Harry wondered at the strangeness of the present scene. Here he and Severus were, sitting in front of the fire and drinking tea, still battered from the events of the night. The oddness did nothing for Harry's frayed nerves.
Harry raised the cup to his lips. The liquid was scalding. He returned it to the platter with a clink.
"Are you really to speak about what happened?" Severus asked finally.
"No," Harry replied immediately. Severus gave him a sideways look. With a sigh, Harry amended, "I'm not sure I'll ever be ready exactly."
"That is understandable. Can you at least tell me how you ended up at the graveyard?" he asked, leaning forward slightly. "The cup was a portkey?"
"Yes," Harry replied, closing his eyes. "In the maze, Bennet came up to me- Is he okay?"
"Everyone is fine, yes. They managed red sparks and were rescued, or so I hear."
"That's good. Bennet tried to warn me but Cedric stunned him from behind. Then he did something to me, I'm not sure what. I couldn't move. He took me to the cup and made me touch it. We ended up in the graveyard. And C-Cedric..." Harry trailed off, eyes watering. He swiped at them, embarrassed.
Severus put his arm around Harry. He seemed uncomfortable; at a loss for what to say.
"He killed him, Severus," Harry said shakily.
"I know.""It's not fair," Harry said angrily. "He didn't even do anything!"
"He led you there," Severus pointed out.
Harry shook his head. "He was under a spell. He had to be. Cedric would never do that."
Severus patted Harry awkwardly on the arm. "I will be sure that Crouch is questioned about it. We will make certain Cedric's name is cleared, should it be warranted."
Harry nodded numbly. "Thanks."
There was temporary silence as Harry tried to compose himself. Severus took Harry's arm and turned it, examining the gash. "We should clean that. I have some things that may help.""It can wait," Harry protested.
"Dare I ask how you got it?" Severus asked slowly.
"He took it. Lockhart took the blood to revive Voldemort," Harry said in a resigned tone then recited the spell that had led to Voldemort's rebirth. Glumly, he added, "He can touch me now. I don't burn him."
Severus looked disturbed. "That does not bode well, Harry. Now that he has a physical body again..."
"Nothing is stopping him from gaining the same power he had before," Harry finished.
Severus nodded. "Exactly."
Silence fell for a few minutes as Harry set his cold tea aside. The crackling fire was all that broke the quiet. After a long hesitation, Harry broached the question that was weighing on his mind.
"Why did you come?""Pardon?"
"Why did you come to the meeting?" Harry asked more clearly.
Severus set aside his own tea and shifted so that he was facing Harry. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak, then paused. "You have to understand, Harry. I did not know what was going on. The Dark Mark had not been active in years; not since the night... well you are familiar with it. Then, suddenly, long after I had gotten concerned that you did not emerge from the maze, it seared fresh. I had forgotten what it felt like. The pain is unspeakable; resisting even more so. I went. I cannot explain it; I didn't think, I just went." Severus's voice became quieter. "I do not regret it, though I will not be doing so again."
Harry was quiet for a few minutes. "But what if he summons you again? How can you resist?"
"I will manage."
Severus touched Harry's shoulder. "Do not concern yourself with it, Harry."
Harry frowned but didn't say more. After a beat, he said, "I just can't believe he's back."
"The prophecy told us that he would return."
"I know," Harry said. "I just didn't want it to be true, I guess."
"Far too often, the prophecies are," Severus said darkly.
Harry looked at him curiously but he seemed unwilling to elaborate. Harry dismissed it as unimportant. "I really don't want to go back to the dorm tonight. There'll be questions... I'm not ready for them. Can I crash on your couch?"
"Absolutely," Severus replied. "But before you do, let me bandage your arm."
Harry shrugged, too tired to care much about it. "Okay."
Severus retrieved his small case and dabbed a cream that stung lightly across the cut. After it was wrapped in gauze, Snape found him a blanket and pillow and Harry laid down, nearly asleep already. He blinked tiredly, remembering.
"I was supposed to call Sirius after the task; tell him how it went," he said, propping himself up on his elbow.
Severus pushed him gently back down. "Sleep. I'll call him and explain what happened. You do not need to go through that again tonight."
Harry nodded. That much was true. "Thanks."
Harry saw Severus nod before his eyes became heavy and closed, sleep overtaking him instantly.
Harry woke with a short, hoarse yell. He was breathing heavily, the blanket knotted around his legs and sweat beading on his forehead. Just as Harry came back to reality and realized that he wasn't in the graveyard, Severus came into the room looking alarmed and concerned.
"Are you alright?" he demanded.
Harry swallowed. "Just a dream."
Severus ran his hand through his hair. "Well it was nearly time to get up anyway. I suppose we best get ready, I told Dumbledore I would meet him for breakfast and we are leaving before lunch."
Harry nodded but even the thought of going home couldn't shake the image of Cedric's face still bathed in green light. Severus had begun to head back to his room when he turned, as if remembering something.
"Did you want to talk about your dream?" he asked, an obvious afterthought.
Harry spared him. "No. It was just the graveyard again. There's not really anything to talk about."
Severus seemed relieved that he wasn't expected to provide comfort or consolation and turned to head down the hall. Harry, now fully awake, found that he had a pounding headache and his scar was still painfully raw. With an inward groan, he got ready, both physically and mentally, to face everyone else. What would he tell them? Perhaps he would talk to Draco first. In light of last night, Harry wanted to be absolutely sure that Draco hadn't gone past the point of no return.
With a sigh, Harry joined Severus at the door and they headed to the dining hall. There they went their separate ways: Severus to speak with Dumbledore and Harry to, reluctantly, seek out his friend. He spied Draco sitting in the corner, alone. Heading that way, Harry decided he wasn't hungry and didn't particular fancy standing in line for food.
"Hi, Draco. Er, can I sit?" Harry asked, wondering why he was so nervous.
Draco nodded and Harry slid onto the bench beside him.
"Is it true, then?" Draco asked eventually.
Harry nodded. "Unfortunately."Draco seemed resigned. "That's what Gregor said."Harry hesitated for a moment, then asked, "Draco, tell me honestly, have you done any Dark Magic with them? Or without?"
Draco looked up with guarded eyes. Harry wondered if he would tell the truth. After a long moment and a deep sigh, Draco replied, "Yes."
Harry bit his lip. Though he knew it was the truth, he still somehow wished Draco would deny it and mean it. "How much?"
"Not much," Draco assured him. "They made me do some kind of blood spell to promise not to tell you what the first task was before they showed me."
"Thanks a lot," Harry muttered jokingly. Draco looked up, hurt. Harry quickly added, "I'm just joking. Really, it's okay." Cedric had told him. The thought sent a pang through his chest.
Draco looked a bit skeptical but continued. "It felt good. I won't deny it; it was really a rush. I tried another spell, later, by myself but I... uh... never finished it."
"That's good," Harry replied, seeing no need to tell him that he already knew. "Are you- have you-"
"I'm done with the Dark Arts," Draco said assertively. "I saw- I mean... Gregor. Karkaroff was teaching Gregor and a bunch of others some really Dark stuff. He showed me some of it a few weeks ago. It sort of freaked me out," Draco admitted sheepishly.
"Right, well. I'm sorry about your mirror. Really," Draco said earnestly.
Harry shrugged. "I survived, didn't I?"
"Gregor was hoping you wouldn't."
"Happy to disappoint."
Draco laughed lightly. He looked at Harry a bit pained. "Will you forgive me? I've been a right awful friend this year," he said. Draco added quickly, "I'd understand if you never talk to me again. I mean, after all you did for me in second year-"
"It's okay," Harry said reassuringly. "Honestly. I'd still like to be friends, if you do."
Draco smiled. "You're too good, Harry."
Harry shrugged but grinned as well, happy to have cleared that up. "One thing though. Can I ask you one thing?"
"Sure," Draco replied.
"What spell were you trying to cast?" Harry asked. He almost added "in the forest" but caught himself.
Draco looked down. "Will you promise not to laugh at me?"
"Why would I?" Harry asked first, then said, "I promise."
"I was trying a spell that is a variation of a scrying spell. It would have worked like your mirror."
"With who?" Harry asked.
Draco bit his lip. "Hermione."Harry grinned and Draco shot him a look. "What?" Harry asked indignantly. "It's not laughing, it's smiling!"
Draco's cheeks flushed and he shook his head.
"Oh, come on, Draco," Harry said good-naturedly, punching Draco lightly on the arm. "I think it's great."
Draco rolled his eyes. At the same time, they noticed Rhea saunter over with a tray of food.
"I'll leave you be. See you in a few hours," Draco said to Harry with a quick grin. He picked up his tray and left just as Rhea got to the table.
"Oh, did I scare him off?" she asked, mildly concerned.
"Nah, he's just being polite," Harry replied. "Please, sit."
Rhea did so and Harry suddenly found himself at a loss for words.
"When do you go?"
"Huh?" Harry asked.
"You are leaving today, right?" Rhea asked.
Harry said, "Yeah. Noon I think, maybe before."
Harry watched her face, trying to interpret the signals. He was lost. "What's that mean?" he resorted to asking.
She smiled in amusement. "That was an I'm-sad-to-see-you-go 'oh'."
She laughed, a quick cheerful sound. "I can guess which kind of 'oh' that was."
Harry laughed too, remembering why they had gotten along so well. "Don't take it personally but I'm rather glad to be going home."
"I understand," she assured him. "I would rather be going to Hogwarts too."
"Maybe you can come visit sometime," Harry offered.
"Maybe," Rhea said a bit doubtfully.
They chatted for a few more minutes and Harry was grateful that she didn't mention the night before. It was a nice relief. In truth, Harry hadn't thought about what had happened for almost a half hour. It was a brief but pleasant respite.
When the hall had begun to empty of people, Harry glanced at the time. He had still to pack and would be leaving in a little over two hours. Rhea saw this and bit her lip.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"I was going to ask if you wanted to take a final walk in the gardens but you have to go and I am keeping you," she said apologetically. "I should go." She stood.
"No," Harry stopped her hurriedly. "I'm sure I have time for a quick walk."
Rhea grinned. "Come on, then."
It was hard saying goodbye. Goodbyes were one of the things that Harry hated most. He hadn't said a proper goodbye to Rhea in the garden but assured her that he would see her again before he left. Now, bags packed, Harry and the others stood ready to go in the dining hall. Lane hugged Viktor Krum tightly, a film of tears in her eyes. Sandra's eyes were red from crying, though not due to the fact that they were leaving. Cedric's death had obviously hit her the hardest. Some of the Durmstrang students had gathered to see them off, among them Rhea, Aris and Riker. Harry and Draco wandered their way.
"See you, Harry. I truly wish you the best," Riker said, giving Harry a hearty handshake and attempting a punch on the arm that Harry instinctively dodged. Riker chuckled. "Nice one."
"I have to thank you for all that agility training. It really saved my butt in the maze. I didn't even have to think to dodge," Harry said earnestly.
Riker grinned broadly and Harry realized that was the best compliment he could have given. "Thanks, Harry. You were fun to teach. Glad to be of service."
"I hope this goodbye isn't final," Harry said to both Riker and Aris. "Who knows, maybe we'll meet up again someday."
"I will look forward to it," Aris said. "It was an honor to meet you, Harry."
Harry shook his head. "The honor is all mine. You guys are really great. I'll miss you most of all." Harry's gaze wandered over to Rhea who stood a little removed from the group. "Excuse me," he said, leaving Draco to say his own goodbyes.
Harry stepped over to her under Aris's watchful gaze. Politely, he soon looked away. "So this is goodbye, I guess."
"I suppose it is," Rhea said with a tinge of sadness. "You will write, won't you?""Of course," Harry replied. "Maybe I can even send you a mirror."
"I'd like that," she said with a smile.
Someone brushed against Harry's back and he stepped forward awkwardly to avoid a collision. He now stood oddly close to Rhea, standing only a few inches taller than she. "Goodbye then," he said awkwardly, noticing that the others had began to congregate in front of the fireplace.
Rhea leaned in and Harry, panicking inside, pulled her in for a less than graceful hug. "Bye," she said quietly. Harry pulled away and gave her one last smile before joining Draco to move towards the throng of people. She smiled back and shook her head lightly, long hair tossing. Harry wondered idly if he had done something wrong.
"Remind me not to ask for your advice in the romance department," Draco muttered as they walked.
"Why?" Harry demanded. "Of the two of us, I'm the only one who's ever actually had a girlfriend."
"Yeah and if it was anyone else, anyone slightly less tolerant of how hopeless you are, it wouldn't have been for long," Draco smirked.
Harry groaned. "What did I do this time?""She wanted a kiss goodbye, didn't you see?"
Draco just shook his head and got in line for the Floo. Severus had gone first so Harry assumed he would be waiting on the other side. As Draco disappeared in the flash of flame, Harry picked up his trunk. He lugged it into the fireplace and looked out at his new friends one more time. He had not been lying, he hoped this wasn't the last time they met.
"Hogwarts, Great Hall," Harry announced, tossing down the Floo powder. He locked eyes with Rhea, trying to send apology in his glance before he was gone.
At last, Harry was going home.