Embracing His True Self

Chapter 37

Hermione, Ron and Ginny entered the Headmasters office, all of them looking worse for wear. Feeling their weary shoulders relaxing as Fawkes sung a few notes, helping them feel more at peace. The trio walked further into the room, not even glancing around at the magnificent display that was Dumbledore's office, already very familiar with the setting. Then without a word they took their seats, waiting patiently for the Headmaster to speak, it hadn't been the first time they'd been called since Harry left, and they were sure it wouldn't be the last time.

"Have you found Harry, Sir?" Ginny asked hopefully, she wasn't sure how she was supposed to date him if he wasn't at Hogwarts anymore. Something her mother had been suggesting, and Dumbledore but that had been much more subtle, in fact, she was still questioning whether it's what he had meant or if she was just being silly to think such a thing.

"Alas, I'm afraid not," Dumbledore sighed, his posture one of defeat, his usual twinkle absent as he peered over his half-moon glasses at them. "Has Harry ever mentioned having a friend outside of Hogwarts?" he had asked this before, but here he was asking yet again.

"Harry doesn't have friends in the Muggle world," Ron once again pointed out, saying the same thing as the last time he'd been asked. "His cousin made sure of that." he didn't get why Dumbledore was asking again, or why he was feigning ignorance on the subject. Dumbledore knew he had to, Harry had said he told Dumbledore everything. When he'd pointed a few things out in Grimmauld Place he had acted as though he was surprised, he wasn't sure what to make of it. When it came to this whole situation he felt so confused, especially with Hermione insisting Dumbledore would do something if he could.

"Did you notice him receiving mail?" Dumbledore turned his attention to Hermione Granger, out of the three he was positive that she would have noticed what the two Weasley's would not.

"Harry always receives some mail during the year," Hermione stated, "It's not unusual, do you think he made friends with another wizard?" as always drawing the correct conclusions.

"Harry would have mentioned that," Ron argued immediately, even as he felt jealousy eating at him at the mere thought of Harry making friends with another wizard. It made him question himself when he thought things like that, such as, wasn't he good enough? Did he not give Harry good gifts at birthday and Christmases? didn't he write to him enough in the summer holidays? Was it because he wore second-hand clothes? Didn't have enough money? But of course, Ron shot them down, Harry had started Hogwarts in second-hand clothes, he didn't care about things like that. They'd been friends for years without a problem, except him getting jealous when Harry ended up in the tournament. "The only mail he got other than the few the Dursley's have given him is definitely from Hagrid," Ron added, utterly oblivious to the mail Harry had received this year from Barty.

"Miss Granger?" Dumbledore prompted, wishing to hear her thoughts on the subject.

Hermione frowned, "He did receive some mail, I assumed it was from Hagrid, he has been distance lately, I thought perhaps he was just seeing Hagrid alone without us when he got back." she admitted, wishing she could give the Headmaster the answers he desired. She so desperately wished Harry would get their mail, she wanted to know how he'd gotten such good grades, he had never been that good yet out of the blue he was some sort of genius? Able to take his O.W.L's nearly a year early? She was going to have to really dig into her books just to make sure that she got better grades, she had always been the best, and to have that taken away from her made her feel inadequate. She'd always been told by her parents and teachers how smart she was. Right from a very young age, so this was pulling the rug from under her. So damn right she'd do her best to outdo him.

"Miss. Weasley?" Albus asked, after giving Hermione a disappointed look. He had such high hopes for her, and she was somehow managing to disappoint him at nearly every turn these past years.

Ginny just shook her head, she'd been 'dating' other boys in hopes of attracting Harry's attention. Dean primarily amongst them, with him being in Harry's year and Dorm. Unfortunately for her, Harry hadn't even glanced in her direction more than once really. No jealousy or curiosity when she'd paid boys any attention. Then spending the rest of the time writing to her mother complaining about him and his lack of attention. She just knew if she was able to dress like her friends and the other girls at Hogwarts she would have been able to surprise Harry. Without money, it wasn't something she could do.

"I see," Albus glanced at the three of them, disappointment was written all over his face. They were the three he had chosen to watch over Harry for him, and keep him appraised, unknowingly in their case of course, at their young ages they will have just written it off as curiosity over the famous 'Harry Potter' and that was it. Not so much now, he realized, as they were questioning him, and he didn't like it, especially Ronald Weasley to whom Harry had been the closest to. "Have you at least been able to get in touch with him?"

"No, Sir," the three replied in sync.

"Very well, keep trying, and if you hear from Harry please let me know, I do wish to be kept in the loop especially when it comes to the dear boy's safety," Albus informed them gently, the disappointed look was gone as if it had never been there, to begin with.

"We will, Sir," Hermione vowed, sitting up straighter, in fact, she was going to head to the library and get some revising done before writing another letter. She couldn't deal with any more disappointment coming her way from the Headmaster who she revered so much. She wanted him to look at her with growing pride, just like he did when he knew she did the logic puzzle in the first year, figured out the basilisk in the second year, after successfully rescuing Black and Buckbeak in her third year.

"I'm glad to hear that, on you go," Albus waved them off, the urge to award them points just to ease them to him further was strong, but they had done nothing to earn it.

"Goodbye, Headmaster," Hermione said as she stood, the other two just nodded in the Headmaster's direction as they sullenly made their way down the spiraling staircase. She honestly didn't understand why Harry wanted to leave the safety of Hogwarts or the security it provided, both because of Dumbledore and well…it being Hogwarts with so many wards to keep the students safe from harm. She voiced this to her two quiet companions.

"Well, nobody can find him right now, and nobody found him during the summer, I'd say he is pretty safe wherever he is right now." Ron shrugged, not concerned for Harry's safety. Or at least not as concerned at Dumbledore seemed to be or Hermione for that matter.

"But Dumbledore's here, You-Know-Who wouldn't dare attack here because of him, he's the only wizard You-Know-Who has ever feared." Hermione told them in her usual haughty 'I know better than you' tone.

"Really?" Ginny muttered scornfully, an expectant look on her face as she stopped walking, standing in the hallway stiff as a board.

"Oh," Hermione muttered her mouth in an 'O' as realization dawned on her, perhaps she hadn't thought that statement through. "I didn't mean…" she too paused walking, she felt Ron stand there as well, no doubt worried about his little sister.

"But you did mean it," Ginny argued, "Nowhere is safe!" she added hysterically, breathing evenly trying to stop herself from panicking completely. "Not really," she added a little more calmly.

"It never really was," Ron said mournfully, "Hogwarts was supposed to be the safest place, but it's not. There's the whole thing in our first year and then Ginny's too. Harry was already taken from the safety of the school and by the sounds of it got back by the skin of his teeth." they always forgot about these things, Merlin, Mione hadn't changed much from when they were eleven he realized. She'd said pretty much the same thing just before they were trying to stop the evil wizard gaining the stone. How could she still think the same thing after all that had happened?

"Those were….were…just extenuating circumstances!" Hermione protested, but whether she truly felt that was true or not the Weasley's would never know.

"Oh, look, it's Potty's lost friends," Draco sneered, "What's wrong? Not sure what to do without boy wonder?"

"SHUT IT, MALFOY!" Ron spat bitterly, ready to do what it took to defend Harry and themselves.

"Come on, let's go," Ginny said, urging Ron away, the last thing they needed was trouble, she didn't want to end up in Dumbledore's office again so soon. Dumbledore had enough to deal with at the moment without adding childish feuds to the list, no he wouldn't be impressed at all.

"Would you look at that, they can't even defend themselves without Potter," Draco chortled to Goyle, Crabbe, and Nott they all laughed as well.

"We've got better things to do than indulge your childish whims, Malfoy," Hermione said haughtily, thankfully they were near the staircase, and were quite quickly on their way, keeping Ron sandwiched between them preventing him from going and staring something they knew Malfoy would finish. Truthfully though, if Ron wanted to get out of their hold and actually start something, there would have been nothing either Hermione or Ginny could have done to prevent it.

Or so Ron insisted internally, at any rate, valiantly ignoring the laughter from Malfoy and his cronies.

"…should have seen it," Bellatrix cackled with delight as she regaled her husband and brother-in-law as well as Barty regarding what had happened to Umbridge earlier.

"And the Dark Lord said nothing? Did nothing?" Rabastan asked, his eyes wider than anyone had ever seen them before in the past.

"I've told you before," Barty pointed out from where he sat on the chair, book forgotten as he listened to the tale.

Rodolphus cleared his throat, "Seems like you weren't exaggerating the slightest," he told Barty, and he had thought that just to make sure they listened or something he'd suspected.

"I also told you that," Barty replied smugly.

"Why the hell does he let that disrespect go?" Rabastan demanded, brows furrowed as he tried to figure it all out.

"It's not really disrespect," Barty shrugged, "They're teasing each other," he didn't think they'd believe him until they saw it for themselves.

"Tease…come on!" Rabastan argued doubtfully.

"Seriously, they are," Barty nodded as if that could somehow show the brothers the truth.

"You'll see," Bellatrix grinned widely, "The boy has such power…" her eyes glazed.

"Well it's no wonder," Rodolphus said smugly, "With Lestrange, Black, Potter and Malfoy blood running through his veins."

Rabastan felt as smug as his brother, but for different reasons, he was glad Bellatrix and his brother were taking to Harry. It meant less difficulty getting to know the boy like he wanted to. Nobody would ever replace Rhea or his mother, but they had family out there, well, one, since it was only Harry left. How different would things have been if they'd known Lily Evans had actually been Lily Lestrange? His dad wouldn't have cared, of that he was certain, he would have welcomed her despite the fact she had been Muggle-raised to that point. "Have you spoken to father about Harry yet?"

"I'm not sure he knows, the Dark Lord didn't say whether he told him or not," Rodolphus mused, "We can discuss this with him when he returns," which would be pretty soon, he didn't seem to want to leave them for long periods of time, as if he was afraid they'd disappear back into Azkaban. Not like that would happen, they were dead, dead and buried on that despicable island.

"Good id…"Rabastan paused, glancing at the doorway, hearing footsteps, wondering whether that was their father back or if it was their Lord.

It was neither, it was Severus Snape. Someone none of them trusted overly much.

"Where is the Dark Lord?" Severus demanded, but without his usual tone, he was feeling rather puzzled at the moment. He'd been handed a box with a quiet demand that it was for 'his Lord' but the box was in his name and everything. He didn't dare open it knowing it was for his Lord. Instead, he had made his way here after his duties were done for the day.

"He's in the lab, told us not to disturb him unless it was someone reporting in," Barty explained, much to the Lestranges surprise. Severus was one who had escaped Azkaban and declared himself a 'spy' instead of standing up for which side they were on. Barty loathed those who had gone free, especially the likes of Malfoy who had claimed bewitchment.

Severus gave a curt nod before spinning around and making his way to the potions lab without another word.

Barty blinked at the sight of the expectant look the three Lestranges gave him. "What?" he muttered defensively.

"You trust him?" Bellatrix spat bitterly.

"Our Lord does, so do I," Barty explained without pause.

That made the three glance at each other in question, if they didn't trust Snape then they were not trusting the Dark Lord…and they did indeed trust their Lord. There had to be a reason for that trust, for the Dark Lord would have surely ensured that he was truly loyal to their cause when he returned.

"What else happened?" Barty asked, changing the subject, knowing they'd just begin arguing if they continued to speak about Snape or anyone they didn't believe were loyal. Although if it came to Malfoy then he would probably agree with them wholeheartedly. He hated the superior smug prick and his son.

Oh, to see the look on Malfoy Juniors face when he learned that Harry Potter was on their Lord's side and trusted implacably…better yet, he hoped the boy started something with him where the Dark Lord could hear…he could just imagine how it would play out. His lips twitching smugly, he hoped it would become a reality not just something he got amusement out of imagining.

I know it's short but I'm still getting back into the swing of writing after moving house and I ache all over! I'm going to get down to sleep early tonight but I do hope you enjoy the chapter! I've had no access to the internet for nearly a fortnight - talk about a nightmare! Not that I noticed much with decorating and moving everything but enough about that! would you like to see more of Barty, and the Lestranges conversation? maybe more of their thoughts? Or will we move on to Dumbledore being brought down and the reactions from those within Hogwarts? R&R please