THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH
The small golden ball clasped in Harry's hand was like a promise. The wings fluttering against his palm brought back all the greatest memories of his first year, when he was introduced to Quidditch, when he held that golden ball for the first time, and when he learned that he could be good at something. It was a promise that things were not as bad as they might seem, and that they would get better. Even if he had to learn to live with being unable to hear or speak for the rest of his life, things would get better. He was back at Hogwarts, after all. The way that Sirius had talked, usually to Remus but occasionally hinted at to Harry, there was a possibility that he would keep Harry from going back to school. Harry had never been entirely certain whether Sirius was kidding or not. He had a feeling that, if not for Remus, there would have been no question.
But he was here, back at Hogwarts, and going to see Ron and Hermione. And yes, he was worried. He was concerned that things would be awkward between the three of them, especially since Harry had disappeared for two months without a word to either or them. And things were different now, with him being unable to speak, and unable to hear. Would that change things? Would he lose the two of them?
And for a while, that concerned him, except the fragile golden wings of the snitch fluttered constantly in his hand and acted like a reminder… hadn't Ron and Hermione's friendship been a constant for him since they became friends? They'd had their moments, of course, when they argued, but when it came down to it, both of them had been there for him through everything. They had risked themselves far too frequently to help him accomplish some foolish self-appointed mission. They blatantly refused to leave him on his own.
A bit like the ever-present wings on his snitch, he supposed.
Harry brushed his thumb over the golden coating of the snitch. He thought he saw it glimmer oddly back at him, but then a movement out of the corner of his eye caused his to look up instinctively.
At times, well, at all times, he wished he could still hear. However, there were some times that it really bothered him that he couldn't – when he knew he was missing out on something truly precious, being unable to. The sight of Sirius and Remus laughing, unrestrained, as they walked down the hall, was something that made Harry want to burst with happiness. It also made him sad, because he could see the mirth in their faces, but he could not hear their laughter. And he knew that from the two of them, laughter was a rare treat not to be taken for granted.
The two did their best to keep things light around him. They were always happy to be with him; that much was clear. However, he would catch them sometimes, with a sorrowful look in their eyes, or a deep frown on their faces. It was always when they thought he wasn't paying attention, or believed him to be in another room. He would catch them glancing at one another, sometimes talking, sometimes speaking without words, or on the rare occasion, one looking at the other without being noticed. Their eyes and faces would always hold some deep emotion he didn't often get to see from them, because they hid it when they thought he was near.
He was fairly sure that some of the sadness was due to him. Some of the anger, perhaps, too. He didn't want them to feel that way about him. It wasn't their fault what his Uncle Vernon had done, but they seemed determined, sometimes, to blame themselves for it. It seemed to happen at night most often, as though in the darkness the two were unable to defend against both the shadows and their own dark emotions.
Other times, the looks didn't seem to be about him so much as they were discussing some topic which bothered them. Dumbledore, at some points, he was sure, as he knew both were angry with the headmaster on some levels. The other times it might have been anything. Harry knew from little things he had picked up that Sirius and Remus were a part of something that had to do with Voldemort, but he knew very little about it beyond that. But anything that concerned Voldemort was an unpleasant topic, and so the dark looks made sense.
That other look, though, that he had seen both of them give the other at times, came when one of them was unaware. Sometimes, he would step into the room, and he would find that Remus was working on something, and Sirius was somewhere behind him, watching him with eyes that were riveted, but filled with some deep well of emotion that seemed to merge sorrow with anger and hope and pain and fear, and so much that Harry could not give a name to. It was in these moments that he would do his best to escape the room unnoticed, and sometimes, more often lately, he could succeed. And he would leave the two to hopefully sort out whatever was going on, but it hadn't been yet. In some ways, perhaps because he didn't understand it as well as he did the others, it was this last look that bothered him the most.
The laughter was sometimes present at The Crooked House. Sometimes, they would be playing Exploding Snap or Chess, or some other game, and someone would say something to someone else that would cause the two older men to laugh, and Harry would smile but try not to lose himself in the humor. It wasn't because he didn't want to get pulled into that uncontrollable mirth, but that he didn't want to lose himself in his own. He wanted to sit back and lose himself in theirs – he wanted to be able to see every creased line that formed on their faces as they burst into laughter at themselves or each other. He wanted to watch their faces redden with mirth and their eyes shut tight, because this visual humor was so utterly rare that he couldn't bear to miss out on it. He'd missed so much of their lives already, being stuck with the Dursleys, he wouldn't allow himself to lose any more than he had to.
And now, walking down the corridor together, he was able to watch them laugh again. He knew the two had been talking. When they walked past a set of candles or a torch on the wall, he could sometimes catch the movements of Remus' hands in the air as the man gesticulated. When they had first taken him to The Crooked House and he had seen them talking to each other, it had bothered him. He didn't know if they were talking about him, or if they were arguing about whether or not to return him to Hogwarts, or to the Dursleys. Sometimes, Sirius would get very angry during the conversations, and Harry would get worried, and he would disappear somewhere in the apartment beneath the restaurant, to try and hide his worries away with himself.
After one particularly heated argument, Harry had ran outside, away from the restaurant, and spent a while simply walking down the road, contemplating whether or not to call the Knight Bus to take him to the Burrow, or to the Leaky Cauldron, like he had done in his third year after blowing up Aunt Marge.
In the end, before he could make up his decision, Remus and Sirius had found him and took him back to The Crooked House. They'd had a long talk there, involving a lot of writing to make sure that they could fully understand one another. Sirius had explained his anger at Dumbledore for not telling them what Harry had been through in his years at Hogwarts, and how he wanted to keep Harry with them and not bother with his going back to school. Remus' argument had been that simply running away wasn't the answer, and it was Harry's choice anyway. The choice wasn't to be made that day, but Harry could solve part of the problem by telling them what had happened in his first few years at Hogwarts. That long story had spawned the creation of the journal that allowed him to read what people were saying, and having the ability to open a book and read the words that were being spoken eased his mind when it came to Remus and Sirius' discussions, as well as their arguments.
Sometimes, he would see them arguing and would open his book and see that their argument wasn't nearly as violent as it appeared when he couldn't hear, and that it often concerned something as trivial as what time they were getting up in the morning (Sirius wasn't a morning person, but Remus was often awake at five or six o'clock). After a time, Harry began to worry less about what the two were discussing, and he didn't always need to open the journal to see if they were talking about him. Sometimes they were, and other times, they were just talking. He grew used to the fact that the two of them talked a great deal. They had, after all, been friends for a long time.
So seeing the two of them talking as they walked down the corridor didn't bother Harry. He had his journal tucked in his pocket, and if he'd really wanted to, he could open it and see what they were saying. He wasn't concerned, though, and he was content to watch them laugh for the time that they did, and think about his friends as they walked on, until they finally did reach the entrance to Gryffindor Tower.
Really, Harry should have been more prepared for Hermione's greeting.
The anxious brunette nearly knocked him off his feet as she flew into him, wrapping her arms tightly around him in a hug. It was the customary greeting she had always given him when one of them had been away, or when he had been at the hospital wing, or when they were reuniting after the summer. He should have expected it, except that he hadn't been sure he was going to get one of her tackling hugs today. He had been worried, on some level, that he would arrive at Gryffindor Tower and they wouldn't be here.
But no, Hermione had greeted him as she always did, and there was Ron, sitting backwards on the couch and waving at him. He had that look on his face that he usually got when he was making a smart remark to Hermione, and Harry saw her roll her eyes, and start talking to him. He did his best to keep up with the movement of her lips, but Hermione always had been as fast a talker as she was a reader, though he caught the main idea of it. She had missed him.
He had missed her, too. Both of them.
Hermione's excitement about his learning Sign Language, and the journal that Remus and Sirius had made, was contagious. Or perhaps he was really just that thrilled to see the both of them. They sat together on the couch, as Harry pulled out his journal and allowed them both to test it out, seeing how their words appeared in their own handwriting on the page.
"Oh, honestly, Ron, your handwriting is atrocious."
"The book is writing that, Hermione."
"Yes, in your handwriting. You really should be neater.I imagine your grades might improve if the professors werec apable of reading your work."
"Hermione, Harry's handwriting is worse than mine!"
"Yes, but Harry hasn't been using a quill his entire life, Ronald.If you took a little more time, your writing might even be legible."
Harry picked up the self-inking quill that Remus and Sirius had bought him and began to write in the journal. He thought it was likely a good idea to change the topic, before Ron and Hermione got into one of their infamous arguments.
"What did you guys do over the summer?"
The two stopped bickering, and Harry looked up to find that they were looking at each other with uncertain expressions on their faces. Harry frowned and wrote in the journal again.
"What is it?"
There was a long pause, the two of them not saying a word, before Hermione finally spoke up. He could just imagine her tone by the way she spoke – a careful, uncertain note in her voice, with her enunciations as crisp as she spoke when performing research.
"Harry. How much do you know of what happened after you, Sirius, and Professor Lupin disappeared?"
"He probably knows more than we do, Hermione."
"Not alot," Harry admitted, scratching out the words with his quill. "I know Dumbledore was looking for us, but couldn't find us. I didn't really ask about anything else."
"You didn't even ask what we were doing?"
"Oh, Ron, why would he? Harry's never gotten to know what we were doing unless we could write to him or he came to the Burrow, and he didn't get to do that often."
"Yeah, well, that's gonna change."
"Yes, I hope so, too." Harry saw her turn her head back to look at him. "You're right that Professor Dumbledore was looking for you, Harry, except that it wasn't just him. He had a lot of people out searching for where the three of you had gone – a lot more people than I thought the headmaster had working for him."
"He's not just the Headmaster, Hermione. He has a ton of other jobs."
"I know, Ron…" Hermione shook her head. "Anyway. Harry. They spent over a month looking for you, but no one could find you and he had to call off the search. Ron doesn't think he called off all of it, though."
"My parents were in a right bloody fit, mate. I've never seen Dad so mad, and none of us stuck around where Mum was. I think they made sure Dumbledore had some people keep looking for you. Not that it helped, of course."
"We thought maybe you weren't coming back."
"Sirius didn't want me to." Harry hesitated a moment, but then put his quill back on the page. "Part of me didn't want to, either."
"Why not?" Harry could see Ron's temper flare up. "Why would you even think of never coming back?"
"Don't be angry with him, Ron." Harry flicked his eyes to Hermione to find her face bore the scolding expression she occasionally used on the redhead. "He was probably happy where he was, with people who cared about him." She turned her head and met his eyes. "That's it, isn't it, Harry?"
Harry gave something of a sheepish smile. "It was nice to spend a summer with family. I love coming over to the Burrow, Ron – your family makes me feel like I'm part of the family—"
"You are, mate."
"But Sirius and Remus… Sirius is my godfather. I should have been living with him from the start, not with the Dursleys. It was nice to have a summer that is the way things were meant to be." Harry considered the one glaring difference between the way things should have been and the way they were. "Mostly, at least."
"Oh, Harry. Is it hard, not being able to hear?"
Harry frowned in thought. "It's confusing. It's not like it's quiet, because there's no sound at all. It's like there's nothing there. I didn't realize how much I used my hearing before. Not being able to speak is annoying, but not as difficult."
"What about classes, though? Will you still be able to attend Hogwarts if you can't cast spells?"
"Hermione! Only you would worry about classes above everything else!"
"Honestly, Ron, I am not. I'm just saying, you won't get kicked out of school, will you?"
"They can't expel you, Harry. It's against some law – it has to be."
"It'sfine, I can still attend classes," Harry wrote quickly, because he could see the two of them working themselves into a frenzy – Hermione a panic, and Ron a rage. "Sirius and Remus have been teaching me how to silently cast spells."
"Wait, so you've been learning Sign Language and silent spell casting?"
"Lip-reading, and some other stuff, too."
"Ugh, it's like school over break!"
"Oh, that sounds so exciting, Harry!"
"Maybe they'll let you join, Hermione. Lupin can be the professor, and Sirius can be the Headmaster."
The thought of Sirius as the Headmaster had all three of them laughing, and Harry knocked his journal to the floor. Calming down and retrieving the book, he saw words appearing in it, in Hermione's hand.
"There have been some strange things happening this summer, Harry." He glanced up at Hermione to find her expression had sobered. "We're not allowed to tell you about where we stayed…"
"Everyone just calls it Headquarters."
Harry perked up. Remus had mentioned something about that. Hadn't he said that Harry would be shown it later?
"Do you know about it, Harry?" Hermione must have picked up on his surprise.
"Remus mentioned something, that's all."
"Oh, well, maybe you'll get to see it, too. Bit of a dreadful place, though."
"Oh, get on with it,Hermione," Ron interrupted. "There's something secret that's been going on – some kind of meeting that no one but the members are allowed to know about. Fred and George know something, I'm sure, but Mum and Dad swore them to secrecy, and Mum must have threatened them with something pretty bad if they're not even gloating about it."
"We don't know what it is, other than they have a lot of meetings, and we think Professor Dumbledore is the leader. There are a lot of people that show up at Headquarters when it's time for meetings. Some of the people are very… diverse, too."
"George told me one of the guys at Headquarters was a vampire!"
"And I think George was lying to you." Hermione shook her head to disperse the thought. "There's something else that's happened, too, Harry." She looked a little uncomfortable with what she was about to say. "I think we must have had a spell cast on us or something, because it doesn't make any sense, otherwise—"
"A bunch of us have had some pretty wicked dreams lately."
Harry's hand tightened on his quill. A dream about a strange artifact had been haunting his dreams for weeks now. He hadn't said anything to Sirius or Remus; when he woke up, the dreams and what he learned it them didn't seem to matter nearly as much as they did when he was asleep, and he never wanted to break the moments that they were in with discussion about Voldemort and what may have to be done to stop him, if his dreams were telling him the truth.
He remembered back over a month ago, though, when he was still in the hospital wing, the dream that he'd had about the tree that bore his soul, and the branches that were his connections to his friends. Every time he faced some danger, since he had started coming to Hogwarts, he had faced it with a friend by his side. They were his strength, so perhaps some creature, divine or not, was ascertaining that he had some strength with him when he faced something that would wish him weakened.
A hand on his shoulder pulled him from his thoughts and he looked up to find Hermione and Ron both giving him concerned looks. He glanced down at the book and saw that the two of them had continued talking, but he hadn't been paying attention. He skimmed through what they had said, but they didn't mention anything by name. He placed the tip of his quill to the page.
The sound of a gasp cannot be properly spelled out in words, but Harry could see the sound on Hermione's face as she and Ron read the two simple words he had written. He met her gaze when she lifted her head, and he could see her eyes were filling with regretful tears. She didn't want her dreams to have been true.
"Cor," Hermione whispered, and Harry read the word on her lips.
Nor did he need to read the word "Turris" scrawled in Ron's untidy hand.
"Do you know who the others are?"
"Ginny's been dreaming about Orbis," Ron admitted. "She always wakes up crying…"
"We're not sure about the others. I don't know who to ask, and I'm not certain we should be writing in the post about it."
"No. This needs to stay secret." Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and placed the tip against the page. In his mind, he thought of an empty white canvas on which no marks had ever been made…
The visible pages of the journal rippled like a puddle, outward from where the point of Harry's wand had touched. The black ink the words were scrawled in ran as though wet, carried by the rippling pages until they seemed to be driven off of the page. When the spell ended and the rippling was done, the pages were blank.
"That was incredible!"
Harry grinned at his friends, picking his quill back up and pressing it to the page again. "So what else has been going on?"
Learning that Snape would be staying at the school for the time that they were there had made something of a dent in Harry's mood. Even the knowledge that Snape was actually married and even had a son hadn't been enough to make him feel better; confused, yes, since he found it incredibly hard to believe that someone was willing to marry the snarky bastard, much less have a kid with him. And Snape didn't like children – that was obvious from the way he treated his students – so how in the world would he handle caring for a child of his own?
It made absolutely no sense to Harry, and he wasn't looking forward to eating dinner with the snarky git himself.
The other professors staying at the school would be there, as well, which made things a little better. Harry was glad that the headmaster wasn't staying at the school. He could tell Sirius and Remus weren't at all pleased about planning on dining with Snape (although Remus looked more worried about how Sirius would react than about being around Snape), and he knew the two of them wouldn't have been able to handle being around Dumbledore.
The Great Hall was set up like it usually was during breaks, with a single large table around which the appropriate number of chairs had been placed. Harry had been worried, briefly, about who he was supposed to sit by, but Remus had solved the problem by dragging Sirius off to sit next to Minerva, leaving Ron and Hermione to sit on either side of Harry. He'd glanced over at his godfather to see the dark-haired man wink at him, before saying something to Minerva that made her slap him lightly on the arm, looking falsely affronted. Harry could only grin in response.
There weren't a lot of people staying at Hogwarts, and the absence of the headmaster was an odd thing to get over. Ron sat on Harry's left, while Hermione was to his right. Remus sat next to her, followed by Sirius, then Minerva, and then an olive-skinned woman with long, wavy hair and dark eyes. A young boy sat next to her, and between the two of them, it wasn't hard to discover who they were.
Harry hadn't previously met Elena Morely, as he had been asleep when she visited the Hospital Wing before they'd left Hogwarts before. Remus had made sure to tell Harry about her, however, and the fact that she had signed papers that named her his secondary guardian, so that Remus could remain as Harry's primary guardian. Sirius had been moping about the whole thing the entire time that Remus was explaining it, and Harry had to agree that he didn't like it either, though he did understand the need for it.
That didn't stop him from wishing that Sirius' name was cleared so that the three of them could be a family without any complications. And having any connection to Snape's family wasn't something that made Harry feel any easier about the situation. He knew how much Snape hated him, and he had no doubts the man would attempt to use this to his advantage in any way he could think to. Only the knowledge that the document was done up to sate the Ministry kept Harry from throwing a fit about it. As far as he was concerned, Remus and Sirius were his only guardians, and as long as he had them, nothing else mattered.
As he studied them, the woman looked over the table at Harry and smiled, offering him a small nod of acknowledgement. Her dark eyes were kind, and Harry couldn't resist the smile that stole his face in response. The young boy beside her turned his head, as well, hair flopping, but seemed to find nothing overly interesting about Harry and turned back to his mother right after, continuing a conversation that they had been having. One less person mooning over his name was perfectly fine with Harry, and he looked to the boy's right.
That seat was no doubt reserved for Snape, but was currently empty. Next to it sat Professor Flitwick, the diminutive man sitting on a pile of books so that his head peered over the table. Ron looked extremely relieved that the man was sitting between him and the chair that would hold Snape when he arrived.
The house elves had clearly been told not to wait on everyone to arrive, and food had appeared on the table to everyone's relief. People passed dishes back and forth, the adults often doing so with a mere flick of their wands, much to the delight of both Hermione and the young boy sitting next to Elena. Harry wasn't sure he had ever learned the boy's name.
Harry had a spoonful of steak and kidney pie halfway to his mouth when Snape arrived, all billowing robes and dark glower. The man paused in his action of pulling out a chair when he caught sight of Harry staring warily in his direction.
Swallowing thickly, Harry looked down and shoved the spoon in his mouth. His eyes remained steadfastly not on the professor, so he missed the man swiping at his mouth with a hand and the look he passed to his wife when she muttered something under her breath in another language.
Between the two of them, Conan giggled and rattled something off in the same language which made Snape glare at the younger boy. Harry lifted his head in time enough to see the dark look he had become so familiar with over his years at Hogwarts, only to be surprised to see the large grin on the boy's face in response.
The long-fingered hand that settled so gently on the boy's dark head caused Harry to pause in his chewing, and he watched as Snape pulled his chair out the rest of the way and took a graceful seat. His lips moved in a manner that Harry was unfamiliar with, and he could not read the boy's response, either, but he saw the way the boy's eyes lit up and the smile that curled his lips and he was surprised to feel a part of him relax.
This was… new. Harry returned to eating his dinner as he considered the hand that Snape had placed on the younger man's head. It was strange to see such a simple gesture performed, but Harry knew he only thought so because he had never expected to see Snape as the one doing it.
After all, that was the exact same gesture that Sirius used on him, and though no words had ever been spoken to define it, Harry didn't need to hear anything to know what they meant.
He loved Sirius, too.
Just a comment, for verisimilitude's sake; speaking slowly would have made it much harder for Harry to read her lips, not easier.
For the sake of clarity, in this case, "speaking slowly" in this case meant that Hermione wasn't prattling off at incredible speeds like she is wont to do. It is likely I will use this later to clarify in chapter.
Also, why is there no mention of resentment or annoyance on Harry's part for Sirius and Remus talking over his head? He might not be able to hear, but I'm sure their accompanying movements were noticeable - laughter, hand gestures, eye rolling. And if Harry can't hear anymore, I'm sure he's paying as much attention to his other senses as he can - so I doubt the conversation slipped past him entirely.
Were Harry with other people, like Dumbledore, or anywhere near Snape, he would likely be angry that they were talking over his head, considering that they could be talking about him. However, he trusts Sirius and Remus, and he has been around them for most of the summer, and so is accustomed to the ways of their conversing.
So glad to hear Harry will be paired with Ginny! Can't wait to see how that happens!
You'll have lots of time to watch it form, I promise. I have no intention of having them spy each other this year and instantly fall in love.
Oh, and don't you think that I missed the bit about the spells on the Snitch ;-) I can't wait to find out what that's all about.
Oh dear, you've caught me. ;) Good for you.
I hope that you let the ministry find out about Voldemort earlier then the entire 5th year.
The ministry is a bunch of idiots pretending to know what they're doing.
Harry could do so much better then a girl who looks like his mother.
It seems that the fondness of red-headed women may be some sort of gene, as I happen to know it runs in my family. My mother is a red-head, and my brother has mostly dated red-heads, so it's really not all that unlikely that Harry is attracted to a girl that looks like his mother. Even the other way around, girls often end up getting with men who are much like their fathers.
This is so very well written, totally could be published if there was ever a chance of that.
Thank you! Unfortunately, there is no such chance, though I'm nearly finished with my novel and will be happily informing my readers when it's published, for those who like my writing style.
Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.