So, here's the next chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you thought with a review!
Special thanks go to Raph, Michal, ThisDude, Emp, MightyClark, and Nauze for their help in beta-reading this chapter. You're the best.
Anyway, here it is!
"So how does your curse work?" Harry asked of Astoria, having knocked upon her door just as she had two nights prior. Sleep still mostly evaded him in the night, the darkness occurring without peace. The lack of pain-relievers did not give him any great waves of newfound energy, but walking was not quite the Herculean effort it once had been. He'd gained enough to walk around the halls unsupervised in his eyes, at the very least.
"It's not contagious, if that's what you're worried about," Astoria said, her legs around swung off the side of the bed the moment he'd opened the door. Her room was large, perhaps fitting of having four beds and likely did before the Greengrasses requested otherwise, with grey walls and large bay windows. Her eyes were wide as she took him in. "I didn't expect you to come."
"I was bored," Harry said. "Thought you'd be bored too."
He was still not able to devote himself to reading the books Healer Davis had brought. He read the Daily Prophet cover to cover, though even that quickly became pointless. They seemed to make the same point every day; almost entirely without variety.
"Difficult not to be. Here." She gestured around the room, her arm shaking as she did. By the severity of it, Harry doubted the treatment of spells they'd begun on him would offer much to her. "Only so many white walls you can stare at before you want to see grey instead."
The windows didn't offer a great deal of colour that day, either. The skies over Britain had grown exhausted of the sun's light, turning away from bright blue and toward the black clouds that spelled only long, pouring rain.
"Wanna play Chess?" Astoria asked, drawing Harry's eye away from the dwindling light of the day. "I'm really bad."
Harry smiled, taking the seat beside her bed. "I promise I'm worse."
The thought of Chess, as ever, brought Harry to thinking about Ron and Hermione, and the countless hours they'd spent together; he and Hermione forever losing to Ron. They were likely on a sunny beach somewhere in the Mediterranean, both of them burned red under the unwavering sun.
Harry had missed them the most. More than he'd missed performing magic, even. He just hoped that they would be back, soon.
A loud clacking broke into the air as the pieces shifted into their positions. It was an old set, and so the charms were beginning to wear down, the pieces moving laboriously. Where once the knight's horse would leap a foot in a single bound, now it only trotted.
"In answer to your question," Astoria began, her shaky hand thrusting forward a pawn to begin the game. "I have good days and bad days. Good days; I'm pretty normal. Little bit broken, but not awful. I could probably go to Hogwarts then if I only had those." Harry mirrored what she had done, and for a moment, it looked like they knew what they were doing. "On bad days, I can't do anything. I have to be fed by someone else, and I can't take any potions for food because I'm on so many already."
"Don't be," Astoria replied. She brought her knight out and Harry matched her again. "The way I see it; I won't have to go through it for very long anyway." Her knight smashed itself against his pawn, throwing him onto the board in a heap. "Doesn't hurt that much either. Just a bit boring to lay there all day."
"So, you just can't move?" Harry asked curiously. With little else to do, he did exactly as Astoria had, his knight slowly charging to the doom-bound pawn. From his perspective, he could then see the face of the pawn as the knight charged. He didn't seem fussed, his shoulders shrugging as he waited for the attack to come. He'd likely expected it, of course.
"It's some kind of blood curse, apparently," Astoria said. She instructed her Queen to attack Harry's exhausted knight, the piece moving haughtily to her mark. "Does a million little annoying things, but mostly it causes my body to break down wherever it decides to be an arsehole on that given day. Usually, it's my arms or legs, though sometimes it's annoying things like my liver."
"Seems like it's a bit of a prick."
"Doesn't it, though?" Astoria agreed, with a nod. "I really just wish it'd pick one place to torment and stick with it. It's the not knowing that's the worst." Harry nodded, without thought. "Your turn."
With little else to do, Harry told his knight to march back to where it came. A fiendish grin came to Astoria's face then, as she moved her knight to reveal her Queen's attack to Harry's King, allowing her to take his Queen for free, his Queen weeping as it happened.
"I thought you were bad at this," Harry said, upon watching his fate play itself out.
"I am," Astoria said, her eyes joyful as Harry's pieces shook in place fearfully, her grin smug. Most of them looked as though they wanted to run for their lives. "You're just awful."
Harry's King, his side empty of its Queen, looked up to him, pleading with hopeful eyes for him to resign. He would do no such thing. Astoria was much too pleased with herself for that.
"So, what's going on with you?" Astoria asked, her choices endless. It seemed more difficult to lose than win, for her. "Worked out why you're here yet?"
Harry shook his head. Ever since Cedric had brought with him the first epiphany, none had come since. His mind was clear, and yet clear of that night, too. He'd begun to think he'd never know.
"That's a shame," said Astoria. "I was hoping I'd be the first to hear about how you stopped the Death Eaters single-handedly or whatever you did."
"Does that mean you believe me?" he quickly asked. "About what happened?"
"I don't know about that," Astoria denied. "You can't even remember it." She sighed, shifting her Queen to attack Harry's bishop; one of his last pieces still standing. "Yet, if I'm faced with believing anyone or believing Rita Skeeter, I'm always picking the other side. It's really nothing to do with you."
Harry smiled. "If only the rest of the country was so easily persuaded."
Astoria shook her head. "They are," she said. "You've just never tried, and that's what she spends all her time doing." Her queen threw itself over the length of the chessboard, breaking the defences in-front of Harry's king and, with it, the King too. "Checkmate."
"What do you mean?"
Harry shook his head. "Not about that."
The pieces then slowly placed themselves back into their starting position, though Harry's wore collective frowns directed toward him. He imagined this would have to be their last game, as they would refuse to fight for him afterwards if he lost as handily as he had done in their first game, again.
"I don't know many people, obviously, but the ones I do know, don't know you," Astoria explained, her words spoken as though they were obvious. "Still not getting it?" He shook his head once more. "Almost everyone in Britain has never met you. They were told that you saved them but they never got to put a name to a face properly." She looked him up and down. "Even now, I really can't believe the Harry Potter looks like this."
"You're all gangly," Astoria said. "I thought you'd be, y'know, muscular. Strong."
"Sorry for disappointing you."
Astoria waved him away. "That's beside the point," she said, diverting. "People are used to thinking of you as this, like, mythical idea, like Merlin or Father Christmas. The fact that you're not real to them makes it easier for you to be hated. There's nothing tying you to reality in their eyes, so it's just as easy as hating, like, the concept of aeroplanes."
Harry hummed thoughtfully, reclining back in his chair as he did. "You've thought about this a lot."
"I suppose," Astoria agreed. "You know when you have like, imaginary arguments in the shower and you think up the best comebacks?" Harry nodded. "Well, that's essentially all I can really do here."
He grinned at her. "I'm honoured you spend so long thinking about me," he teased. Astoria rolled her eyes. "You do know that aeroplanes are real though, right?"
"No way!" Astoria gasped, slapping her hands over her mouth, literally gobsmacked, before her gaping mouth turned into a glare. "Of course I do. Most wizards don't though, hence the brilliance of my comment. Obviously lost on a simpleton like you, but what can you do?"
Harry lifted his eyes in thought. "I think that means you believe me, though."
"Don't think about it too hard, Aeroplane boy. You'll pop a blood vessel."
As Harry would soon come to learn, Healer Diggory had the unfortunate trait of arriving into his ward just as he thought he might finally find sleep. Whether it be his eyes just beginning to dip closed as the night's sky turned ink black, or under the mild warmth of the afternoon sun, she always seemed to be there to awaken him completely.
"So, how are we feeling today?" she asked, tiptoeing toward his bed.
"Fine," Harry said, his voice absolutely even, his hand jabbing itself toward his eye so as to clear the cobwebs he'd hoped would form more fully.
Healer Diggory paused for a moment, thoughtfully.
"Well, I'll only be a moment," she said, after her thought. "We're going to start with your treatment for the nerve damage in your right arm."
Yet, Healer Diggory did not bring out yet more potions for Harry to take, as he would've expected. Instead, she retrieved her wand.
"The treatment we'll be doing is actually a charm that I helped to innovate, around twenty years ago," Healer Diggory said. "I need to be very precise with my wand motions, so you're going to have to be a little bit patient with this. Okay?"
Harry raised himself up by his elbows. "So it's just one spell?" he asked. Healer Diggory nodded. "Then why did I need to wait so long?"
"It can't be administered while you're under the effects of pain potions," she explained. "They both affect the nervous system and so administering both at once causes volatile reactions that lead to permanent damage. It's far safer to wait."
By then, Harry truly didn't care about safety. He just wanted to leave.
"After your response to this, we should have a clearer understanding of your ability, in the long-term, to use your right arm," Healer Diggory said. "We've also scheduled for you to see a Mind Healer in conjunction with your potions, in order to give you the best chance at recovery." She offered him a commiserating look. "The healer you'll be seeing, Andromeda Tonks, is very sympathetic to your case."
Harry held no doubts as to what she was referring to. Her kindness, it seemed, had not stretched to trust.
"I'm ready," he said.
Healer Diggory began a long, repeated incantation, her wand held highly aloft and tracing an asymmetrical, intricate pattern in the air. Yet, both her words and her magic only washed over him then.
He'd thought, briefly, that it might hurt, though it truly didn't feel of anything. He was neither calmed nor stressed, his body feeling neither stronger nor weaker.
Yet, as her words rolled over upon themselves, a pink light began to shimmer into being around her wand. And, in a gradual tandem, a pink light began to glimmer around Harry, too. Beads of sweat collected upon Healer Diggory's brow, her eyes bunched together and her shoulders stiff with the effort of continually casting the spell.
And, slowly, a painless force began to slide itself upon the inside of the arm, in what felt like the spaces between the sinews. Her magic, Harry could feel, tried desperately to bring together the broken parts within him.
But her magic failed.
Harry looked down at his hand. Still, it shook. And no matter how carefully and how frequently Healer Diggory cast her spell, nothing came to pass. His fate, it seemed, was sealed.
With a gasp, Healer Diggory dropped her arm to her side, the spell ending the moment she did. She swiped her hair back behind her head and, beleaguered, cast what Harry knew to be a diagnostic charm. An unnecessary one, in his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Harry," she said, her words whispered. "It seems that the spell hasn't taken effect in quite the way I had hoped. I'm truly sorry."
Harry shook his head. "Thank you for trying."
He didn't get to sleep at all that night. Instead, he spent the night with his wand in his good hand, tracing spells he'd learned years ago.
The rain finally gave way on the morning that Harry was first scheduled to meet his Mind Healer, Andromeda. Though it had rained throughout the night, as the sun first raised itself into the sky, water did eventually cease its falling, leaving the world with a myriad of colours flowing across the pastel blue skies. The rainbow stretched across the full view of the windows of the Adolescent Ward, from the window nearest to Harry's bed all the way to the very furthest.
His physical health had improved such that he was allowed to stand unsupervised as he waited outside the door of the Healer's office. The notion that victims of the Cruciatus Curse would keel over at random intervals was mostly a cautionary tale, Healer Davis had told him belatedly, and only truly ever a worry in the very old where, in truth, other health factors could've been at cause.
It was odd, Harry thought as he stood waiting, that Healer Diggory had referred to his Mind Healer by her first name. Initially, he had thought that Andromeda was a surname, yet it was not. The name upon the door was engraved 'Andromeda Tonks, M.M.D'.
The door opened to reveal the healer; a pretty woman with high cheekbones and light brown hair "I'm Healer Tonks," she introduced, offering him a graceful smile. She swept the door wide open. "Come in."
Harry frowned toward the floor for a moment, before following her.
He found her office to be oddly small; certainly, for one in a building as undoubtedly magical as St Mungo's Hospital. When a Master Warder could double the size of a room with a single extension charm, most wizards did exactly that. Their ceilings rising high and the room vast. Yet, by comparison, Healer Tonks' office was rather cosy. Beyond her desk and four chairs, there was room for little else.
The room felt full too, holding a life that the other parts of the hospital did not. Plants stood upon the window drinking in the sun's light, Lilies, and orchids, and violets. The walls were not a pristine white either, but a gentle purple. Picture frames stood on her desk and a broom stood in the corner.
"Take a seat," she said, her voice soft as she sat, too. "So, how've you been?"
"Fine," he said, automatically. "So, how does this work?"
Healer Tonks laughed for a moment. "You're in a rush," she commented. "Understandably so, too. I can't imagine you've had the most fun time recently."
Harry's brow furrowed. "Not much I can do about it, though."
"That doesn't devalue how difficult it has been," Healer Tonks replied. "Just because you've not chosen your fate doesn't devalue your struggle. In truth, it makes it all the worse." She stood up for a moment to retrieve two glasses of water, passing one to him. "You're allowed to feel dissatisfied with how things have been, you know. It's not a failure."
Harry drank a mouthful of water, his throat having grown dry. "There's no point in thinking like that, though. Feeling sorry for myself isn't going to solve my problems."
"And what do you feel your problems are then, Harry?" she asked, only to quickly ask. "May I call you Harry?"
He nodded. "I don't know," he said first, taking another drink of water. "Getting better so I can leave here."
Healer Tonks laughed. "Anything else?"
"Voldemort's back," he said, blankly. It took her a moment, though she did flinch slightly. "Feel like that's a pretty big problem."
"Do you think they're your problems, though?"
"Who else's problems could they be?" Harry asked, his voice coming sharply. "I'm the one here. I'm the one that was there when he came back."
His last words were a challenge and they both knew it.
"I'm sorry," Healer Tonks said, her voice as gentle as before. Harry could feel his own breathing begin to grow heavy, his blood pumping, yet she was the picture of calm. "I didn't say that as eloquently as I would've liked to. More water?" Harry nodded and his glass was full once more. "My meaning was that both of these problems are really big."
She stopped there, offering Harry an expectant look.
"Yeah?" he prompted
"They really are, right?" Andromeda asked, rhetorically. "Your health is vital, and at the moment, it's not something that you can guarantee by yourself. You need Healers and you need potions." She paused. "Equally, if something as big as You-know-who comes along, it's perhaps not something that you need to solve by yourself. You can look for others to help you."
No one else was there, though. No one but him.
"There's this strange thing about the Wizarding World that I've seen," Andromeda continued to say. "Because of what magic offers us, we sometimes feel the need to be an island, to rely on ourselves and only ourselves, but that isn't true. We're still humans, we're still people that thrive on support and community. The fact that we can make clocks dance and that we can travel hundreds of miles in an instant doesn't change that."
Harry took a heavy breath. "I don't really understand why we're talking about this. I thought I was here to get treatment so that I could get my memories back."
"You are," Healer Tonks said, simply.
"I meant magic."
"There is more to healing than just the spells and potions that we can use," Healer Tonks explained. "We may possibly practice a form of magic called Legilimency, where I would, with your permission, go through your mind and attempt to navigate any blockages you may have subconsciously placed there to prevent you from remembering."
"You can read minds?" Harry asked. "That's possible?"
Andromeda nodded. "I hold a mastery upon the subject, in fact," she said. "However, even if that does prove to be a possible solution, and you do regain your memories, there will still be problems. Evidently, you've gone through a very traumatic event, and to fully recuperate from that, you're going to need to work through some issues that will arise."
Harry nodded, though his mind was elsewhere. "So, anyone could learn…Legilimency?" Andromeda, both at his question and to confirm he'd gotten the word right. "What can you do with it?"
Andromeda quirked her head, offering him a curious look. "Usually, it's used in my profession as a method of looking through memories, as well as helping a patient to process thoughts and feelings that they may well be repressing," she explained. "There is its counter magic too, Occlumency, which concerns battling against this magic should harmful forces potentially wish to damage your mind or read your thoughts. We use that too, though mostly passively, as a great deal of it is mediative and improves your general mental health."
"How do I learn that?" he asked immediately, his eyes wide.
"You could learn that with me if you'd like," Healer Tonks offered, her lips quirking upward as Harry's eyes glinted with excitement. "It will definitely help to order your thoughts too, as well as helping you to feel calmer. As an added bonus, if you have trouble sleeping, that should be aided somewhat." She drank from her water; the first time she'd done that in his presence, before speaking again. "It's my duty to heal you and help you in our time together, and we can come to a unified agreement around how best that time is used."
Harry sat straighter in his chair. "Then I need to learn Occlumency," he declared. "I need to be able to protect myself."
"Then we will," Healer Tonks said, giving Harry a brief smile before growing stony-faced. "With one condition. We're going to devote an equal amount of time talking through things too, and I'd like it if you tried to get something out of that time, too. I don't expect you to tell me everything that's going on in your life or your thoughts, but it is my job to help you through these things. I promise it will do you some good."
Her tone was unwavering and so, Harry simply nodded.
"Good," she said, smiling again. "In this first session, I was hoping to get an understanding of you, so that I know how best to proceed with the magical aspect of your treatment. Is that alright?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, Healer Tonks."
"Feel free to call me Andromeda, or Dromeda. I'd rather keep things less distant, and professional," she said. Harry's gaze grew quizzical, though only briefly. "So, if you were to leave this hospital right now, where would you go?"
Harry smiled for a moment, recollecting the occasion he'd asked Astoria the very same thing. "I don't really understand how answering that helps."
Andromeda laughed. "I need to get to know you, Harry," she said, "I need to understand you before I can treat you."
He took a moment to answer
"I suppose the Burrow," Harry said. "Or back to Hogwarts."
"With the Weasleys?" she clarified. Harry nodded. "Have you spent a lot of time there?"
"More than anywhere else other than Hogwarts, yeah." It was only usually a couple of weeks, but they were the times he'd been most fond of, with Ron, and Hermione, and the Weasley Family. They were the only times he'd truly been able to relax; to just exist without a minor or major.
"So, you're close to them?" Andromeda queried. "It's Ron that's your age, right?" Harry nodded, and she reached down to retrieve a notepad and quill. "I'm just going to take a few notes."
"Yeah, Ron's my best mate, same as Hermione," he said, his words caught amongst the soft scratching as the healer quickly wrote upon her page. His words did not come easily, his mind preoccupied with watching her write.
"I bet it was nice to see them when they visited," she said, her eyes not lifting from the page. She finished quickly after that, dropping her quill so that it rested within the binding. "I was in the hospital for a week last year, so not quite as long as you, I know, but even for that time, I was counting down the seconds until my daughter and husband visited."
"They haven't visited," Harry said, mildly. "They're on holiday together."
"Oh," she said. Her hand twitched toward her quill but stopped before it reached there. "I'm sorry, that must be hard."
Harry shrugged. "Not really," he said. "I'd much rather they were enjoying themselves than sitting around waiting for me to wake up. Be a bit selfish if I expected them to drop everything they wanted to do just because I couldn't do it, too."
"I don't know that I agree," Andromeda said, her hand darting to write a sentence before stilling. "You shouldn't have to suffer this by yourself, Harry."
"I'm hardly suffering. I spent the whole time asleep."
"But you've spent a week awake, correct?" she asked. "Without a single visitor?"
"I've had visitors," Harry defended. "Cedric, Dumbledore."
Andromeda smiled. "Are you close with Cedric?"
"Sorta," Harry said. They had shared something wholly unique; it was an odd bond, but one that couldn't be discounted, he thought. "What's this about? Do you just want to know who my friends are?" He took a drink of water. "I can just list them. It'd be quicker."
Andromeda laughed quietly. "I'm just trying to understand your circumstances, I think," she explained. "I'm sorry if my inquiry feels misplaced, it's just your case is quite an odd one."
Of course it was. When had anything about his life been anything other than odd?
"It seems to me that you might be placing a higher value on other people than they place on you," Andromeda said. "It feels like you're excusing actions toward you that, if they were toward one of your friends, you would never allow."
"That isn't true," Harry argued, his jaw shifting sharply beneath his skin until it clicked.
Andromeda leaned back in her chair. "So, if the roles were reversed, would you allow yourself to go on holiday knowing that Ron or Hermione was in the hospital, and without ever checking in on them?"
Harry was silent then, his jaw beginning to tighten as he sat still, his teeth grinding together.
"It's okay to ask others to support you sometimes," Andromeda told him. "It's not selfish, nor is it an extraordinary demand. I don't quite know enough about you yet to know for certain, but it seems that you've grown accustomed to a level of care that is unacceptable. That doesn't always have to be the case." Her eyes flicked to her wrist. "We're approaching our full allotment of time for the day, so do you have any questions?"
Harry let out a sigh. "I don't think so."
She gave him a soft look. "I know it may not seem like it, but I really do think you're going to benefit from our time together," she said. "Opening up is never comfortable, but it's the only way that we can grow."
Andromeda stood then and Harry followed suit, his movements mechanical. She led them out of her office, stopping only to pick up a thin, leather-bound book from her desk.
"The next session should be one where we have slightly more productive results," she said in goodbye, before passing over the book gently into his hands. "This is the best introduction to Occlumency that I can offer. If you feel you can, it'd be helpful for you to read as much of this as you're able to but it's not pivotally important." She gave him a parting smile. "Take care, Harry."
As time wound itself around the passing days since the meeting, Harry found Andromeda's points beginning to echo through the chambers of his thoughts. Certainly, moreso as with each passing hour Ron and Hermione did not visit.
His mind found itself, on occasion, catching against memories of years before. Of Ron not believing him about the Triwizard Tournament, or Hermione going behind his back to confiscate his broom. They did not bother him truly, as they'd never truly bothered him then, but they rankled more than they ever had before.
In truth though, all such thoughts did was darken his opinion of Andromeda. That she would doubt Ron and Hermione, of all people. The two people who had, without fail, supported him through the truly difficult parts of his time at Hogwarts. Basilisks and Werewolves and Voldemort, not little things like what Harry was going through then.
So, rather than just sit upon his irritation, he thought it far more useful to learn about Occlumency instead.
The central tenet of mind magic, Harry came to learn as he quickly absorbed every letter upon the pages of the book, was a clarity of thought. An odd thought, Harry pondered at first, given its purpose was precisely disclarity. To occlude was to disguise, to misdirect, after all. Yet, as the book explained, Legilmency was, just like all other magic, a test of will, though of a form that was entirely its own.
Within Charms, the contest was between a wizard's will and nature. To command the world to dance when it had, for years before, stood still. To silence that which was once deafening. To open a door that had been forever closed.
Equally, Transfiguration was a contest of will and nature, yet even more so. Transfiguration commanded magic to rewrite reality. To bring forth something from nothing, or to change a being entirely.
Defence and duelling were contests, their battles clear. Of those born equal, fighting to earn victory. Legilimency held its closest association to this form of magic, being that they were both contests when used at their fullest potential. That was where the parallels ended, though.
The art of the mind magics, said the very first page of the book, was the art of forming a battleground that would forever be tipped in your favour. Transfiguration could conjure unbreachable walls of flame, and Charms rob you of legs to stand upon, in time they would both fade. Fires could be snuffed out and Charms cancelled, but the mind, once won, would offer a weakness that one could always play upon.
A great Legilimens could rob a wizard of the knowledge of every spell he'd ever learned. He could shift a man's opinion completely without ever arising suspicion. He could plant terror into an enemy's mind, winning a battle years before it ever took place.
Yet, these aspirations would fade just as quickly as everything else, without a mind sharp enough to wield them.
It was an odd book, Harry thought, for a Healer to give to a patient. Yet, he found himself, to his own surprise, enraptured by every word that was written.
The beginning chapters, however, were distinctly more remedial. Beyond the first ideas, of meditating and quiet thought, there was something that Harry quickly found himself enraptured by.
As the body developed, and with it, the body's magic developed too, the body grew to learn to be able to channel magic through its every fibre, to maintain the internal energies that allowed for spellcasting and to take in the magic that imbued the very air that they all breathed, that connected them to the nature of the world around them.
His skin, just as it filtered and absorbed air and water, absorbed magic too. The air that met his lungs did not only bring oxygen.
Yet for almost everyone, this energy was funnelled and harnessed naturally in only one direction; the hands. That was why the magic that a pendant could draw and conjure, despite channelling the energies of the heart that it sat atop of, would forever be weaker than what a wand could propagate. The hands reached out into the world; the most direct extension of a wizard's will.
And so, in order to perform mind magic, the body must first learn to channel magic through the mind, too. To allow the mind to be the conduit through which magical power is coalesced and concentrated.
There was no single, conformed method to do this, though. A small few were lucky enough to naturally channel their magic toward their mind, and so even their first cases of accidental magic were instances of mind magics. Some even took on a ritual to redirect their magic, though that restricted its fluidity.
For the vast majority, however, it was a gradual process. Of first learning to feel their magic within them, ever-flowing and ever-moving, and to guide it upward from wherever they found it resided until it grew accustomed to passing through their minds. From there on, they were capable of attempting the most basic of mind magics. Through this attempt, the pathway took route.
Upon Harry's first attempt, as he sat cross-legged and motionless upon his bed covers, he found the first step, of feeling his own magic, to come as naturally as breathing. He'd never stopped to consider it truly, but his magic had always been within him, formless and yet perfectly tangible. As he breathed, the magic breathed. As he focused, so too did the magic.
Yet, as asked of his magic to rise within him, above his heart and lungs, and toward his mind, it grew utterly unresponsive, its obstinance striking. No matter how gentle his guiding hand grew to be, it would not move.
He grew wilful then, pushing rather than asking. Yet, the magic within him grew all too responsive. It moved, yet it moved everywhere. Downward as well as upward, bereft of focus or purpose.
Of all things, Harry knew that purposelessness would not be permitted to occur.
There was something he did not truly understand, he came to realise, but he was saved from finding exactly what by the intrusion of another. The knock on the door sounded louder in his state of heightened focus, causing him to nearly jump in place.
There was only one person it could be, though. Only one person knocked.
"Why are you reading?" Astoria asked after Harry welcomed her in. She looked healthier then, her skin brighter than it had been only a day ago. She still walked with a slight limp, though it was no worse than his own.
"Nothing else to do."
"I'm surprised you're capable is all," replied Astoria. "Thought an athlete like you would've cleared away the brain cells so that you could fly faster."
"Surprised you even know what Quidditch is."
Astoria laughed, high, shock glinting upon it. "They sometimes let me listen to the games on the wireless, but only on the days my delicate constitution can handle the excitement."
"Just listen to the Cannons. No excitement to be found there," he muttered, before frowning briefly. "What brings you here, anyway?"
She smirked. "I want to spend as much time with my favourite celebrity as possible."
Harry rolled his eyes, though no sooner did he than he found their focus shifted directly toward the door.
"So that might perhaps have been a lie," she said, her voice quieter already. "I'm sorry in advance."
This next guest did share her courtesy as, without any prompting, the door swung open swiftly revealing, to Harry's great surprise, Astoria's sister. Daphne Greengrass.
Silently, Astoria stood and walked toward her sister, her head dipped slightly. Daphne was silent too, her eyes tracing her sister's path until she left the Adolescent Ward with one final, apologetic look toward Harry before shutting the door behind her.
Leaving, for the first time to Harry's knowledge, him alone with Daphne Greengrass.
"I don't know what your intentions are with my sister," said Daphne, her voice no more than a whisper, yet its intent was unmistakable. Her eyes found him, and with her every effort, she threatened to cut through him. "Though if you hurt her, there is nothing in this world that I would stop at to repay the favour twice over. Understood?"
And, in spite of the unwavering force that was Daphne, Harry did not budge.
"I have no 'intentions' with your sister," Harry told her, his spine held achingly straight. "We talk to each other occasionally. That's all."
They commiserated in shared misfortune, before anything else.
Daphne's gaze dipped briefly, with a slow shake of her head. "I don't care about that," she said, her voice still ever quiet. "I know the sorts of things that you get up to, and I know that all they would bring to Astoria is pain. You will not, ever, hurt my sister."
Harry found himself mouthing 'sorts of things' for a moment; he stopped the moment he realised what he was doing. "I don't think I'm capable of that."
"You're more than capable of hurting her. Even if you never intend to, you'll still end up doing it," she told him. "My sister doesn't need you in her life. She's perfectly fine without you."
Harry's eyes grew thin. "Is that not hers to decide?"
"Not when I am protecting her, it isn't," Daphne said. She reached behind her to open the door, righteous fury playing on her face. "Just don't. My family's world doesn't require you."
She shot out of the room the moment she finished, the door slamming shut and leaving Harry in her wake. He looked down to the book he'd found his mind had been enraptured by and picked it up once more, the confusion he'd been left in allowing a confused clarity to bloom within his mind's eye.
Not another sound met his ears for hours, nor another thought except the ones born of the pages he read. It didn't rain until mid-afternoon, and then, only briefly. By which time, Harry had finally, mercifully, drifted into a deep, unbroken sleep.
He didn't dream. He hadn't for a while, and he doubted that any that came to be in St Mungo's Hospital were ones he held any desire of having, either.
There it is!
Let me know what you thought with a review.
Btw, the chess game that they played was: (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nxe4 4. Qe2 Nf6 5. Nc6+ Be7 6. Nxd8 Kxd8 7. d4 d5 8. Bf4 Bf5 9. Qe5 Bg6 10. Bb5 a6 11. Qxc7#). I've played a fair amount of chess.
Until next time!