- 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 12 - All Through the Night
- 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?
Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions
(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)
All Through The Night
After he'd kissed Ginny goodbye, Harry went from the caretaker's office directly to Slytherin House to see Jamie and Simon so they would know he was all right; Simon looked like he would rather have seen Stuart walk into the common room. But while she'd hugged the stuffing out of him, Jamie whispered to him that he'd been out of his head wondering what had happened to Harry, but as he was now out of his head over Stu, seeing Harry wasn't as comforting as it would be otherwise. Of course, Jamie cried over Ginny; she'd become very good friends with her, and she was still officially missing, and now her brother, too. Harry wished he could tell her the truth, but Dumbledore had said that no one else could know other than Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, after there had been a funeral.
"You know," she said, her head on Harry's shoulder as he held her, "if Draco and I didn't work out, and if Cho Chang didn't want to stay with him...I mean, Ron Weasley is rather dishy, and he seemed to fancy me..."
He laughed softly, then kissed her on the forehead. "Better not let Draco hear you talk that way." She smiled grimly; Harry ached for her, mourning two people who weren't really dead, and he couldn't tell her anything.
Harry had had to go see Professors McGonagall and Black, to somehow explain to them how he'd lost Ginny in the storm and accidentally walked into the changing rooms, spending the night there. They nodded and accepted his story; he was appropriately distraught over not having been able to get Ginny back to the castle. (When Ginny had returned to the Gryffindor common room and she and Ron got the owl from Dumbledore, they had left straightaway and she never got around to giving Madam Pomfrey's note to Sirius.) Harry didn't mention the creature in the lake to his godfather or the headmistress.
Later, he joined the other fifth, sixth and seventh years on the grounds, continuing the search for Ron and Ginny. It was frigid, and their breaths formed small white clouds before their mouths. He used his wand to clear snow out of the way, knowing that of course they would find no bodies. When he was near the edge of the lake, he was understandably apprehensive, but no tentacles came above the surface, grasping students and pulling them down into the dark depths. He slogged through the mud with Draco; he'd have preferred walking in snow; it was at least clean. Once they'd cleared a path, it quickly became a muddy mess.
He brandished his wand lazily at the ground near the lakeshore; the snow melted and the liquid sank into the magically-warmed ground, revealing a bag that appeared to be made of water weed, tatted in a complicated pattern, and containing a large dark object. His gift from the merpeople! He'd forgotten about it; it would have been unwieldy, at any rate, to carry it and Ginny through the blizzard. As soon as he was out of the lake, he'd dropped it and forgotten it. He picked it up now and quickly stuffed it under his robes; Draco watched, brow furrowed.
"It's mine," he whispered to him, looking around for the other students and teachers who were searching. "It was a gift. From the merpeople."
"What is it?"
Harry shook his head. "Dunno," he said softly, trying to move his lips as little as possible. "I haven't had a chance to look at it. I'm going to take it back to the castle now; it's heavy. Cover for me."
Draco nodded; just then, Liam Quirke strode over to them, wearing fingerless gloves and tall green Wellingtons that made loud squelching noises in the mud. His brown hair stood up on his bare head, as though he'd been running his fingers through it in frustration. The Head Boy badge pinned to his cloak was spattered and soiled, as was the hem of his cloak; he had bags under his eyes and looked as though he hadn't slept.
"How are you two doing? Any sign of them yet? Cho's in a right state." Cho Chang was about thirty feet away, also clearing snow and slogging through the mud; the Head Girl's nose was red, but Harry didn't think it was from the cold. She sometimes looked like she was wiping tears from her face. Perhaps she really did care for Ron, he thought.
But now that Liam was standing right here, Harry bent over, holding his stomach (which allowed him to grasp the gift under his robes) and he puffed up his cheeks, hoping he looked ill, or like he was going to spew, or something. Draco quickly picked up on this, moving between him and the Head Boy.
"I think Harry's going to spew," Draco said to him. "I told him to go back to the castle, but he won't listen..."
"Potter!" Liam said authoritatively, drawing himself up; his tone of voice reminded Harry of Percy when he was Head Boy. "When a prefect tells you what to do, you do it! Is that understood?" Harry nodded, trying to look as sick and miserable as possible. "Good! Now off with you! Report to Madam Pomfrey immediately!"
Harry turned toward the castle, cradling the gift, trying not to go too fast in case Liam was still watching; but he didn't dare look over his shoulder and check. Once he was in the dungeons, he sprinted down the corridor to Slytherin house and his dorm room. He had just put the item from the merpeople in his trunk when Blaise Zabini entered the room, swaggering. He took in Harry's muddy shoes and the hem of his cloak; even the end of his scarf was muddy, from when he'd bent over to pick up the waterweed bag.
"Out with the other suckers looking for the stupid Gryffindors, Potter? Can't see why they didn't get back; you managed to. I guess that just goes to show: don't send a Gryffindor to do a Slytherin's job."
"Eat dung, Zabini," he said tiredly, locking the trunk and leaving. Damn! He'd have to wait until later to look at it, figure out what it was. If he took it out of the trunk again now, Zabini would be sure to ask about it.
Over the course of the weekend, the staff and students cleared the grounds of snow, turning the earth surrounding the castle into a messy quagmire. Although many students found scarves, hats, mittens, skates and even a lone boot that had been lost since the first snow in December, no sign of Ron or Ginny was found.
"Perhaps they wandered into the forest," Harry heard Sirius say uncertainly to Professor McGonagall on Sunday as they stood on the Quidditch pitch, surveying the muddy, dun-colored landscape before them. Harry thought his voice might be shaking because he was thinking of some of the creatures in the forest. Did it still have werewolves? he wondered. Perhaps the ministry had captured them all. He thought of Remus Lupin; there was a reason to change things back that his father hadn't mentioned. Perhaps James Potter's ghost didn't know about the werewolf camps, and it was possible that even if his mother and Sirius had talked to him, they would have withheld this information.
The search continued for a week; no one was able to concentrate very well in classes. Charlie confided to Harry and Draco that he almost wished Dumbledore had put a memory charm on him as he sometimes had a hard time remembering he was supposed to be distraught over his missing brother and sister, when he actually knew them to be quite safe and alive. He said some students seemed to think him a bit cold and devil-may-care for someone with two missing family members. He'd had to lie to his parents already, and finally convinced them that the clock at the Burrow must be broken; as long as the hands were still pointing to "mortal danger" for the three of them, instead of "At Work" for Charlie and "Dead" for Ron and Ginny (normally, their hands would have pointed at "At School") Mr. and Mrs. Weasley still held out hope that they'd be found.
Finally, Ron and Ginny were officially declared dead. An "expert" in magical creatures came from the Ministry and found some human bones in the Forbidden Forest and declared them to be Ginny's and Ron's. Harry suspected that they probably had something to do with Aragog, and were very likely quite old. Harry was not happy about this; if someone really had disappeared, is this what would happen? Would some pencil-pusher from the Ministry come up to the school to feed everyone propaganda and give easy answers?
The Ministry drone, however, gave everyone a needed closure. That night at dinner in the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall had them all stand and raise their goblets to Ginny and Ron, the names rumbling through the hall coming from every corner except for the Slytherin table, where Harry, Draco, Jamie and Mariah were the only ones who stood and joined in the tribute (Harry could tell Mariah was trying to catch his eye, but he turned away). The funeral was to be on the following Saturday, which would mark a fortnight since Ron and Ginny had gone into hiding and also a fortnight since Stuart had been missing; Harry was asked to come to the funeral by Mrs. Weasley, but he knew he couldn't face her, he couldn't see her mourning and not tell her the truth. He declined, giving a different excuse. He said that since he'd been walking around in the same blizzard, he wished he had been the one lost, and he also wished that Ginny had found her way to the changing rooms as he had. She sent back a letter full of gratitude for him saving Ginny when she was struck by the car, and for finding Maggie. It hurt his stomach to read it; he couldn't wait for the funeral to be over so Mrs. Weasley would know the truth.
He moped around the castle for much of the day, even though it was a Hogsmeade weekend. If his parents hadn't managed to rent out the house again, he would have gone there, to mope in his own bedroom in his own home, but the new tenants were firmly ensconced until the middle of June, so that was out of the question. Draco finally found him on the front steps of the castle, staring down the Hogsmeade road, shivering in the cold.
"Harry," he said urgently, sitting down next to him. It was late afternoon, starting to get dark; the students who had gone to the village would be back soon. "My dad finally wrote back. I think you should read this." Draco handed him the parchment he'd been carrying and Harry read:
Harry swallowed. "Your mum was taken? Why didn't he tell you?"
Mr. Draco Malfoy
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
I have contacted the appropriate people and informed them of the contents of your earlier letter. Now that the Weasleys have held a funeral for their son and daughter, thus verifying the events you described to me, your mother has been returned to me. She is sun-burnt and almost completely dehydrated. She will be recuperating in St. Mungo's. I have been frantic this last fortnight while she has been gone. In future, do what you are told as soon as you are told. You cannot be cavalier about these things and assume that no one will be hurt by your cowardice and laziness but you. We are lucky your mother is alive.
I hope you have your alibi in hand so that I do not have to come up to the school and defend you. I am very angry that you let this go so long and I certainly would not do a very convincing job of defending you just now.
"Because he's Lucius Malfoy, that's why. I'm glad Mum's all right, though."
Harry agreed. Then he had a thought. "Draco--maybe that means Stuart will be returned!"
"But--Charlie's still--you know. And that note was addressed to Stuart's dad and brother."
Harry acknowledged this, but he hoped that Draco was wrong. They rose to go back into the castle; before he closed the door, Harry could see at a distance the throng of students starting to make their way back to the school. He stopped and stepped out onto the top step again, squinting in the dim twilight, trying to determine why the crowd of students looked strange.
They grew closer and closer, then someone broke away from the pack and ran toward the castle full tilt; Harry could see that the boy was an excellent runner, pumping his arms by his sides and keeping his chin up.
"Potter!" he cried when he was still about twenty feet away. Harry saw now that it was Rupert Longbottom. "Potter," he said again, more softly, when he was at the foot of the stairs; he bent over and talked into his knees, clearly winded, although Harry had been quite impressed by his running.
"He's back!" Ruptert exclaimed to the ground. Harry frowned.
Rupert stood up, with difficulty. "Your missing brother! He was found in Honeydukes! They're bringing him!"
Now Harry understood why the procession of people looked so odd; there was a body levitating in their midst, and at least a half-dozen people had their wands trained on it to keep it aloft.
When they finally reached the castle, it seemed that everyone started talking at once; students he'd never met were speaking to him as if they knew him, describing how Stuart was found on the floor behind the candy counter, how odd it was that he looked as though he'd gotten some sun when he was normally so pale...
"Sun?" Harry said, alarmed. He pushed through the crowd so he could look at his brother; his skin looked awful, peeling and red, and Harry touched his lips lightly; they were dry as sand, parched and cracking. Harry remembered what Mr. Malfoy had written about his wife. She is sun-burnt and almost completely dehydrated... They must have done the same thing, whatever it was, to Stuart.
"I'll get your mum and dad!" Draco cried, and he was off.
"We have to get him to the hospital wing right away!" Harry told the others in a panic. The crowd that had been levitating Stuart continued to do so, and Harry opened the door to the infirmary so they could take him inside.
Madam Pomfrey blanched when she saw him, and shooed everyone out of the infirmary except for Stuart's family. Harry stood with his arm around Jamie's shoulder while she twisted her robes in her fingers; Simon sat by his twin's bedside, looking grim, and their mother sat on Stuart's other side, holding his hand gently, to avoid touching the sunburn. Their dad talked in low tones to Madam Pomfrey, about potions, it seemed, and Harry never thought time moved more slowly than during the vigil in that infirmary. He could see from the statement on Madam Pomfrey's face and his dad's face the reason why they were all here: they were waiting for his brother to die.
Stuart's raspy breathing seemed to fill the room as hours stretched into days; no one seemed to expect Harry, Jamie and Simon to attend classes, and Harry didn't question what was being done about the Potions and Dark Arts classes his parents were supposed to teach. He heard Madam Pomfrey speaking quietly to his mother on the third day.
"All of his organs are shutting down."
"Maybe--maybe a Muggle hospital--"
"They would tell you the same thing. They would just hook him up to horrible machines that would do nothing to cure him, just do his breathing for him and keep him in pain. He's not a candidate for a transplant in his condition. It's just a matter of time now, my dear..."
Madam Pomfrey put a sympathetic hand on his mother's arm. His mother backed up a step, as if it burned her to be touched by the older woman. Stuart had only been able to speak a little; most of what they learned was from a letter Mrs. Malfoy sent that she dictated to someone on the staff at St. Mungo's. She said that she and Stuart had been together, in a desert. They didn't know how they'd gotten there. They had some food and water when they started, but eventually the supplies had dwindled down to nothing. They'd been without food for four days and without water for two when they mysteriously found themselves back in Malfoy Manor (Mrs. Malfoy) and in the Honeydukes sweetshop (Stuart). When he managed to croak out some words, Stuart said that Draco's mother had taken good care of him, but Mrs. Malfoy's letter expressed her frustration about their situation; there was only so much that could be done when the sun was so relentless and their supplies were so few....
Harry was curled in a ball on one of the infirmary beds on the last night. Jamie was lying on the bed next to his, still in her robes, looking like a princess waiting to be awakened by a kiss from her prince. Simon had fallen asleep slumped against Stuart's bed. Harry didn't know where his dad was, but his mother was still sitting on the other side of Stuart's bed, holding his hand. Stuart looked odd and waxy to Harry.
And then--she started singing. He hadn't heard her sing for ages, it seemed, and he hadn't heard her sing this since the twins were very small. Her voice echoed off the hard surfaces in the infirmary, clear as a bell. He couldn't stop the tears rolling down his face, but he made no move to dry them so she wouldn't know he was awake. He listened to her sing to her youngest child, tears streaming down her own cheeks....
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved one's watch am keeping,
All through the night.
Angels watching, e'er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved one's watch am keeping,
All through the night.
Then she switched to Welsh, to the lullaby the boy soprano had sung at Dudley's funeral, and finally she sang the same song in English, and Harry could more clearly hear the tears in her voice, the way she choked her way through the song...
Warm and cozy, it will prove,
Round thee mother's arms are folding,
In her heart a mother's love.
There shall no one come to harm thee,
Naught shall ever break thy rest;
Sleep, my darling babe, in quiet,
Sleep on mother's gentle breast.
Sleep serenely, baby, slumber,
Lovely baby, gently sleep;
Tell me wherefore art thou smiling,
Smiling sweetly in thy sleep?
Do the angels smile in heaven
When thy happy smile they see?
Dost thou on them smile while slumb'ring
She stopped, unable to go on; Harry waited for the last words, but they never came. She put her head down on the bed at last and let go, let her grief roll out of her, the sobs wrenching Harry's heart, and he knew that his brother was dead.
Their vigil was over.
He longed to go to her, to try to comfort her, but he remained where he was, letting her weeping continue unabated; he had a feeling she needed to do this on her own, to not have to think about someone else either comforting her or needing comfort.
He was uncertain how long his mother cried; at length, when she seemed to have quieted, Harry heard Simon stirring. "Mum?" he whispered.
He saw his mother wipe her face of tears. "Yes, Simon?"
"Why--why is Stu so--cold?"
She looked at her son, only twelve years old, and swallowed. "He's--he's gone, Simon. Our Stu is gone," she said softly.
Harry wondered what Simon was thinking. He stared at his dead brother, so like him. Harry slowly sat up and his mother looked at him. He nodded at her and she nodded back, then he gently shook Jamie's shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open, and Harry wondered whether she'd really been asleep or listening to their mother's singing and then her keening, as she mourned her baby. He nodded to her now, as he had with his mother, and without a word, she put her arms around his waist and buried her head on his chest; he held his sister, feeling her tears wet his shirt as his glided down her dark, shining hair, and he knew that their family would never again be the same.
Harry had imagined many things about having a family, in his other life; he'd pictured his parents being able to raise him, he'd wondered what it would be like to have siblings. Something he'd never imagined was what it would be like to bury a little brother.
They stepped carefully over the hard ruts in the graveyard as they walked across a cold, bleak and barren landscape to the Snape family mausoleum. They'd had the service in the Presbyterian Church in Dunoon, which had surprised Harry; but his mother had thought going to St. David's Presbyterian Church in Godric's Hollow where she'd been married the first time would be inappropriate, as Stuart was Severus Snape's son, not James Potter's. (Harry also wasn't sure that there wasn't a Presbyterian church in Wales not named "St. David's.") The church where they had the service was the same one Sirius had told him about, the one in which the "special gentlemen" of the Clan Lamont had hidden, who were later hanged from the trees around the church by the men of Clan Campbell.
Oddly enough, this day, his stepfather and Uncle Duncan chose to wear their Campbell kilts; his dad bought him a MacGregor kilt, since his mother said that was the correct one for James' family, because of her erstwhile mother-in-law, Elspeth King. Harry shivered; this was not kilt weather, as far as he was concerned. Sirius was in Clan Lamont; he had walked up to Severus Snape and grasped his hand solemnly, putting his left hand on his elbow at the same time. Harry's stepfather clearly squeezed Sirius' hand back, and nodded at him; today, all other issues were irrelevant. He was mourning his son.
Harry couldn't remember the service in the grim church; it was simpler and more abrupt, it seemed to him, than Dudley's service had been. How odd, he thought, that my parents don't usually seem to be very religious people, and yet this is something they have in common, this stern, Calvinistic church.
The coffin was far too light, it seemed to Harry. He wanted to feel like it was pushing him into the ground; instead he was afraid it would float away. It rested insubstantially on his shoulder as he walked behind Draco and Simon, who was at the front; on the other side of the coffin were the men, his dad, Sirius, and Uncle Duncan. Draco and Simon wore Campbell kilts also. They walked solemnly to the mausoleum while the pipes behind them played Amazing Grace, making Harry's eyes sting.
He tuned out the service in the graveyard as he had the one in the church; no amount of words could make up for the death of a twelve-year-old boy, he thought. No one could say anything that would make it all right for Simon to go through life without his twin....
Finally, Jamie, wearing the MacGregor tartan across her black cloak fastened with a brooch at her shoulder, stepped forward and sang with his mother's voice:
Darkness and light;
Who the day for toil hast given,
For rest the night;
May Thine angel guards defend us,
Slumber sweet Thy mercy send us;
Holy dreams and hopes attend us,
This livelong night.
She sang to the same tune as All Through The Night, the first lullaby Harry had heard his mother sing on the night Stuart had died. She continued singing, and Harry marveled how her voice grew stronger, rather than fading; he hadn't been able to get anything to come out of his voicebox in the church, neither spoken words nor sung ones. Then something in the second verse she sang caught his attention....
In the narrow pathway guide us...
Nothing had been able to hide Stuart from the power of evil. It wouldn't have mattered whether he followed a "narrow pathway" or not; he would still be dead, Harry thought irritably.
And when we die,
May we in Thy mighty keeping
All peaceful lie;
When the last dread call shall wake us,
Do not Thou, our God forsake us,
But to reign in glory take us
With Thee on high.
They carried the coffin into the mausoleum; they were shown what shelf to use. Harry saw plaques saying, Sallustius Snape and Patricia MacDermid Snape, both dying in 1974. Dad's parents, he realized. Doing the math quickly, he realized that his stepfather had only been fourteen when his parents had died. That was only a few years into the reign of terror of Voldemort. How had they died? he wondered. After that, he went to Uncle Duncan during summer holidays, Harry remembered.
After they left the cemetery, they gathered at Uncle Duncan's flat above his apothecary shop. The service had only been family, save for Sirius, Draco and the minister, whom Harry discovered at the wake was actually a wizard. His name was Gareth Lyon. Harry noticed he had a Clan Lamont crest pinned to his jacket when he was out of his vestments. He still wore his dog-collar, though. Perhaps Lamonts and Campbells were getting along better these days, he thought.
Uncle Duncan passed some butterbeer to Mr. Lyon, who had a milder lilt to his voice than Duncan; Harry had looked puzzled at the revelation that he was a wizard, so he explained.
"The entire congregation is actually wizarding. We occasionally gait some Muggles tryin' to coom in, but what with the charms on the front gates, they immediately become convinced they want Westminster Praysbyterian, a few blocks away...."
"The high point o' the yair," Duncan told Harry, "is Reconciliation Day. The day when all o' the Campbells speak the ritual wairds of apology to all of the Lamonts. I'm not sure there's a single witch or wizard in Dunoon 'oo isn't one or t'other. Some are both in fact, and switch off sides from yair to yair."
"'Scuse me," Mr. Lyon said, following Sirius to the table with the food, talking loudly to him.
"Reconciliation," Harry said softly to Uncle Duncan. "That sounds nice."
Duncan shook his head. "'Tisn't always. Aye, mostly, 'tis. Some yairs ye get some old coot screamin' aboot how the Lamonts all desairved it, fer lettin' the Muggles take over their Clan. But in recent yairs...wail, ye see, advairsity unites people. And if ye go scraimin' aboot Muggles...wail, it don't look good. Now, I was Ravenclaw in school, and so was me sister, Patricia. But she married a Slytherin, so people will make assumptions." He sighed and shook his head sadly. "Assumptions like that is what killt'er."
Harry asked him slowly and softly, so only Duncan could hear, "What sort of assumptions?"
Duncan looked over to his nephew cautiously, his jaw clenched. It seemed to Harry that in his old life, Duncan McDermid, when Snape used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate him, did not have quite so much grey in his hair.
"Those Aurors 'oo killed yer stepdad's mum 'n' dad, o' course. They were in the wrong place at t'wrong time. Too near a Death Eater attack, and him being in Slytherin when he was in school...wail, the Aurors in quaistion wair a husband-wife team, knew of Sallustius Snape; they wair in the same Hogwarts yair, started in '51. Didn' trust'im as far as they could throw'im, just 'cause o' his hoose. He was a good man my Patty married; I would'n've stood fer it otherwise. Our own parents died fightin' Grindelwald by Albus Dumbledore's side; Patty was only five when they died. We went to live with our Gran. I was ten, and started Hogwarts the year after. That was a golden time; knowin' that Grindelwald would trouble Europe no more, and Dumbledore was made the headmaster after that, too. But those Longbottoms didn't care that Patty and I were orphaned by Grindelwald; they cut down her and Sallustius as if they was vermin contaminatin' the airth....Witnesses said so, but it didn't matter. The Aurors was 'just doin' thair job.'"
"What?" Harry breathed, after he took care to swallow his own butterbeer. "Longbottoms?"
Duncan snorted. "Supposed to be some o' the greatest Aurors aiver. Aye; ef I waint aroond hexin' ever'thin' that moved sometimes I'd be hittin' someone that desairved it too. Helluva way to operate..."
Harry gazed at his stepfather, at the man orphaned by Aurors, the man who had faced down those very same Aurors in his own front hall when they came for Remus Lupin; the Longbottoms still clearly thought all Snapes were immediately suspect. He shivered, remembering the first time he'd faced his own parents' killer, when he discovered that Voldemort was sharing a body with Professor Quirrell...of course, he'd also seen him in the Forbidden Forest, drinking unicorn's blood, but he didn't know that's who he was seeing at the time. Not for sure, at any rate.
And in his other life, Harry remembered, Severus Snape had had to teach Neville Longbottom. For four long years, day in and day out, he had done everything in his power to make Neville's life a living hell. Now Harry knew why. It hadn't finally faded until Neville began to show a dedication to really mastering potions, and Harry remembered the way Snape had taken over in the infirmary when Neville was first brought in, suffering withdrawal symptoms...Perhaps he'd finally seen what a grudge could do, that a boy who had no knowledge of any wrongdoing on his parents' part could die if he didn't step in and choose to put the past to rest. Harry had also wondered before whether Severus Snape felt some guilt from having recruited Barty Crouch, Jr.--one of the Longbottoms' tormentors--to be a Death Eater. Harry didn't have Dark Arts with the Gryffindors, so he didn't know how his stepfather was around the Neville Longbottom in this life, nor Neville's brothers.
"'Course that was why he made yer mum wait b'fore he'd tell her waither he'd marry her."
Harry squinted at him, his mind having wandered. "Excuse me?"
"Wail, yer mum and you went ter visit Severus at the castle, and while ye were there, the bairn decided to come. Yer sister, ye understand. He helped with the midwifin'. Afterward, she asked him to marry her. He said maybe; the next day he said he'd marry her on one condition: if they was to wed, she could no longer be an Auror. She agreed, and the raist, as they say, is history."
She asked him to marry her. And he'd made her give up being an Auror. That made sense. But there was still one thing he didn't understand.
"Why didn't they get married at the church here in Dunoon?"
"Wail, I'm not clair aboot that exac'ly. Seemed it had somethin' to do with her fairst weddin'; too sim'lar, too many mem'ries." Then his voice dropped. "But I also thought she thought it wouldn' be right 'cause she was already expectin' yer little brothers. They wasn't going to get married until almost a year later; that kind of sped things up."
Harry nodded, looking down into his mug of butterbeer. He didn't profess to really understand his parents' relationship, but now at least he knew more about his dad's background. His parents were killed by the Longbottoms.
That explained an awful lot.
They went back to Hogsmeade from Uncle Duncan's by Floo, having made arrangements with their tenants to land in the drawing room at Hog's End. No one seemed to be around, although Harry noted that the tenants had rearranged the furniture a little bit. They went through the front hall and out to the drive, finding the horseless carriages Professor McGonagall had sent waiting for them there. Their parents rode in one carriage with Simon, while Jamie, Draco and Harry rode in the other with Sirius. Harry pointedly sat with Jamie on one side, forcing Draco to sit next to Sirius.
Harry wanted to speak to his godfather as he used to, easily and unguarded, but somehow it seemed those days were over. I'm in a little need of reconciliation myself, he thought. It seemed that his parents had been leaning on each other quite a bit while Stuart had been missing and then after he died. Would their reconciliation be permanent? He had no idea.
Sirius looked uncomfortable as well, and tried to engage Jamie in conversation, but she was too distraught, leaning her head on Harry's shoulder and keeping her handkerchief in her hand, as she needed it often. Harry wished again that she could know about Ron and Ginny--she had had so many occasions to cry lately--but that was out of the question. So he asked her something designed to cheer her up.
"Jamie--Your birthday's coming up. What do you want?"
She sat up and considered it for a moment. "I would like...for my brother to actually remember my birthday."
"What do you mean? I always remember your birthday."
"Yes and no. You always remember to give me something, but every year you think my birthday is February 21. You give me my gift, and then it's over, and when my actual birthday comes four days later, it all feels like an anticlimax...."
Harry grimaced. "Sorry, James. Don't know what's wrong with me."
She shrugged. "At least you're consistent. Every year you get it wrong the same way."
He smiled at her and she put her head on his shoulder again. "Well, like you said, I'm at least consistent, right?"
She nodded, smiling sadly. "Right."
She put her head back down and closed her eyes; Harry put his arm around her and let her rest on his shoulder. Draco looked miffed, as though he had wanted to comfort her. Harry met Sirius' eyes, and nodded. I forgive you, he thought, willing Sirius to understand. He could be as big as his dad. This was no time for grudges, for fighting amongst themselves.
When they were back at the castle, Simon went up to
the staff wing with their parents; he was going to be living with them until further notice. Harry wondered whether Jamie should also live with their parents, but as she didn't say anything, neither did he. Still, he worried; it had been entirely too easy for someone to come into the Slytherin dorms and take Stuart; although he wasn't as sick as Stuart had been, a week in the desert would not do Simon any good. Nor Jamie.
Jamie accompanied Harry and Draco back to the dungeons and Slytherin House, and they all went to the sixth year boys' dorm, dragging their feet listlessly. Finally, after almost twenty minutes of sitting around staring at each other, Harry decided that since Zabini and Nott weren't there, he should finally take out the gift from the merpeople and see what they'd given him. He still hadn't had an opportunity.
Harry picked up the amazingly strong woven bag from inside his trunk and put it gently on the floor, then knelt next to it, slowly peeling the bag back from the object inside. Jamie came and knelt next to him.
"Where did you get it?" she asked him, sniffing and then wiping her nose on her handkerchief. For some reason, she was whispering.
"The merpeople gave it to me," he whispered back.
It appeared to be a large, smooth opaque stone, black as night; but then Harry noticed the tiny hinges on one side, and he realized that it was a box of some kind. He looked all around and shook it, but he could see no keyhole. He took out his wand as Draco noticed what he was doing and came over.
His best friend stared at it. "What is it?"
Harry shook his head. "Dunno. I think it's a box. I'm going to try to open it. Since it's from the merpeople, it might screech or something. Get ready to hold your ears."
Draco frowned. "Why do you think it'll screech?"
"Well--that's if it's been enchanted to speak Mermish. Mermish just sounds like screeching and wailing when you're on land. You have to listen to it with your head underwater to understand it."
"How do you know?" Jamie asked.
There was that question again; ever since September, over and over: How do you know?
"Nevermind. Let me start with something simple." He pointed his wand at the stone and said, "Alohomora!"
Nothing happened. "That's not an all-purpose unlocking charm, you know," Draco said disdainfully. "It's for doors. The 'mora' part means 'wall.' It's like asking a wall to open."
Harry grimaced. "I knew that." He hadn't. "I just thought it would be worth a try anyway. Let me think." Not for the first time since September, he wished he had Hermione by his side to help him figure something out--the Hermione from his old life. He sat for what seemed a long time staring at the end of his wand, trying to think of something, but nothing came into his head except the incantation for making hidden writing appear, Apparecium.
Jamie was looking bored. "Oh, come on Harry. Let's do something." She took out her own wand and pointed it at the thing, saying, "Aperiro cistum."
Slowly, a crack appeared around the middle of the smooth, obsidian-like stone; it moved in a sure, straight line like a cut by a stoneworker using a diamond-tipped blade. Harry reached out and pried his fingers into the fine crack, bracing himself for the noise he'd heard when he'd opened the golden egg which had contained the clue for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. He'd finally succeeded in getting his fingernails into it, but the hinges resisted every millimeter of the way, and it seemed to take forever, but finally, the strange box was open, and the room was still utterly quiet. The three of them put their heads close together, peering inside, holding their breaths.
There was just one object to be seen: an amulet with no chain. It lay in a small depression in the bottom half of the box, and Harry saw that there was a mirror-image depression in the lid of the box, as though the strange stone were actually a mold for a metal-smith, and the molten metal of which the pendant was made had been poured into the depression, then the box closed and sealed, so that they were the first sentient beings ever to see the result.
Gingerly, Harry reached out and picked up the amulet, which was silver-colored metal in the shape of a basilisk. There was even a small green stone that had been incorporated into the metal when it was still molten, perfectly positioned to serve as one of the eyes of the creature in profile. In fact, if Harry didn't know better, he'd say it was the exact same basilisk amulet that Ginny had given him for a fifteenth birthday gift in his other life. Maybe it was the same one. It could have been created ages ago. He hefted it in his hand; it had the same weight, the same warmth in his grasp, and as he held it, an image leapt into his head of Ginny, despondent, sitting under a high window, gazing at the sky longingly. She seemed real enough for him to reach out and touch her.... He opened his hand and looked down at the pendant, brow furrowed. He always thought before that holding the amulet made him think of Ginny because she had given it to him; but in this life, it came from the merpeople, so there was clearly more to it than just thinking of the gift-giver.
"Oh, isn't it pretty!" Jamie exclaimed, leaning over it. "I have just the thing to go with it."
She scrambled to her feet and dashed from the room, looking much more lively now, returning in a few minutes with a glittering silver chain. She handed it to Harry, who threaded the chain through the loop at the top of the amulet; he put it around his neck, looking down at it, then wrapped his hand around it again, feeling it grow warm in his grasp.
"Hey!" Jamie said, sounding disappointed. "I thought you might let me have it. After all, it's perfect Slytherin colors: silver and green. And it's a snake."
"No it's not," Harry said quickly. "It's the king of snakes: a basilisk."
"How do you know?" Draco said.
"What are you, a broken record?" Harry groaned at him, even though it was Jamie who had asked before. Jamie and Draco both looked at each other, perplexed.
"What's a broken record?" they said together. Harry rolled his eyes; there he went again, spouting Muggle expressions from his old life. He felt certain he'd heard his mother use the same expression; didn't Jamie pay attention?
"Never mind," he said, his old fallback. He hoped that when the Muggle-born students started coming to the school again Professor McGonagall would also put Muggle Studies back on the curriculum.
"Sorry, James, but the merpeople gave it to me. Thanks for the chain, though."
She crossed her arms, looking grumpy. "You're welcome," she grumbled, sounding like he was anything but. He looked down at the amulet, resting on his sternum. Then suddenly, an idea lit up his brain; he stared harder at the amulet, thinking, Basilisk. Ginny. Basilisk. Ginny. for some reason he felt sure that he was close to a solution, to a way for fixing the timelines. Voldemort will never agree, he thought. Then, Maybe he doesn't have to.
He looked at Draco and then he had it; he knew how it could be done! It could work, it really could; he felt sure of it! Yet--he looked up at his sister and best friend. He would need for someone else to sacrifice themselves. It was suicide. He could only imagine someone who cared a great deal about him doing such a selfless thing. And yet--how could he ever ask someone he cared about to do such a thing? Harry looked down at the amulet again, feeling the solution slipping though his fingers....
Zabini entered the room, and Harry quickly thrust the amulet inside his shirt. The other boy looked at the waterweed bag and the open stone mold; his eyes were narrowed. "What's going on here, then?"
Harry closed the stone and put it back into the bag, then put it back into his trunk, locking it securely. "None of your business, Zabini." Again, Harry wished he had some idea of what his dormmates' parents looked like, so he knew whether he'd seen them in the circle of Death Eaters. That was another advantage to taking the Hogwarts Express to school; you were able to get a look at other students' parents seeing them off. If Zabini's parents had ever been among the guests at the Malfoys' parties over the years, they hadn't brought their son with them, and Harry never heard their names connected to their faces.
Harry herded his sister and friend out of the dorm and into the common room, glancing over his shoulder at Zabini, who, disturbingly, met his gaze. He reached into his shirt as he walked, holding the amulet again, letting the peace flow into his body from his grasping hand, letting it quiet his mind....
For the rest of that weekend, everything moved in a fog for Harry; when classes began again on Monday morning, he felt as though he'd been asleep for a long time, in a fevered stupor. Now he was awake again, and everything looked somehow clearer and cleaner at the edges, like the difference between looking at the world with and without his glasses.
His first class was Transfiguration, and he did his best to treat Sirius the same as he had before the day he'd seen his godfather and mother together in the guest room at Hog's End, remembering the way his stepfather had accepted him during Stuart's funeral. But when Harry was on his way to Dark Arts, walking alongside Draco, behind the other Slytherins, a hand suddenly pulled him into an open classroom doorway.
"Wha--?" Harry started to say, but almost immediately, he lost the power of speech as a large hand grasped him by the throat and pushed him up against a wall. Harry plucked at the fingers closing so tightly around his windpipe, wheezing, to no avail. He stared at his attacker, eyes starting to bulge from lack of air, but then the grip was relaxed slightly, so he was held in place, but could still breathe.
He put his face close to Harry's then, hissing between his teeth. "Too bad you didn't kill me when you had the chance, Potter, because now I am going to kill you."
Ron Weasley looked angrier than Harry had ever seen him. He tried to swallow; it was rather difficult. "Weasley," he whispered, "you're not supposed to be out! What are you thinking?"
Ron brought his face even closer. "Didn't you hear me? I'm thinking that I'm about to kill you," he said evenly, his jaw clenched.
"What--what did I do?"
And then, a split second later, Harry knew; he knew for sure, and when Ron spoke the words, it merely confirmed his fears.
"You knocked up my sister!"
Harry pictured Ginny sitting near the high window again, gazing at the sky; he realized now that her hand was resting on her belly, still flat and undistended, but she already had this protective instinct....
"I--I don't know what to say--"
"Oh, there you are Harry--bloody hell!" Draco exclaimed, seeing what was going on as he entered the otherwise deserted classroom. He held the door open with his hand on the knob, his rucksack falling to the floor. "Get your hands off him, Weasley! What the hell are you doing here? Are you trying to blow everything?"
Ron didn't change his physical position one iota. "I'm too busy killing the sodding bastard who knocked up my sister to care about that, Malfoy."
Draco's jaw dropped. "Knocked up? You're kidding! From one time?"
Harry threw Draco an irritated glance. "What are you, jealous or something? Would you like to be over here with a lunatic's hand around your throat? Aaah!" he screamed as Ron tightened his grip again. Draco strode over to the two of them and pulled Ron's hand from Harry with a great deal of difficulty. There was a bit of a tussle and some yelling, then a shocked exclamation from someone standing in the doorway.
"Hullo! What's going on--Ron Weasley?"
The three of them stared into the face of their History of Magic teacher, Professor Binns. No no no no no, Harry thought. Not him, of all people...
He had no choice; he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the corpulent man, saying, "Impedimenta!" Immediately, Binns appeared to be frozen. "Watch the door from the corridor!" he barked at Draco. Then Harry turned to Ron, speaking quickly. "How did you get out? You've got to go back; this is too risky. I'll ask Dum--I mean, Davy if I can come visit the two of you later. We'll talk about this rationally," he said, his voice shaking as he felt anything but rational. Ron backed up, rubbing his arm (Draco had twisted the skin there painfully).
"There's nothing to talk about. Ginny's going to have a baby; your stinking, rotten baby, so you're going to die..."
"Are you sure?"
"Am I sure? She's spewing every morning like clockwork. And eating everything in sight the rest of the time. And sleeping when she's not eating. Plus she said that she's, um, 'late.' You've got a sister; surely you have to deal with her being moody once a month. You know. I'm sure because she's sure, you bast--" Ron pulled out his wand.
"Expelliarmus!" Harry cried. Ron was only two feet from the wall, so he didn't travel far backward, but his wand flew through the air and into Harry's grasp. When he was holding it firmly, he went on. "Will you listen to me? You have to go back into hiding; if you're seen--"
"Then another one of your stupid brothers will die!" Ron exclaimed, as though he enjoyed the idea. Harry stared at him, incredulous.
"I can't believe you just said that, Weasley," Harry muttered to him, and now he felt that he could actually kill Ron, with no remorse whatsoever. "I just carried my little brother's coffin into a mausoleum because I refused to kill you and my dad refused to kill your brother."
"And because of that I'm not supposed to care that you've gotten Ginny pregnant?"
"Try caring about this," he said, seething and pointing at the nearly-frozen Professor Binns. "Binns is a Death Eater. That's right; a Death Eater. Now he's seen you and knows you're alive. Maybe it won't be Simon who's next, if they try something else to convince me to kill you. Maybe it will be my sister Jamie, did that ever occur to you? Or maybe we don't have to worry about that, because I'm feeling very much like I could kill you right now with no problem!"
Ron looked back and forth between Harry and Binns, swallowing. "All right, all right," he said weakly. "I'm going back. Wait for me to be gone before you take the spell off him. What will you tell him?"
"I dunno; I'll think of something. Get out of here!" But a moment later, he cried, "Wait!" Ron stopped, a puzzled look on his face. "Here's your wand. And Weasley--it was, um, I mean--we were in pretty extreme circumstances. Ginny and I. It wasn't like I had any control over the weather....Anyway," he went on, squirming a little, "how have you and, um, Cho avoided this problem?"
Now it was Ron who seemed to squirm a bit. "She bought some Muggle stuff," he mumbled indistinctly. "At a chemist's near her house."
Ron turned from him again and walked to the opposite end of the classroom, and Harry saw now that it looked as though the wall had been opened there; part of it pivoted, and Ron put his shoulder to this now, pushing it closed again when he was in the secret passage. Harry went to it and experimented with Alohomora, and general pushing and shoving, but it seemed fairly secure; apparently it could only be opened from the other side, even with magic. Harry strode out into the corridor to speak with Draco.
"Go to Dark Arts. I'll be right there."
Draco nodded again; Harry didn't know whether he heard Harry's comment about Jamie being at risk. He was probably, at the very least, worried about his mother, who was still in St. Mungo's.
What the hell can I do? Harry wondered whether Binns really believed he'd seen Ron. Maybe I can make him doubt what he saw....
Harry walked down the corridor toward Dark Arts; when he'd gone as far as he could go and still see Binns' back in the doorway of the empty classroom, he aimed his wand at Binns, taking the spell off him, then ducked behind a suit of armor. He peered down the corridor, looking under the suit's outstretched arm. He saw Binns walk into the classroom, then back out into the corridor, looking back and forth. "I know what I saw," he heard the professor say clearly, before striding off in the opposite direction.
Harry turned and fled toward the dark Arts classroom, finding it difficult to skid to a stop when he'd reached it, he was going so fast. He motioned to his dad through the glass window in the door, panting.
Professor Snape strode to the door, looking stern and irritated. When he'd opened the door, Harry pulled him into the corridor and whispered in his ear, telling him what had happened with Binns, and the fact the he'd seen Binns at the initiation. His dad shook his head.
"I don't know who all the Death Eaters are, but I do know the operatives, and Binns isn't one of them."
"Are Bill and Percy Weasley operatives?" His dad nodded. "What about Niamh Quirke and Roger Davies?"
His dad looked mystified. "Roger Davies isn't an operative..."
Harry had a lump in his throat; that meant Cedric was the other young operative. Roger was a genuine Death Eater, and he was the father of Katie Bell's baby! And he was going to be Sam Bell's son-in-law...
Harry wished he'd said something sooner about seeing Roger Davies and Binns. "Binns must be who Dumbl--er, Davy was talking about, here at the school."
"Right," his stepfather muttered, lost in thought. Harry hadn't told his dad the reason why Ron had been seeking him out. His stepfather was silent for a long moment after Harry stopped whispering, then he started talking quietly and very fast.
"I'll let you and Draco go early when class is almost over. I want you to get to Simon's class before it's over, and Draco can do the same with Jamie." Harry noticed that his dad seemed to be more accepting of Draco and Jamie as a couple if it meant that Draco could be counted upon to protect her. "Each of you make sure you escort Simon and Jamie to the Great Hall safely for lunch. After lunch, walk each of them to their classes. I'll dismiss my first afternoon class early and go get Jamie out of her class slightly early, then Simon. I'll take them to their second afternoon classes. Your mother can do the same in her second afternoon class and take them to the staff wing after that--"
"Jamie too? Not Slytherin House?"
"No, I think not. I know Binns has access to the staff wing, but Charlie Weasley and Sirius Black are there too. And your mother and I. Someone managed to spirit Stuart out of his dorm, but I'll be damned if anyone is going to touch Jamie or Simon with the four of us at hand, and Davy besides."
He sighed. "Between Davy, your mother and I, Charlie, Black and perhaps also Minerva, we'll be able to make sure they get to and from every class and meal safely. And the official story about Jamie also staying in the staff wing will be--trauma. Yes, trauma. Since her brother's death."
"In that case, perhaps I should start sleeping upstairs, too. And I'll be one more person someone would have to get past if they wanted to harm Jamie or Simon. I can just kip on the couch in the sitting room."
His stepfather nodded. "All right. But now you should get into your seat, since I'm going to be sending you and Draco out early. And we need to find a time to discuss all this with Alb--I mean, Davy."
Harry nodded and followed his dad into the classroom when he opened the door. The Hufflepuffs and the other Slytherins looked at Harry, puzzled, as he took his place. Professor Snape strode to the lectern and shuffled through his notes, looking even paler than usual, and cleared his throat.
"Before we go on, that will be five points from Slytherin, Malfoy, for being late, and ten points from Slytherin, Potter, for being even later. Now, where were we before we were interrupted?"
Blaise Zabini raised his hand, looking smug, and Harry's dad called on him. Harry felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck when he met Zabini's gaze. He didn't hear what Zabini said to his dad. Was he perhaps an unofficial Death Eater? Harry remembered that when Lucius Malfoy had recruited his stepfather to "cultivate" Barty Crouch, Jr., he didn't receive the dark Mark right away, nor had he gone to Death Eater meetings. Could Zabini, still in his sixth year, be doing something similar? Maybe it wasn't Binns who'd spirited Stuart away; maybe it was this boy who slept in the same room as Harry.
Harry spent the rest of the class watching Zabini, trying to figure him out, and wound up feeling rather stupid, for every time his stepfather asked him anything, he had to answer, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat the question?" He had soon lost Slytherin another fifteen points.
When there were ten minutes to go before lunch, Harry's dad said, "Potter, Malfoy. Please come here." Draco looked confused, but Harry nodded at him, and he stopped looking questioning. "Since the two of you seem to think you don't need this class, I assume that means you are free to deliver some notes for me. Take these to the people whose names are on the front."
He handed Harry a piece of parchment saying Simon Snape, and Draco's said Jamie Potter. Draco looked puzzled again, but Harry hustled him out of the classroom and explained to him in the corridor. Draco immediately nodded with understanding and took off at a run. (Harry knew he knew Jamie's schedule by heart.)
Thus began the complicated matter of escorting Jamie and Simon everywhere. For the rest of that Monday and all the next day--which was Jamie's fifteenth birthday--Simon and Jamie were accompanied wherever they went in the castle. In Herbology on Tuesday morning, Harry was aching from sleeping on the hard little couch in his parents' sitting room. (But he was pleased to see that his dad magically divided the bed in the second bedroom into two beds, positioned on opposite sides of the room, for Jamie and Simon, and his mother slept in the same room with her husband.)
After Herbology, Harry and Draco had History of Magic with the Hufflepuffs. Harry felt a coldness come over him before he entered the classroom; it was as though an ice-cold knife pierced his chest whenever the Death Eater professor looked at him. But Binns never said a word about the incident he'd witnessed the previous day; he looked significantly at Harry and Draco repeatedly, but he never said a word that even remotely implied that he remembered seeing Ron. He dismissed the class early for lunch, looking entirely too cheerful, Harry thought, for that to be a good thing.
Then, at lunch, they were able to stop waiting for the other shoe to fall. Unusual at lunch (owl post was normally during breakfast), an owl came sweeping into the Great Hall, the ceiling enchanted to look like the grey winter sky outdoors, darker grey clouds scudding across the dreary expanse. The owl landed on Harry's shoulder, and he froze; Draco reached up to remove the letter from the bird's leg, and Harry winced as the bird dug its claws into his shoulder before taking off again.
Ignoring stares from others at the Slytherin table who were wondering why Harry had received an owl in the middle of the day, Harry and Draco leaned over the letter together.
The letter was unsigned. Damn! Harry thought. How the hell are we going to get around this one? Habeus corpus. Show us the body. The body. There had to be a body or he wouldn't be believed. But if there was a body, wouldn't it be possible to trace a murder to him? Not that he was going to kill Ron; he'd been plenty hacked off at him the day before, the way he was talking about another one of his brothers dying, but he still wasn't willing to kill him. This, he thought, was how Voldemort wanted to string him up; he knew from the other life what Ron was to him. He knew. And even if he were to do it, how would he avoid going to Azkaban?Dear Mr. Potter,
It has come to our attention that a certain person may possibly still be among the living. Inasmuch as you may have made an honest mistake in thinking he was not, now that you are no longer under that mistaken impression, we trust that you will rectify the matter immediately. To avoid any confusion this time, we must insist uponhabeus corpus. You may or may not know that that is a term that means roughly show us the body.
You know what you must do and how you must prove that you have done it. Do not take too long. You know why.
He looked around the Great Hall; his dad was already gone, escorting Jamie and Simon to their next classes. He caught his mother's eye and raised his eyebrows. After lunch he had Ancient Runes while Draco had Arithmancy. Perhaps he could talk to his mother in her office first, or maybe they could go to Dumbledore.
He rose and went to the door of the Great Hall, then looked over his shoulder, once more meeting his mother's gaze. He turned and went through the entrance hall, then down the stairs to her classroom and office. He waited outside the office door, leaning against the wall, crumpling the letter in his hands. When she arrived a few minutes later, as he knew she would, she silently held out her hand for the letter, and he gave it too her. She pointed her wand at the door and whispered a password to it that Harry didn't catch, and started reading the crumpled parchment while she was walking into the office. Once Harry was through the door, she slammed it and went to her desk, still reading. He sat in the chair by the fire.
When she was done, she looked up at Harry, her face grim. "Well," she said. "Obviously we need to do a better job of faking his death." Harry knew his dad had told her about Binns from the previous day. "I told Severus last night that we should have known that Binns was Dark..." she muttered, sitting heavily in her desk chair.
Harry was confused. "How should you have known?"
She raised one eyebrow. "Haven't you ever noticed, Harry, the way he goes on and on about Goblin rebellions, as though that were the biggest problem the wizarding world has ever had to face? That and Muggles burning witches and wizards. Never a word about the problems the wizarding world has had with dark wizards. As though Muggles ever would have felt the need to have witch hunts if there weren't such things as dark witches and wizards! If all magical people had only ever been benign, I doubt there would be such a thing in human history--magical or Muggle--as witch burnings. But has Binns ever talked about that? He certainly never did when I was his student, and I doubt he's started now. Every ill facing the wizarding world is the fault of other races, like Goblins, or the fault of Muggles. Never a word about Grindelwald, or the first Voldemort--"
"You know about him too?" Harry said excitedly. "I grabbed a book in the library by accident and read about him. Do you--do you think he really brought his son back from the dead?"
She sighed. "No one knows, Harry. But speaking of bringing someone back from the dead, now that Binns knows Ron Weasley isn't dead..."
"They want to see a body," he whispered.
"Yes, yes..." she muttered. For what seemed a long time, they sat in silence; Harry could hear the clock on the mantel ticking the minutes away. The ticking seemed to be words; they seemed to say, Out of luck, out of luck, out of luck, out of luck...
"Harry," his mother said suddenly. Her voice was urgent. "Here's what we must do. I will cancel my last class of the day. You'll have to miss yours as well, and Draco too."
He shrugged. "We don't have class. That's a free period for us."
She nodded. "All the better; you won't be missed." She stopped talking again, rapping her knuckles on the desk blotter, her lips drawn into a line, her brow furrowed with thought. "If only I knew where your father's old Invisibility Cloak was..."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I have it. Dumbledore had it, and he gave it to me."
Her eyes opened wide in shock. "Dumbledore had it?" Now she looked disgruntled. "You'd think he could have told me..."
"Why do you need it?"
"I don't need it; Ron Weasley needs it. We have to get him out of the castle and to a rendezvous point without him being seen. He can't stay here if he's going to be doing foolish things like wandering around the castle. Stupid boy! Why did you say he left the hiding place?"
"Well--I didn't. He's a bit upset..."
"As are we all."
"No, this is something else--" He stammered to a halt, then felt himself flushing. "He said that Ginny's pregnant."
His mother's face didn't change expression. Her eyes bored into him, then she covered her face with her hands. When she revealed her face again, he felt he had never seen such a firm look of resolve there. The first bell rang, marking the end of lunch.
"Go to your class," she told him crisply; evidently she was not going to comment on the news that she was to be a grandmother. "Afterward, get the cloak and Draco and come to the caretaker's office. I will meet you there."
He nodded, a lump in his throat. He heard students starting to pour into the potions classroom; he looked at his mother thoughtfully. She was staring into space.
"Mum?" he said softly, twice before she looked at him. "Your class is arriving."
"Tell them I'll be out shortly; I have to light a fire so I can call someone..."
Harry did as he was told, then walked up the numerous staircases to Ancient Runes. He wondered whether she would really be focused on potions during her class. He knew he wasn't at all focused on Ancient Runes. But before he left her office, his mother had had an statement on her face that he imagined she had worn when she had been an Auror. She looked both determined and on guard, and quite formidable. It gave him a shiver up his spine, but it also made him feel that somehow, everything was going to be all right.
Harry drifted through Ancient Runes and bolted from the room afterward, running toward the Arithmancy classroom. He caught Draco when he was only about twenty feet from the door; he knew his friend could read the urgent statement on his face, for Draco nodded solemnly and said merely, "Where to?" in a soft voice.
"Caretaker's office," Harry whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
They moved swiftly down the intervening staircases, slipping between students climbing toward them, the faces mere blurs as they hurried to keep what Harry felt would be the most important appointment of his life. They ran together to their dorm so Harry could get the cloak, then ran out of Slytherin House again and staggered to a halt outside the caretaker's office, knocking on the heavy wooden door. His mother opened it. Dumbledore stood, looking like Davy again with his enlarged nose and lack of glasses, near the back wall where the entrance portal to the hiding place had been.
"Here's how it's going to be, boys," his mother said without preamble as soon as the office door was closed again. "Officially, I am taking you into the foothills to get potions ingredients. You are doing this with me as a detention. Ron Weasley will be with us, wearing the Invisibility Cloak. We will actually be going to a cave I know of; I have contacted one of the operatives, who will meet us there and take Weasley to a safe house. Afterward, we will transfigure a dead animal to look like his corpse, as it would appear if he had been lost in that snowstorm three weeks ago and perished in the woods. Understood?"
They nodded. Dumbledore opened the archway and Harry's mother walked through with him. "We'll be right back," she said solemnly. Harry heard their footsteps disappearing up the stone stairs. He sat down in a chair, staring at his hands.
"I wish I could see Ginny, hold her, tell her everything's going to be all right....I can't believe she's going to have a baby..."
Draco also sat, shaking his head. "You are so lucky, Harry."
Harry jerked his head up. "What? Are you mad?"
But his friend just looked very sad and envious. "Don't you think I'd be doing handsprings if just one girl I'd shagged came to me and told me she was going to have my baby? Even if it meant Jamie never talked to me again?"
"What are you talking about? And I'd been meaning to ask you about that anyway; about whether you might be a dad..."
Draco sighed. "There was this--incident. When I was fourteen. During summer holiday. I never told you all of it. Remember how I was in hospital that summer?"
"Yeah. You had some Muggle disease you'd picked up in France, you said."
Draco nodded. "It was a Muggle disease you're supposed to get when your very young. If you get it once you're a man--"
"Oh, at fourteen you were already a man?" Harry smiled. Draco bristled."Man enough. Anyway, if you get it after you're--physically mature--" He swallowed. "The doctors said I would probably never have children. They told my mum. She lied to my dad, though. Said it would be all right."
"Why? This is my dad we're talking about. She was sure he'd kill me--and I mean actually kill me if he found out. Then he'd probably kill her."
"I know I just said this, but why?"
"Because she had a hard time giving birth to me. She can't have any more kids. And sure, in theory he could just divorce her, but that would take longer than two seconds, and my dad's not known for patience. If he wanted an heir who would also produce heirs, he would just kill her and marry someone else who could do what's necessary. I think she knew she had to lie to him to save both of us."
Harry pondered this. "Is that why--is that why you were with so many girls? You were hoping you'd get one of them pregnant?"
Draco threw up his hands. "Of course! Not that it's happened. And I had to reassure them, of course, so I told them I'd created this special potion for men that prevented me from getting a girl pregnant. Frankly, I had more girls coming after me than I really wanted once that got out. Or at least, girls I didn't really fancy. You know what I mean."
Harry remembered Niamh Quirke in library, saying to him, "I've heard about you." So, did she mean she'd heard that a girl could have a good time with Draco Malfoy without having to worry about pregnancy? It certainly sounded that way.
"So--none of those babies Stu said he'd heard being born in the infirmary--none of those were yours?"
"What? No, of course not. Anyway, I think I know what you're talking about; most of those girls are from the village. You know; June brides right after finishing their seventh year, then right into having babies. The Ministry is supposedly paying out incentives. And Pomfrey is the only one near Hogsmeade qualified for midwifing."
"Oooh--" Harry breathed.
"Now, granted, there are some students who've had babies. You hear things. But none of the kids were mine, I can tell you that." He sighed. "I wish just one were, but no such luck...That's why I didn't tell Jamie how I felt about her for so long. Finally, I just--I couldn't not tell her. But I was still worried. I mean--I really love Jamie, Harry. I know we're young, but I want to be with her the rest of my life. And eventually--well, eventually, she's going to want a child. And I can't give her that."
Harry didn't know what to say; he wanted to be reassuring and comforting, tell him that maybe Jamie wouldn't want a baby, but all that came out was, "Oh, Draco..."
Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming down the stairs beyond the archway, and the next thing he knew, Ginny was flinging herself at him, and he was holding her close, his face in her hair, her lips on his neck, and he felt like laughing and crying all at once. Over her shoulder, he saw Ron scowling at him. He separated from her reluctantly, but not by much; he put his hands on her shoulders and held her at arm's length, searching her face. Her large brown eyes looked reddish and tired, her skin was sallow and her cheekbones were rather sharp. He wanted to say something comforting, but he wasn't sure what. Instead, what came out, barely above a whisper, was, "I--I thought Madam Pomfrey gave you the potion." He remembered the vile-looking grey brew he'd seen her drinking in the infirmary after they'd returned from the Quidditch changing rooms.
She looked down, speaking softly. "That was something else. I asked her about the potion; I didn't tell her I needed it, but I'd heard about it and wondered whether it really worked....Well, she said it worked well enough, but it's been illegal in the wizarding world for the last seven years. I agreed with her that the labor shortage and all made it necessary....I don't think she suspected anything. And she's had that memory charm put on her anyway..."
He shook his head sadly. "But Ginny--why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you tell me?"
She still looked down. "I--I couldn't. And then I went into hiding with Ron....I just sort of thought of the motto of the Chudley Cannons. You know, Let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best." She looked up at him pleadingly, as though she were afraid he would be angry with her.
Instead, he had to resist the urge to laugh, as he pulled her to him again, holding onto her for dear life. He looked at Ron and Draco, who had very different opinions of the desirability of Ginny being pregnant. But there was no more opportunity to discuss this now; his mother and Dumbledore emerged at last from the archway.
"You two," Dumbledore said to Ron and Ginny, "move far too quickly for an old man like me." He turned to Ginny. "And now you have seen Harry. I'm afraid you need to go back. We agreed." She nodded at him, then turned to Harry and stood on tiptoe, kissing him lightly on the lips. He held her tightly for a moment, his eyes closed, whispering, "I love you," into her ear; then he released her and watched Dumbledore lead her away from him again. When they had gone through the archway, it disappeared once more.
His mother held her hand out to him, all business now. "The cloak, please." He extracted it from his pocket and gave it to her. She draped it over Ron, who promptly disappeared. "Now," she said to the air where he'd been standing a moment before, "it's a long walk to the rendezvous point. Stay close to us, make sure no one comes in contact with you, and say nothing."
"Where is this safe house?" came Ron's voice from under the cloak. "Will I be able to contact my parents? Or Charlie?"
"I can't tell you that now. We need to focus on getting you out of the castle. If you hadn't let yourself be seen by Binns..."
Ron sounded surly now. "Yeah, well if your son hadn't knocked up my sister..."
Her voice took on a nasty edge. "Do you want our help staying alive or not?"
He was silent for a moment. Then Harry heard his voice again, softer and more conciliatory now. "All right. I'm ready."
The four of them left the caretaker's office, his mother first, followed by Draco, then what seemed to be a gap but was really Ron, and finally, Harry bringing up the rear. They managed to reach the entrance hall without meeting anyone. Harry's mother opened the front door of the castle, letting in a wintry blast of cold air, and somehow, Harry felt that was a bad omen. I don't like this, he thought. How do we know the operative we're meeting isn't a double agent? How do we know Binns doesn't have his own Invisibility Cloak, that he isn't following us to the rendezvous point?
But he followed the two visible people and one invisible person out the door and into the cold winter's day, his sister's birthday, not saying a word about his doubts and fears. He kept looking all about and listening for sounds made by unseen feet other than Ron's, but it genuinely seemed that only the four of them were trekking into the foothills where he'd been before. The higher the climbed, the more he became convinced that their destination was the same cave where he and Ron and Hermione had met with Sirius during the Triwizard Tournament, when his godfather had returned to Hogwarts, concerned because Harry had told him about the pain in his scar.
And then, there it was; the very cave he remembered. They were all winded and cold; Harry could tell Ron was as tired as the rest of them. More than once, he had ploughed into Ron when he had slowed down. They had to duck to enter, as Harry remembered, but soon after they were able to straighten up. Ron removed the cloak, and Harry's mother lit a candle she had brought and placed it on a ledge; then she enchanted the wall behind the candle to act like a mirror, so the light would be doubled.
They all sighed with relief; the cave was also somewhat warmer than the outdoors, being sheltered from the wind. Harry took the Invisibility Cloak from Ron and put it in his pocket. Ron looked around the cave; it was actually quite high, and there were two legs, each branching off from a space near the opening. The shallow leg was only about fifteen feet deep, the deep one more like forty feet. The bones of small animals littered the dusty floor. Ron started wandering around the cave aimlessly, his hands deep in his pockets. He turned around near the deepest part of the shallow leg, sighing.
"All right, when is this person coming to take me to the safe house?"
Without warning, Harry's mother had whipped out her wand and pointed it at Ron. He only flew back a couple of feet, against what looked like a packed earthen wall, while his wand flew neatly into her hand. She pocketed it. Harry walked toward her, frowning.
"What the hell--?"
"Expelliarmus!" she shouted again, this time pointing her wand at Draco, who flew back further, about seven feet, striking the wall of the cave more painfully than Ron, who hadn't hit rock, but softer earth. Draco's wand was now in Harry's mother's hand and Draco sat on the floor of the cave where he'd been thrown, rubbing the back of his head.
Harry stood between Draco and Ron, his wand out now, tensed and ready to respond to or dodge a spell coming from her. Had his mother gone insane? "What are you doing, Mum?"
"What I should have done as soon as I heard what was expected of you; making sure you actually do it."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"You are going to kill Ron Weasley now, so we can put all this to rest. Then Severus is going to kill Charlie Weasley and all of my children will be safe again. You're lucky the girl has the sense to stay hidden, Draco. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for her brothers." She glared at Ron, who was pressed against the wall where the spell had thrown him, goggling at his potions professor.
Harry shook his head, as though that would clear his ears and allow him to hear what she'd really said. "You--you're mad! I'm not killing anyone, least of all Ginny's brother! What's wrong with doing what you said? You know, transfiguring a dead animal to look like Ron's corpse...."
She gave him a hard look. "Any wizard worth his salt will check for a transfiguration charm like that. I just said that to get the three of you up here."
Harry glanced at Draco, who looked more frightened than he did at the initiation. "What do you need him for? Let him go, Mum."
"I need him for this," she said, pointing her wand at him. "He is your best friend. Either you kill Weasley when I tell you to, or I start hurting him."
Harry frowned, looking back and forth between his mother and his best friend. "You--you wouldn't do that to Draco! Mum--Jamie loves him! You--you can't! He's my--"
"If you don't want your best friend to suffer, kill Weasley," she said coldly, her green eyes glittering. Harry wanted to shake some sense into her.
"Mum, why are you doing this?"
Her lip shook a little, and her wand quivered, although it still pointed at Draco. "Harry, if I have to choose between my children and someone else's, I'm going to choose my own. I'm doing what's necessary. What's necessary to keep you alive...."
"But--but you said that it was to protect Jamie and Simon--"
"Them too! But--but mostly you--I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you--" Her voice was full of tears. Harry looked at her pleadingly.
"Don't, Mum. I can take care of myself."
"No!" she answered, suddenly angry. "You don't know! You have no idea what he did..."
"What who did?"
She looked up at him with infinitely sad eyes. "When you were a baby. The night your father was killed....When I told him I would raise you to be his servant, he put a spell on you...an Obedience Charm. I've no doubt Draco had it put on him as well," she nodded at his friend. "It's dark magic; it drains a good deal of power from the person casting the spell. And putting it on two people in a short span of time--I wouldn't be surprised if it had almost made him mortal again."
Harry thought, That's why he's obsessed with getting more powerful, because he gave some of his power to me and Draco. "But why," he asked her, "would someone do that? If it's so draining?"
She swallowed. "I said it is an Obedience Charm. When you were initiated, both of you, did he give you any direct orders?"
"Well--he asked me some questions. My answers weren't really strictly truthful, but--"
"Questions are not commands. Did he command you to do anything?"
"He--he made us kneel. But that was just something he did. The next thing we knew--we were kneeling."
Keep her talking, he thought. Distract her. "Well--" he wracked his brain. "After he--he put Cruciatus on us, he asked us to ask him not to do it again, and we did." She nodded and he went on. "And he had both of us put out our arms to receive the Dark Mark...later he had me hand him my wand. Technically, I handed him Draco's wand, but he thought it was mine...What's all this about, Mum?"
She looked thoughtful, and he thought her guard might be down. "Hmm. Perhaps that is what's important..." she said in a musing voice.
"Well, at that moment, that wand was in your possession, so it was yours..."
"I don't understand. How does the Obedience Charm work?"
Suddenly her look toward him was gentle again, motherly. "I wouldn't have let him do it if I'd known, Harry. Please believe that. It's very powerful. The reason why it drains power from the person casting it is so that the person acting on their behalf will be more likely to have the ability to carry out the commands. If the person who cast the charm gives you a direct order and you refuse, you will drop down dead. If that person gives you a direct order and you agree to it, if it is at all possible, you will do it, or die in the attempt. It is far stronger than Imperius, which a person can overcome with enough willpower. There is no fighting this. It is absolutely impossible; obviously, the thing that prevents dark wizards from using it constantly is the power drain factor. Once you cast this spell on someone, a portion of your power is gone forever and lives in the other person until they die. And if they refuse to do what they are commanded, and they do die--that power dies with them. Probably no one other than Voldemort could have cast the spell twice within six months and still have any power left himself. And so far, he's used intermediaries to ask you to do things, other than at the initiation. But if it goes further, Harry I'm afraid--"
"What, Mum? What are you afraid of?"
She started crying. "I'm afraid he'll command you to do it himself, personally. I'm afraid that if he does that, you'll refuse, and die..." He voice had become very soft.
Harry remembered the heir, the way he had agreed to be sacrificed. Had Voldemort done it again? Had he put the Obedience Charm on his grandson, hoping to get his power back when he partook of the body after killing him? Was that what he was planning to do to Harry, and Draco? Reclaim their power--or rather, his power--through the ritual sacrifice and consumption of that sacrifice? And his mother had altered his school records so perhaps Voldemort wouldn't think very much of his power was in Harry, so there'd be little to gain in either using him or sacrificing him....
But he was tired of being afraid. Harry lifted his chin and looked her in the eye. "If he did give me a direct order to kill Ron, yes, I would refuse. I'd rather die myself than be a murderer. That's why we need to make him think Ron's dead..."
"No! That won't work! It must be done properly. This isn't open for discussion. You kill him or--"
"--or you'll torture Draco. But Mum--even if I wanted to--which I don't--I don't think I could do the killing curse. You need a powerful amount of magic to put behind that curse..."
She nodded at him. "I know. You've got it. Because of the Obedience Charm. Trust me. You can do this."
"Trust you?" he practically squeaked. He was completely incredulous. He couldn't take this any more; he wasn't going to allow this to happen. If he had to see his mother locked up in St. Mungo's, a raving lunatic, then he would. But he would not allow either Ron to die or Draco to be hurt. She was truly mad....
For a split second, it looked like her attention had wandered, and he stepped between her and Draco, yelling, "Run, Draco! Go get help!"
His mother pointed her wand, trying to get a clear shot at Draco, but Harry being in the way frustrated her, and his best friend tumbled out the cave door, desperate to get away. His mother advanced on Harry, then stopped.
"That was stupid, Harry. Very stupid. Now when someone comes and finds him dead, you'll be blamed. I don't want you dead or in Azkaban. Just--"
"No!" he practically roared. "You don't know what you're doing, Mum." Then he looked at her sadly. "Mum, mum," he muttered now, "the way you are now, so driven to protect me--it's because you're under Imperius. You have been, for years. But all you were told to do was to protect me at all costs. Which is only natural, it's a mother's instinct, most of the time. Do you know what happens when someone under Imperius is told to do something they already want to do? It becomes almost impossible to resist, because the desire was already there. It reinforces it, brings it to the surface if the person was previously resisting...."
"What are you talking about, Harry? When was I placed under Imperius?"
"The night my father was killed," he whispered.
"That's ridiculous. Who did it?"
His throat wasn't working very well, but he managed to choke out, "It's all my fault, Mum. I did it...that's why you promised me to Voldemort..."
She made a face. "I think you're the one who's mad, Harry. You were a baby. How could you put me under Imperius?"
He worked his mouth, wanting to tell her it was to save her, wanting to tell her that he'd somehow been convinced that his life would have been wonderful if he'd only grown up with his parents, or at least one of his parents....How he had the best of intentions, especially after hearing that she'd been carrying Jamie at the time of her death....
But before he could say anything, she was trying to catch him off guard, and was pointing her wand at Ron Weasley herself now. Ron pressed himself back into the wall, his eyes wild; he hadn't said anything this whole time, since Harry's mother had disarmed him.
"No, Mum!" Harry shouted, suddenly waking up.
"Harry, I said that if Voldemort tells you point blank to do something, and it is possible to do, and you accept, then you will do it. But if it is not possible....nothing. There is no effect. You are not driven to do it, and you do not die. Well, if he tells you to kill someone who is already dead, you can't very well kill them again, can you?"
He shook his head; it felt like it was going to explode. "No, Mum!" he said again. "I'm not a murderer--but neither are you! I won't have you do this just to protect me. No one is going to kill Ron Weasley!"
But his mother was not looking at him; she was looking at Ron, concentrating on him more hate than Harry ever thought it was possible for her to show. She was protecting her children; she was doing whatever was necessary, above all, to protect him, her Harry....
"My dad can put your whole family into hiding," Ron stuttered now. "He works for the Ministry. You'll all be perfectly safe..."
His mother snorted. "I have nothing against your father, Weasley. He's a good man. He's one of a kind. That's the problem; there's only one of him. And he is too trusting. You have no idea how many people work closely with him who should not be trusted. The Ministry is infested with Death Eaters. It's rotten to the core; there's no way to be safe if the Ministry arranges our going into hiding. We'll all be dead within a week. No; there's only one way--"
She pointed her wand, straight and sure; it looked to Harry as though she were aiming right between Ron's eyes. Just before she started saying the curse, Harry's scalp prickled all over, and he already knew what he must do; it was the only thing that saved Ron.
His spell exploded upon her with the force of a tidal wave; she rocketed backward along the long arm of the cave faster than Harry had ever seen anyone go who was being disarmed. She struck the hard cave wall with two separate sounds; a heavy thud, which was her body, and a loud, sickening crack! Harry didn't know what had made the sharp noise. Her body fell to the dusty floor of the cave; the light from the candle flickered behind him, throwing his shadow before him as he walked carefully down the length of the cave to his mother. When he was a few feet away from her, he stopped, afraid to go on. He stared and stared at her, willing her to brush her hair from where it lay across her face, or cry out or yell at him or whimper. An open, staring eye did not move. He waited for it to blink, or just close in pain. He looked up at the cave wall and saw a dark red glossy stain there, and he swallowed. He heard footsteps and felt more than saw Ron come to stand beside him, also looking down at his mother.
Lily Evans was utterly still.
Author's Note: All Through The Night is a traditional Welsh song to the tune Ar Hyd y Nos. The verses of the hymn which Jamie sings to the same tune are credited as follows: first verse (Reginal Heber, 1827), second verse (William Mercer, 1864), and third verse (Richard Whately 1787-1863). This version comes from The Hymnbook, published by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Reformed Church in America, copyright 1955. Credits for the other Welsh lullaby, Suogon, may be found in Chapter 32 of Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent.
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!