Loneliness

Chapter 22

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. Blah blah blah. should just put a blanket disclaimer on the site for all the idiots that could possibly believe we actually own these stories or make any kind of a profit.


Immediately following his dream battle with the Dark Lord Voldemort, Harry and his Slytherin bunkmates were taken directly to the Headmaster of Hogwarts Albus Dumbledore, marched there by a half asleep, nervous and shaken Severus Snape.

The Head of Slytherin had been just drifting off to sleep when he had been woken by the portrait of Rolin Blackwood, a former Head of Slytherin, who reported a disturbance in the first year boys dormitory. Snape had felt an immediate sinking feeling, and his fear was confirmed when he arrived to see the charred damage of the fire Harry had started, and heard the loud commotion being made by a furious and red faced Draco Malfoy.

Snape had wasted no time in shutting the silver haired boy wizard up, and then demanded to know what had taken place, though he could surmise the events himself. Harry was silent, but Draco gladly filled him in, claiming that the Boy-Who-Lived (To-Burn-Down-His-Relatives, some added snidely) had tried to burn them all alive. Snape looked at Harry, who, he was dismayed to see, had a slightly smile on his face as he gazed off up at the ceiling, as if he was happy about the events that had taken place. Snape felt a lump in his throat form, and for the first time that night he wondered if tonight would be the night Dumbledore would give him the order. His year was almost up, and after tonight…

And so Snape had no choice but to take the boys up to the Headmaster, this mess being far out of his power to sort out, especially with Draco Malfoy's insistence that his father would be hearing all about this.

(-)

Inside the Headmaster's Chamber, Dumbledore sat behind his desk and listened as the tale was told first by Severus Snape, and then by Draco Malfoy. Harry still looked dazedly happy, a somewhat eerie expression given what had happened.

'And how was this fire extinguished?' Albus Dumbledore asked, once Draco Malfoy had finished his biased version of the events, which included such lies as Harry laughing maliciously and chasing them with fire.

Draco was unable to respond, having no way to answer this… except of course, the truth, which was not an option.

'Well Mr. Malfoy?' Dumbledore probed.

'Erm…'

'You have forgotten?'

'…I guess.'

'I put it out,' Harry said suddenly, as if waking from his happy trance.

Dumbledore looked calmly over at Harry, who now had control over his facial muscles, and was staring back at Dumbledore with a calm expression, which Snape did not share. 'You put it out?'

'Yes. With an Aguamenti Charm.'

Dumbledore did not blink at this little fact, despite that particular Charm being well out of reach for any normal first year. 'You have used the Aguamenti Charm before?'

'In a sense,' Harry replied honestly, remembering the time he had doused Draco Malfoy to put out his robe.

'He's lying!' Draco accused. 'He tried to kill us all!'

'Silence Malfoy,' Snape said loudly. 'You had your turn to speak. Now let Potter.'

'That's quite all right Severus, let the boy speak.'

Snape narrowed his eyes at the Headmaster, while Dumbledore looked at Draco again. 'You say that Harry is lying?'

Malfoy swallowed. 'Yes. He would have killed us, but I used the Aguamenti Charm to stop him.'

Dumbledore smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. 'Ah, I see. Well, I think we can clear this up easily enough, don't you all?'

Snape, whose panic had been rising, felt himself relax, knowing exactly what Dumbledore would suggest, and feeling that it would reveal Harry as the truth-teller.

'A test, to prove the truth of it all,' Dumbledore said. 'Your wands boys.'

'What do you want that for?' Draco asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

'To test it, of course.'

Harry looked at Snape, who nodded, and so he stepped forward and handed his wand over to Dumbledore. Malfoy followed, now looking very apprehensive. Dumbledore went with Draco's wand first, and after mumbling a quiet Prior Incantato, frowned. 'Hmm.' Then he repeated the procedure with Harry's, and a small smile appeared on his face. 'Well, I think that settles it. Mr. Malfoy, would you like to change your story at all?'

Malfoy swallowed even louder, going red in the face, fumbling for words. 'Ah… erm… I…'

'I know,' Dumbledore said, 'you lied. Tell me the truth and your punishment will be less severe.'

Draco hung his head. '…I don't know what happened. I woke up and everything was on fire. We couldn't get out. He… Potter was lying in his bed… and it was on fire… all around him… but he wasn't hurt by it.' Malfoy looked up. 'He's a freak! He nearly killed us all.'

'But then he woke up, and put out the fire, correct?'

Malfoy nodded. Dumbledore handed him back his wand.

'Professor Snape and I will discuss your punishment and let you know tomorrow. You may go Mr. Malfoy,' Dumbledore said, 'and the rest of you too, except for you Harry. Severus, please escort them back, then return here.'

Snape paused, still worried, but at a nod from the Headmaster he did as he was bade and led the rest of the Slytherin boys out of the room.

Dumbledore looked at Harry, long and hard, before he spoke. 'Take a seat Harry.'

Harry thought about it, and then sat down slowly. Dumbledore held up Harry's wand, which he still possessed, and examined it. 'An Aguamenti Charm is quite complex for a first year Harry, and yet the evidence is right before my eyes. Remarkable. You seem to have an affinity with elements… or perhaps, you're just an incredibly talented individual. Which is it, do you think?'

Harry shrugged.

'Yes, perhaps it is hard to tell. Have you tried to conjure other elements? Wind? Ice?'

'Not really,' Harry said. 'I've read a lot about spells and charms though.'

'You read often?'

'All the time… with my friend Hermione.'

'Ah yes,' Dumbledore said with a smile, 'your friend is a unique and talented witch. I have high hopes for her.'

Harry said nothing to this, preferring to keep things close to the chest for now. Headmaster Dumbledore was an unknown to him, and he did not feel comfortable revealing too much, without Professor Snape to guide him.

'Would you like to tell me what happened tonight?'

'You already know.'

'Yes, but I think perhaps there is more to the story?'

Harry pursed his lips in thought. How much could he reveal? He was still reeling from the revelation himself, and from the euphoria he felt, now that the part of Voldemort that lived inside of him had been expelled.

'I… I can't control it… when I'm sleeping… sometimes it happens… but I woke up this time and I didn't want to hurt anyone, so I put the fire out…'

Dumbledore nodded slowly. 'I see. Could you be more specific?'

'What do you want to know?'

'What exactly can't you control?'

'I don't know,' Harry said honestly, for he didn't have a clue why he was attracted to fire. Voldemort had hinted at it… what was it the snake said…?

I can tap into that wonderful little skill you possess. You don't even understand your own power. But I do. I can control it.

So this skill must be the ability to control fire… or maybe elements, as Dumbledore had proposed earlier? He had so much to ponder himself, so how was he supposed to answer Dumbledore's questions when even he didn't know for sure?

'You've had a long night,' the Headmaster said kindly, 'I understand. Severus will be back soon. He will arrange a place for you to sleep; as I think it best we keep you and Mr. Malfoy apart for now. We will meet again soon to discuss things when you're rested.'

Not long after, Professor Snape returned, and Harry was glad to leave the Headmaster behind. Snape took him back to his own apartment within the castle, where he conjured a bed, sheets and pillow.

Snape and Harry stood rather uncomfortably by the bed for a moment, each unsure how to proceed. Finally, Snape uttered a gruff, 'good night Potter,' and went to leave the room.

Harry stopped him at the door, 'do you trust Headmaster Dumbledore?'

Snape paused with his back to Harry. He thought for a long minute. 'Professor Dumbledore is a great wizard, and great wizards are always looked to as leading figures in the wizarding world. He has to make a lot of hard decisions, which may make him seem cold at times. He… cares greatly for the wizarding world, and will do what he believes best for it.'

Harry pondered those words. 'I understand. Good night Professor.'

Snape turned his head to the side, gave a jerky nod, and then left. Harry climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. He thought of everything that had happened that night. The dream, the wakening, the green smoky skull on the ceiling, the fire, the conversation with Dumbledore and brief moment with Snape. It was all too much, and made his head hurt, so he put them aside and focused on the good things.

Hermione's face floated into his head, her smile that made her cheeks dimple, her soft laughter, and the way her hands moved as she scribble on parchment. He fell asleep thinking of her, and dreamt, for the first time in ten years, of something other than a burning wreckage and a snake. He dreamt of her.

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