Chapter 13: Command Performance
Over the course of the next few weeks, Harry and Sirius continued to meet regularly with Healer Furmreer. The healer's intense focus on Harry's condition and her display of expertise had caused an inkling of hope for a full recovery to blossom in Harry's heart. But, this hope did not last.
As soon as Harry realized that the healer's prescriptions all amounted to nothing more than physical therapy, he concluded that she had not yet found a reason for his inability to speak, let alone a cure. This proved to be disheartening.
Sirius and Susan were both supportive throughout that time, but only Sirius and Harry spent any energy worrying about whether a cure would be found. Despite being considerate of Harry's feelings on the subject and providing words of encouragement, Susan had already come to grips with Harry's condition.
Susan was at the Drury Lane house whenever her aunt was at work, which proved to be often. Harry's mysterious reappearance had caused Amelia extra work, as had her ambitions to become Minister of Magic.
Because of the frequency of Harry's treatments and his habit of wanting to be alone when depressed, Susan and Sirius often found themselves keeping each other entertained. Mostly, they gave each other bad advice about interests and hobbies they did not share.
Susan did not know how to help Sirius with dating, and Sirius had no clue about cooking and did not care to learn. There was one exception, though. When Susan took to barbequing one week, Sirius insisted on joining in on the action and leading a short expedition to Texas to buy supplies.
While Harry and Susan busied themselves with healing and cooking, respectively, Sirius's chief contribution was keeping curious medical staff, Ministry officials, and Hogwarts professors out of Harry's business. He largely succeeded, with the notable exception of Professor Dumbledore.
In the case of the aged headmaster, Sirius was able to work out highly favorable arrangements for Harry, but only after promising Dumbledore that he could meet with Harry and tag along when Harry and Sirius went to purchase Harry's wand.
Assuming that the visit and excursion with Professor Dumbledore went well, Harry, with a few exceptions, would be permitted to go to most classes with the third-year students so that he would not feel socially displaced.
The exceptions worked in Harry's favor. Snape had refused to allow an ignoramus like Harry into any of his classes, let alone his third-year potion classes, and Dumbledore had strongly implied that extra classes like Divination would be a waste of time for one in Harry's position.
In exchange for Harry being allowed into some third-year classes, Sirius had solemnly sworn to Dumbledore that he would personally see to it that Harry was brought up to speed in all subjects by the end of Harry's fifth year, even if home tutoring was necessary.
Of course, in order for this home tutoring to occur, Professor Dumbledore would be obliged to permit Harry to come and go between the castle and the house at Drury Lane as often as Harry wished.
With so many concessions, one less bold than Sirius would have been satisfied, but Sirius kept pushing and suggested to Dumbledore that it would be nice if, when visiting Hogsmeade, Harry could bring along friends, if he happened to make any.
The price of this concession from the headmaster was somewhat steeper, but was not a heavy burden. It seemed that Remus Lupin had agreed to serve as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and would occasionally be needing a substitute. If Sirius would kindly agree to become a part-time professor, Dumbledore could see his way to allowing students to leave the Hogwarts grounds under his supervision.
Sirius explained the situation to Harry and Susan one night at dinner. In exchange for all of his negotiating work, Sirius received a wide smile of appreciation from Harry, a large slice of cherry chocolate cake from Susan, and a pat on the back from himself.
At the conclusion of the eighth month, Albus Dumbledore appeared on the doorstep of the Drury Lane house and was shown into the living room, where he met Harry for the first time since seeing him pretending to be catatonic at St. Mungo's.
Once again, he introduced himself to Harry. This time, Harry put on a show of being alert, responsive, and warm, though he studiously avoided eye contact. Dumbledore was impressed, but slightly frustrated.
"He's made progress," Dumbledore observed, his blue eyes twinkling at Harry through his spectacles.
"Yes," Sirius said. "As I was telling you, the only problem is he cannot speak. Everything else with him is fine. He's a smart and good kid."
Dumbledore, who had yet to meet a parent willing to sincerely denounce their own child as stupid or bad, only smiled and nodded before trying to determine for himself whether Harry could do anything more than smile.
"Are you ready to go to Hogwarts, Harry?"
"Has Sirius been taking good care of you?"
"Do you like Brussels sprouts?"
In an attempt to prove that he did not just nod at everything, Harry shook his head even though he did not mind eating Brussels sprouts, especially when cooked by Susan.
This proved to be the exact response for which Dumbledore had been aiming, for he immediately stopped asking Harry stupid questions and exchanged more pleasantries with Sirius before the whole group departed for Ollivanders.
Soon, Ollivander was having Harry test out wands. As in the original timeline, it took a while before the eleven-inch wand made from holly and phoenix feather appeared from among the various selections. Ollivander and Dumbledore shared significant looks with each other as Ollivander held out the wand for Harry.
Harry took the wand into his hand and waved it. As Harry had fully expected and as others present had hoped and feared, a stream a red and gold sparks burst forth from the wand. Harry limited himself to smiling blandly as Ollivander exclaimed over the match while Dumbledore intently observed Harry.
Feeling more whimsical than usual, Susan boarded the Hogwarts Express on the morning of the first of September and selected an empty compartment near the back of the train. She was just settling in when Hermione joined her.
"I love the beginnings of school years," Hermione declared as she took the window seats across from Susan and clutched a textbook, a dreamy look in her eyes.
Susan smiled. "Did you have a good holiday with your parents?"
"It was amazing," Hermione replied. "What have you heard about Harry Potter?"
"Nothing from my aunt," Susan said honestly. "There was not much in the Daily Prophet, either."
"I know that," Hermione said. "I wish their investigative reporters would do better. All they had all summer was speculation and opinion. Do you think he will be here on the train?"
Susan shrugged. "I don't know."
Ironically, Susan was still being honest with Hermione. Insistently, she gave a mental nudge to Harry. At the rate you are going, you will miss the train!
Sirius insisted on cooking breakfast for me, Harry explained. Naturally, it was neither as fabulous nor as quick as he planned.
If he messed up my kitchen, there will be consequences, Susan fumed.
I'll tell him that, Harry said.
How? Susan asked.
I think he's already guessed that we're talking, Harry said. He's trying to clean up.
Good, but hurry, Susan said before turning her attention back to Hermione, who had been speculating whether Harry attending Hogwarts was a realistic possibility or even a good idea.
Susan was spared from having to engage in the speculation by the successive arrivals of Ron, Neville, and Hannah. Soon, they were all chattering about their summers. Hermione and Susan fielded a lot of questions about discovering Harry Potter lying on the street. Susan artfully deflected the focus of the conversation to Hermione, who gladly obliged the others with every detail.
Susan smiled as she watched Harry and Sirius appear on the train platform and board the train unnoticed by the others. They were all shocked when Sirius slid open the door to the compartment and looked in on them.
"Hello, there," he said. He nodded toward Hermione and Susan. "Aren't you two the witches that found Harry Potter on the street earlier this summer?"
"Yes," Hermione said, her mouth dropping open as she realized that Harry Potter must be on the train.
Sirius grinned. "I am Sirius Black and am Harry's godfather. I hate to impose on you again, but would you and your friends be willing to take Harry under your wings and show him around Hogwarts?"
Hermione quickly assured Sirius that Harry was in good hands. Grinning wickedly, Sirius stepped aside and ushered Harry into the compartment, where Harry was promptly seated in between Hermione and Ron.
"At the moment, he cannot speak," Sirius informed the group of children. "But he can hear and understand everything, I assure you."
"Will you be riding the train as well?" Hermione asked.
"No," Sirius said. "I'm afraid I must immediately attend to domestic matters back at home. But, you will all be seeing me sooner than you might expect." He winked at them all before sliding the compartment door shut and leaving the train.
As the train departed the train station, all present gave Harry a warm welcome. Ron and Neville shook his hand and introduced themselves. Hannah, and Susan introduced themselves, smiled prettily, and wished Harry well. Hermione largely dominated the conversation as she told Harry all about Hogwarts and asked him various questions.
Harry used his facial expressions and non-verbal gestures to signify interest in the conversation. Susan, who was studiously affecting interest in the passing scenery, concluded that Harry must like his friend Hermione a lot because she was not sure that had she been in his shoes she would have patiently sat through what amounted to an entire seminar from the young witch.
Realizing that she was beginning to feel unnecessarily catty, Susan politely excused herself from the compartment to visit the loo and stop by a few of the other compartments to exchange greetings. When Susan returned to her compartment, she found the occupants telling Harry about the Sorting Hat and the various houses.
As Susan sat down, Hermione, reminded by Susan's presence, began telling Harry about how Susan had successfully predicted that Hermione would be a Gryffindor.
"Would you like to see if Susan can guess your house?" Hermione asked Harry.
Harry grinned and nodded.
Everybody looked expectantly at Susan.
"Are you going to lick your finger and hold it in the air or are you going to stick your finger on his nose?" Hermione asked. She was still trying to figure out whether and how it was Susan was able to predict the future.
Susan pursed her lips as she looked at Harry mischievously.
Harry, who had heard about Susan's ability to predict the future smiled blandly, but his eyes betrayed a keen appreciation for Susan's whimsy.
"He looks like a hard one," Susan sighed.
"Are you giving up?" Ron asked.
"No," Susan said, suddenly grinning. "I will simply have to get up close and personal. If you trade places with me, Ron, I can get started."
Ron quickly accepted the opportunity to take Susan's window seat. Using the space next to Harry that Ron had left vacant, Susan then proceeded to climb onto Harry's lap and place her ear to his chest. She sat there for several minutes, pretending to listen.
Eventually, Susan clambered off of Harry's lap and sat down next to him properly. Susan solemnly announced her findings. "In the chest of this young man beats the heart of a true Gryffindor."
Hermione rolled her eyes with disgust while everybody else, Harry and Susan included, had a good laugh. Ron and Neville soon were talking about how it was only natural that the Boy Who Lived would be a Gryffindor.
Resignedly, as all of the actual first-year students waited their turn to be sorted, Harry walked to the front of the Great Hall, sat down, and allowed Professor McGonagall to place the Sorting Hat on his head.
It's about time you showed your face around here, the hat observed to Harry.
Hello to you, too, Harry responded, the tone of his thoughts making it clear he was not in the mood to get in a pointless argument with the hat.
The hat chuckled. I must say, the whole Heir of Hufflepuff schtick you were pulling last year was quite amusing. Do you have any idea how infuriated Salazar would be if he knew what you had done?
It isn't too hard to imagine, Harry replied. What would Hufflepuff have thought?
Amused, the hat observed. She would have even helped. Your soulmate is remarkably similar to Hufflepuff. That is lucky for you because she figures prominently in your future.
Yes, I had surmised that, Harry said.
I guess you want me to sort you, the hat hypothesized. Or, at least, pretend to sort you.
That's kind of the point, isn't it?
Yeah. I suppose. I think you would be a fabulous Slytherin.
Come on. Be reasonable, the hat pleaded.
It's my choice.
Actually, it isn't, the hat informed Harry.
Yes. You see, I operate under certain strictures. The Founders did not want me pulling any fast ones on them. They, unlike the current headmaster, did not trust me. In light of last year's shenanigans, it is literally impossible for me to sort you into Slytherin's house. You are forever an enemy of Slytherin's legacy. That means you're stuck with GRYFFINDOR!
Before Harry could say anything clever or sarcastic, Professor McGonagall had removed the hat from his head. Amidst cheers, he made his way to the Gryffindor table, where he was gratified to find that Hermione had saved him a seat.
Susan was fully prepared to wink mysteriously at Hermione as soon as the Sorting Hat announced that Harry would be in Gryffindor, but Hermione only barely glanced Susan's way before focusing her entire attention on Harry, who looked overjoyed to be back at Hogwarts around so many who had died.
Feeling distinctly perturbed as she watched Hermione point various features of the castle out to Harry, Susan failed to pay attention during the majority of the sorting and only came out of her reverie just in time to hear Romilda Vane be sorted into Gryffindor and watch as the young, dark-haired witch took her place at the Gryffindor table and unabashedly made eyes in Harry's direction. Susan shuddered.
Soon, Professor Dumbledore was making the announcements. The students politely clapped for Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, who would be team-teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Hagrid, who would be teaching Care of Magical Creatures.
Professor Dumbledore then made an announcement that Susan and Harry had not expected.
"In light of the difficulties from the last two school years, the Ministry wants to ensure that the students are safe," Dumbledore informed the student body in a benign tone of voice. "The Minister of Magic has personally selected Aurors Proudfoot and Savage and Mr. Yaxley, all from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, to help the Hogwarts staff monitor the premises for danger. None of them are here tonight, but after today, at least one of them will be here or on call at all times."
With that concluding announcement, the feast officially began.
As the feast progressed, Susan made a special effort to chat amicably with Hannah and other Hufflepuffs. But, watching Harry associate with his friends without her was proving harder to bear than Susan had expected. Knowing that it was necessary for the sake of security was a cold comfort.
Impetuosity eventually overcame Susan. Let's meet sometime after the feast, Susan said to Harry through their mental link.
Okay, Harry responded, sounding cheerful. I think I will need to let them show me my dorm, first, though.
All right, Susan said reluctantly, wishing that she and Harry could just spirit themselves away to the peace of their house on Drury Lane and stay there for the rest of the school year instead of actually attending Hogwarts.
Under the close supervision of Hermione, Ron, and Neville, Harry made his way to Gryffindor Tower, where he was given the grand tour by his once and future friends. Conscious that Susan would be waiting for him, Harry did his best to prevent the tour from being too long. His inability to speak proved helpful in this regard and prevented any lengthy conversations.
Eventually, Hermione departed from the boys' dorm as everybody began to unpack and get ready for classes the next day. Harry did not currently have the benefit of his invisibility cloak, but he had experience with fighting in the war. Using that experience and a few well-placed charms, Harry was able to slip away from the third-year boys' dorm and exit Gryffindor Tower without anybody noticing him.
Using his connection to Susan, Harry found her waiting for him in the Room of Requirement.
"So, how are you enjoying things?" Susan asked as she stood up from the armchair on which she had been lounging and approached Harry.
Seeing all of them again is amazing, Harry told her. But, its strange, too. They are all so . . . young. It is strange when your best friends are suddenly so much younger than you.
Suddenly, Susan was kissing Harry, who did not hesitate to reciprocate.
What was that for? Harry asked with a smile as they pulled apart after a moment.
"I'm just glad that you see that we are the adults here and that they are the children," Susan said vaguely.
Harry grinned at Susan. Especially Hermione. He winked.
A faint tinge of red appeared on Susan's cheeks.
She's like a sister to me, Harry informed Susan.
"Of course," Susan said smoothly, not willing to admit to her jealousy.
The couple chit-chatted for a few more moments before leaving the Room of Requirement. Even after they had gone to their separate dorms and slipped into bed, they continued to chat. Susan drifted off to sleep first, leaving Harry to bask in the warm glow of renewed friendships and a budding romance.
The next morning, Hermione appeared in the boys' dorm bright and early to ensure that Harry would make it to the Great Hall early enough for a good breakfast and a head start on finding his classes. Harry and Ron groggily humored her and were soon seated at the Gryffindor table eating breakfast.
When Professor McGonagall distributed the class schedules, Hermione seized Harry's schedule and promptly went into conniptions.
"What's the matter?" Ron yawned as he shoveled a second helping of eggs and bacon onto his plate.
"They've put him in third-year classes and left off half of the subjects!" Hermione exclaimed. "This must be some sort of mistake. Don't they realize that he's starting from the beginning on all of these subjects?"
Ron abandoned his food for a moment and looked at Harry's schedule over Hermione's shoulder. "Wicked! He doesn't have to go to Potions."
"Potions is one of the foundational subjects! This is terrible." Hermione shot back.
What's going on over there? Susan asked Harry.
Hermione is displaying concern for my academic welfare, Harry responded, looking past Hermione, who sat facing him, and making eye contact with Susan, who was sitting next to Hannah at the Hufflepuff table.
Honestly, Susan grumbled over the telepathic connection without finishing her thought. Harry was used to Hermione's ministrations and largely tuned her out. Eventually, Sirius, who planned to use his part-time professor status to avail himself of all the free meals he could, appeared for breakfast and rescued Harry.
"We thought that it would be good to keep Harry with students his own age," Sirius explained to Hermione. "I think you'll find him able to meet the challenge, especially with friends like you."
"But, Professor Black," Hermione responded, "he's missing entire subjects from his schedule, and there are important things he has missed from first and second year."
"Harry will be visiting me regularly in Hogsmeade for tutoring on the side," Sirius said. "Everything has been arranged with Professor Dumbledore. Harry will be caught up in time for his O.W.L.s, let me assure you."
Sirius's reassurance proved successful in resolving Hermione's concerns, and, soon, she settled into the swing of things.
It took Susan a little longer to settle into the pace of the school year, though. Even in the classes where Susan was able to sit with Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, and Hannah, she still felt as if she was not quite part of the group.
Susan's discomfort was finally put to rest once she and Harry were able to establish a regular pattern of going to their house in Hogsmeade and sharing exclusive one-on-one time together. Even if Harry and Susan could always surreptitiously chat with each other mentally, it was nice when they could be entirely free from distractions and able to behave in a manner consistent with their connection without betraying their secrets. It was also nice to blow off school.
Although Sirius could have arranged it so that Susan was openly making visits to Hogsmeade, the three decided that it would be better, for the time being, if they were discreet, so that they did not face a flood of visitors while Harry, Susan, and Sirius were trying to either enjoy some leisure time or wage their war against Lord Voldemort.
When Susan's visits to Hogsmeade coincided with dinner time, the three always ate dinner together at the house while discussing the happenings at Hogwarts and their plans to engineer Lord Voldemort's downfall.
"I've been meaning to ask," Sirius said one night as they feasted on fried pork chops, "whether you had Yaxley, Proudfoot, and Savage poking around the school in the original timeline."
"No, just Dementors protecting us from some nutjob," Susan responded. "Why? Have they been up to something suspicious?"
"Not that I've seen," Sirius said. "They just stop in occasionally and ask if everything is all right."
Probably spying for Fudge, Harry observed darkly.
"Harry says they are probably spying for Fudge," Susan said aloud.
Sirius nodded. "I think Harry is right."
They moved onto discussing what Harry and Susan thought of the various classes. They had some good chuckles over Harry having to endure tutoring from Hermione nearly every time he set foot in the Gryffindor common room.
As they were getting ready to return to the castle for the night, Sirius managed to take Susan aside for a private conversation.
"Susan," Sirius began, "I've observed that you are feeling frustrated with how things are up at the school. I've seen the looks you direct toward the Gryffindor table when you think nobody is watching."
"It's fine, Sirius. Really," Susan said, trying to reassure him, and to a small extent, herself. "Publicly maintaining a distance between ourselves is a sacrifice that Harry and I have to make for the time being. I just wish it did not leave me feeling like the third wheel so often."
Sirius nodded sympathetically. "Just remember that you're the one with the monopoly. You're the only person who can hear Harry's voice. You can talk to him any time you want. You're the only person aside from Harry that has seen the alternate future. And of course, you get to come here any time you wish."
He then became more somber. "If Yaxley, Proudfoot, and Savage are spying for Fudge, they can only be looking for one thing, and that is Harry's soulmate."
"The revelation of your connection would prove hazardous to you both," Sirius cautioned.
"I know," Susan said.
It did not take Harry long to leave his teachers and fellow students with the impression for which he, Susan, and Sirius had decided to aim. Anyone who asked would be told that Harry Potter was nice, quiet, and able to do everything that did not require an incantation.
The notoriety surrounding Harry soon faded, though those who had befriended him on the Hogwarts Express remained by his side. In particular, Hermione insistently helped him with homework whenever she could, but her use of the time turner kept her from keeping very close track of Harry's schoolwork.
Harry and Susan were soon spending more and more time at the house on Drury Lane. Dinnertime conversations with Sirius began to center on Lord Voldemort's horcruxes. After hearing both Sirius and Susan's input, Harry made the executive decision to pursue the capture and destruction of the ring. Over dinner one October evening, they all discussed the strategy for pursuing the ring.
Considering what happened to Professor Dumbledore in the original timeline, we should do some research before tackling it. Sirius should be able to access the restricted section of the library, Harry said to Susan, who relayed the message to Sirius.
"As long as we all go together, we should be fine," Susan observed. "If it looks like anybody is feeling tempted by the stone, the others should be able to break the enchantment, with a stunner, if necessary."
"I'm perfectly happy to do as much research as possible," Sirius said. "We should not charge into a situation that proved challenging for Dumbledore."
Harry nodded. In all fairness, though, I do not think we are as at much risk as Dumbledore was. Let's dedicate a month or two to the research. If we're still hesitant, we can move on to the tiara and locket. I'm hoping we can destroy those three together without having to spend more than a few hours total with them in our possession.
Susan relayed that message and then added her own idea. "We could grab the tiara on the last day before the Christmas holiday, then grab the locket, and then proceed to Grimmauld Place. Perhaps we will be able to capture and destroy three in one day."
"It makes sense to me," Sirius agreed.
Halloween soon arrived. With it came the school's annual feast. Harry, Susan, and Sirius broke from their preferred habit of dining in Hogsmeade and attended. To Susan's delight, it was apparent upon her entry into the Great Hall that the feast was informal and that the students were not overly concerned with sitting at the correct house tables. She grabbed Hannah and made her way over to the Gryffindor table.
"Hello, there, Mademoiselle Somebody," one of the Weasley twins said by greeting as Susan seated herself next to Neville, across from Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
Susan winked at the twins and turned her attention to the ongoing conversation among her friends.
"You're killing yourself with schoolwork," Ron said to Hermione.
"I cannot afford to fall behind," Hermione insisted. She turned her attention to Harry. "I hope you are using your time at home with Professor Black to catch up."
Harry nodded to signal that he was using his time appropriately.
"Harry is doing well in his classes," Neville told everybody before asking Hermione what Muggles did on Halloween and launching a long discussion where everybody, except Harry, told stories about their family's Halloween traditions.
Eventually, the feast ended, and the bulk of the student body exited the Great Hall together. While the students were exiting the Great Hall, flames exploded from on one of the walls just outside the doors as startled students screamed and shielded their faces. The flames died out quickly, leaving behind plenty of singed eyebrows and a message on the wall written with what appeared to be neon green paint.
I'M BACK FOR YOU, HUFFLEPUFF.