"Is it possible, Tom?" Minerva asked, unable to get her mind around what she had just been told. Five minutes ago she was certain that the world on which she stood was all there was, and now to be told that there was more than on
"This is not some sort of joke?" she asked, just to make sure.
Tom slowly shook his head and then rested his elbows on the arms of the chair and his chin on his interlocked hands. He almost looked as if he was praying, which was probably not far from the truth.
"Unfortunately no," he replied after a pause. "It's a sensationalist claim, I admit. However, there is proof in his blood and he carries two identical wands."
"But it can't..." Minerva started, but fell silent as Tom nodded.
"You are arguing with the wrong person," said Tom. "I am not defending Harry, and in many respects I agree with you. He shouldn't exist, but the evidence is overwhelming. After tonight, Minerva, I am not so sure of anything anymore."
Minerva’s sharp eyes surveyed him; suddenly he seemed more tired than she had ever seen him before.
"It's almost like part of me wants to believe him," Tom continued, staring into space. "But is that just myself hoping for proof that there is something out there, or do I genuinely..."
He rubbed his temples before looking up at Minerva again.
"Harry paints a very convincing picture," announced Tom after a pause and Minerva could see that he was choosing his words carefully. "His story does answer many of the questions that we have both been asking for the last month. While I confess he is Occluding his mind so I cannot verify this, he appears to be telling the truth."
Tom’s gaze was steady, and when he spoke Minerva got the impression she was being humoured.
"I still Occlude my mind when I speak to the Order," replied Tom. "Even now, but that does not mean I am lying to you. Like anyone else, I do not believe Harry wishes all his little secrets to be revealed. In addition, Harry and I appear to have a history, and not a pleasant on
"Whatever happened?" asked Minerva, her curiosity boiling over.
"A long story," he replied in a tone that perfectly communicated that this line of inquiry was at an end.
"Minerva," said Tom, bowing his head. "I have always asked you to stay out of my personal past. There were chapters of my life that I am certainly not proud of. Where Harry comes from, he has seen these chapters played through to a conclusion where I dare not imagine. Every time he looks at me, he sees...could you sit in front of Grindelwald in another life and ever feel at ease? No, Minerva, we cannot blame Harry for being guarded."
Minerva sat back, chewing over the facts in her mind. A new Harry, a new ally ? and a powerful on
Imagine, she thought. The things he must have seen.
"Let's say we accept everything prima-facie," said Minerva slowly. She wanted to make sure she understood the situation fully. "We are now dealing with two 'Chosen On
"Harry's role is still unclear," replied Tom. "Kathryn was the on
"I thought you said Harry seemed fine," Minerva asked.
"I was not referring to his physical health," replied Tom, evasively. He was staring into space on
"If Harry really has been in this kind of situation before," Minerva suggested, "perhaps there is a lot Kathryn could learn from him."
"That is a point I am still dubious about," replied Riddle, his tone against distant and thoughtful.
Minerva was confused. He had been singing Potter's praises a second and ago, and now didn't trust him?
"I thought you said he was on our side, and trustworthy," she asked.
"He is," replied Riddle, nodding. "I trust that he would never consciously betray us, and certainly never intentionally hurt Kathryn. But I fear he may unknowingly do more harm than good."
Minerva hated it when he spoke in riddles, but experience had taught her that persistence usually got an answer.
"In what way?" she pressed.
"Just in talking to him," said Riddle, rubbing his temples again. "I could see the darkness in him. It's just a theory, but I get the distinct impression that Harry has killed before, and not by accident."
Minerva's eyebrows shot skyward. The boy was a killer? What on earth would drive someone so young to do something so terrible? She understood now why Tom was dubious about letting him near Kathryn.
Tom continued to talk while staring into space, lost in thought. "His past conflicts appear to have been resolved by violence alone, and I believe that has left him with the belief that violence is the on
"So you want them kept apart," stated Minerva, understanding the point he was trying to make.
"No," said Riddle, shaking his head, "on the contrary."
Minerva's jaw dropped. After that last speech, he wanted to put them together? Was the man insane?
"I think it would be beneficial for them to be together," he said, a small, knowing smile creeping across his face.
"But I thought you said it wouldn't help Kathryn," replied Minerva completely baffled.
"It’s not Kathryn I am hoping to save," said Riddle with a shrug.
Minerva had no idea what he meant, but she was getting nowhere with her questions. Riddle seemed to have a plan, and she just hoped that was enough.
"So what do we do?" she asked, moving the conversation forward.
"First things first," said Riddle, sitting up in his chair. "To begin with, they are both to be checked over by Poppy. We need to make sure they are both fighting fit, so to speak. I know Harry, for on
"Headquarters?" asked Minerva.
"Too risky," said Riddle shaking his head. "We don't know who inherits the house after Sirius' death. If it were to fall into the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange, for example, it would not be safe. I think it best we take a leaf out of Kathryn's book and use the Come and Go room. Kindly make the arrangements and include Harry and Kathryn on the list of those invited."
Minerva nodded, making a note on the parchment in front of her and tucking it into her pocket.
"Out of interest," she began. "How much are you going to tell everyone about Harry’s origins?"
"As little as possible," said Riddle. "Outside this room on
Minerva nodded in agreement. She would not breathe a word of this to anyone, and was fairly sure she could act normally around Potter in the future.
"So what happens next?" she asked. "After tonight everyone will know that He’s back."
Riddle stared at her for a long moment before speaking again. "I don't know," he answered. "I don't think even Harry does, but we have work to do. The security of the students is our number on
"Is there any chance that Kathryn can actually do it?" asked Minerva.
"Of course she can," replied Riddle instantly.
"I am not a journalist," Minerva retorted indignantly.
Tom grimaced and looked her levelly in the eye.
"I don't know, Minerva," he replied honestly. "I just don't know."
~~~~ + ~~~~
Harry awoke the next morning with his head pounding. As he tried to sit up every muscle in his body ached, as if had slept on a slab of granite. Groaning, he raised a hand to cover his eyes, his arm complaining with the movement. His muscles were balloons of lactic acid and every limb was stiff to the point where walking seemed a distant dream. Tentatively, he moved his hand to examine his throat. Riddle's spells had done the trick ? he couldn't even feel the line of a scar. Despite himself, Harry was impressed. Then again, no on
As he lay there yawning, images of last night suddenly came flooding back. Sirius, Grindelwald, Katie demanding that he kill her... No wonder he was exhausted and his body felt as if it had been put through a meat grinder. That had been on
"Bugger," muttered Harry to no on
Harry tested and tensed his limbs individually, groaning as he did. He tried to will himself back into consciousness. He considered going on a run, but quickly dismissed the idea as lunacy. Instead he quickly checked the improvised bandages on his thigh and hip. Both had small patches of red visible, but neither had leaked. He would need to replace them before he left the dormitory. No time like the present. Sighing inwardly, he quietly pulled the curtains aside, allowing the full glare of the morning sun to enter.
Blinking in the light, Harry stared out through the window across the valleys and the lake. This morning he had awoken to a brave new world. His secret was out now. While on
Harry realised that this was a turning point for him. Not on
Harry realised that inside he had always known Katie would head to the Ministry and, by implication, Sirius ? or at least someone ? would have to die. He had hoped to have been out of this world and back home by that time. Since it hadn’t gone to plan and he was still here, he had taken pity on Katie. Dumbledore had always said his ability to love, to feel compassion, was his greatest strength; Voldemort had always said it was his weakness. At this point in time, now in over his head, Harry wasn’t sure who was right. What he did know was that he had become a target, and there was no way back. His days of flying under the radar were over. So much for not getting involved... This war had nothing to do with him, but Harry had steamrollered in, just like before.
Still, there was no use lounging about when there were things to be done. It was too late to go back now.
He rolled out of bed gingerly, his aching feet touching the warm carpet. Standing up shakily and stretching, he ignored the pain in his body as he reached for the floor and then the ceiling before twisting his torso back and forth to try to loosen up his muscles. He yawned again and took a sip of water from the jug beside his bed. Looking over, he caught sight of himself in the large mirror on the wall. He wore on
It could have been a lot worse, Harry reasoned. I was lucky.
He grabbed his wand and tried to walk to the bathroom, but it ended up as an undignified waddle. His limbs seemed reluctant to do as he ordered. Luckily it was deserted and no on
It was then that he paused. By habit he had pulled out his school uniform, but now that he thought about it, he had no use for it anymore. The days of hiding behind the identity of a dead man were over. He was not going to sit through any more lessons, do any more essays, or walk around pretending to be someone else. Throwing the uniform unceremoniously back into the trunk, he pulled out a pair of black trousers, a t-shirt, and black woollen jumper. Having used his wand to adjust and repair Dudley's old clothes, Harry topped his outfit off with a plain hooded cloak, the same on
As Harry stared into the mirror the Dark Knight stared back at him, clothed all in black, a determined look on his face and the marks of combat visible on his hardened body.
"Here we go again," muttered Harry to himself.
This time it wasn’t his fight, it wasn’t even his world. However, his compassion for his friends had led him to intervene, and he had done so with all the power of the Dark Knight, but now the Dark Knight wanted to move on, while Harry Potter pitied Katie and wanted to help her. Part of him wanted to give her time, to help her during her time of grief, while another part wanted to slap her and tell her to pull herself together and move on.
Harry cast another look around, but all four beds had the curtains drawn and their occupants were fast asleep, judging by the heavy breathing. Harry slipped silently down the steps and into a deserted Common Room. It was Saturday, so everyone was having a lie in. That meant he shouldn’t be hassled too much...until they read the Prophet.
"Good morning," said a soft voice as Harry passed the fireplace on his way to the portrait hole.
Surprised that he wasn’t alone, he turned and walked around the front of the chair to where he could see who has spoken. A young girl was curled up in the chair, covered by a sky-blue blanket and reading what Harry recognised to be a Charms textbook. She had strawberry blond hair looked quite ruffled, alluding to the fact that she might have slept in a chair all night, and her contrasting blue glasses were perched high on her nose. She stared up at Harry questioningly, looking as if she expected him to give her an order.
"Are you alright?" asked Harry. He didn't know why he asked that instead of just saying hello, but there was something about the girl that just seemed to be asking for help.
She raised her eyebrows, which through the thick glasses made her eyes bulge. Her expr
"Yes," said the girl. "I'm fine, thank you. I just couldn’t sleep, so I came down here. I had nightmares. I get them a lot and I find that reading helps."
"Oh," said Harry uneasily. He had no idea why she was justifying herself to him but he wasn't in the mood to argue.
"You're not wearing your glasses," she pointed out while staring at him critically. "You weren't last night, either."
"I don’t need them anymore," he said truthfully.
"Oh," she replied in a slightly unhappy voice, looking down in embarrassment. "It's alright for some, I suppose."
Harry gave her a small smile as she looked up again, realising it was not the most sensitive thing he could have said to a girl who wore glasses. "Sorry, who are you?" he asked, remember his manners at last.
"Julia," said the girl shyly. "Julia Giles."
Of course, Harry could have kicked himself for not recognising her ? he was really not with it this morning. She was a second year, whom he had briefly met a few times. He remembered seeing her sitting in the corner crying after Umbridge had removed and killed her pet rabbit, Fidget, while attempting to remove Katie’s Phoenix (i.e. Harry) from the castle.
"Is Riddle really back?" she asked, bringing Harry out of memory lane.
Harry nodded, "Yes, he's back."
"Does that mean I can get another Fidget?" she asked hopefully. "I could never replace him, but I would like to have another bunny."
"I'm sure Riddle will let you," said Harry kindly, just glad she wasn't asking him about last night.
She sighed. "I’d like that."
"Well, Julia, I'll see you around," said Harry politely as he began to leave. "If I were you, I’d try to get some sleep. You’ll need your strength. If you continue to have nightmares, see Madam Pomfrey for some dreamless sleep."
She nodded and Harry turned to leave.
"Is it true?" she called before Harry had reached the door.
"Is what true?" asked Harry, turning back to face her, a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"The portraits were saying something about you," she replied. "They said that you duelled with You-Know-Who, that you nearly beat him. Are you here to save Katie?"
Harry grimaced, but gave her a small smile, "No," he replied shaking his head. "Just to lend a helping hand."
"What about your scar?" she asked pointing to his forehead.
Harry paused for a moment, almost forgetting that it was now visible. Since he didn't want to get drawn into an explanation, Harry just shot her a roguish grin and winked, as if it were some great secret. With that, he disappeared out into the corridor before she could ask any more questions. It was then that he realised the decision to not cover his scar might not have been the smartest move.
"By the way," he said, poking his head back inside the room and destroying any hint of mystique he had just created by his dramatic exit. "Have you seen Katie Bell?"
"Yes," said Julia, opening the book again. "She came down earlier and headed out of the door. She looked a bit pale to me."
"Thanks," said Harry, disappearing back out into the corridor on
"If I was in her position, where would I go?" he said aloud as he walked. He thought back to the time after Sirius had died and Dumbledore had told him of his destiny, what seemed like an eternity ago. He had just wanted to be alone, wanted everyone to stop trying to encourage him or trying to offer comfort. He had spent hours wandering the corridors aimlessly, just walking for the sake of doing so, enjoying the solitude. He’d even found a secluded spot down by the lake where he couldn’t be found. That didn't bode well, for if she was doing that she could be anywhere and Harry didn't have the Marauder's Map.
Despite how he knew she must be feeling Harry wanted to see her, to make sure she was handling it okay. If there was anyone who might understand, it was going to be him. So where would she have gone to be alone? His first thought was the Room of Requirement where she had led the RA in a rebellion against Umbridge's rule. Surely that room held happy memories for her. Harry made his way up to the seventh floor, though his pace was somewhat slow due to the injury to his right leg. As he entered, Harry found the Room of Requirement to be nothing more than a cupboard, and a completely empty on
As Harry descended the stairs, he cast a quick glance out of the window to check the grounds and the edge of the lake. Outside the window there was frost on the chilled February grass, which had not been disturbed. There were no footprints on the grounds, and so it was clear that she had not gone out there. It seemed that Harry would now have to take the plunge and brave the stares. He would have to face the rest of the school eventually and it was best to do it on his terms.
It was highly unlikely that Katie would be at breakfast. He certainly had not wanted to sit there and eat with everyone staring at him as if he were an exhibit in a zoo. He would be very surprised to find her sitting at the Gryffindor table as if nothing had happened, but he was out of ideas. Unfortunately, the owls bearing the Daily Prophet would have already arrived. By the time he got there, the world would know most of what had happened last night.
Remember Harry, you brought this on yourself, he told himself. You could have ignored her and walked away, but you chose to get involved. You've made your bed, now you have to sleep in it.
Sure enough, as he approached the Great Hall the excited chatter floated up the stairs. The noise was ten times what it was normally, possibly thanks to the fact that Umbridge was no longer in command and Riddle was back. The noise was to be expected, as there was much to discuss: The Girl-Who-Lived had been in a fight in the Ministry and several Death Eaters had been caught, parents of students amongst them. And then there was the matter of on
He descended the last few stairs slowly and paused. Through the open doors he could see the students at breakfast, crowded around copies of the paper. It was such a refreshing sight to see smiles on their faces, laughter as well. There was an atmosphere of hope in the Hall despite the grave news of the Dark Lord’s return, and Harry knew he’d had a hand in it. The school had lived under Umbridge’s tyranny for months, and it was no wonder that the atmosphere was brighter even if the future was uncertain. It was the sort of thing that would normally put a smile on his face, but all he could think about was Katie. Putting the thought aside and trying to remain composed, Harry took a deep breath and steadied himself, preparing for the worst.
Unable to delay any more, he began to walk forward, heading for the door. Every step felt like he was heading for the gallows, but he forced himself to keep going. The twenty metres were over before they had begun and he found himself framed in the doorway, visible to the whole school. The huge plates of food seemed vastly untouched as everyone was more interested in the copies of a Prophet, which had attracted huge crowds. He could hear people reading aloud, others being told to shut up, and hundreds of conversations in between. Riddle was back in his chair at the Head Table, a sight that filled Harry with relief rather than disappointment, which in itself was a testament to the change in times. He raised his goblet to Harry in a small salute as he saw him, and Harry afforded the Headmaster a small nod in response.
Perhaps it was that gesture which alerted the school to his presence, for as Riddle placed his goblet back down on the table in front of him, Harry heard the first gasp and a sudden wave of silence spread over the room as the conversations died. Everyone in the room was staring at him nervously with their eyes wide, their mouths open in shock. Some were even pointing at him.
Harry stood frozen in the doorway, as if he were in a photograph. Looking around, he found expressions of wonder, awe, and in some cases fear or anger spread over their faces. Some were prodding neighbours who had yet to notice, others whispering excitedly as they compared the pictures in the Prophet to the boy in the doorway.
Harry stood motionless and looked around, taking in each face in turn. He guessed that about half were afraid, and half were too shocked for words. The Slytherins had their jaws set, unreadable or just plain gormless, but he knew what they were thinking. Many of them had lost family members to Azkaban last night, and it seemed that Harry was partially to blame.
Harry gave up on the idea of eating here in an instant, as there was no way he could stomach it amid the stares. However, there was on
"Good morning," said Riddle casually, his eyes twinkling.
Harry was aware that the room was still silent and listening as he nodded a greeting to the man in the seat. Riddle slid a copy of the Daily Prophet (Special Edition) across the table towards him. Harry picked it up and laid it out flat on the table.
Beneath the huge headline there were four images. The first must have been taken from a recording orb somewhere in the Ministry Entrance Hall. Harry had not seen on
Harry began to scan through the article quickly with a practiced eye, opening the paper to page two and continued reading. There were additional pictures, including the captured Death Eaters and Fudge being interviewed, the latter looking very flustered. The text was written with the same condescending tone and colourful use of imagery and insult that could on
Harry looked up at Riddle and then around at the room at large, all of whom were still staring. He couldn't help but wonder if Katie had seen this yet, if she in her current mental state had faced the barrage of questions he had managed to avoid from Julia.
Suddenly he heard a series of metallic clicks and as he turned around, Harry was greeted by the sight of a dishevelled figure in pink standing in the doorway looking mutinous. Umbridge looked like she had been dragged through a bush backwards, which was in fact true. She was still wearing the same dirty clothes as yesterday and her rugged appearance confirmed that she’d had on
In front of Harry, Riddle rose to his feet as Umbridge stormed down the central aisle making for the two of them. Harry really wished he had his sword with him at this moment in time, but he fingered his wand instead thinking of all the curses he could use on her. Steam was practically spurting out of Umbridge's ears as she marched down the silent aisle, and her eyes were alight with fire. Riddle on the other hand just smiled pleasantly back at her, appearing completely calm, no doubt a trait he had learned from Dumbledore.
"RIDDLE!" seethed Umbridge coming to a stop at the front, just before the raised area, "How dare you lock me in the dungeon cell all night like a common criminal! I’ll have your head for that, mark my words!"
Riddle smiled impassively. "I thought you might like some time for reflection, Dolores, after your ordeal with the centaurs. I apologize if the accommodations weren’t to your liking, but considering your threats, I rather felt I had no choice but to ensure the safety of my students."
Harry glanced to his right and noticed a smug smile creep over McGonagall's face as she sat watching. Harry was suddenly reminded of Peeves chasing her out of Hogwarts with McGonagall's walking stick. A smile crept over his face at the thought, an idea forming in his mind, as he turned back around to face the former High Inquisitor.
"And what do you think you are doing back?" she spat out at Riddle, practically foaming at the mouth.
"It seems that, in light of recent events," began Riddle pleasantly, "the Minister saw fit to reinstate me."
Umbridge looked like she had been slapped, as he spoke, and on
"He has also decided that your services as High Inquisitor are no longer required."
"You’re lying!" she shrieked.
"What he is trying to say," said Harry in mock politeness, "is piss off and don’t come back."
A snigger went around the hall as Harry spoke and, out of the corner of his eye, he even saw McGonagall’s lips twitch.
"You are no longer a member of staff here, Dolores," Riddle repeated in a tone significantly kinder than Harry's, but firm nevertheless. "And you no longer have any reason to be here, so I must ask you to leave."
"You'll regret this, Riddle," seethed Umbridge, her fists clenched as she stood glaring at him. "I am still Senior Undersecretary to the Minister!"
"Ministers come and go," shot back Harry flippantly. "We survive."
"When I am reinstated, Mr. Potter," she snarled, "you will regret that cheek! I will see you in detention for the rest of the school year."
"Oddly enough," said Riddle to Umbridge, still politely, "it seems that some of my students believe that your methods of detention may have broken the occasional Child Protection Law."
Umbridge's glare faltered for a second as the implied threat hit her, but her expr
"This isn't over," she shot back, before turning on her heel.
Harry cast a quick look at Riddle who nodded to him before sitting back down. Harry took this to be a sign that the conversation was over.
"PEEVES!" called Harry loudly over the silent hall.
With a bang the poltergeist shot out of the fireplace where he clearly had been listening, and rose up above the tables, regarding Harry curiously.
"Be a good poltergeist and show our guest out, will you..." Harry said with a calculated smirk, gesturing to Umbridge. "...As on
"At your service, Sir," Peeves said, snapping to attention like a soldier on parade and raised his hand to Harry in a salute before turning his attention to Umbridge, who’s eyes widened in horror.
Harry didn't have a walking stick, but grabbed a wooden spoon out of a bowl of scrambled egg and enlarged it to a decent size. He threw the giant spoon up into the air, where Peeves caught it, twirling it like a drum major. Umbridge's face turned to on
With a smirk still on his lips, Harry turned back to Riddle who did not seem the least bit bothered that Harry may have just inspired an act of grievous bodily harm against a former teacher. While the hall continued to laugh and jeer, Harry leaned forwards to speak to the Headmaster, but Riddle spoke before Harry managed to get a word in.
"It seems that yet another Defence teacher is required," said Riddle conversationally.
"Anyone would be better than her," replied Harry with a shrug.
"Anyone?" asked Riddle, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, near enough," Harry conceded. "Got anyone lined up?"
"As a matter of fact yes," replied Riddle with a knowing smile.
Harry was mildly surprised that he had managed to find someone so quickly. "Who?"
"Wait and see," replied the Headmaster mysteriously. "He will arrive later today or tomorrow depending on how quickly he can get away."
Harry opened his mouth to ask who it was, but then decided against it. Since he wouldn't be in lessons, the teacher made little difference to him. He had more imp
"So, where is she?" he asked, changing the subject.
Riddle paused for a moment before answering.
"I have not seen her since last night," he replied. "But I suggest you try Madam Pomfrey."
Harry thanked Riddle and, before anyone else could approach him, he turned and marched back down the aisle and out the doors. He climbed up the stairs in the Entrance Hall and made his way up to the fifth floor, then headed along towards the hospital wing. As he climbed the final two flights of stairs up into the infirmary his leg protested from all the stairs, but he made it without incident and gently pushed open the doors. Inside, he found the curtains closed, with the bright sun on
Hermione was lying on her back in the manner Pomfrey had laid her, still unconscious and looking very pale. The unnaturally straight position in which she was propped on
Harry was glad that they were all alright. Although he had known they would be, it was still a relief to actually see them alive and recovering. Part of him wondered, if he had gotten there sooner, could he have prevented some of this? But he couldn’t afford to dwell on the past. He needed to find the ringleader of this group, and it was clear that she was not present.
He turned to leave, and came face to face with Madam Pomfrey.
"It's about time," she whispered, her face stern. She looked at him as if it were his fault that all this had happened. Her brow was furrowed and her tone accusatory.
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but realised it was pointless. In fact, it had been his fault, and there was no point in leaving since he needed medical attention.
"Well, let's get a look at you, then," Pomfrey said, gesturing to the empty bed nearest them.
Harry came very close to telling her where to shove her thermometer, but decided against it. Obediently he sat up on the bed, waiting as Madam Pomfrey grabbed her toolbag.
"Remove your top," she told him, her tone businesslike and short as she laid the bag down on the bed.
Harry did as he was told, removing the cloak, jumper, and t-shirt he was been wearing. He had a nasty feeling that he would soon be removing more so that Pomfrey could have a look at his leg.
The matron took her wand in her right hand and ignited the tip with the Lumos spell.
"Look up," she instructed in a harsh whisper.
Harry did as he was asked and looked up at the ceiling so that she could inspect his neck. Involuntarily, he recoiled as her fingers touched his skin, tickling him slightly as they ran along where the blade had cut him. Harry had been unable to find any evidence of having been cut when he looked in the mirror, but she clearly had.
"Who healed this?" she asked, as if she was not impressed with the workmanship.
"Riddle," said Harry flatly.
She tutted softly to herself. "Another inch and it would have clipped your jugular," she informed him, not looking him in the eye. "A lucky escape, if you ask me".
Harry merely shrugged, as Pomfrey turned her attention to his eyebrow. "This looks worse than it is," she announced. "I’ll clean and then it can heal naturally." Without waiting for approval, she dabbed some ice-cold liquid on
"You did this yourself," Pomfrey said, more as a statement of fact than a question. Her voice was clearly disapproving, and her brow furrowed in frustration.
Was it just Harry or was she being needlessly short with him today? She normally was at least polite, and he had spent so much time here recently that he rather felt the two of them were getting on.
"What did you use?" she asked.
"Vodka and a flannel," replied Harry, hissing in pain as she moved her fingers around the cut.
"State of the art," she muttered sarcastically, as she leant in to look closer, shining her wand into the cut. "And you pulled out the foreign body, whatever it was?"
"Did you ever consider that perhaps the object was acting as a dam and by removing it, you could potentially have bled to death?"
Harry shrugged, and stared at her. He had had no real idea what he was doing, but he had lived to tell the tale. If he had been bleeding significantly, he would have sought help. He wasn't as stupid as she seemed to think this morning.
"Well, I'm not a first-aider," he retorted, his tone clipped.
"That much is clear," she replied dryly. "Hold still."
Harry felt a tingling sensation as the wound went numb. Madam Pomfrey traced the cut again with her wand, this time with the tip glowing a pale blue colour. She then paused for a moment in thought before pulling a small spray from her bag; the container reminded Harry of the Flesh Eating Slug Repellent tins that Hagrid used to buy in Knockturn Alley. Without comment she squirted the spray into Harry's cut, causing him to double up with pain. That done, she waved her wand over the cut, which healed like a zip until there was nothing left to see.
"Now your leg," she added briskly.
Harry grimaced and glanced around the room. Luckily the others were still fast asleep and so Harry begrudgingly undid his belt and lowered his trousers so that she could see his thigh. The procedure was much the same, but this time Harry knew to grit his teeth in advance when she reached for the spray.
"There," said Madam Pomfrey, finally satisfied. "You'll live."
"Thanks," muttered Harry, not sounding extremely genuine, even to his own ears. He hopped down off the bed and put the remainder of his clothes back on. As he pulled the jumper back over his head, he gestured to the others lying asleep in their beds.
"Are they..." he began.
"They’re all fine," said Madam Pomfrey indignantly. "The Weasley girl's leg needs another day or so, and Miss Granger needs to rest after I drain her internal bleeding, but the rest will be up and about by the end of the day."
"And Kathryn Bell?" asked Harry.
"No idea," said Pomfrey with an impatient shrug. "Haven't seen her."
With that she turned to go into her office.
The matron paused then turned around, but still did not look him in the eye.
"You were right to do it," said Harry, having finally worked out what was bothering her.
Pomfrey looked slightly confused, but her eyes met his curiously.
"I was clearly different, and I might have posed a threat to other students," he said. "You did everything in your power to find out what, even stretching your Hippocratic oath by talking to Riddle and testing my blood. There is no need to tiptoe around me, Madam Pomfrey. You did the right thing, and in your position I would have done the same. I don't hold it against you or anything."
Pomfrey regarded him carefully for a second before nodding.
"Thank you," she said softly. There was an awkward pause before she spoke again. "I must be about my business," she told him. "But the Headmaster has asked me to check both you and Miss Bell. Please ask her to come to see me if you find her."
"I would, if knew where the hell she was," said Harry, the frustration creeping into his voice. "I've been looking for her all morning."
"Try the East Tower," whispered a weak voice behind him.
Harry turned to see that Ginny was now awake. She had managed to sit up, or half done so anyway. Her leg being raised meant that she hadn't quite been able to manage it. Harry crossed to her bed and slid the support up the bed slightly, enabling her to prop herself up and keep her foot in place. She sat against the headboard, staring at him through tired eyes. Her eyelids were clearly heavy and her gaze was slightly out of focus, which was unsurprising since she had just woken.
"Hmm, you look different without your glasses," she replied thoughtfully. "Older. I like it."
Harry didn't know how to take that and simply stared back, trying not to blush. He had never gotten used to compliments and suddenly felt very self-conscious.
"Did we all make it?" she asked.
Harry turned around to check on Madam Pomfrey and found that she had already returned to her office.
"Almost everyone," said Harry without emotion. "Except for Sirius..."
"I know, I saw..." replied Ginny with a sigh, but she trailed off again. "How's Katie taking it?"
"No idea," replied Harry. "Haven't seen her."
"Try the East Tower," replied Ginny. "That's where she goes when she wants to be alone."
Harry nodded in understanding.
"Thank you," he whispered, rising to his feet again.
"So, what's your story?" asked Ginny as Harry turned to leave.
"I'm a traveller from another world," said Harry with a roguish grin.
Ginny looked at him and rolled her eyes. She grinned slightly and shook her head in exasperation.
"Okay, I'll tell you later," said Harry, pretending that she had proved him wrong. "Get some rest, Gin," he added, turning to leave. He had on
"Err, Ginny," he asked softly, unable to shake a nagging doubt in the back of his mind. "How long have you been awake?"
Ginny looked up at him, a mischievous grin on her face, "You have a very nice bottom, Mister Potter," she informed him.
"You're not as innocent as you appear, Miss Weasley," he replied, fighting the blush that was creeping its way on
Ginny grinned and waved him goodbye as Harry turned and tiptoed out of the infirmary and back down the endless stairs to the fifth floor. Pulling his cloak tightly around him to block out the cold, he set off for the East Wing of the castle at a brisk pace.
He arrived on the roof a few minutes later, stepping out of a door into the chilly morning air. The East Tower was not as high as the Astronomy Tower, and not as popular with lovers, which was probably why Katie had chosen it. As Harry opened the door to the roof, he immediately felt the sting of the wind that whipped around the roof of the castle. Closing the door quickly, he wrapped his arms around himself to protect him from the cold before taking time to look around.
He instantly saw what he wanted.
The rooftop was about twenty feet across, surrounded by chest-height parapets which sank to knee-height in the crenels through which archers' bows ? or in the magical world, wands ? could be fired in times of siege. Sitting on top of the highest parapet, her legs dangling over the edge of a several hundred-foot drop, sat the Girl-Who-Lived. She hadn't turned around as Harry had appeared and continued to stare blankly out over the forest. Harry shivered in the bitter wind, but she seemed not to notice. How long had she been out here?
He crossed the rooftop towards where she was seated, his feet making next to no sound on the stone roof. The wind masked any sign of his approach. Harry didn't really wish to surprise her, not when she was that close to the edge, so thought it on
"How are the others?" she asked, her gaze never leaving the horizon. She didn't turn around to speak, nor give any other sign that he was there. Still, at least he wasn't going to scare her into plummeting to her death.
"They'll be out in a day or so," said Harry, climbing up on
Katie’s eyes stayed focused forward and she didn’t respond.
Harry was more exposed up here and shivered again, pulling the cloak more tightly around him. She seemed not to notice the chill, and Harry assumed that she had added a warming charm to her clothes. There was an awkward pause that seemed to last an age. Harry looked out over the forest, the lake, and the mountains beyond. The sunlight glistened off the snowy peaks and the sparkling water of the lakes. It certainly was picturesque, but Harry doubted that Katie was up here for sight-seeing.
"Come to tell me to stop moping around?" she asked, as if she had read his mind. "To get the old arse into gear and elbow to the grindstone?"
"No," replied Harry, trying to sound as sympathetic and soothing as possible. "I may have lost my humanity by your reckoning, but I'm not that insensitive."
Katie just continued to stare, and Harry began to wonder what she was seeing, for he doubted it was the landscape.
"Everyone knows?" she asked after a few second, still not looking at him.
There was no way to soften the blow, so he gave the on
"Yes," he replied, casting a silent warming charm over his jumper.
"Special edition," Harry informed her. "Written by Rita Skeeter."
"How bad is it?" she inquired, now looking down at her pale hands clasped together in her lap.
"We don't come off too bad," Harry told her, leaving out the implication that they were together. "Fudge on the other hand will be lucky to last another week in office."
Katie nodded in understanding and then turned to face Harry. As she looked at him, he could see that she had been crying. Her eyes were still glistening and the trails of tears were still visible down her cheeks. He wondered how they hadn’t frozen on her skin in the chill.
"You look different without your glasses," she said, attempting a small smile. "Part of your disguise?"
Harry nodded, smiling to himself. "Yes," he admitted. "Completely impenetrable."
Katie raised an eyebrow in doubt.
"Hey," continued Harry. "If it's good enough for Superman, it's good enough for me."
Katie actually laughed at that, her lips twisting in a pseudo-smile. Harry grinned back, confident that laughter was a good sign.
"So what am I supposed to do now?" she asked after a pause.
"How do you mean?"
"Since you seem to know so much about the future, what will he do next?" She had turned back to staring out over the lake again.
"I don't know," answered Harry honestly.
"Just like you didn't know Sirius was going to die," muttered Katie, though her voice was more sad than angry.
Harry didn't reply, partially through guilt and partially because he knew that there was nothing he could say. He knew she was venting her anger, and worst of all, he knew she was right.
"You've lived through this day on
"Then what the hell do you want to do it again for?" she asked, shaking her head in despair "I feel like I want the world to open up and swallow me, as if I am nothing more than a pawn on a giant chessboard, as if everything I have ever known has been a lie. But you... you have been though this, but you are staying to fight a war that isn't even yours. Are you insane?"
"Probably," said Harry, with a dry laugh.
"If I was you, I'd be back to my own world, like a rat up a drainpipe," replied Katie. "But you have just dived right back in, made yourself a target, and this isn't even your fight."
Harry shrugged. He didn't really know why he had gotten himself involved in all honesty, and it was not as if he couldn't see the truth in her words. It was his saving people thing, and on
"I don't know," replied Harry. "I just heard that you had all gone to the Ministry, I knew where it ended, and...I just wanted to help my friends. You said last night that my parents in another world weren't real, but they are real and so are you. I couldn't just stand by when you were all in danger. I meant what I said, Katie. If I knew of some way to have lessened the blow for you, I would have."
"Like telling me in advance," she challenged him.
"In hindsight, maybe that would have been better," conceded Harry. "I tried to prevent Riddle being ousted, as he would have kept you safe. Unfortunately I failed, and then before I knew it, you had left, months too soon by my reckoning."
Suddenly he paused. "What if it was my fault?" he wondered aloud. "What if just by being here, I made it happen sooner than it should have?"
"Like you said," replied Katie, "It probably would have happened sooner or later."
The wind was channelled by the mountains around them and it whipped around the castle, biting at their feet dangling over the edge. Harry shivered, but Katie seemed not to notice it.
"So, what do we do now?'' she asked at length. "Do we go on a rampage, go in search of a long lost weapon, run and hide... what?"
"No idea," replied Harry. "Let's see what Riddle has to say for himself. The Order of the Phoenix has their work cut out."
As if on cue, a large tawny owl swooped down out of the sky and landed on the parapet between the pair of them. Harry could clearly see that two letters were attached to its leg. As Harry reached out and removed them, he found that on
"Riddle's called a meeting," Katie said, reading her letter already. She checked her watch. "We need to go."
With a sigh, she swung her legs back around on
"After you..." Harry offered.
Katie didn't respond, but stepped through the door and started to descend the stairs. He followed her, closing the door behind him, grateful to finally be out of the wind. He removed the warming charm from his clothes as he followed Katie down the stairs, then fell into step beside the Girl-Who-Lived as they headed up to the Room of Requirement where, according to the letter, the meeting was scheduled to be held. They had gone perhaps on
"Harry?" she said quietly as they walked.
"Yes?" he answered, looking over at her.
"Am I going to get through this?"
For the first time, Harry could detect a hint of fear in her voice as she spoke. As strong as she appeared, she was scared and Harry couldn't blame her. As they walked he felt a sense of foreboding grow over her. Harry had no idea what was to come, but if it was anything like in the Unholy Land, then all Hell was about to break loose.
"I don't know," he said truthfully. "In all honesty, I just don't know. Grindelwald is completely different from Voldemort. God on
"But what do you think?" Katie persisted. "Honestly."
"I think that his reasons for hiding are over now that everyone knows he's back," said Harry softly. He knew it was not the news she wanted to hear, but it was the truth. It was what she needed to hear. "His need for stealth is gone so he'll be more aggressive from here on out. There will be deaths. Have no illusions, Katie. From this moment on, this country is at war."
"Somehow," Katie said thoughtfully, "I had a feeling you’d say that." She blew out a long breath Harry hadn’t even been aware she’d been holding. "God help us all."
Rowling J. K., 2003,Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Bloomsbury Books UK LTD, p710
Sorry this on
Special thanks must go to Kathy who has assisted me through several re-writes and has practically co-written a few sections of the chapter. The reason it was taking so long to Beta was that each revision was not a grammatical check, but involved re-writing whole sections.
Some of you have raised points about similarities to OotP, which are too similar. I needed to get the story up to this point with few changes, to form the base of the story. From here on, things take a completely different turn. Katie can now develop without having to stick to Harry's blueprint, and Tom without Dumbledore. With regards to DH references, we shall see.