Invenio Veritas

By Penpunk

This is my answer to Severitus Challenge

Chapter One: Curses

"Come on Hermione!" shouted Ron from across the busy platform.

"But Ron, we said we would wait for Harry!" yelled Hermione, catching up with red head.

"I know we said we'd wait, but if we wait any longer, we'll miss the train," Ron said as he pushed his trolley over to the luggage car.

"You don't think anything happened to him, do you?" asked Hermione, pausing to turn and face Ron. "I mean, after all that happened last year. I would have thought. I don't know Ron. He just doesn't seem like himself. All his letters seemed. I don't know.."

"Unusually happy? Hermione, maybe for once in his life, he had a good summer. We can't automatically assume he's in serious trouble just because his letters are filled with good things. Sure, he's had rotten holidays in the past, but maybe he's getting the rest and relaxation he deserves!" Ron finished packing his luggage in the car and started on Hermione's.

She nodded silently and turned from Ron. Where is he?

"Come on Herm, let's get a compartment before they're all filled," Ron said, grabbing Hermione by the hood of her cloak and practically dragging her on the train.

"I really wish you would stop calling me that," Hermione said, breaking Ron's grip from her cloak.

"Ah, come on Herm!" said Ron, turning to grin at her as he found an empty compartment.

Sliding the door shut, they both took seats closest to the window. They continued to look for Harry, but their hopes of finding him faded as the train began to slowly pull away from the station. Hermione looked at Ron with the same face of worry that he had.

"You d-don't think the Dursleys did anything to him do you, Ron?" asked Hermione as she frantically turned back to the window in search of their lost friend.

"I would think Harry would have said something in his letters. I mean, we rescued him once before. I don't know Hermione." Ron trailed off.

Both teens turned their heads suddenly as they heard the compartment door slid open.

"Hey, I thought you two said you'd meet me on the platform?" said Harry, looking at Ron and Hermione.

Both teens were equally relieved to see their friend safe but both were equally shocked at his appearance. Harry, who was by far the smallest boy in their year, had grown at least six inches. His shoulders were broader and instead of his normal unruly black hair, locks of ebony tresses brushed the sides of his cheeks. The most obvious difference was his glasses or lack thereof.

"H-Harry?!" said Hermione, looking completely stunned. "You're. you're."

"Taller," said Ron, cutting off Hermione.

"Yeah, I noticed," said Harry, who had sat next to Hermione. "I had to buy new robes. New muggle clothes, too. Not even Dudley's old clothes are long enough."

"What happened to your glasses?" asked Hermione. "If you need me to fix them, I can."

"Nah," said Harry, shaking his head at Hermione. "Even if they were broken, I'm pretty used to that spell by now."

"Then why aren't you wearing them?" asked Ron.

"Oh, well, I started to notice that my glasses were not working right for me. In fact, I can see better with them off the on. I'm going to see Madam Pomfrey about it before classes tomorrow. I think I still need glasses but not the same prescription as before."

At that moment, the food trolley came by and the witch who pushed it asked them if they wanted anything. Ron and Hermione both jumped up, but Harry stayed in his seat and started to stare out the window.

"Hey Harry," said Hermione, coming back over to the window. "Do you mind scooting over next to the window?"

Harry shook his head and slid over, his eyes still fixed on the scenery passing outside. Ron took the seat across from him and unloaded his sweets in the next seat.

Ron and Hermione talked about their summers, pausing briefly to put various sweets in their mouth. They turned their attention to the coming year. Hermione tried to convince Ron to start studying for the O.W.L.s that would be taking place at the end of the year. Ron, however, was too interested in the upcoming quidditch season to care about the O.W.L.s. He tried to get Harry to help him argue, but Harry's mind was obviously somewhere else.

"Harry? Hello? Harry, are you there? EARTH TO HARRY! HEY!"

An empty chocolate frog box went flying across the compartment, hitting Harry right between the eyes. Harry looked up suddenly.

"Nice shot, Ron!" said Hermione, stifling a laugh. "With that kind of aim, you have a great chance of making chaser this year!"

"Yeah, well there may be an opening in the seeker position if someone doesn't COME BACK TO EARTH!" bellowed Ron.

"Okay, Ron, okay. You got my attention with the sharp corner of the box! Sheesh!" said Harry, rubbing the spot where the box hit him. "Anyway, if that box had been any lower, we would have needed a new seeker. Fat chance I could find the snitch with one eye!"

"Sorry 'bout that. Forgot about you glasses not being there anymore," said Ron, smiling back at Harry. "Where were you? I mean, before I threw the box at you?"

"Oh. um. nowhere. I was just thinking.." Harry's voice slowly trailed off.

"Harry, you do know you can talk about anything that's bothering you?" said Hermione, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder.

"I know. Trust me. I was just thinking. I'll tell you when something's bothering me, you know I will," Harry gave Hermione's hand a reassuring pat and turned back to Ron. "So, you ready to try-out this year?"

The remainder of the train ride was uneventful. Various people stopped by the trio's compartment including Neville (who was also running away from some Slytherin seventh years) and of course, as no trip to Hogwarts would be complete, Malfoy.

"Why, Scarhead, isn't this a pleasant surprise? I figured you'd be dead by now the Dark Lord being back and all," said Malfoy with his usual cold and drawling voice.

"Can it Malfoy!" yelled Ron as his ears turned bright red with anger.

"Ron, I can handle this," said Harry with an unusually calm and cool voice.

"Oh can you now, Potter?" said Malfoy as he crossed his arms.

"Oh yes, Malfoy, I can. What are you anyway, some kind of wannabe deatheater in training? Doing Daddy's work while you're here? Spying for Voldemort? By all means, Malfoy, do your job. Wouldn't want you to fail. You do know what happens when you fail, don't you? When you disappoint the Dark Lord? Have you ever had any of the Unforgivables used on you before? I have Malfoy. All three in fact. At least with Avada Kedavra you don't feel anything. You just die. The Imperius Curse feels wonderful until you're released from it, knowing full well that you've done something horrible. But Cruciatus. I'm not even sure I hate you enough to wish that upon you. The pain is so intense, you wish you could die, just stop breathing, but that's obviously the beauty of the curse, Malfoy. You don't die. You live through the pain long after the curse is lifted. I have heard that the Cruciatus Curse is Voldemort's favorite. so keep making my life miserable, Malfoy. you don't want to disappoint Daddy. If word got out that you aren't loyal to the Dark Lord. well that just wouldn't be pretty, would it?" Harry raised an eyebrow at Malfoy, challenging him to say something else.

A considerably paler Malfoy turned and left the compartment with saying another word. Ron and Hermione could only stare at Harry and his cruel but calm expression. Harry's face instantly warmed as he turned back to Ron and Hermione.

"That shut him up," said Harry, a slight grin spreading across his face.

Hermione and Ron could only nod and look at their friend in utter disbelief.

"Well, I'm off to the loo," said Harry, suddenly standing up. "Be right back."

Ron and Hermione stayed silent as Harry left the compartment. After the door slid shut, Ron turned to Hermione.

"What was that?" he asked an equally confused Hermione.

"I don't know, Harry has never said anything like that. ever!" said Hermione, shaking her head. "He sounded so cold."

"He sounded exactly like Snape," said Ron. "He's changed Hermione. We need to talk to him."