- 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 15 - Wanted
- 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)
"Please help me."
Dumbledore looked down at him kindly. "Of course, Harry. I have a few items which will be very useful to you, as well as some advice. First, the advice--do magic as little as possible. The magical items I will be giving you are not things that the Ministry is able to detect, and you needn't worry about them detecting your Animagus transfiguration either. If they could do that, most Animagi wouldn't be unregistered."
Dumbledore sighed. "There are only eight Animagi this century, if you believe the registry. Your godfather was the eighth to register, but Pettigrew never did. He would have been nine. I know of three other people besides you, and there are probably others of whom I have no knowledge...."
"Plus there's Rita Skeeter."
Harry nodded. "She's a beetle. Gets some good stories that way. And there was my father, who never registered before he died, either."
"Your father? James Potter?"
Harry nodded. "He could become a stag."
It was Dumbledore's turn to nod now. "So you see what I mean. My point is, if you use your wands, you are taking the chance that you will be discovered. Do not let yourselves be tempted."
Harry grimaced. "I--I did some wandless magic when I was in Fraserburgh, and no one seemed to notice."
Dumbledore frowned and rubbed his chin. "Well, that has a different signature, more like accidental magic, and they're not usually monitoring for that unless they know a Muggle-born is in the vicinity. Fraserburgh is practically the ends of the earth as far as the Ministry is concerned, so I doubt they pay much attention to goings on there. They will be now, of course, but it seems you managed to slip between the cracks."
Draco jerked his head up. "The Muggle-borns! Harry doesn't know!"
Dumbledore's mouth grew very thin. "Yes. The Board has reinstated the ban. Because of your escape."
Dumbledore gestured to the entrance of the cave. "Can you see them permitting Muggle-born students to come to Hogwarts with dementors all around the castle?"
Harry put his head in his hands. This couldn't be happening, it couldn't....
"But Harry," Draco said, brightening. "We can go to them for help. They would have been coming here in a few weeks, but now they won't be."
"What about--what about memory charms? Will the Ministry take away their memories of being magical?" His voice shook. How could he show up on Ruth's or Alicia's or Hermione's doorsteps if they didn't know they were magical?
"That's the good news. The Ministry will only put memory charms on Muggles who witness accidental magic. One small bit of progress has been that the Ministry now sees the wisdom in all witches and wizards knowing that they are magical, regardless of birth. There has already been a decline in accidental magic incidents, because the Muggle-borns are now aware of the consequences of letting themselves be--agitated. It has made the Ministry's job much easier; of course, it has also freed up some additional Ministry employees to look for you. And soon they will become aware that you are not in any of the coastal communities nor the Orkneys or Shetlands. All fishing vessels in the North Sea have also been thoroughly searched by Aurors passing for Muggle authorities, ostensibly looking for drugs. Soon they will move inland and south. As soon as it is dark, you both need to go back through the forest under the Invisibility Cloak and make for Huntly--"
"Harry has almost a hundred pounds in Muggle money," Draco added helpfully. Dumbledore looked surprised.
"Did you use magic to get it?" he asked sternly. Harry nodded sheepishly.
"But I was paid," he added hastily. "I didn't just use magic to get it to fly out of someone's pocket and into mine."
Draco looked like he was suppressing a smirk. "Well, not exactly...." Harry hit him with the back of his hand.
"Nonetheless," Dumbledore said, "no more of that. You will need most of that to get to Edinburgh. You can go by train and be well ahead of the Ministry, as they will not expect you to have gone so far so fast. From there--well, this will yelp you to decide what is best--"
He took a scroll out of his pocket and handed it to Harry; he unrolled it and discovered a map of Great Britain with small blue dots exploding on it constantly, but concentrated generally in the same places. Every so often pink dots appeared, to be swiftly followed by blue dots. What Harry now understood to be the location of Hogwarts--the far west of Aberdeenshire--had a medium-sized blue dot that remained more or less constant instead of disappearing and reappearing. Harry thought he knew what he was holding in his hands, but he looked to Dumbledore for confirmation.
"Yes, Harry. I nicked it from the Ministry. And while it takes the Ministry some time to reckon exactly where accidental magic has occurred--local Ministry offices have small, more precise versions of this map--you needn't worry about that kind of precision. This will be enough to allow you to generally avoid any area where there is significant official magical activity. You may assume that a good deal of blue indicates the presence of Aurors or a large enough concentration of witches and wizards such that you risk someone recognizing you or Draco. Which brings me to another problem--"
He took out his wand and said, "Incisio," very business-like. Then he stepped toward Draco and suddenly reached out and picked up the hair hanging limply by the side of his face. He snipped it off with the scissors that had sprouted from his wand tip.
"Hey!" Draco yelled, jerking away.
"This is necessary. Two reasons. First, I need your hair to take your place at the castle. I need it to put in some potion--"
'Polyjuice Potion?" Harry asked. Dumbledore looked startled.
"How do you--" but then he stopped. "Right. Never mind. The second reason is that you can't look like yourself. If we don't do this and you disappear from Hogwarts to travel with Harry looking like you, the pair of you will be spotted in no time. This way, I can impersonate you enough hours every day that you aren't missed, and with your hair cut as short as possible, Harry will be even less conspicuous with you than when he was by himself. The Aurors aren't looking for two people traveling together."
Draco looked at the hair in Dumbledore's hand in disbelief. "You're not--not going to take all of it?"
Dumbledore nodded. "If you stop shaving, will you have much facial hair?"
Draco grimaced. "Slowly, yeah. It's pretty fair, though."
"Hold still." Dumbledore stepped forward and went over Draco's head ruthlessly. The fair hair fell to the cave floor in showers. Harry moved closer, holding his lit wand up so the old wizard could see what he was doing. Draco squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and then his mouth too, after some hair went in. He was sputtering for a few minutes, trying to get it out. Finally, Dumbledore stepped back and took a velvet drawstring sack out of his pocket. He opened the cloth sack, and, ending the scissors charm he'd placed on his own wand, he said, "Accio!" whereupon, all of Draco's hair magically flew into the bag, which he closed and put in his pocket. There was not a single stray hair on the ground or Draco's clothes. Harry stared in disbelief at his friend. He looked--
"Well?" he said expectantly. "How do I look?" Harry stared at him, goggle-eyed, then shifted his gaze to Dumbledore, hoping he would answer first, but now Draco gazed at him, his eyebrows raised. "Well, Harry?"
"Well, you look like--" Harry grimaced. He didn't want to say.
"Well--rather like a skinhead. It's not like you can help it. No, wait, I didn't mean it that way. I mean--you're so pale and fair-haired, and now the hair is so short--It's, um, it's likely to be a very effective disguise. If I hadn't just seen you get your hair cut, I don't think I'd know it was you."
Draco dropped his jaw. "You didn't say one good thing. I look like a freak, don't I? Don't I?" His voice shook. Harry looked to Dumbledore.
"It will grow out, my boy. In the meantime, as Harry noted, you no longer look very much like yourself. And as I will be here at the castle impersonating you as you appeared before, the authorities will not be looking for anyone with this appearance or your previous appearance. You will get used to it. Stop fussing about your looks. We have other things to discuss."
He conjured some small stools by transfiguring some stones scattered about the cave. "Sit. Let me show you what else you will have on your journey. These things will make it possible for you to avoid Muggles altogether. Harry, I do not recommend that you look up those Muggle-born witches and wizards you know. The less contact you have with anyone, the better. If you need someone in an emergency, you know where they are, but please do not do it unless you absolutely have to."
He took a paper sack out of his pocket and unfolded it, then put his hand inside, nodded, and folded down the top and handed it to Harry; it felt as though it were quite full. Perplexed, Harry opened it and looked inside. He saw several sandwiches, two apples, some hard-cooked eggs and what looked like shortbread. He looked up at Dumbledore, smiling.
"That's wonderful! I remember dad reading us a fairy tale when we were small--was it Hans Christian Anderson?--and in the story was a sack that had a perpetual supply of food in it."
"Yes, well, witches and wizards have been doing that for long trips for quite some time. Mr. Anderson was a wizard, and he probably should not have divulged some of these practices, but as most Muggles do not take it seriously, there has been very little harm done. Three times a day you will get an appropriate meal from this sack, enough to feed both of you. And to drink--" He pulled a thermal carafe from somewhere else inside his robes; "--some tea. With just sugar. Milk is difficult; there is the risk of it curdling."
"Just sugar is fine," Harry said, taking the carafe gratefully. It looked like any Muggle thermal carafe, with two nested plastic cups on top of the screw-on lid. Harry opened it and breathed in the comforting aroma of Earl Grey. His dad was partial to Earl Grey. He replaced the lid, refraining from asking whether the Ministry would frown on a Muggle artifact being enchanted to provide a perpetual supply of sweetened tea. He could ask the same thing about the paper sack as well, but he didn't.
"And finally," Dumbledore said, impossibly removing yet another object from inside his robes, "I brought you one of the tents left over from the General Strike. It sleeps two--in bunks--and it has a table and two chairs. It looks like a little thing when it's set up; it shouldn't be hard to hide in some bushes. I added a Muggle-repelling charm to it. That will help. But, of course, that won't be effective on witches and wizards."
"You mean on Aurors," Harry said, remembering the Longbottoms and the Muggle police titles they were using.
"And Death Eaters," Dumbledore added. Right, Harry thought, his head swimming at the thought of all of the people trying to kill or capture him.
Draco clapped his hands together. "This isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Looks like we're going to be traveling in style. Er--exactly how are we traveling?"
"By train as far as Edinburgh. After that--on foot and on the wing." He winked at Harry. Draco looked perplexed.
"On the wing? You mean--"
Harry shuffled. "Sometimes--not all the time, mind you--I'll fly and you can--"
"No. I am not--straddling you and--and--"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Get over yourself, Draco. I'm not even sure whether I want to risk much of that. But think about it; we'll also have the Invisibility Cloak. Maybe we can manage to get some free bus rides out of that."
Dumbledore shook his head. "Too risky. People can bang into you very, very easily, and then where would you be? And even though a bus looks mostly empty, it only takes a few stops for it to be bursting at the seams. I don't recommend it."
Harry frowned. "What about the Knight Bus?"
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "And how would you get the Knight Bus without arousing suspicion? If you hail it and it comes and finds no one because you are under the Invisibility Cloak, it will just leave again, without opening the door. If you don't use the cloak, or only one uses the cloak, you still have the problem of your papers."
"You haven't had to worry about it because you're in school and still underage. But everyone who rides the Knight Bus must present their wizarding identification papers, which cannot be forged or magically duplicated. And even if you went to Malfoy Manor and somehow got Draco's papers out from under his father's nose, then Draco would be traveling as himself, and his age is on the paperwork. It would immediately get back to Hogwarts and the Malfoys that Draco is not in school and that the Draco who had been attending classes in his stead was an impostor. That would be me. We don't want that. I'm sorry, but the Knight Bus is out of the question. You must avoid wizards as much as possible."
Harry sighed, thinking of the long journey. He looked down at the map with mostly blue and a few pink dots appearing and disappearing on it. Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were labeled on it. So was Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Middlesbrough, York, Manchester, Northampton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Greenwich, London, Oxford and Cardiff. Dover wasn't labeled, but he had a general idea of where it was. And just south of London....He thought a little wistfully of Little Whinging, Surrey, with the tower of St. Bede's and the little hilly cemetery, and the neat circling streets with their manicured lawns and orderly gardens. Gardens....
"Wait!" he said suddenly. "I just thought of something. Aberforth. Could Aberforth help us?"
Draco frowned. "Who's Aberforth?" But Harry wasn't listening to him; he saw the worst expression he'd ever seen on Dumbledore's face, an expression of extreme sadness.
"Dumbledore's brother," he said softly to Draco, not taking his eyes off the old man. Then, taking a chance, he ventured softly, "What happened to him?"
Dumbledore sighed, and Harry had the feeling that he hadn't been the same since whatever-it-was happened to his brother. Maybe that was why he seemed so different in this world....
"He was killed. Five years ago. Death Eaters. He was trying to protect some Muggle friends of his. They managed to get away. He succeeded. The Death Eaters in question were just fooling around, Muggle-baiting, you know how juvenile they are. They had no idea a wizard was in the group."
Harry nodded and said softly, "He was my friend. Is my friend, in my other life. I worked for him--Draco did too. He went by Dick Abernathy, ran Abernathy Landscaping."
Dumbledore nodded. "He started that years ago. The men he was protecting were his workers. They were in a pub at the end of the day, having a few pints. The Ministry had to seek out all of the people who were there to put Memory Charms on them. Messy business. I had to oversee his assets being liquidated; I divided it all equally among his employees so they'd have something to live on until they found other work. They had a hard time of it; many people in the Muggle world were out of work." He sighed. "And here we are in the wizarding world with a labor shortage...." He shook his head.
Then Harry remembered the letter from his stepfather. "Please sir--when Ginny and Jamie and Simon were attacked by Binns--what happened?" He was half afraid he didn't want to know, but on the other hand....
Dumbledore shook his head again, looking pityingly at Harry. "Your little brother was very rebellious about being confined with his sister and Ginny. When I arrived, Binns had killed the girls and was putting Cruciatus on Simon, but Simon wasn't 'gone' yet. I stunned Binns, and when some minutes had passed and he was slightly calmer, I was able to ask Simon what had occurred. He told me that he had attempted to leave through the passage that Ron Weasley had used previously. When he reached the classroom, Professor Binns was waiting, and he overpowered Simon and brought him back up to the hiding place. When Ginny saw them enter the space the three of them used as a common room, she tried to hex Binns, but he pulled Simon in front of him as a shield. He killed Ginny very quickly after that, as she wasn't willing to risk hitting Simon. Then, when he attempted to put Cruciatus on Jamie, Simon got away from Binns and took the brunt of the curse. Poor boy."
"He's only twelve," Harry breathed, trying not to think of his little brother experiencing the agony he'd undergone in the graveyard, standing on top of the grave of Voldemort's Muggle father. He'd done it to protect his sister, their sister. Harry also felt a pride blossoming inside him; how many twelve-year-olds would take the Cruciatus Curse for anyone? And yet for Jamie, that was exactly what he'd done....
"Then he tried to kill Simon, in a rage, and Jamie threw herself between him and the curse; she died instantly. Binns decided to torture Simon some more, and had his wand aimed at him when I entered. I stunned Binns immediately and asked Simon to tell me what had occurred. When Simon had finished explaining everything, I revived Binns so that I could question him." His voice grew softer and he ran his hand over his face. "That was my mistake. He pulled out his wand again and put Cruciatus on Simon once more. It worked--and it didn't. Simon was clearly in agony, but somehow, the curse also rebounded on Binns, and I could see that he was under the spell as well. It was this final time that--that destroyed Simon's mind." He swallowed and bowed his head; Harry had never seen him like this.
"I used the ultimate force to break the bond between Binns and Simon." His voice broke. "I have only done that in extreme cases, and I felt that the fact that he had killed two young girls and was torturing a twelve-year-old boy was adequate defense for my actions." Yet Harry could not help think that Dumbledore did not look justified; he wanted to think he wouldn't do that, that he wouldn't sink to the level of the Death Eaters, or even Barty Crouch. Harry thought again of his description of Aberforth's death. He'd become numb during these extra fifteen years of terror under Voldemort. This was definitely a different Albus Dumbledore. Harry thought of Ginny trying to protect Jamie and Simon, and Jamie and Simon trying to protect each other. His throat was tight.
"I will make myself invisible again and return to the castle. Remember--wait until dark. And remember something else; the equinox was over a week ago. The days are getting longer now. That means you won't be as cold as you were during the General Strike, but it also means that if you are going to travel by flying sometimes, you will have fewer hours of darkness to do it. The best time is probably after one or two in the morning, when almost everyone is asleep. Avoid flying near cities; in cities, there is always someone awake around the clock. Taxicab drivers, for instance. Police. Better not to risk it."
The boys nodded and Dumbledore looked at Harry and Draco fondly. "Don't take this the wrong way, boys, but I never thought I would be helping two Slytherins. I always tried to be impartial when I was headmaster---"
"You were very good to my dad," Harry said quickly. "My stepfather, I mean. When other students gave him trouble--"
Dumbledore smiled and nodded. "Ah, yes. I remember. Well, it has been many years since he has had to withstand that, thank goodness, although I do still hear rumblings now and again about students wondering whether he is a vampire....At any rate, I have complete confidence in you. Just don't do anything unnecessarily risky and you should be fine."
Right, Harry thought. Don't be alive. Unnecessarily risky. But he smiled feebly at the old wizard as he disappeared in a silvery-gold shimmer.
They were on their own.
Even though they were under cover of night, they walked to the forest beneath the Invisibility Cloak. Before they had left the cave, Harry transfigured Draco's robes into a long dark coat so he could pass in the Muggle world. Dumbledore had used magic in the cave; Harry reckoned one last spell wouldn't be of particular concern.
Once in the forest, Harry changed into his Animagus form and Draco kept the cloak on, carrying the diary, tent, food sack and carafe of tea. He walked by Harry's side as his large padded paws came down on the mulchy dead leaves and old bracken that littered the forest floor. Once or twice, Harry saw eyes glow in the darkness, probably something that smelled Draco, all tender and clawless and human, but Harry would turn and send a low growl at whatever the thing was, and it soon backed off and they walked on in peace.
It was almost morning when they reached the Gartly side of the forest; the sun was just starting to make the cloudy sky a little paler in the east. Harry transfigured again and the two of them emerged from the trees, then sat on the cold, dew-wet grass to eat some breakfast, passing the tea back and forth in a friendly fashion. Harry looked up at the blank, overcast sky and then down at the tiny village of Gartly as he chewed, feeling oddly content. There were worse things he could think of besides traveling with his best friend. But then he remembered the diary.
"Draco," he said when they were done eating. "We should start having you write in the diary."
Draco folded up the paper sack again and put it back into his pocket. He was sitting on his coat that used to be wizarding robes, using it for a picnic blanket. "Fine. What do I write?"
"Well, we need to start with a good bit of background. And we have to let him know we know who he is."
"Get out a quill and the diary and write what I say," Harry told him.
Draco readied himself. With the point of the quill poised over the paper, he said, "Just don't talk too fast."
"I'll try. Okay: 31 March, 1997. My name is Draco Malfoy. My best friend is Harry Potter. We are both faithful Death Eaters, followers of Lord Voldemort, who is no more. We know whose diary this was. We are on a quest to restore our Master to us, and we need your help, Tom Riddle."
His tongue between his teeth, Draco painstakingly wrote all this. It took far longer than Harry expected it to. They waited, and soon the words Draco had written disappeared into the page where he'd written it. Other words in a hand Harry recognized from his other life soon appeared on the page as though written by an invisible quill.
Hello, Draco Malfoy. I am gratified to learn that I will have such loyal servants. How did I come to be conquered?
Draco looked up at Harry, uncertain. "What do I write now?"
"Get ready," Harry told him. Taking a deep breath, he continued, "Harry is very ashamed of his connection to the person who is responsible. It was his mother, a very powerful Auror whom Harry has killed in retribution. Unfortunately, that has not brought back our Master. Harry was sent to Azkaban for killing his mother, but he has escaped and come back to Hogwarts, where we were sixth-year students. I am going to help him bring you back."
When Draco was done, he looked up at Harry, his eyes narrowed. "Why are you telling him all this?"
Harry looked at him very earnestly. "I need to, for credibility. A lot of it is true, like my being sent to Azkaban for killing my mother, and then escaping, and her having been an Auror. And it's true that in my other life, she was responsible for his fall. The fewer lies we tell, even to Tom Riddle, the fewer we have to remember. Of course, we're twisting the truth to our purpose, but parts of it are still true."
The words Draco had written faded like the others, and a new message now appeared.
How can I help?Harry looked at the words, then lifted his eyes to Draco's, a lopsided smile across his face.
"He's bought it."
Harry instructed Draco to write:
You fell at Dover. Harry hid your wand when it happened. We have to go back there to get it, so that once we make you strong enough to emerge from this diary, you will have your proper wand to use. We are in Gartly now, trying to get to Huntly to get the train to Aberdeen and then Edinburgh. Will write more later.
Draco closed the book and looked up at Harry. He took a deep breath. "Well, I don't feel a lot weaker or anything. I feel okay. And since he knows we're not at Hogwarts, he probably won't be trying to get me to open the Chamber of Secrets."
"See? That's why I wanted to tell him all that stuff about me and my mum. As far as he knows, we're his loyal servants coming to him for help. Just make sure nothing happens to that book. Give it to me; this jacket has enormous inside pockets. I'll carry it."
Draco nodded it and handed it over with the quill. They wandered through fields along the road from Gartly to Huntly, stopping to eat about half-way through the day, finally reaching Huntly at sundown. They'd walked all day, slowing down as time had passed and fatigue had taken its toll. Harry had wanted to move faster, but he found that Draco was not accustomed to walking, and in addition to walking all day, stopping only occasionally to rest, they'd also walked all night to get through the forest. They had stopped again to eat, but they were both exhausted. It wasn't difficult to find the train station, and find out when the next train was leaving for Aberdeen. Their tickets would take them all the way to Edinburgh, but they had to change trains at Aberdeen. The tickets took most of Harry's money; he had less than twenty pounds left, since he'd also spent some on the food he'd eaten between Fraserburgh and Huntly. Draco looked very concerned about this.
"How much have you got now?"
"Eighteen quid, sixty p."
"Quid? I thought Muggles used 'pounds.'"
"Same thing. Slang."
"Oh." He was silent for a moment. "What's 'p?'"
"Pence. Forty pence more and we'd have nineteen quid. I mean, nineteen pounds."
"Oh. How much is that in Galleons?"
"Less than four. And don't use that word. No wizarding terms. We're in the Muggle world." He made a face. "For that matter, neither one of us should use the 'M' word, either."
It was seven o'clock in the evening, and Harry and Draco collapsed onto a bench on the platform. They had a wait of over an hour before their train would be leaving. Harry fought the sleep he felt creeping over him; they could sleep on the train, he'd told Draco. It wouldn't do to fall asleep sitting on the platform and miss the train. Or to let their guard down and be ambushed by Aurors or Death Eaters.
When it was close to seven-thirty, Harry jerked his head up suddenly; he'd started to doze off again. He looked at Draco beside him; Draco's chin was on his chest and he was snoring loudly. Harry gave him an elbow in the ribs and he too jerked his head up.
"I wasn't asleep!" he exclaimed in a strangled voice. Harry laughed.
"Well, you've never snored that loudly while awake."
Draco groaned and rubbed his hand over his face. "Considering we don't have to sit for exams or do homework, you'd think we'd be able to get more sleep."
"We will, when we're safely away from here. We've done a lot of walking in the last twenty-four hours. We'll get a chance to rest."
Draco nodded, although he looked unconvinced. Then Harry saw them; they strode onto the platform, purposefully walking up to people, pulling out their cards and talking earnestly, then taking out a photograph and waiting while each person looking at it considered whether they'd seen the young man depicted.
Harry turned from them and whispered frantically to Draco, "Where's the timetable?" Draco removed it from his pocket and handed it to him. Harry checked; the train to Inverness was due in ten minutes. Good. If he didn't get hit by a curse or hex, this could work, and Aurors probably wouldn't do that on a crowded train, even if they could do memory charms afterward....
"What?" Draco said to him. "You've got that look on your face, like you're planning something. I've learned to hate that look. It means I'm going to have to do something I don't want to do."
Harry smiled at him. "No it doesn't. This one will be all me. Give me the cloak." Draco withdrew it from his pocket and handed it to Harry. "Now, give me your coat and you put on my jacket. Very slowly; don't call attention." They made the switch as discreetly as possible. The Longbottoms were about thirty feet away from them; twenty or more passengers were between them and the Aurors.
"Why are you doing this, Har--"
"Sssh! Are you crazy? You can't call me that," he whispered fiercely. Draco looked taken aback. Harry calmed down. "I'm Dudley Dursley. And you're--Piers Polkiss. Got that?"
"That's your alias. Anyway, don't you see who's over there?" Harry leaned to the side so Draco could see around him. Draco's eyes widened when he saw who it was.
"Damn! What are you going to do?"
Harry rose and nonchalantly walked to the stairs that led to the other side of the platform, for trains going to Elgin and Inverness. He found the W.C. on the northbound side and ducked in there. There were two stalls, each requiring money for their use. It didn't matter; he leaned against the door and quickly transfigured Draco's coat back into wizarding robes and he concentrated very hard on his hair and beard, shrinking them again, so that he would look as he did in the photo the Longbottoms were showing people. When he heard the train for Inverness pulling into the station, he opened the door. He was visible for a few seconds before the train obscured him from their sight, and during this time he tried to get the attention of the Longbottoms on the other side of the tracks.
"Hello there! Looking for me?" he cried cockily, waving to them and grinning. He saw their shocked faces for only a moment before the train got in the way, and when it came to a full stop, he waited for the doors to open and pushed past the people waiting at the head of the queue, dashing down the center aisle of the empty modern train car, then stopping in the middle, leaning over to look out the windows, waiting, waiting....
There they were, panting slightly, having run from the other platform. He waved at them again, and then he saw Frank Longbottom push past the other people in the queue as Harry had done. The waiting passengers were far less tolerant of this now; they'd already had to put up with one cheeky young man, but the fact that this one was screaming about being 'D.C.I. Longbottom' did not matter to them; he was still being cheeky. Harry ducked down and put on the Invisibility Cloak, then moved across the aisle, unseen. Frank Longbottom came running down the aisle, and Harry saw that he had something in his hand; when he'd boarded the train, he'd drawn his wand. He was only three feet away from Harry; who could have reached out and grabbed the Auror's foot.
Longbottom looked carelessly over every seat on the car, then went to the window and opened it slightly. "He's not here!" he called to his wife.
"He must be!" she called back. "I've been watching, and he didn't get off! Search the rest of the train--don't forget the W.C.!"
"You keep watch in case he gets leaves!"
He closed the window again; the aisle was filling now with people boarding the train. A young mother with a small girl suddenly turned and tried to sit in the seats where Harry was. He pushed past them, saying "Sorry," quietly, and he had a split second to register the look of shock on the mother's face as she felt the invisible person brush past her and apologize. Longbottom wasn't looking in his direction, and Harry quickly moved down the aisle away from him, looking for another exit. Glancing behind him, he saw that Frank Longbottom had put his wand away when Muggles started boarding, but he was still searching the car with a perplexed look on his face. Harry opened the door at the end of the car, and saw Longbottom swing his head around, then away, when he saw the conductor standing there. Harry froze; the conductor filled the doorway. He was a large bearded man with ginger-colored hair, surveying his kingdom with a propriety that meant you had your ticket ready when he damn well wanted it and not a second later.
Harry was starting to despair of being able to leave the train, but then the conductor stepped into a small compartment to the side, oblivious to the fact that an invisible fugitive wizard was trying to get around him, and when the compartment door labeled Conductor had closed, Harry stepped between the cars and in a trice he was back on the platform. Gemma Longbottom turned and seemed to look right at him, but when he too turned, he saw that she was looking at a bespectacled young woman with short dark hair who did look slightly similar to Harry (she was even wearing a long dark coat), if you didn't look closely enough to discern her lighter frame and shorter build; it was a superficial resemblance. He saw that 'D.I Longbottom' had realized her mistake immediately and she continued scanning the other entrances to the train. At length, her husband came to the doorway through which he'd entered the car and called to her, "Get on! We may need the whole trip to find him! I'll alert the conductors that we're on official business, but we'll buy tickets on board if we need to."
She nodded and followed him onto the train. Not until the doors were all thoroughly closed and the train was moving out of the station did Harry heave a sigh of relief and return to the W.C. He took off the cloak and grew out his hair and beard again and transfigured the robes back into a long coat. Anyone monitoring the Huntly train station for magical activity would soon learn that Harry had been seen there, and that the Longbottoms were there too, and had gotten on the same train as Harry, so that would explain the magical signature.
Shoving the cloak into his pocket, he walked back to the other platform where Draco was waiting, looking anxious. He was startled when Harry sat down next to him again, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"What the hell--? What do you think you're doing?"
"Getting them off our trail, that's what."
"That's why you changed back to the way you usually look?"
"I couldn't have them seeing me looking like this, could I? They think they're looking for someone who matches that photograph. They must have done something to it so it wouldn't move. Anyway, they're going to be stuck on that train for a while, since they can't Apparate on or off of a moving vehicle."
Draco whistled appreciatively and looked at the disappearing train, far down the track now. "Where'd you send them?"
"Inverness. Not exactly close to Aberdeen or Edinburgh." He was having a very hard time not grinning, and now Draco found himself doing the same.
"How exactly did they get to be Aurors?"
Harry shrugged. "Beats me...."
When their train pulled in, they calmly boarded, found seats, and settled back for a comfortable, pursuit-free trip to Aberdeen....
The trip to Aberdeen took a little less than an hour, but they had just missed a connecting train to Edinburgh and the next one wasn't for almost another hour. They dipped into the food sack again, each withdrawing some shortbread to eat with the sweet tea, which was starting to grate on Harry.
When they were done their tea, they wrote in the diary some more, telling Riddle that they were in Aberdeen. He wanted to know some more about what a great Dark Lord he'd become.
"Just tell him whatever you can remember about things he's done....Oh, and mention the Squibs disappearing. He'll like that." Draco nodded, his tongue between his teeth while he wrote. Harry watched over his shoulder, to make sure Draco wasn't going to lose his head already and write something about their real intent, to change the timelines. Riddle was suitably impressed with himself, as Harry knew he'd be, and they closed the diary before boarding the train to Edinburgh. It would be after midnight by the time the reached the city, and the strain of the previous twenty-four hours was finally catching up to Harry. He leaned his head on the window while next to him, Draco's head had sunk onto his chest and he was already snoring again. Harry felt the train swaying as they sped into the night....
Harry had never been unsupervised in a large city after midnight. Edinburgh seemed even more confusing than London, if that was possible. The streets were very hilly and winding, and many of them were cobbled toward the center, which was starting to hurt Harry's feet. They had merely asked which way was south before leaving the station, and had begun to walk doggedly through the night. Harry was not convinced, after a time, that they were still traveling south, but continuing to move seemed safer than stopping, let alone daring to talk to someone else. At length, he looked around and realized that something was familiar. I've been here before.
"That's City Chambers," he said slowly, pointing. He turned. "And St. Giles Cathedral."
Draco leaned against a wall, drooping wearily. "So? Can we sleep in either of them?"
"And that's Mercat Cross," Harry continued dreamily, as though Draco hadn't spoken. Then he made a face. "I remember being here. When I was nine. Mum and Dad brought us on holiday, and we were here....we went on a tour of some kind, some underground rooms near South Bridge...."
He reached into the recesses of his mind, trying to retrace his steps, trying to remember small details from a time when they'd been a family, when his mother wasn't trying to make him and the world doubt him. Draco followed him as he continued to walk forward, a trance-like expression on his face.
"Harry, are you sure--"
When they eventually reached it, Harry ran his hands over the wall. "It's actually run by wizards, but they let Muggles come to see it too. They pay, of course, but this is the wizarding entrance. Let me see...." He continued to run his hands over the wall, trying to remember, remember....then he touched a small stone which he was able to depress like a button. The wall slid open and they were looking at a set of stone stairs leading downward. They lit their wands, trusting that Edinburgh was a large enough city for the Ministry to be unconcerned about a couple of wizards needing lighting.
"Come on," Harry said to Draco, who followed him cautiously. "They do tours in the morning, so we have to be out of here by the time they start, but we should be able to sleep here tonight without being disturbed."
The wall slid closed behind Draco and they descended the stairs. "These rooms were only discovered a few years before we came on holiday. They were forgotten for a couple of centuries."
Draco frowned, looked at the stalactites that clearly indicated the infiltration of excessive moisture. "What were they for?"
"All kinds of stuff. Workshops, cellars, even housing for businesses on South Bridge, which is above us now. I think they were abandoned because of the damp." They passed through room after room, high vaulted ceilings making them feel very small, fireplaces cold and dark. More stalactites pointed down at them; Harry remembered being convinced when he was nine that they were going to come crashing down on his head any moment. He pointed at them. "That's from the damp." Draco nodded. They saw the many artifacts left on display for visitors, the crucibles for smelting metal, animal bones from two-hundred-year-old suppers, hand-blown wine bottles, leather shoes. They settled at last in a dark corner of a vaulted chamber. Harry looked up, frowning, at a strange stone. He increased the illumination level of his wand and stared at it. It was long and sturdy, as though it had been a door lintel in some previous life and was being reused here. Words were carved into it, the letters actually raised rather than recessed. Draco saw where he was looking and read the legend.
"The Lord is my refuge and helper." There was a small heraldic device, and the initials A.C. "Wonder what that's all about?"
Harry shrugged. "No one pointed it out to us when we were on holiday."
"Eh. Maybe they haven't even noticed it yet. The ones doing the tours."
Harry nodded and helped Draco set up the tent. It looked like a toy, no more than three feet high, but when they had crawled inside, it was spacious, and Harry had to struggle just a bit to climb up into his bunk, accidentally treading on Draco's hand in the process.
"Sorry!" Harry called down to him. They'd both put out their wands and now the dark engulfed them. They could hear the gentle drip drip of the water that continued to maintain the stalactites they'd seen, but the hustle and bustle of the city was far away. For now, Harry was content to let the old stone rooms under the South Bridge be his refuge, and he would be his own helper.
They were up early, and left the stone rooms and the rest of Edinburgh behind them as soon as they could. Walking quickly, Harry carrying the tent and Invisibility Cloak, Draco carrying the food and drink, they soon learned to avoid the roads and well-tended gardens, crossing fields instead, as a number of well-intentioned people tried to stop to offer them rides. After this happened for the fourth time, Draco rebelled.
"Damn it, Harry, you may want to walk to London, but I sure as hell don't!"
Harry stopped, which was actually something of an effort, after all the walking he'd done the day before, he felt as though his legs were on auto-pilot. "Draco, we can't afford to do that. First, anyone picking us up is going to want our story, which would be full of lies, and if they figured that out, they'd immediately suspect us and tell the police to look out for us. Second, anyone can be an Auror or Death Eater; we can't take chances. Third, even if we got a lift from someone who wasn't a wizard and didn't want our life stories, if Death Eaters catch with us while we're with an innocent Muggle, that's someone else's life we're responsible for. No rides," he said firmly. "We'll make it up at night, when I can fly for a while. That's the schedule we worked out: we walk from noon to six o'clock; we rest until midnight, we fly from midnight to six, with hourly stops so I don't give out completely, then we rest again from six to noon. And when we rest, you spend some time writing in the diary."
Draco grimaced, unscrewing the top of the carafe and pouring some tea into one of the plastic cups, handing it to Harry, then pouring some for himself. "Yeah, yeah. I know. It just seems a bloody shame to waste all these offers we're getting. That last girl looked like she quite fancied me...."
Harry rolled his eyes, finishing his tea and handing the cup back to Draco. "We're not on a mission to get you a new girlfriend, Draco, in case you haven't forgotten."
Draco threw the rest of his tea onto a thorny bush and slung the carafe on his back again after he'd replaced the cup. "I know. More's the pity..."
Harry almost mentioned Jamie for a moment, but then thought better of it. Draco was coping in his own way. He turned and walked forward again and was already several yards ahead of Draco when he turned and motioned to him. "Come on! We haven't all the time in the world!"
Draco grumbled but resumed walking.
"What did you say?" Harry said, his eyebrows raised. "Did I hear the word 'wanker?'"
"I was calling you rude names."
"I got that. Do you feel better?"
"No. Sitting in a nice Muggle car speeding down the road would make me feel better."
Harry looked sympathetically at his friend. "We're just starting out. We'll get into a rhythm. It'll be fine, you'll see. We've got food, drink and our own portable lodging. We don't need anyone. Just don't think about cars and you'll be fine."
They stopped occasionally to write in the diary, so they could keep Tom Riddle apprised of their progress toward Dover. Harry reckoned every little bit of information they could give that was factual would make him trust them even more. So when they passed through Duddingston and then Niddrie about half an hour later, they entered those names, followed by Old Craighall and Eskbank (avoiding the larger town of Dalkeith). They'd already gone from Edinburgh through part of East Lothian and were now in Midlothian. After they crossed the South Esk, they didn't come to another town until Carrington. They were trying to avoid more populous areas still, and it had taken them five hours to go around fifteen miles. They pushed on to Temple, which took another half hour, and then they spent another half hour beyond that trudging along the South Esk toward Rosebery.
At six o'clock precisely (Harry noticed that Draco had been checking his watch every minute or so for the previous hour) Draco promptly sat down on the ground and announced, "There! We did it! Walked for six hours, not counting stops. I'll log it in the diary. Where do you reckon we are?"
Harry had wanted to get to Rosebery, but he knew that Draco wasn't going to budge. "About half-way between Temple and Rosebery."
Draco nodded and took out the diary, saying, "Hello again, Tom-me-lad," and opening it to a blank page, preparing to write. Harry frowned. He couldn't pinpoint what exactly he felt was worrisome about Draco's attitude toward the diary. The story they'd fed Riddle seemed to be believed. He did worry about whether Draco was starting to think of him as a friend (he'd been trading jokes back and forth with the young Riddle the last couple of times he'd written down the names of the places they'd passed), and whether he would feel obligated at some point to tell him the truth. Harry had seen the way Riddle had controlled Ginny, and although there was a difference between an eleven-year-old girl and an almost-seventeen-year-old Draco Malfoy, still--he worried just a bit about how much Riddle might soon be able to control Draco.
They set up the tent in a small copse of trees. It was a relief to be indoors after the day of walking. Harry's legs and feet were very, very sore now. He took off his socks and shoes with enormous relief, wiggling his toes and sighing. After having sandwiches and tea, they each climbed into a bunk, Harry choosing the upper one again.
Harry stared at the tent above him for some time, wondering whether they could really do this, wondering whether Riddle would really believe everything Draco wrote....but soon, he thought nothing at all, and when he opened his eyes again, it was very dark. He thought about lighting his wand, but decided it was too risky; this wasn't as populous an area as Edinburgh. He wished Dumbledore had given them an electric torch, or at least a kerosene camping lantern. He climbed down to the floor; somehow, he had the feeling it was around midnight. He called to Draco in the dark, and finally heard some grumbling.
"Shut yer gob, Harry. M'tryin' t'sleep..."
"Time to get up. You're the one who has it easy at night. You just have to hold on while I do all the work."
"Yeah, yeah, as if holding on isn't work...."
Harry had already transfigured into a griffin; he found it easier to see in the dark with his griffin's eyes. He saw Draco sit up now and rub the sleep from his eyes, then, apparently, his eyes adjusted to the dimness, and he screamed. Harry immediately became human again.
"Draco! What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded in a fierce whisper.
"What do I think I'm doing? What do you think you're about, sitting there looking like a lion when I'm still half asleep? Are you trying to scare me to death? Because it very nearly worked."
Harry shrugged. "You'll get used to it. Come on. Let's pack up." Soon the tent, food sack and carafe were slung across Draco's back and Harry prepared to transfigure again. "What time is it?"
Draco checked his watch. "Twelve-twenty."
"All right; we've already lost twenty minutes. I figured out which way was south when we first camped, so I'm going to head due south, changing direction if it looks like we're headed for an area that's too populous. Let me know when it's one o'clock."
Harry transfigured and walked to the edge of the trees, then spread his wings. They were lucky this night; they would be flying across the Moorfoot Hills, so they didn't have to worry about well-lit cities. Harry took a break at one o'clock, very relieved to set down. As soon as he transformed back into a human, he pushed Draco off him.
"Geroff....How heavy are you?"
"About twelve stone and ten."
"Ergh," was Harry's only response. He hadn't counted on how hard it would be to carry his best friend. Hermione was like a feather, he remembered. She probably didn't even weigh eight stone. Although she did panic and grasp his mane rather too hard when they were trying to escape from the Charms classroom....
"Well," he said floundering, "lose some weight. In the next five minutes, preferably." He grunted, sitting up and putting out his hand. "And pass the tea."
Draco passed it to him, grumbling rude names again, which Harry ignored as he took the carafe. Then he started speaking a little louder, and Harry could hear what he was saying now. "It's always Do this, do that... Can't even bother with please and thank you...."
Harry took a swig of tea. "We're on a mission," he said gruffly. "Can't be bothered with the niceties. What's up your arse all of a sudden?"
"Nothing," Draco mumbled, getting up to relieve himself in some bushes. Harry wondered again whether it would soon be two-against-one, Draco and Riddle against him. Then he shook himself; that was ridiculous. We'll be all right. We just need to be careful not to let Riddle get in his head....
After their rest, they took off again, and after another rest and flight, they'd reached a place called Innerleithen. They walked on a little further and reached the River Tweed and a forest, where they set up the tent. Harry had decided that three hours of flight was all he could take this first night. Perhaps he could do more when he was more accustomed to it.
"I thought we were going to do six?" Draco grumbled.
"Yeah, you try carrying you for six hours at a time, go ahead...."
Draco didn't answer. Harry thought repeatedly of saying something to apologize, to make up with him, but the I'm sorry and Forgive me wouldn't come out of his mouth, somehow. They retired again without any further discussion. Harry listened to Draco's snoring in the blackness, wondering and worrying. He's my best friend, Riddle. Not yours, he thought fiercely. But how he would continue to guarantee this, he had no idea.
After flying for only three hours the next night as well, Harry came to the conclusion that he could only fly every other night. This was fine with Draco, as it meant he could sleep longer. Harry hadn't counted on how strenuous the trip would be, and how long it would take. They hadn't seen any pursuers since the Longbottoms were duped into taking the train to Inverness.
After another week, Harry started to notice something strange about Draco. He'd actually starting to notice it when they were in the Scottish Borders, but it didn't start to get really worrisome until they were in Cumbria. On the night of the sixth, they'd flown across Yorkshire Dales National Park, in the heart of Langstrothdale Chase, and when they'd set down, it almost immediately started raining. Draco had kept up a steady stream of expletives while he helped Harry set up the tent, and then went to sleep without saying good night. Harry lay awake for a long time after, wondering whether he should insist that Draco stop writing in the diary; he just didn't seem like himself. Harry was getting very, very worried. He made sure he hung over Draco's shoulder and told him everything to write in the diary, but once when he'd come back from relieving himself, he'd seen Draco quickly putting the diary back into the pocket of the tweed jacket, which Harry had removed while eating lunch; it had been an unseasonably warm day, and the jacket was very heavy. Harry opened his mouth to ask whether Draco had written anything without supervision, but he stopped himself. I have to trust him, he told himself. If he thinks I don't trust him, this will never work.
Now they'd been walking in the rain for three days. When Draco stopped to write in the diary, he had to find shelter first so the ink wouldn't run. Harry was worried about Draco, and made him stop more often than before. Harry was so worried about his friend, he didn't notice that he had a raging fever until he fell over in a dead faint in Rusholme, Greater Manchester. When he awoke, he was lying on the bottom bunk in the tent, which Draco had evidently set up himself. Draco had been seated at the small table, writing in the diary. Harry groaned and lifted his hand toward him.
"Tea," he managed to gasp between cracked lips. Draco leapt up, but Harry noticed he wasn't as spry as he had been. He fetched the carafe and helped Harry tip some tea from one of the plastic cups into his mouth. Harry's head was swimming and he felt like he was burning up.
"Don't," he croaked, then licked his arid lips and tried again. "Don't write in the diary without me," he finally managed to say. Draco nodded; at least Harry thought he did. Everything before his eyes was jumping about a bit. Draco could have nodded....
"Don't worry," his best friend told him. Harry drifted off again; his memories of the following days were cloudy at best, interspersed with vague memories of running to the door of the tent to spew up the tea he'd drunk, which was all he was even trying to put in his body. Then one morning when he awoke, he heard birds chirping and realized that he didn't feel achy and clammy any more. The fever had broken. He looked over at the table; Draco had fallen asleep sitting there, his head pillowed on his arms, one hand on the closed diary. At least, Harry thought he was asleep. He looked around; there was no sign of Riddle having emerged from the diary. It seemed terribly soon for that, though. How long had he been ill? Harry wondered. He'd lost all track of time.
Then he noticed that Draco was a rather sickly color, and he put his hand on the clammy forehead; Draco was burning up. It was his turn to be sick.
"Draco!" he cried, suddenly feeling alert and galvanized. "C'mon," he grunted, dragging his friend over to the lower bunk where he'd been lying during his own illness. Draco flopped onto the mattress with a limpness that Harry found alarming. How much had he been writing in the diary? How much of his strength had he given to Riddle? They still needed to get to Dover, then to Wales. It wouldn't do to have Riddle get too strong too soon.
Harry tore a bit off the blanket on the top bunk and left the tent, squinting in the bright early-morning sunshine. Draco had erected the tent in a small stand of trees in a park. Harry found a fountain and moistened the blanket fragment, taking it back to the tent. He was amazed that no one had bothered them all the time they'd been camped out here, but then he remembered the Muggle-repelling charm Dumbledore said he'd put on the tent; any Muggles who thought of approaching would, before they got too close, suddenly realize they had to send a birthday card to their mum or go buy some flowers for a friend in hospital, and afterward, they'd forget all about the tent....
He sat by Draco's side, putting the damp cloth on his forehead while the blond boy thrashed and mumbled nonsense. Harry heard Jamie's name more than once, and he heard Draco mumble, "That's why you won't have a baby, Jamie....I won't ever be a dad...."
Had Draco and Jamie slept together? he wondered, trying to stifle the anger he felt welling up in him. When was it? When I was in Azkaban? That's just great....
He tried to forget this. He would ask Draco about it when he was well; this wasn't the time. Harry kept up his vigil for a week, giving Draco sips of tea, watching him dash to the tent door to spew it up, just as he'd done, putting cool cloths on his forehead, and taking a turn writing in the diary, very cautiously. Draco was not recovering as readily as he had, he reckoned, because he'd been weakened by the diary. Harry did not want to risk not being able to continue because Riddle had taken too much of his strength. Perhaps we should divide it in future, he thought. So neither one of us is disastrously weakened or completely controlled by Riddle....
He wrote in the diary:
I'm very worried about Draco. He's been sick more than twice as long as I was. I suppose we're both used to just going to the hospital wing at school and getting Pepper-Up Potion or whatever we need to get well. I don't dare try to find any wizards, though. I'm at my wit's end.
Harry watched the words seep into the paper. There was always a delay, but this time it seemed longer. Finally, Riddle's words appeared.
Get help. Even if it is from Muggles. I can't have the two of you dying before you manage to reach Dover, can I? You must do what is necessary.
Harry was surprised. But then he remembered that Tom Riddle was raised in a Muggle orphanage; he knew that there were times when Muggles had their uses. It was just pragmatism, pure and simple.
Actually, Harry wrote, I know someone who lives around here. Maybe I can track her down and get her help. She's met Draco, too. I just have to get past the little problem that she's probably heard that I've killed my mother and escaped from prison.Riddle wrote back:
I think you will be able to get her to trust you. You are very resourceful.
Harry frowned. It was so strange to be getting encouragement from Tom Riddle; but then, Riddle thought they were all on the same side. Harry wrote that he would try and closed the diary. He turned to look at Draco, lying on the bunk with beads of sweat on his face, his eyes glazed over. He had to do something; he couldn't let Draco continue to stew. Having a fever this long was dangerous. He didn't tell Riddle that he thought it was his fault, that he'd drawn too much strength from Draco. Instead, he hid the diary inside the pillowcase for the top bunk, left the carafe of tea near Draco's side, and set off to find Ruth Pelta.
Harry stared up at the entrance to the synagogue. It was Moorish in design, with elaborate tile mosaics decorating the front facade. Harry heard music inside, and he cautiously opened the doors. It was twilight, and the lights were lit inside the anteroom in which he found himself now, glowing with golden light. A middle-aged man with reddish-brown hair and a yarmulke handed him a photocopied paper and said something that included the word, Shabbat, whatever that meant. Harry mumbled back at him and took the paper, but the man stopped him. "You'll need this, too," he said, handing him a small ivory-colored silken slip of fabric. It was a yarmulke.
"Oh, right," Harry said quickly. "I--I left mine at home." He smiled uncertainly at the man, who looked at him through narrow, suspicious eyes now. Harry perched the yarmulke awkwardly on top of his hair and slipped into the sanctuary, sitting in the back row. Looking at the paper in his hand, he saw that it had a date on it: Friday, 18 April, 1997. Friday night. Oh, Harry realized. They're having a Friday night service. He looked at the paper again. There were a variety of things going on, but then he noticed that one of them was called Kaddish and next to it was the name of the person he was seeking, Ruth Pelta. The name Ravel was also nearby.
Harry tried to mumble along with the people around him, but even when he tried to dutifully read the transliterated words from the paper he'd been given, he couldn't speak fast enough; looking around, he realized that most people weren't actually consulting the guide to the service, but seemed to know the words to various responses by heart. Finally, a man with salt-and-pepper hair and a kind face went to the lectern where a woman had stood to read, and after he put on some half-moon spectacles for reading that reminded Harry of Dumbledore, he started giving his sermon. Harry looked at the paper in his hand again; the name of the rabbi who was sermonizing was also Pelta, Jonathan Pelta. Probably Ruth's father, he thought.
"Next week, we will celebrate our Seders," the rabbi intoned. "We will set the extra place at our table. We will leave the door open. But do we ever really expect the unexpected visitor? Would we really welcome him if he were to come?"
Harry's mind wasn't on what the rabbi was saying, however; Harry moved his eyes around the space, searching for Ruth. He finally found her, near the front, looking nervous.
At last, when the sermon was done, Ruth stood near the front of the sanctuary. She took a deep breath, and then began to sing.
Harry had never known anyone could sing like that. He had loved his mother's singing, and his sister's, but this--
He sat mesmerized while her voice wove a spell around him, the notes tumbling over each other, the meaning of the unfamiliar words unimportant. When she was done, he opened his eyes again. The sound of her voice echoed in the still space; Harry had never seen people so completely hypnotized by singing, but he wasn't really surprised; she'd been amazing.
Harry barely paid any attention to the rest of the service (he felt more than a little disoriented), and afterward, he felt himself being propelled by the crowd into a hall at the far end of the sanctuary. Loaves of shiny, braided bread studded with raisins were raised and broken, and wine was poured. A blessing was said and "Omayn" was intoned in unison when it was done. What had seemed at first to be a continuation of the service turned into a swirl of socializing, as members of the congregation greeted each other with hugs and exclamations and grins, again saying something that sounded now like, "Shabbat shalom!" which he realized was what the man greeting him at the door had said. He found that someone thrust a small plastic plate with bread on it into one of his hands, and a paper cup of wine into the other. He tasted the bread; it was wonderfully springy and fresh, and the golden raisins in it were deliciously sweet. He drank some of the wine, which tasted odd to him, but it wasn't bad. It was so strange to eat and drink anything that didn't come out of the paper sack or the carafe of tea. He put his plate and cup down on a table and scanned the room for Ruth, finding her standing by herself in a corner, looking around wistfully. He made his way over to her and smiled.
"Your singing was amazing. What was that?"
Instead of being grateful for his compliment, she looked at him as though he were the stupidest person on the planet. "What was it? Are you daft? It was Ravel's setting for the Kaddish." She pointed at the folded paper in his hand. "Can't you read?"
"Oh, um, sorry. And, um--what is the Kaddish, exactly?"
Now he really felt like a prat. Her expression was even worse. "You're serious? What's the Kaddish?" Her voice had gone up.
"Ssshh!" Harry said, not wishing to draw attention to them. "I'm sorry. I'm--I'm not actually Jewish."
Now she smirked and took another sip of wine. "No! You don't say. I thought you were the president of Israel." The sarcasm in her voice was not lost on him.
"I don't suppose," he said, trying to change the subject, "that you recall hearing recently about someone named Harry Potter?"
Her eyes opened wide. "Actually, I have! A few weeks ago he broke out of prison. He killed his mother! I couldn't believe it. I've met him too. At a concert a few months ago down in London...Long story. But it's so odd to hear something like that about someone you've met...."
Harry leaned in and said softly, "He didn't do it."
Ruth jerked her head up. He realized suddenly that she didn't have brown eyes, as he'd thought, but hazel eyes that seemed to change randomly moment to moment, now green with brown around the outside and gold flecks, now brown with green flecks and a golden sheen behind them....
And now she was the one looking at him carefully. "I--I feel like we've met..."
He nodded. Then, swallowing, knowing he was taking a chance, he whispered to her, "It's me. Harry. I need your help."
Her eyes widened as she looked at him; he felt a little uncomfortable having her look into his eyes so intently, but he didn't flinch or look away while she did this. "You're--"
"--on the run from the dark wizards who framed me," he said in a furtive whisper, having already decided that this was the best explanation to give her. "They've infiltrated the Ministry of Magic, which has a relationship of sorts with your Prime Minister, so when I escaped, they also told the Muggle authorities to look for me. I'm in disguise."
She smirked again. "I'll say. All we need to do is put some little curls in front of your ears and give you a prayer shawl and people around here will think you got lost while looking for the Orthodox temple....you look a little out of place in a Reform congregation. Plus--"
"Well, I hate to say it, but--" She wrinkled her nose. "You smell a bit ripe," she whispered.
"Oh. Sorry. I've been--traveling. I should have thought of that. And the hair and beard--I just did it to look as little like myself as possible. Listen, I'm sorry I got your hopes up about Hogwarts and now it isn't going to happen...."
She shrugged. "That's okay. It's all rather like I dreamed it now. I'll just go on as I have done, study for my GCSEs, and go to college next year like everyone else, eventually take my A-Levels...."
"Still, I am sorry. And I'm not asking for help for me, actually; I'm not traveling alone. My friend is very ill. He's had a fever for about a week. I was sick before him, but not as bad. I'm really worried...."
She furrowed her brow. "Where is he?"
"In a tent in a park. In Rusholme."
"Where is it?"
"I'm not sure; I can find my way back, but--"
"Is it on Dickenson?" He nodded. "Must be Birchfields Park. I'm surprised you've been allowed to camp out there for a week."
He shrugged and said softly, "There are Muggle-repelling charms on the tent. Even if it's noticed, people wind up being convinced that they have more important things to do and they go off and leave it alone...."
She raised her eyebrows. "That's very convenient, isn't it?"
Harry sighed. "You have no idea."
Suddenly, Ruth started worming her way toward the door of the hall; she looked over her shoulder at Harry. "Well, come on then!"
Harry started saying, "Excuse me," to the people he was bumping into on his way out, wondering what Ruth had in mind. He followed her out to the synagogue's car park and she went to the driver's side of what looked like a ten-year-old Ford, unlocking the driver's side in a businesslike fashion and climbing in. Harry saw her reach over with her left hand and unlock the passenger door. He opened it and climbed in, somewhat uncertainly.
"Um," he said once he'd closed the door. "Do you know what you're doing?" She turned and gave him that what-planet-are-you-from look again.
"I think I do. It's only my car."
"Oh," he answered meekly, realizing that most Muggles who were around her age would start driving as soon as it was possible, as opposed to wizards, who mostly did not unless they lived in areas where there were few wizards and they wanted to blend in with the Muggles.
"How old are you?"
She looked at him with one eyebrow raised. "Sixteen. How old are you?"
"Sixteen. When's your birthday?"
"March fourth. When's yours?"
"Well," she said, as though that settled some disagreement. "That's it then. We should go."
Ruth started the car and Harry admired the efficient way she backed it out of the spot in which it was parked. "I'll tell Bubbe I'm going to sit with a sick friend," she said, and Harry waited in the car while she drove to her house, which was only a few blocks from the synagogue. He leaned back and closed his eyes while he waited, and she returned quickly, getting back in the car and resuming driving without comment. At last, she turned left onto the main road he'd taken up from Rusholme. After a few more turns, he noticed that they were on Dickenson, and then he recognized the park where he and Draco had been staying. Ruth parked the car and followed Harry to the trees where the tent was partially hidden. She puzzled over its small size, then gasped when she stood up beside Harry, looking around the interior with the most amazed expression. Then she saw Draco and went to the bunk, a worried look taking over her face. She put her hand on his brow, then looked in his eyes and listened to his breathing.
"Actually," she said, sitting back on her haunches, "he seems to be coming out of the worst of it. But he'll still have a long road to recovery. I know just the thing for him right now."
"What?" Harry wanted to know.
"Chicken soup? Isn't that a bit of a cliché?"
"On the contrary; it's now been shown quite scientifically to be as beneficial as all Jewish mothers always knew it was." She grinned at him, and he grinned back. He liked her and felt like they could be friends. Then he realized of whom she reminded him: Hermione. He suddenly missed Hermione a great deal. The Hermione who was his friend, to whom he could tell anything. He almost thought that he could tell her about Ginny....Well, maybe not that kind of everything....
Ruth pushed her shining dark hair behind one ear and looked down gently at Draco. "I think I met him. At the concert. What's his name again?"
She sighed and brushed her hand lightly over the cropped hair; over the course of about two weeks it was only about a quarter-inch longer than when Dumbledore had chopped it off. "What did he do to his hair? He had nice hair...." she said musingly. Harry bristled for a moment at Draco receiving compliments from her when he was in a fevered stupor, whereas she'd been laughing at him and as much as told him he looked like a Hasidic stereotype.
"It's a disguise," he said shortly. She looked up at the tone in his voice.
"You had nice hair, too," she said, as though she could read minds. "You've just got a lot more of it now," she added, smirking. Then he had to smile too, and it was strange; in that moment he realized who it was that she really reminded him of: Jamie. He ached inside for a moment, remembering his sister, and then remembering how Ginny had died almost at the same time, remembered holding her that last time....
Ruth looked at him now with concern. "Are you all right?" He jerked his head up. The trouble was, she was neither Jamie nor Hermione; she wasn't anyone he dared put his head on and cry out all of the grief and pain he'd been keeping bottled up inside, especially the most bottled-up pain and grief he carried....
"Can--can you get me some chicken soup to give him?" he asked her instead, trying to get back to the matter at hand.
"Of course. We always have some at home in the fridge. My Bubbe makes the best chicken sou--"
"Er, bubby?" He remembered that she said that before. "That sounds like a house-elf."
"What's a house-elf? Bubbe is my grandmother. Well, technically, my great-grandmother. She's my mother's grandmother. I don't actually have grandparents; my mother's parents died in Dachau while Bubbe smuggled my mum out of Poland, a tiny baby. And my dad's parents were killed by Mussolini."
"Oh, erm, sorry?" he said uncertainly. She stood brusquely, smoothing down her skirt.
"I wasn't fishing for sympathy. These are just facts of life for me. I'll go home and get some of that soup. You're lucky I'm not Orthodox, or I wouldn't even be driving the car on Shabbas."
"I just feel lucky in general," he grinned at her.
She looked around. "It's so dark in here." The tent was only dimly lit by the moonlight filtered through the tent walls. "Don't you have a torch or anything like that?"
"Unfortunately, no. We can use our wands for torches, but that would call attention to us from the local Ministry of Magic office, so we don't dare."
"Well, I can bring you a torch too. Or some candles if you like. And--"
"Well, you might want to come with me. You can, um--use the bath at my house."
Harry backed away from her, afraid his odor was offending her. "Oh, right."
"And while we're at it--maybe we can launder some things for you. Is he wearing anything under those covers?"
"Just his drawers."
"Then gather up his other clothes so he'll have fresh things to wear when he recovers. Didn't you two stop at any launderettes?"
"No; we just concentrated on forward movement."
"Well, gather up the things we need to wash; he looks like he's resting peacefully for now. A little longer won't make a difference. And tomorrow or the next day, he can come over and use the bath, if he's feeling a little better."
When they reached Ruth's house, she touched her fingers to her lips and then to a small amulet on the door frame before they entered. They managed to avoid her great-grandmother, who had gone to bed; her parents were also in bed. They'd left Ruth a note, asking how her sick friend was, and reminding her to put out the cat. Ruth wrestled a large grey tom out the door and showed Harry where the downstairs bath was. She waited until after he'd filled the tub and he handed his clothes to her while he held a towel around his waist. She took the clothes, looking at him briefly and then disappearing, her face very pink again.
Harry had forgotten the luxury of baths, of sinking down into clean, warm water. The water wasn't clean for very long, however. He was appalled, and grateful for the chance to clean up. He also shortened his hair and beard back to the way they always used to be. He could do without the disguise while he was waiting for his clean clothes. His head felt light and free.
When he emerged from the bath, another towel around his waist, Ruth was in the kitchen, taking the damp clothes out of the clothes washer. She looked startled at his less hirsute appearance, but didn't comment on it. Then it suddenly occurred to Harry to wonder how they were going to get the clothes dry, but evidently Ruth had already thought of that. She turned to the cooker and began inserting them into the oven.
"What are you doing?" he cried, almost dropping the towel.
"Well, we haven't time to hang them on the line, have we? This won't take long actually. We just need to keep checking, to make sure they don't catch on fire."
"Don't catch on fire?" he said with a squeak in his voice. She looked at him, laughing.
"I have American cousins who think we're dreadfully backward because we don't have an electric clothes dryer, but I told them that I only know a few people who do, that almost no one in England or the rest of Europe does. They think we're savages. Actually, mum wants to get one, but we had to get the roof fixed, so dad says we have to wait." She smiled. Then her eyes traveled onto his bare chest again, and he looked down, suddenly extremely aware that all he had on was a towel. She turned away from him and peered through the round window in the oven door.
"Not yet," she murmured, her face very pink again. Harry sat on the opposite side of the kitchen table from where she was. She didn't look at him again while they were waiting for the clothes.
At length, she removed his and Draco's clothes from the oven, still very slightly damp, but beginning to smoke a little, too. "Here are your things," she said, bringing her eyes up to Harry's again, then down; her gaze landed on his left arm, and she noticed the Dark Mark. "Oh....They mentioned that in the reports...."
He picked up the clothes and hugged them to him so it was no longer visible. The clothes were warm, with a slightly singed smell. "I'd best go back to the bathroom to--"
"Yes. Right. Of course." She swallowed, and he felt her eyes on him as he left.
When he emerged from the bath, he had the long hair and beard again; they were going to be venturing outside to go back to the tent, and he couldn't risk anyone seeing that he looked just like Harry Potter, the escaped murderer. He carried Draco's clean clothes to the car, and she had a glass jar of her great-grandmother's chicken soup, as well as a torch and some candles and matches.
When they were back in the tent, Harry lit one of the candles and dripped some wax onto a plate to anchor it while she used the small stove which came with the tent to heat the soup; Harry and Draco hadn't used it at all because of the food supply in the sack. "Strangest tent I ever saw," she commented with a grin. "A stove, pots and pans, dishes..."
Harry smiled at her. "Welcome to the wizarding world."
When it was ready, they helped Draco to sit up and spooned some of the soup into his mouth. He was still a little delirious.
"Jamie," he smiled at Ruth, his eyes unfocused. "I knew I could count on you...."
She didn't correct him but gave him a gentle smile in return. "Sshh. Don't talk. Be a good lad and eat your soup," she said softly, like a mother taking care of a small child. Harry watched her in the flickering candlelight, fascinated. He hadn't really had the chance to get to know Ruth very well in his other life, but he thought now that he might just like that to change when he managed to fix things....
He slumped over the table, suddenly quite exhausted, and put his head on his arms. Soon he heard a voice, singing something soft and low in a language he didn't recognize. He lifted his head and watched her while she sang; Draco seemed to be oblivious. When she was done, he asked, "What was that?"
She looked startled, as though she'd forgotten he was there. "Oh, just something my Bubbe used to sing to me. I think it's Yiddish...."
He thought of his mother and his sister singing Suogan. "In our family, it was a Welsh lullaby. Mum sang it...."
She looked up, eager. "Do you remember it?"
He frowned. "Maybe...." He remembered his mother sitting vigil by Stuart's bedside, and suddenly, he found the words in his mouth, as though they'd bypassed his brain altogether, and his throat was channeling the memory of his mother....
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon
Breichiau mam sy'n dyn am danat,
Cariad mam sy dan fy mron
Ni cha dim amharu'th gyntun
Ni wna undyn â thi gam
Huna'n dawel, anwyl blentyn
Huna'n fwyn ar fron dy fam.
Huna'n dawel, heno, huna,
Huna'n fwyn, y tlws ei lun
Pam yr wyt yn awr yn gwenu,
Gwenu'n dirion yn dy hun?
Ai angylion fry sy'n gwenu
Arnat ti yn gwenu'n llon
Tithau'n gwenu'n ol dan huno
Huno'n dawel ar fy mron?
He wasn't aware that his face was wet until he was done singing. She crouched by his chair, concern etched on her face. "How could anyone think you'd killed your mother?" she asked softly. He looked down at her, and he noticed in the candlelight that she had freckles across her nose, as Jamie had....
"That's the thing," he said in a strangled voice. "I did."
Suddenly she stood and backed away from him, a horrified look on her face. "But you said--"
"I know. But--it was an accident. It was still my fault." He looked down at his hands. "I can never forget that--"
She returned to where she'd been and looked up at him. "Of course you can't," she said softly. He looked back at her and time seemed to stop. He wasn't sure how long they'd sat there in silence when she suddenly stood, very businesslike again, and said, "Well, you've got some soup now. I'll bring more tomorrow. I'll tell Bubbe I took some of her soup to a sick friend and it did them a world of good. She likes to know these things. It confirms for her that there's order in the universe."
"Was she at the service?"
"No; she goes Saturday morning. Bubbe likes doing Friday night in the old way, at home; the mother is supposed to light the Sabbath candles, did you know that? Not the father. Then she says the prayer, Praise be to you, Adonai, king of the universe, who has sanctified with your commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights. Well, that's a rough translation, anyway."
"Oh. Sorry I didn't translate that. Adonai means 'Lord.'"
"Oooh," he said, understanding now. "That's what I was hearing over and over during the service...."
"Right. We say 'Adonai' because you have to be very careful of using the name of God; otherwise you risk it being in vain. Some Orthodox Jews even write 'G-dash-D' instead of writing 'G-O-D' because they don't want to risk taking the name in vain." Harry frowned.
"So you don't say 'Jehovah,' or 'Yahweh?'"
"Oh, no. Throwing around terms like that....No. It's usually 'Adonai' all over the place. I don't even think about it any more. It's just done."
Lord. And avoiding saying the name. Like Voldemort. Had Voldemort himself tried to encourage that? Calling him the Dark Lord and giving people the idea that they shouldn't say his name? He really did want to be a god, Harry thought. Trying to be immortal, wanting people to be afraid to say his name....Harry felt an anger rising up in him, but he tried to push it down; Ruth wouldn't understand about Voldemort.
"So does she say it in English?" he asked her, trying to come back to what they were discussing.
"She doesn't speak English. It's in Hebrew. And it's more sung than said...."
"You mean like when you sang the Kaddish?"
"You never did tell me what that is."
She paused for a moment. "It's--it's the prayer for the dead," she said softly. "We say it so often--it's almost second nature to most Jews...."
He nodded. "I noticed that. Like--like--I don't even know what the equivalent would be for non-Jews--"
"The word is 'gentiles.' It's like the Christian Lord's Prayer, perhaps. As far as familiarity goes."
"That might be about right." For some reason they were just looking at each other again, and this time when she looked away, she seemed to be a little pinker than before. He suddenly said, "Teach me."
"What?" she turned back to him.
"Teach me the Kaddish. I--I have a lot of people--" he paused, tears choking his throat again, even though his eyes were dry "--a lot of people to mourn--"
She nodded. "If you like. Fine. He won't be going anywhere soon." She motioned to Draco with her head. "I'll be back tomorrow. I can start teaching you then. And I can bring more chicken soup." She moved to leave the tent. "Good night," she said softly.
"Shabbat shalom," he said, smiling. She smiled too now.
"Shabbat shalom, Harry Potter."
"Try that again," Ruth said patiently. Harry repeated the phrase she had sung, but she stopped him after two words to correct his pronunciation, and he tried again. This time she let him finish, and smiled warmly at him.
"What the hell are you doing, Harry?" a voice said from the direction of the bottom bunk. Harry turned to his best friend.
"Draco! You're all right!"
Draco struggled to sit up, his skin pasty-looking, his grey eyes bloodshot. "I would be if you weren't doing that."
Ruth bristled. "Harry has a very nice voice, and he's doing very well."
Draco rubbed his eyes and looked around Harry. "Who're you?"
Harry moved his chair. "Draco, you remember Ruth Pelta, don't you? From the concert. She would have been starting at Hogwarts if the ban hadn't been reinstated."
Draco looked at her with narrowed eyes, the nodded as it came back to him. "Right, right. I've been, erm, a bit out of it." Harry remembered how he'd been calling her Jamie in his delirium.
"Yeah, we know. Listen, now that you're feeling better, we've got some good news. Ruth got us some train tickets. We can go as far as Leicester."
"I didn't have that much money. You'll have to change trains twice," Ruth said apologetically. "Once in Stafford and once in Nuneaton." She looked down at the timetable she'd brought. "In Stafford you have only to wait seven minutes for the next train. In Nuneaton the wait is thirty-seven minutes. But it's still the fastest trip. Only about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish. You could have had trips with just one switch, either in Loughborough or in Nottingham, but going through Loughborough takes almost three hours, and going through Nottingham takes almost three-and-a-half, so the extra train switch seemed like the best way to go. Especially since you'd have to wait about an hour in Nottingham to get the train to Leicester."
"And after that we can go down to Sywell to see Alicia," Harry added.
Draco frowned now. "I thought Dumbledore didn't want us looking up the Muggle-borns. He thought it was too dangerous."
Harry shook his head. "We really needed Ruth. We were lucky we got sick near where she lives. And do you know how long it would take us to walk to Leicester? This'll really save us time and energy. I don't think either one of us is up for walking six hours a day again yet."
Draco rubbed his hand over his face. "When do we have to go?"
"Not until Monday night. You should be right as rain by then," Ruth told him. He frowned.
"That would be helpful if I knew what today was," he said petulantly. Harry hoped he wasn't going to start whinging again.
"It's Sunday. You can come to my house today, if you like. There's no one there but my great-grandmother. Mum and dad are teaching at the yeshiva. You can have a bath."
Now Draco looked like he wanted to kiss her. "A bath," he said with feeling. "That would be abso-bloody-lutely brilliant." Harry laughed. Draco must be delirious still, to be talking like that, he thought. He was reminded of Ron.
"Do you want to go now?" she asked him.
They packed up the tent and helped Draco walk to the car, which they'd forgotten to mention to him. Harry thought Draco was going to weep for joy when he saw it. When they pulled up to Ruth's house, her great-grandmother was leaving. Harry slumped down in his seat in the car, so he wouldn't be seen. The old woman wore a kerchief tied over her hair and spoke to Ruth rapidly in what Harry assumed was Polish. When she was gone, Ruth motioned to them and they got out of the car. She touched her fingers to her lips and to the amulet on the doorway again before they entered. When they were inside, Harry said to her, "So, you speak Polish?"
"Hmm? Oh, no. That was Yiddish."
He sighed. He couldn't imagine being able to speak one other language, yet alone two or three. Latin for spells didn't count, he felt. He'd always struggled in Latin when he was going to the village school.
Draco just wanted to get into the bath. Harry showed him where it was, and soon he heard the water running and steam started seeping out from under the door. Harry joined Ruth in the kitchen, where she was making sandwiches. He watched her move around, taking mustard and meat out of the fridge, cutting the bread, pushing her hair behind her ear when it fell in her face. She looked up suddenly and met his gaze, not looking away for a good minute, then just as suddenly, focusing on what she was doing again. Her face was a little pinker now.
When the sandwiches were done, she put some sliced pickles on the plates and placed them on the table. She drummed her fingers, waiting, and Harry looked around the small, neat room; he missed the simple utilitarian nature of the typical Muggle kitchen. There was something very comforting about it, somehow, and he pictured Ruth's great-grandmother bustling around the small room, making soup and encouraging Ruth to eat, eat....
They decided against waiting for Draco; clearly he was going to take quite a while. When they were done their silent meal, Draco finally emerged from the bath. He looked pink and clean, his eyes very bright in his face. His facial hair was actually starting to be visible; he appeared to have a small, pale goatee. When he saw the plate waiting for him, he dove at it, barely stopping to chew. Harry grimaced, somewhat embarrassed by his friend's lack of manners. Normally Draco was the one upbraiding him for manners, but after his illness, it was as though he needed to re-evolve a bit to get back to where he was before becoming ill.
There was a small ancient black-and-white television on the counter, and, fascinated, Draco started fiddling with the buttons and dials until a picture of a grinning woman pointing to bottled dishwashing soap appeared on the screen, talking very loudly.
"Damn, Draco! Turn that down!" Harry complained. Draco fiddled with a dial, and the woman's sales pitch doubled in volume.
"Down! Down! Not up," he yelled, his hands over his ears. Draco hastily turned the knob in the other direction.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
Ruth rose and gathered up the plates, taking them to the sink and preparing to wash them. Harry went to help her, remembering washing dishes with Hermione at four, Privet Drive. Draco continued to stare at the television, which was showing an old American cowboy film. Harry recognized John Wayne, and he hoped sincerely that Draco wouldn't start modeling himself on him. Ruth made no comment about Harry helping her with the dishes, but accepted his help as though there were nothing remarkable about this. When they were done, they left the room, Draco still utterly absorbed by the film.
"Do you want to learn more of the Kaddish?" she asked Harry when they were in the living room. She sat down at the piano that was shoved between groaning bookcases, and Harry joined her. He noticed that there was no television in this room.
"Can I--can I get rid of this again? For a little while? If no one will be coming in." He indicated his hair and beard. She nodded, and, after concentrating very hard, he had short hair and no beard or mustache again.
"Wow," she breathed. "That was like--like watching film backwards. So strange....Can all wizards do that?"
"No, not all." He ran his hand over his face. "It's a relief to be rid of that. I think when I actually have a choice about it, I'm never going to have facial hair again." She smiled at him, starting to reach her hand out to touch his cheek, then pulling it back guiltily.
"You have a nice face," she said softly. "People should be allowed to see it." He looked at her in surprise, but then she turned to the piano, opening up a piece of sheet music. She behaved as though she had said nothing unusual. Harry looked at her profile and did not respond.
They spent the afternoon at the piano together, and now he felt like he actually knew the Kaddish, although he wouldn't dream of saying he was as good at singing it as she was. He asked her to sing it again, and she did. He leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes, listening, thinking of his mother, his sister, his little brother...thinking of Ginny....
When she was done, she sat next to him on the couch, and he opened his eyes. Why was it so hard not to look at her? She wasn't especially remarkable looking. She was, in fact, very average when you took all of her features separately. Her ever-changing hazel eyes were the most remarkable thing about her. Unremarkable smooth brown hair, unremarkable nose with a scattering of freckles, a nice smile but a couple of crooked teeth....But somehow, the combination was something he found very hard to ignore.
He turned to her suddenly. "Why did you trust me right away? Friday night? I mean, you'd heard I'd killed my mother and escaped from prison, and you didn't start screaming and pointing at me."
She looked thoughtful. "Well, I suppose it's because you gave me such a gift. The gift of understanding myself, the things I can do. There was nothing in that for you; you just felt like it was the right thing to do. Somehow, I didn't think anyone who would do that would--do what you were being accused of."
"Thank you," he said sincerely.
"My turn to ask a question: You said you had a lot of people to mourn," she said softly. "Who?"
He looked down at his hands. "My mum. My sister Jamie. My brother Stu. And--and my girlfriend, Ginny. And in a way--"
"Well," he hesitated, "for a little while, we thought she might be--um--pregnant. It turned out she wasn't. Still--"
"It feels like a loss," she said softly. He nodded. "You'd have liked her. If you'd gone to Hogwarts when you were supposed to, you would have been in the same year. Probably in the same house, and then you would have been roommates."
Ruth smiled. "Tell me about her."
Harry was startled. Tell me about her. Where to begin? But then, suddenly, he couldn't believe he didn't know where to begin; a flood of Ginny-information rushed out of him, and he found that he was telling her every absurd episode of his stalking her, and then sneaking around together....meeting at the Quidditch World Cup....explaining what Quidditch was....Ginny kissing him after she'd lost the bet....Ruth laughed frequently, and finally, he did too, although she was appalled when he told her of Ginny being pulled into the lake and then getting caught in the snow storm....
"Well, aren't you two cozy?" Harry jerked his head up and saw Draco standing in the doorway. He looked distinctly hostile.
"I--I was telling Ruth about Ginny," he said feebly, standing suddenly, realizing that he and Ruth were sitting very close together.
"We should go back to the park," Draco said brusquely. "When's the last time one of us wrote in the you-know-what?" Draco looked suspiciously at Ruth, as though he wondered whether Harry had told her about the diary.
"Good point," Harry said, hoping that by being agreeable he would get Draco to take that nasty expression off his face. "We should go. We can rest some more tomorrow during the day before getting the train."
Draco grunted in reply, then turned back to the kitchen. Ruth looked at Harry with a puzzled expression. He shrugged. They were all very silent on the way back to the park. Ruth said goodbye quietly and walked back to her car while they worked at setting up the tent again.
When it was ready, they entered and Harry turned on the electric torch Ruth had given them, sitting down at the table with Draco to supervise his diary entry.
"What do we tell him?" Draco asked abruptly.
"The truth. In fact, he's the one who suggested I get some help." Draco was surprised at this, but he opened the book and began to write what Harry recited to him. After just a few minutes, Harry stopped him. "That's enough. You've just gotten your strength back, and not completely. From now on, we're going to take turns writing, so you don't get so weak and vulnerable to illness again."
Draco bristled. "I seem to recall you getting sick first."
"Yes, but you were sick more than twice as long."
"Draco!" Harry interrupted him. "It's not a competition. And it's not up for discussion. I'm going to write in it, too."
"Oh, it's not up for discussion. Who died and made you king?"
Harry stood up and pulled out his wand, feeling his entire body vibrating with rage. "Who died? Who died? How about almost my entire family? Is that enough for you? And Ginny, too. And being stuck in this sodding life with you for a best friend."
Now Draco stood and took out his own wand. "Your sister was also my girlfriend. You're not the only one who's lost someone. And you seem to be getting over Ginny just fine. I couldn't help notice that you and that Ruth were--"
"Don't go there, Draco," Harry warned, his voice very dangerous. "And there's still the little matter of Jamie. You said some things while you were sick that made me think it was possible you had slept with my sister. So did you? Did you sleep with Jamie?"
Draco looked at him, his face very closed up. "That's my business. But go on; ask me again. Add some red hair and you'll be the spitting image of Weasley," he sneered.
Harry extended his wand arm. "Dammit, Malfoy, did you or didn't you?"
"Oh, is that how it is, Potter? And get your bloody wand out of my face!" Draco snapped back.
"Answer me!" Harry was shaking; he couldn't hold his wand still.
"You want an answer? Here's your answer. Expelliarmus!"
Harry's wand went flying into Draco's hand and Harry felt pushed backward, crashing into the bunks, hitting his head painfully on the upper bunk. He was merely momentarily stunned, however, and immediately launched himself forward, slamming Draco to the floor and prying both wands from his hands, throwing them under the table. He quickly pinned the thinner boy's shoulders to the floor and looked down at him, anger still boiling in him. Draco reached up and hit him in the jaw, making Harry bite his tongue; he tasted blood. Quickly, before he could hit him again, Harry grabbed both wrists and held them tightly.
"Stop it! Stop it!"
Harry looked down at Draco, who was suddenly deflated. Harry let go of his wrists and stood slowly, picking up his wand and then handing Draco's to him. They both put their wands in their pockets, breathing heavily and glaring at each other. It was merely a detente; the war was not over.
"We have to get out of here now, you realize, you prat," Harry said, still glaring. "Now that you've been stupid enough to do magic."
Draco nodded and they moved quickly now, picking up the sack, carafe, diary, Invisibility Cloak and now the candles and torch before leaving the tent and starting to dismantle it. They threw the cloak over themselves and began to walk out of the park, just as someone suddenly appeared before them. It was an Auror, Harry was sure, based on his wizarding robes and extended wand, but it was no one he recognized. Must be someone who works out of the local office. He wondered how long the Longbottoms stayed in Inverness before they realized he wasn't anywhere near that part of Scotland.
They stood very still under the cloak, watching the Auror walk past them on the gravel path; they had avoided walking on this path to avoid leaving footprints and making a great deal of noise from the gravel crunching under their feet. The Auror continued to walk toward the trees where they had been camping, and they slowly began to move toward the street. Harry could not believe how quickly the Auror had come; if they had taken one moment longer to put the cloak on, they either would have been discovered or they would have needed to get into an all out fight with an unfamiliar Auror, whose abilities were an unknown. Although he had been feeling a little cocky about fooling the Longbottoms into getting on the wrong train, he wasn't sure how he'd do going up against an Auror in a dueling situation, and even though having Draco with him meant that it would be two-against-one, in his current state of mind, Harry wasn't entirely certain Draco wouldn't turn on him and take the Auror's side.
They didn't talk, walking through the quiet streets. Harry would put his elbow in Draco's side to indicate whether they should turn right or left; he'd been keeping careful track of the way that Ruth had driven to and from her house, and after almost an hour, they finally reached it. Harry carefully opened the garden gate, which squeaked, making him wince. They closed it again and crept into the garden, then took off the cloak when they were standing in the shelter of the potting shed, so that it was between them and the windows at the rear of the house. They needed some other place to set up the tent, and Harry had noticed a high privet around the Pelta garden, which would shield them from the neighbors. Still silent, except for Draco's occasional soft swearing, they set up the tent again, finally climbing into their bunks in the darkness.
What have you done to him, Riddle? Harry wondered. But he didn't dare ask his friend about this. And he didn't dare ask about Jamie again, not yet. They still had a long way to go. Hopefully neither one of them would kill the other before they reached their final destination.
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