Corona I: Red as Fire

Guessing Games

Harry was so caught up in his own thoughts that he ran into someone in the corridor. “Ouch!”

“Watch where you’re going, Potter!” Draco Malfoy snapped. Harry ignored him and dropped to his knees to pick up the photo album. A couple of photographs had come loose and fallen out, but before he could pick them up, Draco had swiped one.

“MALFOY! Give that back!” Harry made a grab for it, but Draco, who was still standing, held it out of his reach.

“Say please, Potter.”

Harry stood and pulled out his wand, pointing it at Draco. “Give—it—back.”

“Shan’t.” Draco pulled his own wand. “Go on, I dare you.”

Expelliarmus!

Both boys shouted the spell at the same time, with the result that the jets of red light collided in mid-air. Harry and Draco were both blasted backwards, the photo album falling to the floor and contents flying everywhere. Harry scrambled desperately to pick them up, and only once he’d finished did he realise that Draco had gone silent.

He looked up. Draco was sitting up where he had been thrown, staring down at the photograph in his hands as if he’d seen a ghost.

Expelliarmus!” Harry said again once he’d recovered his wand. The photo flew out of Draco’s hands and he grabbed it. Fortunately, it was one of just Lily on her own. Harry quickly pocketed it. “What were you staring at, Malfoy?”

“Who … who was that?” Draco asked, now staring at Harry as if he had never seen him before.

“Never you mind.”

“Was that your mother?”

“I said that’s none of your business, Malfoy. Now get lost.”

To his great surprise, Draco scrambled to his feet and scurried away as if afraid Harry was going to kill him. He even left his wand behind. Harry fantasised for a while about hiding it in Gryffindor Tower, but his good side won out and he decided to just leave it where it was.

When he reached his dormitory, he sat on his bed, pulled the curtains across and began browsing the photo album. It was obviously just of Lily’s first few years at Hogwarts; in all of them she looked no older than his age. A very young Snape appeared in many, but not all, of them. Harry smiled as he took in their laughing faces. If someone had told him an hour ago he’d be willingly looking at photos of Snape, he’d have laughed in their face, but it was actually quite moving to see them together. They certainly did look close.

He sighed. He could no longer make Snape out. It was very disconcerting to have the man whom he thought hated him more than anyone else (save Voldemort) suddenly being nice to him; even more so when he knew that it wasn’t going to change anything—come the next lesson, Snape would no doubt be a bullying git again. Harry had made the most of the niceness earlier, but he wasn’t sure if, now he’d experienced it, Snape would continue being nice in private, or just be a sour git all the time again no matter whether other people were there or not.

“I wonder what you’d think of him now, Mum,” Harry murmured, looking down at Lily’s face. “I know he was your friend but he’s just such a … git. What do I do? Just pretend the whole thing never happened, or … what?”

He had to admit, he would have quite liked to get to know a friend of one of his parent’s. If Snape was capable of being nice to him, he thought he might be prepared to put aside the past loathing and try and strike up a friendship. But the whole façade thing made things so complicated and Harry couldn’t work out his own feelings on the matter at all.

He heard footsteps coming up, and he quickly hid the photo album in his drawer as Ron entered the dormitory, shortly followed by Hermione. “Oh, there you are! We’ve been looking for you everywhere, mate.”

“Sorry,” Harry said.

“So,” Hermione said, sitting down on his bed, “Are you going to tell us what Dumbledore talked to you about?”

A sly grin split Harry’s face as an idea occurred to him. “Hey guys, you know that game, where someone has to make three statements—one a lie, the others truthful—and someone else has to guess which is the lie?”

“Er … yes,” Ron said slowly.

“Got one for you.” Harry lay back on his bed with his arms behind his bed, inwardly chuckling. “One: My mum and Aunt Petunia are sisters. Two: Snape doesn’t hate me.” Ron opened his mouth, but Hermione kicked him. “Three: McGonagall has favourites.”

“Favourite whats?”

“Students,” Harry clarified.

Ron snorted. “That’s easy. Number t—”

“Hold on, Ron,” Hermione said quickly.

“What?”

“That’s far too obvious. Look at Harry’s expression!” Harry couldn’t help but smile wider at their puzzled faces.

“Oh, I’ve got it,” Ron said. “Trick question, right? They’re all lies!”

“Nope,” Harry said.

“Er … two of them are lies?”

“Nope. Only one is a lie, Ron. Guess away.”

Ron and Hermione looked at each other. “Sorry, Hermione, I’m still gonna have to go with Two.”

“Hermione, your guess?” Harry said innocently.

Hermione bit her lip, thinking hard. “Well, I agree with Ron that Snape certainly does seem to hate you; but the problem with giving that answer is that I can tell you’re expecting us to go with that one and you’re pleased about it—which leads me to believe it’s the wrong answer. As for the others, all teachers have favourites—”

“Even McGonagall?” Ron said, surprised.

“Yes, Ron, even her.” Hermione shook her head. “Boys. Anyway, so I’m going to have to go with Number One, Harry.”

“Correct. Hermione wins,” Harry said with a grin.

Ron gaped. “You’re serious? You’re saying Snape doesn’t hate you?”

Harry nodded.

“He’s got a funny way of showing it,” Ron scoffed. “I can’t believe that’s true. I think you cheated, Harry. Double bluff; make one so obvious that Hermione would think it was too obvious and pick something else.”

“Nice theory, Ron,” Harry said, “but I said a moment ago Hermione was right.”

“Oh. Right.” There was a pause. “What on earth makes you think he doesn’t?”

“We just had a nice, civilised conversation.” Harry paused. “Though I’m pretty sure, come to think about it, that I wasn’t supposed to tell you about it. So whatever you do, don’t mention it to anyone.”

“Huh,” Ron said. “One civilised conversation doesn’t cancel out two years of being a total arse, in my book.”

“Even if he had a good reason for being a total arse?”

They both stared at him. “Harry, why do you suddenly seem so … pro-Snape?” Hermione asked.

“Turns out, he was friends with my mum,” Harry said, and two pairs of eyes widened. “She obviously saw something good in him. Maybe I just want to give him a chance.”

“Is that … what your conversation was about?” Hermione said tentatively. Harry nodded.

“Yeah. Dumbledore mentioned they were friends, so I asked him about her. And he told me a lot, actually.” Harry grinned. “I’m starting to feel like I know her.”

“That’s … that’s great, Harry.” His friends still sounded unsure, and Harry decided now was the time to change the subject.

“Which brings me to your original question; what Dumbledore wanted to talk to me about. He told me Number One—the true version, anyway.”

“Huh?” Ron said.

“You mean …” Hermione frowned slightly. “He told you your mum and your aunt weren’t sisters?”

“Yep. Apparently, that’s a very bad thing, because the protections Dumbledore put around Privet Drive were based on Mum and Aunt Petunia being blood relations; and since it’s turned out they weren’t, that means the protections don’t work.”

“But—that’s terrible!” gasped Hermione. “What if You-Know-Who had—”

“Yeah, exactly. But on the bright side,” Harry said with a grin, “it means I don’t have to go back to the Dursleys ever again.”

Ron whooped and clapped him on the back. “That’s great news!”

Hermione frowned, unconvinced. “But, Harry … where will you go?”

“Don’t know, Hermione, and I honestly couldn’t care. Anywhere’s better than Privet Drive.”

“Hear, hear,” Ron said. “Though Fred and George will be disappointed. I think they’ve been hoping to meet your cousin for ages …”

TBC …

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