Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 32 :: Intrusions

32 • Intrusions

Harry waited until he was back in his room to react, and at that, he simply called for Dobby to transport him to the Chamber’s practice room. By the time Tom found him Harry had spent several minutes letting out the odd shriek or yell of frustrated anger, not to mention numerous spells. No doubt, it had been the noise that had drawn him.

Tom stood off to the side for a good thirty seconds, then said, “Hello, Harry. I assume there’s a reason you’ve been auditioning for the role of banshee.”

Harry turned around slowly to fully face Tom, then scowled. “Hermione.”

Tom crossed his arms and tilted to lean against the wall. “Ah, then I’ll assume that talk did not go well.”

“Hardly. Honestly, I felt like smacking her. She—” Harry took a few steps and kicked the wall. “She misinterpreted nearly everything, deliberately, I’m sure. She accused me of not wanting to spend time with her, or the others, because they were no longer of any use to me. Well, except Ron, because obviously he amuses me.”

“How does that make you feel? Beyond the obvious, that is.”

Harry favored him with another scowl. “How could I have been so wrong back then? I truly thought it’d be Ron who’d go off at me being re-sorted. I thought Hermione, with her penchant for logic and reason, would at least think about it for a while. Instead, she’s the one that immediately started flinging blame in my direction.

“And then. . . . First she gives me grief over not having written to her, them, about how I felt about Sirius’s death. They would have been able to help me. Then she does an about face and brushes off my feelings for him entirely, saying I barely knew him, so what’s the big deal anyway? She also more or less admitted that she’s pissed off because she’s lost whatever measure of control she had over me previously.”

He paused, then turned a bit and shot off a blasting curse at one of the Fudge figures. “I’m almost tempted to shut down the DA, but that would be punishing the others because of her and they don’t deserve that.” After folding himself down to the floor he added, “And besides, something like that might have the effect of making the others think they ought to stop talking to her because of me. Well, that’s assuming they’d be inclined to take sides. I know Ron would.”

Tom pushed away from the wall and came to sit in front of him. “Are you surprised by this?”

“Not after this summer, no, but that doesn’t make me any less angry.”

“What do you plan on doing about it?”

Harry looked up in surprise. “Doing?” He furrowed his brow and looked away, then said, “Nothing, I suppose. I guess I’ll keep right on treating her as I have been.”

“All right. I do have a suggestion, though, if you’d like to hear it.”

“Oh?”

*

The DA meeting that evening was noticeably chilly as far as atmosphere went, and Harry was extremely thankful when he could call an end to it. As it was, he waited several minutes after the others left before shaking his head slowly and gathering up his things. Blaise and Ron were giving him peculiar looks, but he ignored them.

“Let’s go,” he said, then waited for Ron to disappear from sight. He nodded and stepped into the doorframe, then stopped dead as he noticed a disillusioned Hermione lurking not far down the hall. A split second later he rolled his eyes and turned, saying, “You could have told me I forgot the book,” before stepping back inside.

“Ron, come out,” he whispered, “and don’t ask questions.”

Ron appeared with a puzzled look. “Oh sure, blame it on me,” he said.

“Maybe I meant either of you,” Harry retorted and flexed his fingers. “Come on, let’s go. I’m sure our snack is waiting for us.” He turned again and headed out the door, this time with both Blaise and Ron visible, and said, “I think Ginny is doing fine as seeker.”

Ron, playing along, said, “Yeah, but she’ll never be as good as you, Harry. What do you think of Demelza?”

Harry kept his focus ahead as they passed Hermione and said, “I think she makes for a fair chaser. I’m not so sure about that McLaggen fellow, though.”

Blaise shook his head and laughed. “Oh, no. If you two are going to go on about quidditch, I’m heading back to my room. I’ll see you later.” He took off at a fast clip, quickly disappearing.

And so it went, with rambling quidditch talk as they walked. Harry could not tell if Hermione was actually following them, though, as he could not turn around to check, and he could not hear any footsteps. However, he would have been surprised had she not accounted for that detail.

A short time later they were inside the kitchens, sitting at one of the tables and enjoying a snack. And, given that the door was not directly visible from where they were sitting, Harry wondered if Hermione would dare to follow them, or if she would have given up in disgust over their destination. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as though he could whip out the map and check to see if she had gone to the tower, or was lurking outside impatiently.

He was in the middle of sketching a play on a piece of parchment when he noticed her arrive, the glow still present to tell him she remained disillusioned. A minute later he said, “So what do you think of this?”

Ron pulled the parchment over and nodded, then said, “It might work. I can bring it up with the team and see if they want to give it a go.”

Harry grinned and nodded. “Do they have any idea I’ve been helping?”

Ron pulled a face. “A Slytherin? Helping Gryffindor? The horror.”

Hermione eventually drifted off, causing Harry to sigh softly. At that point he had a brilliant idea. :Tom?:

:Yes, Harry.:

:If you’re able, could you please check the map to see where Hermione is presently?: He pretended to study the latest sketch while he waited, shaking his head slightly at Ron to forestall any questions.

:She’s currently moving at a brisk pace, presumably toward Gryffindor tower. At any rate, she’s already gone past the second floor. What’s wrong?:

:I’ll explain in a couple of minutes.: Harry slid the parchment off the table and stood, shoving it into his bag, then jerked his head at Ron and headed toward the door. They bypassed the stairs again, allowing Ron to go invisible within the secret passage (but not before checking for any tracking charms), and slipped into Harry’s room shortly thereafter.

A quick call to Dobby landed him in the Chamber library, where Tom was sitting with a book in one hand. Harry threw himself into a chair and scowled.

“For what it’s worth, she’s back in lion territory, Harry.”

“She was spying on us,” Harry said as Ron appeared and took a seat. “She was waiting outside for when we left, disillusioned. Maybe her curiosity about what Ron and I do finally got to her, I don’t know.”

“I dunno what you’re going to tell Blaise,” Ron said. “I’m sure he’s curious as to why the plans changed so suddenly.”

Harry shook his head. “I’ll figure something out. That is, if he bothers to ask. I felt uneasy or something. I’m going to be very annoyed if she keeps this up, though.”

“There isn’t much more than a few months left until the end of term, Harry,” Tom pointed out. “And while she could become an excessively wearisome trial on your patience, it wouldn’t be for that much longer.”

“Er, did something happen earlier today?” Ron asked.

Harry let out his breath explosively and dropped his head back. “Yes. I went to talk to her, you see, about. . . .” Five minutes later he was done explaining, and Ron was on his feet pacing around angrily. “Look, Ron, try not to treat her much differently than you already are, please?”

Ron stopped long enough to shoot him an incredulous look.

“I mean it. I don’t want us doing anything that would serve to confirm whatever point it is she thinks she has. Snubbing her completely might just make her that much more pushy about things.”

“All right, Harry, but only because it’s you asking.”

“Thank you. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if she expects that almost the first thing I’d do is tell you what happened earlier. If you don’t change how you act around her, it might make her think maybe I haven’t. And if she thinks I’m not actually confiding in you, either, she might actually tell you something.” He shrugged.

Ron wandered back over to a chair and sat down. “Maybe. But you can’t expect me not to be angry about this.”

“No, I can’t, and I don’t.”

“Harry, try to remember to contact me as the meetings are breaking up. I will keep an eye on the map, all right? If she does try again, at least you’ll know before you think to exit the room.”

*

Harry was busy tucking into his dinner Monday evening when he became aware of the prickling sensation of being watched, and raised his head cautiously. A moment later he realized the first years across the table were staring at him with a mixture of wariness and . . . hope? He glanced back down for a second, a slight frown creasing his forehead, then looked up and raised his brows questioningly.

One of them jerked slightly to the side and shot a bit of a glare at his seat mate, then bit his lip and looked back at Harry. “We, er, were wondering if maybe you would help us with Defense?” the boy asked haltingly.

Harry blinked in surprise and scratched his forehead, glancing over at Blaise briefly. “I suppose I could. I mean, I don’t see why not.”

“Really?” the boy said a bit more brightly.

He started to speak, hesitated, then said, “Yeah. If you’re having trouble. . . . Though, why me?”

“Everybody says you’re brilliant at it, and. . . .” The boy bit his lip again.

Harry wondered if they had been paying far more attention to his conversations with Blaise than he’d been aware of, and if that had anything to do with it. Well, aside from the obvious fact that Flaxweld was an idiot. “All right. How does once a week sound?”

The boy looked at the other first years, then back, and nodded.

“Well, what about Saturdays after lunch, then? Though, if you like, we can meet in my room after we’re done eating tonight to discuss things.”

The boy glanced at his year mates again, then said, “Okay.”

Harry nodded. “Once we’re done, then, you lot can follow me to my room. You’re not going to mind if Blaise is there, are you?”

The boy shook his head.

A half hour later Harry and Blaise were sitting in his room with nine first years, five male and four female. Once introductions were out of the way, Harry asked what the problem was, and was overrun with a plethora of complaints about Flaxweld. Harry had to laugh at that, sharing an amused look with Blaise.

“All right, all right. Do you guys want to go over the whole year, or just from this point on?”

“Erm, all of it?” Blair said after glancing at his mates. “If that’s okay.”

“It’s fine. We can go over whatever Flaxweld covers with you each week, then backtrack for the second half of our time. One of you needs to bring along a syllabus next time so I know for sure what to cover from before. All right? Okay, off you go, then, and we’ll meet back here after lunch on Saturday.”

The nine of them bounced to their feet and trooped out, so Harry turned to Blaise. “Huh. I suppose I should let Professor Snape know about this, not that I care much about the house points involved.”

“Might as well. For all you know, if you don’t, and he finds out, he might be annoyed that he didn’t have the excuse to give them.”

Harry grinned and shrugged. “Well, I’m going to take a shower.”

“All right. I’ll see you in the morning, then.”

As soon as Blaise was gone Harry called for Dobby to request a jump to the library. He idly wondered why they had bothered to set up a lounge when they almost never seemed to use it. Tom was not there, however, so Harry wandered off to the bedroom with the intent of using the tub in their bathroom, only to find his bonded already soaking in it. Harry arched a brow and stripped quickly, thinking that they never had actually been naughty in the bathroom, and wondering if Tom was game for further experimentation. As it turned out, he was, and Harry never did get around to mentioning his new set of students just then.

*

“Sir,” Harry said, “something happened last night that I thought you might like to know about.”

Snape raised his brows slightly and tilted his head.

“The Slytherin first years approached me at dinner, so to speak. They asked me if I would tutor them in Defense. Apparently, they’re not all that thrilled with how things have been going so far. At any rate, I agreed. Blaise will be helping me.”

“I see. Should I assume you are informing me out of courtesy, and not due to the house points awarded for such things?”

Harry gave a half smile and nodded. “Yes, sir, though I do recall that you did bring it up during that meeting first night. Still, I cannot say with any truth that it matters all that much to me whether points are awarded or not. They asked for help, and I’m happy to give it.”

Snape gazed at him steadily, then nodded. “Nevertheless, points will be awarded. How often do you plan on meeting with them?”

“At present, once a week, sir. I think with both myself and Blaise we can get through whatever they’ve, er, been introduced to in class that week, plus go over parts of whatever they’ve already . . . covered in the past. If not, I’ll just have to set aside more time for them.”

“If the frequency changes, I expect you will be informing me?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Very well. If that was all, I suggest you take the time to read up on methods of determining how to devise an antidote for any given poison.” After arching his brow, Snape looked down and resumed marking a paper from where he had left off.

Harry stood there for a second, then moved to sit at the first table and take out his Potions text, wondering just when Snape had crossed over the line from being merely civil to being actively helpful. However, he wasn’t inclined to question the change. Not openly, at least. He discounted Snape’s actions on the night Tom had lost control of himself as not being in quite the same vein. That, after all, had absolutely nothing to do with school.

In point of fact, he had been rather touched that Snape had been that gentle with him. Even his threats had come across as being more habit than heartfelt. Harry gave a mental shrug and opened his book, flipping to the chapter Snape had suggested, and set about reading. He had only read through the first few pages when a muttered, “Damn it,” made him look up in abrupt confusion to see Snape staring fixedly at the door.

A second later Snape stood and said, “Stow that book, now. No questions. Just play along.”

Harry blinked, but did as requested, shoving it into his bag quickly, then stood when Snape gestured.

“Wand.” The moment it was in Harry’s hand Snape nodded, glanced at the door, then said, “So, Mr Potter, let us see just how well you’ve been keeping up with your studies, shall we? Nod when you’re ready.”

Harry wanted very badly to shake his head, but resisted. Instead, knowing full well that he could handle anything Snape threw at him, he nodded, and was hit with an attempt to break into his mind a moment later, which he quickly threw off without bothering with his wand.

Snape arched a brow. “Adequate. But one attempt is hardly a deciding factor, now is it? Again, nod when—”

The door opened, causing them both to look over. Dumbledore was standing there, a gentle smile gracing his face, and not a little curiosity. “Good evening, Severus, Harry.”

Harry nodded, more to express the confirmation of his suspicion than as a greeting, and said, “Hello, sir.”

“I thought I’d drop by to see how things were progressing.”

Harry smiled, knowing such a response could be interpreted in a number of different ways by the headmaster, and angled his head slightly. :Tom? The old man is being a pest again.:

“If you’re not adverse to the idea, Harry, I thought I might see for myself just how well you’ve come along with your studies.”

:Lovely. Don’t worry, Harry. I’m fully confident you can hold him off. And if I do feel you having trouble, I will assist you.:

Harry appeared to consider that, then turned his gaze on Snape. “Do you think I’m ready, sir?”

Snape arched a brow (though Harry rather thought he saw the man’s mouth twitch suspiciously) and said, “If not, Potter, you may be sure I will be working you that much harder so as to assure your ability to live up to the headmaster’s expectations of you.”

Harry allowed himself to appear somewhat uncertain about that pronouncement, then turned an artless gaze on Dumbledore. “Yes, of course, sir. You. . . .”

“What is it, Harry?” Dumbledore asked with a birdlike tilt of his head.

Harry bit his lip, then said, “You won’t, er. . . .” He shook his head and took a breath, then stood up quite straight. “It’s nothing, sir. I’m ready.”

Dumbledore twinkled at him, then said, “I shan’t go too hard on you, Harry.” Then he raised his wand and cast.

Harry could feel it, that was for certain. He could also feel his guardian rising up to meet the attack, the intrusion, and fend it off. What he wasn’t sure of was just how much effort the old man had put into the attempt.

“Nicely done, Harry. I shall try again with a bit more power. Are you prepared?”

Harry waited a moment, then nodded. And again, the headmaster cast at him, with exactly the same results.

“Very nicely done, Harry. I am quite pleased. My compliments, Severus. This is very encouraging. I think I’ll let you two get back to your lesson, then.” He bestowed a twinkly little smile on each of them, then disappeared back out the door, closing it behind him.

Harry waited, doing nothing more than turning a curious gaze on Snape. It was a good thirty seconds or more before Snape gave him a nod, at which point Harry rolled his eyes, holstered his wand, and sat back down.

:You know, Harry, he put rather a lot of power into that second cast.:

Harry let out a faint snort. :I am happy that you can tell things like that.: And on seeing the expectant look on Snape’s face, Harry tapped the side of his head and said, “Just thoughts, sir. However, I’ve come to realize just now that I have no earthly idea of just how strong those were.”

Snape gave him a rather curious look and resumed his seat. “Interesting. I’m sure we can discuss that in more depth, later, in a more appropriate location.”

Harry nodded and reached into his bag to retrieve his Potions book and flip back to the correct chapter. :And just what does that translate to?:

:Well, I could certainly do better, and have. I’m more concerned with what he was thinking. Granted, we both already speculated that he might attempt to test you himself.:

:You mean because he seemed almost disappointed at Halloween.:

:Yes. It might simply be that he’s pleased that you and Severus have stood down long enough to actually get something done. So to speak.:

:Perhaps. But really, just what is it he expects? Let’s say Snape and I do get along like a house on fire. What of it? Let’s say I got inducted into the Order. It would be lovely to believe that we wouldn’t half kill each other verbally over the meeting table, but aside from that? I’ve never understood why he wanted us to get along, especially given that Snape is not the same sort of spy as he was.:

:Keep in mind, Harry, that not all has to be as it seems. He might simply be annoyed that his people haven’t always followed his . . . suggestions . . . as promptly or faithfully as he might like. By the way, interesting little show you put on there.:

Harry smiled softly. :Well, hopefully it served its purpose. Though, I’m not sure if what I did comes across as being cowed by Snape, or. . .?:

:Either, I suppose. He seemed to be in an awfully good mood when he left. I’m not going to worry about it for the moment. And you, my dear little spy, probably ought to get going on that chapter.:

:Yes, my dear little slave driver. I shall do that.:

*

“I’m not sure what to think,” Severus said. “Obviously, I did not expect him to appear like that.”

“At least you can tell when someone is approaching the classroom, sir,” Harry commented.

“Paranoia has its advantages.”

“All right. At least he’s done the expected in this case, though without warning.” Tom turned to face Harry specifically and said, “Yes, there was rather a lot of power behind that second attempt. Certainly more than I would have expected given his statement of going easy on you.”

Harry shook his head. “It really isn’t easy for me to tell strength. Under normal circumstances, I never would have known anything was odd about that.”

“Which may or may not suit his purposes,” Tom said. “Though, given how pleased he appeared to be, perhaps he will not be bothering you again on that matter.”

“Do you think maybe he doesn’t seem to care because Voldemort hasn’t been doing anything horrifically overt?”

“You wouldn’t be having visions anyway.”

Harry nodded. “I’m not of much interim use if there’s nothing for me to see, right?”

“That would suggest that Dumbledore has abandoned his ideas about you serving as an unwitting spy,” Snape said.

Harry gave him an intent look, then glanced away. “Speaking of spies. . . .”

“Yes, Harry?”

“Would there be any value in Professor Snape telling the headmaster about the tutoring I’m doing?”

“Are you suggesting that he might see such an endeavor as you”—Snape paused to shoot a look at Tom—“converting the heathens?”

Harry shrugged. “Maybe. After all, if I manage to get every first year on my side. . . . And it’s possible that if I did that, they might start telling me things, stuff they overhear. Let’s face it, since I returned this year, nearly no one is willing to talk to me, never mind approach me. Granted, I think you both know I would help them either way. I’m just considering the impression this might have on the old man.”

There was silence for a short time, then Tom chuckled. “He might think you were taking the sorting hat’s songs to heart and working toward breaking down house barriers.”

Snape snorted as Harry said, “Well, I’m not sure it would occur to him that I was doing it for the points. He does at least know I’m not the type to actively pursue that kind of aim, so it’s not unreasonable to think he may see it that way. It would be a Gryffindor sort of thing to do.”

“If you think you can put the right sort of spin on it, Severus, I see no reason why you should neglect to bring it up with him.”

Snape nodded, then said, “On other subjects, Dumbledore is reacting about as we expected to the reports filtering in regarding those graveyards.”

“Good. Then perhaps that will keep everyone occupied for quite some time. Though, I think I will abandon my house before this is all said and done. While it’s good that I have as much land, I am becoming less enamored of the place as each new shipment of coffins is sunk back into the ground.”

Harry snickered softly and nodded. “I did think it was a bit dreary there. Besides, there’s all that space and no real use for it. Surely we can find a home for later that suits our needs rather than making do with what you already have.”

“We might also want to consider your friends. After all, they will no doubt be shocked to find out just how much of your fortune you’ve left them, Harry, so we could look toward settling in an area they can also enjoy. I would not be surprised if they would wish to find homes for themselves near you.”

Severus arched a brow as Harry responded, “Yeah. It would be nice to be able to walk next door, so to speak, to visit, rather than having to apparate or whatever. Do you think it would raise too many bad memories if we investigated Godric’s Hollow?” He paused for a moment, then deliberately said, “I don’t know if it would upset Remus or not.”

“Then ask,” Severus said flatly.

“I suppose I could. Well, I guess this is all beside the point. If we’re lucky, the desecration will keep everyone busy and out of our hair until the summer. Oh, and maybe when we do move ahead with the final battle, you could haul out the Inferi you do actually have stuffed in a cupboard to be present, even if it’s only to have them there to be found. It shouldn’t matter if the Order can’t find evidence of the remainder of the supposed army.”

“I could move them, but not until nearer the time. It might be that the Order would destroy them after they find them.”

“I would not be surprised,” Severus said. Then he muttered, “By a lot of things.”

Harry thought that revelation had gone over fairly well. “Should I be at all worried about his strength, do you think?”

“Dumbledore?” Tom shook his head. “Not really. Even if he is more powerful than we anticipate, I can add my strength to your own. He would have to fight past both of us. I find it hard to believe that he could hold that much power.”

Tom turned to Severus and said, “About Malfoy. Has he told you anything interesting of late?”

“No. He merely whines. He continues to be disgusted that Potter is off limits. However, he has been somewhat smug of late, so I can only assume given so little real information that he feels his current assignment is successful thus far.”

“I’m not sure how I feel about that. I held some small hope that Malfoy would confide in you, but apparently that isn’t the case. Perhaps you should make it clear to him that Voldemort expects reports from him on his progress. He risks decided displeasure over being so reticent.”

“I would be happy to unleash a few subtle threats, Tom. Consider it done.”

*

Harry ran into more chill behavior on Wednesday evening, but ostensibly ignored it, though he could see that Ron was trying very hard to appear puzzled over the frigidity of the relations between Harry and Hermione rather than angry. He did check in with Tom before they began to pack up to leave, and Hermione was waiting for them again, which made Harry livid and occasioned another detour into the kitchens before they were able to move on to Harry’s room a while later. Dobby joined them after they had settled in.

“I’ve been thinking, Dobby,” Harry said, “about what we’re to do once I as Harry Potter am dead.”

“What is master meaning?”

“Well, it might look suspicious if you were to disappear from the school at the same time.”

“Dobby is not abandoning master,” the elf said firmly.

“Yes, I know that. But I was thinking, perhaps, that since Tom and I plan on living in the Chamber for at least a year, you could stay on at Hogwarts, just like we’ve been doing this year, and no one would be the wiser. If we decided to move after that point, you could always quit your employment here.”

“What if Dumbledore wanted to know why?” Ron asked.

Harry shrugged. “Maybe Dobby was honoring my memory by remaining through what would have been my last year, but past that, he just couldn’t bear to stay. It isn’t like anyone would begin to try to use veritaserum on a house-elf, and besides, you lot are very blunt about when you refuse to speak on something, and why. The idea of a house-elf fibbing is quite nearly ridiculous, don’t you think?”

“House-elves is not lying without orders, master, and most house-elves is being very bad at it.”

Harry grinned. “Yes, all right, but I think you’d be able to, Dobby. And it wouldn’t entirely be a lie anyway.”

“It is being true that Dobby could not bear to stay if master moved elsewhere. Dobby would only be staying if master ordered it.”

“Not that I would. I know you’re bonded to me and all, but I really think of you as more of a friend, Dobby.”

“Dobby can always have a fit of hysterics if Dumbledore gets curious,” Ron suggested.

“Dobby is being able to do that, too.”

“Well, let’s sit on that for a bit, shall we? We can talk more about it later if necessary. But since we’re all here, do you feel like updating me on how things are going with Crest?”

*

By the time Saturday rolled around, Harry was feeling hard pressed to maintain his casually civil relationship with Hermione. The more he thought about her attempts to find out what he was up to, the more upset he became, and was grateful for Tom’s reminders about how little time was left before it would no longer be an issue.

The Slytherin first years trooped along behind him and Blaise after lunch (Harry had already told the portrait in his room to send any reports that might come in down to the Chamber while they were present) and Anika had handed over a syllabus as soon as they had all found places to sit.

Harry quickly realized that what they were being taught wasn’t all that difficult, though it differed a bit from what he remembered from his first year, and that it was very unlikely that more than one session per week would be necessary.

He wondered, though, if they would continue to seek out Blaise the following year for assistance, and if they would become a different kind of Slytherin from the established norm, eventually helping to renovate the reputation their house had held for centuries.