The Long Stretch To Independence - Part V
Chapter 24 - Emancipated Minor - The Long Stretch To Independence - Part V
Remus led the three fifth-years to the entrance to their common room, admonishing them not to stay up late talking. He waited while Ron and Hermione went ahead, but put a hand on Harry's shoulder to hold him back for a moment. He attempted a smile, but only managed a grimace, his own grief and rage having been reignited by Wormtail's wretchedness.
"I think Severus should Legilimize Wormtail to find out how many more horcruxes there are," Harry whispered. He looked off down the hall with a thoughtful expression. "I wonder how many more of them are really out there?" he murmured.
"Are you alright, Harry? It got rather scary there for a few moments, didn't it?" Remus asked him quietly.
Harry nodded, still unable to process all that had just played out, now that the adrenaline had drained away. "Are you alright?" he asked, looking up at the older wizard. "It looked like it took all of your self control not to kill Wormtail."
"I'll survive," Remus said, his normally wan expression still grim. "I'm going to make sure Sirius' name is cleared, and that will go a long way towards vindication." He gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze. "I'll pass on your suggestion to Severus. I would love to tell you to leave all of this to the adults, but I think at this point, we all know better." He finally managed a smile as he spoke those words. "You did quite well with your contengo charm. Tonks will be impressed when I tell her about it."
Harry cracked a smile, too. "I want to teach it to the DA first thing. It seems like it would be okay to schedule a meeting soon. We don't have to hide it from Lucius."
"Even so, I'd follow your habitual discretionary methods just in case, Harry," Remus advised. "I will not mention the group during class, and you should continue to be careful about whom you recruit to join your ranks. Perhaps I could be present during some of your upcoming meetings?"
"Yeah," Harry said, brightening significantly. "We'd love that."
"Excellent," Remus said. "Well, then, off to bed."
Hermione and Ron were waiting for Harry in front of the fire. The common room was nearly empty of students now as he took the squashy chair closest to the hearth. Hermione was looking at Harry with her knowing eyes. He wondered which of the multitude of revelations of the past hour she'd grasped onto with the most clarity as he gave her a small crooked smile.
"What was Snape doing to your face, earlier?" Ron asked.
"He was healing the scrapes I got when Goyle shoved me to the ground at the carriages," Harry said. He watched Ron wrestle with that.
"What's gotten into him, Harry? He didn't even tell us off when Hermione and I ran into that whole mess!" Ron said.
"He's looking out for Harry, Ron," Hermione said. "I think it's great."
"Well- …I do, too- …sort of," Ron stammered. "At least he's washing his hair, and not dressing like a funeral director any longer, apparently. And then there's the Malfoys. Are you friends with Draco too, now?"
"Not friends," Harry clarified, amused in spite of his tension. "We agreed to try to treat each other better."
"So he shared his cast-off chocolate frogs to show he's being a nice boy now?" Ron demanded in disbelief.
That made Harry laugh. "It's one of many odd changes that happened over the holiday," he said with a grin. "But, like you, I'll believe it when I see it. Lucius asked me to try to understand that a lot of the children of Voldemort's supporters are only following their parents' lead because they haven't figured things out for themselves."
"I'm sure that's true," Hermione interjected. "But we have to be careful, even still. People who are inclined to be cruel will use whatever excuse they can find."
Harry nodded. "Lucius is hoping we'll ally ourselves with the Slytherins who are strong enough to say they don't stand with the Death Eaters."
"That sounds like a death wish," Ron said with a whistle under his breath. "It's not like you get to just stop being a Death Eater. They'd have to denounce their own parents."
"Yeah," Harry said, remembering that conversation with Lucius and what the blond wizard had told him about his past. "I think there are Death Eaters out there that have stopped wanting to support Voldemort for a while now. But, they feel trapped. Like Lucius has. I think we should be open to the possibility that some Slytherins may really need our friendship. You know, in the safety-in-numbers sort of way." He put his hand up to stop Ron's outburst. "I haven't changed my standards for friendship, Ron. I could never be friends with bullies."
"Right," Ron said grumpily. "So Snape's met your standards, then?"
Hermione watched Harry nod, noting the way he went silent. "He's acting fatherly towards you now," she commented.
Harry gave her a pained look, biting his lip. Lately he'd been battling the emotions that came up when he really thought about the complicated tragedy of Severus' past. He didn't really understand what he was feeling in that regard. It would be weird to wish his dad handn't won over his mum's heart, just to have spared Severus the heartbreak. But he felt bad for Severus. "Turns out, Severus and my mum were best friends when they were little, even before Hogwarts. And they stayed friends until fifth year. But it ended when Severus messed up by getting into the dark arts. And by then, my dad was after my mum, and she started liking him." He could see the dawning awareness on Hermione's face.
"He was in love with Lily," she said softly.
"I think so," Harry replied.
"That's why he's been such a bastard to you, all of this time?" Ron said. "Because your dad got your mum and he didn't?"
"I think it's one of the reasons," Harry said. "It's complicated, and Severus has only told me a little bit. It's really, really personal, and I feel like I'm betraying him by telling you. But I figure you need to know what kinds of things I've found out to change my mind about him. Please don't repeat any of this."
"Of course not," both Ron and Hermione chimed together.
"Harry," Hermione said, leaning forward with a worried look on her face, "you told us earlier about the locket that you found at Headquarters, and how it had such a bad effect on you, and Professor Snape and Mr. Malfoy. And then Wormtail said there were plenty of opportunities to resurrect Voldemort again. Are those two things connected? Do you think he was looking for that locket?"
"No," Harry said as he registered where Hermione was going with her train of thought. "I don't know how he could have known about the locket being found… but maybe he was looking for another enchanted item, that has the same powers as that locket did." He refrained from calling it a horcrux, but he already knew Hermione was only a step away from figuring out everything he was supposed to be keeping to himself.
"Do you mean it has the power to resurrect Voldemort?" she asked in alarm.
"I swear I don't know," Harry said honestly. "I don't know what can be done with them, just that my scar hurts when I'm near them, same as it did when Quirrell was nearby in first year, and all the times when Voldemort's thoughts came through to me. That's why Severus let me come along when they went after Wormtail tonight. To see if my scar reacted. But it didn't."
Hermione chewed her lip. "We should get some sleep," she said abruptly.
"Yeah, we should," Harry said, not liking how quickly she was catching on to everything. "Hermione, will you show me that wake-me-up charm? I have to meet Severus for an early breakfast and I don't know that I'll wake up on my own."
"I'll wake you," she said with a calculating smile. "I'll be up early myself. What time?"
"Harry?" Ron called out when Harry had finally returned from his long shower, hoping he'd relaxed enough fall into a deep slumber as soon as he got under the covers.
"Are you okay, mate?" Ron asked, somewhat sheepishly. "I know I haven't exactly grasped what you've been trying to tell me today."
"Yeah, I'm okay, Ron," Harry said. He shot a grin at his best friend. "It's a lot to wrap your head around. We'll figure it out, though."
"Right," Ron said with a yawn of relief. "I'm here for you, mate-" his words literally ended in a snore.
Harry snickered in amusement at his friend as he spotted a jar of balm and a note on his bedside table, where he used to lay his glasses at night. He opened the note with a small smile.
For your skinned knees. Now get some sleep, Young Harry. I will see you at 7:00 a.m. in my quarters. ~S
Harry lay on his back and stared up at his canopy. So much had occurred tonight, but he was the most unsettled about having withheld the map from Severus. He really hoped Severus hadn't been hurt by that. Remembering the aftermath of destroying the locket, when Harry, Remus and Severus had been in Remus' chambers listening to the RAM album, Harry had witnessed a vulnerability in Severus that had cemented his trust for the older wizard. Severus had let Harry see the side of himself that feared Harry would turn on him.
When Severus answered the door to receive Harry Monday morning, he found Hermione Granger with Harry, in the process of saying goodbye. Both teens showed signs of recent tearshed.
"What's happened?" Severus asked in concern.
Harry shook his head, choosing silence over fresh loss of control. Miss Granger answered for him, "I just made Harry tell me about Hedwig, Professor," she said, smoothing away the wetness under her eyes with brief swipes of her index fingers. "See you soon, Harry. Enjoy your breakfast, Professor." She turned and walked away while Severus stepped aside to let Harry pass through.
"You don't look like you slept much," Severus commented as he took in the dark circles under the boy's eyes.
"I had nightmares all night," Harry told him. "How quickly I'd gotten used to peaceful sleep, and forgotten that I can't sleep without bad dreams unless I've exhausted myself practicing my magic."
"I can give you a stock of dreamless sleep potions," Severus told him, leading him into the kitchen to sit down to eat.
"I thought those were addictive?" Harry asked.
"The standard ones are, Young Harry," Severus said as he seated himself and lifted the covers off the of the platters of eggs and French toast. "I have a special recipe for one that is not. Else I myself would have never survived my adulthood."
Harry smirked lightly. "Well, if I get the special recipe, then that's different." He forked a piece of French toast onto his plate and spooned himself some scrambled eggs as well. "Hermione's already figured out everything. She was probably awake crying most of the night, now that she's guessed what's inside my scar."
Severus raised an eyebrow, as he tempered his reaction, setting his fork down with a frown. He shouldn't be surprised. "This is no doubt part of the reason Albus does not try to restrict what you share with them."
"I didn't tell them." Harry said, looking up at Severus with a troubled expression. "I didn't want them to be burdened, but Ron's only a step behind Hermione, and they'll talk about it over breakfast while I'm down here."
"Perhaps it is better that they do know," Severus said thoughtfully. "They are with you much of the time, and would be one more source to help you if… when something next goes wrong." He watched Harry react to that. "Do you think they would be inclined to come to me with concerns about you?"
"We could give them one of Lucius' galleons and find out," Harry said with feigned indifference. He was relieved that Severus was being so calm. "Severus, did you get anything out of Wormtail last night?"
"Do you mean, did I subject him to a thorough Legilimized jaunt through his skull? No, I did not. He knows I have that skill and was expecting me to use it. I, however, was not about to risk an illegal act upon him that could be used against me later, or worse, in his defense when he is tried. Albus, on the other hand, was happy to have a little journey into the rat's mind while I distracted him with disdained comments and taunts," Severus paused to tilt his head as if pondering why Harry would be snickering at his story. "He found knowledge of an item that is hidden on the school grounds, which Wormtail was hastening to retrieve for later use. There was nothing else to be found."
"An item?" Harry repeated ironically. "That's… just… so helpful." His mind began to race with anxiety about who may come across that item, and be affected by it enough to help Voldemort return.
Severus could see where Harry's thoughts were going. "Remember that each of these items have existed for years at this point, Harry, and this one in particular has not yet been found, in spite of all of the exploring and sneaking about that a multitude of students has undergone over that time."
Harry sighed. "True," he said. "You're certain Wormtail didn't have any knowledge of where it was, or what it was?"
"None that Albus could find."
"As for your wild magic, and it's practical uses versus forbidden ones," Severus started, but Harry cut him off.
"You wouldn't ever come after me with that thing-" he nodded his head to indicate the paddle that was still sitting on the mantle, visible through the door behind Severus, "-without giving me a chance to stop being stupid first, right?"
"I would not," Severus said concretely. "You are one who learns from his mistakes, Harry. I've always known this about you. And I do have faith that you will master your peripheral magic so that your use of it is deliberate, rather than blind. You have very solid ethics, and a very good heart." Severus waved his wand over his right hand and the paddle appeared in his grasp. He next waved his wand in the swish Harry now knew as the movements for banishing and his hand was empty. "I think I can spare you the discomfort of its taunting presence moving forward."
Harry blinked. "Thanks," he mumbled, feeling a tightening in his chest. "And thanks for the balm for my scraped knees."
"You're welcome," Severus said with a small smile. "Now eat. You hardly managed any dinner last night and you have a long stretch until lunch."