- Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
- Harry Potter
- The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 04/17/2002Updated: 01/04/2004Words: 584,432Chapters: 31Hits: 808,247
Harry Potter and the Triangle Prophecy
- Story Summary:
- Harry's 7th and final year of school. In a time of uncertainty, the Muggle world has found a source of comfort and stability. Only Harry suspects that it isn't safe. Wizards are more concerned about themselves than Muggles since Voldemort's return, but are only Muggles at risk? Will anyone listen to Harry? He must decide whether to make a sacrifice that will change him--and the wizarding world-- forever.
- Read Story On:
Chapter 17 - Palace
- Chapter Summary:
- Harry's seventh and final year of school. In this chapter, Draco confronts Neville over Ginny, Harry tells Draco about his other life, Hermione shocks everyone by going after Neville herself, Harry gets a nasty letter from Vernon (as though he'd write any other kind) and an unexpected visitor shows up at Hogwarts asking for Harry's help. The third part of the
The Houses of Parliament, otherwise known as The Palace of Westminster, stands on the site where Edward the
Confessor had the original palace built in the first half of the eleventh century. In 1547 the royal residence
was moved to Whitehall Palace, but the Lords continued to meet at Westminster, while the commons met in St.
Stephen's Chapel. Ever since these early times, the Palace of Westminster has been home to the English
Parliament....An incendiary bomb destroyed the House of Commons in 1941. A reconstruction of Barry's original
design for the house, taken from St. Stephen's chapel, the commons old meeting place, was completed in 1950.
The seating arrangement in the house is reminiscent of choir stalls, the members of the cabinet sit on the
front benches while opposition senior members sit directly opposite. The distance between the benches marked
out on the floor in red lines, is exactly two sword lengths and one foot apart. Members are not allowed to
cross these lines, thus ensuring that debates are kept orderly.
"Now, wasn't that pleasant?"
A grinning Professor Arabella Figg looked around the large room at the more than three-dozen seventh year students, almost all of whom looked balefully back at her. "Would you be a dear and collect the parchments?" she said to Mandy Brocklehurst, seated in the first row. Mandy rose and began making her way through the rows of desks, taking the curling parchments from her classmates. "I do love surprise quizzes, don't you?" their professor asked the class rhetorically, an edge to her voice that Harry recognized.
I'll just bet she's missing having her television to make sarcastic comments to, he thought.
About two-thirds of the way back, Harry sat with Ron and Hermione; he glanced down with satisfaction at his own parchment. A quiz on curses wasn't a cause for panic for him. If there was one thing he'd become familiar with it was curses; painful curses, and avoiding the pain from them, although he hadn't had to do that in some time. The last time he'd needed to do that was--when he'd been burnt. He swallowed and tried not to think about poor Fleur in St. Mungo's. She'd been very queer when he was visiting with her. Like she wanted him to forgive her for hurting him because she was having a baby. He didn't blame her, not really. It was Roger Davies he blamed. And Draco Malfoy, a little. Although of all the things Malfoy had done, that actually wasn't the most upsetting to Harry.
He saw Malfoy hand his parchment to Mandy and met his eyes for a moment before looking away. Harry had found out why Draco Malfoy and Mariah Kirkner hadn't been coming running with them in the mornings; they had been running on the road to Hogsmeade instead, as far as they could go and still stay on the Hogwarts grounds, then back again, over and over, instead of going round and round the Quidditch pitch with the rest of them. He'd found out quite by accident when he'd been especially tired after working on a Potions essay late into the night; he'd waved Ron on, asking him to tell the others that he'd be along in about twenty minutes. That meant that he was leaving the entrance hall for the Quidditch pitch late enough that he'd seen them on the Hogsmeade road, jogging back toward the castle, but still a good five or ten minutes from reaching it. He didn't know whether they'd taken any notice of him, standing on the front steps of the castle, before he'd turned and walked round to the pitch.
Malfoy leaned back in his desk chair and looked like he was studiously ignoring Harry; he turned to say something to Crabbe and Goyle, whom he had given permission to follow him around again. They'd latched onto Blaise Zabini for a while, to Zabini's chagrin. Zabini didn't look disappointed to be rid of the two boulder-like boys. However, it was another Gryffindor nearby whom Malfoy was finding harder to ignore.
Neville Longbottom was handing Mandy his parchment, biting his lip nervously and looking like he was going to yank it back any second. But very quickly, it was too late; Mandy had shoved it into her growing pile of essays and had moved on to some Hufflepuffs who habitually sat together. Harry saw a glare of utter loathing contort Malfoy's face as he beheld Neville, and Harry was certain he would cower before this, but was surprised by Neville instead lifting his head and smiling sunnily at Malfoy, whose scowl intensified. Suddenly, under his robes, Harry heard Sandy's voice.
"The Dragon shall confront the Gardener."
The bell rang for lunch and about forty teenagers bolted noisily for the door, making it impossible for Harry to ask her whether she had any other information, and also resulting in an immediate bottleneck at the door to the classroom. Harry saw a tempting path he could take to cut through the crowd, but he hung back with Ron and Hermione, in part because Hermione was avoiding her former dorm mates, Parvati and Lavender, plus Parvati's sister Padma, who were all directly ahead. Harry grimaced. What a mess their seventh year was turning out to be. He remembered Moody telling them after the Three Broomsticks attack that they were all members of the same house, united, that they'd always be there for each other. He was glad that the old Auror wasn't at the school now to see how splintered the seventh-year Gryffindors had become.
When they finally reached the corridor it was a sea of black robes as students from Charms and Transfiguration also poured into the passage. Harry felt jostled by numerous bodies passing him; Ron and Hermione were moving along rather pokily again, and he didn't dare leave them alone. Ron had begged him not to; any time Hermione managed to get Ron alone, she started in on the argument that she was still his girlfriend, and he couldn't break up with her. She didn't try it when Harry or other people were around, so Ron required Harry to be with them at all times. Harry was growing quite weary of it.
Then the other students moving forward stopped abruptly; there was a solid wall of bodies in front of them, and Harry frowned at Ron and Hermione, wondering what it was. He didn't need to wonder any longer when a laconic drawl cut through the low murmur of the crowd:
"Let's see what you've got, Longbottom. You're not taking that memory potion anymore. I can guarantee you this won't be like that time you trounced Potter. Not that I didn't enjoy that..."
Now Harry knew exactly what Sandy had been talking about. Harry, Ron and Hermione pushed their way through the crowd, which had left a clear space about ten feet in diameter where Draco Malfoy and Neville Longbottom were facing each other, wands drawn. Neville was the one scowling at Malfoy, looking no longer like the little boy who had lost his toad on the Hogwarts Express their first year. Harry was surprised to see how much he resembled his dad now, although he could see some of Gemma Longbottom there, too.
Neville and Draco circled each other warily as the crowd became nosier; and suddenly, at the edge of the circle, Seamus Finnigan called out, "Wipe up the floor with him, Nev!"
A number of other students agreed noisily, and Dean added, "You'll be sorry, Malfoy!"
Hermione scowled impatiently. "Neville!" she cried indignantly. "Just what do you think you're doing? And you, Malfoy! You're a prefect! Both of you stop this at once!"
For his part, Neville seemed to be ignoring everyone--Hermione and supporters alike. Crabbe and Goyle were grunting in support of Malfoy, but he seemed to be ignoring his erstwhile friends as well. Draco Malfoy and Neville Longbottom looked at no one but each other, circling slowly, white-knuckled hands clenched on their wands. Harry felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up; there was a crackling in the air as the ambient magic in the area increased with Draco and Neville's agitation. He wondered whether one of them was about to perform wandless magic.
"What's this about, Malfoy?" Neville finally asked through gritted teeth, although Harry could hear a slight shake in his voice.
"What's this about? What the hell do you think this is about? It's about Ginny, you idiot!" Malfoy spat at him, still circling slowly, at exactly the same speed as Neville. Harry saw Neville swallow.
"What about Ginny? This is such a public place; are you sure you want to dwell on the fact that you weren't enough man for her?"
Harry was shocked; this sounded so strange coming out of Neville's mouth. And then he thought about the implication of Neville's words. No, surely not...
Draco Malfoy was blind with rage now. "Tracheo suo passus--" he began without warning, pointing his wand at Neville's neck.
"Expelliarmus!" Harry cried suddenly, pointing his wand at Malfoy, who went careering back into the crowd, his wand soaring up into the air and then falling into Harry's waiting hand. Next to him, Hermione breathed what seemed to be a sigh of relief. He turned to her, saying, "You want to take care of the house points, Hermione?"
She nodded, glaring at both Malfoy and Neville. "Thank you, Harry. But first--" She looked round at the assembled students. "Move along! Before I start taking even more house points from anyone left gawping!" she warned. Suddenly, there was a rush of feet on the floor all around them, until only Harry, Ron, Hermione, Malfoy and Neville remained in the high, echoing corridor.
Malfoy was standing against the wall, still glaring at Neville and Harry. Neville had that strange look in his eyes again.
"What's wrong, Malfoy? Don't want to duel without an audience?"
A glare was his response, followed by, "I also don't seem to have my wand, Longbottom. But wand or no wand, if I find out you and Ginny have done anything, even if it's just extended snogging, so help me I'll--"
Neville laughed. "She told me you'd feel that way." Harry couldn't help but think that Neville was more afraid than he was letting on. The frightening thing to Harry was that he felt very, very close to joining Malfoy against Neville, two against one, and he'd had to muster every bit of his self-control (plus remind himself that he was Head Boy) when he'd disarmed Malfoy.
Malfoy shook his head now. "No, no. I will not believe that she'd stoop that low. Not with you. Potter I could believe; for her to be with you would be like calling night day and purple green....It's just wrong."
Neville smirked. "Then I suppose we shouldn't invite you to the Astronomy Tower this afternoon for a little show--"
But suddenly, Malfoy was the least of Neville's problems. Ron strode across the corridor and picked Neville up by the front of his robes, banging his back against the stone wall, making a nearby classroom door shudder in its frame. "If I find out you and Ginny--that you two have--"
Neville held up his hands, all conciliatory now, smiling feebly. "Ron! Ron, old mate! Forgot you were here. Of course Ginny and I haven't done anything, of course not!" His voice seemed to be about an octave higher than usual. Ron glared at him, still not releasing his hold. Finally, Hermione strode up to him.
"Ten points from Gryffindor, Ron!" she said sharply. He turned and looked at her in surprise, a little less angry. He slowly lowered Neville's feet to the floor and let go of his robes. Hermione looked like she was biting her tongue painfully, so she wouldn't say anything else.
"You sure?" Ron asked Neville, eyeing him suspiciously. Neville nodded vigorously.
"That wasn't what you were implying a minute ago!" Malfoy whinged.
Neville looked back and forth between the two of them, evidently torn between antagonizing Ginny's brother or purposefully winding up her former boyfriend. "Well, erm, I mean--" he stuttered.
Harry turned to Ron in surprise; something had just struck him. "Ron! That's the most--you I've seen you be since you got back from hospital."
Ron drew his lips into a line. "Yeah, well--I stopped taking my medicine last night. It helps me control my temper and--some other things. But the full moon's in a week and I have to start taking the Wolfsbane Potion again tonight, and the two potions aren't compatible, so I'm off the other stuff for the next week."
Hermione looked at him with wide eyes. "Oooh! That's why you were acting that way!"
Ron turned to her. "What way?" But Harry knew just what she meant. He didn't quite know how to put it into words without insulting his best friend, though.
"Like a bleeding zombie, Weasel," Malfoy drawled, obviously feeling no compunctions about insulting Ron. "Like you'd had Cruciatus put on you for too long and what passes for your brain had turned to mush--"
Suddenly Neville had sprung into action again and leaped forward, his wand not two inches from Draco Malfoy's chest. "Don't say another word, Malfoy! Not if you know what's good for you!" His voice was low and dangerous, and Harry was shocked. Yet he knew he shouldn't be; he'd been incensed enough about Aunt Marge insulting his father that he'd accidentally inflated her. If there was something that was a better definition of "bad form" than making tactless comments about someone's dead or perpetually hospitalized parents, he couldn't think of it. Harry had never seen Neville look murderous before, and it was a bit of a jolt; he had never been more mindful of the fact that both of his parents had been Aurors.
Draco Malfoy was still unarmed; he backed up against the wall and held up his hands now, his eyes wide. "What the hell--? What are you upset about now, you ponce? What did I say?" Harry could tell that it was the strangest thing in the world to him to be visibly afraid of Neville Longbottom.
And then Harry realized that of course Malfoy didn't know about Neville's parents. He moved to stand next to Neville, putting his hand on his wand arm and forcing Neville to lower it. "He doesn't know, Nev. He doesn't know," he said quietly, his hand around the other boy's wrist now..
Neville turned to Harry, looking at him blankly, as though he didn't recognize him. When the vacant expression left Neville's eyes, he had the good grace to flush as he put his wand back into his robes. "Sorry, Harry. You're right, of course. I just--I always feel like everyone knows..."
Draco Malfoy threw up his hands. "What don't I know? That everyone in Gryffindor should have checked themselves into St. Mungo's, not just Weasley? Sorry to disappoint you all, but that I know."
Suddenly, Harry had to push Neville back again, and was surprised by the effort it took; it felt like he was about to go for Malfoy with just his bare hands, his eyes ablaze with fury. "What you don't know, Malfoy," he hissed, as he continued to struggle against Harry, "is that my parents have been in St. Mungo's for the last sixteen years because Death Eaters put Cruciatus on them for too long, and it turned their brains to mush, as you like to put it." To his credit, Draco Malfoy actually looked shocked and sympathetic--for him.
"They're--they're what?" he whispered. "Jesus, Longbottom. You're not serious..." he breathed, shaking his head. Then he looked like he'd had an epiphany. "Oh, is that what you were talking about when we came to see you at St. Mungo's, Potter? You said something about Fleur being like the Longbottoms, something about Cruciatus being put on them for a long time...Didn't know what you were on about at the time, but I didn't care enough to ask, frankly."
"Actually," Ron said, stepping forward now. "I met your mum and dad while I was in hospital, Nev. Same ward," he added sheepishly, his ears turning a little pink. "And they weren't doing too badly." Ron sounded like he was soft-pedaling their condition. "Except for the memory thing, of course," he added feebly.
Malfoy frowned. "Memory thing?"
Ron nodded. "Yeah. No short term memory. I played chess with Neville's dad in the common room a few times. Every couple of minutes I had to reintroduce myself to him; he'd forgotten who I was, didn't think he'd ever seen me before. And then he'd look down at the chessboard, all surprised that it was there, and say, 'Oh, I must be taking over for whoever was playing you, son. Whose turn is it? Am I black?' And we'd go on, make one or two moves, and it would start all over again. A couple of times he decided that he probably shouldn't be sitting there, that he'd probably taken someone's seat who was in the middle of a chess game, and then I was stuck there with a half-finished game." He shrugged. "He wasn't being rude; he just didn't know."
Harry was shocked. Ron hadn't said anything about meeting the Longbottoms before. But Neville nodded now. "Yeah. That's why ever since I can remember, when Gran takes me to visit, and she tells them who I am, they say, 'No, that's not Neville; our boy's a little bloke, not even two...' That's how they remember me. And to them--it was about five minutes ago that it happened. For the rest of their lives, it will always be five minutes after they were attacked. They remember their earlier lives, and things like the rules to chess. But every time they look up and everything seems new to them again, someone has to explain where they are and who the people around them are and things like that." His voice had grown very soft; he looked down and away from the four of them, while Hermione stepped forward and put her hand gently on his arm.
They were very quiet for a minute; then Harry said, "Why don't you three go down to lunch? I want to talk to Malfoy."
They all looked at him in surprise, except that Malfoy's expression was also tinged with suspicion. Ron hooked his arm over Neville's shoulders and started steering him away. "Yes, Nev. I do believe we need to have a talk about my little sister..."
Harry saw Hermione frown at him before turning and walking with Neville and Ron to the Great Hall. Malfoy was eyeing him distrustfully.
"Mind if I have my wand back now, Potter?"
Harry had been holding both his wand and Malfoy's in his right hand. He handed Malfoy's back to him and, still eyeing each other, they put their wands in their robes. Harry leaned against the wall and crossed his arms.
"So--what made you suddenly attack Neville like that?"
Malfoy made a face. "You have to ask? God, I don't know how you can stand seeing them together. And don't tell me what they get up to in your common room; I don't think my stomach could take it. Admit it, Potter--seeing Ginny with Longbottom gets under your skin as much as it does mine."
Harry looked away from him now, knowing that the truth would be seen in his eyes. "Maybe it does," he admitted softly. "But I thought you were with Mariah now. Why are you worrying about Ginny when you've got a new girlfriend?"
Malfoy paced, running his fingers through his hair. "I just--the way we split up--well, I didn't notice that being with Granger kept you from worrying what Ginny was getting up to, when you were still together," he countered.
Harry nodded, admitting this. "That's true," he said quietly. "But--I don't know. I saw you and Mariah running on the Hogsmeade Road, and that Crabbe and Goyle are hanging about with you lately, and I just--" He stopped, not sure how to go on. "You had them for friends before, but you still said you'd never had a real friend. I just thought--well, having both been told off by Ginny, I guess we have a bit more in common now in addition to the Prophecy..."
Draco Malfoy smirked at him. "Oh, and you're offering to be my friend? Let me see--this wouldn't have anything to do with a certain Obedience Charm, would it? 'I'll just be Draco Malfoy's friend, so he doesn't decide to murder me.' I'm not stupid, Potter. Now that I'm not with Ginny, you reckon you'll be my connection to the goody-goodiness that is Gryffindor. Yeah. As if I need that. And if I did feel the need to hang about with a Gryffindor, I'd rather it were the Head Girl than the Head Boy. At least I'd have something to look at, then. And I reckon as each day passes that neither you nor Weasley agree to shag her--have I mentioned what complete idiots the pair of you are?--she may eventually see that she has another, far better option before her..."
Harry clenched and unclenched his fists, breathing deeply to keep his cool. "First, Malfoy, you do not speak about Hermione that way. You have a girlfriend, and Mariah would probably hex you good if she heard you say that. I don't know why I have to keep telling you how to be a good boyfriend. It's getting pretty tiring. Second--I was offering to be your friend because you said once that you needed a real friend, and technically, we already were friends. I have memories of those times, in a Pensieve, and I wondered whether you'd like to see it some time."
Malfoy looked shocked. "Did--did Nanny Bella--er, Professor Figg--help you break through the memory charms? Oh, wow. I can't believe it..."
Harry grimaced. "Er, no. Not exactly. But--well, I can't really explain right now. And at the moment we need to get down to lunch. But--I thought it was about time I told you this. I thought you should know, that you should understand...."
Malfoy squinted at him. "Now you're being cryptic, Potter. If you're not going to show this to me now, let's just go eat."
Harry nodded and they made their way toward the entrance hall. As they descended the broad marble stairs, Draco Malfoy stopped suddenly and asked, "Oh, by the way, how's your aunt? I haven't seen her at the Slytherin table for a while. Is she sick? She hasn't asked me to walk Dunkirk at all, either."
Harry stopped. No one had told Malfoy. "Er, there's something I need to tell you, Malfoy."
"Aunt Petunia's gone."
"Gone?" He frowned. "What d'you mean gone?"
"She decided to leave Hogwarts."
Malfoy's mouth hung open in shock. "Well--well no one told me. When the hell did this happen? Did--did she take the dog with her too?" he asked, a little wistfully.
Harry sighed. "Of course she took her dog with her, you git. When I got back from the match against France, Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape told me. They didn't tell you because you're not her nephew, just her dog-walker."
Malfoy scowled at him and Harry immediately regretted these words. "Oh, how I wish I'd gone to that match when you were trounced by France! Seeing you lose Potter, isn't something I--"
"--can do just anytime," Harry finished smugly, his arms crossed.
They had reached the Great Hall. "So," Malfoy said, "can I see this Pensieve thing after lunch?" he asked. Harry thought he was trying to sound casual about it, but suspected that he was very keen.
"Today isn't good. After lunch I have Apparition."
Malfoy looked superior. "Oh, that's right. You don't have your license yet. Well, some other time then. And in the meantime, even if you don't mean it--tell Longbottom to sleep with one eye open. Just to unnerve him. I have to go eat now with my back to the Gryffindor table, so I don't risk seeing the two of them together and spew all over the place."
Some students near them made faces upon hearing him say "spew," and Malfoy moved off toward the Slytherin table, ignoring them and without looking again at Harry. Harry strode toward the Gryffindor table and sat between Ron and Hermione, grabbing a sandwich and starting to take large bites out of it, as lunch was almost over. He tried not to notice Neville and Ginny sitting together farther down the table, and wondered whether anyone had told her what had happened in the upstairs corridor.
Ron looked suspiciously at Harry. "What did you want to talk to him about, then?"
Harry shrugged. "Tell you later. When we're back from Apparition."
Hermione jogged his elbow as he tried to take another bite of his sandwich. "Harry! Ron! Mum and dad sent me a copy of the Times this morning, and I've just had the chance to read it. Alicia's dad is a Member of Parliament now!" She shoved the paper in front of Harry so that he could see the long article about the new MPs, including Alicia Spinnet's father.
"Well, that's what Roger and Alicia were supposed to be working towards. Now that he's in, I wonder what they'll do? Alicia can't just go back to the village school in Hogsmeade; they've probably already replaced her," Harry said through a mouthful of food. He set the paper aside without reading it.
Hermione shrugged. "He'll still need a staff. Maybe they'll work in his office in London. When you're an MP you need people to answer your phones, do research, deal with the press, schedule meetings with constituents..."
Harry swallowed a large bite after minimal chewing. "I reckon. And won't they both need to make sure the press don't find out that his daughter and son-in-law are a witch and wizard?"
Ron took a swig of pumpkin juice. "I reckon that's why they worked for him before he was elected--to hush up that sort of talk, so it wouldn't come out."
"Right," Hermione agreed. "If Fleet Street got hold of that, it might sound more like he thought his daughter was a witch, and then he'd be discredited, as though he said the sun goes around the earth..."
"It does?" Ron said in mock surprise and horror. "I thought it rose in the south and set in the north, carried through the sky on the back of an enormous turtle, and when he burps, that's when we get hail, and when he..." Ron couldn't go on, he was laughing so hard at his own joke. Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry struggled to swallow another bite of sandwich through his own laughter.
"Don't do that!" he choked out when he could--barely--speak again. "Are you two trying to kill me?"
They apologized; even Hermione was laughing now (at Harry's struggles with his food), but Harry couldn't help but think about the boy sitting on the other side of the Great Hall, his back to the Gryffindor table so he couldn't see Ginny with Neville. No, his two best friends would never really do anything to hurt him. But Draco Malfoy might. Harry hadn't wanted to tell him how spot-on he was; once he had the thought of being Malfoy's friend to avoid any possible problems with the Obedience Charm, he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. He just needed to show him what good friends they'd been in his other life, and how awful the world had been with Voldemort virtually in charge. Surely he couldn't see that without being affected--could he?
He rose to leave for Apparition and glanced at the Slytherin table, remembering when he'd first run over there as an excited first-year, in his other life, ecstatic that he was going to be in the same house as his dad and best mate.
You'll see, Malfoy. We can do this--we can be friends. In this life. It'll just take a little effort...
As Neville and Ginny left the Great Hall hand in hand, Harry tried not to seethe, and then he saw that Malfoy, also moving toward the door and seeing them, had made a rude gesture behind their backs.
Correction, Harry thought, a little wearily.
A lot of effort...
When they returned to the Gryffindor Tower from Apparition, Neville stopped Harry before he entered. Harry waved on Ron and Hermione, so that he and Neville were standing alone in the corridor with the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Harry felt rather weary. "What is it, Neville?"
Neville opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, then opened it once more. After two more false starts, Harry said, "Well, when you figure out what you actually want to say--don't contact me. Bye," he added, moving toward the portrait and opening his mouth to give the password.
"Wait! No, Harry. Sorry, I just--I'm not sure how to talk about this."
Harry turned and frowned, having a sinking feeling he knew what Neville was talking about. "Don't you mean her? As in Ginny?"
Neville nodded nervously. "Listen, Harry, Ginny told me about--about the two of you. And about you and Mariah. And Draco Malfoy and Mariah. I couldn't believe it. I understand now, and I don't blame you for being upset about the situation. Who wouldn't be upset? But I just wanted to check--that we're all right."
"You and me. I just..." Neville looked a bit embarrassed now. "I don't want you to hate me, Harry. Since--since you still care for her and all."
Harry didn't deny Neville's last statement. He swallowed, looking at the other boy's earnest face, thinking of his parents not recognizing him, of the cauldrons he'd melted over the years (and the points Snape had taken from Gryffindor because of it); he thought of losing the duel to him and then sitting vigil by his bedside when he'd become addicted to the potions that had helped him win the duel.
He felt deflated. "No, Neville," he sighed. "I don't hate you."
Neville peered at him doubtfully. "You sure?"
Harry rolled his eyes now. "Yes, I'm sure. I don't hate you." It helped to say it aloud, it actually did; he realized now that he'd been trying to convince himself that he hated Neville, and he also realized why that hadn't worked. He couldn't talk himself into disliking someone he liked any more than he could talk himself into liking someone he disliked. (He'd tried that with Dunkirk, to no avail.)
"Oh, that's great, Harry!" Neville said, bobbing about on the balls of his feet, making Harry fear that a hug was imminent.
He gave the password to the Fat Lady and said, "S'okay, Neville. Don't worry about it," as he stepped over the threshold into the Gryffindor common room. Unfortunately, the first thing that greeted him was a row between Ron and Hermione, which was suddenly reminding him of their row after the Yule Ball in fourth year.
"Be reasonable, Ron!"
"Reasonable! Oh, you want the great hairy animal to be reasonable! Well, I'll give you reasonable. It's not reasonable to expect an animal to behave like a different animal, is it? Take Harry's snake Sandy, for instance."
"Ron, stop bringing up irrelevant things..."
"It's not irrelevant. Harry turned her into a girl, yeah. But she couldn't stop being a snake. Not really. She was still her. The sort of things she said, the stuff she didn't know. She looked human, but she was still a snake deep down. You can tell yourself that I'm the same old Ron as much as you like, but the fact is, that isn't true. He's gone. He died when Lupin--"
He stopped, biting his lip; Harry saw that he was making it bleed. "I--I know he feels bad about that. Worse than bad. And I don't ever want to feel that way about someone else. I feel dreadful enough about hurting Parvati...."
He ran his hand through his hair, the white lock flopping over his brow amidst the red. Hermione backed up from him, then turned and met Harry's eye; she looked like she'd been crying. Luckily, no one else was in the common room. Then he saw that she'd spotted Neville.
"Neville!" she cried, sounding triumphant. Ginny came down the stairs from the girls' dorm.
"Neville!" she also said, approaching him. "I've got my things. Why don't you get yours, and then we can go to the library and--"
"Sorry," Hermione interrupted her. "I need Neville right now. Come on, Neville." She grabbed him by the hand and pulled him back toward the portrait hole. He stumbled after her.
"But--but Ginny and I were--"
"Not anymore. Come on." She opened the portrait and then suddenly pulled Neville's mouth to hers. He grunted an inarticulate protest, then stumbled after her again when she pulled on the front of his robes, giving him no choice but to follow her.
Ron, Ginny and Harry stood looking at the back of the closed portrait with their mouths open. Ginny turned to Ron and said, "But--but Neville--"
Harry felt very uncomfortable. Then he noticed that Ginny looked flustered, but not dreadfully jealous. He peered at her, interested in this reaction. "Aren't you going to try to get your boyfriend back, Ginny?" he asked her suddenly. She jerked her head around as though she'd just woken up, then scowled and strode to the portrait hole and left without a word.
Ron stood looking at Harry with rather pink ears. Finally, he also moved toward the portrait hole. Harry smiled. "Good. You're going after her," he said with satisfaction. Ron stopped and shook his head without looking at Harry.
Still facing away from him, he corrected Harry's mistake. "Actually, it's time for my potion." He continued on, and after that Harry was standing alone in the common room.
The next morning, Harry didn't have a class first thing, but he did have a fourth shift he'd taken for a fifth-year Ravenclaw, Kurt Harrison, who was getting very obsessive about O.W.L. revision. (Harry had made the mistake of telling him how many O.W.L.s he'd received when he asked.) He was patrolling with the other fifth-year Ravenclaw prefect, Jade Peters, plus both sixth-year Ravenclaws, Trixie Lewis and Walter Word; he reckoned that when he was done, at seven in the morning, he'd want to sleep until ten o'clock and then grab some food from the kitchens before going to History of Magic, where he would probably be able to continue sleeping.
On his way back to the Gryffindor common room, he passed Ron, Tony and Ruth, on their way out to go running. Harry frowned.
"Where are Ginny and Hermione?" he asked the three of them.
"Hermione wanted to talk to Ginny about something," Ruth told him, gesturing toward Gryffindor Tower. "She said they'd be along."
Harry nodded, but when he gave the password to the Fat Lady and the portrait started to open, some instinct told him to wait before entering; holding the portrait open a crack, he looked into the common room and saw Ginny and Hermione standing facing each other, Ginny with her arms crossed obstinately, Hermione flailing her arms in entreaty.
"Oh, come on, Ginny! You didn't see Malfoy in the corridor; he would have hurt Neville if there hadn't been so many people around. You can't put him at risk anymore. It's not fair to him."
Ginny lifted her chin. "Neville isn't afraid of Draco. And that was so obviously for show I'm surprised you missed it. Neville told me the way it started. It was meant to be so that as many people as possible would see how much Draco still wanted to be with me. Don't you think if Draco really wanted to hurt Neville he'd find a way to do it as sneakily as possible, so it couldn't ever be traced back to him? No, he was putting on a little show yesterday. It was his This-is-how-much-I-love-you-Ginny-so-please-come-back-to-me show. He knew I'd find out about it. Showing his love and devotion before a crowd. That's what he was trying to do, not hurt Neville. That was just an excuse."
"And what makes you think he won't also try something a bit less public? Neville's got a huge bullseye on himself right now, and it's just not fair to him, Ginny."
Ginny was sputtering. "I can't believe you! You tell Ron that he shouldn't be afraid of hurting you like he hurt Parvati, but if I continue to see Neville, I'm putting him in danger from my big bad ex-boyfriend. What you're proposing sounds far more dangerous to me, Hermione. I mean--if I had to choose between fearing Draco Malfoy or--"
"Erm--" Harry said as he entered, and then cleared his throat; he'd been unable to wait to go up to the dorm any longer--he really needed to visit the loo.
"Good morning, girls," he said somewhat stiffly. The both stopped and turned crimson, for some reason.
"Ah, good morning, Harry," Hermione said brightly, after initially hesitating. "I think we should go running now," she added hurriedly, grabbing Ginny's wrist and dragging her toward the portrait hole.
Harry wasn't sure whether to try to figure out what the girls had been talking about--was it just that Hermione thought Neville was in danger from Malfoy?--or just wait for it to come out later. As he was very tired, he opted for the latter and dragged himself up to bed.
The next morning, he paused before going to the Quidditch pitch with the others for the morning run. "I'll be right there," he said, watching Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Ruth and Tony walk on ahead. Ruth and Tony were holding hands and swinging their arms. Oh well, he thought. One happy couple, at least.
He waited on the top steps of the castle, hands in his pockets, looking at the morning sky, and a few minutes later, the heavy wooden door opened again and Draco Malfoy and Mariah Kirkner emerged in their running clothes. They stopped in their tracks when they saw Harry.
Malfoy frowned. "What now, Potter? You still haven't shown me--that thing you were going to show me." He looked worried that Mariah might figure out what he meant.
"I was knackered yesterday. And besides, I had to get it ready. How about after breakfast?"
Malfoy regarded him with his arms crossed over his chest. "All right," he said guardedly. "Mind if we go running now?"
"Yeah, actually, I do."
Malfoy dropped his arms and stepped toward Harry. "Excuse me?" he said, a challenge in his voice.
"I mind you doing it on your own. Stop the self-segregation thing. Come back to the Quidditch pitch with the rest of us."
Mariah looked at Draco as though afraid of what his reaction would be. They she looked shyly at Harry.
"Do--do ye forgive me, Harry?"
He drew his lips into a line. "You're not the first person who's done something with good intentions and had it go bad. Yeah, I reckon I forgive you. I--I understand what you were trying to do..."
She nodded and gave him a small smile. "Thank you."
Malfoy looked at him, his chin lifted. "Well, I'm not asking for forgiveness from you."
Harry looked at him levelly. "I didn't ask you to. I just asked you to stop playing the martyr and come run with the rest of us."
"That's not what you said the first time."
He shrugged. "I didn't say what I thought the reason was for the self-segregation."
"Think I'm playing the martyr, do you?"
Harry sighed. "Do you really think this is the time to discuss this? We can get into it later. I'm going down to the Quidditch pitch. Are you two coming or not?"
Malfoy looked uncertainly at Mariah. She tilted her head in entreaty and he nodded at Harry. "All right. You, erm, haven't said anything to Weasley or Granger about--things I said the other day, have you?"
Harry gave him a lopsided smile, to keep him guessing for a moment. "Relax. You're safe," he finally said, laughing. He turned to go down the steps and they fell in behind him. When they reached the pitch, he wasn't quite prepared for how surprised the others looked. Damn, he thought. Don't make me regret doing this, he thought at them, hoping they'd do the right thing.
To their credit, they did. While Hermione and Ron were warming up by doing katas, Tony and Ruth were spotting each other while doing sit-ups; they rose and each offered to do the same for Draco and Mariah. Which left Harry with Ginny. They didn't speak, just did some stretching next to each other, looking off into the distance. Except that once, Harry turned and caught her eye, and the expression he saw there made him catch his breath with hope. She was completely unguarded, not having expected him to turn his head, and after locking eyes with her for what seemed to be a very long moment, he turned away as the others ended their stretching and prepared to start running.
I was just imagining it, he told himself, trying not to get his hopes up. He glanced at Draco Malfoy, who was scowling at Harry. Harry hoped he'd still meet to look at the Pensieve after breakfast.
When they were done, Mariah was spotting Ginny while doing sit-ups this time, and Harry was helping Hermione while Ron did some more kata. "Hermione," he whispered to. "Look at Mariah and Ginny. They seem to be getting along now."
Hermione turned her head when she was sitting up, then back when she needed to go back down to the ground. "Could be. I expect Ginny had to cool down eventually. They were actually friends for a while..."
Harry shook his head. "Don't you think it's strange? I thought Ginny was going to kill her," he whispered. Hermione didn't respond, just continued to do her sit-ups while he held her ankles and glanced at Ginny and Mariah--especially Ginny, who, despite the colder weather, was wearing shorts for running. Following the line of her long legs from the bottoms of her shorts to her ankle was more torture than he could bear, so he tried to focus on something else again, and thought about the things he would show Malfoy in his Pensieve; he'd spent his second free period organizing it after lunch the day before.
After the boys showered and bathed in the boy prefects' bathroom (Ron simply went along with the three others now, no more protesting about his not being a prefect), they all trooped down to the Great Hall for breakfast. There weren't many people present, as it was Saturday and many of the students slept late. Breakfast would remain on the tables in the Great Hall until nearly ten-thirty, to accommodate the late-risers.
When he'd had some eggs, toast and bacon, Harry turned to see what Draco Malfoy was up to; when he turned he found that the Slytherin was already looking at him. Harry nodded and Malfoy nodded back. Harry finished chewing and stood, walking toward the anteroom just off the Great Hall. He was gratified when, a minute later, Draco Malfoy understood he was to go in the same room, and he stepped in and closed the door.
"Right, Malfoy. You understood..."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Blind beggars in Micronesia understood what you were getting at, Potter. So. Where's this Pensieve?"
"Upstairs still. I need to tell you a few things first. To explain."
And so he once again launched into the story of how Voldemort had stopped him from getting onto Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters at the beginning of his sixth year, how he'd changed time when he saved his mother (he didn't mention the Imperius Curse) and how, when he woke up in his other life, Snape was his stepfather and Draco Malfoy was his best friend.
"What?" Malfoy said in disbelief. "This is ridiculous. I didn't come here for a fairy-story..."
"It's not. It really happened." He explained the way Snape had never been exposed, the way Lucius Malfoy thought he was still a loyal Death Eater, who was now keeping an eye on one of the people in the Prophecy, bringing him up to serve the Dark Lord. "He and my mum had to socialize with your mum and dad a lot because of that, and so we were together quite a lot. Well, and Jamie too."
"Your sister," Malfoy said in a disbelieving monotone.
"Right. She became your girlfriend."
Malfoy's pale eyebrows flew up in surprise. "Really! You permitted me to be with your sister!"
Harry scuffed the stone floor with his feet. "She was in love with you," he said, addressing the stone flags. When he raised his eyes again, he saw that Malfoy's expression of disbelief had been replaced by avidness.
"All right, all right, so where the hell is it?"
Harry checked his watch. "It's late enough now that the other blokes should be out of our dorm. I don't want to carry it very far; it's rather full. You have to come upstairs."
Malfoy swallowed and Harry wondered why he was so nervous. "Why didn't you tell me about this before? You said Granger and Weasley know. And Ginny. And even Snape and Dumbledore. Oh, and Sirius." Harry was startled for a moment, not having realized that he called Sirius by his first name.
"I felt they needed to know. They kept wondering how I knew things. Things I learned in my other life. But I didn't know how to tell you some of the things that happened in that life. Things like our being best friends. And things like--" He paused nervously, trying to get his nerve up. Finally, he just blurted it out. "Things like Ginny being my girlfriend."
Malfoy had been turning toward the door; now he turned and faced Harry, his eyes very round. "What? Ginny was your girlfriend? Typical," he snarled. "Gryffindors sticking together..."
"But I wasn't a Gryffindor. I--I was a Slytherin. Because I wanted to be with you, and Snape. My best friend and my dad."
"Dad," Malfoy mouthed, shaking his head. "So she was with you even though you were a Slytherin?" Harry nodded, surprised to see a smirk on Malfoy's face. "I think she's attracted to the forbiddenness of it. She likes knowing people think it's wrong," he said suggestively. Harry could tell he was just trying to get him wound up.
"Maybe," he conceded. "I was also stalking her from the age of eleven."
Malfoy squeaked again. "Stalking her! Bloody hell, Potter. And she went for you even after that?"
Harry shrugged. "It's rather a long story. Come on. Let's go now. You'll see what I mean."
When walked through the Great Hall, very few straggling students were seated at the house tables eating their breakfasts and no one took any notice of Harry and Draco Malfoy. However, when, after climbing stair after stair, they were finally outside the Gryffindor common room, Harry hesitated.
"Hmm. I don't know that I should just walk into our common room with you. A few people might think it's strange, or compromising security. Tell you what, you hide down the corridor there a little ways; I'll give the password and go in, then come back out with my Invisibility Cloak. You can put it on and come in without anyone knowing you're in Gryffindor Tower. Okay?"
Malfoy shrugged and agreed. When he was well away, Harry whispered the password to the Fat Lady and the portrait swung open. Harry saw a few younger students in the common room, plus Seamus and Dean. He didn't see Ron or Hermione anywhere, or Neville and Ginny. He strode up to his dorm and was relieved to find it empty. He was back at the portrait hole a minute later, the cloak tucked under his robes. He opened the portrait, stepped into the corridor while holding it open, hissing, "Come on!" to Malfoy, who came running quickly. Harry draped the cloak over him while they were both in the corridor with the portrait open, and then Harry shoved his unseen form into the common room, crossing to the boys' stairs again without anyone noticing that he was being rather inconstant in his desire to go or stay.
When they reached the seventh-year dorm, Harry closed the door and reached out to remove the cloak from Malfoy. He suddenly appeared, looking more shocked than Harry had thought he'd be.
"Blimey. I've seen that common room--late at night, anyway--and I kind of thought it was nicer than ours, but this is really--"
Harry grinned. "Yeah. When I landed in my other life, it was really hard to get used to the Slytherin dorms. This is so high up and airy. If you didn't have claustrophobia when you started living in Slytherin House, you would have it before long..."
He strode to his trunk and put the cloak in, then, still bending over, he gently took the Pensieve in his hands and lifted it out, turning to place it on Ron's trunk. He closed his own trunk and sat on it. "Any other questions before we do this?"
Draco Malfoy looked at the Pensieve and swallowed, but then he also shook his head. "What do I do?"
"Take out your wand."
He did as he was told, stirring the milky substance in the stone bowl with his wand, then bending over, as Harry told him, until his nose touched the cold surface. There was a rushing sound, and then Draco Malfoy was inside Harry's Pensieve.
They were in the caretaker's office. They watched the other Harry, the one with no scar and the Scots accent, turn to Ginny. Malfoy had teased mercilessly about the accent when he'd first landed in the Pensieve. Now, after seeing random snatches of years of memories, the accent coming out of the other Harry seemed quite natural, as was the absence of the scar.
The other Harry didn't have a chance to say anything before she had launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling his mouth down to hers. Harry turned to look at Draco Malfoy; this wasn't the first time he'd shown him kissing Ginny. He'd tried to prepare him, to explain that in that life, Draco Malfoy had never been interested in Ginny Weasley.
"But weren't you still seeing Granger on September first, when you sort of crossed over?"
Harry looked away. "Yeah, I was technically still with Hermione. I know, I know..."
Harry hadn't included any instances that involved clothing being removed, even a little; he didn't want to invade his and Ginny's privacy quite to that degree. He didn't include anything from their night in the Quidditch changing rooms, but he indicated obliquely that they'd slept together, partly for warmth. Malfoy gave him a look he couldn't decipher.
"Do you think I'm daft? Of course you slept together! You don't have to tell me. I'm not Weasley. He doesn't know, does he?" Harry admitted that he hadn't told him or Hermione or Ginny. "But you're telling me," he said softly.
Harry nodded. "It was another life. It was once. And--it didn't really go very well...It wasn't under ideal circumstances or anything..."
Malfoy looked conflicted. "Is this more of showing me what we have in common? Because last time I checked, I'd never had the chance to actually consummate our relationship."
"Shh," was Harry's only answer. The other Harry and Ginny were kissing deeply, and Harry could see now that Draco Malfoy was experiencing it vicariously, his jaw open slightly as he watched, his eyes slightly glazed; Harry thought he was probably remembering what it was like to kiss Ginny. He shivered with the memory himself, trying not to show how affected he was.
Harry-the-Slytherin opened his lips and drank her in, holding her face up with one hand, bringing his other hand around to press against the small of her back; he kissed her as though he never would again, and Harry remembered the feeling of her fingers entwined in his hair, her warm body pressed again him. He broke the kiss and pulled her to him even more closely, pressing his face into her hair, Harry remembered that he'd had to try very hard not to cry. He pulled back and looked at her, his hands framing her face. "I love you, Ginny. I love you so much...."
She nodded. "I love you, too," she whispered hoarsely; she sounded as though her throat were too constricted to function. She started crying first; he tasted the saltiness as he lavished kisses on her forehead, her cheeks, the orbits beneath her brows, her chin, her nose....Finally, he seemed to realize that he had to make her go, before he started to weep as well.
"Good bye, Ginny," he said softly.
She moved toward the opening. "Good bye, Harry," she whispered over her shoulder. Ginny turned and walked slowly through the archway, and as soon as she was through, the stones reappeared, and both Harrys and Draco Malfoy found themselves staring at a blank, grey stone wall.
Harry was determined that Draco Malfoy should understand. He showed him Ron coming out of hiding, because he thought Ginny was pregnant. The discovery by Binns. And then the fateful trip up to the cave with Ron and his mother and the other Draco Malfoy. The first time he saw himself at roughly the age of sixteen, he walked all around himself, eyeing the other version critically.
"I didn't take up running, did I?"
"No. Thought I was daft for doing it."
Harry braced himself, looking away when his mother flew backwards to her death in the cave, feeling the rebel tear streak down his cheek. He looked up at Malfoy, who wore a stricken look on his face.
"She was going to kill Ron," he explained softly. Malfoy nodded, swallowing. As each successively scene swirled into existence around them, Malfoy became quieter and quieter; Harry wasn't sure, but he thought Malfoy might be breaking his own record for longest time without making a snide remark. At the trial, Malfoy was shocked when Harry accused his Inquisitor's own son of being a Death Eater, and even more shocked when the dementor was approaching Harry and his dad released the Patronus in the form of a flock of bats.
"All right Snape!" Malfoy said admiringly, a lopsided smile on his face. Harry didn't show him Azkaban, simply told him he went there.
"You--you went to Azkaban?" he breathed, incredulous. Harry nodded.
"But I broke out, the same way Sirius did, using my Animagus form."
"Why? I thought you were only given five years."
Harry drew his lips into a line. "My dad sent me a letter. Ginny was dead. And Jamie. And Simon was in hospital. Binns had found them and attacked them." Harry covered his eyes with his hand. "The next time you call me 'Perfect Potter,' or some other annoying thing like that, just remember--my own life had to go to hell before I realized that I'd created a world that should never have been, before I finally acted to change it back." He looked at Malfoy again now. "And I never could have done it without you."
Malfoy turned, looked behind himself for a moment as though unsure whom Harry was addressing. "Me?"
As the scene changed again to Alicia Spinnet's lodge on her parents' estate, Harry explained how they went on the run, flying by night and walking by day, with some help from the Muggle-born witches. He had already shown him Lucius Malfoy giving his son the diary of Tom Riddle; now he explained that the plan was to get Riddle to emerge from the diary so that Harry could perform the Tempus Bonae Voluntatis spell with him again and go back to the night his father died and mother should have died.
"You agreed to sacrifice yourself. It was only because of you that I was able to put it all right again."
Malfoy looked at him in disbelief, as though Harry were imagining things. Soon the whirling fog deposited them in Hermione's London flat, paint drop cloths and ladders strewn about. The encounter with the cop who wanted to try out her Swedish on Draco; he was chuckling at his own antics, but wincing at the mock-Swedish accent. Then he saw his other self with Hermione up against the wall, his lips on her neck, his hands moving over her, and his jaw dropped. "You--you didn't show this to Weasley, did you?" he asked. Harry shook his head; Malfoy was ever mindful of self-preservation.
"Of course not. Plus, I was showing them the Pensieve at the same time. Hermione would hex me into the middle of the next century if she knew that--well, that this had happened. Even though it was a different life."
Malfoy moved closer to the two now, watching Hermione's face as she abandoned herself temporarily to the feelings resulting from Draco Malfoy kissing and touching her. Harry waited for a crass comment from Malfoy but received nothing more than a very soft, "Wow."
"Except," Harry cautioned him, "that wasn't really you."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Different life. Damn. Don't I wish I could hold this over Granger--"
"That's not what I mean. Look here. See his eyes?"
Draco Malfoy peered into his own eyes, shivering for a moment. "Yeah. What is that?"
"That's Riddle. He was already experimenting with taking you over. He was in control, not you. He was the one carrying on with Hermione."
The swirling greyness engulfed them once more, and Harry warned him, "What happens next--are you sure you want to see it?"
Malfoy frowned at him through the fog. "Why?"
"It's your dad dying."
Malfoy's eyes widened as their feet landed on the painfully green grass on the cliffs at Dover.
"We can skip it if you like."
Draco Malfoy looked around. "No. You--you saw your mum die again. And you didn't want her to die. Let me at least enjoy seeing this," he said, his voice hard. So Harry let him watch his father fly backwards off the cliff, and he watched his face, how he set his jaw, and something made Harry shudder. Somehow, seeing Malfoy watch his father die with no emotions revealed was very eerie.
Finally, they were in the tent in Godric's Hollow, and the other Draco was explaining to the other Harry that it was his fault that the sea-basilisk had gone after Ginny. They saw the blond boy fade and slip into unconsciousness; they saw the other Harry meet Tom Riddle.
Harry saw that Malfoy was watching very closely when the other Harry was trying to hex Tom Riddle and failing.
"That's how you knew about it," he said softly.
Harry nodded. "Yeah. I learned about it the hard way."
Nonetheless, Malfoy was shocked when Harry set the diary on fire, causing Riddle to disappear. Harry looked at Malfoy, who was white as a ghost.
"Is it--is it all here?"
Malfoy looked toward the Potter cottage, through the trees. "You know. When--when he tried to kill you--"
"Yeah. We can stay and see it, if you like. But--but I may not watch. I've seen it too many times now, you know?"
Malfoy nodded, and Harry would have found it very easy to believe that it was his friend from his other life; there was a sympathy in the eyes that wasn't normally there. Harry hung about in the trees while Malfoy went to the edge of the copse to watch. Harry heard the explosion, heard his dad die after telling his mother to flee with their child. He heard his mother offer her life for his, the sound of speeding death as her wish was granted, then the inhuman cry of Voldemort being ripped from his body.
He turned and walked toward where Draco was standing, his mouth open slightly, his eyes in what seemed a permanent stare, as though he would never blink again.
"That's enough, I think. Come on," Harry said, putting his hand on the other boy's elbow. He felt them rising up and out of the Pensieve, and then flipping over and landing on the floor of the dorm. When Draco Malfoy lifted his face, he looked just a bit traumatized.
"You all right?" Harry asked him uncertainly. Malfoy nodded.
"So that's how it happened," he whispered. He looked up at Harry's scar. "How you got the scar."
Harry swallowed. "She didn't just sacrifice herself for me; she did it for us all, even though she had no idea what would happen as a result. And you sacrificed yourself, as well."
Malfoy grimaced. "You keep saying that. You heard what he said. What I said. It was selfish. It was so he--I--wouldn't remember your sister." He paused, shaking his head. "I'd ask how the hell you got such a pretty sister, but I saw your mum at the seaside; I don't need to ask."
Harry decided not to be offended by this; instead he tried to joke about it. "Well, you weren't the only one who noticed her. Ron fancied her, but he wouldn't admit it. Although technically, Cho was his girlfriend, so he shouldn't have been admitting to fancying someone else...."
"So," Malfoy said slowly. "You and Ginny. In that life."
Harry braced himself; perhaps Malfoy was experiencing a bit of a delayed reaction. "Yeah, about that, Malfoy--"
But he nodded instead. "I--I think I understand now."
Harry frowned. "You do?"
Malfoy shrugged. "Well--Oh, never mind. What I mean is--We both loved her. And we've both lost her." He looked Harry in the eye. "You're right about that. I mean, about having it in common."
Harry nodded grimly. "You're not angry?" he ventured carefully.
Malfoy looked like he had to think about it. "I'm--I'm jealous. And enjoy that while you can--I'm never admitting it again. But--" he sighed. "It isn't like I can't identify. God! If I were sleeping all night with Ginny lying naked on top of me, and having no clothes on myself....Well, let's just say that the words 'self-control' would not be needed to describe what would be going on..."
He looked a little wistful then. "You mentioned that you two were in the showers. You wouldn't be interested in showing just a little of--"
"No," Harry said firmly. "Besides, you probably took a look at her in the showers plenty when you had the amulet. Personally, that was why I gave you the amulets--I started seeing the two of you in the greenhouses after she'd received her O.W.L. results. I didn't know about Sprout interrupting you at that time, and I couldn't stomach the idea of seeing the two of you together whenever I touched it, so I knew I had to get rid of it."
Malfoy frowned, not understanding. "You, Harry, are lacking in the necessary curiosity to be a bonafide voyeur. Pity, with that Invisibility Cloak and all." He smiled at Draco Malfoy, who looked unnerved by this, looking behind himself in a panic suddenly. "What?" he demanded. "What's going on now? Why do you look like that?"
Harry grinned more broadly. "You just called me Harry."
The other boy looked relieved when he said this. "Oh, is that all? Well, it isn't as though I haven't done before. And I was seeing myself call you that for--what? The last couple of hours..." He checked his watch. "The last six hours!" he exclaimed. "Bloody hell! We missed lunch!"
Harry shrugged. "It took a while to show you everything. There was all that stuff from our early childhoods--"
"I know, I know. I don't want to take another six hours to go over it." He put his hand on his stomach and Harry actually heard it growl from about six feet away. "I'm bloody starving, and dinner won't be for a couple of hours..."
Harry grinned. "Haven't you ever nicked food from the kitchens?"
Draco Malfoy raised one eyebrow. "And it's Slytherins people are told to watch out for. Meanwhile, the Gryffindors are all involved in grand larceny..."
Harry laughed. "I hardly think getting some pumpkin juice and a snack from the kitchens is 'grand larceny.' I'll bet Dobby could dig up some eclairs for us..."
Malfoy made a face. "Dobby! I forgot about him. He was the worst elf we ever had! Completely insubordinate!"
"He was miserable, and wanted to be free," Harry said defensively. "Anyway--I wanted to do something to get back at your dad, after he nearly got Ginny killed and practically shut down the school." Harry grinned more broadly. "He was definitely not as happy about losing Dobby as you are."
Malfoy guffawed. "I'll bet. He was always complaining that it was getting virtually impossible to find a house-elf auction, to get more domestic help. He suspected that some soft-hearted witches and wizards were freeing their elves and depleting the market. Hard to tell though--anyone who freed an elf would never admit it."
"Mr. Crouch did. He dismissed Winky in front of plenty of witnesses. Of course, I think that was the point. He didn't want to be associated with her if he could help it. As far as anyone there knew, she was the one who'd fired the Dark Mark into the sky."
Malfoy shook his head. "Oh, sure. An elf. That's really likely," he drawled, rolling his eyes. "I hope to hell they get some half-decent people applying to be Aurors soon. Right now there are some real idiots on the job."
"Katie's going to be an Auror. Her training should be over soon, in fact."
He shrugged. "I reckon Katie will do all right. If she keeps her temper. She's probably one of the better ones."
They were silent for a minute, then Draco Malfoy looked up hopefully. "At any rate, you mentioned eclairs. Care to lead the way to the kitchens?"
Harry pulled out the Invisibility Cloak, smiling.
"Don't forget this," he said, draping it over Draco.
Draco, he thought. It was good to call him that again. He knows now. He knows that he's capable of great things, that he didn't just act out of self-interest, that he saved the world, really. Harry looked at the place where Draco had been moments before. A disembodied voice floated toward him, making him feel nostalgic for his other life. He also felt like perhaps a new, better chapter of this life was beginning.
"Lead on, Harry," Draco whispered; Harry could hear the smile in his voice. "Take me to your eclairs."
After they were well fed by the elves--Dobby avoiding Draco Malfoy the entire time--they went to the Quidditch pitch to practice catching the Snitch. They took turns releasing it, then each went to the goals at the opposite ends of the pitch before starting to look for it. Harry caught it three times to Draco's one time, but he noted that Draco was remarkably cheerful despite this. (Harry had pretended not to see the Snitch the one time Draco caught it; he'd been starting to get worried.) When they returned to the castle, wind-blown and hungry yet again, they ran into Ron and Ginny as they were going into the Great Hall for dinner. The two Weasleys stopped short when they saw Harry and Draco entering the castle together, carrying their brooms, obviously having been out for some time, as they were quite ruddy-faced.
Ron bristled. "What's going on with you two, then?"
Harry halted, at a loss for words. He remembered Draco becoming a bit hostile when he'd started trying to befriend Ron in his other life; now the tables were turned and Ron was looking like he was at risk to lose his best friend to one of the people he hated most in the world.
"Erm," Draco Malfoy said, "just a little one-on-one Seeker practice. I asked him how he did a couple of the maneuvers I saw him execute in the Hufflepuff match last month."
Ron looked like Harry was an abject traitor. "And you showed him?" Ron said, incredulous. "I asked you to captain the team for me while I was away--not give away all of the Gryffindor secrets to the enemy."
It was Draco's turn to bristle now. "Just because I'm a Slytherin--"
"Oh, shut up, Malfoy. All the other houses are the enemy when it comes to the Quidditch Cup. I'd say the same if Harry started coaching Justin in Seeking, or that little Ravenclaw boy who's taking over for Cho now. What were you thinking, Harry?"
Harry grimaced "I was getting in some practice myself. We should probably step up the team practices; soon it'll be pretty cold, and when the match against Ravenclaw comes in February it'll be a miracle if we can keep our hands on our brooms without them falling off."
Ron continued to look at them suspiciously. Then Harry saw that Ginny was peering into the Great Hall nervously, looking like she did not want to enter.
"What's wrong, Ginny?"
She turned to him, biting her lip. "Oh, I, um--maybe I'll just skip dinner...."
She whipped around abruptly and started climbing the marble steps. "What was that all about?" Harry asked Ron, who rolled his eyes.
"Oh, Hermione's ridiculous ploy to get my attention. She thinks I'll be jealous of Neville for some reason," he explained, looking sideways at Draco Malfoy, clearly mocking him.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, baffled.
"It's not fair to Neville, either. She's leading him on. I mean, do you remember back when he asked her to the Yule Ball? Took some nuts to do that; he wasn't to know that Krum had beaten him to her. Well, he's always had a little thing for her, let's face it. Never a chance in hell that she'd return it, of course. And now that she's evidently decided that you won't cooperate in making me jealous," he said to Harry, "she's decided to rope poor Neville into this. And she's stolen him from Ginny while she's at it." He shook his head. "Don't know what she's thinking. I mean--it's all so obvious. Why she thinks this is doing anything other than making matters worse is beyond me. Besides which, I'm not about to change my mind for any reason, so she should just quit trying."
Draco Malfoy stared into the Great Hall, and Harry saw where he was looking; Hermione and Neville were sitting very close together at the Gryffindor table, and she was feeding him. Harry thought he was going to spew.
"Are you telling me that that prat just up and left Ginny?" Draco said in disbelief. He turned toward the Gryffindor table, scowling. "He will not know what hit him--" he growled under his breath, pushing up the sleeves of his robe. Harry put out his hand to stop him.
"Are you mad? You already lost twenty-five points for Slytherin because of your so-called duel in the corridor on Thursday. And so did Neville lose twenty-five for Gryffindor. Besides--I thought you didn't want them together."
"Yes, but he's supposed to want them to be together. How can that little--" Harry didn't comment on the fact that Neville was taller than Draco now "--incompetent pillock just dump Ginny, even if he has been panting after Granger for years? Even Weasley here can tell Granger doesn't really mean it. Does Longbottom actually believe she's going to let him shag her? Is he really that gullible? And even if he is--I still don't think that's an excuse to hurt Ginny. That is completely unforgivable--"
Ron looked tired; he walked to Draco Malfoy and put his hand out on the smaller boy's chest, holding him in place so he couldn't get around Ron to enter the Great Hall. Draco struggled against him. Ron seemed to expend absolutely no effort at all in preventing him from going anywhere.
"As chivalrous as your attitude toward my sister is, Malfoy, I think you should stay out of this. I'll get some dinner and take some food up to Ginny, see if she wants to talk about it. After all, I reckon she's not having a very good time of it right now. First she finds out Mariah--who she thought was a friend-- is being far too friendly with you, and now Hermione's stupid stunt means another so-called friend is basically stabbing her in the back. She'd probably be more likely to want to see me, as I'm one of the few people who hasn't betrayed her in recent memory..."
Harry noticed that Ron's eyes slid sideways and met his; he flushed guiltily. Ron turned from them and entered the Great Hall. Harry started to follow him, but Draco pulled him back into the entrance hall.
"So," he said, his arms crossed. "Is this why you were so anxious to recruit me as a friend? You knew this was coming, didn't you? And now Ginny's all alone, and needing comforting..."
Harry shook his head. "I didn't know about this at all. I would have told Hermione she was mad if I had known. And anyway, Ginny doesn't want comforting from me."
Draco looked skeptical. "I don't know. Granger is still one of your best friends. Why should I believe this is a complete surprise to you?"
"Because I've given you my word," Harry said stiffly, his jaw set stubbornly. The two glared at each other for a minute, and suddenly Harry had a hard time remembering that they'd actually been behaving like good friends earlier. "You didn't react this badly to finding out about--about our spending the night together in the changing rooms. Why are you reacting this way now?"
Draco shrugged. "That was in the past. And in this life, it didn't technically happen. Ginny doesn't know anything about it. She has no memory of being with you. It's not the same as you actually being with her in this life."
Harry crossed his arms. "So--what if I were wrong? What if--" his voice caught with hope. "What if there were some chance of Ginny ever forgiving me. What if she did decide to make a go of it? What would you do? A friend--and your ex-girlfriend."
Draco Malfoy looked at him very levelly for a moment, then away. He swallowed, then looked at Harry again, unblinking.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, 'I don't know?'"
Malfoy scowled. "What I said. I don't know. I'm being perfectly honest, Potter," Harry winced; going back to last names wasn't a good sign; "I'm not claiming that I won't touch you or anything. In fact, I don't feel like I can be held responsible for my actions if that ever happens..."
Harry looked up at the marble steps where Ginny had gone, then turned to enter the Great Hall with Draco Malfoy--who might or might not actually have been his friend. "Don't worry," he sighed. "I doubt it's anything we'll ever have to worry about. Besides, if we're friends--well, she's not exactly thrilled about you doing all that cheating on her. I doubt she'd want to have anything to do with me if the two of us are friendly..."
That made the Slytherin brighten up considerably. "Good point, good point. Well old mate, shall we have some dinner?" he said grinning, before striding happily into the Great Hall and heading for his house table.
Harry and Hermione waited outside the dungeon cell while Sirius unlocked the heavy door. When it opened, Ron was revealed, crouched in the corner, his head in his hands. He was sweating and shaking as though he had a fever. Hermione choked on her cry and dashed across the room to him, holding his head in her hands. Harry turned to look grimly at Sirius, who nodded and closed the door again, shutting the three of them in for the night. Harry looked at the high barred window; from here, it already seemed to be dark out, but Harry knew that was just because the window faced the east. Ron looked very bad; despite the fact that he was attempting to go about clean-shaven now, he had what looked like a full beard and the backs of his hands were covered in dense red hair. The red light was in his eyes. Harry went to Hermione.
"Come on. We don't have much time. We should transfigure ourselves. He's had all the potion he's supposed to; it should actually be a pretty peaceful night."
Harry knew that he would sleep well; he hadn't slept at all the night before, working on a Potions essay. He was much more anxious about Potions than he used to be; somehow, he felt that if he earned a less-than-perfect mark from Snape, he was letting his stepfather down. He had labored the entire night through until he thought it was perfect--and he still worried about it right up to the moment he handed in his parchment--and right after, as well.
Ron had spent the day before in the cell; Harry had taken him down and locked him in securely. Ron was giving him funny looks all the way down, and he reckoned that if he had to, he could transfigure himself into a golden griffin and hold Ron off that way. The idea of having to fend off passes from Ron was very strange, but Ron was able to control himself enough to make that unnecessary. And it was still about twenty-four hours before the full moon; as the rise of the full moon drew nearer, the mania became worse. It wasn't as bad as it could get yet. Before he'd left him, Harry had asked whether he was all right. Ron had looked at him as though he were mad.
"Of course I'm not all right! I'm--I'd shag bloody anything right now!" Harry swallowed, sincerely hoping he didn't mean that. He looked down at his hands, sitting in the corner where he and Hermione would find him the next evening, just before moonrise. "And what's worse is--I know what it's like not to feel this way at this time now. I mean, even though I hurt her so badly--Parvati did make me feel better. Afterward--I was so incredibly calm. It was weird. I thought maybe I'd killed us both and we were in heaven. Pretty strange, huh?" He sighed. "This will have to do. Make sure you lock the door good, Harry."
Harry nodded to his best friend and slammed the door shut, effectively protecting all of the residents of Hogwarts Castle from the advances of a very frustrated werewolf.
Hermione put her hand on Ron's cheek and then stood and walked to Harry. They both changed into their animal forms in the blink of an eye. Ron smiled and shook his head. "Amazing, you two are. I can't believe--believe you still want to be with me after--after--"
Harry loped over to Ron and pushed at his foot with his large moist nose, trying to tell him to shut up, of course they wanted to be with him. Even though Hermione was frustrated with him, she was appalled by the idea that they wouldn't keep Ron company now that he wasn't in St. Mungo's any more.
"Of course we'll be there!" she'd said, shocked when Ron had suggested that neither of them might want to be down in the cell with him.
It had been a strange week; Hermione had been going into a corner of the common room with Neville quite a lot. They occupied a single armchair turned to the corner, and all that could be heard from that vicinity when they were there were sighs and kissing noises. Ginny's face had been like a thundercloud for days, Harry had been mortally embarrassed and tried to leave the room every time it happened, and others simply pretended, rather red-faced, that it wasn't happening at all. He'd heard Ruth say about her and Tony, rather archly, "You don't see us behaving like that..." If I actually think about it, my brain may self-destruct, Harry decided. There was something so very not-right about it.
And in spite of his stating right up-front that he was convinced Hermione was just doing it to get to him, Ron was showing progressive signs of being affected by their behavior anyway. Two days before the full moon Harry had a number of books spread out on a table near Neville and Hermione's favorite corner when they came into the room and headed right for their lair. Groaning, Harry started to gather up his many books, rather irritated that he had to lug them all into the library or his dorm. He'd just gotten everything set up to get his homework done....
Ron came down from the dorm and saw what Harry was doing; he walked over to him, frowning. "What's with you? When I went upstairs, you were just arranging all this stuff. Now you're packing up?"
Harry motioned to the corner with his head. Ron's mouth was open slightly as he listened (and, Harry realized, he could probably hear a lot more than most people). Ron set his jaw stubbornly and glared at the back of the chair. "Oh. I see."
Harry tried to get his attention, and Ron finally looked like he was awake. "Help me carry this stuff?" Ron nodded and they had soon transported the lot of it back up to the dorm, where Harry spread it out on his trunk and sat on the floor nearby, scribbling notes on his parchment and feeling vaguely like it was Hermione and Neville who should have to go elsewhere, not him. Ron sat on his bed to keep him company; Harry was doing extensive research about Apparition for Sirius' class, as he was giving them a long written test and requiring them to write a paper before allowing them to register to take their tests with the Ministry. Since Ron wasn't taking Apparition, he didn't have to worry about this particular assignment.
At one point Harry looked up to see Ron glaring at Neville's bed.
"I thought you knew she was just trying to get you wound up, Ron. Thought it wasn't getting to you."
"It's not," Ron immediately responded. Harry could tell he was lying without being a werewolf and being able to sense a change in the blood vessels around the eyes. It was eating at him as it wouldn't have if she'd been with Harry--maybe. If he and Hermione had actually taken Ron seriously and gotten back together, he might be every bit as bothered. Harry was reconsidering his original assessment that her idea to do this was mad. There seemed indeed to be method in it.
Soon after he and Hermione changed into their Animagus forms, Ron started grunting, then groaning. Harry winced during Ron's change; he could hear his bones being wrenched and twisted out of shape, and when he saw Ron's familiar long nose elongate even further and become the wolf's snout, he swallowed nervously, always prepared for the Wolfsbane Potion to fail to work its magic.
He needn't have worried; once transformed, Ron stretched, then curled up and relaxed on the cell floor, still breathing shallowly from the pain and exertion of the change. Hermione lowered herself onto the floor next to him, putting her head on one of his paws. Harry hunkered down on his other side and rested his chin on his own front paws, already feeling his eyes start to close because of his lack of sleep....
Harry wasn't sure what the time was when he awoke; a bright light was shining in the high barred window of the cell and he heard Ron and Hermione speaking softly. He was lying on his side, too exhausted to move. They were looking human again, about six feet away. But the truly amazing thing was that they were kissing; Ron had pulled Hermione on top of him and he was holding her head with his fingers laced in her short curls. When Hermione broke the kiss and moved her lips down to his throat, he moaned lightly and asked her, "What's this potion again?"
"Aegisthos Potion. It creates a kind of shield, so I can't be injured. It only lasts a little while, but that's all it has to last, right?"
He raised his eyebrows and looked at her. "Well, give me some credit, Hermione..."
She laughed. "That's not what I meant....I've been reading and reading, searching for something I can take for months. It's not purely frivolous research. This potion is often used by Aurors when they know they're going into a possibly volatile situation, and it can be useful for the N.E.W.T.s, too. It's for battle, frankly."
"So--are you equating this with doing battle?"
"It's certainly been a battle to convince you I'm not going anywhere..."
He groaned. "I can't believe I was bloody jealous of Neville, of all people! I knew from the start what you were doing..."
She nodded and kissed his neck. "I knew you knew. I also knew that wouldn't necessarily negate its effectiveness. Worked, didn't it?" She grinned at him and suddenly he flipped her over. Harry winced, waiting for her head to come into contact with the hard stone floor, but it actually seemed to give a little under their combined weight.
"Mmm...such a comfy floor..." Ron leaned down to kiss her neck now, saying between kisses, "Are you glorying in being such a clever witch again?" Harry understood now: she'd put a Cushioning Charm on the floor. So, if she couldn't hurt herself on the floor, and Ron couldn't hurt her because of the shield potion....
He was appalled as they began kissing again; although they were fully clothed, they moved like they weren't, touching each other through their clothes and kissing with abandon. Harry decided he had pretended to be asleep long enough. He changed to his human form and sat up suddenly.
"If you two care anything about me, please stop now and wait for me to get out of here before doing anything else..." They looked up with a start, having evidently forgotten he was there. He saw this and grimaced. "What did you think I was, a lion-skin rug?"
Ron chuckled, rolling off Hermione. He pulled her to him and enfolded her in his arms, where she gladly crept, a smile curling at the corners of her mouth. "Sorry, Harry," Ron said. "And--I'm sorry I've been such a prat about--well, everything."
Harry raised his eyebrows and nodded. "That about covers it. Everything." Then he grinned. "So--does this mean--"
Hermione looked up adoringly at Ron, who'd already shaved with his wand. "We've been talking since dawn. I told him I'd been doing my research, that I have a shield potion--" she held up a small vial she'd taken from her pocket; "--that can be taken internally. And I thought that softening everything around us with cushioning charms should take care of the rest of the problems. Plus there's the timing. Nothing during the week before the full moon, of course."
Harry felt himself flush. He'd slept with Hermione, but talking about her plans to do the same with Ron didn't exactly make him feel comfortable. "Erm," he said awkwardly; "Sirius should be here any minute. I think I'll--I'll tell him you'll be coming along shortly." He stopped; he could have bitten his tongue for his choice of words. Ron and Hermione were grinning cheekily at each other. He went on. "Then you can--put an internal locking charm on the door if you like, so you can get out again..." He felt himself getting progressively redder.
Sure enough, a moment later, he heard Sirius start to open the door. Harry leapt to his feet and was squeezing out the opening as soon as it was large enough to admit him. Once in the corridor, Harry was appalled to see that Snape was also there.
"Erm, good morning," he said to them both, his voice squeaking a little. Sirius frowned at his godson.
"Harry, why on earth are you bright red?" he wanted to know. Harry caught Snape's eye and thought he saw a merry twinkle there and an upward turn to one corner of his mouth.
"I take it Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger are still in the cell?"
"Um--yeah. They are. They'll come up for breakfast soon. They're just, erm, talking..." He knew he didn't sound convincing.
Sirius had caught on now, and Harry could see that he was trying very hard not to laugh as he was closing the cell door. "Oh, is that what they're calling it now?"
As they walked toward the stairs to the entrance hall, Snape, walking in his characteristic pose with his hands behind his back, said, "So, I take it Miss Granger managed to make the Aegisthos Potion?"
Harry stopped dead in his tracks. "You know? And you helped?"
"Miss Dougherty asked me for advice, actually. She's rather fond of Miss Granger and it goes without saying that she's fond of her brother," he said stiffly. Harry nodded; that made sense. Hermione and Maggie had become good friends. It was a little strange to him that he was walking with two teachers who knew what Ron and Hermione were most likely doing back in the cell where they'd spent the night. But then, they were both of age, and Hermione was the Head Girl, and they both knew that she'd taken certain precautions....
Harry had to stop thinking about it or go mad. He left Snape and Sirius and went up to the prefects' bathroom, even though he hadn't gone running, and reveled in the hot water, just standing, letting it strike him harshly as he stood under the showerhead. Draco and Tony came in when he was toweling off.
"Oh, good morning, Harry," Tony said cheerfully. "Where were you? And Hermione?" He didn't ask about Ron, knowing full well that there was a full moon the night before. But it wasn't common knowledge that Hermione and Harry stayed with Ron, as it wasn't known that they were Animagi.
Harry looked at Draco, then away. "Sleeping in," he said, which wasn't completely untrue. Draco Malfoy stood looking at him suspiciously. When Tony went to the showers, Draco still hadn't undressed for his bath. He didn't take his gaze from Harry.
"All right, Harry. Out with it. What's up? Perugia can't hear anything with the shower going. If we're going to be friends--"
Harry tried to shrug nonchalantly. "It's nothing really. Well, that's not strictly true. It's not nothing to them...."
Draco's eyebrows flew up. "Them? Them who?"
Harry swallowed, trying to appear to be very concerned about drying between his toes. "Ron and Hermione."
"You mean--no. Weasel and Granger are--they're finally--"
"Sssh! I shouldn't have said anything. It's none of your business..."
Draco frowned. "Granger wants to wind up in the hospital wing that badly?"
"No; she has a shield potion she's taken so she can't be hurt, and even if she tripped or something, she's put cushioning charms all over the place..."
Draco whistled. "I have to admit. She can be clever..." Harry remembered her putting the cushioning charm on the bathroom floor when they met there in the middle of the night... His face must have shown something; Draco Malfoy was frowning again. "What's really wrong, Harry?"
He looked up. What was wrong? That was a good question. He'd been trying to talk sense into Ron for months where Hermione was concerned...
"She was your first, wasn't she?" Draco said now, rather quietly. Harry nodded.
"But that's not it. I reckon--this just changes things. They're really together now. I guess--I know how he felt now. When Hermione and I were able to be open about the two of us. In some ways it's been rather nice, the last few months, the three of us being friends again in the old way. I reckon I'll need to check all the time now to see whether they have plans together, that sort of thing." He rubbed his feet dry with a vengeance, making the bright pink skin feel like it was burning from the friction.
Draco had turned back to his bath preparations now, shaking his head. "I always knew that would be trouble. Two boys and a girl."
"It worked fine for our first four years. Well, except for the Yule Ball. And Viktor Krum. But that wasn't because we were two boys and a girl."
"True. That was because Weasley was a great ponce."
Draco slid into the water as Harry finished dressing. "See you in Charms," Harry said, leaving.
"Harry," Draco said suddenly.
"If you--if they leave you in the lurch much--"
Harry gave him a half smile. "Right. I do have another friend."
"Just remember that."
"After all, I don't hold any grudges against Neville..."
Draco Malfoy made a wave of water splash at him, very nearly reaching the doorway. "You prat!" he laughed. Harry also laughed while leaving. When he was standing in the corridor, his hand still on the knob, he shook his head in wonder. Draco Malfoy, cheering me up. He went back to Gryffindor Tower for fresh clothes, shaking his head still, glad that in addition to Ron and Hermione, he did indeed have another friend he could rely upon.
The following night, he didn't go into the cell with Ron and Hermione for the night. Sirius looked surprised, but Harry said, "I told them I wasn't coming. I thought--they could use some privacy."
When they'd locked the door, Sirius patted Harry on the shoulder. "You're a good friend, Harry. You're right; they need some privacy. Are you going back up to your dorm? It's early still, since it's almost the solstice. Are you coming up to dinner?"
"Yeah. I didn't eat early, like they did, since I wasn't planning on staying down here tonight."
After dinner, Harry went up to the staff wing with Sirius and they talked for a while and played some chess. Sirius had a wizarding wireless and they listened to some music and news. It was a very pleasant evening, and Harry wondered what his life might have been like if he'd gone to live with Sirius instead of the Dursleys. As he was leaving, he had the sudden urge to ask his godfather something.
"Sirius, when my mum and dad got together, you know, as a couple, was it--was it weird for you? Did it change everything?"
Sirius regarded Harry seriously. "Yeah, a bit. And I still rather fancied Lily, as well," he admitted bashfully. Harry was surprised.
"So that must have been even stranger than this is for me. I mean, Hermione's my old girlfriend, but I don't feel jealous of his having her. It's more--what they have together. And that they each have someone. And that they're caught up in that now--"
"--and may not always have time for you. Yes, it was inevitable, perhaps. You'll adjust. You'll be just fine, Harry. And I'm here to talk any time."
Harry nodded. "Thanks. G'night, Sirius."
He smiled gently at the young man who looked so like his former best friend. "Good night, Harry."
The morning after the third night of the full moon it was Sunday, and most people dragged themselves into the Great Hall for breakfast rather late. Harry was surprised to see Ron and Hermione there already, eating peacefully beside each other. Like an old married couple, Harry couldn't help thinking, with a small smile. He was getting more used to the idea. He noticed that Neville was sitting farther down the table eating some toast and talking to Seamus and Dean as though his private life hadn't recently been turned upside down; Hermione must have let him down easy, he assumed. For someone who seemed to have been very attached to Hermione, he was evidently taking it quite well. Ginny was nowhere in sight. Harry sat opposite his best friends, who smiled sunnily at him.
"Good morning, Harry!" Hermione practically sang. Harry ladled some porridge into a bowl.
"Morning Ron, Hermione. You do look like you've had a good morning," he couldn't help adding impishly. Ron's hair was standing on end and he had a very silly grin on his face.
But Hermione was suddenly frowning at him. "Please, Harry! A little discretion if you will," she said primly. Harry laughed while he poured himself some juice.
"Discretion, she says! Snape knows, Sirius knows, Maggie knows...discretion! I reckon Dumbledore knows. He knows everything around here, doesn't he?"
Hermione turned deep red. "Oh, god, Harry. Don't say that. I could never look him in the face again..."
Ron met Harry's eye now and they both laughed. Just then they were all distracted by the owl post; as each bird of prey swooped over the tables, it deposited a delivery with the right person before moving off and up to the clerestory windows again. Harry had a small envelope drop into his hands, surprised to see that it was from his uncle. He'd written to his aunt about how she was doing, whether she was behaving and avoiding doing magic, that sort of thing. He'd received no response, so he tried again, reminding her to tell the owl to wait for a response. On the third go, he decided to try writing to his uncle to find out whether Aunt Petunia was all right, and he also asked Hedwig to stay and wait to bring back a reply.
"It looks like Uncle Vernon is writing me back," he said to Ron and Hermione. He opened the reply now. It was on Grunnings stationery, typed neatly, evidently using the computer and printer at his uncle's office. There was no salutation.
How the hell should I know how your aunt is? Isn't she with you at that place you call a school? I should have shot that damn bird of yours, but I wanted her to bring this back to you so you can know exactly how completely you have ruined my life, you bastard. Thanks to you, Dudley is dead. If you hadn't helped him lose weight, he never would have had a girlfriend to commit suicide over. Now my wife has left me, gallivanting off to be a witch. Even Mrs. Figg turns out to be as abnormal as you are. And to top it all off, our MP was just arrested for murder. I've half a mind to emigrate. To hell with you and all of your kind! If I ever see you again it will be too soon!
"What's it say?" Hermione wanted to know.
"Erm, here," he said, not feeling up to adequately communicating the gist of his uncle's letter. So, he wondered. If Aunt Petunia isn't back home in Surrey, where is she?
Hermione's eyes went wide as she read. Harry swallowed some porridge and said, "I know! Evidently she didn't go back home to Sur--"
"That's not it, Harry! I mean--yes, we need to work out what's happened to your aunt. It's this part here about the MP committing murder!"
Harry shrugged. "So? There are always government scandals. He probably thought his girlfriend was going to tell his wife about them or talk to a sleazy reporter. It wouldn't be the first time there was a scandal at Whitehall because of--"
"No, Harry! God, don't you get it? Your MP--or rather, your uncle's MP is the one for Mole Valley!"
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, I know. What are you getting at? Surrey just about always elects a passell of Conservatives, except for Guildford, which might as well be somewhere else. Those Tories always seem to have the most scandals--"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry!" she said, trying to get his attention. "We know the MP for Mole Valley, your uncle's home district, and until this summer, yours as well."
"What d'you mean, we know him?"
She looked wild now. "It's Mr. Spinnet, Alicia's dad!"
Harry was shocked. "No, it's not! He's from Northamptonshire!"
Hermione looked like she was losing patience with him now. "That's where he lives, but he represents Mole Valley. You know, where Little Whinging is. There's no way he'd ever get elected in most of Northamptonshire. They're as Labour as Surrey is Tory. Didn't you pay any attention when he was whinging about the MP for Kettering being such a bleeding heart? God, it was all I could do to bite my tongue all that week. I just started playing the cello very loudly every time he started in again. Mum and Dad have sent me some more papers. Let me see what we have here..."
Harry and Ron helped her open her parcel of Muggle newspapers, spreading them out on the table between them.
"Here we go!" Hermione said triumphantly. "Front page of the Times." Harry could see, even reading upside down, that the oversized headline said "Malice at the Palace." She tapped it. "As in 'malice aforethought.' It's a bit overused, but for once it might be appropriate, instead of just referring to members of the royal family squabbling with each other." She skimmed down the column, frowning, then looked up at Ron and Harry. "It isn't good at all. He didn't kill just anyone--he shot the majority whip at point-blank range with a thirty-eight caliber pistol. There was a witness, and he tried to shoot him too, but he only got him in the arm and he's recovering. He'll be able to testify against Mr. Spinnet in court."
Harry couldn't believe it; Hermione handed him the Times while she picked up another paper to peruse. Ron was looking at one from Hermione's home, in Greenwich. "Uh-oh," he said. "Here's something else. Roger Davies has been missing since the day of the murder and attempted murder, and Scotland Yard is questioning Spinnet about that, too. Something about--wanting to know what he's done with the body," he said, swallowing, looking up at Harry and Hermione. "They're speculating that Roger, who was his clerk, found out something about his plans to kill the whip and the other man--oh, evidently the other bloke was in line to become the whip if anything happened to the first bloke--and the police think Spinnet killed his own son-in-law so he wouldn't be able to stop him."
The three of them looked at each other in awe. They'd stayed in the house of a murderer! A politician who was also a murderer!
Harry had a sudden thought. "Alicia. Oh, god, what does it say about her? Roger's her husband and he's missing, her dad's in prison, accused of murder--"
Ron started to peruse the Greenwich paper and Harry began combing through the Times, but suddenly, Hermione said, "Alicia's right here."
"Right where?" Harry said, looking up at her. "What have you got there, Manchester? Is that the Guardian?"
"No, not right here in the paper. Right here--at Hogwarts." She nodded toward the doorway of the Great Hall, where Alicia Spinnet--or Alicia Davies, perhaps--was standing uncertainly. Harry immediately stood and strode toward her; when he reached her, he pulled her away from the doorway to the Great Hall. She immediately threw her arms around him and starting weeping on him uncontrollably. He held her and patted her back as she convulsed with sobs, and when she was finally a little calmer, she looked up at him, saying, "Oh, Harry! You must be wondering what all this is about--"
"No, I know. Hermione got a load of papers from her parents. God! Are you all right? How's your mum?"
She shook her head. "You--you know how you said I could come to you, Harry? If I needed help?"
Harry opened his mouth, then shut it. What on earth could he do, up in Scotland at Hogwarts, while her husband was missing and presumed dead and her dad was locked up, awaiting trial for a murder and attempted murder? He looked at her levelly, knowing that this wasn't the time to bring up how inappropriate it would be for him to get involved in Muggle politics.
"I'll do whatever I can, Alicia," he said, feeling that this would be a safe response. Which won't be much, he thought ruefully. Oh, god; she needed someone who could really help her. He thought for a moment--maybe Sirius?
"We could--we could talk to Sirius. He's only teaching part time and he goes out into the Muggle world frequently...."
She nodded. "You mean Sirius Black? I keep forgetting that he's been cleared..." she mused. Finally, she nodded. "That sounds good." She looked more collected now, more like the Head Girl from his fifth year. "I couldn't trust anyone in Scotland Yard, you see. Since I'm a witch and--"
Harry frowned. "But surely you wouldn't have to tell them that. Or even tell them that Roger's a wizard." He was painfully aware that it was an effort to use the present tense, instead of past tense, when talking about Roger.
"That's not the problem. The reason I need your help, Harry, is--my father's been framed."
She looked at him pleadingly, and Harry tried to keep his face sympathetic, but it was difficult; didn't everyone on trial for murder claim that he was framed? "But who--"
"A wizard," she said resolutely, her chin lifted defiantly. "My father has been framed by a wizard."
More information on my HP fanfiction and essays can also be found HERE.
Please be a considerate reader and review.