his slight jest he said, “Yes, I did. I’ve been doing a bit of research into transfiguration in dueling. I must say, seeing Professor Dumbledore in action at the Ministry was both terrifying and enthralling. I don’t think it ever occurred to me you could use it like that, and it makes the subject so much more interesting. It was an eye opener once I had a chance to really think about it. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t combined classes on some level with Defense. Or, are there?” He gazed at her, eyes wide with innocent curiosity.

After a short pause in which she gazed back narrowly she said, “Yes, and no. As far as a standard education goes, there isn’t much call for it, I’m afraid. At least not on a practical level. It is something you would learn during auror training, Potter.”

Harry heaved a gentle sigh and nodded. “It just seems like, when I take the time to really think about it, that everything is interconnected. Summoning charms to move something in the way of a curse, transfiguration or conjuring to block a spell, and contact potions could be used if thrown. Even apparation to disorient an opponent for the time it took them to re-locate you.”

He dropped his gaze for a split second, then looked up and said, “I confess, at times I’ve honestly failed to see the use in some spells. I mean, transforming a match into a needle hardly seems useful unless you’ve lost a button. Then again, I suppose one must start small and work upward to higher complexity, and obviously, complexity would be hard if you have not or cannot master the base principles.”

“I think,” she said in a slightly abstracted tone, “that you would make a fine auror, Potter.”

“Mm. I suppose time will tell, professor. Do you have any advice or suggestions as to books I should read, though? I know it’ll be some time before any of it would be of real use, but I’d still like to learn more. I’ve already purchased some books on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, and those are quite intriguing as well. It’s a shame I didn’t pick them as electives back then.”

Harry got the distinct impression that McGonagall was sucking on a sour lemon judging by her suddenly pinched expression, but that surely couldn’t be the case.

:Harry, it is possible that Dumbledore shared his knowledge of your supposed fate with her, which could explain why she looks almost . . . guilty.:

:You could be right.: He reached for a second biscuit as she slid some parchment over in front of her and grabbed a quill. :Honestly, I was more thinking I could divert suspicion off me by bringing it up with her than fishing for information about things like that. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she mentions this conversation to the old man.:

:If she does, we may hear of it. Of course, it could also be possible that she fears for you independently.:

McGonagall handed Harry the parchment. “Here is a list. All of this should be available in our own library, but if you feel the need to research beyond that, come see me and I will suggest books you might wish to purchase, Potter.”

“Thank you, professor. I really appreciate this.” He folded the list and tucked it into his pocket with a smile.

“Well, you run along, Potter. I may no longer be your head of house, but you’re always welcome to come talk to me if you feel the need.”

Harry nodded and smiled, then took off in a fairly cheerful mood. He found Ron loitering at the staircases and grinned. “What’s up?”

“Since we aren’t having a meeting, why don’t we, er, go hang out?”

Harry thought for a moment, then nodded. “Why don’t you go grab your bag and meet me at the kitchens. I’ll get some butterbeer for us.”

“Right.”

Ron jogged off up the staircase, so Harry headed off to talk to Dobby, who was more than glad to produce several bottles of butterbeer. Ron burst in a few minutes later with a bag slung over his shoulder, so Harry yanked it open and slipped the bottles in.

After saying goodbye to Dobby they left, taking one of the shortcuts on their way back up to the ground floor that bypassed the need and landed them on the dungeon side instead. By then Ron had disillusioned himself and was moving very carefully so as not to attract attention by his passage into Slytherin and to Harry’s room.

“This would be easier if we knew an invisibility spell,” said Ron once they were safely inside.

“I know. I suppose I could always ask Tom. Speaking of which, are you interested in seeing the Chamber?”

“You mean—is it—?”

“Well,” Harry said quickly, “I could mean that. There’s more to it than just, er, where I found Ginny. Nothing to be alarmed about, honest. If you’d rather stay here, that’s fine.”

“No, it’s okay.”

Dobby was happy enough to take another break to transport them, though Harry had him drop them in the main Chamber rather than the library. Ron spent quite a while walking around, finally ending up gazing at the odd staircase.

“Tom made that.”

“What’s up there?”

“It used to be the basilisk’s lair. Part of it, at least. But there’s more up there than just that. I think you’ll like it.” He tripped up the stairs lightly and into the mouth, not waiting, but pausing in the lair for Ron to catch up. “The tunnels lead to different, smaller chambers. What we want is the third, the library.”

“You have your own library? Oh, wait, you did mention something about that before. Let’s see it, then.”

They walked in on a conversation between Tom and Snape. Wisely, Ron remained silent as he took a seat. Harry perched on the arm of the chair Tom was using, nodding at Snape in greeting.

Snape heaved a sigh and aimed an irritated look at Ron, clearly not happy to see him there, or that he himself had been present. “I trust that Mr Weasley is not under the influence of a monitoring charm.”

Ron shook his head.

“We checked before we came, sir,” Harry said. “I’m going to show Ron the dueling room.” He stood back up and motioned to Ron, then strode off down the tunnel and into a different one.

*

“Weasley?” Severus pointed an accusative forefinger at Tom. “How do you know that boy can keep his frequently gaping orifice shut? I’m certain you know what could happen to me if he decides to audition for the role of Judas. Or if he inadvertently plays snitch the second he stops thinking or suffers another bout of jealousy.”

“Harry is too important to him. He won’t do or say anything that would jeopardize Harry’s situation. I was there, Severus. Harry is the only real friend Ron has. The Granger girl is so pedantic that neither of them can truly relate to her, or her to them, and neither trusts her with the truth. Nor do I.”

“And you’re so sure he’ll remain silent,” Severus drawled.

“Please trust me, Severus. Even if you can’t bring yourself to trust them, trust me.”

“Yes, of course. And if the boy talks, and I’m confronted by Dumbledore in his office?”

“Then all of it stops, all the subterfuge. Dobby jumps you out of there, down to here.”

“Yes, and my life stops. Just like that. I’d never be able to show my face again, Tom.”

“I would do whatever it took to set you up, Severus, but it won’t come to that.”

“You had better be right,” Severus said tersely. “I don’t plan on dying now, Tom, and certainly not for the sake of a boy who can’t remember his loyalties.”

Tom sat back and chuckled, casting an amused glance at his friend, then laughed when Severus realized what he had said. “Ironic, is it not? Severus, if you have anything to hide, hide it, either here or some other safe place. But it will not come to that. Trust me as I trust you.”

*

“That was uncomfortable,” Ron commented, then looked around the new room. “Hey, this is pretty neat.”

“Yeah, Tom set it up, though Dobby did quite a lot as well.”

“What else is down here?”

“Several things. Some of it is living quarters.”

Ron turned his head slowly and stared at him intently. “Living quarters. Really.” He took a deep breath. “So, Harry, is there something else you might want to tell me?”

“It’s up to you, Harry,” Tom broke in.

Harry swiveled around to see his bonded leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He rolled his eyes. “Ron, maybe you haven’t seen it yet, but this place, this school, this life, is like a prison for me. I have a grand total of four people I dare to trust. I don’t know if I can stand the thought of being here much longer.”

“What exactly are you saying, Harry? Just when are you planning on . . . on dying?”

Harry moved into a slow shrug. “Honestly, we were considering over the summer. It wouldn’t endanger you, either. But I’d still be here next year, Ron. Either here in the Chamber, or in Hogsmeade. And Dobby could jump you to see me, us, whenever. I wouldn’t be gone.”

Ron looked fairly uneasy at that pronouncement, even a bit pale. “You aren’t leaving me.”

“No, Ron. Even after, I’ll still be right nearby.”

“Wouldn’t this be more comfortable back in the library, or the lounge?” Tom suggested.

*

Tom was even more convinced of Ron’s sincerity after living through the last few minutes. The boy had sounded almost desperate, and Tom was very much not inclined to believe in any way that he was any kind of an actor in those moments, and certainly not of that magnitude. Even with his prowess at Occlumency he was comfortable enough around Tom so as to not be on his guard. His intentions were effectively transparent. In his opinion, Ron took his promises seriously.

:Harry, Severus is concerned, but I believe I have settled him for the moment. I would like if you would ask Dobby to be on call, though, in case Severus needs his help in an emergency. It is only a precaution, nothing more.:

:Concerned about Ron, you mean.:

:Yes. Will you?:

:Of course I will. I don’t want Snape to get any more jittery than he needs to be, and preferably not at all.:

“Uh, guys, could you stop thinking at each other?” Ron was looking faintly annoyed at their silence.

Harry smiled sheepishly and took a seat. “I’m sorry, Ron.”

“I as well. We should know better than to be so rude. Sometimes it is easy to communicate that way without realizing it, but I admit, in this case, I did so knowingly. My apologies.”

Ron flopped onto the ground and sprawled before the fake fire. “All right. I can accept this, even if I don’t like it. Maybe it is silly. It’s not like I’d die if you disappeared, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be happy about it.”

“I know. I’ll still be here, Ron, I promise. You won’t abandon me, and I’m sure as hell not going to abandon you. I’ll just be a different me, that’s all. Please believe me.”

“All right, all right. I believe you. The only thing I’ve ever really known you to lie about was the Occlumency lessons,” Ron said wearily. “But I want proof, Harry. I want to know when it’s about to happen, and I want proof, damn it, once it’s over, if I can’t be there.”

“You’ll have it, I promise.” He paused, smiled slightly, then said, “I could have told you it was just because Tom is living down here, but I didn’t.”

Ron rolled over onto his stomach and propped his upper body up on his elbows. “So what did you talk to McGonagall about?”

“Transfiguration, among other things. I asked her for a list of books, and she gave me one, though she did say that I wouldn’t normally learn the kind of stuff I wanted until I was in Auror training. But really, I went because I figured I might be able to head off whatever damage Hermione might have caused by running straight to the old man.”

“Think she bought it?”

“We’re pretty sure she did.”

Tom arched a brow and said, “She seemed almost guilty. I don’t know if Dumbledore shared his vision with her, but she might suspect that Harry will not live through this war. If it is not the former, I think I’ve gained new respect for that woman. She was . . . a contemporary of mine.”

“Yeah, but don’t you ever wonder just how much he tells her?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he told her next to nothing,” Tom said. “Or if he did, it might not have been factual. I never took her for the kind of woman to knowingly condone child abuse, for instance.”

“I certainly hope not,” Harry said. “I’d hate to think she’s so far in his pocket that she’d be so cruel. I know she’s strict and. . . . Not that, though.”

“I guess not. Obviously, nothing has been said this year or your spy would have mentioned it, right?” Ron rolled over onto his side and stared at the fire. “Do you have one down here? I mean, you’re down here a lot, right, Tom? What if something urgent came up and Harry wasn’t in his room? Here’s a stupid question—is it possible to carry one on you and still have it able to report? Do they need to be on a wall to work?”

Tom and Harry exchanged a look.

*

Five minutes into dinner on Wednesday the first stirrings of disharmony occurred. A third year Ravenclaw squealed in surprise when the food on her fork suddenly tipped off for no apparent reason. Harry and Blaise looked up at the sound and then at each other. A few seconds later a first year across from them experienced the same problem, resulting in a lapful of mashed potatoes swimming in gravy.

Within five minutes students all over the Great Hall were making noises of surprise and confusion as food went everywhere. Of course, not everyone was affected, but as people saw their neighbors in trouble they started abandoning their utensils.

Harry gave a philosophical shrug to hide his amusement and abandoned what was on his plate, reaching for foods that could be eaten out of hand instead. A discreet look across the hall showed that Ron had done the same, though his shirt was splotched. He really thought it had gone off well, and so did Blaise to judge by his face, but it would have been even better had more students been affected. Luckily, soup hadn’t been on the menu; someone might have been burned.

Professor McGonagall, he noticed, kept giving him sidelong looks, but made no move to leave her seat to speak to him. Harry made the assumption that she either suspected him of the prank, or was worried about his future. He very much doubted that she would raise either issue with him anytime soon, though. Harry decided not to worry about it—either it. He had more important things to do, and without Tom catching on.

*

The next evening found Harry curled up in a chair in the library reading one of his Arithmancy books. When Tom wandered in from whatever he had been doing Harry looked up and smiled, then set his book aside on the table. “Hello.”

“Harry.” Tom inclined his head briefly and took the other chair. “How far along have you gotten? I know you wouldn’t still be reading those if you were bored with the subject.”

“Quite far. I don’t think my money has been wasted. Whether or not I use the knowledge is beside the point. It’s been enriching to learn. But, I have something more interesting to do at the moment.”

Tom arched a brow. “And that would be?”

Harry smiled and rose, then summoned a large package to his hands. “That would be this. Ash Riley, on the occasion of your birthday, 21 November, I would like to present you with a gift.” As an aside he said, “I did say scorpio. You were born in 1977, by the way.” He deposited the package in Tom’s lap and sat back down.

Tom gave him an amused look and nodded. “So, I’m nineteen? Rather, Ash is. So be it.” Then he looked down at the carefully wrapped package with curiosity and began pulling off the dark green paper. “No card? I’m shocked.”

Harry snorted and replied, “It’s not like you attached a card to mine.”

Once unwrapped Tom stared at the resulting boxes in some bewilderment, then opened the one on top. “Puzzle pieces?”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to shop for you?” Harry complained. “It wasn’t until I went to Hogsmeade that I got an idea. Customized jigsaw puzzles. I’m sure you can figure out from some of the pieces what each is, but you’ll have to put them together to be sure. Since I know you like them, that’s what I did. Besides, I already told you one of my best ideas, and I know you bought those books.” Harry scrunched up his face a moment in mild regret.

Tom looked up with a delighted smile. “This is wonderful, Harry. Thank you.” He sorted through the pieces for a few moments, then said, “You’ve been sneaking around behind my back.”

“Yup! And Dobby was a willing accomplice, so you can thank him, too. I think he’s become rather fond of you.”

“I will be sure to do so,” Tom said as he replaced the cover. “I will investigate these further later. But for now”—he set the boxes on the floor beside his chair—“I think I should thank you properly.”

“Didn’t you just?” Harry asked with an innocent smile.

“Heavens no. A simple spoken thank you would never suffice for such a thoughtful gift. Most people—well, most people wouldn’t. Most people would have presented me with something ostentatious and even ridiculous, or horribly dark. Nothing that I, now, would enjoy. So I really must be properly grateful.”

Harry snickered as Tom stood up and came over to pull him out of his chair, and let himself be led off to the bedroom as his bonded commented, “I think a massage would do nicely for a start, don’t you?”