Disclaimer: I do not own JK Rowling's world or plotlines. I do own my own plotlines and since this is being written about things JK has not/nor will ever publish, most of the plotline is mine. However, my brilliant sister inspired the story, and I lovingly thank her for her contribution.
"Nothing is impossible, Professor, just undiscovered. I can't be stopped just because the books haven't been written about it yet. I have to keep going. Even when I'm in an impossible situation, I have to find a move to take."
"And when there are no moves left on the board?"
"When I'm in Checkmate? I'll do what every good chess player does, I'll throw the board across the room."
--Taken from a conversation between Harry Potter and Severus Snape
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Awakening
"Draco, why not?"
"I'm not in the mood."
"You sound like a girl."
"If you say so."
"Fine then. You'll want to stay here tonight Draco. I'll ask him not to call you, but if he does, do not speak to me."
Draco was still sitting in his chair a few seconds after Ginny had slipped off him. She was standing, beautiful, by the mantle, flicking her wand about and gathering her things. He hesitated a moment, watching her incredible silhouette as she trembled slightly with anger, before he rose and moved to her side, slipping his arms around her waist. Pulling her closer he whispered, "Lover, none of the others are hunting tonight. They're staying with him. Something huge is happening. You felt it today. I know you did. Something has changed, but until we receive new orders it is best to stay here.
"Alliances may have changed; he might be upset if you were to kill the wrong person in your enthusiasm. Stay with me. Please."
"Always so cautious."
"Only with my money and you."
"I can handle myself."
"Then why don't you let me?"
"Because everything has changed. And because I love you. So, it's my right."
He kissed her, and when they finally broke apart, she rested against his chest, murmuring contentedly. "Yes, everything has changed. The Dark Lord has Harry Potter."
"Yes he does," Draco said, "The Order will of course attempt to rescue him."
"Of course, little good may it do them. The Dark Lord has assigned Bellatrix to his keeping. She would kill him before allowing him to be rescued. Our Lord would be displeased not to do it himself, but it would be the better choice.
"He was in this same state when you found him Draco? Catatonic?"
"Yes, though he is a bit more…bloody…now."
Ginny smiled softly, "That was our fault."
"Yes it was."
The pair finally finished the slow transition from standing to seated and Ginny was wrapped in his arms as he leaned against the wall. Her loose curled hair looked as perfect as ever even though he knew she had not slept in days, was exhausted and the victim of an enormous magical backlash. The unexplained sobering of the fire in her hair had made her even more beautiful; it accented her ivory skin flawlessly and he watched the light of the Slytherin common fire glint off her hair and add a glow to her face.
Now that Harry's enchantment had ended, everything would work out. He and Ginny would be able to escape the Dark Lord's clutch. They would be able to help Harry destroy him. Then, when her family had realized he was no more of a Death Eater than they were, they would live happily after. Ginny was drifting to sleep and he let her. He continued to dream of their lives. Several times he tried to shake the thoughts away. Better than anyone he knew that nothing was ever certain, but he also knew that hope was in the air again. It had been faint for most of the year. It had nearly vanished when his father had apparated next to him, seconds after discovering Harry.
That hope was now on the edge of overwhelming him. Until now he had always squashed any small voice that had dared to say he might one day live happily ever after with anyone. Now there was one saying he had that chance with Ginny. Dear, perfect Ginny, whom he loved more than life. There was only one thing better. She loved him too. He knew that. She had, he was sure, been changed by Harry's spell, possibly that was the difference that had let her see Draco as something other than an enemy. If that was the case, he would have to thank Harry. There had been several times this year when he was sure he would not have survived the Dark Lord's orders without her. She had been a constant source of strength and was always there to help him relax when the strain got to be too much.
His eyes were flickering closed.
For all that he knew he needed to stay awake in case Harry's allies contacted him, he could not. The long days of constant work had drained him in every conceivable way and now, lying in relative safety against a fireplace with the woman he loved in his lap, he felt himself drift into peace, then lethargy, then his closed and he began to fall into sleep.
Despite his efforts, he was deeply sleeping within moments.
So, when a door slammed, he flung himself, startled, to his feet. Ginny disappeared into the fireplace the next instant, and Severus Snape walked into the common room.
"My office, Draco. Immediately. I have something you must do."
She looked up from the fire, tears streaming down her face, a photo crushed in her hand. She had been there for hours, hopeless and confused. She had tried to sneak into the library, desperate to read anything she could that might reveal what Harry had done. Pince had forcibly removed her as curfew approached. There really was no point in staying though; she had found nothing of use in the library.
Twelve hours earlier she had known with a certainty unparalleled in the rest of her life that Harry James Potter had betrayed the wizarding world. Then, everything had changed. A flashing realization had brought her about. All the arguments she had held as truth crumbled and she found herself facing a new truth.
They had been wrong. Terribly, horribly, unforgivably wrong.
If only she knew why it had all happened, she could reconcile her actions. Eventually she had succumbed to tears sitting alone in front of the common room fire.
Very cautiously, knowing that previous crimes would take a long time to forgive, Ron repeated her name. He looked soul-broken, pained by what he had done to his friends. Everyone could remember, she guessed, what their actions had been, though no one knew why they had taken them.
"Ron, I—what have we done?"
"We betrayed him. Lovely bit of irony there don't you think? We've been calling him—I accused him of betraying us, and I'm the real traitor." He paused a moment, "'Mione, do you have any idea what happened? Why we did this? What could have—"
"Oh. I'd just thought…'Mione, you always know. Is there a book you need, I could get it for you…No?...So what do we do now?"
"I don't know Ron. It must have been some kind of spell set by You-Know-Who, and if it's been broken already, it must have been Harry that did it. We can't really do anything yet, we need to know what happened to be able to help him." Hermione glanced at her hand, and the crumpled photo inside it. Ron gently took it from her and flattened it. Both of them looked down at a photo of the three of them Colin had taken during their second year. All of them were smiling broadly, waving, laughing, and caught in a perpetual embrace. Harry's broom was over his shoulder, a Snitch in his hand fluttering happily. It was a memory of happier times. When she had brought herself to look at Ron again, his eyes were damp as well. "We have to help him. We have to correct what we've done."
Ron nodded, but before he could answer, they jumped and spun to the window.
Tap, tap, tap.
"Ron, let her in, now!"
Seconds later, Hedwig swooped inside, dropping a letter and a package onto the couch and perching on the mantle over the fireplace. Hermione slapped Ron's hand away from the small wrapped package, and dragged him to sit and read with her.
The letter was written on heavy paper, and as Hermione touched it she could feel the magic he had laid into it as protections. Harry's messy scrawl had marked it only with two words
"He must be alive then! He must be alright!" Ron yelled.
"I'm not sure. The spells seem like they kept it hidden. I think he wrote this a long time ago."
Slowly, they found the strength to open the letter.
The first thing they noticed was the date written in the top corner. One week, to the day after Sirius' death. Ron pointed to it, and they unfolded the many paged epistolary explanation.
I hope you're alright, and that Hedwig is able to find you both together. You're both fairly smart, so, I am sure you have noticed by the date that it has been one week since the Department of Mysteries. If I've not said it to you before now, thank you for being there, and for believing in me, even though we turned out to be wrong. Somehow it is even more important to me that you stuck by me when you had no real reason to.
Both of you have been at my side for five years. We have gone through hell, and it seems that every year, some disaster requires me to ask you to risk your lives. Voldemort knows how important you both are to me. You are my best friends, and it would be too easy for him to use you against me the way they used Sirius. Hermione you in particular. What they would do to you to force my hand is unspeakable, and I know that if you were taken, nothing, no matter who said it, would convince me to do anything other than charge in and rescue you. Ron, you are just as likely to be targeted, everyone knew that you were 'dear to me' in the second task. They will come after you both to get to me , and I cannot let that happen.
I don't know when you will receive this letter. I'll charm it in a few minutes to appear beside Hedwig only after the spell breaks. She'll deliver it from there.
Relax Hermione, I'll explain the spell in a moment.
For now, understand that I am sorry for what I will do to you with this spell, and that I have to ask you to have faith. This letter should clarify most of what has happened to you that you could not explain. I am telling you this because I hopeknow that I can trust you. You two and two others will know what has happened. If you feel so inclined after reading this, you may tell Dumbledore as well, though I have found things that have shaken my trust in him.
Now, in a few days time I'll be casting a spell to isolate myself. It wouldn't be enough for me to stop talking to you, or to pretend we've had some horrible fight. You two will have to be my most fervent opponents. You two will need to scream my crimes out and declaim me as the worst kind of scum. I know that you would both try if I asked, but it isn't enough. I have a spell that will do it. I am going to turn the world against me. It's simpler than it sounds Ron, so close your mouth, you look like a fish. I can choose certain people to focus the spell on, but it will affect everyone in the Wizarding world. The spell creates something like the Room of Requirement, only for the entire world, and not as precise. I tell the spell what the general event I need is, and it finds a way to make it happen, through me. It may be a slow change, or it may be overnight. I don't know. There isn't any record of the spell ever being cast before now.
The magic has to be strengthened again once a month, I already have found two people who are willing to do this, with luck they'll live long enough to keep it up. If they fail to enhance the spell each month it will end. It is designed to end when a particular, and rather vaguely phrased, event occurs. It will also end if I die.
This letter will only be delivered when the magic breaks. So, since you are now reading it, I hope I am not dead; I have the feeling that would be problematic.
Your names, along with certain others who have been very loyal to me are on a list to be targeted especially. The two Keepers will add more names if anyone begins to slip from beneath the magic's control. For each name they add though, it will draw a little more magic out of me. When this charade ends, I have to retake the magic. It cannot be released into empty space, but taking it in again will certainly weaken, if not kill me. Right after the spell breaks, I will be incapacitated, I know that much, the book warned me. This is where I have a small problem, and will likely need you two.
The spell (if it collapses when I want it to) is triggered to fall when I am in a situation I cannot bear. Odds are, that will mean Voldemort. If I do not get away fast enough, he will kill me, at which point, he will launch an attack against Hogwarts. Be sure it is as well defended as it can be.
I made this choice because it is the only way I will have enough time to learn what I need, and to keep you safe. Whatever is done to me after I cast this will be worth it as long as you are both alive and reading this together in a world where I have been able to prevent most of the sorrows.
If I'm alive, I hope to see you soon.
If I'm dead, I hope I won't see you for a long, long time.
Harry James Potter
PS. The DA can help with defense.
PPS. And please make sure Dobby is alright.
They sat without moving for a moment, and then Ron reached for the package. It unwrapped easily, revealing a wooden box. The polished, dark wood was etched with extraordinary details on five faces, a door on each side with a different image. The first, marked with a Gryffindor lion, opened to reveal a large chamber containing two broomsticks—Firebolts. Ron pulled them both out, and, finding their initials scribed into the handles, nearly whimpered. The second, marked with a Ravenclaw eagle opened to a chain of three Gringotts keys. The Hufflepuff door opened to reveal what Hermione quickly declared to be the most advanced Sneakascope she had ever seen. With some trepidation, they opened the Slytherin door, and found another box.
It took both of them to pull the second box out of the first, it opened to show yet another magically enhanced interior. The entire box was filled with phials. Row upon row of potions, neatly labeled in a script they knew they had seen, but could not name, spanned everything from Ashanel to Veritaserum to Wolfsbane to Polyjuice. In one corner there was even a leather bag containing several bezoars
Both had begun to realize what the box was, but, not wanting to name it, they replaced the potion box and opened the lid, which was the final door. It was marked with a gold inlay of a Phoenix wrapped in flames. Inside were two Invisibility cloaks. Pinned to one of them was a scrap of paper asking them to "Stay Safe."
The silence and tension were painful between them. They had not spent five years at Harry's side without learning how he thought.
"'Mione, this isn't a present for us. It's a….survival kit. He thinks he's going to die, and he gave us all this so that we could survive."
"What do we do?"
"Well, let's start with getting the DA together."
An hour later nearly half the students of Dumbledore's Army had collected in the Room of Requirement and were utterly silent.
Hermione and Ron and just entered, crossed to stand before them, and announced, "Harry's in trouble."
Considering their actions over the course of the year, the DA was shocked to hear Harry's greatest defamers speaking with so much concern for him. Unease began to build, broken when Luna asked dreamily, "Does this mean that the Feathered Gibberts have stopped interfering with our thoughts?" Ron smiled slowly, and nodded. "Oh good. What are we going to do then?"
Ron and Hermione outlined their plan to fortify the castle and keep it safe, not just for that night, but for the rest of the week. They assigned checks, tasks and patrols to each member, all the way down to the youngest members. Regret though they did putting them in danger, they needed everyone. The Order was conspicuously absent from Hogwarts, as were the Aurors, and no one in the room objected to doing their part.
"Now, Ron and I will take the first tour of the school. If we encounter anything and need help, we'll let you know by your coins. All of you need to get back into your dorms, and do try not to be seen."
"So who's going after Harry?"
"Who is going after Harry?"
"Neville, no one knows where he is." Hermione said softly, "If we did of course we could go, but he sent us a message asking us to make sure the school is safe. So we're going to do what he wants."
"After six years of letting him throw himself into all kinds of danger, you're just going to let him die?" Neville asked angrily. Ron and Hermione hesitated, ready to start explaining when the rest of the DA exploded.
"Ron he saved your sister from a Basilisk when he was twelve!"
"He fought off the dementors!"
"He's been fighting You-Know-Who all year!"
"He taught us all to protect ourselves."
"You can't just let him go."
"You have to go after him."
"If you don't we will." Neville announced, stepping forward. The rest fell quiet and formed ranks behind him.
Luna walked forward and said, "I really think you two should be the ones to go after Harry, you're the only people he trusts. It would really mean something to him if he saw you two fighting for him. We can take care of Hogwarts. The thestrals, and the professors can help. And the Snarfblats."
Grabbing her arm to distract her, Neville continued, "Go. We can handle this."
A glow, present without any kind of magic, appeared in both Ron and Hermione's eyes, who felt for the first time since the spell had broken that something was a perfect truth. Without another word they ran for the door.
Flickering, hesitant, and pained, Harry Potter opened his eyes. He was lying in a filthy cell, dressed in tattered fragments of his former clothing, and barely able to comprehend his surroundings or his thoughts. He could remember nothing of the last few hours, or of the magic he had performed. He only knew that he had to leave before anyone came back, but had no idea how.
He tried to sit up, but collapsed immediately, in too much pain to make another attempt. There were noises down the hall, incomprehensible noises that baffled his mind. He tried to focus on them, only identifying that there were voices, what they said and who they belonged to were mysteries.
The world around him felt fluid; everything was blurred, like looking through muddy water. It was different from when he lost his glasses. It was different from anything he had ever seen before.
Harry shifted his head, and the blur turned into a rushing torrent that swept through him, erasing what little capacity for thought he had left. He rolled himself to his side, and a strangled choke slipped from his lips. The noises were growing louder, maybe it was a fight. If it was he knew he had to go help, so he summoned every ounce of his strength and lurched to his knees. The pain hit him a few seconds later, and he emptied his stomach of the only thing it had held. Acid burned his throat and lips as he clung to reality, and the wall.
"Remus, we are getting nowhere!"
"We're never going to get anywhere if you don't help me, Bill."
"Help you with what? Wandering aimlessly through the woods?" Bill Weasley stopped beside a tree, glaring at the werewolf. The troop of men was soaked by a pounding rain, in a dead black night, without a clue for where they were going and only the faintest idea of where they were. Remus stepped into the eldest Weasley, baring his teeth.
"Do you have a better plan?"
Bill was less than pleased at the challenge. "No, I don't."
Behind them, a voice in a woods whispered, "Bill?"
Whipping about to look, they found Charlie Weasley pulling off a Death Eater's mask. The relief in his face was blatant; had he been told the war was over, Remus was sure there could not have been more joy in the Dragon rider's eyes. "You've come for him, haven't you? You've come to rescue Harry?"
"You don't have much time. Chaos is the only thing saving him right now. The Dark Lord collapsed when whatever that thing was happened. We've been patrolling like mad, but the manor itself is so confused you have a chance of getting him out. I can't tell you where it is, but, Remus, you know Legillemency, yes?" Remus nodded briefly. "Good, you'll need to force it out of my mind. Then you'll need to curse me into oblivion and leave me here. Don't forget to Obliviate me as well. Harry is, well, was in the dungeons, I don't know if he was moved. But he was still alive."
After a few false starts, Remus was able to retrieve enough flashes of memories to know where the manor was. He raised his wand to commence the harder half of what had to be done, but the twins stopped him.
"Do you want him to be killed?"
"If Voldie checks his wand—"
"—and finds that Charlie never fought back—"
"—it wouldn't be best for his health."
"Get up Charlie."
The twins hoisted Charlie to his feet again, handed him his wand again, and gave him a look of fraternal understanding. A few seconds later, the spells began to fly. Remus had never even heard of many things the twins used, though he acknowledged that they were probably of their own invention. A particularly fierce blasting spell destroyed a tree and threw both Fred and George to the ground. Content among the undergrowth, they calmly battered and stunned their brother. He was woken again long enough to Obliviate his memory of the event, then, in one motion, they cast an Impedimenta curse that threw Charlie across a glade and left him slumped against a tree trunk.
Bill, who had watched the exchange silently, walked past his brothers to Remus, and gestured for the werewolf to find the manor.
"Blood Pops? Licorice Snaps? Drooble's Best Blowing Gum? Lemon Drops? Treacle? Sugar Quills? Oh for the love of Merlin, open up!"
"Even if that did work Mr. Weasley, what did you propose to do in an empty room?"
"That's the Headmaster's office, Professor, it's not an empty room. We need to see him immediately! It's important!"
"Be quiet Ms. Granger."
"But Professor Snape—"
"That is not quiet, Ms. Granger." Hermione stopped and glared at the Potion's Master, her wand still resting on the Gargoyle's head. "Why, precisely do you need to speak to the Headmaster? Hoping to be forgiven for wandering about after hours? Hoping to avoid losing House Points, perhaps? Where were you Mr. Weasley? Harassing house elves for something to eat in the kitchens?"
"No, we need to—" Hermione began, but Ron, stopped her.
"Sorry Professor, we'll be back in our room in just a few seconds. Terribly sorry. Won't happen again. Hope you won't be handing out detentions. G'night." Ron locked his hand around her arm and dragged her away in the direction of the tower. Nearly there, they ducked into a classroom, and Ron pulled out the box.
"'Mione, how smart do you think Harry is?"
"What do you mean?"
Instinct was a powerful force for Harry. It always had been. He had learned to fly on instinct. He had fought a dragon on instinct. He had learned complicated magic on instinct. So it was no surprise that instinct was keeping Harry on his feet as he traversed the Dark Lord's fortress, headed towards the unmistakable screams of the Cruciatus curse.
First there was just one scream, penetrating, biting into Harry's conscious as he struggled to identify its owner. It was anonymous is agony though. Then a second joined it. Harry stumbled, and clung harder to the wall. The first was in physical pain, but the horror conveyed in the second was mind-blowing. All-encompassing and terrible it echoed down the halls like a phantom. He turned a corner and the screaming was closer. More voices were added to the air, and over the sounds of torture, Harry began to pick out, in greater and greater glints and bits of laughter floating sickly over the rest. His body was shaking worse now. Each step threw him into a worse state, and there was nothing he could do to stop his body's efforts. So, when he stepped into a large, long chamber, it lacked the dramatic effect he would have wished to create.
The Dark Lord had his wand on George Weasley, which was where the Cruciatus screams came from. A few steps away Fred was trussed in a chair forced to watch helplessly as his twin was tortured. Harry glanced back to George and saw the evidence of physical torture as well. A handful of robed and masked Death Eaters stood over the rest. Remus, Bill, and Oliver Wood were petrified on the floor; the only sign of their pain were their rictus masks.
Harry was still shaking and still mentally roiling from whatever had happened that day, but still felt the perfect calm of an impending fight close around him. The pain was segregated to the back of his mind and he drifted in a pool of power and energy he no longer knew he had. Only a few steps into the chamber, he was noticed.
The spells around his friends faltered and Harry twitched slightly. The resultant magic shattered the curses, and he forced his body to stand upright.
Voldemort looked away from the Weasley twins, turning to face his foremost enemy. "Potter, how nice of you to wake up at last." A flick of his wand threw Harry into the stone wall with a bloody scalp.
Half a dozen shouts answered his injury, some cheering their master, some fearful, and some a tangle of relief and terror. On instinct alone, Harry found his feet again, and answered, "Hello Tom." Voldemort's curse was quick, and the part of Harry's mind that tended to observe was uncertain it would be blocked in time, but a shield was cast and the curse dissipated. "Let my friends go."
"You have no friends here Potter. My Death Eaters and I certainly have never cared for you. And these…vermin have long since abandoned you. They come here now only to use you again. Just as they have always done." Voldemort grinned twistedly. "Perfect Potter, always ready to defend others, even when they hate you. How….honorable. How…noble. How…stupid." As he spoke that final word, he brought his wand up to point at Harry's chest. The Death Eaters brought their wands up a breath later to point to each of Harry's rescuers. "Are they really your friends, Potter? If they are, your idiotic Gryffindor blood tells you that you must save them. But who do you choose? You've been in my hands for days now, I know how little magic you have. You can never save them all. So will you save yourself, or one of them?"
Voldemort continued to taunt, but what was said Harry did not know. The world, already fuzzy, was melting away. Roaring filled his ears, a rushing filled his chest, and he wished for anything to cling to, but there was nothing. He fell into the darkness amidst a mad series of images and lights, with a searing pain that shoved him into the darkness.
"We need to move him again. He can't stay here."
"No one can know."
"Are they going to be alright?"
"Contact the Order."
Harry was floating in a sweet, kind, quiet place where the pain was gone. He was happy here. He was content. He wished the voices would stop disturbing his quiet place.
"How did they even get in?"
"How did they get out?"
"The DA deserves to be told."
"But we have no way to find them all without her awake."
The pain was coming back again. It did occasionally. It was rather annoying, but all Harry had to do was drift a little further and then it was out of reach, happening to someone else.
"It's been three days now."
"Will Poppy be able to help him?"
"Of course. Just thank Merlin the other's are awake again."
Sometimes there were voices asking him to do things. Sometimes an angry voice tried to hurt him more. Sometimes a soft voice tried to bring him around. Every time though, he just retreated further, knowing that there was nothing but pain in the world with bright lights.
"The stories are too fanciful Dumbledore, we can't believe them all."
"On the contrary, I believe it may be even worse than what we've been told."
There was something else now that he knew about the light. In the light was where the memories were. In the light was where the pain came from, but the pain wasn't because of the light, it was because of the people in the light. What they had done to him. What he had done to them. It was nothing but pain and hurt there. His memories were shaky, but he knew that much.
"It's been too long."
"He was gone for three weeks before. Alone. He lived."
"He couldn't have."
"He's Harry Potter. He will wake up."
Harry's best efforts were starting to fail. He checked every little while and it was true, even though he didn't want it to be. He was drifting back into the lights. Back into the world of pain. He was melting back out of the sweet place. Or he was being pulled.
If Poppy would have allowed it, everyone involved with the chaos that was Harry's life would have sat by his bedside twenty-four hours a day, waiting for any sign of improvement or health. She would never allow that though, so they had worked out a schedule between them. Each had a few hours a day when they could sit and wait.
Presently, it was Ron's turn.
The Gryffindor prefect knew that having a person present was irrelevant, either of the animals beside the Boy-Who-Lived would have instantly woken the necessary help if Harry needed it. He liked to sit with him though. Ron had been active for two days now. The first had been spent begging for the right to sit with his best friend. The second had been spent beside his bed, reading and rereading the letter he and Hermione had received.
After that horrible battle in a Death Eater haven, he had barely gotten everyone back alive. It had been very close. His hand unconsciously ran over his chest, where four long ropey scabs were turning to scars. It was the most painful injury he had ever received, but, a thought back to how it had been received told him he had made the right decision. After all, Hermione was still alive.
Everyone had left that chamber injured, some worse than others. It had been a microcosmic hell.
Ron continued to stare at Harry, still unconscious after nearly eight days, and his mind went back to the unexplained blessing of the fight. He and Hermione had arrived just in time to see Harry's magical explosion. It had blown everyone off their feet, them included. They had flung themselves into the madness that had ensued. Voldemort, thrown off by the sheer force of magic fled. The wards and anti–apparition spells collapsed. Hermione joint apparated Fred and George to Hogsmeade. Ron helped Oliver and Remus. They heard Dobby yell that Harry was safe, and, since the Death Eaters had vanished, they made their escape. Then, they had rushed back to the school to find Harry, extraordinarily unconscious lying on the floor of the Great Hall, all alone. No one had stepped forward to volunteer that they had aided him, and, considering the hero's welcome that awaited whoever was, it was unusual.
He had been unconscious for a full day, just a few hours longer than Hermione. Fred and George were both on bed rest from prolonged cruciatus torture. Oliver had a collection of broken bones. Remus was being treated for silver poisoning. But Harry had entered the hospital wing in such a desperate state that the others had nearly been forgotten. He was unreachable, the strongest energy draughts were not enough to revive him; his magic was suppressed to almost nothing; he was physically destroyed. If he were not a wizard, he would have died before anyone could have helped him, and Pomfrey was certain that what little magic he still had was fighting to keep him alive.
Luckily the DA had descended on the rescuers while the staff descended on Harry. Everyone was alive.
If Harry woke up, everyone was going to be alive.
Ron took a deep breath and squeezed Harry's hand. "Come Harry. This is nothing. You've lived through too much to let something as stupid as this take you down. You're still in there, just, too far away for us to reach. Come back Harry. Then you can punch me for being a git whenever you want. I'd deserve it. I know.
"Just come back to us, wake up and you can chase me round the Quidditch pitch, or go find Fluffy or make me go to potions class for days on end. Any way you want to torture me you can. Wake up."
Ron jerked, spun about, drawing his wand, and felt like a fool when he saw Hermione standing in bunny slippers. "Oh, Hi Hermione."
"Any sign yet? Any movement?"
"Its been eight days Ron. We may never—"
"Don't. Don't ever. He'll wake up. He'll be fine."
"If he doesn't—"
"Shut Up!" Both of them fell back, tears rising. Ron had moved to hit her. "I'm sorry Hermione. No, not just for this. For this year. For what I did to you, how I treated you. I don't deserve you Hermione, I don't deserve Harry either. I betrayed him in the worst way, I caused it, I have to fix… make it… change what… give him something back…."
"You want to atone for it."
"Yeah, Atone. I have to atone. Like what you told me about those Catholics."
"Harry isn't God, Ron."
"I know." He turned back to the bed and returned to his vigil. Eventually Hermione sat down beside him and they waited in silence. It was early in the morning, Madame Pomfrey had visited again to check Harry and to persuade Ron to get rest. Ron was still there. So, at four in the morning when a faint pop broke the silence, the pair moved unconsciously. Hermione had risen, but had yet to draw her wand; Ron had her behind him, wand drawn and a shield charm settling over Harry, and both had gaping mouths.
Rita Skeeter grinned. "You don't seem happy to see me, that's horrible, after all, I'm the way out of this awful situation. I'm so glad I could find you both together, a joint interview will make my readers so much happier. Now, should we start with your apology to the world for declaiming our Hero as a traitor Mr. Weasley, or would it be easier if Ms. Granger recaps what happened. You're so good at that."
"We aren't giving you an interview Skeeter. Not now or ever." Hermione snapped. "Get away from Harry before I lock you in another jar."
"Defending him at last, excellent, that makes such a better story loop. From friend to villain to friend is so much more satisfying to read. And you Ronald? Anything to add?"
"Get out. Now."
Skeeter turned with a smile, and began talking to her quik-quotes quill, "Very passionate, its easy to see how he turned to such violence this year. And it is such a tragedy that he committed the worst offenses against his one time companion, and best friend, Harry Potter."
Ron felt a dreadful rage building inside him, but had yet to act when he heard a faint, incomprehensible attempt at speech from the man on the bed. Eyes widening to an impossible size, the reporter spoke as fast as she could to her quill. Without bothering to look, Ron silenced her and destroyed her parchment as he sat down and stared intently at Harry, hoping. Behind him, Hermione shouted for Dobby, Cleo darted out of the room, Skeeter scrambled for her wand, and Hedwig landed at Harry's side. None of it affected the intense stare he was focusing on his friend's face. Hermione ordered Dobby to remove Skeeter, and rushed to join Ron. The fireplace roared as nigh the entire staff and Order tumbled into the hospital wing. Cleo bounded back to the bed and began nuzzling Harry's ear.
Tension grew as they saw his eyes begin to move below their lids. Slowly his breathing grew deeper, stronger, not strong enough to call healthy, but a thousand times better than it had been. Even Madame Pomfrey hovered, unsure what to do.
Finally his eyes cracked a fraction, and his voice was like a wisp of wind.
Harry felt himself begin to rise out of the mist of his mind, without knowing why it was important he do so. All he knew as he fought upwards was that it was important. Time was amorphous in the mist and his only judge of its passing was that the unconscious need to rise was beginning to fade. It was no longer crucial he return to clarity.
But he continued to rise, despite the apathy he felt.
A wall rose to fight him, keeping him down in the mist, and he fought it, cursing to himself as it shattered. The pain was exquisite, swirling in clouds around him, invisible and horrendous as they brushed against him.
The rising continued, no longer a fight, and he felt like he was floating, exhausted through the clouds that grew less agonizing as he went. He waited uncertainly when he stopped a second time, probing for any obstruction, and found none. Unmoving, he recognized by sensation where he was. The bed beneath him helped him feel his own body, and he registered the sensations up the length of his flesh, finding pains and scars that he half-remembered, each a tribute to his growing confusion.
Control over his body returned slowly, but once it included his eyes, he forced them open. It seemed there were dozens of people around his bed, likely in the hospital wing of Hogwarts.
Summoning every ounce of strength he managed to breathe out two words.
Four hours later Harry awoke again, having collapsed just after managing words.
This time he woke fully, and a fire burned behind his eyes as he looked at his former friends sitting beside him. Opposite them sat Remus and Severus, but it was only to the Professor that he spoke, "Energy Draft?"
"At your elbow."
He drained the vial and shuddered at the manufactured potency that revived him to a tolerable state. "Why are they here Severus? And where are the others?"
"You don't want us here, Harry?" Hermione nearly sobbed.
"Of course not." He said with all the vengeance he could muster. "My three greatest detractors? I'll be fine with out you here."
Remus jumped at the shout and managed to corral the others out of the hospital wing. They argued and fought, but the last of the marauders succeeded, and Harry was left in silence with the Potions Master. With a sigh Harry collapsed back onto the pillows, winded and woozy. Severus waited, practically omnipotent, until the world had stopped moving before he spoke.
"Harry, what do you think is happening?"
"I'm in the hospital wing, recovering from a hell of a fight."
"Yes. What else do you know?"
"My agents, the people that have managed to realize I'm no more likely to turn to Voldemort than I am to turn into a flobberworm, including you, were told to find out who Voldemort's new mistress is, I'm about to be expelled, apparently we've found Lupin, and by the look on your face, something enormous has happened that I don't know."
"You've said that."
"Harry, you have been unconscious for almost a month, during that time a spell you cast collapsed because we could not find Lupin, causing a magical backlash that nearly killed you. You should be dead. You aren't. You have been captured by Voldemort, have fought him, and have reappeared in the Great Hall. Your 'agents' sans myself, Draco, and those who summoned to Voldemort's manor staged a rescue operation once we had found you. Do you remember any of this?"
Harry was silent for a moment, brows furrowed as if thinking harder would bring the memories to light. "I remember a flash of light, several. I remember pain. And….images, but I don't understand them. They aren't memories, they're like copies of memories. Everything is blurry though."
"Will it help if I tell you that you manufactured the world's animosity towards you?"
Harry's eyes went wide as pieces of the mystery began to fall together, creating a bewildering and inexplicable history that did not match what he thought was truth. "It does. But not enough."
"Yes, I expected as much."
"Severus, explain this."
"You don't have the strength." Severus temporized. Harry just waited quietly until the man's resolve wore down and he conceded, "First, tell me what you believe occurred."
"It was after Sirius went through the veil. I decided to fight. I found a spell in the restricted section…." It took a long time for Harry to work together what had happened to him. Eventually Severus used legilemency to fill in the holes. Finally he had a sketch of the events that had brought him to the present. "And….after that….the spell….that's all real isn't it? What they did? What I did?" Severus nodded. "All of this, it came back to me while I was in the dungeons. In one big flash. All at once I was seeing it, but it's too buggering much now. I don't understand."
"You remember it….like that?"
"Yes. Severus, what? You know something else, don't you?"
"Yes Harry. You're wrong. Your memories are, that is. It will take some time for you to recognize what I am going to tell you as truth, and not what your mind believes is true. I did find you in the kitchens, trying to kill yourself. I gave you a potion early that day, expecting, at the Headmaster's recommendation that you would be unstable. You did see Remus, you did go to the department of mysteries and stare into the veil. But during that you, you…No. I'll explain that piece later. Your memory of the conversation with myself and Lupin is somewhat accurate. The spell does not exist, or I should say, did not exist. You did a great deal of reading, and found references to similar spells, but decided to endanger your life by creating your own. Miraculously it worked. You created a spell that could subtly change how others felt about you. It was very simple in how it affected others—a shadow of doubt in you, nothing more, but what it did to you was tremendous.
"It ensured that you would unconsciously take the steps necessary to make the world think you had betrayed them. Remus and I helped where we could, just as you asked us to. We never used legilemency to teach you though. That's impossible. You came back to us, two days after the full moon, knowing things that you shouldn't have known, able to do things that should have been impossible. We have yet to find the explanation for it. You never gave it to us.
"Just before you vanished a month ago, the spell faltered. I had hoped that you would be able to clarify why, but I must assume you have no recollection of it. You must have collapsed somewhere. Draco found you, and was then found a few moments later by his father, forcing him to bring you to the Dark Lord. The three weeks in between should have ended your life. And the spell. It did neither. Eight days ago, you regained consciousness, reportedly after Bellatrix Lestrange entered your cell to torture you. Yes, she is alive. It was 'something you could not stand', I assume, because your spell collapsed, causing a wave of magic to force itself down your throat as you retook it. You were knocked unconscious after retaking it, and your memories.
"You should be dead Harry. A dozen times over."
"But I remember it like I said. Not like that. And what's the final piece you said…that you'd….explain…..lat…er…."
Severus touched the boy's forehead, then scanned his magic. He had exhausted himself again, falling asleep even as he spoke.
Remus, Ron and Hermione waited outside the doors until Severus emerged two hours later.
"No. He's resting for now. He fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, its best to leave him that way. His animals seem to be watching him. Remus, please inform Madame Pomfrey that he needs to be monitored constantly for the next few days. Also give her this; it's a list of the potions I gave him during our conversation."
Remus nodded, slipping the paper into his cloak. "How much did you explain to him Severus?"
"Almost all of it. Nothing past his retaking the magic"
"No, I avoided it at first, and had no time to explain it after."
Hermione and Ron had both been listening intently, but dropped their jaws at the mention of Harry's Godfather. "What about Sirius?" Hermione asked fervently.
"He's the reason Harry realized that he had to fight." Remus answered in a whisper.
"Harry knows that. I've heard him, talking to himself this year. Its always to Sirius. He's fighting to avenge him."
"True, Miss Granger, but not for the reason you think. Harry is not fighting in remembrance of his Godfather who fell through the veil. He is fighting because his Godfather, who he saw fall back out of the veil."
The windows at St. Elmo's mental institute overlooked a quiet pond, replete with harmless nature. The windows themselves were barred and magically protected, though framed with a delicate sheer white curtain. It was the best source of light in the depressing room, because, despite every effort, no wizard had ever discovered a way to make a cell seem truly cheerful. There was always a shadow of pain across the tiled floors, small, non-descript bed, and magically softened walls.
St. Elmo's was not as famous as St. Mungo's, one of the reasons for its choice. Its doctors were unstoppably professional, and never spoke, even among themselves, of the identity of patients with obviously changed names, or those who had not bothered. Their care was without equal though, and they continued to quietly care for the witches and wizards for whom the rest of the world had given up hope.
Patient 614 stood in his room at the window, though he never really looked at anything. It was speculated that the feeling of fresh air drew him to it. He had stood there since midmorning, when a nurse had brought him a nutritive potion. Now mid-afternoon, the nurse returned, and handed him another vial. At her prompting, the patient drank it, dropping the vial to the ground. Its shards flew across the floor, just as they had every other time. She shook her head as she spelled them into the waste bin and exited. Glancing back before she closed the door, she saw him return to the window.
The doctors had little hope for him. It would not stop or lessen the care he received, but Mr. Black was, in all probability beyond hope. She shook her head, locked the door, and pushed her cart to the next door.
Ok. It has been a while. Real life, unfotunatetly has to take precedence over plot bunnies and my mind's wanderings. But, Happy New Year.
This is the end of Checkmate. This is the first half of the story. The second half's name has changed so many times its ridiculous, but will be started, hopefully soon. Checkmate was about Harry being in a position without any moves to take, throwing the board across the room. But now the chess game is going to start again, and there will be proper moves and everything.
The second half is going to be more team-sport than this, though, there is still the issue of Harry trusting anyone. Every plot point that I haven't answered yet will continue in the next half.
Also, I know I update rarely. Sorry, really, I regret that I don't update regularly, but this is not my passion, just a hobby, so when life calls me away, I have to answer it. I doubt that will ever chang.
Watch for it, and thank you for reading. Oh, and if there's anything you'd like to see in teh second half, drop a review with it, maybe I'll be inspired. ;-)