- 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 07 - From the New World
- 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?
- Author's Note:
- Some of the orchestras, schools and competitions listed in the concert program are real, some are fictional. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Jacqueline du Pré Competition. There really are regular concerts at the British Library, but they usually start and end about an hour before the times I chose.
(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)
From the New World
Harry squinted in the sunshine; it was uncharacteristically clear for a late-October day in London. He started walking away from the Leaky Cauldron and had a bit of a shock when he caught sight of himself in a shop window. The beard was fuller than he'd intended to make it; he looked as if he'd been living in the wilderness for years, with no way to shave. He'd use his wand to trim it later. He hated to use his Animagus skills to put the facial hair back into his follicles; somehow he always wound up with at least one painful ingrown hair. The wand did a cleaner job of it.
He decided that his white shirt looked clean enough, though, and was reasonably unwrinkled. His black jeans were discreet, and the long, slim pocket below his right knee which held his wand was very subtle and well-camouflaged. He almost didn't recognize himself; hopefully no one else would recognize him either.
He walked to the same tube station to which Hagrid had taken him after doing his school shopping when he was eleven. He boarded a train for the King's Cross/St. Pancras station. This was a part of the plan he was especially proud of, but he could not tell Ginny, Draco or Jamie about it. He had remembered that whenever the Dursleys took him to or from King's Cross, they passed the British Library. It was right across the road, a huge brick pile, which now represented to Harry a huge brick pile of information. He couldn't tell the others how it had occurred to him to go to the British Library, because in this life he'd never had to take the Hogwarts Express from London to Hogsmeade. But he was very pleased with himself nonetheless.
He came up from the station and stopped, nearly getting trampled by the people behind him who were not expecting him to suddenly stand where they wished to walk. Then he couldn't resist it; he walked not toward the library, but King's Cross station. He entered the station and proceeded to Platform Nine, finally stopping in the very spot where Voldemort had tossed him the clock Portkey. If only he'd dropped it and run through the barrier to Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters! If only he hadn't given in to temptation and decided to save his mother's life...He closed his eyes and wished that he had that moment back again, just as he had wished so many times that he could do over the end of the Triwizard Tournament, so he could be selfish and claim the cup for himself, sparing Cedric.
But then he thought of Jamie. No, he had to admit; it hadn't just been the prospect of saving his mother. The idea of having a sister, too, had somehow overwhelmed him and pushed him over the edge. (Of course, it hadn't helped that he'd had almost no sleep all summer.) He shook his head, trying to clear it. He couldn't think of Jamie right now. He loved her, but he couldn't dwell on what would happen if he managed to fix it all. He couldn't let squeamishness stop him from doing what was right.
He finally crossed the road and climbed the steps of the library. When he entered the large entrance hall, he saw a desk labeled INFORMATION which was staffed by a very blonde girl with very not-blonde roots who was probably a university student; she didn't look a day over twenty, at any rate. He walked over to her swiftly, trying not to blink as her face grew more and more distinct. It was very disorienting to be going about without his glasses. He cleared his throat before he spoke in order to get her attention.
"Excuse me, miss, could you tell me which room I should go to in order to find out-"
"The British Library at St. Pancras is a research library, not a public reference library," the girl informed him in a monotone. Her nose was buried in a thick book. She did not appear to care who he was or why he was there; she continued with her recitation. "Admission to the Library cannot be guaranteed. Access to the reading rooms is provided to those who have reached a point in their research where no other library can adequately supply all the information required, or who can demonstrate a legitimate need to use items in the collection to further their research. Admission to the Reading Rooms is by Reader's Pass, obtainable from Reader Admissions."
Harry wasn't completely convinced she was human; surely she was some mechanized creation that the British government had bought from Disney? She continued reading her book, while Harry stood shifting from foot to foot, uncertain of how to proceed. He felt so stupid; he'd thought the name "British Library" had meant that it was a public reference library. He didn't know of any other London libraries offhand; he knew where to find the small library in Little Whinging, but he didn't want to spend more time or his meager budget to travel there (and he didn't want to risk encountering any of the Dursleys; in his other life, his aunt did volunteer work at the library, as it helped her pursue her chief hobby of being village gossip).
Harry took a deep breath and tried again. "In that case, can you tell me-"
"Postgraduate students and academic staff," she intoned, "are given a five year pass if they can produce one of the following: a letter from their institution, on headed paper from someone in a position of authority, signed and dated. This should confirm the name of the applicant..."
Harry was getting frustrated enough that he was worried about performing some accidental magic that would require the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad to show up. Just what I need, he thought, trying to count under his breath to calm himself.
"...status and level of the course studied, and an outline of the reasons for needing to use the Library; a faculty/staff card, or contract; a postgraduate student card, an acceptance letter or a registration form which clearly states the level of the course."
"But miss," Harry tried to interject, "all I wanted was-"
"Students at undergraduate level should normally have tried their college or other academic and local libraries before coming to the British Library. The Library does not hold multiple copies of standard textbooks, and cannot normally support the research needs of those in the early years of a course."
She was suddenly quiet, and Harry heaved a sigh of relief. "That's all very interesting," he lied, "but what I really-"
"Students in their final year," she resumed speaking after turning the page of the text she'd been reading, "who are preparing a dissertation may be issued with a one year pass if they cannot get the material they want in their college or other libraries and can produce a letter of recommendation from the course tutor or college librarian signed and dated. This should confirm the name of the course and give a list of specific items required or a description of the need to use the Library, and state other libraries that have been used. If the student cannot produce this recommendation the Reader Admissions Office will discuss their research needs with them and may issue a one year pass if there is clear evidence of need to use the collection and the student can produce a student card indicating the course studied and the year of the course and titles of particular items that have been identified in the British Library cata- "
"Will you bloody well shut up?" Harry yelled at her. His voice echoed around the cavernous space and he looked about; the dozen or so people present gave him surprised looks, and he saw that the so-called INFORMATION girl had even deigned to notice he existed now. In fact, she was very, very aware that he existed now. Since his face was mostly obscured by his beard, he could only conclude that she must be very fond of dark, full beards. Or perhaps green eyes. At any rate, he was very disconcerted now by the way she was looking at him (he could recognize that sort of look at short range even without his glasses) and he was simultaneously wishing he'd said "ruddy" instead of "bloody" since he was getting very, very annoyed looks from some extremely prim-looking women in their fifties who were probably quite formidable university professors. He swallowed; so much for keeping a low profile.
"I, um, was just trying to find a phone book. I need to look up someone's address. If you could just tell me where the nearest public library is-"
"I have phone books," she said eagerly, fumbling underneath the counter; after a few moments of grunting, she pulled out a thick, well-thumbed phone directory; Harry couldn't see what area it covered because the cover was missing. "Where does the person live?" she asked helpfully, in a pert, animated voice. The difference between her current demeanor and her earlier one was like night and day.
"Um, I'm not sure...her parents are both dentists. And I'm not even sure what their first names are..."
"Well, we can just try all of the books," she said brightly; Harry now got the impression that she was trying to prolong her encounter with him. "What's the last name?"
"Granger," he said, then spelled it. "Let me think; maybe Hermione did say what her parents' names are..."
"What did you say?"
"I said Granger. G-R-A- "
"No, what did you say her first name was?"
"Hermione. But I doubt she'd be listed on her own..."
The girl had stopped looking through the phone book and now stared at Harry as though he were as mentally deficient as he thought he was. "Hermione Granger? That's who you're looking for? In the phone book?" Her tone of voice indicated that this was patently ridiculous.
Harry drew his lips into a line. "Yes. I'm sorry to bother you. I should go. If you can just tell me where there's a nearby public li-"
She reached across the counter and grabbed his shoulders, then turned him so he was facing a stiff sign sitting on an easel; he couldn't make out any of the words on the sign, which was about fifteen feet away, so he pulled his glasses out of his shirt pocket, giving up on the idea of disguising himself by not wearing them. The second his glasses were back on his face, the words came into focus for him.
Playing the Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites, 1, 4 and 5
In the Auditorium 14.10-15.00
Harry's mind went blank; he couldn't think. She was here! She was here and he'd almost left, thinking he was the biggest fool in the world not to know that the British Library didn't let just anybody in...If he'd only had his glasses on, he would have noticed the sign as soon as he'd walked in the door. He resolved to only take his glasses off to sleep in future.
He turned to the girl excitedly. "What time is it?"
She checked her watch. "Two-thirty."
Harry's heart was beating painfully in his chest. "How much is it?"
"It's free. But the concert's already started."
Harry turned to her desperately. "Please! I've come a long way to find her-"
The girl grimaced; Harry thought she looked like she wished a boy would travel a long way to look for her. Finally, she relented; "All right-but be quiet when you go in..."
She gave him directions to the auditorium, and he tried to walk there both as quickly and as discreetly (trying to make it look like he wasn't hurrying) as possible. He opened one of the double doors just enough to slip in, but he was still met by hostile glares from people seated in the back row. Trying to look contrite and apologetic, Harry picked up a concert program and slipped unobtrusively into a seat on the aisle in the back row, next to one of the glarers. Harry smiled feebly at the middle-aged man.
He couldn't see the stage, as there was a very tall man and a very tall woman, who seemed to be his wife, sitting directly in front of Harry. The audience was rapt, absorbing the music. She was playing very fast, it seemed to him. Harry looked at the program he'd picked up, still unable to believe he'd found her already. Then, as he read, he thought it would have been even more unlikely for him not to have found her, considering what she had been doing for the last few years...
Harry swallowed; she'd been busy. He was lucky he hadn't waited any longer to try to find her; soon she would be in New York, and although he felt rather clever and pleased with himself for working out a way to get to London on a Tuesday afternoon, he knew there was no way for him to get to America.
Hermione Granger, cello
Hermione Granger, a native of Greenwich, England, began studying cello at the age of five. She made her solo debut in 1989 at the Southwestern Youth Music Festival in America, and in 1992, at the age of twelve, she was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, which has produced, proportionately, the largest body of notable performing musicians of any conservatory. Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Montgomery-Scott, the philanthropists, hosted Ms. Granger in their Philadelphia home during her studies in America, as they have done for numerous other musical prodigies over the years.
In 1993, Hermione Granger performed the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and again with the Boston Symphony Orchestra the following year. She has appeared as soloist with ensembles on both sides of the Atlantic: the Crossings Chamber Orchestra, the Essex Symphony, the Purcell Society Chamber Orchestra and the Kent Junior Youth Symphony, to name a few. In 1995, Ms. Granger performed at Carnegie Hall as a member of the New York String Orchestra. She has won numerous awards and honors, including the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Cello Scholarship and the John Williams Scholarship from the Young Musicians Foundation, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Bronislaw-Kaper Award, and first prize from the Kent Young Artists Competition, among others. She has won the Jacqueline du Pré Competition three years running.
During the summers, Ms. Granger has participated in the Brava School for Strings, St. Cecelia Summer String Program, Sarasota Music Festival, Music Academy of the West and the Idyllwild School of Music. Ms. Granger has returned to her native England after completing her Curtis studies earlier this year, but she will be in America again next month to perform the Dvořák cello concerto at Carnegie Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. At Curtis, she studied with Daniel Clemmons, cellist of the Bernardini String Quartet, and she held the Bok Foundation Fellowship.
This program is sponsored by the Friends of the British Library Foundation.
She was still playing rather fast, the notes tumbling over each other in a sort of dance. Harry found himself tapping his leg to the triplets, closing his eyes and becoming part of the onward momentum of unadorned melody. Then suddenly--it was over. She ended the sequence of triplets with an unobtrusive progression downwards in pitch, drawing the bow across a string that she probably was not even touching with her left hand, so low and mournful was the tone. It was done; no drawn-out finality, no lingering. He was not prepared for the explosion of applause that immediately followed.
He could barely glimpse the top of her head as she stood and bowed; he felt the glaring man next to him would probably do worse than glare if he stood and craned his neck to see her. All he saw was a bit of brown hair and a flash of red, for some reason. Then she was seated again, ready to begin (he checked the program) the prelude of the next piece. He saw that the last movement of the previous piece had been a Gigue, which explained the dancing feeling he'd had listening to it. He wished he could see her. She began playing again, drawing the bow mournfully across the strings, producing sounds too deep and full for words. He marveled when she drew two tones at once from the instrument, especially when this meant dissonances; it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He grew more and more nervous about approaching her, and about what he wanted to tell her. She had no idea she was a witch, and yet here she was, so powerful, holding all these people in her thrall.
He leaned forward and tapped the shoulder of the tall man in front of him. "Excuse me," he whispered," could you lean to the left just a bit? I can't see."
The man turned to glare at him, and his wife hissed at Harry. "Are you another one of those young hooligans who's only here to ogle her? Music is for listening. If you want to gawk at someone, go elsewhere." Now she glared at her husband, not Harry, and Harry wondered whether she felt her husband was "gawking."
He furtively rose and crept closer to the front of the auditorium. The seats were almost completely filled, but he managed to find one in the middle of a row that had a coat on it. He mumbled, "Excuse me, pardon me, so sorry," to a progression of people who had to rise in their seats slightly to allow him through, giving him the evil eye the whole time, until he finally reached the seat, and then he stared at the coat on it pointedly, but the concertgoers on either side had decided to studiously ignore him and no one removed the offending coat from the seat in question.
"Sit down!" the woman behind him hissed, causing people near her to hush her with annoyance. Harry shrugged and picked up the coat and sat down, hugging it to him until the woman to his right angrily took it.
He could see Hermione quite well now, and he tried not to reveal to the people around him how shocked he was by her appearance. Hermione looked more like she was dressed for clubbing than giving a Tuesday-afternoon cello concert. She wore a tight black bustier that appeared to stop above her navel; black shorts that were very brief and tight, and sheer black tights with clunky black Doc Maartens. She cradled the cello between her legs; the tip rested not on the floor but on a small disk that was attached to the leg of her chair, like a dog on a lead. Seeing the way she held the instrument to her body, he was aware of his mouth going dry...
Her hair was done in what seemed to be a thousand tiny braids, pulled together at the nape of her neck, reminding him of the way Jamaica Thomas had worn her hair. A single lock of hair that began above the left side of her brow was not braided, hanging in a sinuous curl that lightly touched the side of her face. This long curl was dyed bright red, which matched her eyeshadow...In fact, Harry could not ever remember Hermione wearing makeup, and here she was looking as though the cosmetics display in a chemist's shop had exploded and she was unfortunately in the line of fire. He was uncertain how many holes were in each of her ears, but a parade of studs marched up the curve of each one, and a single dangling earring in her left ear had a long red feather that echoed her dangling red curl.
And then there were the matching tattoos that adorned her arms; they appeared to be some sort of red and gold creature, the image winding around her limbs. Harry was flabbergasted; he turned and looked at the concert audience, seeing an amazing number of young men who also looked like they were dressed for clubbing. It did not seem to be the usual cello concert crowd, despite the presence of some middle-aged matrons and pompous-looking pseudo-intellectuals and professorial types. Harry was not convinced that most of the young (or not-so-young) men were listening to the music; they appeared to be watching her closely.
He turned his attention back to Hermione, whose face was clouded by her fierce concentration. She frequently closed her eyes and shook her head, as though she were disagreeing with someone. Her right hand appeared to hold the bow lightly, and yet Harry had the distinct impression that if he were to try to pry it from her fingers, it would take a great deal of effort (if he succeeded at all). Her left hand danced over the strings, and Harry was glad he had his glasses on again and that he'd moved closer; he squinted now, staring at that hand. There were times when her very bones appeared to stretch and reach further than a normal human being's hands ought to.
He swallowed. Either his eyes were deceiving him (he wished he had a pair of omnioculars with him) or she was magically altering her body to play the cello. Was it conscious or unconscious? he wondered. And the magic she was using was--the Animagus Transfiguration. The same principle, anyway. She was clearly still human.
Harry watched her intently, afraid to blink in case he missed something. He hadn't realized that someone could do that. Perhaps pointing this out to her would make it easier to tell her she was a witch. She might even be aware of this ability. He was encouraged for the first time; he wasn't sure whether Hagrid had felt this way before telling him that he was a wizard, but Harry's stomach had been in turmoil since the moment he walked out of the Leaky Cauldron into Muggle London.
Harry lost track of time; he stopped mentally marking off each successive movement in the concert program, simply enjoying watching and hearing her progress through the Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gavottes. The suite ended, like the earlier one, with a Gigue, which again made Harry want to get up and dance. He would probably be dancing with joy in a minute anyway, he thought, when he finally got to talk with her for the first time in this life.
Then a sudden thought made him suck in his breath; why was he so excited to see her? He tried not to picture her as she'd been in his room at the Leaky Cauldron, but it was difficult...Was he cheating on Ginny? After all, he'd slept with Hermione. Not in this life, but he had done it. Or, he wondered again, am I cheating on Hermione when I'm with Ginny? Even though he'd decided that they probably shouldn't stay together, he hadn't properly broken up with her, and here he'd been snogging Ginny.
His head was whirling. Did he want to break up with Hermione? Watching her now, he felt completely and utterly torn...She looked absolutely amazing, and her playing was brilliant, and--and--she looked amazing...
The notes she played rang through the room; when she played an echo at pianissimo, then crescendoed to a resonant fortissimo, Harry had to close his eyes for a second, holding his breath; her power was something he knew now he should have expected, but it was coming close to completely overwhelming his senses. She continued with the Gigue, alternating softer and louder passages, trilling and drawing out some notes and finally ending on a triumphant low note that almost immediately disappeared in the cacophonous applause and shouts of "Brava! Brava! Bravissima!"
The audience members had leapt to their feet, and Harry joined them enthusiastically, grinning and clapping, gazing at her with admiration and awe, while she stood, as regal as a queen, holding her instrument in one hand and her bow in the other, and bowed deeply; her bustier allowing the audience a view that produced even more yells and a good deal of foot-stomping; Harry wasn't so sure the crowd hadn't just come from a very lively football game.
Now that she was standing, Harry could see that her tights were torn; what looked like deliberate tears streaked down her legs, and he could see now that she had a pierced navel with a ring in it.
The acclaim continued for some time, and Harry took advantage of this to worm his way out of the row in which he was seated; he crept toward the front, still clapping like the other audience members (he was afraid that not clapping in this crowd could prove to be quite dangerous) and when it finally seemed that it was dying away, most people gathered up their belongings and began moving toward the exits. Unfortunately, Harry saw that he wasn't the only person waiting to talk to her; a crowd of eight or nine young men ranging from the ages of fifteen to twenty-five appeared to be waiting to accost her.
She calmly ignored this fact and tenderly packed her instrument into its case, then her bow and the small disk which had been looped around her chair leg. She fastened the case, then checked the fastenings three times each. Still ignoring the crowd of admirers, she went to the wings of the stage and returned wearing what looked to Harry's eyes remarkably like a wizard's cloak; it stopped just shy of being floor-length, appeared to be made of a shining black material that shone silver where the light hit it, and it was lined with red satin, visible inside the hood. It was fastened with a silver brooch at her throat, permitting the young men to continue to get a good view of her bustier and the torn-tight-clad legs emerging from her very short shorts.
She gave the small crowd a bemused look, then said lazily, "Who wants autographs?"
That was their cue; four young men had copies of a classical music magazine with a photo of her on the cover; in this photo, she was wearing a black strapless evening gown that appeared to have two convenient slits in the front that allowed her legs to peek through (she was photographed barefoot) and which would let her properly cradle the cello; her tattoos were easily seen on her arms, and her hair cascaded onto her shoulders, the braids replaced by abundant bushy brown hair that looked like it hadn't been combed or brushed in a year; the lone lock of red hair was still in evidence amidst the brown. She held her cello in one hand and her bow in the other, and Harry thought, for some reason, that the way she was holding each item was deliberately provocative. Harry thought he saw the words, "Good To Be Bad? The Next Jacqueline du Pré," on the cover. She autographed these magazines without a second glance.
After the magazine boys had left, she was presented with copies of the program Harry had in his hand, which she also signed quickly with a flourish. They went off looking very pleased with themselves; one of them had frankly been too petrified to even tell her his name, and she simply signed his program, "Best wishes, Hermione Granger."
Finally, there was just Harry and another young man, who, now that Harry looked, was not all that young. He was at least twenty-two or twenty-three, he thought, with dark close-cropped hair he'd died lemon yellow (Harry could see the roots) and multiple facial piercings that made Harry wince, thinking of how they might have been done. His worn black leather jacket and jeans hung easily on his muscular frame, and Harry started to panic, wondering whether this was her boyfriend. How would he talk to her alone if she had a boyfriend lurking about?
She regarded him with an expression that couldn't exactly be called a smile; it was more like a grimace. "Hello, Alec," she drawled. Harry realized suddenly what had been odd about her voice when he'd heard her speaking to the other autograph-seekers; she'd either lost her English accent in attending school in America, or she was affecting an American accent now. Whatever the reason for it, Harry frowned to hear her odd new voice. She didn't sound like the Hermione he knew at all.
Alec sidled up to the stage and put his arm on it casually. "Come on, Herm-love. Come out with me tonight. Don't tell me you don't want to; I know you do..."
She closed her eyes as if she were in pain. "Alec, we're through. I told you...And anyway, I have to--to--"
Harry could tell she was grasping at straws, wanting to avoid her old boyfriend. He stepped forward, trying to sound like someone about ten years older. "She has to do an interview with me. Already agreed." He thrust his hand out toward the leather-jacketed young man. "Harry Potter. Daily Prophet." He tried not to wince as this came out of his mouth. Damn! He should have thought of a fake name; and he shouldn't have used the name of the wizarding paper...
He looked up at her, surprised to see her looking grateful. "Yes, yes! Of course. Alec, this is Mr. Potter. He's, ah, doing a profile for their arts section. My agent set it up; you know how he is. Always with the publicity machine..."
Alec surveyed Harry critically. "I've never seen you before. What rag do you write for again?"
"Alec! Stop that! Sod off!" Now her Britishness was reasserting itself. "I'm busy!"
He started to move away reluctantly, looking enviously at Harry, who shrugged as if to say, "Hey, it's just my job." When Alec had left the auditorium, Harry pulled himself up onto the stage and stood facing her.
"Right! Thanks for going along with that. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to speak to you alone."
She gave him a look of annoyance similar to that Alec had received. "Listen, just because I took advantage of you to get rid of Alec doesn't mean I'm going to talk to you...You're not a reporter or music critic, it sounds like you made up the name of that paper, my agent would have told me if I was to do an interview afterward, and I'm tired and wanting a long, hot bath. Good bye."
She picked up her cello and turned from him. He stood rooted to where he'd been, unsure of how to turn this around; she was so authoritative he felt like he was trying to accost Professor McGonagall herself. Then he ran and stood in her path. "Wait," he said, his voice shaking, uncertain what he was going to say. After a few seconds of indecision, he blurted out quickly, "My name really is Harry Potter. The Daily Prophet really is a newspaper, and I really have to talk to you."
She smirked. "Really? You really, really do? I mean really?"
Harry tried not to show that her mocking him was annoying; instead he decided to try a different approach. "I need to talk to you about--the Carnegie Hall incident. You know--backstage."
She blanched and he resisted the urge to leap about gleefully; he'd bluffed, and she was buying it. "How do you know about that?" she breathed.
He tried to shrug in what he thought was a nonchalant way. How did blackmailers speak? "I can't reveal my sources. I have no interest in this becoming public knowledge, really I don't," he said with a mischievous grin. "All I ask is for a little of your time."
She swallowed and looked scared, then as though she had completely changed her mind. "Why you--you filthy little blackmailer! I don't bloody care what you think you know; get out of my sight before I--before I--"
Harry stepped very close to her. "Yes? That's it," he said, his eyes boring into hers. "Get really, really hacked off at me." His voice was very soft now; in a low growl he said to her, "Look at me and think the angriest thoughts you can possibly think, go on..."
She did, standing not six inches away from him, looking like a vein was going to pop in her forehead; Harry could feel a crackling in the air. She was angry, very angry; he waited, hoping this would work...
Suddenly, he jumped; both lenses in his glasses had just shattered. The parts remained in the frames, the glass more crazed than if they'd been run over by a train. Harry took them off, grinning; he examined them. They were very thoroughly broken. He saw that Hermione was completely baffled as to why he should be smiling over this.
"You did it!" he said, laughing. "I knew you could. Or something like it. See, this is why we have to talk..."
She furrowed her brow. "What? Are you mental? You don't think--you don't think I broke your glasses, do you?" Her voice shook; Harry wondered what other types of accidental magic she performed. Alec might have been on the receiving end of some, he speculated, but if he had, it obviously hadn't put him off.
He took his wand out of its pocket, and, looking around to make certain that no one was in the room, he touched his glasses with the wand, speaking softly.
The glasses were good as new.
He put his glasses back on and clamped his hand over her mouth. "Don't do that!" Her eyes were wild. "Do you promise not to scream again?"
She hesitated before she nodded, her eyes still wild. He removed his hand from her mouth. She stared at him, at his perfect glasses, at his wand. "How," she breathed, "how did you--"
"Hermione, I think you should sit."
She nodded dumbly and put her cello down, going to the chair where she'd sat playing for the better part of an hour. She swallowed and then looked up at him fearfully. He took a deep breath. "Listen," he began. "Let's start with you. You've done things like that before, haven't you? Can you tell me what sort of things?"
She frowned. After a pause, she said, "Well, when I was younger, sometimes I thought I'd imagined them, because when they happened--yeah, I was aware of it and all--but later, it felt like a dream..."
Harry remembered that his mother had said that Muggle-born witches and wizards were still known by the Ministry, who monitored them to prevent too much accidental magic being seen. The dream effect was probably the aftermath of having a memory charm put on her.
"Well, I'm here to tell you why you can do these things. Hermione Granger--you're a witch."
She stared at him, one eyebrow raised, then rose and put her hands on her hips. "There's no need to be insulting. I'm not giving you one more second of my time." She stooped down to pick up her cello again, but Harry grabbed her shoulders.
"No, no! You don't understand! I'm not insulting you! I'm telling you you're magical. And now I'm not just trying to suck up. I'm magical too. You're a witch and I'm a wizard; I used my magic wand to fix my glasses after you used some accidental magic to break them. You're a Muggle-born witch."
"Muggle-born. Muggles are what we call non-magical people."
"The wizarding community. We tend to hide; for a long time, it wasn't very safe to be known as a witch or wizard. That was a long time ago now, but it's become a bit of a habit...Well, that's not the only reason, of course...Now where was I?"
She looked at him with her mouth open, then recovered herself. "Oh, I don't know; you were just telling me how you're from the planet Neptune and I'm the Prime Minister of Japan."
"Hermione! I'm not nuts! I did accidental magic when I was younger too. Made my hair grow when I didn't want a haircut; found myself on the roof at school when bullies were chasing me...Surely you must remember something."
She started pacing back and forth, wringing her hands. After a few minutes, she began speaking softly. "It-it got worse when I went to America. I hated the rich snobs I had to live with. They'd hosted a girl from Korea from the ages of nine to thirteen while she studied violin at the conservatory, and a boy from Russia who was fourteen when he came and who played Lizst and Chopin and Rachmaninoff like he was channeling them...and then they got me.
"I was so nervous. I was three-thousand miles away from home, living with strangers, I was going to be studying with the greatest teachers in the world alongside fantastic musicians who were at least six years older than me, not to mention being at Curtis, and having all of these ghosts at my elbow every day...
"When the plane landed, I was standing with this male flight attendant who thought he had to hold my hand all the time, like I was two instead of almost twelve. He was making me feel very odd and unsafe. I don't know why. I was supposed to be meeting the Montgomery-Scotts' butler. Can you believe it? Americans with a butler. Anyway, there was no butler to be found, and this attendant kept moving his hands--anyway, when I was running away from him, the last thing I remember seeing was him hopping about waving his hands, which were covered in red ants. I found a woman police officer and told her my problem, and she helped me find the butler; I've never told anyone about the flight attendant and the ants...
"Of course, there was all of the crockery in the Montgomery-Scotts' penthouse that I caused to break. Usually when they were yelling at me for staying out late. And I knew I hadn't touched any of it. Well, I say crockery; it was really priceless Chinese antiques. God only knows how much I cost them; their insurance rates probably skyrocketed while I was there...
"During my first year, I was in an ensemble rehearsing Barber's Adagio for Strings. He was working at Curtis when he wrote that, you know. And I was playing my part and the violins were picking it up, and then violas, and back to cello, then bass...trading the theme back and forth, back and forth, and all the time this tension was building and building..." She quite breathless, and Harry hadn't realized he was holding his breath as well. She sighed, as though she'd achieved an emotional release. Harry however, was still all wound up.
"And afterward, I just thought, That's what I want to do. To be a part of that animal that's created by all of these people playing together, each doing their part, each with a role. It's not like being part of a machine, it's more organic than that. I felt, oh-part of something bigger than myself. I don't think I've ever been happier in my life.
"And then it started to happen.
"Something in me must have triggered it. The girl next to me felt it first. She started to float up in the air. And then I did, and the boy next to me. Somehow my happiness at what I'd just been a part of...it got..I don't know, out of control. I didn't realize it was me at the time, even after the ant incident. Why would I assume it was me? When I started panicking, I suppose I wasn't so happy any more, and we all sank down into our chairs again. We all just--kind of looked at each other funny. No one said a word. I think everyone there just decided to pretend it never happened. But I did remember it. It was like the ant incident at the airport. I remembered it. Before I went to America, when anything had happened that was similar, I only recalled it vaguely afterward, it never seemed real."
Harry nodded. "Memory charms. The Ministry monitors Muggle-born witches and wizards. If they pick up on any accidental magic, they send in the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, and Obliviators, too."
"The Ministry of Magic. The Obliviators work for the Ministry." He saw her mouth the words Ministry of Magic in disbelief. There was so much to explain. "The Obliviators are memory charms specialists. They put forgetting charms on Muggles who've seen magic. And on people like you, who did the magic without meaning to."
She sat again, her eyes wild. "Then--why wasn't anybody doing that when I was in America?"
Harry frowned. "I suppose--they might not have known you'd left England. There is a labor shortage in the wizarding world since the purges and Hogwarts stopped taking Muggle-borns...And in America--well, they're probably still taking Muggle-born students at their wizarding schools. So no one was monitoring you."
"I didn't understand half of that, but I did understand monitoring. Monitoring me? Someone's spying on me all the time?"
"Not spying really. I'm not sure how they do it. I think they have instruments for detecting magical activity. But they also have to rely on eyewitness reports. Of course, I suppose that means changing what appeared in the papers as well as changing people's memories--they probably wouldn't want things to get that far."
She swallowed, then reached her hand out and touched his arm; Harry froze while she ran her hand down to his hand, then moved to his wand.
"Can I try it?" she whispered. "Can you explain what to do?"
Harry shivered from the feel of her hand on his wand, as though she were still touching his body. He handed it to her gently, correcting the way she was holding it.
"We could start with something simple and basic. One of the first things you learn is a levitating charm. The words are Wingardium leviosa. "
She repeated the words. "Nothing happened."
"Well, you didn't point the wand at anything. And more importantly, you didn't point your mind at anything. You have to focus on something very hard and picture it rising into the air while you're saying the spell. So, decide what you want to do and--"
"Wingardium leviosa! " she cried, pointing at her cello. It flew up to the very high ceiling over the stage like it had been shot out of a cannon. They heard a sickening crunch as it struck against the ceiling, very hard. Hermione dropped the wand with a cry; there was a horrible, stricken look on her face. Immediately, the spell was broken and the cello came crashing back down to the floor, making an even more dreadful sound when it landed. Hermione reached out her hands to it, tears streaming down her face.
"Oh! Look what you've done! Sergio Peresson made that--he's the Philadelphia instrument maker who made Jacqueline du Pré's last cello! She liked it better than her Strad! The Montgomery-Scotts asked him personally to make it after they heard me play when I was nine, and he died five years ago, I can't just get him to make me another one. They had it ready for me when I arrived to begin studying at Curtis..." She was dissolving into tears.
Harry was indignant. "What I've done? I didn't tell you to do anything yet! You can't just start by levitating things you care about! That's very dangerous!"
"Well, why didn't you say so?" she sobbed, running her hands over the cello case, looking like she was afraid to open it. Harry looked at her; she had no idea of the power she possessed. He knelt down and took the wand from her.
"Let me," he said softly. He carefully laid the cello case down and opened the latches; he'd positioned it so she couldn't see it, but then she bent over the vertical lid to look and uttered a strangled sob. It was a collection of wood splinters and strings. The cello appeared to have been put through a shredder. Harry closed his eyes, bringing up a very clear vision of her intact cello, then opened them and gazed intently at it, saying, "Reparo. "
The parts of the cello flew about, fitting themselves together, looking like film rolling backwards. In a matter of seconds the cello was whole again, and Hermione took it from its case, drawing the bow across the strings. She laughed and looked at Harry.
"I feel--I feel like Alice. And I've just gone through the looking glass..."
He smiled. "How about going down a rabbit hole?"
She looked somewhat mischievous. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well--do you have any money?"
Now she looked suspicious. "Some."
"We can get some of it changed and get you a wand of your own. And a beginner's spellbook or two. And an owl, so we can communicate."
"An owl? "
"I'll explain on the way. We'll need to take the Tube to get to the Leaky Cauldron--"
"It's a wizarding pub. Come on..."
He picked up her cello for her, but she pointedly took it from him. Just as they were about to go down the steps from the stage, they heard footsteps in the corridor outside the auditorium and Harry felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck; he had a bad feeling. Something told him to pull Hermione back into the wings of the stage.
He pulled a curtain across to hide them, while Hermione hissed at him, "What are you doing?"
"Ssssh!" he answered softly, putting his finger in front of his lips. A second later, the door opened and two people walked into the auditorium, a man and a woman. She was tall and lanky, dark of hair, eye and skin. Harry recognized her. It was Angelina Johnson, wearing Muggle clothes: jeans and an Irish cable-knit turtleneck with a pea coat. She seemed very alert, her eyes moving around the space quickly, taking it all in. Fortunately, she didn't notice Harry peeking through a very small gap in the curtains. And with her...Harry couldn't believe it.
It was Gilderoy Lockhart.
He was wearing a shiny bronze shirt open almost to his navel, and he had a lot of gold chains around his neck and medallions on his tan chest. He looked like he spent all of his time in a tanning salon (or the wizarding equivalent); his skin was far too dark for his long, wavy blond hair. Beside Angelina's natural warm medium-brown skin he appeared quite ludicrous. His dark pants were also of some shiny material, and far too tight. He swaggered in, looking around nonchalantly. Harry held his breath. He sincerely hoped Hermione would remain silent.
After a quick visual once-over, Angelina took a wand out of her pea coat and waved it at the stage, saying, "Revelatio."
Harry saw some strange sights; a pinkish version of his glasses, floating in mid-air; they were breaking, then being repaired. When they were repaired, they turned pale blue, then faded from sight. Then a bluish, ghostly version of the cello went flying up to the ceiling, crashed to the floor, and then was also repaired.
"Hmm," Angelina commented, having seen this.
"Well, let's go," Lockhart said jovially. "Clearly it was a false alarm..."
Angelina frowned. "No one may be here any more, but it wasn't a false alarm. Someone's glasses were broken through accidental magic. Then they were repaired with a wand. And there was some other wand-magic here. Hmm. We'll need to report this directly to the Minister, I think..."
"Oh, come on. She's probably met a witch and doesn't know it. She accidentally broke her glasses and the witch fixed them; ditto with the cello. How do we know any Muggles saw anything they shouldn't? Do you see any reporters outside? Is there a mad mob running from the building? Or is all quiet and Muggle-business-as-usual?"
Harry grimaced; he could see where it wouldn't be her first impulse to look to Gilderoy Lockhart as the voice of reason, but he hoped she would anyway. The slimy git could almost get me to like him, he thought.
Angelina sighed and put away her wand. "All right. I suppose we'll just report a false alarm. Back to the Tube station loo for me. Would you believe they still have that sign up saying 'Proud Winner of the Loo of the Year Awards - 1995!' I am so tired of seeing it. We've got to get a better Apparition point than that loo for witches coming into this part of the city. And could you do me a favor the next time we're partnered for the day?"
He gave what he probably thought was his most charming and seductive smile. "What?"
"Could you try to look a bit more, er, normal, instead of like a refugee from Saturday Night Fever?"
"Seventies film about disco. I had a Muggle boyfriend for a little while who was into disco." She made a face. "Just one of many reasons it was never going to work..."
He moved closer to her; Harry fought to keep his food in his stomach. "This has been my best undercover outfit. The ladies all love it..."
"Ergh. Do you have to stand so close? You're old enough to be my father...It's fine for pub-crawling, I suppose. In certain neighborhoods. But it's a bit conspicuous, don't you think, for the British Library?" She sighed; there seemed to be very little chance that she would convince him.
"I am not old enough to be your father. How old do you think I am, anyway?"
"About ten years older than you want me to think you are. Anyway, there's no accidental magic worth reversing, and there's no one for you to put memory charms on. Let's go."
A few minutes after they'd left, Harry brought Hermione out from behind the curtain where they had been hiding. "Now do you believe me?"
She nodded dumbly, still taking it all in. "So," she said softly. "That was a witch and a wizard. And they came here in case they needed to reverse some accidental magic..."
"Well Angelina did. That was Angelina Johnson. She just finished school last year. I didn't know she'd gone to work for the Ministry. And he was Gilderoy Lockhart. He's an Obliviator."
She smirked. "She didn't much like him."
He shrugged. "I don't think anyone does but him. He's his own biggest fan." At least, Harry thought, Lockhart hasn't become a writer in this life, stealing other people's accomplishments and pawning them off as his own. Why is that? he wondered. Then he remembered Moody telling him about Lockhart's memory charm that he'd put on Neville after his parents were attacked; he'd gotten fired after that. Presumably, if he was still working as an Obliviator after all this time, he hadn't made any colossal blunders like that. On the other hand, since there was a labor shortage, it might take a lot more than that these days to get the sack.
Before they left, Harry took out his wand and shaved, but not closely; he decided to leave a bit of stubble, so he wouldn't look too young. After he made the shaven hair disappear (using Parvati's Nonhirsutum charm) he saw Hermione looking at him appraisingly.
"Hmm. I can see your face now. Neat trick, that."
He looked at her shrewdly. "We should probably do something about the way you look..."
She bristled. "What's wrong with the way I look? I get quite a lot of attention because of the way I look. Good for business. Why do you think I do it?"
Harry remembered the young men who looked rather out of place at a cello concert. "Fine, you look fine. You just don't look like the typical witch. Can I take off your makeup?"
"I don't have any makeup remover with me--" Harry held up his wand. She nodded. "Oh, right. Well, okay, I'm in your hands." She closed her eyes and waited. Harry removed the makeup with a wave of his wand, then changed her lock of red-dyed hair back to unobtrusive brown. He took her braids out of their ponytail and pulled them forward to hide her ears, then pulled her hood up. Finally, he moved his wand up the front of her cloak, effectively zipping it closed so that no one would see her shorts and ripped tights.
They managed to get the train across town without incident. When they reached the Leaky Cauldron, Hermione stared at it for only a moment before entering. He'd convinced her to let him put a spell on her cello to make it look like a rucksack with a long strap, which she wore diagonally across her body, the actual bag resting on her right hip. When they'd stepped inside the pub, he stayed behind her, taking his robes out of his pocket and transfiguring them so they were normal-sized again. He donned them quickly, then walked around her, fastening them.
She was staring around the pub, moving forward slowly, stopping when she came to a wizarding photo of the 1978 Quidditch team for England. Her jaw dropped as the team members jostled each other good-naturedly. She reached out and touched the surface tentatively, her face full of wonder. Next to it was the 1979 team photo, which of course also had moving players. Harry came to stand next to her, watching her face.
He spoke to her softly. "Don't look so much like you've never seen this stuff before. Let's go to the bank; we can get you some wizarding money and then try to buy you some things. On second thought...before we get you a wand, let's just start with a few spell books and an owl so we can write to each other. Post owls can deliver mail to anyone you want, and you don't even have to know where they are. The owl will find them."
She looked a bit disbelieving, then disappointed. "You're sure I can't get a wand yet? I'd quite like to do this thing you did with my cello; this is much easier to carry..."
"Keep your voice down," he said, glancing at Tom, behind the bar. Now that it was later in the afternoon, there were some patrons at the bar keeping him busy. Harry didn't think he'd taken notice of him and Hermione.
They moved through the pub and out into the back, where Harry used his wand to get the archway to Diagon Alley to open. Hermione gasped, then clapped her hand over her mouth. She stepped through, her mouth open in wonder as she gazed at Diagon Alley for the first time. Harry tried not to smile; he remembered the first time he'd seen it, in his other life. He tried to remember the first time he'd seen it in this life, but he couldn't; he simply had been brought to Diagon Alley as far back as he could remember. It was always a part of this life, never something that struck him as new or odd.
At the bank, Hermione froze and made a strangled noise the first time she saw a Goblin; Harry gripped her arm rather hard. "Please," he hissed under his breath. "You have to try not to show any surprise..."
She swallowed and nodded, still gazing uncertainly at the Goblins. He told her what to do and she walked up to one of the Goblins, taking out her money. Harry was the one having to avoid showing surprise now; she took out five twenty-pound notes, slapped them down on the counter and said in an authoritative voice, "I need this exchanged, please."
The Goblin nodded, picking up the notes and counting them. Then he said to her, "That will be fifteen percent for the conversion surcharge, leaving a total of eight-five pounds. You will receive seventeen Galle-"
Hermione plucked the money from his hand again. "Fifteen percent! Are you mad? Two percent." She seemed to have gotten over her Goblin-shock.
Harry had never seen a Goblin really upset before, but he saw one now. His already-ugly face contorted into an even uglier mask and he stood on his stool to make himself taller. "Two percent? Gringotts has never-"
She took down her hood and gave him a smile; he stuttered and then was silent. Finally, he took the money from her again. "Ten percent."
"Three and a half."
"Four and a half."
She wasn't budging. He raised his head, looking at her shrewdly, then finally nodding. "Five percent," he said reluctantly. He disappeared through a door for a moment, then returned with a cloth bag that looked rather heavy. It made quite a racket when he put it on the counter. Harry saw her eyes momentarily widen when she looked in the bag, then she clearly forced herself to be businesslike again. She took the large gold coins out one at a time, counting them loudly, until she'd reached nineteen, then loaded them back into the bag.
She thanked the Goblin and she and Harry left. He was feeling just a little grumpy because he'd paid twenty percent to convert his money earlier in the day; he didn't know you could haggle with the Goblins to bring the rate down. He was also feeling a bit dim; just when he thought he was in a situation where he knew more about things than Hermione, she managed to make him feel less than completely competent.
He knew she would enjoy Flourish and Blotts; they purchased The Standard Book of Spells, Grade One, which covered the early spells they'd learned in Charms and Transfiguration, A History of Magic, and Hogwarts, A History. Harry didn't think it would be a good idea for her to get into Potions already, and he didn't want to scare her with any Defense Against the Dark Arts books yet.
She purchased a medium-sized tawny owl at the owl emporium. Cooing to him lightly, she named him Sebastian. Harry promised to take care of him while she was in New York; she would write to Harry and then he could keep Sebastian in the school Owlery until she returned; no one would notice.
"Are you sure I can't have a wand yet?" she almost whined as they walked back to the pub carrying her purchases. He sighed.
"I don't want to take the chance that you'll do something else like you did today. You need to do some reading first. When you go to New York you'll have a long flight; you'll need something to read anyway."
She frowned; "I usually look at my music and practice fingering while I'm on planes. But I've played the Dvořák more than a few times now...All right. I'll wait until I've done my homework."
When they were back in the Leaky Cauldron Harry bought some butterbeers for them, carrying them to a private room where there were armchairs drawn up to a cozy fire. Sitting opposite her, he watched her pleased reaction to the warm butterbeer. She swallowed and leaned back in her chair, eyes closed. Then she opened them quite suddenly, looking alarmed.
"Are you okay?" he asked, swallowing his butterbeer. She nodded.
"Still checking to see if I'm dreaming." She smiled. "I don't even know why I came here with you, but I'm glad I did. What I don't understand is why you're sneaking around to do this. And why those people from your Ministry of Magic don't want me to know I'm a witch."
Harry tried to explain about the ban on sending Hogwarts letters to Muggle-born students, but then he realized he had to backtrack and explain Voldemort, and his father's murder, and the other things that had happened over the years like the werewolf camps and the purges. And then there was Azkaban...When he paused for breath, she was shaking her head.
"It's too much to absorb in one afternoon..."
"A lot of this stuff is in your books. The recent history should be in the back. It is a lot, I know. But I think I'm doing the right thing. I don't believe Muggle-born witches and wizards should be kept in the dark. Even thought most people have been forced to forget what they've done--I think it must still produce some confusing effects. By the way, I meant to mention something; did you know that you're changing the length of the fingers on your left hand when you're playing? I could see it."
She looked shocked. "You could? I--I never realized that was magical...Of course, I never realized I was magical."
Harry sat forward eagerly. "It's something I can do too. You--you can't tell anyone, but I'm learning to be an Animagus. That's a wizard who can change into a specific animal form at will, without a wand or a spell. So--we each have something on the other. No blackmailing possible." He smiled. "It looks like you could accomplish the Animagus transfiguration if you wanted to try eventually."
"Can't everyone? I mean witches and wizards."
"No, it's a relatively rare ability. My dad was able to do it. My godfather too."
She looked at him with a furrowed brow now. "Why me? Why did you come looking for me?"
He swallowed. He hadn't told her about the change in the timelines. How could he tell her that, and then send her off to New York for a month? He had to wait.
"Well--I saw a list once. I wasn't supposed to. It had your name on it and some other Muggle-born witches and wizards. I have their names written down here; it was really just dumb luck that I found you so quickly today, but I was hoping maybe you could help me find these other people." He took a slip of parchment out of his robe pocket which bore the names of Alicia Spinnett, Dean Thomas and Justin Finch-Fletchley. "There's only three names; I'm trying to recall more, but it would be a good start if we could find these people." He looked at her uncertainly. "Do you trust me?"
She nodded grimly. "Yes. For some reason, I trust you. I still can't believe the way you fixed my cello...You were right. I should have waited for you to guide me. I still want to have my own wand, but I can wait. This is so--I can't even describe it. I think when I get up tomorrow, I'll expect to find it was all a dream." She took the parchment from him and stared at it in disbelief. "This looks like it was written several hundred years ago..."
"Oh, we always use parchment, quills and ink bottles at Hogwarts."
"Really? Hmph. No wonder you don't know how to find people. For that you need computers. I'll start when I get home." She stared at the parchment for a long minute. "That's odd; I could swear I recognize all of these names. Something about all of them is very familiar..."
"Send me some owl-post as soon as you know anything. Just write my name on the outside of the envelope, and the owl will do the rest. Oh, by the way, are your parents going to be dreadfully upset if you bring home an owl? And if you start having owls flying through the window delivering things?"
"I don't live with my parents. I stayed in America until I turned sixteen in September, then took my GED there. It's an American test to prove you don't have to go to school anymore, like a high school diploma. Otherwise, I would have had to go back to school this year and study for my GCSEs. I'm far too busy for that now, so I just wanted to get the whole school thing over with..."
Harry could hardly believe this was Hermione talking. "Who do you live with?"
"My teacher. She teaches privately and performs with her own string quartet too. She's used to me; tries to get me not to go out all night, but now she knows it's what I'm used to..."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Corrupted by America, were you?"
She laughed. "Oh, no! I discovered jazz in America! I'd take my cello and jam with the bands all night...You have no idea. The freedom of just letting the music take you wherever it wants to go, trading riffs with the other musicians..."
"You mentioned something about that before; playing with others. But aren't you launching a solo career?"
She grimaced. "Curse of the prodigy. That's what you're supposed to do when you become semi-famous at the age of twelve. Concertos actually involve a lot of back and forth with the orchestra, so that's not so bad. Of course, I'm being pigeonholed a bit as the 'new Jacqueline du Pré--even though I have to admit that I don't really mind that. I mean, she was brilliant. But everyone made her play the Elgar over and over, and I'll bet she became really tired of that. I've avoided even learning the Elgar so far. When I've been asked about it, I just say, 'Oh, I don't know that,' and I usually talk them into something else."
"The Elgar cello concerto."
Harry nodded; she looked exhausted now, and emotionally drained. She sipped some more butterbeer, and then he suddenly sat up in his seat when a carriage clock on the mantel struck the half-hour. He looked at the clock face; it was five-thirty. He cursed vividly, then apologized to Hermione.
"Don't mind me. I've heard far worse from conductors. You have no idea. Do you have somewhere you're supposed to be?"
"Yeah; I have to get back to Hogsmeade, then spend the better part of an hour getting back to my school. I'd better transfigure your cello for and see you out."
She was draining her butterbeer and standing. After she took off the rucksack, Harry changed it into the cello again, and they went to the street door of the Leaky Cauldron. No one took any notice of Hermione's cello.
"When are you going to New York?"
"Sunday. I'm in rehearsal for almost a month, and the concerts are the last week in November. Then I'm heading down to Philadelphia to visit some friends from Curtis, and back here a couple of days later. So I'm gone on November third and back on December third."
Harry frowned; he hadn't counted on her disappearing for a month after finding out she was a witch. "Just be careful. Try to control your temper. You don't want anything to happen like--"
"Like the Carnegie Hall incident?"
He smiled. "I was bluffing. I have no idea what happened at Carnegie Hall."
She smiled back. "I know. Or at least, I figured it out. You're good."
"I don't suppose you want to tell me..."
"No, " she said firmly. "I don't."
He shrugged. "Oh well. Here, let me fix the front of your cloak." He moved his wand down the front again, like opening a zipper, and it looked as it had before. "Do you think--could I come see you again on Saturday? It's a Hogsmeade weekend--"
"Never mind. I could bring my girlfriend. She's a witch too; maybe you could show us this computer for finding people..."
"We'll see whether I actually find any of them. I'll send you directions to the flat by--by owl. Edith likes to go antiquing on Saturdays. She doesn't teach. So we'll have the flat to ourselves."
Good, Harry thought, then he thought immediately afterward, It's a good thing I'm bringing Ginny...
"You'd better leave now, before someone wonders about your clothes..."
She nodded and turned, while he stepped away from her so he wouldn't be hit by the cello. She held the cage with her owl in her left hand, and Harry had rigged up another rucksack for her new books, which she wore on her back. It looked rather heavy for her, but she didn't complain.
"I'll be in touch," she said simply, and then she was gone.
When Harry approached the mirror in the fourth-floor corridor, he was panting and out of breath; even though he'd been running for two months, he wasn't really prepared to run the entire way from the Hogsmeade village hall, which was exactly what he'd done. He felt like his heart was going to explode. He collapsed against the mirror before attempting to open it, then stopped when he heard voices on the other side.
"Thanks for waiting with me, Jamie," came Draco's voice.
"Well, Harry is my brother. And it would look pretty odd for you to be sitting up here in the corridor by yourself. If someone wants to know why we're here, we could just say it's for snogging..."
Then the words stopped, and Harry strained his ears to hear--anything. What was happening? He pushed cautiously on the side of the mirror opposite the hinges, moving it outward a couple of inches. In the slim opening, he could see his best friend and his sister seated on a stone bench set into a niche in the wall under a window, and they were kissing. He froze; even while he'd suspected that Draco was starting to be aware of Jamie, Harry had been baffled by the fact that he continued to pursue other girls for purely physical relationships, while steadfastly appearing not to have noticed that Jamie was even a female. Harry had been afraid this would happen for a while now, as Draco showed more signs that he was aware of Jamie's attraction to him, and also more signs that he might also be attracted to her. And then there had been the kissing in the secret passage to his mother's office...
They broke the kiss together; Harry had been surprised by how tender it had been. He recalled glimpses he'd had of Draco with other girls, and there had been a kind of animal desperation with them that he wasn't seeing between Draco and Jamie.
"Draco, can I ask you something?" she said softly. He gazed at her as though memorizing her face, nodding. "How--how many girls have you been with?"
He bowed his head now. "You--you know about that?" Now she was the one nodding. "I--I honestly don't know. Every time I thought of you, I just--I got so frustrated by the fact that I couldn't be with you, and I just went for whatever girl happened to be around, but none of them have ever been my girlfriend, because none of them have ever been you..."
He kissed her again, briefly. She looked reluctant to release him. They looked very right together, with her dark hair against his almost-white hair, her green eyes and freckles in contrast to his storm-grey eyes and pale cheeks just slightly touched by red as though he'd been practicing Quidditch in a high wind (although it could have been from his blood moving more quickly as he embraced her).
"I know you must--you must be disappointed in me. For not having more self-control..."
"No, Draco. I just wish I were older. Even now--I won't be fifteen until February twenty-fifth. It feels like an eternity away-"
"It's only four months."
"It might as well be four-hundred years. I've--I've loved you for so long..."
He brushed the hair out of her eyes and cupped her cheek in his hand. "I've loved you almost my whole life. Remember when we were little, and we said we'd always be together?" She nodded, her hand over his where it was pressed against her cheek. "I meant it. I know it seemed I'd forgotten, but I didn't. But you'd become so beautiful and grown-up, even though you weren't fifteen yet, and I was afraid if I said something that it would ruin our friendship, or my friendship with Harry, or we'd--we'd do something we shouldn't--"
She sighed, putting her head on his shoulder. "I can't believe Harry caught us outside mum's office. You'd think he'd be happy for us. After all, now he has Ginny. He knows what it's like to want to be with someone for years..."
Draco rubbed her back gently. "It'll be fine. Harry'll come around. And if there's anyone who'll make sure we don't do anything before you're fifteen, it's him. "
Harry pushed the mirror open enough for him to walk through now and faced them. "I'm not so sure I'll be any happier about this after my sister is fifteen."
They stared at him. "How long have you been there?" Jamie wanted to know.
"Long enough. Listen, I understand that you think you're destined to be together..."
"Think?" his sister sputtered. "You should talk! You've got a girlfriend you were stalking for four years, and now you're going off to London to chase after a Muggle-born witch!"
"Ssshh!" Harry and Draco said together.
"Jamie!" Harry exclaimed. "What are you trying to do? Get me expelled?"
"Sorry," she mumbled. "But--"
"No. I'm sorry. I'm still a bit surprised by you two. I didn't think you were of the same mind concerning this. We'll have to talk about it another time. What time is it?"
Draco checked his watch. "Almost six-thirty."
"Good. We can still get something to eat. Then we need to grab Ginny and talk about what happened in London."
As they walked down to the Great Hall, Draco turned to him, frowning. "What did happen in London?"
"Later," Harry said, seeing a couple of ghosts passing through the corridor ahead of them; they both turned their heads and looked directly at Harry with their eyebrows raised before continuing on their way. "I don't want to repeat myself."
They walked down to the Great Hall, and crept into their places at the Slytherin table relatively unobtrusively. Harry caught his mother's eye for a moment; she raised one eyebrow questioningly, but that was all. She didn't look disapproving or likely to corner him to ask for an explanation of why the three of them were late.
When they were done eating, they lingered until almost everyone else was gone. Ginny was still at the Gryffindor table, leaning over a book, reading while she idly spooned bread pudding with custard sauce into her mouth. Ron and Neville and Seamus were still present as well. Harry and Jamie and Draco tried not to look like they were looking at the other table.
At length, Ron stood and said, "Come on up to the common room, Ginny. You can read up there."
Harry was wondering how they were going to get her away from the three Gryffindor boys, but Jamie put her hand on his arm and said softly, "Let me."
She walked over to the Gryffindor table, flicking her long dark hair over her shoulder; Draco, to Harry's surprise was grinning as though he knew exactly what she was going to do.
"Your sister," he whispered to Harry, "is not only very pretty, but she knows it."
Harry watched out of the corner of his eye with not a little trepidation. Jamie sped up and put her hand on Ginny's shoulder.
"Oh good, you're still here!" She turned a stunning smile to Ron, who froze and looked the least poised Harry had seen him all term. "Ginny is so nice; she's a year ahead of me, of course, and said she'd help me with this Potions essay Evans wants. Gah! I'm hopeless with Potions..."
"I'm good at Potions," Seamus said breathlessly, standing and trying to come between Ron and Jamie. Now Draco tensed up and gripped Harry's wrist rather hard; he had a dislike for Seamus Finnigan the origin of which was rather mysterious to Harry. Ron moved forward again and looked at Jamie slightly suspiciously now.
"Aren't you in Slytherin? Potter's sister, right?"
"Yes. Oh! You're Ginny's brother, aren't you! The Chaser." She turned and looked as though she didn't want Harry to hear, and her voice dropped. "You really make life tough for my brother, I can tell you. He can't relax for a moment when he's playing you."
To Ron's obvious annoyance, Seamus burst into the conversation again. "Really? Always looked like it was damned easy for him. No offense, Ron," he added when Ron gave him a good glare. "I mean, he just seems like such a natural. Strangest thing I ever saw, him going after the Snitch like that during the Ravenclaw match..."
Now Ron was able to be smug; Harry had seen this expression on his face quite a lot in the previous two months. "My girlfriend, of course, had no trouble catching the Snitch quickly once the game resumed..."
"Oh, that's right! Your girlfriend is Head Girl. She's quite pretty, isn't she?" Jamie batted her eyes at him and now Harry had to try very hard not to laugh; Ron looked quite suddenly as though he would very likely give a wrong answer if someone had asked him at that moment to state his girlfriend's name.
"Er, yes. That's her." He was looking at Jamie with a glazed expression. Suddenly, he shook himself, as if waking. "So, Ginny, what are you going to do?"
Ginny looked up from her book as though she hadn't even noticed this conversation had been going on right next to her. "Hmm? Oh, I suppose Jamie and I will just stay here and go over the essay. I'll be up. It's early still. I'll see you later."
Neville leaned near her, looking a bit anxious. "I can come get you later, Ginny. I can walk you back up to Gryffindor Tower..."
She regarded him dully. She hadn't been making as much of an effort lately to appease her brother concerning Neville. "No thanks, Neville. I don't know how long we'll be. I'm a big girl, and a prefect. I'm sure I can find my way back."
Neville grimaced and rose to leave. Seamus left Jamie reluctantly. Ron was saying, "Um, see you later," in a shaking voice, turning and walking away from her, but repeatedly looking over his shoulder at her as he approached the doorway. She rewarded him with a half-bashful, half-come-hither smile that had Harry wondering whether Draco was going to hit the roof. Instead, he turned to find Draco laughing, delighted with her performance.
When they were all in the anteroom, Draco picked her up and twirled her, saying, "That's my girl! Get'em all hot and bothered, then wham! Walk away with the sexy Slytherin..."
He kissed her quickly, while Harry glared at them. "Break it up. This isn't snogging time."
Ginny sidled up to him and stroked his arm. "That's too bad, because I have a pretty sexy Slytherin of my own..."
Harry felt himself reddening, and moved away from her a step. He didn't much like the idea of her talking like that with Jamie and Draco around; he felt it would set a bad example. Or just reveal that you're human, he reckoned Jamie would say.
He got them to settle down and explained the short version of what happened in London: that he'd gone to the British Library, found by pure dumb luck that she was giving a concert there that day (the program he'd brought back indicated that concerts were a regular occurrence at the Library) and his conversation with her afterward when he explained to her that she was a witch. He refrained from describing her appearance, but he included the part about getting her hacked off so she'd perform some accidental magic. When he described the visit from Angelina and Lockhart, the others gasped.
"You could have been caught! Then what would you have done?" Jamie was wide-eyed.
"Well, I'd have disarmed him and stunned her and run for it, I suppose."
"They work for the Ministry!" Ginny stressed. "How would you have taken on two of them?"
He smirked. "Well, in that one of them was Gilderoy Lockhart, that wasn't going to be any problem. Angelina Johnson on the other hand...I'm sure I would have been all right." Harry wasn't sure what he could say to support this, so he hoped they'd let it go. But Draco was looking at him oddly now.
"How did you know who he was?" he wanted to know.
Harry opened his mouth, unsure of what to say. "I, um saw a picture of him once. In the Daily Prophet. And I've heard about him. He's an idiot." He tried to sound confident enough that they would stop questioning him on this. But then Jamie decided to bring up something he said he'd told Hermione.
"I thought you said you couldn't tell us how you knew about these Muggle-born witches and wizards. Now you say you saw a list. Where'd you see this list?"
"Well, that's what I can't tell you..." The three of them looked at him, clearly dissatisfied with this answer. "Anyway," he continued, trying to get them off this subject. "She's going to see whether she can find the others. She'll try London first, obviously. I told her Ginny and I are going to come see her on Saturday. She lives with her teacher, but the teacher will be out. She'll send directions to her flat by owl-post."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "I'm going? Why am I going?"
"You can talk to her about being a witch while I take any information she might have and try to find the others. She's really interested in learning about magic and everything, but after what happened with her cello, I don't think she's ready for a wand yet. Maybe when she gets back from New York. And in the meantime, I can go looking for the others, if she turns up anything."
Ginny still looked a little nervous at the idea of going to London with him to see a Muggle-born witch. Draco and Jamie looked like they wanted to engage in more snogging, and when they asked if the "rebel meeting" (as they'd taken to calling these sessions) was over, he told them they could go. Ginny stayed, still looking rather nervous.
"Harry, I've--I've never been with Muggles. Ever."
She nodded. "What do I do?" He smiled at her, finding her nervousness endearing. Yet he didn't want her to think he was laughing at her. He hugged her quickly, kissed her on the forehead.
"You'll be fine, he said softly, his brow touching hers. "I won't let anything happen to you."
"She nodded. "I know," she whispered. "I just--I never heard of anything so daring. You just walked up to a girl you'd never seen before and told her she's a witch."
He shrugged, trying to seem more confident than he felt. "Someone told my mum, once. And the other Muggle-born students who went here, years ago. It used to be a regular occurrence. Of course, I also had to worry about the Ministry people. It's not going to be easy for her to learn things if they're monitoring her so closely..."
"But," Ginny pointed out, "they can tell the difference between accidental magic and wand magic. Maybe if they detect wand magic, they won't show up. They'll assume it's a witch or wizard who isn't Muggle-born."
"Hmm. That's possible. And if the Obliviator is Lockhart--well, he's not exactly the hardest-working wizard in show business..."
"Oh, nothing. Just something silly." Harry was surprised by how often expressions from his Muggle upbringing with the Dursleys crept into his speech. "Well," he whispered, "I'd better go. I really do have a Potions essay to write, and my mum will have my head if it's not perfect. Then she'll give me six or seven out of ten, even if it is perfect."
"I don't understand about you and your mum."
Harry sighed. "That makes two of us." He kissed her quickly on the lips, but she didn't want to let him go. He looked into her eyes, seeing himself reflected there, and then he lowered his mouth to hers again, wrapping his arms around her, making her as much a part of him as possible, feeling her shaking in his embrace. To say he felt warm would have been an understatement; he felt as though there were molten lava flowing through his veins. Her fingers were in his hair, her breath was sweet bread pudding with custard sauce, a comforting taste, a Ginny-taste. He ran his mouth down her throat, fumbling with the fastenings on her robe, then the buttons on her blouse; she sighed when he moved his mouth further down between her bra cups, then gasped when he pushed the lacy fabric aside and took her into his mouth.
Time seemed suspended. She held his head in place over her breast, her breathing shallow, her skin flushed. She gently stroked his shoulders and upper arms, his neck and cheeks while he ran his hands up her back, caressing her lightly. Wherever she touched him, he felt an electric spark. When he removed his mouth from her and placed a reverent kiss against the silky curve of flesh there, pulling the fabric of her bra over her again and quickly buttoning her blouse, she let out her breath as though she'd been holding it. He fastened her robes over her blouse, patting her shoulders like a dresser in a robe shop. But when he looked in her face again, he could no longer be distant and detached; he clasped her to him and kissed her as though he were going to be ripped away from her at any moment, his heart pounding in his ears.
He broke the kiss, afraid that she would collapse; she seemed to be weak in the knees. He searched her face; it was laid bare, no pretense, no hiding her feelings. If he'd had any doubts about how she felt toward him, that look eliminated those doubts once and for all. He ran his thumb across her lower lip, swallowing.
"I'm sorry Ginny. I shouldn't have done that..." He had to exercise better self-control; she wasn't ready, he reminded himself. No pressure, no pressure...
She gazed up at him. "Sorry? You didn't see me stopping you, did you? Harry, the next time you do that, the last thing I want to hear you say afterward is that you're sorry ..."
The next time. Harry caught his breath, gazing down at her. She obviously wanted there to be a next time. Okay, he thought, a next time for this, maybe; that doesn't mean she's ready for more than this...
"I, ah, should go work on that essay," he said softly.
She smiled coyly at him. "That wasn't very convincing."
"No?" His voice shook.
"No. Especially since you still have a death grip on me." He stepped back from her suddenly, releasing her. She laughed. "I didn't say I was complaining, did I?"
He smiled at her; his success earlier in the day (finding Hermione) combined with this encounter made him feel happier than he ever remembered being in this life. He wasn't touching her anymore, but their eyes were locked, making him feel like he was in the most intimate of embraces. He looked in Ginny's eyes, trying to tell her how much he loved her with just his expression. He didn't trust his voice. He'd never said this to anyone, in either of his lives. She gazed back at him, a slow smile making the corners of her mouth curl. Just before she spoke, he realized that he didn't remember anyone ever saying they loved him, either. But she seemed to read his expression with no trouble, and responded as though he'd spoken.
"Me too," she whispered. "Good night, Harry."
She turned and opened the door, giving him a last look and a wistful smile before leaving. Harry wished he had her back in his arms again as soon as she was gone, but he decided to channel his happiness in a more constructive way. Before he did something as boring and depressing as a Potions essay, he would do some Animagus exercises, so he charm-locked the door securely. He had only done the full transformation once so far, the previous evening, but he again concentrated very, very hard, putting the right images into his mind, feeling the changes roll through his body, through his bones, his veins, his muscles...It was early in his re-training still, so he was only able to maintain the form for a few seconds before collapsing onto the cold stone floor. He stayed there for a few minutes before rising to try again. The pain was as bad as he remembered it, and yet--it wasn't. Ginny loves me. He wondered whether anyone had ever considered happiness as an effective pain suppressant...
He had changed completely into a creature that looked like a lion. He hadn't attempted to spread his griffin wings yet, but he somehow wasn't surprised that the golden griffin was still his Animagus form, that he hadn't found it easier or more appropriate in this life to metamorphose into something else. The form had come to him as naturally as flying on a broomstick, as logically as answering to his name or recognizing that he was still him, deep inside, no matter the other changes he had undergone in this life.
In his heart of hearts, he was still a Gryffindor.
The next morning, Harry walked into the Great Hall for breakfast invigorated from his morning run and shower and still slightly giddy from the things that had happened the day before, not the least of which was getting away with going to London and coming back without anyone at the school being the wiser (other than Ginny, Draco and Jamie). He thought of the map which was now in his possession; Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs would have been proud of him, he thought. Then he reevaluated that; Moony was stuck in a werewolf internment camp, Wormtail had received the dementor's kiss after betraying his parents, Padfoot was one of his professors and would perhaps not be very impressed by what he'd done. So that left his father, Prongs; well, James Potter might have been able to appreciate his accomplishment. That was something.
Harry didn't often think of his father. He found himself wondering about him more and more lately. What would he think of a son who was a Slytherin? A Keeper, instead of a Seeker or Chaser? Someone who was incapable of pleasing his mother?
Would he have just as poor a relationship with his father as he did with his mother, had he lived? He didn't want to think so, but sometimes he thought his stepfather overcompensated for not being his natural father and refrained from reprimanding him or upbraiding him even when he thought he deserved it. How ironic, Harry thought, that in this life he should go out of his way to be like this, when in his other life he went out of his way to call Harry up on the carpet even when he'd done nothing wrong.
After breakfast Harry and Draco had Transfiguration with Padfoot himself. Harry was doing quite well with his large-scale work. So far he'd turned Sirius' desk into a goat, a cow, and a horse. Draco hadn't managed to produce anything bigger than a sheepdog (which had turned wooden legs identical to the desk's).
Most of the Ravenclaws in the class hadn't done much better than Draco. Evan Davies and Mandy Brocklehurst, being prefects, seemed to think they had some inherent right to do better than Harry (which they weren't able to accomplish). Only Terry Boot did as well. The other Slytherins did even more poorly than Draco; Norman Nott's desk turned into a doll-sized version of the piece of furniture, but it had a wet nose and a tail and chased Pansy Parkinson around the room yapping, then managed somehow to pee on her rucksack.
"Five points for Slytherin due to realism," Sirius told Nott, with a barely-concealed smirk. "Twenty points to Slytherin for Potter's excellent work, and twenty points to Ravenclaw for Boot's." Pansy was alternately glaring at Nott and her rucksack. Harry performed a sanitizing spell on it that removed both the urine and any residual smell.
He made a point of moving as far away from Pansy as possible afterward, but she looked at him slyly and said, "Aren't you just the clever boy lately, Harry. You know, my father is very influential in the Ministry. I've written to him, told him what an asset you would be to his department when you're done school. I told him he shouldn't pay attention to your only getting six O.W.L.s..."
Harry was alarmed. "Uh, Pansy, I don't see myself in government when I'm done school. Don't talk me up to your father..."
She followed him to where he was sitting near the windows, while Sirius talked to Evan about his work. "Oh, I don't mind. He'll probably have a job for me, if I want it, and it would be nice to work with someone I've known all my life. Remember when we played paper chase as children?"
Harry swallowed; ever since he started school, he though of Pansy as an inherently dangerous person because she had known him so long, knew so many of his secrets. She was one of the few people who knew that Professors Snape and Evans were his parents and the twins were his brothers. She'd been slyly hinting that she was interested in him since third year, but he'd managed to deflect her. And now she was writing to her father about him. Her father was very tight with Lucius Malfoy. Would Mr. Malfoy be upset that Pansy wasn't trying to get his son a job too? Harry didn't know, but he couldn't see Draco in government any more than he could see himself.
"Yeah," he smiled feebly. "I liked being the fox." He especially liked that it allowed him to be a loner, instead of working in a group with the others to find the fox's trail. When all was said and done, Harry's first impulse was to do things on his own. He'd lost count of the times when Draco and Jamie had gotten testy with him for not telling them things, and that was before September first, when all of the memories of his other life were dumped into his brain.
Then something else alarmed him; he'd only gotten six O.W.L.s? How lame was that? After Transfiguration, the sixth-year Slytherins had a free period; before he left, Harry buttonholed Sirius to discuss this with him.
"Siri--I mean, Professor Black?"
He smiled genially at his godson. "Yes, Harry? Good work today. You've always done well with my class, but lately you've really come into your own..."
"Thanks. But I've been wondering something; you mentioned that you gave me two O.W.L.s. But I only got six over all. So that means I only got four others besides Transfiguration..."
Sirius frowned. "That doesn't sound right. I could swear I remember your step--I mean Professor Snape saying in the staff room that he'd given you two also."
"That's really strange, because then I would have gotten only two others..."
Draco joined them, frowning. "What are you talking about? You didn't get two O.W.L.s in Transfiguration and Dark Arts. Don't you remember your own test results? I remember better than you do, probably. Of course that's 'cause I was able to gloat, since I got nine."
Harry's brow furrowed. "I--I'm not remembering very well just now. Maybe my letter's in my trunk in the dorm..."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Don't bother. I told you I remember. No wonder you only got six; you got them in Transfiguration, Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures."
Sirius shook his head insistently. "I tell you, I gave you two, Harry, and so did Professor Snape. There's something wrong here..."
Harry brightened. "So maybe there was a mistake? Perhaps I got eight? Maybe it was just a clerical error in the letter?"
Sirius frowned, deep in thought. Unfortunately, Pansy Parkinson had heard their conversation as she was packing; she chose this moment to intrude.
"Oh, if there's a mistake, you should definitely get it corrected, Harry. I mean, everyone down at the ministry received a report with the O.W.L. results for all the fifth years from last term, so they can start thinking about recruiting new employees early. What with the labor shortage and all. That's why I was talking to my father about you; he wasn't convinced he wanted someone with only six O.W.L.s..."
Harry was getting a bit upset upon hearing this. "So everybody in the Ministry of Magic thinks I'm stupid now?"
"Calm down, Harry," Pansy said, trying to be soothing. "I thought you didn't want to work in government?"
"I don't, but--" he floundered. How could he communicate his injured pride? To have performed like that and have so many people know it, and it turned out it wasn't even true!
Sirius smiled at him helpfully. "Well, I have another class arriving in a minute, but I'll do whatever I can to help you straighten this out. Your best bet is probably to go to your head of house, of course, with whom you do have a special relationship," he said with a wink.
"Oh, it's okay Professor Black," Pansy piped up. "You don't have to be all secretive around me. I know that Professor Snape is Harry's step--"
"Sshh!" Harry and Sirius said to her simultaneously. She looked a bit shaken.
Harry recovered quickly. "Sorry, Pansy. But I think I will go see him."
He bade Sirius farewell and walked to his dad's office, Draco by his side, Pansy mercifully leaving them. When they reached the office, he realized that his dad wouldn't be there; he was teaching. The time table posted on his door indicated that he was with the fourth-year Slytherins and Ravenclaws. Jamie was in this class. They went to the Dark Arts classroom and stood in the corridor. They could see him through the open door, writing on the blackboard. He turned and happened to see Harry and Draco in the corridor and broke into a smile. Harry beckoned to him with his hand. Severus Snape turned to his students.
"Excuse me for a moment. Get to work copying the notes."
He stepped into the corridor. "I'm teaching. Is there something I can do for you later, Harry?"
"I'm sorry; I shouldn't be bothering you now. I have a free period. It's just that--I think there was a mistake with my O.W.L. results, and since you're my head-of-house..."
He stopped because his stepfather suddenly looked quite shaken. "How--how do you know?"
"Well, it was something Sirius said. Kind of an accident, really..."
Severus Snape drew his lips into a line. "Draco; you're a prefect. I need you to take over the class for me until I get back. Harry and I need to talk..."
Draco looked startled. "What? Me? Take over the class?"
"It's fourth-year Dark Arts. You know this material. Just look at what I've written on the blackboard and when they're done copying it answer any questions they might have. You can do this. You'll be fine. What's the good in the school having prefects if you can't help the professors in this way from time to time?"
"Um--" was Draco's articulate reply. Frankly, Harry was still trying to work out the purpose of prefects, but he didn't tell Ginny this, as she was one, too.
"Good," Harry's stepfather said. "It's settled then. And I give you permission to award or deduct house points as necessary. Go on in now; Harry and I will be in my office."
Harry watched Draco walk into the classroom, having turned a color that made parchment look dark. Harry was immediately aware of a raised hand in the front row, but he couldn't see the owner of the hand. Draco nodded.
Harry tried not to guffaw; oh, Jamie was going to make his life hell until Professor Snape returned. Harry followed his stepfather to his office, remembering again why he'd come to see him. After they entered, Harry sat in a chair by the fireplace, while his stepfather sat opposite him, after lighting the fire. Harry watched his face in the flickering light; suddenly he looked old and strained. Why had he reacted this way? Harry had never known him to precipitously leave a class. He'd have been perfectly satisfied if his dad had agreed to talk to him during lunch.
Now the older man looked at Harry, his fingers pressed together, his brow furrowed as he considered how best to approach the topic. "Tell me what you know."
Harry recounted for him the conversation he'd had with Pansy, and Sirius' insistence that both he and his dad had given Harry two O.W.L.s. His dad grimaced.
"Stupid idiot!" he muttered, looking into the fire, his face dark with anger. Harry resisted the urge to defend Sirius; he knew that, after all these years as colleagues, not to mention two significant men in Lily Evans' life (her husband and her dear old friend and children's godfather) they were still merely tolerant of each other, and just barely. Harry remembered that his first assumption on September first had been that his mother had married Sirius. How much simpler life might have been if she had! He couldn't tell his dad he thought this, of course.
But now Harry realized that his dad was calling Sirius an idiot for telling Harry something that he very much appreciated knowing, and he decided to defend Sirius after all.
"He didn't do anything except tell me the truth! Or at least, what he knows of it. What's the whole truth, Dad? How did I really do, and why don't you want me or anyone else in the wizarding world to know?"
His stepfather focused on him again. "I didn't mean that Sirius Black was an idiot, although I've thought that often enough," he almost growled. "I was talking about myself for saying that to him. Gah! It's so easy to get into trouble by bragging about your children..." Harry felt himself flush when his dad said this. "And then there's your mother..."
He knew, Harry thought, that defending his mother was one of the last things Harry was likely to do. (Yelling at Blaise Zabini for drooling all over her was another story.) "I'm afraid I'm still in the dark," he told his dad, who nodded.
"I know. That was the whole idea."
His dad rose now, running his fingers through his short hair, pacing restlessly. "I--I don't know how to tell you any of this, Harry, and I blame myself for telling your mother to do it to begin with..."
Harry was starting to get an inkling that his dad wasn't just talking about test results; this was about something much bigger. "Dad? Does this have to do with my becoming a Death Eater?"
His stepfather whirled on him. "What?"
Harry grimaced. "Do you remember when we were at the Malfoys' for their Christmas party when I was seven? It was the year before the school stopped sending letters to Muggle-born students, and Mum was arguing with Mr. Malfoy. I was hiding in the corner, remember? You caught me and we talked. I--I said I didn't remember or understand most of what the three of you had been saying, but I lied. I understood everything. I remember everything. Well, okay, I didn't understand everything when I was seven, but I did remember it, and now that I'm older, I think I understand more of it..."
His dad went to the window and gazed out at the road to Hogsmeade.
"What do you understand?" he said softly.
Harry looked at his back. "That eventually you're going to take me to Voldemort to be initiated. He only spared me when I was a baby because Mum promised me to him. Because I'm in some kind of prophecy, and Draco too, and he's worried that we'll turn on him, so he wants to keep an eye on us. But you know what? He should worry. Because I don't want to be a loyal Death Eater; I want to be like you, a spy, working to bring him down."
He turned quickly. "What did you say?"
Harry looked at his pained face. "I know I'm not supposed to know, and I haven't told Draco or even Jamie. Are you still in contact with Dumbledore? Is he still around? I wrote a letter to him a little while ago, but I haven't heard back from him..."
His stepfather sat in the chair opposite Harry again. "You wrote to Albus Dumbledore about being a spy?"
"No, no. It was about something else."
He looked relieved, then resigned. "So, you know about me, do you? Since you were seven."
Harry smiled at him. "You're--you're someone I've always looked up to because of it. I mean, it's really dangerous, what you've done all these years. Not that I mind danger. Nor Draco. Okay, well, Draco minds danger a bit, but he's okay about things like that when we're in it together. And he knows his dad expects him to become a Death Eater, too. He doesn't want to, but he knows that we'll there to look out for each other.
"What I don't understand is why Mum treats me like she does. She promised me to Voldemort to save my life, then as I got older she seemed to like me less and less. I feel like I can't do anything to please her. And now you seem to be saying that she had something to do with my O.W.L. letter being changed. Why? Why does my own mother hate me so much?"
He leaned forward, putting his hands on Harry's upper arms, his dark eyes hooded. "She doesn't hate you, Harry. She loves you, very much. Yes, she promised you to Voldemort. I told her to; I said she didn't have to mean it. I didn't count on the way he would go about guaranteeing that it would happen, whether she meant it or not...So she decided on a different approach. She wanted to make it seem that you're not of any worth to him. She knows as well as I do that he has always tried to recruit the best and the brightest. I shudder to tell you how many former Head Boys and Girls and prefects have become Death Eaters, and not just from Slytherin." He really did shudder then, before continuing. "She didn't want him to think of you as a threat. She knew you would probably still have to be initiated, but she hoped...she hoped that he would disregard you if you seemed to perform poorly in school. If you seemed lacking in talent. She intercepted your O.W.L. letter before it was copied for the Ministry employees, and you, and she substituted the letter which said you'd only received six. I'm sorry, Harry. I should have told her it was a bad idea, but--"
Harry nodded. "But you never adopted me and Jamie, and Mum acts like she's our only parent a lot because of that. You know that to me, you're my dad, don't you? I don't care whether that's legally recognized or not."
His stepfather looked at him proudly, smiling ever so slightly. "I know, Harry."
Harry swallowed, looking at him. She loves you very much. She was trying to protect him. And distance herself from him, also to protect him. He remembered the mother who had given her life for him, in his other life, her cries that had infiltrated his brain when he'd been too near to the dementors. She wasn't any different then, it seemed. She was sacrificing having a loving relationship with her son so he would be safe...
He tried to blink back tears. "So, the way she treats me in class--"
He grimaced. "She tried to convince me to do that too, but I didn't have the nerve. I mean, you are quite good. And you know, on that original O.W.L. letter, you can read exactly what she really thinks of your work. She knows her son is quite brilliant, and it just kills her that she can't acknowledge it, that this has to be hidden or your life could be in even more danger than it already is."
Harry thought for a minute. "Is that why she didn't want people to know that she's my mother? And that you're my father?"
"Well, it would look rather peculiar for a mother to upbraid a student the way I know she has done with you for the last five years. It just seemed simpler to conceal the family relationships. I thought because so few people knew our connection, that I could appoint you as prefect in your fifth year, as I still believe I should have. I let her talk me out of that; she was afraid it was another thing that would make you seem valuable to the Dark Lord. She told me to make Draco the prefect instead. I asked her why, since he's your best friend and that could potentially make him seem a threat to the Dark Lord, but she said that if she had to choose between Lucius Malfoy's son and her own, she was going to choose her own. 'I didn't do everything in my power to save him when he was a baby for nothing,' she said to me."
No, Harry thought; she did that because I was controlling her, because I traveled through time and stupidly let Voldemort manipulate me...
But he set aside this thought and smiled at his stepfather. "So you wanted to make me a prefect?"
He received a smile back. "Of course. I know you would have done an excellent job. You're a natural leader."
"That seems to scare Mum."
"Yes. Especially since I just received a visit from Lucius Malfoy last week..."
Harry frowned. "Draco's dad came to the school.? He didn't say anything about it. Why was Mr. Malfoy here?"
"Draco doesn't know about it. He came to see me, not his son."
He looked Harry in the eye. "He wanted to talk to me about you."
Harry swallowed. Lucius Malfoy scared him almost as much as Voldemort himself. "Why?" he whispered.
His dad sighed. "Evidently, Pansy Parkinson has been writing to her father about you. She seems to be somewhat, er, smitten. She thinks that if she can smooth the way for you to have a career in the Ministry, you'll be grateful to her, and--"
Harry made a face. "I get the picture."
"No, you don't. She's been reporting to her father every impressive thing you've done in the last two months. That Patronus you conjured when the boggart turned into a dementor, your dueling performance against Professor Flitwick, you name it. Suddenly, it's like you're a new person, a new wizard, and Parkinson has told Lucius Malfoy all about it, too. Lucius isn't too pleased; I think he suspects that your mother and I have been covering up how talented you are all these years. At first he was worried that I was teaching you privately, since I can conjure quite a Patronus myself, and I wasn't a bad duelist in my youth. I told him I wasn't giving you private tuition, but I don't know whether he believed me. By the end of his visit, I wasn't sure whether he wanted me to be doing this or not. I think he's probably been teaching Draco an extra thing or two over the years..."
"That's something that's puzzled me, dad. The curriculum seems rather easy these days, doesn't it? I mean, shouldn't we have done boggarts before sixth year?"
He nodded glumly. "That was Lucius' doing too. He convinced others who were on the board to pass the new curriculum which reserves many more complicated forms of magic for post-seventh-year apprentice programs. The majority on the board are Death Eaters now; if I'm not going to keep things from you any more, you might as well know that. They prefer to think that most of the students finishing their seventh year will be no more knowledgeable than fifth years used to be, and only their hand-picked fellow Death Eaters will be taught more advanced magic after they finish school. It's their way to try to move firmly into power, once and for all, to make sure that all of the up and coming witches and wizards who are most powerful are on their side. It's been rather frustrating to them that people like me have managed through covert work to keep the Dark Lord from completely running the wizarding world."
"What about Barty Crouch, Jr.? Is it possible he's controlling his dad with the Imperius Curse?"
His dad whistled in admiration. "You weren't kidding when you said you remembered that Christmas party. You know about that, do you?" He shook his head. "Don't think we're not worried about that. How much of what the Minister does is him, and how much is his son? We have no idea. There are a number of operatives in the Ministry, and we know pretty definitively which Ministry employees are with the Dark Lord and which are not. There are also other operatives like me, who have infiltrated the Death Eaters. And yet all we've managed to do is to keep everything as status quo as possible. And even then, there have been significant setbacks, such as the simplification of the curriculum and the decision to no longer recruit Muggle-born students."
Harry stared at the fire for a long minute; everything was clear to him now, but he felt no closer to a solution to it all than before. This world was just so wrong; how was he ever going to fix it? If Voldemort thought he was too powerful, he would just cut him down; he thought his mother was probably right about that. And yet, he remembered the power behind that tandem spell...that's what would be necessary to go back in time and fix things. But how was he ever going to convince Voldemort to do this? He wondered whether Voldemort remembered the other timeline, as he did. If he remembered, that would make it even less likely he would want to undo this world. Not to mention that Harry didn't have any idea of how to find Voldemort.
"There's something else I need to tell you, Harry."
He looked up expectantly. His stepfather hesitated. "What?"
Severus Snape frowned. "It's about that initiation. I told Lucius that you and Draco were too young, but--"
He sighed. "It's to be in December. On the night of the solstice, the twenty-first. The longest night of the year."
Harry froze. So soon! Less than two months away. "Can--can I tell Draco? So he's prepared?" he asked softly.
His stepfather nodded. "Of course. And--you can tell Draco about me, if you wish. From everything I've seen...I trust him. He should know that there will be at least one adult there looking out for him. Since his father won't be."
"What about Jamie?"
He was shaken now. "What about her? Surely you don't think she's being recruited..."
"No, no," Harry hurriedly said. "I mean, can I tell her about you? She looks up to you too..."
He looked relieved. "Oh. Yes, yes of course. That's fine. I should have told the two of you years ago..."
Harry frowned. "Did you tell Simon and Stuart?"
He looked grim, shaking his head. "No. Maybe when they're older; they're only twelve. And Stuart has enough to worry about just now. There's no need to add to their worries."
Harry's head whirled. December twenty-first. His initiation. And Draco's. That didn't leave much time. Harry stood to go.
"I know you'll take good care of us both. Will he--will he put Cruciatus on us?"
A very sad, helpless look. "Yes," he whispered. "Probably."
Harry nodded. "There's this pain-management technique I read about; we can work on it before then. And what do you think he'll make us do? Will we have to perform illegal curses?"
He shrugged. "Sometimes he does that, sometimes it doesn't. He's a capricious person. Unpredictable. Except in one thing; he likes knowing that he's putting on a good show. So if there's something that can give a good show..."
"I understand. Oh, wait; you said I could see for myself in the original O.W.L. letter what Mum thinks of me...Do you have it?"
He shook his head. "No. Your mother does."
Harry squared his shoulders. "I'll talk to her after lunch."
His dad sucked in his breath. "Make sure you eat a good lunch. You'll need fortification." Then he smiled and surprised Harry by extending his hand, which Harry took gratefully. "Good luck," he told him with feeling. Harry nodded, grasping his hand, grateful to him for so much, not the least of which was the brave example he'd set for him.
They returned to the Dark Arts classroom and retrieved Draco, who looked very, very relieved to be finishing his first stint as a teacher. Harry tried not to laugh at the expression on his face. For some reason, he wasn't feeling upset or angry about the things he learned from his stepfather, even the information about their impending initiation. Having that information now made him feel forearmed, forewarned. He could plan what to do. The two of them could prepare themselves for the worst.
He told Draco about his conversation with his stepfather. Draco's face looked completely bloodless when he heard about the impending initiation, and he looked like he was having trouble swallowing.
"Don't worry," Harry told him. "We'll train before then. We can practice putting Passus Curses on each other and trying to block the pain. It's almost like a kind of meditation; we can start later. It's just mind over matter."
"Oh, yeah," he drawled sarcastically, reminding Harry more of the Draco Malfoy from his other life. "Overcoming the Cruciatus Curse is just mind over matter. That's why dark wizards use it; because anybody can just overcome it..."
"I didn't say anybody can do it. Anyway, most wizards try to do things like counter-curses to stop Cruciatus. It's too strong for that. You can overcome Imperius, too, if you try hard enough. In fact, that's a lot easier than overcoming Cruciatus."
Draco shook his head; then Harry noticed that the rest of him was shaking too. Harry suddenly wished that Jamie were here to calm him; he didn't feel quite comfortable giving Draco a reassuring hug. He settled for punching him playfully on the arm.
"C'mon. You're a total badass. You can do this. We have two months to prepare."
"Less than two months."
"Close enough. Stop splitting hairs. We should get out there for lunch now. Anyway, I need your help for a little play I'm going to be putting on..."
Draco raised his eyebrows, then widened his eyes with shock as Harry explained to him what his role would be. He shook his head. "Oh, no you don't. I'll be in a world of trouble if I do that. I'll be stripped of my prefect's badge! And worst of all, Jamie will never talk to me again..."
"You won't lose your prefect's position. I'll be the one drawing the fire. Trust me. And we'll explain to Jamie afterward." Draco regarded him dubiously; Harry refrained from telling him that his dad had wanted him, not Draco, to be a prefect, and that prefects were generally considered more valuable Death Eaters. He also wasn't telling him what the Harry-lines in the play were going to be; only the Draco-lines. Draco was going to be as surprised as anyone else by what Harry had to say.
They were the first ones in the Great Hall, but once the bell rang, there was a mad rush, and seemingly in the blink of an eye, all four house tables were flanked by hungry students, reaching for platters of food and pitchers of pumpkin juice, laughing and talking and trading insults and flirting and giving advice about classes.
When lunch was about half over, Harry gave Draco a small nod; Jamie was sitting between them. Draco nodded back, then let another minute pass before beginning. He leaned out from the table, eyeing the professors at the head table, trying to make it abundantly clear which professor he was looking at.
He shook his head in awe, his best smug lascivious look on his face. "Mm, mm, mm . Doesn't Professor Evans look in fine form today? If only she weren't wearing those robes..."
Harry could see that Jamie's jaw had dropped and that she had the most furious look on her face; at that moment she was truly her mother's daughter. Harry would have been tempted to laugh, but he had a role to play. Oddly enough, it would lead to his being able to stop acting in future, but for now, he had some over-the-top emoting to do. He stood, pointing an accusing finger at Draco.
"All right! That's enough, Malfoy! I'm sick of this. It's bad enough when it's ignorant gits like Zabini who don't know any better, but you know she's my mother, and you still say things like that. I've HAD IT!"
He walked away from the Slytherin table and stood in the middle of the hall. Students at other tables were starting to take notice of what he was saying. "Does everyone hear that? Professor Lily Evans is my mother! Now will you stop talking about her in front of me? And just in case you need more incentive, my stepfather is Professor Snape! Yes, the Dark Arts teacher is her husband. Say something about her in his presence at your peril! They're also the parents of Stuart and Simon Snape, my half-brothers. We're a bloody family! So now will you all stop?"
He stopped to catch his breath, having worked up quite a head of steam. Everyone in the hall was staring at him; he saw that dozens of people were simply gaping. He looked up at his mother at the head table; he'd never seen her look angrier, and that was saying something. Even Professor McGonagall had no words. She looked at her Potions professor, waiting to see what she would do. It was silent as the grave.
His mother broke that silence. She stood, both hands on the table. "POTTER!" she cried, her voice ringing out with authority. "My office. NOW!"
"With pleasure!" he cried defiantly, turning on his heel and striding out of the hall. He didn't look behind at his mother, but he heard her footsteps following him. He was vaguely aware of the shocked faces turned toward him as he left, and he also heard the low murmur of gossip that started up. He'd wanted to do that for two months, and he felt exhilarated! If he really thought about it, though, he'd wanted to do that for over five years. His heart was pounding in his ears as he practically ran down the steps to the dungeon. This was a confrontation that he was looking forward to very much. Wild horses couldn't keep him away.
He arrived in the Potions classroom a minute before his mother. She opened her office door without looking at him and the lights flickered to life immediately. She went to stand behind her desk, leaning on it with both hands in fists. Harry stood before her, his chin raised, looking her in the eye. He tried to see the maternal love his stepfather had been talking about, but all he could see was fury. He'd never felt less loved in his life.
"What," she said in a barely controlled medium tone, "possessed you to do that?"
"It's called being sick and tired," he told her with a surly sneer. He seated himself in a hard wooden chair and put his feet on her desk, giving her another insolent look, daring her to do something about it. She was livid, but she didn't change her position.
"You know that we decided it was better for no one to know--"
"Oh, sod that!" he said impatiently. If you're going to be a rebel, he decided, be a rebel all the way. "Bloody hell, mum, do you know how some of the lads talk about you? Granted, you're the only female employee below the age of sixty, but still...I'm sorry you won't be able to grind me into the ground anymore without people knowing that you're doing it to your own son, but life isn't perfect now, is it?"
She came around to the front of the desk now, looking at him shrewdly. "Oh, is that why you did it? Can't take it anymore? Well, what makes you think you haven't deserved every bit of it?" she said with a nasty undertone to her voice. He stood now and looked her in the eye; she was mere inches away and he was several inches taller than her now.
"I had a little chat with Dad earlier and he told me about my real O.W.L. letter, the one you still have, the one you replaced. Now I know, despite everything you've done for the last five years, that I'm not the stupidest sod that ever walked the earth. I know now that I would have been a prefect if it weren't for you. And I know that I'm supposed to be initiated as a Death Eater at the Winter Solstice. And since I plan to be a spy, like Dad, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop treating me like I'm already a bleeding Death Eater, a willing follower of the bastard who killed my father, and do your best to pretend to have some motherly concern over me. Surely you can pretend to care. Dad claimed you replaced the O.W.L. letter because you love me..."
"I do love you!" she suddenly sobbed, her face collapsing. She leaned on the desk, her strength leaving her, tears filling her eyes. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry you couldn't tell, but everything I did--it was all for you! I wasn't trying--I mean I--" Her mouth worked but coherent words had ceased to come out of it. Harry saw that his dad had been telling the truth, that every day of his life she'd been going through the motions of disregarding her own son in order to protect him, to make him seem just as contemptible to the Dark Lord to whom he'd been promised as a baby.
He felt the rebellion drain out of him and he put his arms around her; she put her arms around him as well, her head on his shoulder. "I love you, Harry," she repeated. He clutched his mother to him.
"I love you too, Mum," he whispered.
They separated at length, his mother dabbing at her eyes with the corner of her sleeve. She walked around the desk and Harry sat again, this time keeping his feet firmly on the floor. "I have something of yours," she said softly, opening a drawer. After some digging, she produced a very official-looking parchment that he recognized as an O.W.L. letter. He opened it and read the results:
He had basic and intermediate in Potions (that was from her!), Charms, Care of Magical Creatures (thanks Charlie! he thought) Dark Arts and Transfiguration. That made ten. He also had one each in Herbology and Ancient Runes. Not surprisingly, just like in his other life, he hadn't gotten Astronomy or History of Magic. But his total was a far cry from six; it was twelve.
He looked up, grinning. "I got twelve!" he breathed. It wasn't the thirteen he'd had in his other life, but it wasn't a bit shabby. He looked up at her, rewarded with a glowing smile; the first he remembered receiving from her in more than five years. His mother was positively stunning when she smiled like this, and he suddenly felt proud, not annoyed, that his mum was probably the subject of as many boys' fantasies as the prettier girl students. He looked down at the letter again, then back up at her. "Can I keep it? I promise not to tell any Death Eaters about it."
She laughed and so he did too. "All right. I--I wish we'd thought of some better way to do all this, Harry. Maybe this wasn't the best way, but it was all we could think of."
"Don't you mean the best you could think of?" he said softly. He didn't really want to continue to criticize her, but he wanted to raise a valid concern. "I mean, I know he never adopted me, but to me, Dad is my dad. Let him be my dad. Don't take on everything yourself." Then he smiled with recognition and a kind of self-knowledge. "I get that from you, don't I? Feeling like I have to do everything myself, feeling like it means I'm weak if I ask for help..."
She smiled ruefully. "Actually, you get a double dose of it. Your father and I both did that. It made for a bumpy ride at times. I mean James Potter, you understand."
He nodded. "I figured that's who you meant. It's something we both have to work on. I'm--I'm going to need you. Especially after the Winter Solstice."
She tried to stop herself from crying again, just barely succeeding. "When I think of you having to get the--the Mark--"
He went around the desk and knelt next to her chair, then put his head in her lap. "I know, Mum. But I'll be thinking of how I'm protecting you every moment. I'll make you proud of me. I will."
She smoothed his hair with her hand, surveying him thoughtfully. "What if they want you to do something horrible?" she whispered.
"I won't do it. I'll figure a way to get around it."
She shook her head. "No. You'll have to do it. Or they'll start killing people close to you. I don't care about myself. But there's Jamie. And the twins. You'll need to preserve your cover for a while, and that may mean doing some things that--that aren't strictly legal, things which will be difficult to do. Do you have the nerve, Harry? Do you?"
He gazed up at her, a sob stuck in his throat because he was overwhelmed by the way it felt to have her hovering over him, her hand on his head like he remembered vaguely from when he was very small, and he had felt loved when he was around her.
"I'll do my best," he said softly.
She nodded. "I know that's saying a lot," she said, and the confidence he heard in her voice touched him more than anything anyone else in the world could have said. He'd longed to hear that for so long; he felt that his heart would burst.
They both jumped when the bell rang for the end of lunch. Harry rose and his mother walked him to the door of her office. "We have to be in class together now," he said. "For the next hour-and-a-half. It's going to be a little strange..."
"Yes," she agreed. She'd found a handkerchief in her robe pocket and dabbed at her eyes. "I'll have to try not to praise you too much." She smiled at him, looking like this might very well be a problem.
"Don't worry," he said ruefully. " I'm not sure I remember any of the reading from last night, and I was falling asleep while I was writing that essay, so an excess of praise isn't something I think I'll have to worry about..."
She kissed him on the cheek. "You're a good boy Harry. I worried about you for a while, because you were sorted into Slytherin. I mean, your father and I were in Gryffindor..."
"But Dad was in Slytherin, and he's all right," he pointed out to her. She nodded.
"Of course you're right. It's just that I thought you--"
"I know. Can I tell you something that might help?"
He told her about the hat giving him the choice of Gryffindor or Slytherin, and why he'd chosen Slytherin, to be with his dad and his best friend.
She smiled at him, smoothing back his hair one more time. "With that kind of loyalty, it's a wonder you didn't wind up in Hufflepuff."
"Nah. I'm not hard-working enough," he laughed.
"Well," she said, her eyebrows flying up. "Class is starting in a minute. We'll see."
The second bell rang and the class poured into the room. Harry went to the back row, sitting next to Draco, who was giving him a baffled look. Indeed, the entire class, especially the Gryffindors (many of the Slytherins, like Pansy, had known about his parents) were staring at him. He noticed Ron Weasley giving him an especially perplexed look, as though he were from another planet.
His mother began the lesson, writing Potions ingredients on the blackboard and talking about antidotes to body-altering potions as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred during lunch at all. Draco leaned over and whispered to Harry, "Is everything all right?"
Harry beamed at his best friend.
"Never better, Draco. Never better."
For disrupting lunch, Professor McGonagall revoked his right to go to Hogsmeade on Saturday. Harry didn't mind, as he wasn't planning to go to Hogsmeade anyway; he and Ginny would walk through the secret passage to the village hall (so he would actually be going to Hogsmeade, in a way) and then use Floo powder to go to London, to see Hermione.
She'd owled him with the directions to the flat she shared with her teacher, and she'd also hinted that she had found out some very interesting things about Alicia, Dean and Justin. Harry could barely contain his excitement when he was running around the Quidditch pitch Saturday morning. Of course, he was still riding on a wave of euphoria from the détente he and his mother had reached. After dinner Wednesday night, he and Ginny had snogged for some time in the old Muggle Studies classroom. They'd done a little more than snogging, actually, and this time, to her relief, he didn't say he was sorry afterward. She snuggled up to him on the couch, her head on his chest, and he felt happy, actually happy. He knew that in the not-too-distant future he would have his initiation (he'd told Ginny about it), and that made him apprehensive, but he felt like he was doing something about this life, this world, doing something to fix some of its problems instead of just blindly accepting everything.
While he was eating breakfast on Saturday and other students were excitedly discussing their Hogsmeade plans for the day, Harry received some post from an owl he didn't recognize. It was large and tawny, with reddish wing tips and ear feathers. It dropped a soft, light package with a letter attached into his lap, then continued on its way, not even stopping for a snack. In fact, it was strangely light for something that was about a foot square and several inches high, and he wondered whether he'd received a package of feathers. He quickly finished eating and ran up to the fourth-floor corridor. He ducked into the passage leading to the village hall and lit his wand, so he'd have some privacy to open the letter and package. He began with the letter.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Please find enclosed the Cloak of which you spoke. I would have replied sooner, but it was packed away in a place that was very difficult to reach.
I have recently heard great things about you, and I trust I will hear more. Use this well.
Had his dad written to Dumbledore? he wondered. He opened the package, grinning, feeling the silky softness of the cloak rolling over his hands, just like he remembered. He had it again! His cloak; his cloak, James Potter's cloak. He put it in his robe pocket, making the wrappings from the package disappear with a wave of his wand. He carefully crept out into the corridor again, waiting for Ginny. She appeared not long after; she'd worn jeans and a blouse and cardigan under her robes so that she would look inconspicuous after removing her robes to go out into Muggle London. He kissed her on the forehead, feeling her shake with nervousness. He would surprise her with the Invisibility Cloak later.
"Ready?" he asked her. She swallowed and nodded, and they set off. The walk to the village hall seemed to go much more quickly with her beside him, and in no time they were tumbling out of the fireplace in the Leaky Cauldron. They'd pulled up the hoods of their robes before entering the fireplace, so people wouldn't be able to see as much of them. Tom was busy behind the bar when they arrived, and they quickly left the pub on the London side. They immediately removed their robes; but it was a rather cold day, so the first chance he got, Harry ducked into an alley, and while Ginny shielded him, he transfigured their robes into woolen jackets that resembled things he'd seen other teenagers wearing when he'd been in London on Tuesday. They went to the Tube station and followed Hermione's detailed instructions for which train to take and when to change to another branch, and they were soon emerging from the Underground a mere block from her flat.
Harry's stomach was doing flip flops as they knocked on her door; what would she and Ginny think of each other?
He needn't have worried; Hermione was delighted to meet Ginny, and the two of them were chattering away in less than five minutes about magic and wands and Goblin rebellions. It helped, he thought, that she looked very ordinary and low-key today. The red curl was in evidence again, but she only had a few studs in her ears, no feather earring, no makeup, and her braids were pulled back on the nape of her neck again. She was wearing a simple black turtleneck and stretchy black pants, no ripped tights, and her arm tattoos were covered. She appeared to be wearing black ballet shoes.
Hermione had been practicing when they knocked; they heard her interrupt herself to let them in. After she and Ginny had spent a few minutes getting acquainted, she acceded to Ginny's request to play, and Ginny watched her left hand, as Harry had advised her.
"I saw it!" she exclaimed afterward. "I saw your fingers stretch..."
Hermione smiled. "I don't even think about it. It just happens. I had no idea it meant I was a witch."
Then she showed them what she'd found out about Alicia, Dean and Justin. Alicia, it turned out, had just won two gold medals in equestrian events in the summer Olympics. Harry stared in awe at the photocopies of newspapers Hermione showed him; that was Alicia all right. Hermione was friends with the assistant to the Times music critic, and the assistant had quickly found everything Hermione needed in the newspaper archives.
Dean was in the papers too; he was the most sought-after young footballer in the country, practically. Harry smiled, remembering Dean's West Ham posters, and his insistence that some of the Quidditch players committing egregious fouls should be given red cards. Apparently, everyone was waiting with baited breath for him to be old enough to be signed on as a professional, and it was no secret that he would probably play for England, as well. Reading descriptions of supposedly "inhuman" things that Dean Thomas had been known to do, Harry had a feeling he knew the reason why these things had occurred.
Finally, there was Justin. He was pictured in a Times photograph with none other than Prince William and his brother, and their father, Charles, Prince of Wales. Justin was a prefect at Eton who had taken young Wills under his wing, and the prince had invited Justin to Balmoral along with some other school chums. Harry smiled at the picture of the bluff, friendly Justin, hobnobbing with royalty.
"Of course," Hermione said, "because they're all a bit famous, they might be a little hard to get to. Especially Finch-Fletchley. Security at Eton is pretty tight, as you might expect. And Alicia Spinnet is way out in the country on her parents' horse-breeding farm when she's not traveling all over the world for competitions. But Thomas is right here in London. I tracked down his address and everything. Well, my friend did, but here it is. You could just take the Tube and go see him, try to convince him to listen to you."
Harry stared at the piece of paper; Hermione had even written out a detailed description of which trains to get to reach Dean's house. He grinned at her; he'd forgotten how thorough she was about everything. "That's great. Shall I just go try, then? And you two can talk. Just pump Ginny for information; she can tell you anything you want to know. Her dad works for the Ministry and her brother teaches at our school."
When he left the flat, the two of them were seated on a couch chatting away, and Harry couldn't help but grin at the sight of them. He looked down at the paper in his hand. Soon he might be talking to Dean! It was almost too good to be true...
And everything was going just fine, at first. He got on the Jubilee line, then switched to the Piccadilly, but then he saw something--or rather, someone--that made his heart almost stop.
It was Ginny.
Only it wasn't. There was a woman on the train with him who was the spitting image of Ginny, if Ginny were about ten years older and had blue eyes and hair that merely reached her shoulders instead of cascading down her back. Her freckles even looked the same as Ginny's. Harry tried to continue breathing; this couldn't be happening, could it?
He completely forgot about Dean. When the red-haired woman changed trains, he followed her. When she went up to the street and walked purposefully to a small market with a newsagent next door, he loitered at the newsagent, pretending to make up his mind between the Times and the Sun, until she emerged again with a paper bag that had flowers protruding from it. He thought about taking out the Invisibility Cloak, so he could follow her more unobtrusively, but she soon began climbing the steps to an Edwardian house that had clearly been divided into flats; he wasn't even sure where he was, because he'd been blindly following her, instead of watching for the stations he needed to make the trip to Dean Thomas' house.
He watched the door of her building close, then after a few minutes, he saw some lights go on in the second-floor flat; it was an overcast day. He counted to ten, then dared to climb the steps and ring the bell that seemed to go with the right flat. After a few minutes, she appeared at the door. She didn't open it; there was glass in the door, and she pulled back the curtain that hung there, looking at him uncertainly.
"Yes?" he could hear her say through the glass.
"I need to talk to you," he said, hoping he seemed like a nice, non-threatening boy instead of a teenager from hell. "Are you--" he paused, uncertain; "adopted?"
She blanched. She unlocked the door and swung it open. She stood in the doorway, not admitting him.
"How did you know?"
"Is your name Annie? Or possibly Peggy?"
"My--my name is Margaret. I usually go by Maggie."
"So--you were born in 1972?"
She looked even paler. "Yes." It was so strange to be speaking to this stranger with Ginny's face, but Ron's blue eyes. I found one of their lost sisters! an ecstatic voice inside him cried. He glanced at the doorbell he'd pressed.
"So," he continued. "Your name is Maggie Parrish?"
"Yes." She was looking wary now.
"Why were you adopted? Do you remember?"
"There was an accident. And I don't remember anything from before that..." Her eyes looked moist.
"My entire family died in a car accident, except for me. I had horrible amnesia, and I still don't remember any of my early life. The Matron at the hospital had to tell me my name was Margaret. I didn't even remember that."
Harry didn't know what to say. It all came spilling out without time to think. "Your family didn't die in a car crash! They're all alive and well. I'm personally acquainted with them..."
"You are?" He couldn't read her expression. It seemed to start out as shock, then turned into something rather unpleasant; she looked quite angry.
She abruptly slammed the door in his face. He heard her running back up the stairs to the flat. He pounded on the door, to no avail. Oh, boy, he thought.
Wait until I tell her she's a witch.
1. As far as I know, people staffing the Information Desk at the British Library do not recite information from their website verbatim, as the girl in this chapter did. I couldn't come up with that sort of bureaucrat-ese on my own if I tried. Well, okay, maybe if I tried very hard. But I didn't in this case.
2. There really are signs in loos in the Underground saying things like "Proud Winner of the Loo of the Year Awards - 1995!" I read this on a website that implied it was the Westminster station, but I think I've already visited enough mayhem on that place, so I changed the location.
3. The chapter title comes from Dvořák's Symphony No. 9: "From The New World." I thought one good Dvořák mention was worth another.
Go to the Psychic Serpent Homepage for links to the PDF files, the audio book of PS, and PS-related fics by other authors, as well as links to my essays and other fics. Thanks for reading and reviewing!