Author's Note: Hey everyone,
We are happy so many of you are excited to see the story getting started up again. I believe, however that there is a formatting error on because when originally typed, the format isn't like it appears at all. Thank you for sticking with it until the end.
Chapter 16: The Shards of Truth
Ron awoke with a start, as he had been doing almost every day now. Ever since he started having private lessons over the summer, finally getting one up on Harry, his energy and determination had sky rocketed. Hermione had been in deep depression the entire time, only interrupted by nothing less than short bouts of concentration used to help master the more complicated spells.
"Hermione, who cares if he doesn't want to train with us? You're looking at this the wrong way! If nothing else, put your all into this for Harry. At the very least even if he is content to do nothing all summer, we will be more than powerful enough to protect him."
A blank stare and a moment's pause was all Hermione gave Ron before lifting her head and muttering "You're right, Ron."
"Good, glad you've finally realized," he said, laughing to himself.
"For someone so bloody clever, she sure has no problem swallowing a load of BS when it involves Harry," he thought.
A particularly bright ray of sunlight streamed through the window of the dormitory and caught Ron's eye, dragging him back to the present. Apparently, the sun was up and it would be damned if anyone else awake would ignore it.
Ron threw back the covers, a walked over to the chest at the foot of his bed, with a spring in his step.
"Yet another day, that I , Ron Weasley, am better than Harry Potter!" he thought. He had been telling himself this statement quite a bit lately. He had felt a slight twinge of guilt when it had first started popping into his head. He was far past that now that he felt that he had the skills to make the assertion completely true.
He quickly threw on his school robes, and headed out the dormitory door, and down the stairs. He wanted to make it down to the Great Hall for breakfast before it became too crowded, and before Hermione awoke. Ever since they got back to school, Hermione had been determined to sort things out with Harry. Being the supportive boyfriend that he didn't really feel like being, he accompanied her on the search, inwardly furious that they were giving Harry a big head by making him think he was the center of their, or more importantly, his (Ron's) world.
Ron saw no delay in his trip towards the Great Hall, and was grateful for it. He made his way in through the archway and sat down at the Gryffindor table, next to Dean and Seamus.
"Morning Ron," said a tired looking Dean, and even more exhausted looking Seamus.
"Morning guys," Ron replied, a look of confusion on his face. "You two look exhausted!"
"Does it really show that badly?" asked Dean
"Yeah. What happened? You two look like you tried to sleep in the stalls next to moaning Myrtle during one of her episodes?"
"Ha – ha – ha, Ron. You're a right git, you know that?" retorted Seamus
"Anyway, it hardly matters. We can't tell you, mate. For now it's top secret." Dean added.
"Top secret?" Ron mused to himself. It was almost laughable, children and their little games. While they had twiddled their summer away, reading up on practical joke hexes or playing backyard quidditch, no doubt, he and Hermione had been preparing for war against the Dark Lord.
Hogwarts students now seemed so immature to him, as he glanced around the gradually filling great hall. Ron had taken on a startlingly Hermione – like interest in his school work since his return to Hogwarts. Now that he had finally surpassed Harry, he was determined to keep it up. Professor Flitwick nearly dropped the books out of his hands, when Ron's hand beat up Hermione's in their first class of the school year. By now, most professors' eyes were as glazed as the students they taught; absent mindedly calling on the only hand they assumed would be raised. Professor Mcgonogall nearly sent Hermione to see Madame Pomfrey when she heard an undeniably deep voice coming from who she assumed was Hermione.
Ron was wrought from his thoughts, as a rogue strand of light from the enchanted ceiling caught him in the eye. He looked at Dean and Seamus, both of whom had continued eating. He put on a sigh, and said, "Oh, I see," in his most nonchalant tone.
Dean and Seamus looked at each other, clearly feeling Ron's non caring tone faulty, and quickly changed the subject.
"So…," Seamus began, "I couldn't help but notice that you and Hermione haven't been with Harry much since school began."
Ron answered with a curt nod. "Why does everybody want to talk about bloody Harry Potter all the time," he thought angrily. At this point he was starting to feel that had you-know-who been successful that night back in July, Hogwarts might very well be a school full of mimes.
"Well, "continued Seamus, "Do you know what the deal with the cloak is? I mean we all know it's him, so it must not serve much of a purpose. In fact he stands out even more, doesn't he?"
This time Ron had a response, "Well that's Harry for you, isn't it? Claiming he hates his fame, all the while making himself more conspicuous."
"O well," Ron thought. Neither his fame nor his cloak would be enough to save him from the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters. O no, he'd need Ron and Hermione for that. Soon Harry was going to see what he was really capable of, and come crawling back, begging for help.
Ron no longer felt like talking about Harry or hearing about him. He figured he might as well get to his charms class early, so he could get a bit of practice in before class. Ron looked up. Dean had apparently been talking for about two minutes, and Ron had not heard a single word. He had the grace to look slightly embarrassed, and took a shot in the dark. "O, yeah, Dean, I k now what you mean, but I got to get going."
Dean gave him a quizzical look, "What are you talking about Ron, it was a que—"
But before Dean could even finish the sentence Ron was already heading in the opposite direction away from the table, leaving a bewildered Dean and Seamus to look on.
Ron hurried out of the Great Hall and was about to ascend the stone staircase, when he noticed a piece of parchment hanging up to the right of where he was standing. At the top of the page, Ron, could easily make out the sight of two wands clashing against each other repeatedly, sending sparks flying in opposite directions.
To all students: With the ever growing threat imposed upon us,
Dueling and defense now, more so than ever, must be emphasized.
Therefore, by the approval of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster, there
will now be mandatory dueling lessons for all students.
Lessons will be held once a week for the next six weeks. You will be split
up by year. Spectators from other years are discouraged, but no unwelcome.
First lesson is tonight in the Great Hall:
First Years: 4:00pm
Second Years: 5:00pm
Third Years: 6:00pm
Fourth Years: 7:00pm
Fifth Years: 8:00pm.
Sixth Years: 9:00pm
Seventh Years: 10:00pm
At first glance, a pang of excitement shot through Ron, not so much that he would learn anything knew, but that he would now finally be able to show what he could do. A smile began to play on his lips. It was interrupted and destroyed midway up, however, by a sharp pang memory of a man with bouncing golden curls, and on a poster flashing his award winning pearly whites at anyone who would pay attention.
As if the poster read his mind, Ron continued reading, one last sentence transcribed at the bottom of the parchment.
Note: Please take this seriously. This is not to be confused with the abysmal failure of Gilderoy Lockhart's Dueling Club.
A slight smile played on Ron's lips again, as he made a mental note. He headed up the stairs. Now that he as more awake, he noticed that that lonely parchment he saw on the wall was far from the only one. Everywhere he turned, he saw sparks fly as the two wands clashed against each other. He headed up to the Charms classroom, his heart beating fast. "It's mandatory," he thought, "so he'll have to be there. Now he'll see!"
In his excitement, the Charms classroom came upon him in no time. In fact he almost passed it. As he reached toward the golden brass handle, he sighed, "so much work involved protecting someone who does so little to protect himself," and headed through the door.
He looked up at the old man, with nothing but contempt in his eyes.
"Why didn't you tell me everything you old fool!?" he yelled angrily.
"If I had known then maybe I could have prepa---"
"Do you mean to suggest Mr. Potter," the old man said quite sternly, "that you had no idea that an extremely powerful dark wizard would like nothing more than to see you dead?"
"No! That's not what I said at all, you should have—"
But he was cut off again, " Then do you presume to suggest that knowing that he was repeatedly trying to return to power and kill you was the equivalent to blissful ignorance?"
"NO!" he responded angrily. "If you had told me everything I had to do, I wouldn't be so lost and vulnerable right now"
That was it, the old man decided; enough, he must grow up and he must do it now. It was too late, much too late to play this game any longer.
"Enough!" he said in a raised voice, one he used so rarely he had almost startled himself.
"Mr. Potter, it is time for you to grow up!"
"What are you talking about, what's that got to do with –""
"I would ask that you would remain silent, and listen to what I have to say, Harry! I know that each and every year of your life has been hard on you. However, we each have our burden to bear, and sad and unwanted as it may be, this is yours. Out of care those close to you, have tried to shield you from those burdens, however they cannot do so forever.
You have claimed that lack of information made you lost and vulnerable. While I have made mistakes, I find that statement almost insulting. Were you not told that Voldemort tried to kill your parents? Were you not told that he tried to kill you, and still wanted you dead? Did you have no idea that he was trying to come back to power?
Did you know nothing of the fact that he was getting stronger? Where you in some other place but the graveyard when Voldemort himself arose out of the stone cauldron? Did you not race to the ministry to save who you to perceived to be a captured Sirius? Where you unconscious when you saw his horde of death eaters take arms against us? You made it quite clear to me, a point to which many of my recently repaired possessions cant attest, that you were present for the death of your god father, and my beloved friend, Sirius Black.
Though I found the prophecy quite clear, perhaps you misheard? My dear boy, even if I were to agree and concede that I left any information to your imagination, I would be only, and I do mean only, conceding to leaving you "lost". Any vulnerability you feel is self created. Have you not been present for the past 5 years, at the finest school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the world? Is it not taught by the finest minds around in a wide variety of subjects? Have your instructors not been willing to teach and help you, some of them even grudgingly so, to reach new levels of magical prowess under my direction?
But no, you're right….had I told you everything, you would have had time to not feel so vulnerable. Harry how long do you plan to play this game?"
Harry could barely form a sentence. He was still angry and hurt, but listening to what this old man said, he could do nothing but curse himself.
From the beginning he knew and was constantly reminded of his haunting past. Year after year he was faced with Voldemort or an attack on his life. But what had he done? Nothing. The old man was right, each year he was at a school full of the knowledge and help he needed to really help him prepare for the fight against Lord Voldemort, but yet he was content to do little more than make himself The Famous Sitting Duck. Perhaps he thought if he didn't openly prepare for it, it wouldn't be real. He had spent time blaming everyone else for deaths, however it was his fault. His inadequacy and lack of power had been the reason that others near and dear to him had taken a fall. They did it to protect him. But what were they protecting? It was that way from the very beginning, but as a toddler it makes sense to be defenseless, but at times goes on, innocence and weakness should be replaced by prudence and strength. Why had it never occurred to him to train and prepare so that when the day did come he would be powerful enough to be a match for Voldemort?
Harry felled the room around him fading into blackness. He watched Dumbledore gaze at the bespectacled boy sitting defiantly before him. And before he knew it, he was back in Dumbledore's circular office. The door creaked open, in walked, the very man that had just ignited such an anger in him that he could hardly breathe.
The piercing blue eyes gazed at him, nonplussed but for a second, and then darted to the circular stone basin, its runes glowing and dancing in the dim light of the office. That was the extent to which the old man acknowledged what must have happened, before walking behind his desk and taking his seat.
"What the hell was that professor!?"
"That, I believe, is what happens when you quite literally put your nose in other people's memories," Dumbledore said quite calmly.
Harry was so overcome with anger at the lack of concern in Dumbledore's voice; lack of any kind of remorse for what Harry had just seen. "What the hell!? Is that how you really feel, old man?!" he shouted, courtesies fleeing him.
"I cannot deny," said Dumbledore, gazing at him through those familiar half moon spectacles, "that I have wanted to tell you that quite often. However, I was perhaps the one most at fault for the problem you heard me mention. I was always so fond of you, that guilelessness took a back seat."
"But then who the hell were you---" Harry began
"Not who, Harry, what… Like I said, I could never bring myself to say those things to you as I wanted in real life, so I did the next best thing. I transfigured objects to look and resemble you, and talked to them. It was the only way I could in some sense satisfy myself. I thought if could just see your face as I said those things, the feelings would go away. Maybe, if I just looked at the memories in the pensive enough times, I could will it to be true. It was but a stop gap measure, for I knew eventually, if you hadn't realized it yourself, I would have to tell you. However," he said, glancing toward the pensive, "it would seem your traditional lack of respect for others' property has saved me that burden."
Harry could not remember the last time he was so angry at any one person. "How could you even dare say that! How dare you think I am content to let others die for me? And now you want ME to feel guilty? Who the hell do you think you are?" Although, while watching the memory Harry had agreed and felt ashamed, his anger now pushed those feelings aside. He wanted little else to do with Dumbledore at the moment, right or not. Than goodness it was but a few hours until he was out of here for the summer again. Just then, before he could utter another word, the door burst open, Harry felt something wet hit is forehead, and for a second time, Dumbledore's office dissolved into nothingness.
Everything was black, yet the wet sensation continued. It went from a cold wet sensation to an odd tickling feeling. Finally, Harry opened his eyes. The world was a blur around him. For a moment he lost all sense of place, then suddenly as if hit by something, he reached to the side, felt for his glasses, and shoved them on his face. He was in the Chamber of Secrets. He looked around, slightly on edge, when he suddenly felt something cold hit the top of his head. He looked up, just in time for a drop of water to splash onto the right lens of his glasses. A pipe located high up above his bed was dripping water.
Harry stretched, and yawned, as he sat up in his bed, wiping his forehead, and face with his blanket, where the water had dripped and run down. He looked around the room, its cavernous feel, left an air of coldness and solitude. As he stood up, and walked toward his makeshift desk, he tried to push out encroaching thoughts of the dream he had just had. He had told no one of what happened in Dumbledore's office before he left the previous summer, and he was for some reason extremely certain that Dumbledore had told no one either.
When Harry had first arrived back at the Dursleys', he spent countless nights alone in his room, thinking, pacing, feeling the suffocating pangs of guilt, shame, and anger. What else good he feel? Even is Dumbledore hadn't directly told him, inadvertently through the pensive, Harry had known in the back of his mind, that others must have thought it too. He felt guilt for those that had died for his safety and shame that he could do so little to help. But above all, he felt anger; anger not only that he did so little to change, but an unrighteous anger that those around had done so little to make him change. The combination of those feelings made him sick. One's pride had to be the hardest thing to swallow.
After a few days he had come to the conclusion that he would change, and Dumbledore, after all, had told him all the important things, including the things he had not wanted to hear. Harry was still angry, but had thought he might try things again with the man who had given him so much guidance over the years. Dumbledore hadn't, he conceded, left him lost… or so he thought. Never had Harry ever imagined the magnitude to which Dumbledore left him in the dark. Just when had be resolved to start anew, his world crumbled beneath him. The only girl he had ever had feelings for, and his so called best friend, together in secret. Dumbledore even knew about it. Harry couldn't do what he needed to do within a life of secrets, even if they were meant for his protection.
"O well," Harry thought, as he slipped on his clothes and buttoned his cloak, "What's done is done. The room of time had taught him what he needed to fix. He could swallow his pride, and had, and admit his faults. But more than his pride was severely damaged by all that had happened. Dumbledore, the great advocate of love, would know, better than anyone that the wounds of the heart were far more destructive to truly be touched or soothed by the realms of magic.
Harry picked up his wand, slid it inside the pocket of his cloak, and made his way to exit the chamber. He decided he wanted to eat in the Great Hall, staring or not. All the solitude of the chamber had left him weary. He was quickly growing tired of the secrecy. Sooner or later, Harry was going to reveal himself.
"At this rate, sooner," Harry thought as he exited the chamber.
Harry made his way thought opening, and next thing he knew, he was entering the girl's bathroom. He looked around, and listened. He heard no sign of moaning Myrtle. For a moment he considered pulling out the marauder's map, to see if the coast was clear. However, for that, he remembered, he didn't need it. Harry looked towards the door, and concentrated. He sensed no thoughts nearby, and walked the door into the corridor, and began his decent to the Great Hall. He was running late, but he was sure there would still be food, and if not, he could always sneak off to the kitchen again.
He was almost to the great hall, when he finally took notice of one of what must have been hundred's of signs telling of a mandatory dueling class. Harry watched as the wands clashed and the sparks flew. At first he shrugged it off as inconsequential, but upon reflection, he decided he had might as well go. He was bored, and this might let him release so frustration. First he would have to find Neville.
He continued down the staircase, and entered the great hall. He had grown so used to the curious stares and whispers by now, that they were but background. To his slight relief, he saw no sign of Ron or Hermione. The students were slowly clearing out, and just as Harry thought, the long tables in the great hall, were still piled with food. He made his way to the Gryffindor table, and took a seat, not that it mattered anymore where he sat. His allegiance wasn't really to a house anymore, but still, there was a comforting familiarity with the Gryffindor side of the great hall.
He sat a couple spaces away from everyone else, but it was still nice to see people talking and enjoying casual conversations. Harry was most of the way through breakfast, when he happened to look up, and saw Neville, cloaked, walking into the hall, apparently oblivious to the stares he was getting as he walked across the stone floor toward Harry.
"Hey Harry," Neville said, once he was in earshot. "How are things going?"
"Hey Neville," Harry responded, thankful that this would save him trying to find Neville later. "Things are going fine; a bit dull, but no matter."
"Oh I know what you mean," Neville answered, nodding. "So," Neville started, clearly about to approach a topic that he had wanted to talk about all along, "Have you noticed the flyers about that stupid dueling lesson?"
Harry nodded, "Yeah, actually I have."
"O yeah, I hear it's mandatory"
Neville was trying to keep his true intent out of his voice, but Harry didn't even need legillimens to see where this was going. Neville clearly wanted to go, however much he was prepared to state the opposite. Harry decided he would beat him to the cut on this one.
"I think we should go," said Harry
"Oh… oh really?" Neville responded trying not to let the excitement slip through in his tone. It seemed Neville was starting to tire of the situation as much as he was.
"Yeah. Why not? It is mandatory, after all, and besides," he said added with a sly smile, which was concealed by his cloak, "I am starting to think its time we finally made a bit of a debut."
"Oh ok, that sounds good then, I'll meet you in the dor--," Neville began, but then caught himself, "wait, where have you been sleeping anyway?"
"I'll tell you a bit later. But don't worry, I am still in Gryffindor, and can enter the dormitory and the common room at my leisure. I'll meet you in the common room, by the fire at 8:45, and we can head down together."
"er… right," said Neville, slightly embarrassed at his obvious lack of common sense, "See you then," he said, as he watched Harry prepare to leave.
"Oh, before I forget…" Harry said leaning forward a bit towards Neville, "How are things going with the top secret project?" he asked, referring of course to the High Inquisitor.
"It's going splendidly. People were up all night helping out, as well as some of the other. It should definitely be ready by tomorrow."
"Alright, sounds good," said Harry, turning his back and heading for the exit. He passed by Ginny Weasley, who went past him, and headed behind him to talk to Neville. It was getting late, and quite a few students had been in class for a while, which made Harry's walk through Hogwarts much less eventful. All he had to do was find something to do until the mandatory dueling class.
Harry gave a heavy sigh, "Tonight will be… interesting" he thought, and made way out the doors onto the grounds.
Well that was chapter 16. Hope you enjoyed it.