- Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
- Harry Potter
- The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 09/18/2001Updated: 03/30/2002Words: 425,244Chapters: 21Hits: 583,257
Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions
- Story Summary:
- During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge? The sequel to
- Read Story On:
Chapter 06 - Slouching Toward London
- Chapter Summary:
- During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge?
(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)
Slouching Toward London
Ginny's body was pressed against his, her arms twined around his neck. And her mouth--her mouth was a revelation, a mighty suction against his, drawing out his very soul, it seemed, as if she was a dementor. But a dementor was never this warm, this soft, with a taste like chocolate...
Harry pulled back, dazed. He stared at Ginny feeling more confused than ever before in his life (both of them). He felt intoxicated, dizzy with want and yet frightened to acknowledge that want. She was suddenly quite terrifying to him. Ginny looked at him, frowning with concern.
"Are you all right, Harry?"
He nodded dumbly, trying to remember how this had happened, trying to recall when the next time was that he'd seen her after the 1990 World Cup...
It was the following year. He was in Diagon Alley with his sister and Draco and his mum, and they were shopping for his school supplies. After the three of them were finished their ice creams, Harry's mum and Draco's dad collected them to go to Madam Malkin's. They stood still as statues while they were measured, then waited impatiently for their new robes to be hemmed. After that they moved on the Flourish & Blotts for their books.
Harry loved the bookshop; it seemed to have every book a wizard could ever need. He would finally have spell books of his very own. He wandered down a long aisle full of potions texts; he recognized many titles his parents had at home. Jamie grew bored and staggered into the next aisle. Harry heard two bodies make contact and then he heard Jamie's familiar voice saying, "Oh, sorry. I'm so stupid. Didn't see you down there."
"That's all right. I'm just waiting for my mum to finish with my brothers. Four of them will be at Hogwarts this September, and that's a lot of books to buy."
Harry was startled. That voice--it was familiar. He stooped and took some potions tomes off a lower shelf; through the resulting gap he could see unruly red hair. His sister sat down next to the girl on the floor.
"Do you mind if I join you? My brother and his best friend are starting at Hogwarts too, and we've been shopping all morning. I'm sick of it. I know I should be happy for them, but I'm going to really miss them. It's just so unfair I have to wait two more years..."
The red-haired girl sighed noisily. "I know what you mean. I have to wait another year. My brother Ron will be a first year, so I'll be all alone at home with my mum and dad this year."
"All alone at home? I knew I didn't see you at the Hogsmeade school. Don't you go to school then?"
"Mum was a teacher. She does our lessons at home. I should say I'll be home alone with mum, since my dad's almost never around. He used to run just one department at the Ministry--the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. But the labor shortage hit the Ministry a few years ago and now he's running the Transportation office too, which makes sense, I suppose. I mean, most Portkeys are also Muggle artifacts, and you have to be really careful they don't fall into Muggle hands. He's making twice as much money now and all, but he's never home..."
"Hmm. I wish I was going to be home alone. I'll still have to put up with my little brothers. They're impossible. Every time I talk to one of them, whoever it is insists I've got the name wrong. I'm convinced they just do that to be annoying. I mean, I must be getting it right sometimes. Just be glad you don't live with twins..."
"Oh, but I do!" the other girl practically squealed. "Ron's a first year, but Fred and George will be in third year! They do the same things!" She seemed delighted to find someone who was also suffering the slings and arrows of having twins for brothers. "I mean--they think they're so original, as if every set of twins ever born hasn't pulled exactly the same stuff..."
"Too right!" Jamie agreed, laughing.
Harry replaced the books on the shelf just as his mother came up behind him.
"Harry! Whatever are you doing? I've got all of the books from your list. Find Jamie. we're going to Ollivander's."
Harry nodded. He swallowed, took a deep breath and walked around the bookcase, trying to seem nonchalant.
"C'mon, Jamie. It's time to go." His voice shook a little and he wished it weren't so high still; he sounded so young.
"Oh, hello!" the red-haired girl said brightly. "You must be the brother who's starting at Hogwarts." She turned to Jamie. "And your name's Jamie? I like that. Very original."
Jamie was the one who looked uncomfortable now. She stood awkwardly, brushing down her robes. "Actually, I was named after my father," she mumbled. "'Scuse me..." She pushed past Harry, who was suddenly faced with explaining his sister's odd behavior to the girl sitting on the floor.
"Um, she was born after our father died. About four months after."
She rose, wincing. "Oh, sorry. I really put my foot in it, didn't I? Er, sorry about your dad..."
Harry nodded. "Thanks. Jamie'll be fine."
"Do I know you?" She suddenly seemed to forget Jamie; she was staring intently at his face.
"Uh, no, I don't think so." Harry didn't feel like bringing up the World Cup, considering the way Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley and Ron had spoiled that meeting.
She looked at him with her brow furrowed. "Oh. Oh well. I thought--nevermind. Anyway, good luck at Hogwarts."
He smiled awkwardly. "Thanks."
Then her eyes opened wide. "Wait! Your eyes--I remember now--"
Jamie had returned and was now dragging on his arm. "Come on! Mum's waiting outside. Do you want a wand or not?"
He waved a feeble goodbye to her as his little sister dragged him through the bookshop. Oh, that's dignified, he thought...
"Harry? Are you all right?" she asked again. He gazed at her in disbelief.
"I'm--I'm fine. Have--have you been eating chocolate?"
"Have I--oh yes! I almost forgot. Zoey's trying to lose weight so she gave me one of her Chocolate Frogs. Is that allowed?" She smiled mischievously.
"It's wonderful," he said breathlessly, unable to stop himself. Before he knew it, she was kissing him again, and he was remembering more...
He'd spotted Ginny the moment Professor Vector let the first years in the Great Hall. She looked as nervous as the rest of them. Harry didn't really pay attention when the other students were being sorted; he was waiting for her. She came at the end--the wait seemed forever to Harry. And then it was over in a split second; the hat was no sooner on her head than it was crying out, "Gryffindor!" prompting her frighteningly enthusiastic twin brothers to go completely mad (again).
Harry didn't behave quite rationally after that. He found out the first year Gryffindor schedule and ran all over the castle, positioning himself at opportune points to just glimpse her as she moved between classes. Draco thought he was daft, and said so. (Harry refused to tell him the reason for all the dashing about; it was rather embarrassing.)
Then she was made the youngest Quidditch player in almost a century (Charlie Weasley convinced Sirius Black to put her on the Gryffindor team as they hadn't had a decent Seeker in two years). Harry would sneak down to the Quidditch pitch to watch her practice. Oliver Wood released the Snitch and she caught it; he released it, she caught it, over and over. Harry had heard about her brother Charlie, who was legendary, but he'd never seen anyone who played Seeker like her.
Draco was made Seeker on the Slytherin team that year, the culmination of years of training. Harry commiserated with his best friend when Ginny beat him to the Snitch, but secretly he was proud of her. Then he was made reserve Keeper in his third year (his dad had told Flint it would be a good idea). Flint was sick for the last match of the year, against Gryffindor, and Harry had to play. Ron Weasley was playing Chaser for Gryffindor, along with two girls in fourth and fifth year. For quite some time, Harry caught every Quaffle Ron sent his way. Ron was looking fiercer and fiercer as the game continued, and even though the Slytherin Chasers were scoring on Gryffindor only about fifty percent of the time, the Gryffindors hadn't scored on Harry at all.
The match continued for overfour hours. Harry had never seen one go so long, and he had to play in this one. Ginny was looking exhausted; Harry felt like his fingers had been welded to his broom handle. Gryffindor had finally started to score on Harry after three hours, but their success rate was only about one in four. Everyone was flagging. Slytherin was up, four-hundred twenty to two-hundred. Draco had seen the Snitch many, many times, but each time, either Ginny had flown interference, getting in his way until it vanished again, or her brothers had hit Bludgers his way. Draco was lucky to still be alive, Harry thought.
Finally, Ginny couldn't take it any more; she spied the Snitch and, instead of trying to draw Draco off, she flew to it herself and plucked it out of the air, then landed in a heap on the grass, her girlfriends rushing to her while the disappointed Gryffindor boy who did the match commentary intoned dismally, "And Ginny Weasley has the Snitch. Slytherin wins the match, four-hundred twenty to three-hundred fifty. Oh, and Slytherin also wins the Quidditch Cup..." he added listlessly. It was the most subdued Harry had ever heard him.
Harry flew down to the ground, then collapsed; it was as though he'd forgotten how to use his legs. As he'd been substituting for Flint, Draco (also rather shaky) helped him to stand so he could shake hands with Wood, who looked like he'd been through a war.
The seventh-year grasped his hand rather hard. "You're a good Keeper, Potter," he said without any irony. "If I didn't know that Flint really wanted to beat me himself, I'd say he was faking being sick just so you could play."
Harry nodded briefly; he was too knackered for an extended exchange of pleasantries. "Thanks. It was a good match."
The other Slytherins (those not on the team) lifted Harry and Draco to their shoulders, carrying them from the pitch (otherwise they probably would have lain on the grass all night). Harry saw that various Gryffindors who hadn't played were helping the members of the team hobble back to the castle, but there was no triumphant shoulder-carrying. They hadn't won the Quidditch Cup, in spite of having Ginny for their Seeker...
Harry had continued to follow Ginny around the castle during his fourth year, and then his fifth. Finally, near the end of term, in May, he rounded a corner, on his way to the library, when he ran headlong into her. He dropped his rucksack and everything came cascading out of it; she had been carrying books in her arms, which she also promptly dropped. Down on the floor they bumped heads while trying to pick up their belongings; they grinned at each other with embarrassment. Then Harry saw her two best friends, Zoey and Annika, peeking out from behind a suit of armor, urging her to do something with wild hand gestures and bizarre facial expressions. Annika mouthed the words,Get it over with! Or so he thought. He looked at Ginny, perplexed, just as she grasped his face and pulled his mouth to hers. He was taken unawares; he wanted to hold her, kiss her properly, but he felt paralyzed by shock. After a few seconds, she pulled back, quickly scooped up her books and went running down the corridor, her friends joining her. Their laughter echoed off the stone walls, and Harry could hear their words quite clearly, amplified by the excellent Hogwarts acoustics.
"There! I finally did it! Now are you happy?"
"Ooh! Next time you lose a bet, I'll have to make you do something evenworse, like proclaim your love to him..."
"Zoey! How could you? I thought I was your friend..."
He sat in the messy pile of books and parchment and ink bottles, feeling his heart break into a million pieces...
The next day he was looking through the potions section of the library when he heard the girls talking again. They were sitting on the other side of the bookcase where he was searching.
"All right. What can I make you do next?" Harry heard Zoey Russell's mischievous voice.
"Argh," was Ginny's answer. "Isn't it enough you made me kissmy own stalker? Take it easy on me. Now he probably thinks I really like him or something." Harry's heart felt trod on by a herd of hippogriffs. She knew; she knew he'd been following her around for four years, and it was a great joke to her and her friends. Of course, he thought, how could she not know? She would have to be blind...
He staggered around the bookcase and stood before them. They were immediately silent. He saw that Ginny was beet red.
"No," he told her, his voice thick with tears. "I don't think there's any way I could possibly get that impression. 'Scuse me..." he mumbled, walking away blindly, going out into the corridor. He'd taken in the look of horror on Ginny's face when she'd seen him, but he didn't want to think about her face now. Right, he thought. How to get over someone. Have them treat you like you're less than scum. Very good. Very effective.
He had gone into a stairwell with a stone spiral staircase leading down to--he wasn't sure where. He was just walking aimlessly, hoping to get himself lost. He heard pounding feet behind him.
He turned at the sound of her voice, unable to stop himself. He was crying in earnest now, tears streaking his face, which he made no effort to wipe. She pattered down the stone stairs to him. He'd collapsed on one of the wedge-shaped steps, leaning against the curving outer wall. She sat down next to him.
"Harry, I'm so sorry. You weren't meant to hear that." He turned away from her, unable to prevent additional tears from escaping from his eyes. "Oh, that didn't sound right. What I mean is--"
"What you mean is you thought it would be funny to play with the feelings of someone who's worshipped the ground you walk on since he met you when you were nine and then ground his heart into the dust. I get it. You want to be rid of me. Fine. You'll find that I'll no longer be following you about. Congratulations. It worked." He rose and continued to walk down the stairs.
"No, Harry! That's not--"
He didn't want to listen to her. He'd thought she was different. But she had feet of clay just like everyone else. She wasn't the perfect paragon of virtue he'd had living in his mind; she was a living, breathing teenage girl, as thoughtless and cruel as they came. He was done obsessing over her for good (he tried to tell himself).
But what would he do with his time now? he wondered. He'd devoted a great deal of mental energy to knowing where she would be at any time of the day. He'd prided himself on guessing correctly what she would do at the times when it wasn't so certain. His years playing the fox meant he knew how someone being pursued behaved; it had made him a world-class stalker. And now he was officially in retirement, never to stalk again.
When the O.W.L.s were over, Harry was sitting down by the lake, throwing stones across its rippling surface. Jamie was sitting with him, having finished her third-year exams. They didn't talk; Jamie had tried drawing him out during the previous month, but his silent brooding had finally defeated her best efforts, and now when they were sitting silently together, she simply let him brood.
Draco was off shagging some girl, Harry couldn't even remember who. It had definitely not helped Harry to see Draco and Niamh in the library. Jamie didn't know what Draco was up to, and Harry wanted it to stay that way. I'll just take a vow of celibacy, Harry thought. There; I'm already doing quite nicely at it. No problem. Who knew I had such a hidden talent?
Suddenly, a shadow passed over him; he looked up, expecting to see his best friend, done with his playboy activities, but it wasn't Draco Malfoy.
"Hello," Ginny said nervously. "How've you been?" Harry looked up at her; he did not respond. He turned back to the lake, hoping that she would prove to be a figment of his imagination. "Could--could I speak to you privately?" He still did not respond. "Please?" He looked up at her again and nodded. Then he looked at Jamie, who had a rather shocked expression on her face.
"Go on. I'll wait here for Draco." Harry stood and followed Ginny wordlessly. They walked down to the old gamekeeper's cottage, then round to where it backed up to the forest. Ginny wrung her hands in front of her.
"So," she began awkwardly. "You didn't say. How you've been, I mean."
Harry looked at her dully. "All right," he said softly.
She swallowed; her eyes were glistening. "Look, I've wanted to do this properly, and I've been working up the nerve. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. You--you didn't deserve that. I was doing just what you said I was; playing with your feelings. It was cruel and horrible. I'm just a horrid, horrid person, and I don't deserve for you or anyone else to notice that I exist ever again..."
She had tears flowing freely down her cheeks now and Harry's heart turned over; as much as he'd been trying to convince himself that he hated her, it hadn't really worked, and seeing her in such distress, it was impossible for him not to be moved. His own throat tightened and he felt tears prickling against his eyelids as he held his arms out to her. She moved into them with an inarticulate cry, throwing her arms around his back, putting her head on his chest, weeping convulsively now. He looked down at the top of her head, stroking her bright hair, leaning his cheek on its surprising softness.
"I forgive you," he whispered after a while. She cried a little harder, grasping him harder as well, and he felt her body warm against his, felt his celibacy resolve growing rather weak...
At last she separated herself from him; he handed her a handkerchief and she blew her nose noisily. He tried not to smile; she was obviously still distressed. Her eyes were very red and her face was a bit blotchy. She started to hand him the handkerchief, but he pushed it away.
"Keep it," he said shortly. She nodded and put it in her robe pocket. They stood not touching, looking down and then up at each other.
"You know," she said, "it's been rather lonely. Walking about the castle without you being nearby. I've never known what that's like," she smiled at him bashfully. He gave her a small smile back.
"I've been trying to come up with a new hobby."
She smiled more now. "I think," she said, "that part of the problem was that I bought into the old anti-Slytherin propaganda. I mean, if a boy from Gryffindor or Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff had been stalking me, I might very well have been flattered. Well, it might depend on who it was, but still; I wouldn't have automatically decided that it was creepy."
He winced. "Creepy?"
She too winced. "Sorry. Bad choice of words. What I meant was, I never took you seriously. I didn't consider who you were: a nice person who calls his sister one of his best friends when he could just ignore her and belittle her like other brothers do their sisters--I know. A person who--who gave me some beautiful Valentine's cards and birthday cards--"
"You knew that was me?" he asked, reddening.
"Um--it was a little obvious. Did you write those poems yourself?"
"Yes," he admitted.
She smiled. "I liked them. Not that I could admit that to Annika and Zoey. Or even to myself. But I did like them. They were good. But I ignored all that and only saw theSlytherin, not the person. Then, when I hurt you--" her voice caught again, "and when we were on the stairs that day--that's when I finally saw the person. A person I'd hurt very much."
He held out his hand and she took it. "A person who just forgave you."
She squeezed his hand gratefully. "Thank you. I don't deserve it, but thank you."
She moved closer to him and started to touch his cheek with her lips, but he turned his head and their lips made contact; she drew back after only a second, looking in his eyes and seeing there the unmistakable evidence of his feelings. Their lips were drawn together again; when Harry felt her mouth open under his, he gasped in the back of his throat and held her more tightly. She trembled in his arms, and he was feeling pretty shaky in the knees himself, but he didn't want to end the kiss so they could sit, he just wanted it to go on and on...
Harry braced himself, but no Gryffindors burst from the forest foliage, pointing fingers and laughing at how he'd been duped again. She didn't run from him, laughing with her friends; she didn't recoil and make a face as though she'd been made to do something disgusting. She was here, in his arms at last, clinging to him and kissing him, while he inhaled her sweet breath and treasured every moment.
He forced himself to pull away from her; he examined her face, remembering now, remembering how he had felt when she broke his heart, then how happy he was when she came to him for forgiveness, and they kissed properly for the first time. Harry swallowed; there was so much to take in every minute of every day in this life. He smoothed her hair away from her face; she looked at him with a bemused expression. He knew they were sneaking around, that they hadn't told anyone about their relationship. He hadn't told Jamie and Draco (he wouldn't have told his little brothers in any case); she hadn't told her friends or Ron or anyone else in her family. He remembered the terrible ramifications of sneaking around with Hermione. Hermione, he thought for a moment. What about Hermione? Did this constitute cheating on her? He needed to think...He had to find a way to get her to stop kissing him for a bit so he could think, because the moment she attached her mouth to his...
But he'd no sooner thought this than she'd done it again, and he was holding her to him tightly once more when he realized that this was exactly what he was trying to stop her from doing. He had to get her talking; what could they talk about? Well, he thought, here I am all over again, embroiled in a secret relationship which will eat away at my insides if we don't rectify the situation. We could talk about that. He broke the kiss.
"Ginny," he said nervously, putting his hands on her shoulders. "W-why don't we go up to Charlie's office right now and tell him and Draco about us. They went there to have tea after our class was over and I said I'd be along eventually. Why don't we both go, come clean with them, stop sneaking around?"
Ginny looked at him in shock. "You're mad!" she declared.
"But--but Charlie--he likes me. We're friends. He called me one of his best students..."
"Sure, he likes you now. But if we tell him this...trust me. He would no longer like you. Your name would be mud."
Harry frowned. "Why?"
"Why? Because every one of my brothers, to a man, has decided I'm to be treated like a four year old for the rest of my life, that's why. Well, okay, Ron's not like that, but if anything, he's worse; he's been trying to get me together with Neville Longbottom for a year now. And I smile at him and I'm nice to him--I mean, he's not a bad bloke--but I make absolutely certain that I'm never alone with him. I don't want to give him the wrong idea. Charlie's even tried to get him to lay off of the Neville thing, but it's not because he doesn't think I should be with Neville; it's because he doesn't think I should be with anyone. The rest are the same. All card-carrying members of the Keep Ginny True To Her Name Club."
Harry made a face. "What?"
She looked at Harry shrewdly. "What's my name?"
"Ginny," he answered immediately.
"That's not my proper name. What's my name?"
"Oh. Virginia." He looked at her blankly; then it hit him. "Oooh--"
Harry flushed. He searched his memory; if Ginny wasn't a virgin because of him he certainly hoped he'd remember that. But try as he might, he could not recall the two of them sleeping together. He was fairly confident they had not... "Well," he said tentatively, "you are still..." He was hoping she wouldn't bash in his skull for not remembering some "unforgettable" night of passion. To his relief she sighed and put her head on his shoulder.
"Yes, but you know overprotective big brothers..."
Harry grimaced, thinking of Jamie's crush on Draco. On the other hand, he wasn't Draco Malfoy, sleeping with as many girls as possible in as short a time as possible. Draco would just break his sister's heart.
"I know from experience. But if Jamie liked someone who was really good for her, I'd feel differently..."
She smiled knowingly. "Your own best friend isn't good enough for her, eh?"
"You know about that?"
"Oh, she's very obvious. Every time he's around it's written all over her. She's got it bad."
Harry sighed. "I know. And if I warned her off, she'd scream at me and tell me I thought of her as a child and that I didn't want her to be happy..."
Ginny nodded and smiled. "Yes. And if we told Ron or Charlie about us, I'd have one dead boyfriend and two brothers on their way to Azkaban. It's too soon."
Harry drew his lips into a line. "Well then--what about on my end?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well--why can't we at least tell Jamie and Draco? She's my sister and one of my best friends, and he's my other best friend."
She looked like she was caught out without the time to think of a plausible reason to reject the idea. "I don't know..."
"Well, here's a really good reason to tell them: I ran into Mariah Kirkner in the corridor in the girls' dorm, and--"
"What were you doing in the girls' dorm?" Her voice had a dangerous edge to it.
"I was going to talk to Jamie. Anyway, she told me that she was 'available' for, um, stuff, and that it was Draco's idea. I hinted around that I had a girlfriend but couldn't tell them yet who it was, and they don't believe me, so Draco's trying to put me together with Mariah. If I could tell him you really exist, he'd stop. Plus, you get along with my sister. I'd like for us all to be able to be together; my life feels so chopped up right now."
She considered this. "I do like your sister. I've only talked to her a couple of times, but she's all right. Oh! I know! That could be our cover. If all four of us are seen together, especially by Ron; I could tell him that Jamie's my friend. He'd probably throw a snit about her being Slytherin, but it'd be safer than telling him you're my boyfriend. The only problem is that I do have two girlfriends already. Maybe sometime I can see whether Annika and Zoey mind Jamie hanging out with us. Perhaps we can be seen doing that first; then it would be plausible when I'm seen with her and Draco and you."
Harry smiled; this actually sounded like a reasonable plan, and he wouldn't have to lie to his sister and Draco any more. He cupped her cheek in his hand, gazing at her; he felt like both the luckiest and most confused sixteen-year-old boy in the world. Although he knew he would feel dreadfully guilty later, he let himself be swept away by her as their lips met again and he gathered her into his arms...
Later of course, he thought of Hermione. Hermione. He pictured her, going running with him in the mornings, her angry face when he'd kissed Ginny after the Quidditch match, sunning herself in the bikini on Privet Drive, looking up at him in surprise after they slept together for the first time (without the sleeping); he remembered too that heartbreaking expression on her face as she walked toward Ron after the pub explosion...
He was lying in bed, staring at the darkness; he swallowed, thinking now of Ron's face in the forest, before he performed the Cruciatus Curse. Ron gazing at Hermione repeatedly during the year, then telling Harry he wasn't in love with her...
Harry suddenly missed Ron so badly it hurt. Whatever Hermione's motivation had been, whether the potion was ultimately to blame for her actions, or whether she had a feeling that Harry was not long for this world, he should have done the right thing. He knew how Ron felt about her, had known since the Yule Ball. He remembered how Ron had watched her all night (she was astonishingly pretty that evening) and he remembered also their argument afterward. Now Harry wished he'd shoved the two of them into a cupboard and commanded them, "Snog already!" It would have solved many, many problems.
Did Hermione just want to be with him before he got himself killed? He didn't want to think that, but then he realized he was probably guilty of exactly the same thing. He'd pursued the girl he knew his best friend loved. He'd wished they could have had sex before Sirius showed up on New Year's so he'd experience that before his death...Had Ron suspected that? Was he really accusing Harry of that, claiming he thought it was Hermione's motivation?
Yes. I did that, he thought. Guilty as charged. I thought it was my due as a marked man, and I took what wasn't mine...
He felt almost relieved, deciding this. He didn't even want to count the number of times he'd used Hermione just to make himself feel better or to distract himself. And Ron--how hard it must have been for Ron to tell him not to break up with her after Dudley died.
Finally, there was Ginny. His thoughts and memories of her were an amalgam of his two lives. He smiled at the mental image of her putting her elbow in the butter, or dropping things when he was around. He'd mainly been annoyed at the time because he'd thought the only thing about him that appealed to her was his fame. In this life, he had no fame, and she'd thought of him as the strange boy from Slytherin who followed her around. And now she was with him because she thought he was sensitive and liked that he'd been unafraid to show how he felt about her. They'd discovered many other things they had in common when they wrote to each other during the summer. Ginny. Yes, Ginny. He felt a happiness inside that was also a kind of peace. He knew now. He didn't have to deny it anymore...
But, he knew, that was just in this life. He still needed to fix the timelines, and in his other life, everything was a mess. He needed to apologize to Ron, he needed to find a way to gently end things with Hermione and steer her toward Ron without losing either of them as friends. And Ginny; she was with Draco Malfoy in that other life. He'd betrayed his father for her. Harry frowned. That would be stickier than anything concerning Ron or Hermione. It would be one thing if Ginny were still crushing on Harry, but she wasn't. She was in love with Draco. He sighed; he would have to wait and see. First he had to find Hermione in the Muggle world, in case there was any chance she could help him. Then he would think about the rest.
So it was more because he was thinking of Draco Malfoy than Hermione Granger when he made a conscious decision to postpone telling people about his relationship with Ginny. Ginny didn't notice, however; she was waiting for him to take the lead with this, so she didn't bother him about it. And during their meetings behind the greenhouse, they talked about almost anything but telling people about their relationship. They did things other than talking, too, but he tried to cut that short and return to the talking; he didn't want to become too attached to that part of their relationship. She had such a sharp, insightful mind, and he could vent to her about his mother in a way he couldn't to Jamie and Draco. Then he realized that he should be honest with her about his parents, and when he told her, she was surprised and yet not. She kissed him soundly and said, "You poor thing..." before kissing him again, then running her lips down his throat, making it very hard for him to stick to his resolve...
As the days passed, he returned to the position of wanting to tell Jamie and Draco, but now he felt awkward and unsure of how to do it. There was also the matter of finding the Invisibility Cloak. He waited over a week before he asked Sirius about it; after the reaction he'd gotten in the first Transfiguration class, when he'd brought up his godfather's "extracurricular" activities during his school days, Harry thought bringing up something else from that time would be ill-advised if done too soon. To his disappointment, Sirius had no idea where it was.
"Have you tried asking down at the Quidditch pitch?" he asked Harry. Harry furrowed his brow. Why did Sirius keep saying that?"
"Well, maybe your mother will know."
Harry grimaced; asking Mum was Jamie's job. It was yet another week before Jamie found a way to do it unobtrusively, while helping her mother dice pickled mandrake root in the Potions dungeon.
"I asked her, 'So, did my father leave anything for us? For me and Harry? In a will?' And she said, 'Oh, is that why you volunteered to help me?' And I said, 'No, of course not.' And she said--"
"Jamie!" Harry cried, exasperated. "Just get to the point. Does she know where it is?"
She frowned at Harry. They had met in the anteroom off the Great Hall again. It was just the two of them; Draco was doing a detention with Professor Sinistra, who'd caught him snogging Fiona Fawcett in the Astronomy Tower.
"At least she caught us while it was still snogging..." Draco had said brightly, cheered by the fact that he'd been caught doing something relatively minor (although it still warranted a detention; Professor Sinistra was trying to kill the Astronomy Tower's reputation as a lover's trysting place). He would be meticulously cleaning all of the lenses to all of Sinistra's telescopes (using no magic) until dinner at least.
"No," his sister said. "She denied it existed. But I think she's wondering how I knew about it at all..."
Harry was horrified. "You didn't ask her straight out, I hope?"
"No, of course not. I went through a whole bunch of other things first. I said, 'Did our father have a crystal ball?' and she said he didn't, and I said, 'How about a Sneakoscope?' and she said no, they weren't around back then, and I said--"
Harry's head hurt; he was actually starting to miss his scar-headaches. "I get it, I get it. What happened when you asked her about the Invisibility Cloak?"
"Well, she got this funny look. I said, 'Did he have an Invisibility Cloak?' and she just stopped chopping. I suggested she put her knife down, but she just stood there, holding it really tightly. Her knuckles were white. I had to sort of call to her, you know, 'Mum? Mum?' She didn't even care that I wasn't calling her 'Professor Evans.' And when she noticed me again, she said no, he didn't have an Invisibility Cloak."
"Hmm," was Harry's answer. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, but I suppose we have to write a letter to Remus. I wanted to avoid there being anything on paper, in case it fell into the wrong hands..."
"Remember the last time we saw Remus?" Jamie asked him softly. Harry was startled. When was the last time? Then, with a shiver, he remembered; it had been during the summer after his second year at Hogwarts...
He was in bed when they came. His room was at the front of the house, the front door sheltered by his bay window. He heard the pounding on the front door, heard his parents' footfalls as they ran down to answer it. It was the middle of the night."Yeah," Harry said, his voice catching. "I remember the last time we saw Remus." They didn't speak for a minute. "Well, if that's all you have to tell me right now, I'm going to do my Animagus exercises. You'd better go."
"Ministry of Magic business!" came a cry from below, then more pounding. "Take the wards off the house!"
Harry ran to the window; in the drive before the house there was a horseless carriage, but it was not an orange, pumpkin-like Hogwarts carriage; this was boxy and purple, and there were bars on the windows. Two large wizards stood outside it looking very alert, their wands drawn, dark sweeping robes making it difficult to see anything but their faces in the darkness. There was no moon.
Harry crept to his bedroom door, opening it just wide enough to squeeze through. He saw that Jamie was already in the corridor, which was actually a balcony that looked over the front hall; she knelt by the banister. He joined her; there was a circle of light from four wands below, but no one had lit any lamps or candles. He and his sister were invisible to the adults; none of them took any notice of an eleven-year-old girl and a thirteen-year-old boy crouched in the shadows above them.
Their mother was wearing a dressing gown over her night dress, her long red hair pulled into a plait that reached her waist. Their stepfather was still wearing his at-home robes, slightly frayed at the edges; he reserved these for sitting in his study for long hours, reading or writing, or sometimes working on potions in the lab in the attic. (Children were prevented from entering; an age-line did not even permit anyone under the age of eighteen to get past the first step).
Their parents were facing two Aurors, a man and a woman. The man was tall, with sandy hair and light eyes; the woman had curly cropped reddish-blond hair and glittering blue eyes. They made a handsome pair. Their robes were deep purple, with embroidered badges replicating the Ministry of Magic seal. They faced Lily Evans and Severus Snape with their wands lit, but looked like they would be more than willing to use the wands for something other than lighting if necessary.
"Where is it, Lily?" the woman asked.
"HE, Gemma. Remus is a person, not a thing. I told you, the Ministry doesn't have to worry about him. He's fine; Severus and I both know how to make the Wolfsbane Potion. We do it for him every month; we Apparate wherever he is and take it to him. You don't have to do this..."
"Lily, I know you've changed since James' death," the woman looked sneeringly at Severus Snape, "but you are a former Auror. You know the law. The Decree for the Internment of Lycanthropic Humans was not written with any exceptions. We used to work together, Lily. The last thing I want to do is take you in for harboring a fugitive. Please cooperate. Go get the werewolf."
"I've changed? Look at you and Frank! Doing everything you're told without questioning any of it! This isn't right, Gemma, and you know it. Remus isn't a danger to anyone. A fugitive is someone who's done something wrong--which Remus hasn't."
The sandy-haired man sighed. "Now, Lily, be reasonable. The Ministry decided to relocate all werewolves into these camps because the biggest danger is not what they'll do at the full moon, it's that they'll be recruited by You-Know-Who. You have to admit, we've done pretty well to keep the Death Eater activity down..."
"Oh, yes," his mother sneered sarcastically. "Of course, he doesn't really need Death Eaters, does he, when you're doing Voldemort's bloody work for him, detaining innocent people in 'relocation camps!'"
"Do innocent people, in your experience, become ravenous beasts three nights a month, Lily?" the man said. "Don't be stupid and naive. Remus Lupin has access to Wolfsbane Potion through you two only as long as he chooses to take it; if he didn't show up one month, what could you do? What recourse would you have? How do you propose to hunt him down and force him to take it?"
"The other twenty-five days of the lunar cycle they're PEOPLE. And Remus would never make us chase him down like that," she said through her teeth. She raised her wand, looking distinctly like it was going to be something other than a substitute torch in a moment. "Have you solved the Squib disappearances yet, Frank?" she challenged him. "How old is that little problem--six, seven years? Or does the Ministry even consider it to be a problem? All those people--gone. No trace. But the Ministry wants to look like it's doing something, so let's lock up people who haven't done anything, let's do that instead of finding almost a thousand people who vanished overnight..."
"Yes, the Ministry does want to be seen doing something, taking steps before anything dreadful happens. Don't you think we wish we had thought to protect the Squibs? No one saw that coming. That's why the Hogwarts board of governors stopped sending letters to Muggle-born students. That way, whatever happened to those Squibs won't happen to any new Muggle-borns entering the wizarding world. And now we're acting on the werewolf problem so that we might avoid a--"
"Who said it was a problem?" she demanded.
He clenched his jaw angrily. "Do you want an army of werewolves under You-Know-Who's power sweeping through Hogsmeade under the next full moon?
"Oh, Frank, talk like an adult! Say Voldemort!" she spat at him. Harry did think he sounded rather silly; an Auror who couldn't say the name of the person he was supposed to be fighting. The argument would have continued, but his dad stepped between the two of them, facing the man.
"Remus Lupin is my wife's old friend and our guest. I will ask you now to leave my house, Longbottom, before you wake my children," Severus Snape said to him, in a voice to freeze boiling water.
"We're not leaving without the werewolf!" the woman said.
The man took a step toward Snape; his voice became as chilling as Harry's stepfather's voice. Harry shivered as he listened to him, and noticed that goose bumps had risen on his sister's arms. "I'm not surprised a Slytherin is protecting a werewolf. That just fits, doesn't it? What should we expect from someone who consorts with Lucius Malfoy?"
His dad didn't back down; if anything, it looked like he had moved closer to the Auror. His voice was soft, yet very clear in the dark entrance hall. "If you knew anything about anything, Longbottom, you'd know that I'm the least likely person in the world to be giving sanctuary to this particular werewolf. But obviously, we don't have the time to discuss your abundant ignorance..." Harry fought the urge to cheer his stepfather on; when he wanted to be insulting and condescending, no one could beat his dad.
The Auror blinked and Harry could see him swallow. When he spoke again, his voice shook ever so slightly. "I can't wait for the day when I have something on you, Snape. Maybe this is that day, eh? When I think of you teaching my sons..." Harry couldn't believe the hatred he heard in the man's voice. He swallowed. Were his parents going to kick the Aurors out of the house? Were the Aurors going to arrest his parents? What would happen to him and Jamie and the twins if that happened? Surely they wouldn't let him, a thirteen-year-old boy, be the head of the household? He was going to be in his third year in September and his sister in first year, but his brothers still had two years to go at the village school.
Suddenly a familiar, thin figure appeared from a door behind the Aurors. They whirled, and the woman pointed her wand, crying, "Stupefy!" Remus Lupin fell to the floor, and Harry winced when he heard the werewolf's body make contact with the hard tile.
"Remus!" his mother cried, going to her knees at his side. She glared up at the Aurors. "You didn't have to do that! His wand wasn't even drawn!" She revived him and he sat up, with help, blinking and shaking his head. "Are you all right, Remus?"
He nodded, then placed his hand on her arm. "It's fine, Lily. I've made my peace with it. I know you mean well, but I suppose it was just a matter of time before they came for me. I'll go quietly. I don't want any trouble for your family."
"Trouble? Remus, this isn't right! Just imprisoning a whole class of people because theymight do something violent, or might join Voldemort...you're being convicted without a trial. Or even a crime. Does that sound right to you?"
"Lily," the man said, trying to reason with her again. "The Minister of Magic--"
"--can go screw himself!" his mother said vehemently. "I did not volunteer to live in a 'benevolent dictatorship' when I started attending Hogwarts. In the Muggle world there's a little thing called democracy, and another thing called civil rights. Frank, the things I saw while I was an Auror...half of it was in violation of the Geneva Convention. And you want me to think of you as reasonable? As someone doing the right thing?"
He shook his head pityingly. "Lily, still thinking like a Muggle. I don't know what this 'Geneva Convention' of yours is, but need I remind you that Muggles don't have to deal with prisoners who can do magic? We need to take a hard line with dark wizards and dark creatures because they are far more dangerous than Muggles with guns or bombs."
"I disagree. But even the dark wizards in Azkaban are there because they've actually done something. Truthfully, I think many dark wizards are just misguided..."
Longbottom smirked, looking at her husband. But he didn't talk about Snape; he wasn't that foolish. He went in a different direction. "Is that what you think of Pettigrew now?"
She moved to within a couple of inches of him. "Peter didn't start out evil. He was--looking for something. Somewhere along the way he lost the ability to choose between right and wrong. And I'm not so sure you've learned that either, Frank. You'd better tell Barty Crouch to look to his own house before he raids anyone else's!" Then she suddenly clapped her hand on her own mouth; she looked like she hadn't meant to say that. Remus Lupin looked at her, shaking his head.
"It's no good Lily. It's over; I'll go. I understand there are some rather nice camps, in the mountains. Owl me; I know they permit that. I'll write back as often as I'm allowed. Say goodbye to the children for me."
"Remus!" she choked, as he stood and the man grabbed him by the upper arm. The woman grabbed his other arm. As the two of them guided him under the balcony where Harry and Jamie knelt, toward the door, their mother and stepfather stood with their arms around each other, and they heard their mother crying.
Harry stood quietly, motioning to Jamie to follow him. They crept into his bedroom and ran swiftly and silently to the bay window. They looked down at the drive; the two men who'd been waiting outside the house held their wands aloft to better light the area behind the carriage. The man who held Remus Lupin's upper arm in a vise-like grip opened the barred door and threw the werewolf into the rear of the carriage. He used his wand to put a locking charm on the door.
The man and woman who'd dragged Remus from their house followed the other two men into the carriage and it started to move away, but suddenly there was a loudBANG! and it was gone. The drive was empty.
Harry heard his parents climb the stairs and walk down the corridor to their bedroom; their footsteps were slow, and Harry thought he could hear his mother continuing to cry. He and Jamie still sat on the window seat; Harry noticed that Jamie was also crying. He was trying not to break down himself.
"C'mere, James," he said to her softly, patting his leg. She laid down on the cushion, pillowing her head on his thigh. He stroked her hair gently until he thought she'd fallen asleep. When he stopped, she suddenly spoke.
"We're not ever going to see him again, are we?" Her voice was soft and thick with tears.
Harry was silent for a long minute. He turned his head to look down at the drive, where the purple carriage had been. He whispered, "I don't know, James."
She frowned. "Why? Is there some reason I can't stay and watch?"
He hesitated; he'd only ever done the preliminary work in front of Professor McGonagall.
"Okay. But be quiet and don't distract me."
She sat silently, her eyes wide, while her brother manipulated his bone structure for an hour. At one point he lengthened his left leg to five feet and then brought it back to normal, gasping from the pain, and he saw her wince in sympathy. When he was done, he sat in a puddle of robes on the floor, catching his breath. He'd been doing better with his running every day, and he'd been executing some additional exercises for upper-body strength. He'd become accustomed again to the pain from exercising, and that had once more helped him to acclimate himself to the pain of the Animagus training. Still, he was winded, and Jamie sat looking at him in awe, for once struck dumb.
When he found the strength to stand again, she too stood; she seemed almost afraid of him now. "Harry," she said softly, "how did you find out how to do this?"
He swallowed; it was a good question, and he hadn't thought of how to fudge this. In theory, he could tell her about his other life, but then he'd probably be writing to her from St. Mungo's for the rest of his life...
"Well, um, when Draco and I were studying for the O.W.L.s, we snuck into the library the night before the Transfiguration test to look up some things..." It was partly true; Harry felt much more comfortable with lies when they had a grain of truth to them. "I went into the Restricted Section, in case there was something there that would give me a leg up on the others, and I found this book on the Animagus Transfiguration. I copied down all of the important information and put the book back, and I saved what I wrote."
"Where is it?" she asked eagerly. "Can I see?"
"Um..." Okay, he thought, so I should have realized she'd ask that. Stupid, stupid... "Sorry. I, um, charmed the parchment so only I can read it. There's no way to take the spell off without destroying it." He didn't know whether that was plausible, but it was the best he could do.
"Oh," she said glumly, not arguing. Well, he reasoned, she was only in fourth year. If what I just said is impossible, she might not have any way of knowing. He'd noticed that the curriculum in general seemed to be a few years behind the Hogwarts to which he was accustomed. Why should they be given less challenging work and less of it when there were no longer Muggle-born students at the school? It was yet another unanswered question, and he was starting to get very, very tired of those.
They were about to leave when he had a sudden thought and stopped her. "Jamie, just a minute. I have something to tell you."
She was perplexed. "I thought you said you didn't find out about the cloak either."
"Oh, it's not about that. It's completely different. You might want to sit."
She was looking progressively more confused. Harry hesitated. He hadn't told Ginny he was going to do this today, but wanted to get it over with before he lost his nerve. "You know how I said I had a girlfriend?"
Now she smiled. "Oh. So you're finally going to admit you were making it up? Honestly, Harry, don't you think Draco and I can tell when you're ly--"
"It's Ginny Weasley," he said suddenly. She froze, her bright green eyes wide with disbelief.
"What?" she finally croaked.
Harry couldn't stop a smile from spreading across his face; he was so happy to be able to tell her. "I said it's--"
"I heard what you said. Ginny Weasley? Are you daft?"
Harry stopped smiling. "What do you mean?"
Jamie threw up her hands and paced. "Do you need another reason for her brother to hate you? To want to kill you? Are you suicidal or something? I thought you'd finally come to your senses when you stopped stalking her--and thank you for being the creepy brother-from-hell for four years, that makes it really easy to make friends--but now you're saying she's your girlfriend? Aren't you--you know--still upset about that bet?"
He smiled again bashfully. "That bet was the best thing that ever happened to me. When she came to me to apologize--you remember? We were down by the lake?--we sort of, um, kissed and made up. Literally."
Harry nodded. Jamie got a look of understanding on her face now. "And the revenge on Ron Weasley you talked about this summer? That was--"
"Well, I just figured that he'd find out about us eventually, and he wouldn't be too happy. Kind of a fringe benefit. Not that I'm with Ginny just to get to him; if anything, a lot of his animosity comes from the fact that I used to follow her around..."
"Harry! Are you insane? She's from Gryffindor and you're from Slytherin. It's a match made in hell. Break up with her."
Harry paused. "Jamie--when you were sorted, did the hat give you a choice?"
She looked shaken. "What do you mean?"
"Did it mention any other houses besides Slytherin?"
Jamie hesitated. "Well, I--I mean--
"Because it gave me a choice. Between Gryffindor and Slytherin.
She'd found her voice again. "Me too! And--and I was so nervous and--and--does this mean we should have been in Gryffindor?"
"Well, I think it might mean we have a little Gryffindor in us. I feel so connected to Ginny, Jamie..."
"Mm hm," she said, with a more knowing look than Harry felt any fourteen-year-old girl should have. "And just how 'connected' have you gotten?"
Harry reddened. "Not that kind of connected. I know it sounds like big trouble, but can't you just be happy for me? And look at mum and dad. She was in Gryffindor and he was in Slytherin. And they dated in school, too."
Jamie put her hands on her hips. "Don't try to distract me. We're talking about you. Put yourself in her brother's shoes. When he finds out--I mean, what would you do if he came after me?"
Harry grimaced. "He's not the one I'm worried about..."
Jamie blushed. "Well, there you go. Think of Draco coming after me..." She was still blushing; he thought she might be thinking a little too vividly about Draco coming after her.
Harry shook himself. "Okay. Think about Draco. I know how you feel about him, James; don't protest, a lot of people know. Ginny knows; she says you're pretty obvious. I'm pretty sure Draco knows too, but he doesn't do anything because of your age and the fact that you're my sister and he doesn't want to mess up a good friendship."
"Did you warn him off?" Her voice was dangerous and he saw her put her hand in her wand-pocket.
"No, I think he's decided that on his own. But what I mean is, think about how you feel about him, go on; close your eyes and think about it. Then imagine if I said, 'Stop it! You're not allowed to feel that way any more!' Would that have any effect? Would it do any good? I can't help the way I feel, Jamie. I knew Ginny was wonderful before, but now that I know her even better..." He remembered the letters they'd exchanged during the summer. Their relationship had grown with the help of parchment and ink as much as kisses. He felt now that she knew him as well as his sister and best friend.
Jamie looked at him, her large eyes shining, and she gasped. "You're really in love, aren't you?" she whispered. He started stuttering; he couldn't seem to get words out of his mouth. His heart seemed to be going a mile a minute. Then he was surprised by Jamie stepping forward and enveloping him in a hug. When she pulled back and looked at him, he saw approval at last in her large green eyes. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I thought it was just that obsession you had taking on a new life..." She shook her head in wonder. "Congratulations."
He leaned over quickly and kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks. I knew I could get you to understand." He thought about how happy he felt telling Jamie about Ginny; he couldn't once recall feeling happy about telling anyone about him and Hermione. That had been so complicated. His head was hurting again; he did not want to think about this now. He tried to distract his sister.
"She likes you, you know. And you two already get on. Which is something else I wanted to talk to you about. We thought it would be good if you start hanging out with her and her friends. Then when she's with you and me and Draco, she can say it's because she's friends with you, if anyone questions it."
"What? Now I'm supposed to give you some cover story?"
"Plus, she could help us get the cloak or map or something. Or she could help with something else."
"And it's going to be so plausible for a fourth-year Slytherin to hang out with a fifth-year Gryffindor and her friends..."
"Well, make it plausible. Use your imagination. Or she'll probably think of something. She's very smart. Give her a chance."
Jamie grimaced. "What about those other Gryffindor friends? Wasn't it an idea one of them had to have her kiss you when she'd lost a bet? They sound like bit--"
"The word is 'witches,' Jamie, and shall I remind you that you're one too?" he smiled mischievously. She sighed. "And anyway, you're always complaining that you don't get on with any of the fourth year Slytherin girls. Ginny's friends can't be any worse, can they?"
"Famous last words..." she said gloomily. Harry laughed.
"Thanks! You won't regret this!" He took the locking charm off the door and when they opened it, they walked right into Draco, who'd finally finished his detention and had come looking for them.
"Draco!" he said jovially. His friend looked at him suspiciously.
"Why do I think I'm about to be talked into doing something no one in their right mind should do?" he drawled wearily, walking into the room and sinking to the floor, leaning against the stone wall. Harry laughed again while he closed and relocked the door.
"Because being my friend has made you jaded about this stuff. Look, it's good news. You know that girlfriend you think I made up?"
Draco looked up at him, frowning. "Yeah?"
He smiled at his best friend.
Harry had to keep reminding himself that he was supposed to continue to look for the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map; he couldn't remember when he'd been so happy, and he was sometimes afraid he wouldn't be able to pry himself away from this life when the time came. In addition to the ease with which Ginny had joined the trio of him, his sister and Draco, and his pleasure in seeing the way his girlfriend and his sister got on, his studies were ridiculously easy and even his potions work had improved, in his mother's eyes.
The first Quidditch match was coming up soon, too, between Ravenclaw and Slytherin, and Harry had to spend more and more time with the Slytherin team, getting them ready. Somehow he had more enthusiasm for strategizing and preparing the team for a match than he had when he was the Gryffindor captain in his other life. He was looking forward to the match; he wouldn't be playing Seeker, of course, but Keeper was better than nothing. He thought about the match in third year when Ginny had caught the Snitch and Slytherin had still won...that was what it was all about. That was Quidditch. In fact, that match was responsible for his being team captain...
After Harry and Draco had been carried back to the dungeons, a celebration ensued in the Slytherin common room which was rather odd, as the people being fêted were too exhausted to do much beyond nod and smile feebly. Harry dragged himself to the third-year dorm and collapsed on top of his bedcover still fully clothed. He had started to doze off when he heard heavy footsteps enter the room. He opened his eyes a crack; it was his dad, Severus Snape, head of Slytherin House.
"Harry?" he asked tentatively. Harry opened his eyes a crack. His dad was standing by his bed.
"Mmm?" was the only response Harry could manage.
His dad sat on the bed and patted Harry's leg. "You really made me proud today, you know that? That was some match..."
Harry smiled feebly. "I learned from the master," he croaked hoarsely.
His dad grinned at him. "I think the student has surpassed the teacher." Harry found it hard not to grin himself. His dad continued, "I have some news. The whole team is unanimous, including Flint. Next year, they want you to be the captain."
Harry felt wide awake now. He propped himself up on his elbows. "What? I'll only be fourth year."
His dad smiled even more broadly. "Youngest Quidditch captain in the history of the school."
"And I was only reserve this year..."
"Still. They want you. It's an honor, Harry. And I think you can do it. As your head of house, I'm asking you to do it for Slytherin." His eyes twinkled at Harry. Harry finally smiled back at his dad.
"All right. I'll do it."
His dad stood again. "That's my boy. I'll deliver the good news. You go back to sleep; you've worked hard today."
Harry didn't need to be told twice. He flopped back onto his pillow. After a minute, he heard a roar of acclamation go up from the crowd in the common room, but it quickly faded from his consciousness as Harry drifted into sleep...
Harry had written a letter to Remus Lupin in which he tried to ask about the Invisibility Cloak in a roundabout way. He looked over some old letters from Remus first, to remind himself of what his life was like in the camp. Remus sounded rather like he was putting a good face on things. He was in a camp for wizard werewolves; there were separate camps for Muggle werewolves, which were the rule, while wizard werewolves were the exception. There were seventy-three men and fifty-four women in his camp. The werewolves were transported every day to work in a china factory the Ministry had built. It seemed a very proper business to the Muggle world, and in fact they sold mostly to the Muggles. Remus had discovered he was quite good at the fine detail work; he spent his days painting designs around the edges of cups and saucers and plates...Usually hand-painted dishes were very dear, but this factory was able to offer their wares at astonishingly low prices, and their orders had quadrupled in only five years. Of course, Harry thought grimly, they're doing it with slave-labor, so it would be cheaper than other people's hand-painted stuff...
Harry was reminded again of why he needed to change things back when he read Remus' letters. Not that he ever complained to Harry or even made it seem like he was doing anything out of the ordinary; but his simple descriptions of life in the camps were often very poignant, such as when Remus wrote about his coworker disappearing the morning after the full moon. This happened every month. Rather than go to the trouble of dosing them all with Wolfsbane Potion, when the moon was full they took advantage of some Muggle technology and the fences around the camps were electrified. Aurors surrounded the camps armed with Muggle guns loaded with silver bullets, and the transfigured humans were left to their own devices. They slashed and tore at each other and were left with horrible wounds when they became human again in the morning. They tried to leap at the fence to get at the humans they could see just beyond their reach. Contact with the fence meant dreadful burns and a singed smell that followed one around for weeks afterward. Unfortunately, it did not mean death, since silver was necessary to bring that relief to a lycanthrope. But there always seemed to be someone who stubbornly disregarded the pain from the fence and climbed over; they were immediately killed by the Aurors. Some lunar cycles it was more than one.
Remus had heard about someone who had managed to smuggle silver into the camps from the factory and commit suicide; there was a silver shiv rumored to be hidden somewhere in one of the women's barracks in the wizarding camp. People were looking for it, for some sort of escape. Remus discounted the rumor; Harry shuddered. To think that one should find living as a werewolf so horrible that death seemed preferable. Or was it life in the camps that had made some of them suicidal?
The morning of the first Quidditch match, Harry received a reply from Remus. He was sitting in the Great Hall eating breakfast, and a brown owl settled on his shoulder. Harry took the parchment and fed the owl, then opened the letter.
Thank you for writing. I haven't heard from you in a while. Congratulations on your girlfriend. I have some news: I too have a girlfriend. Now, I know you think I'm ancient--
Harry smiled; he didn't think any such thing. It was the sort of thing Remus often wrote; Harry wondered whether it was because he felt old.
--but Selena and I are very comfortable wiith each other. She was a few years behind me in school, in Ravenclaw. She was bitten around five years ago. I haven't heard of it ever happening in any of the camps, but we might just request permission to marry. We probably wouldn't be able to share quarters, as they would have to lay out money to create special accommodations for us, but we'll see.
About the cloak: The last I heard of it, James told me he had given it to Albus Dumbledore for safe-keeping. I haven't heard anything about his whereabouts since I came here, but you could always see whether a post owl can locate him. It's worth a try.
Write again soon. Tell me more about your girlfriend (such as her name) next time. Give Jamie and your mum my love.
Dumbledore! Of course! Harry remembered receiving the cloak now; in his first year in his other life, it had been one of his Christmas gifts, and the note had said that it was his father's. Dumbledore had had it since James Potter was killed. That he didn't know where Dumbledore was didn't matter; if he was alive, a post owl would find him. And maybe Harry could ask for help fixing the timeline, as well.
Jamie was sitting next to him, eating some bacon. She craned her neck and saw that the parchment was the cheap, thin stuff they let the residents of the werewolf camp use. Harry saw her looking and discreetly handed her the letter. She handed it back to him, frowning.
"Who's Dumbledore?" she asked softly, trying not to move her lips. Since lips were rather essential for saying "Dumbledore" Harry had a hard time figuring out what she was saying.
When he realized, he said out of the corner of his mouth, "Former Headmaster. Before McGonagall."
"Oh." She went on chewing.
"I'll write a letter to him later."
It was time to go down to the Quidditch pitch. Harry felt a burst of optimism and happiness move through him; he felt confident that Slytherin would do well in the match, and he had been reminded of the identity of the one person most likely to know the whereabouts of the cloak: Dumbledore. He rose and beckoned to the rest of his team; Draco stood and followed him, followed by Zabini, Nott and a seventh-year named Hamilton, who were the Chasers; at the rear were Talbert and Lukasavicz (appropriately pronounced 'Luka-savage'), a fourth year and a fifth year who were the Beaters.
As they left the Great Hall, Harry was momentarily shaken by the boos and hisses that came from the other tables; he wasn't used to this. When he'd been on the Gryffindor team, on days they played Slytherin, three out of four students were standing and cheering for him. That was no longer the case; now three out of four were booing him. It was jarring, and almost shook his confidence.
He tried to listen only to the Slytherin cheers behind him, keeping his smile plastered on his face. He'd hated being hated in his other life, and he hated it now. But at least, it had seemed that people in his other life had disliked him for a reason (even a bad reason). The Dursleys...that was no mystery. And then people had thought he was setting a monster on people in his second year...But to be hated just because he was a Slytherin was a new experience. It had nothing to do with who he was, and in fact, they didn't care who he was. Only what he was: a Slytherin.
They were in the entrance hall when they heard the tumultuous cheering behind them for the Ravenclaw team. Harry's stomach clenched, but he tried not to think about it. It's not a popularity contest, he reminded himself, it's a Quidditch match. We'll be fine, we will...
"How could you?"
"Stupidest bloody thing I've ever seen..."
"Can't you even bloody remember what position you're playing? You're the effing captain!"
"S'bad enough the rest of'em all hate Slytherins, you have to make us look incompetent too?"
Harry's head whirled; he'd just played his worst Quidditch game of his life, even including the time dementors made him fall from his broom. He'd done the thing he'd feared doing when Ginny was playing Seeker for Gryffindor because Katie Bell was sick; he'd committed a Snitchnip. A Snitchnip occurred when a player other than the Seeker touched the Snitch. It was completely forbidden. But it had been right there, practically calling out to him, and he'd just forgotten everything else and acted instinctively...
The worst had been Draco's face afterward; he was obviously very hurt, glaring at Harry with those clear grey eyes, saying quietly, "If you don't want me to be Seeker any more, just say so."
Harry buried his face in his hands; he'd hidden behind Hagrid's old hut to wait out the rest of the day; he wished he could already transfigure himself into a griffin so he could fly over the forest, but sitting and staring at the trees was going to have to suffice for the moment. No one had come after him, not even Jamie or Draco. (He imagined that if she was going to comfort anyone at this time it would be Draco.)
When the sun was low in the sky, he finally rose and walked back to the castle. The Quidditch pitch seemed to leer at him ominously when he passed it. That's ridiculous, Harry thought. But he felt a presence. Then he remembered that he'd left his team robes in the changing rooms, and he went to retrieve them. As he entered, he felt a wave of cold slice through him, and his teeth clacked together uncontrollably. He had that ominous feeling again, and quickly collected his robes and left, carrying them over his left arm while his broom bounced on his right shoulder.
When he was back in the castle and about to go down to the dungeons, he heard a familiar voice hissing to him from the upper balcony.
Harry looked up; it was Charlie. Harry's response was morose.
But Charlie smiled in a friendly fashion and gestured to him to come upstairs. The doors to the Great Hall were closed; it sounded like the evening meal had begun, judging from the loud clatter of dishes and flatware. Even though he hadn't eaten since breakfast, Harry didn't feel particularly hungry.
He climbed the stairs and Charlie led him silently to his office. Harry sank into a comfortable armchair by the roaring fire; the days and nights were distinctly autumnal now, and he'd spent all day out of doors. The fire was quite welcome, as was the comfort of the chair. Charlie sat in the chair opposite him. He waved his wand and produced a platter of sandwiches and butterbeer. Charlie didn't speak, but took some food and a bottle of butterbeer for himself, and, suddenly finding his appetite, Harry did the same. The corned beef was the best he could ever remember having, and the butterbeer warmed his insides wonderfully. When they were done their silent meal, Charlie banished the dirty dishes with a wave of his wand and sat back in his chair, surveying Harry thoughtfully. Harry was still too numb with shame to speak. Finally, Charlie broke the silence.
"You know, if you had been playing Seeker, that would have been one spectacular catch." Harry looked at him miserably, still silent. "Hey, this is Charlie Weasley saying this. I know a thing or two about playing Seeker. Can I see some appreciation?"
Harry groaned. "The trouble is, I was supposed to be playing Keeper, not Seeker. And you're probably the only person in the school still talking to me. I hate to think what my own dad's going to say, since he's also my head-of-house." Charlie had known for years that Snape was Harry's dad and that the Potions mistress was his mother. "I've already got my best friend thinking I think he's not worth a damn as Seeker..."
Suddenly, a tawny owl landed on the ledge outside one of Charlie's office windows. It knocked politely on the glass with its beak. Charlie strode over to the casement to open it, and the bird flew to Harry, dropping a piece of parchment in his lap and not stopping, swooping back to the window and out again. Charlie closed the window, bemused. Harry hesitated to look at the parchment; surely it was a howler or death threat from the rest of Slytherin House.
But it wasn't; it was a note from Ginny (who would probably not have sent it if she had known he was in her brother's office).
Where have you been all day? Jamie and I have been very worried about you. As you can imagine, Draco's a bit put-out. I think he'll come round, though. Jamie got him to stop cleaning out of his trunk everything you'd ever given or lent him. I heard about that after the fact; Jamie and I met to talk near the rose gardens. I haven't mentioned this, but you were right; she and I have become good friends.
I know you must feel dreadful and want to be alone right now, but I miss you terribly. Can you meet me after dinner in the old Muggle Studies classroom? It hasn't been used in years. It's on the fourth floor around the corner from Dark Arts, third door on the right.
Harry folded up the parchment and put it carefully in his pocket; he wanted to make certain he did not accidentally leave it in Charlie's office. "Um, Charlie, I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow..."
Charlie frowned. "So suddenly? What was that note?"
"Er, I have to, um, meet someone..."
Charlie got a knowing look on his face, and Harry wished with all his heart he could tell his teacher that it was his sister. "Oh--I see. This explains why you've stopped following Ginny around. You've found someone else. Well, Ron will be happy about that. Who is she?" Harry hesitated; he wished Charlie had said whether he was also happy about that.
"Well, we're not really telling people yet..."
"Oh," Charlie said, nodding and winking. "Well, your secret's safe with me. Especially since I don't know what it is." He grinned and slapped Harry on the upper arm. Harry fought the urge to rub the spot where he'd been hit. "You kids have fun now."
Harry nodded and left the office, waiting until he was about twenty feet down the corridor before he started running. When he reached the Dark Arts classroom he was starting to give out. He walked more slowly around the corner and counted off the doors to the room where he was supposed to meet Ginny.
He let himself in; she was there already, so he put a locking charm on the door. She smiled at him and ran across the room. Suddenly she was in his arms again, and he just held her and buried his face in her neck. Then he stepped back from her for a moment and looked around the room. It was like no other classroom in the castle; it had been tricked out to look like a Muggle house, but oddly, it was again Mrs. Figg's house. The layout was different, but it had the same upholstery and antimacassars and the same cat-and-cabbage smell. He remembered the tents they'd used for the World Cup; this must be some sort of wizarding pre-fabricated Muggle decor you could buy, something that would always look the same. This must be how wizards think all Muggle houses look. Since it was the same in his other life, some wizarding company must have been producing these for far more than fifteen years, he realized.
He went to the couch in the living-room area and sat down next to her. He was so glad not to be with people who were berating him and attacking him. Suddenly, the shock of his enormous blunder his him again, and his shoulders began to shake. Without a word, she let him put his head on her lap while he cried. When he was all cried out, he must have dozed off, and when he awoke, she wasn't on the couch. She was looking through the cupboards in the kitchen area of the classroom, reading labels on ancient, dusty boxes of pre-packaged Muggle convenience foods.
"Ginny?" he said softly. She looked up and smiled at him.
"There you are. I thought I'd let you sleep. You seemed all done in. I was just looking through this stuff. I wish Hogwarts hadn't dropped Muggle studies; I'd love to know more about how these things work." She'd taken off her robes and draped them over a chair; under them she'd been wearing a blouse and cardigan with a knee-length skirt and socks pulled up just below her knees. She looked like any Muggle schoolgirl, Harry thought; well, any Muggle schoolgirl from thirty years ago.
"Bring it here."
She returned to the couch where he'd been napping and sat down on the floor, handing him a box of spaghetti. He looked at it, then smiled at her.
"What don't you understand?"
"Well--what is it? How do you eat it?"
"It's spaghetti. That's a kind of pasta. You cook it."
"You put a few cups of water in a pot and put it on the stove to get hot. See the knobs on the front of the stove? That's how you control how hot each burner gets. Once the water is bubbling you put the spaghetti in and let it sit in the boiling water for about ten minutes. You also have to stir it or it'll be one big messy clump. While that's going on you heat some sort of sauce to put on it, usually tomato. Then you drain it, put the sauce on it, and eat it."
"How do you know that?"
He pointed to the side of the box; in large clear print, it read Preparation: Heat 3 cups water to a boil...
He smiled at her. "Don't you ever eat anything like this at your house?"
She sighed. "If it's not a food that originated in the British Isles, no." She brushed his hair back from his forehead with her hand. "Are you feeling better?"
"Much." He put his hand to her cheek and she put her hand over his.
"Hmm?" he said, gazing adoringly at her.
"Do you--do you hate kissing me?"
He frowned. "What?"
"Well--it's just that the last few weeks, whenever we're alone, it seems like you're trying very hard not to kiss me. You've been sort of, I don't know, chattering away like you're trying to avoid it. I didn't realize at first, but then I started looking for it, and--then it was hard to deny that was what you were doing..."
He caught his breath. "Oh, Ginny, I'm so sorry..." He wasn't sure what to say. He had been purposefully avoiding any extended snogging sessions, due to a combination of Hermione-guilt and Draco-guilt. Now he had a dose of Ginny-guilt to deal with as well; the girl he adored was thinking he didn't care about her any more...
"If anything," he said hoarsely, "I've been afraid that if we started, I wouldn't be able to stop..." She smiled at that; he could see that answer satisfied her, made her stop doubting herself and her attractiveness to him. Their eyes locked, and then she moved to close the distance between their mouths; Harry held the back of her head, his fingers sunk into her luxurious hair, giving up, giving in. He drank in her intoxicating breath; she always seemed to have been eating chocolate before kissing him. The pent-up desire he'd felt for her for weeks rose to the surface. He felt her hand caress the side of his face, then come to rest at the base of his throat. She was still kneeling on the floor while he was on the couch, prone. Although he kept his eyes closed, concentrating on kissing her, he was aware of her fingers unbuttoning his robes, then his shirt. Then nothing more seemed to be happening other than the prolonged kiss, so Harry opened his eyes a sliver and saw that while they'd continued to kiss, she'd been busy removing her cardigan and untucking her blouse from her skirt.
His blood felt like it was boiling in his veins; he grasped her head more firmly and opened his mouth wider; she followed his lead, then climbed onto the couch, kneeling above him. He broke the kiss and moved his lips down her throat, nipping gently at the base, making her gasp in surprise. Then it was his turn to gasp when she moved her mouth down his neck and onto his bared chest, her fingers fluttering across his skin making him flinch involuntarily; he watched the top of her head in fascination as she pushed his shirt out of the way, then drew his breath in sharply when he felt her place her mouth over his right nipple. His head was whirling; when they'd kissed and touched previously, doing it out-of-doors had meant, of necessity, keeping their clothes on. Suddenly there was so much happening, and so fast; after resisting this for four weeks, it was still hard for him to believe that Ginny wanted to kiss and touch him now.
She was moving her mouth down his belly, and now he thought he was going to go insane; he gently lifted her head from his body with a shiver. He turned on his side and drew her up beside him, guiding her until she was looking up at him, while he pressed himself against the back of the couch. He lowered his mouth to hers again, feeling her hand on his chest, a touch that burned. He knew that they couldn't keep this up much longer. He couldn't keep it up much longer, not if he didn't want to lose his mind. Now the problem wasn't Hermione-guilt or Draco-guilt. He didn't want to pressure her in any way; she wasn't ready yet for more than kissing, and he wanted to respect that, no matter how agitated she made him...
He was just getting ready to tell her they should stop when he felt her take his left hand and guide it under her shirt, then up to her chest, where she placed it over one of her satiny bra cups...
"Ginny!" he exclaimed, hastily removing his hand and trying to sit up. But there wasn't room for that, so instead he succeeded in knocking her onto the floor, where she landed with a thud.
"Ow! What did you do that for?"
This was getting to be much more complicated than he'd expected. He hadn't counted on things moving along so swiftly. It was a good thing I was holding back for the last month... He helped her stand, then started buttoning his shirt while apologizing. "Sorry. I just think it's, um, rather late. Isn't it? Do you have a watch? How long was I sleeping?"
She was smoothing her hair. "I don't know. I don't have a watch. Perhaps you're right." She started tucking her blouse into her skirt again, then retrieved her cardigan. "It does seem like we've been up here for a while..."
When he'd buttoned his robes again and she'd done the same with hers, she put her arms around his neck. "It's just as well that one of us has some self-control, Mr. Potter. Should I feel insulted?" she grinned at him. He pulled her to him.
"You should feel shocked, I think," he said softly against her cheek, then moved his mouth to her ear, breathing in it gently, and she sighed and collapsed weakly against him. He pulled back from her again, smiling.
"You're just playing with me now," she accused him, breathing shallowly, one hand on his arm to stay upright. Then she cleared her throat. "You'd better walk me to my common room now, before I drag you back to that couch..."
He grinned. "If you insist..."
They walked down stairs and through corridors with their arms around each other; it was unlikely they'd run into anyone this late. When they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady in the pink dress which hid the entrance to the Gryffindor common room, Harry looked down at her and she gazed up at him with large eyes that seemed to engulf him in darkness and want. He leaned over her and she responded immediately, arms twining around him, and this time they were both shaking when they simultaneously broke the kiss.
"Goodnight," she said, her voice quivering.
"Goodnight," he answered, feeling a hollowness inside him as he watched her give the password and climb in through the portrait hole. He could not enter. He was an outsider. He would be lying if he had said that he was enjoying being a Slytherin, that it was every bit as good as being a Gryffindor, even though (until today) he'd managed to put up with it well enough. Suddenly, seeing her disappear into Gryffindor Tower, he felt an acute pain inside that could not be ignored. He was no longer a Gryffindor. He swallowed, trying not to cry. Not a Gryffindor. He, who had wielded the sword of Godric Gryffindor and used it to slay the King of Snakes, to save Ginny's life...
Now his sorrow was not so much in leaving Ginny, but in being cut off so completely from the world he had known since his first year. He felt unshed tears in his eyes; he blinked, trying to keep them from spilling over his cheeks, and turned to go down the numerous staircases that would eventually lead to the dungeons, and eventually, to Slytherin House.
But when he turned, he discovered that he wasn't alone in the corridor, and he stopped abruptly, his jaw dropped, because he hadn't heard a sound; indeed, a bright, flaming torch high on the wall should have thrown the man's shadow onto the floor where Harry would have seen it, and he hadn't noticed anything a moment before he'd turned except his own shadow.
It was the caretaker; Harry couldn't remember his name. The same could not be said of the caretaker. He nodded at Harry. "Potter, isn't it? Out after hours. You know what that means." His voice was surprisingly laconic. He was a little shorter than Harry, although he was stooped with age, so he might have been rather tall at one time. His hair was white, brushed back from a bald spot and neatly trimmed above the collar of the shirt he wore under mud-colored, shabby robes. He squinted, as though he should wear glasses and was too vain, and his large nose was generously veined above a scraggly beard and mustache.
"I'm sorry, er--"
"Davy. You should probably be tucked up in your bed if you can't remember that. Unfortunately, we have to go to my office first to write up the paperwork for your detention. Come on..."
Harry followed gladly, but tried not to look it; he'd neglected this during the last month, after the time he'd gone to talk to Jamie and ran into Mariah. Of course, he didn't have a handy accomplice this time to create a diversion, but maybe he could improvise on that. Before they'd left the area outside the Gryffindor common room, he said, "Um, she's not going to get a detention too, I hope?"
"She who? Is there someone else I should know about?" Maybe he hadn't seen Ginny.
"Er, no, no one at all..."
After descending staircase after staircase, they came at last to the caretaker's office. The old man leaned very close to the door to give the password, but Harry managed to catch it anyway.
It was as cramped and depressing as Harry remembered it. And there were the files in the corner behind Davy's desk, the files where the Marauder's Map might still be lurking. Davy waved his hand at a chair in front of the desk, going round to sit behind it. He took out his wand and Harry braced himself; was he going to be subjected to some kind of transfiguration for punishment? Was he going to be made into a bouncing ferret? But there appeared in the air above the desk a tea tray, complete with shortbread on small red and white plates with pictures of a castle on them. The matching teapot had steam emerging from the spout, and the teacups and saucers were of the same pattern. The tea tray landed gently on the desk.
"Would you like to be mother?" the old wizard asked Harry gently. Harry didn't know what to think. This was very, very different from being dragged into this office by Filch. Of course, Davy couldn't be a Squib (since all the Squibs had mysteriously disappeared) so he didn't have that particular bitterness eating away at him. He simply seemed to be an old man who was passing the twilight of his life as the Hogwarts caretaker. He noticed now that Davy seemed to be exceptionally old, probably the oldest wizard Harry had ever seen; the network of lines on his face was very complicated, resembling fissured tree bark.
Harry nodded and carefully poured two cups of tea, passing one to Davy. They each used the cream and sugar, and Davy placed some shortbread on a plate for Harry but took none himself. They did not talk, but silently drank their tea, and Harry hungrily ate his shortbread; it seemed a very long time since he'd had the sandwich and butterbeer in Charlie's office. How late was it? He really needed to get a watch...
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a parchment appeared on Davy's desk; it seemed to be some sort of form, which Davy was now filling out with a self-inking quill, his tongue between his teeth as he wrote, whispering the things he was writing under his breath.
"Name: Harry Potter. Year: Sixth. House: Slytherin. Offense: Out of house after hours..."
Harry chewed slowly, watching the calm, methodical caretaker fill in the detention form. How could he stage some sort of diversion? How could he get into those files? He could see that one of the cabinets was labeled Current Students and one was labeled Former Students. He needed to get into the records for the former students; that was where the map would be, if it was still here at all. But how to do it...
Suddenly, like an answer to his prayers, a loud explosion was heard in the corridor. Davy's head jerked up, and Harry shrank back in his chair; the alert expression that appeared on Davy's face and in his steely blue eyes was so abrupt that he looked possessed. He pulled out his wand and rose purposefully.
"Excuse me, Potter. Duty calls."
Harry nodded, watching him in awe; he wondered what jobs he'd had when he was younger. Maybe he'd been an Auror. Perhaps that was how he'd managed to sneak up on Harry in the upstairs corridor without Harry noticing him at all.
The second he'd left the office, Harry was on his feet; he peered around the doorjamb, seeing Davy stride down the corridor in the direction from which they'd come, then turn a corner. Harry dashed to the files for the former students and pulled open the top drawer; he quickly found the file labeled Black, Sirius and muttered, "Blimey," under his breath when he saw how large it was. He quickly scanned through Sirius' file; no blank parchment. He closed that drawer and opened the next one, which began with Inverness, Gavin. In the middle of this one he found the file for Lupin, Remus, which was only about half the size of Sirius'. Still no parchment. He went to the last file in the drawer; it ended with O'Neal, Blanche, so he closed that drawer and tried the next one. Near the front of the third drawer he found Pettigrew, Peter, which was ironically smaller than Remus', he noticed. No parchment. He rifled through some more P files before coming to Potter, James. It was almost as large as Sirius' file. Harry had a lot to look through, and he hoped that Davy would stay away a little longer...
When it seemed like he'd flipped past the fiftieth detention form (his father had become Head Boy how?) he finally came to a brittle, folded-up parchment. Harry's heart thudded painfully in his chest. He unfolded it; it was blank on both sides. He tried not to grin crazily, so Davy wouldn't wonder what he was up to when he returned. He quickly closed the drawer and folded up the parchment, putting it deep into his robe pocket. He threw himself into his chair again just as Davy turned the knob and returned to his office. Harry turned to look at him, his eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Whoever it was, they was too fast for old Davy. Anyway..." He went round the desk and picked up the detention form, holding it up to his face very closely, again making Harry think he needed glasses. "I think," he said in that laconic voice again, "that we'll just call it a night, Potter." And with that, he carefully ripped the parchment in half, tossed the pieces in the air, and they promptly disappeared from sight. Not a scrap, not a speck was left.
Harry swallowed. "Oh. Well, okay. If you're sure."
Davy nodded at him. "Let me walk you back to your house so's you don't meet up with whoever this other mischief-maker is. Obviously there's someone out there tonight making far more trouble than you, and it's my job to catch'em."
Harry nodded and followed the caretaker out of his office. As they walked the long distance to Slytherin House, Davy engaged him in conversation, asking slow, carefully-worded questions about where he lived during the summer, what classes did he like best, who were his friends. When they reached the entrance to the Slytherin common room, Harry suddenly realized that he'd told this unassuming man many things he probably wouldn't even tell Jamie or Draco, although at the time, he hadn't felt like he was being pumped for information. He's good, Harry realized. He's very good.
After Harry gave the password ("bloodwort") Davy nodded at him and said, "Now you come round to my office some time when you haven't broken the rules and we'll have tea again, all right? I'll do proper scones and clotted cream."
Harry gave him a reserved smile. "I'll do that."
The caretaker left and Harry entered the common room, closing the wall behind him. When he reached the sixth-year dorm, he crept in carefully, so as not to wake his roommates. But one of them hadn't gone to sleep at all.
"Harry! Where've you been?" Draco was sitting up in bed, hugging his knees to his chest. Harry shushed him and gestured for him to follow him back to the common room so they could talk.
"What time is it?" he asked Draco first.
"Really? Wow. I had no idea. No wonder Davy took me to his office. But look what I found there..."
He took out the parchment and unfolded it. He placed it on a table, holding down the edges with his fingers. Draco frowned.
"How do you know this is really it?"
"I don't. But it was the only blank parchment in my father's old file, so there's only one way to find out." He took out his wand and waved it over the parchment. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Suddenly, on the clear surface of the parchment, lines began to appear; they ran up and down and sideways, they raced to the edges and intersected in seemingly endless permutations until the plans for all of the floors of the castle were displayed, as well as the grounds up to the Forbidden Forest. Harry looked at Draco and grinned. There seemed to be some small dots moving about the castle, but Harry didn't bother looking at them. They were in for the night; anyone else wandering about was Davy's concern. He waved his wand over it again, saying, "Mischief managed."
He folded it and put it back into his pocket, trying not to laugh at Draco's expression. "Harry! I didn't realize--that is one hell of a map! Do you know what we could do with a map like that?"
"I know what I'm going to do; I'm going to leave the school to find the Muggle-born witches and wizards I told you about."
"But nothing. It's not a toy. We have important things to do. And now it's late; I really need some sleep. I had a nap earlier, but it wasn't really enough..."
"You never said where you were."
"I was--with Ginny. That's all you need to know."
Draco's eyebrows flew up. "Really. With Ginny. Hmmm. Have we solved our little virginity problem...?"
"Our? The last time you were a virgin even in thought was when you were about eleven. And none of your business."
"Oh. I'll take that as a no."
"Oh, come on, you'd be bouncing off the walls if you'd just come from shagging her. I should have realized you hadn't."
Harry sighed; Draco had a one-track mind. "Anyway, we should get to bed. And Draco--"
Harry hesitated. "I'm sorry. About the match. I can't believe how stupid--"
Draco held up his hand. "Don't. I'm your friend. We're fine. But you owe me. I spent all afternoon and evening defending you to every prat in Slytherin. So did Jamie. Your slimy little brothers, on the other hand, were suggesting various curses we could put on your bed, your clothes...You probably did the right thing to duck out until now. You're lucky you didn't get hexed into the middle of next week. These are Slytherins we're talking about. Since it's pretty late, are you still planning to get up early and go running?"
"I suppose so, since I did have that nap."
"Good; maybe by the time they see you at breakfast they'll be over it. Then again, some of them are really good at letting things fester for a while, so watch your back for the next, oh, six months, okay?"
Harry tried not to laugh; six months. No problem. "Okay," he said, smiling at his friend, who'd been defending him all afternoon and evening, when he was probably every bit as hacked off at Harry as the others were.
They returned to their dorm and Harry undressed and climbed into bed. When he was almost dozing off, he called across the room, "Draco?"
"Thanks. And I really am sorry."
"You're welcome. I know you are. But Harry?"
"The next time you touch the Snitch before me, I get to kill you. Got that?"
Harry smiled in the dark.
Now that Jamie and Draco knew about Ginny, it was time for Ginny to know about his "revolutionary" plans. After Sunday morning breakfast, the four of them waited for everyone else to leave the Great Hall before going into the anteroom and locking the door.
He told Ginny what he'd told his sister and best friend, and showed the Marauder's Map to the girls, who were oohing and aahing over it before he put it away again. When he told Ginny about trying to find Muggle born witches and wizards, he wasn't prepared for her reaction at all. She threw her arms around him and kissed him soundly. Jamie and Draco pretended to look away.
"What was that for?"
She grinned at him. "That is for having a brave, selfless boyfriend." Harry flushed; if only she knew how very selfish he was capable of being...
"Well, there's something else you should know..." and he told her about the very great likelihood that he and Draco would eventually be initiated as Death Eaters. This time she put her hand over her mouth and there were tears in her eyes. Harry came and crouched by her chair. "We don't want to do this," he whispered. "And if they force us...we'll be spies. Just pretend to be good little Death Eaters. I can't bear the thought of pledging loyalty to the monster that killed my father, but I'll gladly pretend if I can bring him down by doing so."
She listened to him; she had to put her head very close to his to hear him; she was crying again. "Will you help me?" he asked her softly. She nodded through her tears and slid off the chair into his lap on the floor, and he held her while she cried and he smoothed her hair and felt her heart beat against his.
He still needed to write the letter to Dumbledore, so Jamie and Ginny went to the owlery, where they would meet Harry and Draco, who went back to Slytherin house so Harry could write the letter.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
Harry wrote. Then he crumpled this up into a ball, took out a fresh piece of parchment and began again.
Dear Mr. Dumbledore,
My father was James Potter. An old friend of his has suggested that you might be in possession of something that belonged to him, something he entrusted to you before he died. It is an Invisibility Cloak. If you could please send this to me, I would appreciate it. Thank you for keeping it safe all this time.
He folded this up carefully and sealed it with green wax kept in the Slytherin common room, pressing a snake into the soft wax with the little seal kept on the common room mantel. He wrote Albus Dumbledore on the front before they went up to the owlery. He tied it to the leg of one of the school owls, and after the owl left, the four of them stood leaning against the walls, staring at each other. Jamie finally broke the silence.
"What do we do now?"
Harry sighed, looking at the empty sky where the owl had been.
"Now we wait."
And wait they did. For three more weeks, Harry continued to live his new life, went to class, withstood his mother's scorn, enjoyed Charlie's and Sirius' classes, ran and exercised and trained to be an Animagus; he met Ginny in the Muggle Studies classroom every Friday after lunch, since that was the only free period they had in common (he still reigned himself in, but not so much that she would doubt his feelings for her), and he returned to practicing with the Quidditch team after he'd given profuse apologies to each player individually.
Still, he received no answer from Dumbledore. Was he even alive? Was he halfway across the world? As Halloween approached, Harry grew restless. Finally, he decided he had to act without the cloak.
On the last Sunday of the month, he met with Ginny, Draco and Jamie in the anteroom off the Great Hall after lunch.
"So," Draco started off. "Now that we have the map, why can't we get moving on some of this? Why do we absolutely have to have that cloak?"
Harry sighed; he would probably just have to do without the cloak. "I guess. That would mean the next thing we need is floo powder."
Ginny frowned. "Where will you get it?"
"From Mum's office," Jamie said nonchalantly; she was as glad as Harry to be able to be open about her mother's identity; Harry sometimes wondered uneasily whether Ginny and his sister discussed what he and Ginny did in private...
Harry said, "The question is how?"
So they worked out their plan and decided to execute it straightaway. He and Jamie knew their mother would be in her office grading papers; it would be Ginny's job to distract her and call her into the potions classroom to help her with a fever-reducing decoction while Jamie and Draco went down the hidden stairs (Harry discovered they were still there) and through the pivoting bookcase into Professor Evans' study. Harry was to guard the upper entrance.
It went off without a hitch. But Harry didn't realize that at first; it took Draco and Jamie a long time to return to the top of the stairs, so he lit his wand and carefully descended the steep stone stairs, then moved slowly along the passage, since his wandlight didn't reach very far in the dark. As he drew closer to the secret entrance to his mother's office, he saw why they hadn't returned.
Draco and his sister had their arms around each other. They were kissing, but as Harry approached them, their mouths separated. Then he realized that that wasn't because they'd noticed his advent, as he'd thought; it was so Draco could move his mouth to her ear, then down her throat...
"Ahem!" Harry said testily. "Do you mind getting your hands and mouth off my sister?" Something about this felt very familiar.
They leapt apart. "Um," Draco started to say. Jamie echoed him. Harry shushed them both.
"We have to get out of here. No more of that."
He surveyed them now, they were back in the anteroom, sitting next to each other on the table which Liam Quirke used as a desk when he ran the prefects' meetings. They were trying to pretend they weren't sneaking looks at each other. To his extreme annoyance, Ginny seemed to think it was cute.
"Do you have the money?" Draco withdrew a deep green velvet drawstring bag that clinked; he opened it and dropped ten gold Galleons into his palm, then put them back into the bag. "That should be more than enough, even after the Goblins take their cut for converting it to Muggle money. Okay. It's settled; I'm going Tuesday after Ancient Runes."
Ginny looked unsure. "Harry--are you sure you don't want to wait until Friday? We both have the same free period. I could go with you."
"No. I have a class after that. Tuesday is the only free period I have that comes at the end of the day. You'd be missing a class; we can't have anyone wondering where you are. I'll be fine." He didn't say that he didn't want her to come because she didn't know anything about the Muggle world and he did; as far as the three of them knew, he was as ignorant about Muggle London as they were.
"What are you going to do, though? How are you going to find these people?"
"I'll go someplace where I can find phone books. A library, maybe. And I'll have plenty of money for taxis or the Underground or if I have to buy a snack. I'll be fine." But he sounded more confident than he felt. He avoided mentioning Hermione's name to any of them; he felt almost like he'd be cheating on Ginny to go looking for Hermione, but that was ridiculous. He'd had a relationship with her in his other life, sure, but he'd decided now that that was a mistake and he wanted to be with Ginny (although, in his other life, that would still constitute a problem because of her relationship with Draco Malfoy). Besides, if he managed to find the Hermione that lived in this world, she wouldn't exactly be ripping his clothes off the moment she met him. They'd never even met. And somehow, he would have to convince her that she was a witch and that he wasn't insane.
Harry was anxious all day Tuesday; he kept making mistakes in Herbology that were causing Professor Sprout to tut-tut over him, and Binns' class never seem to take so long. He could barely force any food into himself at lunch, and then Ancient Runes with Wimple seemed twice as long as usual. Finally, he met up with Draco as he was running out of Arithmancy, which he had at the same time Harry had Ancient Runes; it was the only difference in their schedules.
"Ready?" Draco asked him. Harry nodded, walking with a studied nonchalance, hoping no one would take any notice of how flushed he was. Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnigan had been giving him funny looks all through Wimple's class, and he was afraid they knew something was afoot. But they reached the fourth-floor corridor mirror without anyone else following them. Harry withdrew the map from his pocket and handed it to Draco.
"Remember: starting at six o'clock, begin monitoring the map. When you see my name appear in the passage, get up here and make sure no one else is in the corridor. We can't afford to have anyone see me come out from behind the mirror."
Draco nodded, tucking the map into his pocket. He looked up and down the corridor while Harry eased open the mirror and stepped into a dusty passage. He turned to his best friend.
"Bye. Oh, and another thing: keep your hands off my sister while I'm gone. We have to talk about that..."
"All right, all right, just go!" Draco hissed. "I think I hear someone coming!"
Harry rushed into the passage and felt Draco push the mirror closed. He lit his wand and stood behind the mirror, listening.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" said a familiar voice. Harry was sure it was Ron.
"Enjoying the fact that mirrors aren't scared shitless of me, a problem that probably accounts for why you never look in one, eh Weasley?"
Harry tried not to laugh; Draco always could come up with the good lines. Then he heard Ron again.
"What's with this mirror? You must be here for a reason..."
"Maybe it's a meeting of the Draco Malfoy Appreciation Society; he needs to use a mirror so he can have a quorum of two." That was Neville Longbottom's voice; Harry was still getting used to the confidence he heard there. Right now Neville was being bitingly sarcastic, something he'd never done in Harry's old life.
Ron and another person laughed; that was probably Seamus. Suddenly Harry jumped; a fifth voice, loud and crisp, now addressed the four boys on the other side of the mirror.
"Kindly keep your fingers off me, if you don't mind!" Harry was put in mind of a very strict matron in a hospital ward. It was the voice of the mirror. "And make sure you clean your nasty little fingerprints off before you go. I'm not self-cleaning you know."
Now he heard Draco chuckling again. He heard Ron mumble, "Sorry," and then a cleaning charm. Finally, when he heard the voices moving away from the mirror he dared to turn and proceed down the passage.
It took him a good hour to reach the Hogsmeade village hall. At the end of the passage there was a rod hanging across the width of it, about five feet. Old robes were hanging on this rod on hangers. Harry ducked under the rod and pushed through the robes, finding a door. Opening it, he found himself, as he knew he would, backstage in the village hall. No one came here on Tuesday afternoons; most weddings and concerts were held on the weekend, and amateur theatrics by various residents of the village were on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Harry closed the door of the costume closet and looked around the dark, dusty room. He lit a fire in the fireplace and pulled the envelope with the floo powder out of his pocket. Selecting a pinch of it and putting the rest away, he threw the powder into the fire and said, "Diagon Alley!"
He stepped into the flames, which now felt like a pleasant breeze; the fireplaces and grates whirled around him; he remembered to hold his elbows in and also to hold his glasses firmly to his face. Just when he thought he was going to spew his lunch, he tumbled out into the dark front room of the Leaky Cauldron, the wizarding pub that hid the gateway to Diagon Alley. No one was in the pub in the middle of the afternoon; Tom, the publican, wasn't looking at him; Harry turned away from him hastily and took his glasses off; he brushed his hair onto his forehead, then, with a great deal of concentration, he caused his facial hair to grow using his Animagus skills, so that he now had a rather full beard and mustache. He turned to Tom again, his glasses shoved into his pocket. The publican looked at him now, and although he appeared rather blurry to Harry, he thought he saw surprise on Tom's face.
"Is there summat I can do for ye?" he asked slowly. Harry shook his head.
"Nowt, tanks. I'm headin' ter Gringotts." He didn't know why, but he suddenly had an urge to use an accent to further disguise himself. The trouble was, he had sort of mixed an Irish brogue with a Scottish burr, with a bit of Dorset for good measure. He should have thought of this ahead of time...
He strode through the pub; he'd worn some old dress robes instead of school robes, so he wouldn't automatically be branded as a Hogwarts student. He reached Gringotts without being stopped by anyone and walked to the first free Goblin and put Draco's velvet bag on the counter with a clatter.
"I need this changed into Muggle money."
The Goblin's eyes lit up; that's what they liked to hear. Reasons for surcharges.
Harry left with forty pounds in tens, fives and ones. They'd taken an appalling two Galleons for the surcharge. He was certain the Goblin had made it up on the spot, because he could tell that Harry was anxious to get away.
He returned to the Leaky Cauldron; Tom was still the only person in the front room. Harry removed his robes near the door and transfigured them to the half the size of his hand, then put them in his shirt pocket. He noticed that Tom never took his eyes from him. With a small nod to the publican, Harry opened the door of the pub and stepped outside.
He was finally in Muggle London, ready to search for Hermione Granger.
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