- Albus Dumbledore Severus Snape
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 10/14/2004Updated: 11/05/2004Words: 419,861Chapters: 24Hits: 157,499
Harry Potter and the Veil of Mystery
- Story Summary:
- Suddenly with a higher profile after being proved right about Voldemort's return, Harry's use of Voldemort's name around Hogwarts gains popularity. It also attracts Voldemort's attention in the form of a series of attacks, and Harry soon finds that he is shouldering a burden even greater than the prophecy--the likelihood that Sirius's fate could come to his friends, who will stop at nothing to protect him.
- Chapter Summary:
- An intensified dream attack by Voldemort pushes Harry to his limits, causing him to take defensive measures that begin to shed some light on the prophecy.
The Sunday Prophet
Harry soared high into the atmosphere on his broom. Higher and higher he flew, until he could no longer see sky, only stars. He knew he shouldn't be able to breathe, but he could. He wondered where he should go. He could go anywhere, he could go as fast as he wanted. He gripped his Firebolt tightly...
...and he was back in the graveyard. He looked around, and almost by reflex, started thinking about love. He tried to bask in it, in the joy of it. He knew that nothing compared to it. It gave him strength as he waited for Voldemort.
Voldemort popped into view. He looked almost as angry as he had at the end of the previous night's dream. "Well, Potter, are you ready to give in yet? You will, eventually, you know that... why suffer unnecessarily? Now tell me, when talking about me, how should you refer to me?"
Harry looked somber. "Tom Riddle... you used to be called Tom Riddle. Do you remember him? Whatever happened to him?"
Voldemort glared at Harry. "I am not here to discuss history, Potter."
"But he must still be there, somewhere. You can't have totally killed him. I met him once. He could have been a nice person, if things had gone differently for him."
Voldemort sneered. "What do you know of Tom Riddle? Or of me, for that matter?"
"I know he was once a human being," Harry said, focusing on love, on caring. "I know he had feelings, a heart, the same things that all humans do. But he hurt so much that he started letting you in, and before he knew it, you had taken over. He was gone, or at least, pushed far, far back in your mind."
"He was a fool, Potter. Not as much of a fool as you, but still a fool. He was weak. But he was smart enough to let me in. I showed him how to be strong, to eliminate his weaknesses. But he still couldn't do it. I had to take over, and he was happy to let me. But there is still some of him in me; the strong parts. The weak parts are gone, as they should be. Now, why do you care, Potter?"
"Because, Voldemort, what you call the weak parts are what make us human. Without them, we're just you-evil, single-mindedly focused on power. There is so much more to life than power. I feel sorry for Riddle for having lost that, and for you, for not understanding it."
Voldemort just stared, so flabbergasted was he. His expression changed; now he looked more dangerous than he ever had before. Think about love, Harry reminded himself. Come from a place of love. Listen to the phoenix song.
"I had not realized that you were this stupid, Potter. Perhaps I am wasting my time talking to you, but you still must be punished. It is you who does not understand, that there is nothing other than power."
Harry looked at him with what was now approaching real pity. He shook his head sadly. "No, there is. You just can't see that it's there, because you're not human. If you were human, you'd know. That's why you can't beat us, because you don't understand us. I've learned that there is nothing stronger than love. There's nothing better. If you don't understand that, then I really do pity you." Harry mentally luxuriated in a sea of love.
Voldemort looked like he would explode. "Crucio!" he screamed.
Harry was screaming again, the pain overwhelming him. But he found that he was able to think, to his great surprise. I have to wake up, I have to wake up, he thought. He felt himself being shaken, being grabbed. He flung his arms out, grabbed ahold of whatever was there, and the world came back into view.
He looked ahead and saw the extremely concerned faces of Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Professor Dumbledore, so he deduced that it was Hermione he was holding. He gasped for breath, and after a minute, pulled back a bit to see her face. She gave him a pained smile and ran her hand through his hair a couple of times. He gave her the best smile he could, and fell back into her arms, his head resting on her shoulder. She squeezed him tightly. Fawkes was singing, having resumed as soon as he had delivered Dumbledore.
The others watched, silent, as Harry hung onto Hermione for a few minutes. Finally he said, "That one wasn't as bad as the others, somehow. I think I'm getting somewhere."
Ron scoffed. "I'd say 'not as bad' is a relative term, mate. Looked pretty bad to me."
"I noticed it too, Harry," agreed Dumbledore. "Very minor, a very small difference in the quality of what you suffered. It was perhaps at 90% intensity. Still horribly painful, of course, but it is something to work with."
"So how long do you think it's going to go on?" asked Ron impatiently.
"C'mon, Ron, you know he doesn't know," said Ginny quietly
Ron looked apologetic. "I know, I know, I just hate to keep seeing him like this."
"No more than I do, Ron, I assure you," said Dumbledore. "But Harry knows this, he knew it when he started. It will take as long as it takes. We are doing our best to see that it is over as quickly as possible."
Just then, the dormitory door opened, and five first year boys ran into the room. "Professor! Are you okay?" asked Eric as they crowded around his bed. Ron and Ginny looked a bit annoyed, but Dumbledore smiled.
Seeing Ron and Ginny's expressions, Harry looked at them over Hermione's shoulder and said, "Well, they do get woken up, seems only fair that they should get to come in if they want." Still holding onto Hermione, Harry leaned over and patted the shoulder of the closest one. "I'm okay, Eric, everyone, thanks. I just need to be held for awhile, and then it's okay."
"We know," said a boy named Brian. "Some of the girls were saying they'd like to be the ones doing it." The boys all giggled; Ron, Ginny, and Hermione laughed.
"See, Harry?" said Hermione, patting Harry on the back. "I've got the best spot in Gryffindor Tower." Harry couldn't help but smile.
Dumbledore stood. "I'm sorry, boys, but I must ask you to leave now. Harry will be all right, and there are things that must be discussed privately. I suggest you return to your dormitory before Professor McGonagall finds you out of bounds." This was said with a smile, so the boys knew he was not reprimanding them. They nodded and filed out.
"Harry, I have brought this with me tonight. I thought it might help to have a different perspective, and Professor Snape can make more detailed observations," said Dumbledore, moving aside to reveal his Pensieve. "If you do not mind doing it this way, I can help you put your memories into it. Then you, Professors Snape and McGonagall, and I can view it, and form impressions."
Harry nodded, moving a bit away from Hermione but keeping an arm around her shoulders. "I don't mind, but them, too," he said.
"I am concerned that it may be too intense for them, Harry. They have never seen Voldemort before; it could be rather distressing."
"They can come if they want to. If they don't want to, they don't have to," Harry said in a tone that suggested that he would brook no argument.
"Well, I'm coming," said Hermione firmly. "If he can live through these things, the least I can do is see them, so I know what he's going through." Ron and Ginny nodded their agreement. When Harry looked at Neville, Neville looked a bit surprised. "You mean, me, too?"
"If you want to, Neville," Harry said. Neville gulped but nodded. Harry had a feeling that Neville was doing it for the same reason that he ran into the room at the Department of Mysteries.
Dumbledore nodded as if he had expected this, which, Harry realized, he probably had. "Very well, let me help you with this." He moved the Pensieve beside the bed, on a rolling stand he had conjured. "Take out your wand, and focus on the events you wish to place into the Pensieve. In your mind, shift them from your mind to your wand. Imagine them as the silver threads you have seen me use. When you see the threads, simply move your wand to the surface of the Pensieve." Harry did so. "Now, do you recall the dream?" Dumbledore asked.
"Very faintly," Harry replied. "Like it was something that happened a long time ago."
"Good, that is as it should be. Your memories will return in full force, of course, when you empty the Pensieve. I will ask Fawkes to bring Professors Snape and McGonagall." They were there in a very short time. "Now, everyone please surround the Pensieve. It will only be necessary to put a finger into it."
"They are coming too?" asked McGonagall.
"Harry was most insistent," explained Dumbledore.
She looked at them and shook her head. "Don't say you weren't warned, this will not be pleasant."
Ron looked at her aggressively. "It hasn't been for Harry, either. We have to do this, Professor. You must know that."
She looked almost amused by his fervor. "Very well, Mr. Weasley."
"Everyone put their finger in.... now," said Dumbledore. Eight fingers broke the surface of the bowl.
Harry's world spun, and in a moment he was standing in the graveyard, in a group of eight. "Harry, this graveyard... this is where he came back?" asked Ginny. Harry nodded.
Suddenly Voldemort popped into view. Harry and the professors didn't react, but the others all flinched. Ginny, standing next to Harry, buried her head in his chest for a second. Harry patted her shoulder in reassurance. The others watched, transfixed, as Harry and Voldemort talked. Harry, the Harry that was watching, looked around at other details. He could hear phoenix song in the background. The horizon was dark and indistinct. Harry focused on Voldemort's appearance and expressions; he saw details about how they changed throughout the conversation. Ginny clung to Harry in sympathy as she watched.
The dream stopped a couple of seconds after Harry was hit by the Curse, which caused Harry's friends to flinch again. They were in an empty graveyard. Ginny put an arm around Harry. "You were amazing, Harry," Hermione said softly. "I don't know how you did that, stayed calm like that."
"I want this to be over," Harry said simply. "I have to focus on doing whatever I can to make that happen. It's a big motivator."
"I now must ask the four of you to exit the Pensieve," said Dumbledore. "I would like to see it again, and discuss sensitive matters with the other three professors. You can leave by concentrating on your true body, and moving your finger out of the bowl." In a moment, all four were gone.
"Thoughts?" Dumbledore asked nobody in particular.
"Quite effective," said Snape, surprising Harry. "You could not have done better, Professor Potter. How much of what you said was rehearsed?"
"Umm... I was going to try to mention Tom Riddle, and he gave me just the right opening for it. Other than that, nothing I said was rehearsed."
"It appears, then," said Snape, "that your... intuition was in fine form. He was confused and furious, which is desirable. There is enough truth in what you said to make him uncomfortable, your pity obviously sincere, your calm perfect. He is used to people being in abject terror at his presence. The headmaster is the only one I know of who could have put on such a performance. You did as well as he could have done."
Harry was stunned at such praise. "Thank you, Professor. That's quite a compliment."
Snape gave Harry an annoyed glance. "It was not a compliment, Professor. It was a statement of fact."
Harry had a half-smile on his face. "No, Professor, it was a compliment. You just didn't mean it as one." Snape did not reply; Dumbledore chuckled.
"Yes, Harry," said Dumbledore, "it was quite inspired. I was particularly impressed that you were able to remain calm at just the moment you knew you were going to be Cursed. Your concentration did not waver. I suspect that most people could not have done that. I was also fascinated at your choice to highlight the dichotomy between Voldemort and Tom Riddle. What gave you the idea to do that?"
"I got the idea, I think, from that conversation we had when you asked me to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," Harry replied. "At one point, you said something like, it was as if he had been taken over by evil, and Tom Riddle was lost. I didn't know if you meant it literally, but when I asked what happened to Riddle, I realized that Tom Riddle was probably very different from Voldemort, in certain ways, at least. So it seemed reasonable to think of them as two separate people. I couldn't help but be saddened at the thought of the good parts of Tom Riddle being gone."
"Most impressive," mused Dumbledore. "So, Severus, Minerva, did you notice anything else about this dream? We should see it again before you answer." With a thought, Dumbledore caused the dream to replay.
"Did you notice that the sky got a bit brighter near the end?" asked McGonagall. "It was as if the sun was coming up, or from behind clouds."
"Does that mean what I think it means, Severus?"
"I believe so, but only Professor Potter can know for sure," replied Snape.
"Know what?" asked Harry, confused.
"Harry, what was your mental state, especially near the end?" asked Dumbledore.
"I was pretty focused. As soon as the dream started, I was focusing on love, trying to feel feelings of love. Somehow I was able to keep doing it even after Voldemort showed up. I don't think I ever got angry or annoyed or anything else, just focused on love. I seem to be getting better at that. Kind of like the Summoning Charm."
"Quite so," Dumbledore agreed. "We think, Harry, that the fact that the sky became brighter near the end was due to a combination of your intense focus on love, and Voldemort's fatigue. Your Occlumency skills are improving, so it is harder for him to break into your mind, and then he is faced with an atmosphere of love, which is very distressing to him. I believe this caused the Curse to be delivered with less than full intensity, and in the following nights, can be improved upon. I am now optimistic about your chances to keep him out or drive him out, perhaps as soon as the next few days."
"That would be nice," Harry affirmed. "I'll be happy for this to be over."
"Well, Harry, I can suggest no more for tomorrow than to continue in the same vein as today. If you keep calm and composed, focusing on love and not being distracted, I am sure you will achieve more success," said Dumbledore.
"I understand, Professor," Harry said.
The professors started to exit the Pensieve, and Harry did so, too. When Harry returned to the room, Fawkes had already delivered Snape back to his quarters. Before Dumbledore could start to leave, Harry asked, "Sir, would you mind if that was kept here for the rest of the morning? I'd like to be able to review the other dreams in the same way, see if I can notice anything."
McGonagall looked as though she was about to object, but Dumbledore said, "Of course, Harry, I understand. I will return at about 8:00 to collect it. That should give you enough time." He escorted a slightly discomfited-looking McGonagall out of the dormitory.
"So, was Voldemort anything like what you expected?" asked Harry, of everyone.
"Kind of worse, really," said Ron, a bit pale. "Just... total evil."
Neville was looking at Harry with awe. "I was really scared of him, Harry, and I wasn't even in the dream. I can't believe you were so calm. I saw it, but I can't believe it."
"Well, I've met him several times now. I sort of know what to expect."
"You know what to expect from the Cruciatus Curse, too, but it still hurts," replied Neville, obviously no less impressed.
"Harry," Hermione asked, "did you ask for that to be kept here for the reason I think you did?"
Harry nodded. "If you're interested."
"What are you talking about?" asked Ron.
"Harry wants to be able to show us some of his memories, presumably ones of events that we weren't around for."
"I'd like to see even the ones you were around for," Ginny piped up.
"The one I was thinking about, of course, was Voldemort's return," said Harry.
"You could show us that?" Ron asked. "Yeah, I really would like to see it, if... well, it was really hard for you. I thought it might be too private."
"Not too private for you. After all, you're all my close friends. I know that because you'll be reading about it in the Sunday Prophet in the next few hours," Harry joked.
Ron, in a decent impression of Professor Trelawney's voice, said, "Yes, the fates have decreed it." The others laughed.
"So, does everyone want to see it? It is a bit intense, I should warn you."
Everybody nodded, even Neville, who Harry had thought might back out.
"Professor Dumbledore didn't leave it here with this in mind, Harry," pointed out Hermione. "I mean, I want to see it, but-"
"He knew what I would do, Hermione. McGonagall was going to object, but he cut her off. He could easily have taken this back. He wants me to be able to show you."
"Okay, then." agreed Hermione.
"Now, I'm going to start this at a point near the center of the Triwizard maze," Harry explained. "Cedric and I are near the center, going for the Cup. If I do this right, it should start around when the spider attacks Cedric." He started applying his wand to his head and imagining the strands of thought, which he deposited into the bowl. When he could barely recall the episode, he figured he was done. "Okay, it's ready. Remember, if you want to get out, you can at any time."
"Why would I want to get out?" asked Neville defensively.
"I was talking to everyone, Neville, not only you."
"Oh. Well, okay then. I'm ready."
They all put their fingers into the Pensieve. The next thing Harry knew, he was in the middle of the Triwizard maze, watching himself, two years younger, warn Cedric about the giant spider, and help Cedric beat it. He recalled how, so often after the event, he wished he had taken the Cup alone, in which case Cedric would still be alive.
It took about thirty minutes for the event to play out. Harry saw quite a few terrified looks on their faces as they saw Cedric be killed, Voldemort rise, give a speech to his Death Eaters, toy with Harry, and finally duel with him. All had either been told by Harry what had happened or read his interview on the subject, but it seemed that seeing it was completely different. From Hermione's reactions, Harry would have thought she was not aware of what had happened. Finally it was over, and they left the Pensieve. They were quiet while Harry put his thoughts back. He looked at them, and couldn't help but smile. "See, Neville, if you'd seen that before the dream, you would've thought the dream wasn't so bad. At least I could wake up from the dream. Believe me, I wanted to wake up from that. Looking at it again, I'm still amazed that I got out of there alive."
"You're not wrong," Ron agreed fervently. "That thing with the wands... I still can't believe it, you were so lucky to have that happen."
"Like I said at the Hog's Head, I've had a fair bit of luck."
They next watched the confrontation with Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets, since only Harry had been present for the conclusion. Ginny had been there, but was unconscious most of the time. She was fascinated to watch, but unnerved to see herself lying in the Chamber. She held onto the real Harry while the younger Harry was fighting the basilisk, and was obviously furious when she heard Riddle gloat over how easy she'd been to deceive.
After they got out, she looked at Harry and said, "You never told me he said all that stuff."
"I didn't think you needed to hear him gloat, Ginny. It was hard enough on you already. And later on, I just never thought of it." Ginny muttered something Harry couldn't make out.
The time was already 6:30, and they had to eat breakfast, so it was decided not to view anything too long. Harry wanted to view the dreams again, as he had told Dumbledore he would, so they did. Harry couldn't find anything that he thought would help him, though. He moved the Pensieve off to one side, they talked about the dreams for a bit more, and then they walked down to breakfast.
Most everyone was already in the Great Hall eating their breakfast. A few people shouted, "What happened?" or "How about the dream?" Figuring it was better to do it like this than be pestered a few dozen times during the course of the meal, he decided to answer. He stopped walking and said loudly enough for most of the hall to hear, "Pretty similar to the other ones, really. Voldemort told me to stop doing this, I ignored him, he threatened me, I told him he obviously didn't understand why I was doing it, he got angry when I was disrespectful... and I think that not cowering is his idea of being disrespectful... then Cursed me again. But I think I'm making progress in fighting him off. I don't think he can do it too much longer."
"How much longer can you keep doing it?" asked an obviously concerned Hufflepuff.
"At least one day longer than he can, that's all I know for sure," Harry said firmly. Most of the Hall cheered; Harry smiled and sat down with his friends.
"It really is sad," Harry said as they started eating. "You saw what just happened there. It's you guys mostly, but them too, that keep me going. Voldemort just has no idea, no clue about what that means. I really do pity him for that."
Dozens of owls flew into the Hall with the morning's mail, including many copies of the Sunday Prophet. To Harry's surprise, an owl delivered one to him too; he assumed that Hugo had arranged to have him sent one. Ron and Neville looked at his, while Ginny looked at Hermione's. They read in silence for a while, then people started making comments. Ginny said, "Oh, Harry, Mum's going to be floating when she reads this, you were very nice. Next time she sees you, there will not be an unkissed spot on your face."
Neville had stopped reading suddenly, and looked up at Harry with a very emotional expression. "Thank you, Harry. You didn't mention that many people. I'm honored to be one of them." Harry nodded, appreciative of Neville's gratitude.
"I'm sure Lupin will appreciate being mentioned too, Harry," said Ron.
"I'm reading the main article; sounds like you two are reading the Harry interview," said Hermione. "It seems pretty fair. Of course it's favorable to Harry, but then again, the school supports Harry, so it should be that way to be accurate. Just a few minor quotes from Parkinson and her type to let people know that it's not unanimous, but pretty close. There's quotes from Ernie and Justin, supportive of course... and he quotes Cho too: 'I've known Harry for four years, since we started playing Quidditch against each other, and he's always been honorable, brave, and friendly. Also cute,' she said, smiling. 'I admire and totally support him, and what he's doing.' That was very nice of her. Funny, it doesn't mention-"
"I asked him not to," said Cho, having just walked up the aisle behind Hermione. Looking at Harry, she smiled and said, "I'd hate to be publicly known as the one who let you get away. Wouldn't be good for my reputation."
Harry got up; he found he wasn't anywhere near as uncomfortable around her as he'd been last year. "I wouldn't say it like that," he said. "It felt more like circumstances conspired to make it not happen."
"Could I talk to you for a minute?" she asked, gesturing him over to a wall, away from the tables, where they wouldn't be overheard. He nodded and followed her.
"I wanted to say a few things, Harry. One is that I'm sorry about how I acted a lot of the time last year. I couldn't separate my feelings about you from my feelings about Cedric, and I shouldn't have put you through that."
"Well, I wasn't too swift, either. I just had no idea how to act. I was too nervous all the time because of how much I liked you," he admitted. "You were the first girl I ever liked, like that, so I was kind of dumb." He smiled ruefully. "I wouldn't even know that; Hermione had to tell me."
"Thank you for saying that, Harry, that I was the first one you liked. That means something to me. I also read what you said about having a girlfriend, and I just started crying right at the table, it's so sad. But I made sure to stop before I came over, I think you've seen me cry more than enough."
"No, now that I'm not quite so confused, you can cry on me any time you want," Harry joked.
"Thanks. But what I wanted to say, about that, was... Harry, I don't think you've ever really been in love before, so you may not know this, but... no girl who loves you is going to care how big a target you are. Love doesn't work like that. I know what it's like to lose someone you love. But if you and I had worked, and if I was in love with you, I wouldn't have let that stop me. And if and when you fall in love with someone, maybe you'll want to stay away for her safety and yours, but you won't be able to. If you're in love, you won't care about risks or danger, you'll need that person. If you could put that person aside, for whatever reason, then you weren't really in love. I just thought you should know that."
Harry was silent for a moment. "I guess I don't know what to say to that," he admitted. "Maybe you're right. I just don't know. All I know is I don't want to put anyone else in danger."
"I know, and that's really wonderful. But I still think I'm right. So if I am, you can find me and say, 'Cho, you were right about what you said about love.'"
Wondering if she was right, he said, "If you are, I promise I will."
"Other than that, I just wanted to say the same kind of stuff that everyone's saying, about how I support you and how what you're doing is incredibly brave. If you ever want another person to talk to, about anything, feel free to come find me. I'd still like to be your friend."
He nodded. "Thank you, Cho. That means a lot to me. I'd like to be yours too."
"Well, I should get back to my table, finish reading the articles. But first..." She reached out to hug him, but slowly enough that he could politely back off if he chose. He smiled and returned the hug. "Of course, now people will start to talk again," she joked.
"They shouldn't, I've been doing a lot of hugging lately," Harry replied.
"Don't say that, I'll start crying again because of the reason you're doing it." She released him, quickly touched his face, whispered, "Take care of yourself," and turned and walked away.
Harry walked back to the table to see Hermione smiling. "See what I mean, Harry?" she said teasingly. "Even if something is unobtainable, girls will-"
"Oh, shut up," he said, in the same spirit. "She just wanted to make sure we're okay to still be friends, and to give me some advice." He repeated what she'd said about love.
"Well, she's right, of course," said Hermione, as if it were obvious. "I mean, I've never really been in love, so I can't speak from experience, but everything I've read suggests she's right. People say it's extremely powerful. You know that, you've been using love against Voldemort. It's not romantic love, but it's the same idea. Romantic love is similar, but much more intense. You may not be able to help yourself."
Harry looked at Ginny. "Well, I already told you something similar, just from the girl's side of it," she pointed out. "But, yes, it makes sense to me, too."
Harry decided to have some fun. "What do you think, Ron?"
Ron looked slightly alarmed for a second, then saw Harry's expression. "Oh. Should've known you were just having fun with me. Harry, I think you should listen to what the girls say, and do whatever they tell you," he said, obviously joking.
"Why, Ron," said Hermione, affecting great surprise, "I hadn't realized your outlook was so advanced. Maybe you're husband material after all." Everyone except Ron laughed. "Anyway," she continued, "I finished the articles while you were talking to Cho, Harry. They seem fine. He spends a few paragraphs on the possible danger to Hogwarts, but it's not out of line, or exaggerated. Interestingly, Malfoy's not quoted at all. I guess it was considered too extreme a view."
"If I got the feelings off of Malfoy that Hugo said he did, I wouldn't print it either," agreed Ginny. "I'd try to leave out the obviously not at all well."
"You can say that again," said Justin, having just walked over, along with Ernie. "I ran into him yesterday, and he was three times worse than his usual self. Called me the usual Muggle-related stuff, asked how the Potter fan club was going, and said something about how I'd probably pay for the privilege of shining your shoes. Really weird stuff."
Harry scoffed. "That's stupid nonsense, Justin. Why, I'd let you shine my shoes for free." Everyone laughed. "Yeah, he does seem to be losing it, doesn't he?"
"The strange thing is," Justin continued, "he usually pretty much leaves me alone, except for the odd Muggle crack."
"Well, you are popular, after all," said Ernie. "He should leave you alone."
Justin rolled his eyes. "Ernie's been on me about this ever since we got the article."
"Yes, I saw that," said Hermione. To the others, she added, "Justin's described as a 'popular sixth year Hufflepuff,' while Ernie's just referred to as a 'Hufflepuff prefect.' Don't worry about it, Ernie, we're prefects. We're not supposed to be popular."
"I know," Ernie smiled. "I just don't find things to give Justin a hard time about that often. You guys must be having a blast at Harry's expense. Lots of good stuff in there."
"You'd think so, Ernie," said Ginny, "but I'm afraid the situation's a bit too grim for too much of that. You wake up every morning seeing the look on Harry's face when he's Cursed, and you're lucky if you don't cry the rest of the day."
"I guess that's something we don't have to think much about," admitted Ernie. "So, did Professor McGonagall give you a hard time about yesterday?"
"She needled me about it, made sure I knew she knew," said Harry. "That was about as much as she was going to do. It's kind of like when you're a kid, you get better treatment when you're sick. Not coming down on me for breaking certain rules is her way of being nice to me."
"Well, Harry," Justin said, "our way is to come over here every day until this ends and check up on you. Just to let you know we care." Ernie looked embarrassed, which caused Justin to smile.
"I appreciate it, both of you. Thanks," Harry said.
"No problem, Harry," Ernie said.
"And all those girls that like you, that the article mentioned," joked Justin, "If you don't need all of them, could you maybe send a few my way?"
"I wouldn't think you'd need them Justin," Harry replied. "You know, being so popular and all." Justin smiled, Ernie laughed. They walked away, Justin giving Harry's shoulder a pat as they passed.
"Hermione," asked Harry, "Will you be going to sleep once we're done here?"
"Yes, I thought I'd give it a try. Why?"
"Well, Ron mentioning Professor Lupin made me think, I thought it would be nice to write him a letter. Not that he needs me to tell him what's going on, now he can read it all in the Prophet, but I'd like to know what he thinks. Anyway, I thought I'd sit by your bed when you went to sleep, ask Fawkes to sing, and write the letter."
"Oh, Harry, you don't have to do that. I'm better off than I was at this time yesterday. Unlike you, I haven't been Cursed in the past twenty-four hours."
"I know I don't have to do it. I want to. Okay?"
"If you insist. Thank you."
"It's because of me that your sleep schedule is all weird, it's the least I can do. I'll take the Prophet, too, I haven't read the whole thing yet."
As Harry and Hermione got up, Ron said, "Remember, we have our first Quidditch practice at two."
Back in the dormitory, Harry pulled up a chair next to Hermione's bed. "You know, it's really nice, being able to do this," he said. "I wish you and Ginny could just stay here."
Hermione chuckled as she arranged herself in the bed. "Dream on, Harry." The she grimaced, and said, "Oh, sorry, that's probably not the best thing to say to you right now. But you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. It could never happen, and I know why. It's just very nice. It's so comfortable, having you and Ginny around all the time."
"I know what you mean. I've enjoyed it too. I'm not Parvati and Lavender's favorite person, nor are they mine. I'd like to stay, too. But obviously, I'll be happy to go back to my usual dormitory, because..."
"It'll mean this thing with me is over, I know. Me too, believe me."
They were quiet for a moment. Then Hermione said, "I really can't believe you were that calm with him, Harry. I could never have done that."
"You don't know that. You only couldn't do it now, because you haven't had the experiences I've had. Who's to say, if you had, maybe you'd be the one who did it, and I'd be here saying, wow, Hermione, I can't believe you did that. And you'd say, I just want the damn dreams to stop, Harry."
She chuckled at the improbability of the scenario. "I don't think so. I have my talents, but being calm hasn't always been one of them."
"Yes, and we all know how calm I was last year," he responded humorously. "No, I think the only reason I'm able to do this is because I absolutely have to-"
"That's different," she interrupted. "You've been emotional at times, but you've always been calm in crisis situations, which is really what this is."
Harry thought about that, and found it hard to deny. "Well, maybe, but in this case it's also because of this whole 'focusing on love' business. If you were in my position, Dumbledore would be telling you the same thing he's telling me, and I'm sure you could do it, probably better."
Hermione looked doubtful. "Maybe, maybe not... but that's not the same thing as being calm in the face of Voldemort, which I don't think I could do no matter how hard I focused on love. How are you doing with that, by the way? I mean, obviously pretty well, considering what I saw in the Pensieve, but how often do you try to do it, get feelings of love going like he suggested?"
"Pretty often," he answered. "Probably two or three times an hour since he suggested it yesterday, and I'll probably try to do it even more today, since we saw how well it worked this morning. This is obviously a powerful weapon, and my life could be at stake here, so I'm going to use it for all it's worth. From how he acts, I feel like to him it's as if there's this horrible smell, just revolting to him, and he has to do something difficult--keep the connection to my mind going--while having to smell this awful smell. That's a very encouraging thought, and I think it's true. So that gives me even more motivation to keep doing this, not that I don't have enough motivation anyway."
He could see in her eyes how much she supported him, and he had a feeling that he knew what she would say before she said it. "I'm really glad it's working so well. You will beat him. I'm sure of that."
"I'm not quite that sure," he admitted, "but I am confident. And I appreciate your saying that. It helps." They were silent for a few seconds, then Harry thought of something he'd meant to ask her. "I just remembered, I was wondering if you could make more of those fake Galleons, or something like it. I want to set up something where I can communicate with my Slytherin first years, and Parkinson. Is it possible to use them to signal that you want to meet, or a signal, like warning or distress?"
She nodded. "I think so. You should find me after your Quidditch practice, I'm sure I'll be up by then. You can tell me exactly what you'd like to be able to do, and I'll do my best. It'll take a few days, I'll have to look stuff up. But I'm sure I can do it."
"Thanks. Well, I should stop talking, so you can get some sleep. Fawkes,-"
Fawkes started singing before Harry finished the sentence. "Guess the bonding is really kicking in. Thanks, Fawkes."
"Yes, thank you, Fawkes," added Hermione, looking very contented.
Harry smiled broadly. She saw it, and asked, "What?"
"You looked so comfortable. I was just remembering yesterday, after you fell asleep. I was watching you, and I realized I'd never watched anyone sleep before. There was something very nice about it."
"I'm glad, Harry. It's interesting... you probably had any number of chances to watch Ron sleep, but you wouldn't have looked at him and said the same thing. I know you don't look at me romantically, but I guess it just seems nicer if it's someone of the opposite sex," Hermione speculated.
"I guess it's the same kind of thing as hugging. I'm happy to hug you and Ginny, but it would be weird to hug Ron."
"You will, eventually. Men do hug each other, you probably just have to be older. But anyway, you weren't always comfortable with hugging. I think the first couple of times I did it, you didn't know what to do."
"That's probably because you were the first person who ever hugged me," Harry pointed out. "It was just... unfamiliar."
Hermione looked at him with obvious pity. "I'm sorry, Harry, sometimes I forget stuff like that. You really came out amazingly well considering what you went through. And now look at you. You hugged Cho without any discomfort, you said 'I love you' to Ginny and I. You've come a long way."
"And ironically, I have Voldemort to thank, at least for the second one. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I'll tell you anyway. When Professor Dumbledore suggested that I use feelings of love to drive Voldemort out of my mind, I actually had to ask him how I knew whether I loved something, or just liked it a lot. I felt like an idiot, but I had to ask anyway. Now, I can summon up feelings of love quickly, and I'm sure I understand what it is. I have you, Ron, and Ginny to thank for that. But I never would be able to do it now if I hadn't needed it as a weapon against Voldemort. I feel like I'm, I don't know, a bit happier in general since I've been doing that."
She smiled. "You should keep doing that, even after Voldemort is gone. I'm really happy for you, Harry. It's like you had something really nice, and suddenly you can appreciate it better than before. Interesting... I wonder if that's part of what drew Fawkes to you?"
"Could be... Professor Dumbledore said phoenixes can see through people, so if I was getting more comfortable with the idea of love, Fawkes would have known. But that's interesting... in the last few days, a few similar things happened: Hagrid said he thought that Fawkes picked me because I had some of the same qualities as Dumbledore. Snape said this morning that only Dumbledore could have done as well as I did against Voldemort. Do you think that maybe one reason that Dumbledore's the way he is because he 'comes from a place of love,' as he puts it? And if I'm managing that more, people think I'm similar to him?"
"It makes sense, Harry. Judging by how he acts, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he always 'comes from a place of love.' And judging by how you acted in the dream, I wouldn't be surprised if you could do it any time you tried. Dumbledore manages to do it even in crisis situations. If you did it for long enough, who's to say you wouldn't be able to do what he does? I think you'd find it's a good way to be, even if you're not fighting Voldemort."
"Yeah, that makes sense... hey, we should stop talking, you need your sleep."
"It's okay, Harry. We don't always get a chance to talk like this. It's like staying up late at a sleepover, it's nice. Listen," she said, looking at him seriously. "I know you're not going to want to hear this, but I really want to tell you anyway. Ginny and Cho are right, but there's another aspect to this. I'm sure that being in love is wonderful, even better than the love we have for each other as friends, and that's pretty good in itself. It's supposed to be the best thing about being human. What I'm saying is that if you want to defy Voldemort, you can't deny yourself, and this other person, such a basic and wonderful thing. You can't let him intimidate you into foregoing that. You're not really defying him if you don't live your life as you would have lived it if he wasn't around.
"I'm not denying that the danger exists, even that it's high. But Ginny's right, whoever falls in love with you will know it, and accept it. She may end up a grief-stricken widow, but she knowingly took the risk. It's not fair for you to deny people the right to put themselves at risk for you, and for themselves, if they want to. If you reject someone who falls in love with you because you don't love her, fine. But if you reject her, even though you love her, because you're concerned for her safety, it won't do her heart any good. She'll feel as rejected as she would be if you didn't love her. You'll hurt her worse by rejecting her than you would by loving her and exposing her to risk. And if either of you died, it would be horrible for the other one. But we can't go through life afraid. You've said that yourself."
He gave her a pained look; she extended her hand out to him, and he took it. He pondered for a few minutes, the only sound in the room being Fawkes' song. Finally, he said, "I guess this is like the thing yesterday. Part of me accepts your argument, understands it makes sense. But I don't know if I could actually do it. What bothers me most about what you said is the bit about how she'd feel if I rejected her for that reason. I hadn't thought of that. I just thought she'd understand my reasons."
Hermione smiled sadly, and shook her head. "She'd understand them in her head, but not in her heart. Right now, I think you can understand the difference." When Harry didn't reply, she continued. "I'm not saying that you should find the likeliest girl and ask her out for Hogsmeade weekend. It even makes sense to me that you're not going out looking for a girlfriend. I'm talking about what happens if you wake up one day and find that you're in love. It could happen. Letting yourself love someone could be your greatest act of bravery."
How can it be an act of bravery to expose someone else to danger, was the first thought to go through Harry's mind. He realized that she must be referring to how badly he'd be hurt if something happened to whoever he loved, and that he'd have to be brave to risk that. He didn't feel quite that brave. Fortunately, it wasn't something he had to worry about just then.
"Well, I can't deny what you say. All I can say is that I'm sure I'll remember it, if the situation ever does actually happen. And... thanks. I know you're trying to help." She gave his hand a squeeze, and they let go.
"I'm just trying to make sure you have a life, that you don't deny yourself something that important... well, I guess I should go to sleep now. I love talking to you, but I'm really tired. Fawkes has got me all relaxed." She moved around, getting comfortable, then looked up at him and smiled. "It's okay, I don't mind if you watch."
He smiled in return. "I will, thanks." He reached over and picked up a quill and a piece of parchment. He pondered what to say for a while as Hermione fell asleep. Fawkes continued to sing. Finally, Harry started writing.
First, I hope you don't mind me using your first name. I think of you as more of a friend than a former teacher, so it just seems natural to use it.
I'm sure you've read the Sunday Prophet by now, so I don't have to take up several inches telling you about it. The article seems accurate and fair, so I'm not sure what I could tell you that would explain the situation better.
Everyone keeps telling me how brave I am. But I sometimes wonder whether 'stubborn' would be a better word. I wouldn't even give serious thought to stopping using Voldemort's name. And besides, if I did, he could get me to do anything he wanted just by threatening to do this again, and having given in once, I'd probably do it again. I just never saw myself as having any choice.
As far as the battle itself, it seems to be getting a bit better. In this morning's dream, the Curse's intensity was down slightly. Still really, really painful, obviously, but the fact that it's down at all means that I'm getting somewhere. Last night I focused on love in the dream; Voldemort didn't seem to like that, so I'm doing it again tonight. I've been getting much better at doing that, thanks to Professor Dumbledore. It's very strange, until August I had barely ever thought about love, and all of a sudden, my being able to stop these attacks totally depends on how well I can bring up feelings of love, and concentrate on them completely. Fortunately, Professor Dumbledore started talking to me about this the day you did that thing with the Dursleys' lawn (I loved it, you have to teach me how you did that sometime), so it wasn't a totally new idea. This is like a combination of Occlumency, where you have to focus on one thing, and repelling Voldemort, where that one thing is love. It seems like I'm a quick study when I'm threatened with something awful.
I really miss Sirius, especially at a time like this. I mean, everyone here has been great, and Professor Dumbledore has treated me wonderfully, giving me the maximum support and attention he can, it feels like. I'm not neglected, that's for sure. But I still wish I could talk to Sirius. I know he'd be proud of me. He would have wanted to be doing something like I am, to be at the center of the action. You must miss him a lot, too, I'm sure. It just occurred to me, I've been so wrapped up in my own sadness that I forgot how hard it must have been for you. You got your close friend back, after twelve years, and then lost him again. I should have thought of that.
Being a professor is really strange, but I'm starting to like it. You probably read in the article how much everyone's liked my classes. I admit that I'm surprised; I didn't think I was doing anything special. I wonder how much of it is that I'm Harry Potter. Hermione says she thinks it's partly how I teach, but partly what I represent-the idea of fighting Voldemort, and not being afraid of him-and that they're inspired by the idea of saying Voldemort's name, giving them a chance to do something brave and be proud of themselves. I don't know, but I'm really glad they like the classes. I remember when you were here, how much we all looked forward to your classes. It makes me happy to think that they might feel the same way. You were really good. Whenever I think about that, I get angry at Snape, for telling everyone about you so you'd have to go. It reminds me that now, Snape's actually being polite to me, with no trace of his usual attitude. Not friendly, of course, I don't know if he's even capable of that, but not nasty. He even praised my actions in this morning's dream, saying only Dumbledore could have done as well. It's pretty confusing to have him acting like this. I don't mind, obviously, I just wish I knew why.
I'm watching Hermione sleep as I write this, with Fawkes singing. I'm still amazed that Fawkes chose me. It's hard to think of a better thing to have happened to me. He's already saved my life once, and I have a feeling he'll do it again before this is all over. But not only that, just the comfort of his presence, and the honor of having been chosen, are great. It's really overwhelming.
It's only been a short time since the article came out, so I haven't gotten that much reaction, but already Hermione, Ginny, and Cho have told me that I'm wrong to be scared of what might happen to any future girlfriend I might have, that I just have to accept the risk. Maybe they're right. It's just that getting others to share my risks has never been something I've been good at. I suppose I won't really know what I'll do until I'm faced with it.
Harry looked up and watched Hermione for a few minutes, lost in thought. Then he continued:
I guess that's all I can think of for now; I hope everything is okay with you. Harry.
P.S. I was thinking, next summer, on the day before my seventeenth birthday, how about you and I go to an amusement park. I'd like to do that. Let me know.
Harry read the letter again, then folded it up to give to Hedwig later. He picked up the Prophet carefully, being sure not to make enough noise to wake Hermione, and finished reading the article. He thought that it was perhaps a little too generous to him, but then he thought that he deserved it, after what the Prophet had done to him last year, and Rita Skeeter the year before that. He got up and got his Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching book to help decide what to do for the coming week's lessons, and to read in general for more ideas. He got so lost in it that he didn't even notice Fawkes stop singing, and before he knew it, it was noon.
Harry decided to get out the Marauder's Map to find out where Ron and Ginny were. After a few seconds' search, he found them near the Quidditch pitch, probably just having had a fly and heading in for lunch. They were with Dennis Creevey and Katie Bell, so Harry assumed that Katie had been giving Ginny and Dennis pointers on their new position. He was about to put the map away when something caught his eye; there was someone in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. He looked closer and saw a dot with the name 'Pansy Parkinson.' He exhaled in mild frustration; what was she doing looking for him? He suddenly realized that it could be important. He stood quickly, put the Map into his robes, and grabbed his bag and put his Invisibility Cloak into it. Still being sure not to make undue noise, he left the dormitory and headed towards the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
He arrived in a few minutes to see Pansy looking at the walls of the room, and was briefly reminded of Ron's 'Hall of Misfortune' joke. He walked up to her; she heard him and turned around. "Harry, thanks for coming. I was about to give up and go to lunch."
"What made you think I would come?" asked Harry, puzzled. "I don't know how you would think I knew you were here."
"The same way Hermione knew Nott was heading toward the pitch yesterday. He was under an Invisibility Cloak, she had no way to know he was there. You guys must have something that tells you where people are." She smiled a bit in satisfaction at having worked it out.
Harry grunted in displeasure. "I hope you're the smartest of the older Slytherins, I'd rather nobody else figured that out. Come on," he said, gesturing her to the office. They entered the office and closed the door.
Since she already knew enough, Harry decided there couldn't be much more danger in telling her the rest. He pulled out the Map and laid it out in front of her. She took only a few seconds to recognize what it did. "Wow, this is great," she marveled. "This gives you a big advantage."
He nodded. "Not to mention, helped Hermione save my life yesterday. I'm going to have to keep my eye on it while we talk. And if somebody gets close, I want you to put this on, quick." He pulled out his Invisibility Cloak, and threw it over himself to demonstrate.
She was very impressed. "Is this the one they got from Nott?"
He shook his head. "It's mine, from my father. I've had it since first year."
She looked amused. "Draco always thought you had one of these, but he could never prove it. That time you threw mud at him in Hogsmeade."
"It was a stupid thing to do. I could've gotten caught, I was lucky not to have."
"Maybe, but I can understand why you did. The temptation must have been irresistible." She looked up. "I came here because I realized something that could be helpful to all of us who are helping you. Everybody knows how much the Slytherin first years like you, and you them. I'd be amazed if it wasn't the case that they're going to keep their eyes open for you, let you know if anything happens in Slytherin. I think most of the older Slytherins just assume that's the case anyway; at this point, the first years' support for you is so open that they don't have to fear reprisals. Draco's not going to bother, he knows it's a lost cause. I want you to tell them about me."
Harry was startled. "No way," he said automatically. "It's too risky. There's ten of them. I mean, I trust them, but they're first years. They might say the wrong thing, say something too loud, be overheard. We can't do that."
She smiled at him, more with her eyes than her mouth. "It's so sweet the way you worry, Harry. No one's ever worried about me except my parents, and then, not even that much. But, first of all, being found out isn't exactly a death sentence. No one's going to kill me without a reasonable chance of escaping, and that would be hard. Draco would just stop talking to me, and that would be that. Secondly, if they know about me, it could be very helpful. They could tell me things, small details that might be significant, but that you or even they might not recognize as significant. I know Slytherin really well, so I'd be able to recognize things for what they are. I can meet them easily to get information, I can go into their dormitories on my prefect duties. It's perfect."
Harry shook his head. "I understand that, but it's still too dangerous."
Now she looked at him evenly, seriously. "I hate to do this, Harry, but I'm going to tell them anyway. You know it's a good idea too. You're only trying to stop me because of the risk. Well, it's a risk I choose to take. I can tell them in Slytherin alone, but I thought it was better if I told them with you. They might not believe me if I tell them myself, but if you tell them, they will. Or is this one of those things that you're not willing to trust me with?"
He glared at her, then looked down, embarrassed. "No, I trust you. I wouldn't have believed I could, this fast, but I do. No, it's the risk. I just hate the idea..." He took a few steps around the office, frustrated. "I guess I'm going to have to get used to the idea of people taking risks for me that I'd rather they didn't."
She smiled. "You mean, like being your girlfriend?"
With an embarrassed grin, he shook his head. "I didn't even know I was thinking that. Hugo just plucked it out of my head, and I couldn't deny it when he said it. I've already heard from Ginny, Cho, and Hermione that I'm wrong, and being unrealistic. Maybe they're right. It's just really hard."
"Well, let me add my voice to theirs. I think most girls would agree. I couldn't sign it, of course, but I wanted to."
"Sign what?" he asked, but was distracted by her startled twitch. She pointed at the Map, which showed Malfoy approaching. He grabbed the cloak and handed it to her. "Sit down in the corner, and don't make a sound. Don't even breathe too loud."
She sat and pulled the cloak over her. Harry took a look to make sure no part of her was not covered, put the Map away, then pulled his teaching text out of his bag and opened it so that it looked like he was preparing. He also made sure that his wand was within quick reach, in case Malfoy decided to try to take advantage of the fact that they were alone. Malfoy walked straight in, clearly not expecting to find anyone there; Harry assumed he planned to walk through the teacher's office to the classroom, maybe as a shortcut on his way somewhere else. Malfoy recoiled in surprise as he saw Harry. "What are you doing here?" he snarled.
Harry puzzled for a moment to make sure he'd heard the question correctly, then said, "I'm the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Malfoy, and this is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher's office. I can try to explain further if you'd like."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "I mean, it's noon on a Sunday. It doesn't seem likely that you'd be here."
Harry attempted to look irritated at having to explain himself. "Well, after a spot of torture, it's nice to relax in solitude with a good book. Now, why are you here?"
Malfoy looked at Harry as if he were obviously crazy, then smiled. "You really are deranged, Potter. You'll let yourself get tortured so you can have people pay attention to you? Tell you how great you are? You've always wanted publicity so much, now look how low you'll sink, how you'll degrade yourself, to get what you want."
Stay calm, Harry told himself. Think about love. Don't let Malfoy provoke you.
He looked at Malfoy sadly. "I said this after the first morning, Malfoy. You don't understand, but neither does Voldemort, so you're in good company. I'm really not going to explain myself to you."
"And you get these girls to feel sorry for you, like you're some kind of hero," Malfoy continued, as if Harry hadn't spoken. "It's pathetic."
"I don't see a lot of girls chasing after you, Malfoy. You shouldn't talk. Who's going to want to marry a future Death Eater?"
Malfoy looked smug. "I'll have no problems, Potter, and I'll do it without suffering and groveling. Pansy has the inside track, I might take her if she's lucky."
Harry almost looked at the corner to see if Pansy would move. "What an honor for her, Malfoy. I'll be sure to mention it to her the next time I see her."
Malfoy chuckled. "Yeah, like she'll believe you. She knows what's good for her, and that's me. Women are drawn to power, Potter, not stupid heroics."
Harry had heard enough, as, he suspected, had Pansy. "Whatever you say, Malfoy. Would you like to debate the meaning of life, or would you like to tell me what you're doing here?"
"I was looking for Pansy, Potter. Don't suppose you've seen her anywhere?"
"If this is an unlikely place for me at noon on Sunday, Malfoy, then it seems really unlikely for her. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Malfoy stared at Harry, hatred in his eyes. "Do you know what will happen one day, Potter?"
Harry looked at Malfoy evenly. "Yes, Malfoy. We'll look back on this and laugh. Professor Trelawney told me. Now, I'd like to get on with my book and solitude, but I'll tell you what... in tomorrow morning's dream, I'll put in a good word for you with Voldemort. Let him know how well you've been supporting him here. Don't say I never did anything for you. Goodbye, now."
Malfoy was still looking daggers at Harry, but then his look changed to a scornful one, as if he realized he was engaged in a stupendous waste of time. "Pathetic, Potter. Truly pathetic," he said, and walked away.
Harry closed the door and locked it, then put his hand up, palm out, toward the corner to indicate that Pansy should not get up yet. He took out the Map and looked at it as Malfoy's dot moved away. He changed the gesture to indicate that she could get up.
Pansy took the Cloak off as she stood up, and handed it to Harry. She was looking at the door, a furious expression on her face. Harry thought of making a joke, but then thought better of it. "I'm sorry, Pansy. I would say that you showed great restraint in not throwing the Cloak off and strangling him."
"I seriously considered it. I was wondering if spells would penetrate an Invisibility Cloak," she fumed. "I feel like such an incredible fool. Not that I care what he thinks of me now, but all that time, that was his attitude and I didn't know..."
Her expression changed from angry to pained. "But I deserve it, don't I... I was no better, being a sycophant. Why should he respect me, when he could get my allegiance so easily."
"He could have never respected you anyway, Pansy, no matter what you'd done. If you hadn't been a sycophant, he wouldn't have had anything to do with you. He doesn't want friends he can respect, he wants allies he can dominate. But you've changed that, it doesn't matter anymore."
She looked at him with pain and urgency. "No, it doesn't, but what he said was a reminder of how I've been stupid, how I've wasted years of my life. And the worst of it is, he was right about one thing. Women are attracted to power. I was. There were times when I imagined myself Mrs. Draco Malfoy, with a powerful husband and a big house and lots of nice things. That seemed like what was important. But what does a thirteen-year-old know?"
Harry was quiet. "I'm sorry, Pansy. I'm not sure I know what to say."
She shook her head, near tears. "You don't have to say anything, it's nice of you just to listen." She paused. "I feel like I'm in mourning... mourning for a part of my life that was spent badly, that was wasted. For a person that I should never have been, but somehow was. I know I've started a new part of my life, but I guess I have to get the old one out of my system first."
Tears were trickling down her cheeks. She looked at him, and suddenly took a step toward him and leaned into him, her head on his shoulder, hugging him lightly. He was startled, but made himself not back off, as it would have been cruel. She sobbed into his shoulder. His heart melted; he knew she had hurt people and made bad choices, but at least she had realized her mistakes. He put his arms around her and hugged her back, moving his hands across her back a little, as Ginny and Hermione had with him. He still didn't know what to say, so he stayed silent, letting her cry herself out.
She hung on for a little after she had stopped crying, then backed away to dry her tears and blow her nose. She looked at him every few seconds, as if wanting to know how he was seeing her, what he thought. Then she smiled again and said, "Harry, I bet Hugo had no trouble reading you like a book. Your eyes are very expressive. You're very concerned, and you feel bad that there's not much you can do for me. Also, you were a little uncomfortable about being cried on, but you hung in there anyway. Like the brave person you are."
He couldn't help but smile. "I'm glad you're comfortable enough to tease me. I wasn't that uncomfortable, just surprised. And I do wish there was something I could do for you, but I don't think there is."
"Actually, there is. When I decided I wanted to join up with the first years, I wanted to meet you as soon as possible. I came here a couple of times during the morning, hoping you'd find out I was here. This was my third try. And I was getting frustrated that I couldn't contact you, and I realized I was really looking forward to seeing you. Now, if your friends were here, they'd be teasing you, saying I was obviously keen on you. But here's why I think I felt that way.
"I'm attracted... not exactly to you as such, but to qualities you have, to what you represent-a better, nobler, nicer way to be. To the idea of doing something because it's right, and for others, not out of self-interest. You're like a symbol of that, and it's easy to want to be around that. You've also been kind and sympathetic, not to mention forgiving. But also, you're the only one I can talk to about this, the only one who, when I'm around, I can try to be the person I want to be. If I was open in my support for you, I could be who I wanted, talk to anyone. But because I've decided to do it this way-and no, don't try to talk me out of it again-when I'm not with you, I have to go back and pretend that I'm still what I was. Even in the short time since I've made this change, I understand that it's depressing to be around that, what I was. I know, I made the choice. I want to help so badly that I'm content with my choice. But the way you can help me is by being here for me. If you could spend some time with me, maybe an hour a week, even if there's no real need, it would really help. I guess I just need emotional support. I hate to ask it of you, I know you're pretty busy, being a teacher and a student... but..." She trailed off.
Even before he thought about it, Harry knew that he couldn't say no. Even if he didn't want to, he was responsible for her, he owed it to her. But he was surprised to find that he didn't mind doing it at all.
"Pansy... this is funny, if someone had told me two days ago this would happen, I'd have said they were crazy... but I realize I've already come to think of you as a friend. And I'm happy to spend some time every week talking to a friend. It's no problem."
She gave him that look again, the one from yesterday that the others had said was very revealing. Then she hugged him again, this time for only a few seconds before letting go. "That's so kind of you to say, Harry, I really don't deserve it. But I appreciate it anyway." She chuckled ruefully. "This is really something Malfoy would think is stupid and pathetic. All you have to do is be kind to me, and I'm really happy. He'd say you're weak if you have to depend on someone else."
Harry shook his head. "He'll make a good Death Eater, he already thinks like them. We all rely on each other, that's one of our strengths. We get energy, strength, and support from each other. I should know, I've been getting nothing but that for two days now, and it's made me stronger. Including from you. Think about how it makes me feel-you started a new way of thinking, that'll help you have a happier life, partly because of me, something I did-"
"Mostly because of you," she corrected.
"Anyway, it makes me feel really good, is the point. So it helps me, too. You see what I mean. I mean, this morning Hermione hugged me out of the Curse. Justin, Ernie and Cho came by to be supportive. We went back to the dormitory and Hermione tried to tell me I shouldn't be scared to have a girlfriend. Fawkes sang. I met you, who wants to do what you can to support me. All morning, nothing but support. Even when I wrote to Remus, I knew he'd be supporting me, even though he's not here."
"Remus Lupin, remember, he taught this, third year."
"Oh, yes, the werewolf. I saw you mentioned him in the article. I didn't know you were that close to him."
"He was a close friend of my father's, and I've seen him from time to time. He's a really nice man, doesn't deserve the treatment he gets, being a werewolf."
"What did you write to him about? He must know everything from the Prophet anyway."
"I was going to the owlery to send it when I saw that you were here. If you'd like, you should go ahead and read it. It'll give you an idea of how I'm feeling." Harry almost surprised himself by offering, but he wanted to make a gesture. She had put a great deal of trust in him.
She eyed him, obviously also surprised, then took the letter he was offering, opened it, and read it. One time she glanced up at him, but mostly she read. After she finished, she handed it back to him. "An amusement park?"
"A reference to a joke I made a few months ago."
"And Sirius is... not Sirius Black?" Harry nodded. "But he was supposed to be trying to kill you in third year!" Harry quickly explained what had happened, and then how he lost Sirius in the Department of Mysteries. "So he spent twelve years in Azkaban for something he didn't do, and then we lost him fighting Death Eaters. It was really hard. He was my godfather, and even when he was on the run, was always trying to look out for me. I just wish..." he trailed off, realizing that he was starting to feel like he might cry.
"I'm sorry, Harry," she said, and it was very obvious that she meant it. "I guess he was kind of like a parent to you."
Harry nodded. "Kind of. I lost my own parents, of course, and the Muggles who raised me never liked me, hated the fact that I was a wizard. So I never had any adults who really looked after me and cared about me, until the Weasleys, and then Sirius."
"I didn't know that, about your Muggle family. If Malfoy knew, that would be another whole line of insults you'd get," she said disgustedly. Harry got the feeling that the disgust was aimed equally at herself, who would have been making the jokes along with Malfoy until a short time ago. "It's funny... I grew up in a traditional wizarding home, not rich but well-off... but my parents... I don't know, I guess they love me, but they've always treated me kind of formally. When I was a kid, I saw some of my friends interacting with their families, and some of them got hugged and kissed by their parents. Mine hardly did any of that. At the time, I never really thought about it. But when I hear you talk about Sirius, I feel like, that's what a parent should be like. I feel really bad for you that you lost him, but part of me envies the time that you did have with him, even if it was short. You knew what it felt like to be really cared about.
"You've had an interesting life, Harry. It's like somebody turned the intensity full on. The bad things you've had-parents and Sirius dying, Muggle relatives, being a target of the Dark Lord-have been really bad, and the good things-your friends, the support of the community, Fawkes-have been really good. I bet not many people meet you and don't have some reaction."
Harry nodded, then mimed the most common reaction people had to seeing him: a look, a double-take, eyes moving up to look at the scar, then back to the face. Pansy giggled. "It's a whole sequence, isn't it?"
She became more serious again. "Harry... you showed me that letter, you've told me lots of personal things about yourself. I'm grateful, it makes me feel good... but I'd really like to know why. I mean, there's no way you do this with everyone."
It was a fair question, Harry thought. "I'm not sure... I think when I've done it, it's been an impulsive decision, like I just thought it was the right thing to do. Maybe it's partly because... I know it must've been really hard for you to come to me. I might have laughed and told you to get lost, and you probably wouldn't have blamed me." She nodded, her expression indicating that had been a concern. "And then you apologized, which couldn't have been easy either. You trusted me a lot. Maybe I'm just responding to that, I guess... I wanted to show you that I could trust you, too. But now, if I tell you something personal, it's because you're my friend. I showed you the letter because it sums up everything I'm thinking right now. The only thing that's going on that I didn't mention is you. Owls can be intercepted, and it's not something that he needs to know. But I wanted to tell him. Anyway, I hadn't really thought about my reasons for telling you stuff like this. I think what I said is pretty much it."
"That makes sense. I really want to thank you, you didn't have to do it... I'm sorry, this is really none of my business, but... can I ask you another really personal question?" Harry smiled and gestured for her to continue. "What happened with you and Cho last year, and why did she come talk to you today? I was surprised when she hugged you. I thought you weren't an item anymore."
Harry told her what had happened. She listened attentively, and gasped and put her hand over her mouth when he told her about the jinx that had afflicted Marietta Edgecombe. "Wow... remind me never to cross Hermione."
Harry finished up the story. "So, we really couldn't get past that. Marietta was her friend, and Cho felt like she had to stand up for her. I can understand that, but I couldn't forgive what she did, at least not so soon. All Cho lost was a nice diversion once a week. But the D.A. had been the highlight of my week, and Marietta cost me that, plus Professor Dumbledore had to leave, to protect me. What she did cost me a lot, and Cho didn't, maybe couldn't, really appreciate that. Anyway, I guess our tempers cooled over the summer, and Marietta apologized to Dumbledore and I at the introductory feast. I was a little slow to forgive her, Professor Dumbledore had to prod me. So today, Cho came over to be supportive of what I'm doing, and to make sure we were okay to be friends. I hope we can be, but the funny thing is, I haven't actually talked with her all that much, I was too nervous when I was around her. I've already talked with you more, and about more personal things, than I did with her. In a way, I really don't know her that well. But I think she's a nice person. It just didn't work out."
"Thank you for telling me that, too. I was curious how that turned out. I remember..." She looked down, upset. "I remember making fun of you and her on Valentine's Day, last year. I wonder how long it's going to take me to stop being mad at myself for what I've done."
Harry again said nothing, not knowing what to say. Finally, he said, "Maybe you should try to think more about what you're doing now, how that makes you feel. You can't change the past."
Harry felt from her expression that while she appreciated that he was trying to help, she was thinking that he couldn't really understand how she felt. "I think that's easier said than done. I know you're right, but it's hard. I'll see how it goes." She reached over and started to pet Fawkes again. "I hate to say it, but I guess we'd better leave soon. We still need to eat lunch, and I have to think of what to tell Malfoy about where I've been. So, how are we going to do this thing with the first years?"
"I've asked Hermione to come up with a method of communication, something where we can signal each other. I'll ask her to make sure that it also allows you and the first years to signal each other, in addition to me. I'd like to wait to tell them about you until whatever she comes up with is ready. Then I'll let you know, and we can arrange a meeting with all twelve of us."
"Okay, that sounds good. Much as I might be tempted, until that's ready, I won't contact you unless it's necessary." She looked at the Map carefully. "I want to find out where Malfoy is, so I can avoid him for a while. I wish this thing could tell you where someone had been, so I'd know where he's looked for me. Oh, good, he's in the common room, I can go have lunch without being bothered.
"One other thing, Harry... this is going to sound strange, me telling you to be careful, but I should. Like I said before, your eyes are very expressive. You have to watch out for that. I see how you look at me now, and I'm really happy about it. But you can't look at me like that out there, you have to look like you don't care if I exist or not, and I have to do the same with you. If you look at me like you are now, even Malfoy will figure out that something's wrong."
He nodded his understanding. "Good point, I might not have thought of that."
She looked at the Map again, then at Harry. He saw that revealing look again. "Thank you, Harry, for everything." She turned and left. He waited a minute, gathered his things in his bag, and headed to the owlery, then on to lunch.
The rest of the day went by pleasantly for Harry. Quidditch practice was enjoyable; Ginny was already a good Chaser, and Dennis definitely had potential. It felt good to be on his broom again. Then he met Hermione, told her about the meeting with Pansy, and what he hoped for in a communications setup. He told the others more details about his conversation with Pansy, to make sure they knew that he now trusted her, and why. The rest of the day was taken up by schoolwork, dinner, and Dumbledore's Occlumency lesson. Harry felt he was doing very well with Occlumency and focusing on love, and was full of confidence that the night's encounter with Voldemort would go well. He fell asleep faster than usual; he didn't know whether it was because of his confidence, or just being tired.
Harry was walking through a park. He was looking for someone, but he wasn't sure who. He continued walking, but the scene changed. He was now in the room in the Department of Mysteries which contained the Veil of Mystery.
Harry looked around for a moment, then realized that Voldemort would be appearing any time now. Focus on love, he thought. He mentally slipped into the sea of love, more easily than before. Nothing else matters.
"You recognize this room, don't you, Potter? The room where your godfather died? If one of them was to die, I'm glad it was him." Voldemort was smiling his cruel smile, looking very satisfied.
Harry felt a flash of anger, accompanied by an equally fast realization: he's trying to goad you, make you lose your control. His words don't matter. Keep focused,
"I don't think so, Voldemort. I think you're just trying to goad me into anger, because your grip on this is slipping, and you know it is. If you could have chosen the one to die, it would have been Professor Dumbledore. He's the biggest threat to you. You fear him because he's powerful, and he understands you."
Voldemort again looked furious; Harry reflected than he hadn't even been trying to goad Voldemort, but had apparently succeeded just by telling the truth. "I fear no one!" Voldemort practically screamed.
"You fear him, but you can't admit it, probably not even to yourself. You fear him because you don't understand his strength. His strength is love, which you're not capable of understanding. It's natural to fear what we don't understand." Focus on love, he thought.
"If I do not understand something, then it is not worth understanding. I know all I need to know. You will be broken. Soon, you will never be able to sleep again."
Harry actually chuckled out loud. "If you had said that three days ago, I might have believed you. But now, it just sounds like a feeble threat. You're losing this fight, Voldemort." Relax, relax in a sea of love, he thought.
"Speaking of fights lost... you recall this, don't you, Potter?" said Voldemort with obvious relish. Harry saw Sirius being hit by Bellatrix's spell, staggering back, and falling through the veil. Then himself, agonized and distraught, screaming Sirius's name over and over again. The memories washed over him, threatening his control. Focus on love, he thought, fighting back the emotions that threatened him. He imagined Sirius standing behind him, hand on Harry's shoulder, giving him his love and strength, wanting him to stand firm and not have his death be used to Harry's harm. I have to do it for him, thought Harry. I have to stay calm. He felt the emotion fade.
"I loved him a lot, and he loved me. I miss him. But his strength is still with me. I can see him, cheering me on, wherever he is. He's proud of me, I know that." I might as well be speaking French, for all Voldemort understands of this, Harry thought. But it doesn't matter. I'm coming from a place of love, that's what matters.
"Really... would he be proud of this, Potter?"
The scene changed suddenly. They were now in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic; Harry saw himself crouching behind a statue, and heard Bellatrix yelling, "Come out, come out, little Harry!" He watched the sequence of events that occurred until Harry tried the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix. He saw the look on his own face, and barely recognized it as his. Still feeling love, he felt intense sympathy for this slightly younger self, at one of the worst moments of his life.
"I must say, Potter, I was impressed. Bella only told me of this today. You have more steel than I thought. Let me help you with this. Try the spell out on me. You must want to. What you did is a good start."
Stay calm, Harry told himself. It was crystal clear to him what Voldemort was doing, and Harry almost felt saddened, it was so pathetic. "I did what I did because I was wounded, Voldemort. The part of us humans which is like you came out for a few minutes. But I'm better now, and I've learned. I'll never even be tempted to do that again, and if I needed proof that it was dangerous, your suggesting that I do it would be that proof."
"But I deserve it, don't I? You said I was evil, after all..." He smiled.
"Whether you deserve it or not is not the question," Harry said, still calm. "I don't deserve it, and doing it to you is like doing it to myself. I respect myself too much to do that."
Voldemort shook his head. "Still addled, Potter. If you did it to me, you would not feel what you are about to feel."
Harry knew what was coming, and had a sudden inspiration. He took out his wand, and imagined an invisible shield surrounding him, a shield of light. He imagined that it was composed of love. He focused on that love. He imagined it protecting him.
"Crucio!" screamed Voldemort. Harry screamed and writhed in pain, but immediately, he knew it was very different. The pain was still consuming and intolerable, but well below what it usually was. Neville had said the pain was enough for twenty people; this felt like it was enough for eight. At the same time, he kept screaming, and then felt himself being held. As he wrapped his arms around... whoever, the real world once again reappeared. He gasped for breath and held on tight. He saw red hair, and pulled back to look at Ginny's face. She looked desperately protective, frustrated at being able to do nothing more than what she was doing. Then, suddenly, she kissed him on the cheek, very quickly. She looked at him again, and Harry saw more raw emotion than he had ever seen before. He couldn't put words to it, at least not right away. After another second, she held him again, and he reveled in the comfort.
He looked up to see the faces of Ron, Hermione, and Neville. Where was Dumbledore? he wondered. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dumbledore, who was sitting in a chair near the top of the bed. He shifted his position, moving Ginny over a bit, so he could see Dumbledore's face while still holding Ginny. Instead of a concerned look on Dumbledore's face, he thought he saw the smallest smile. Harry remembered how the pain had felt, but he smiled. "You noticed it too, didn't you," he said. Dumbledore nodded. Harry grinned broadly and raised a fist in triumph.
Ron, who wore his usual look of worry after the Curse, gaped in astonishment. "Harry, what in the world..." He trailed off. "What happened?"
Harry felt ecstatic, exuberant. He pulled away from Ginny a bit and smiled brilliantly. Ginny smiled back, but was still confused. On an impulse, he kissed her on the cheek as she had him, and held her once more. Over her shoulder, to the others, he said, "There was much less pain this time, much less. This'll be over soon, I can feel it." Ron, Hermione, and Neville smiled too, though not too broadly; apparently, to them, Harry's pain had seemed just as bad.
After holding Ginny for another few minutes, Harry asked Dumbledore, "Did you bring the Pensieve?" Dumbledore nodded, then Summoned it to a spot near the bed. Harry let go of Ginny, took out his wand, and started moving memories over. Dumbledore had Fawkes retrieve Snape and McGonagall, who were soon in the room. Dumbledore said to them, "There was a substantial reduction in Harry's pain this time. We must watch carefully." Everyone stood around the Pensieve, then at Dumbledore's signal, put their fingers in.
There was a sudden gasp from all the students except Harry to find themselves in a different location, and one so familiar. Neville in particular looked very frightened, though, Harry thought, he had every right to be. Harry patted him on the shoulder; Neville looked at him, nodded, and calmed down.
As Voldemort tried to goad Harry, he saw the anger on his friends' faces, to be replaced by satisfaction as they saw him resist the provocation. Then there were more gasps as they saw Sirius die, and Harry scream in desperation. His friends looked at Harry with pity; they had known what had happened, but none except Neville had been in the room at the time.
The Harry watching saw Dumbledore looking proudly at the Harry dreaming as he resisted this provocation as well. Then the scene shifted to the Atrium. McGonagall gasped audibly as Harry attempted the Cruciatus Curse, and looked angry as Voldemort tried to goad Harry into using it again. After Harry resisted, just as Voldemort prepared to Curse him, Harry saw something he hadn't seen in the dream. He saw a shimmering, translucent energy field, roughly egg-shaped, surrounding him. He saw Voldemort issue the curse, and it made contact with the shield. Harry saw the shield vibrate, obviously affected by the curse, and he saw some of the curse get through. The dreaming Harry screamed, and the memory stopped. They were now back in the room with the Veil of Mystery.
Harry saw that everyone, with the exception of Snape, appeared emotionally affected by what they had seen, and even Snape looked astonished, though Harry didn't know why. McGonagall looked to Harry like she was trying to stifle her emotions.
"Harry, that was... unexpectedly, intensely personal. We could have made other arrangements for seeing this," said Dumbledore. "In any case... it is truly remarkable that you were able to remain calm in the face of such intense provocations. But I must ask you something else now. At the end, just before he Cursed you, what did you do?"
"I visualized a shield, made of the energy of love. I imagined it protecting me."
McGonagall, Snape, and even Dumbledore exchanged awed looks. Harry didn't understand what they found so amazing. Most of the students didn't, either, but Hermione looked to Harry as if she might.
"Did you plan, or prepare, to do this?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry shook his head. "It was just... an inspiration, I guess. The whole idea came to me in a flash, and I just did it, automatically."
Snape finally spoke. "'He shall have powers the Dark Lord knows not,'" he quoted, obviously still stunned.
"Indeed... we had no idea," said a still awestruck Dumbledore. Harry started to seriously wonder what was going on, but he knew it must be very big indeed to cause this reaction in Dumbledore. "Minerva, is this what we think it is?"
"I do not see what else it could be, Albus." She looked back at Harry as if she had never met him before.
"Um... I'm not quite sure what it is that you see there," Harry said. "What is it that you saw that's so amazing?"
Dumbledore turned to Harry. "We cannot be certain, Harry... but we think it is very possible that you have just invented a spell that will block the Cruciatus Curse."
Author notes: In Chapter 13: Harry's battle of wills with Voldemort comes to a climax.