Input and Inquisitiveness
Harry was stewing in the empty common room just before dinner when Hermione sat down next to him and asked, 'What've you and Elizabeth fought about now?'
Shocked out of his silence, Harry replied calmly, 'I yelled at her.'
Confused, she persisted. 'Why?'
'She… asked what was on my hand.'
'We talked after Runes today, and she was utterly distraught.'
Harry hung his head, and muttered, 'I threatened her; told her I'd get her kicked out if she touched me.'
Whatever Hermione was expecting, she did not expect this. Shock coloured her features, and she gasped, 'Oh, Harry… why?'
'I don't know!' he exclaimed, standing and pacing the ground in front of her. 'I don't know why, okay? I had just gotten out of Umbridge's detention and I didn't want her to get all… protective. She could get kicked out if she complained.'
'But why would you threaten to get her kicked out if you're worried about her getting kicked out? And you should've seen her, Harry. She's so worried about you, but she's terrified of what you'll do if she tries to talk to you.'
'I know!' He could feel frustrated tears coming to his eyes, and turned briefly away to hide them. 'I know it makes no sense, I just…'
'You should talk to her, tell her what happened.'
'No… I couldn't.'
'You're only scared that she'll forgive you, and you'll feel guilty, but you shouldn't. She's just looking out for you.'
'That's just the problem, Hermione. I don't want to see her like that.'
Hermione sat, thoughtful, and suggested slowly, 'Well, you could always just… you know… start talking to her, and not mention it.'
Harry thought about this for a moment, and replied, 'You think that would be okay?'
'Yeah,' she replied. 'She should be in the library now, actually,' she continued, checking her watch. 'You could probably catch her.'
'Okay…. Yeah. I… I think I'll go now.'
'I'll walk down with you… I should eat something before I start working tonight… I have to finish another hat before bed.'
Harry smiled the first smile he had in days, and they walked out of Gryffindor common room together, and down the hall until they came to a fork in the corridor. Hermione wrapped her arms carefully around Harry's shoulders, and, wishing him luck, left him to journey to the library on his own.
He walked through the doors, and saw Madam Pince, who shot him a very nasty look indeed as he walked tentatively towards her.
'Yes?' she asked brusquely, dusting off her desk. 'What do you want?'
'Sorry…' he muttered quietly, slightly taken aback, 'but is Elizabeth Holmes - ?'
'You ought to be more kind to her,' the librarian hissed, brandishing the duster at him. Shocked, Harry could not respond. He stood with his mouth dropping open until she continued, 'She's over there – ' she pointed with her duster ' – and if I hear her getting upset…'
'I… thanks.' He walked away then, and came upon Elizabeth's form leaning over a large leather book. 'Hey.'
Elizabeth's shoulders tensed, and slowly she turned in her seat.
Hermione had been right – Elizabeth was very pale, and she looked thinner. It had only been a few days since they had spoken, but the look in her eyes told him exactly the effect his words had had on her.
'Hello,' she replied cautiously, offering a weak smile. She added nothing more, and Harry cleared his throat.
'So, Hermione figures I should teach people Defence since Umbridge is so useless.'
Her features relaxed somewhat, and she replied cautiously, 'That sounds like a good idea.'
'Yeah,' Harry continued, sitting down next to her. 'I'm just worried that I… you know, won't be able to do it.'
She smiled gently, and her hand jerked, as if to place it comfortingly on his. 'Of course you will,' she said quietly, still keeping a physical distance. 'If anyone has the passion needed to inspire others to defend against Voldemort, you do.'
Harry reached over and held his (unscarred) hand on hers. 'Thank you.'
Elizabeth's eyes misted, and she touched his face gently with her free hand. 'So why don't you hate me anymore?' she asked, laughing and crying simultaneously.
'Ron got a letter from Percy.'
'Yeah. He mentioned something about Dumbledore not being in charge much longer. I… I didn't know that you were in such danger of being kicked out, and… I didn't actually mean to threaten you, I just… I didn't want you to find out what Umbridge does during detention. I thought you'd get mad at her, and actually get thrown out.'
Her expression became serious, and her tears stopped. Her hand dropped, and she asked slowly, 'What does she do during detention?'
'She makes me write lines.'
'Harry.' She cocked her eyebrow skeptically, and gave him a "that's not funny" look. 'What. Does. She. Do.'
In response, Harry held up his right hand, and Elizabeth gasped.
'She makes me write lines.'
'Elizabeth, don't – '
'Harry! This is abuse! It's illegal!' She held his hand down in front of her, and examined it carefully. 'Does it hurt?' she added softly, gently touching the scars.
'It's a little sore, yeah.'
'Well, then…' She took out her wand and muttered a brief incantation over his hand, dulling the pain to an almost unnoticeable tinge. 'Better?'
Harry flexed his hand and smiled. 'Yeah. Way better, thanks.' He put his arms around her, and said, 'I'm… sorry.'After a brief pause, she hugged him back. 'I know, Harry. I know.'