Harry woke to the sensation of soft, warm sheets against his skin. Cocooned as he was on a soft mattress, his head resting on a fluffy pillow, Harry wanted to just lose himself under the covers and drift back off to sleep. Something, however, kept him from doing so. Something was missing. The knowledge of what it could be, eluded and disturbed him. It lurked at the edge of his consciousness until, in a rush of memories, he knew. Hedwig was gone.
An icy hand seemed to clutch at Harry's heart. He'd only had her for less than a year, but Hedwig had been so much more than just a pet. She was his companion, his confidant. When everyone else had betrayed him, Hedwig had remained loyal. That loyalty had cost her life.
She had appeared in the mirror chamber and put herself between Quirrell and him as the professor had cast the killing curse. Hedwig had died to save him. Harry spared himself from dwelling on it further as he became more cognizant of his surroundings.
He was in a room. By the echoes around him, it seemed to be quite large. It was filled with odours familiar to him, healing draughts and soap. Having spent the last two terms studying here, he easily recognised it as the hospital wing.
To his left, he could hear the quiet breathing of two sleeping children. Ron Weasley's snores were easily identifiable as was the expensive bath soap that Draco used regularly. From the sound, Weasley was likely in the next bed with Draco curled up in the chair between them.
On his right, he could hear Neville talking to Professor Dumbledore; he could also smell muggle soap. It was Hermione.
"But Professor," Harry heard Neville question the headmaster uncertainly. "I was unconscious. How could I have stopped Professor Quirrell from killing Harry and me?"
"No one can be sure, my boy," replied the headmaster in a calming tone. "Severus said that when he arrived, you were both unconscious with the stone in your hand. Were I to guess, I would say that after Professor Quirrell overpowered you initially, Harry came in and distracted him. Then, while he was otherwise engaged, you woke up and were somehow instinctively able to use the stone in your defence."
Harry schooled his expression to stay neutral as he listened. From what he'd just heard, Snape had lied to Dumbledore about what had really happened in the chamber. He had no idea what it was all about, but the potions-master was keeping some awfully big secrets.
"What about the stone, Professor?" came Hermione's voice; she was in the chair between his and Neville's beds. "What happened to it?"
"Alas, it had to be destroyed. Fear not, however, though Nicholas and his wife will eventually die, as all things must. He has enough of the elixir in his possession to put his affairs in order."
"Harry," Dumbledore spoke his name as he approached the bed. "I'm happy to see you're awake, good morning! How are you feeling?"
"Alright, thanks," Harry replied. My side hurts a bit."
"The side effect of having several ribs broken, I'm afraid," explained the headmaster. "Madam Pomfrey was able to heal them straight away but they'll remain sore for a week or so. Poppy says that it is your body's way of letting you know that it's not wise to let yourself be kicked like that."
"Yes sir," replied Harry.
"Are you hungry, my boy?"
Resizing that he was, Harry answered, "famished sir."
The headmaster pushed the bedside table in front of Harry as the boy sat up against his pillows. Dumbledore tapped the surface of the table twice and Harry's nose suddenly filled with delicious aromas. Just like in the Great Hall, the tray instantly became laden with food. While trying not to seem rude, Harry couldn't help but to attack the food before him with vigour.
Several minutes and three-quarters of the food later, Harry rested against the pillows. He felt comfortably sated as the headmaster pulled the tray aside and sat on the edge of Harry's bed.
"I don't want to press you after your ordeal," Dumbledore said apologetically. "But there are some questions I would like to ask you." Not knowing why, Harry felt a bit unnerved by the headmaster's request. He nodded slightly and opened his inner eye to try reading the professor's intentions. Much to his surprise, nothing happened. He couldn't sense Dumbledore's signature, Draco's, Hermione's or his own. It was as if he'd lost his sixth sense.
"What do you remember of your encounter with Professor Quirrell?" Dumbledore asked, regaining Harry's attention.
The boy debated telling the truth, but Snape had already created a story that the headmaster believed. To say anything different would invite too many questions that Harry didn't care to answer.
"I'm not sure I can help much," Harry said at length. "I'd got Hermione and Draco to go back and check on Ron while I waited for Neville to come back. After they left, I heard a noise from the table and found that the potions had replaced themselves. I got anxious and took the potion that let me pass through the flames and went after him. When I got through the door, I heard Professor Quirrell and another man's voice. The next thing I remember was waking up here a few minutes ago."
There was a pregnant pause after he'd finished where Harry was beginning to worry that the headmaster didn't believe him. He was relieved seconds later when the professor gripped his hand tightly and went back over to Neville's bed.
"Well my boy," said Dumbledore to Neville. "Poppy says there is no reason you can't rejoin your housemates. Why don't you get dressed and Miss Granger can walk you back to the Merlin tower. Hermione pulled the blinds around Neville's bed and came over to stand beside Harry.
There was an uncomfortable pause as Hermione just stood there, saying nothing for a few moments, then she spoke. "Look Harry," she said. "I'm sorry for the other night but you've got to understand. Quirrell nearly killed you. Without your regular sight you're just too easy a target."
"You really believe that don't you?" growled Harry. "If I hadn't shown up, Ron would have died," he hissed. "And Neville…" again, Harry held his tongue, knowing that Dumbledore was close. "Neville might not have had time to use the stone. I'm blind, Hermione, one of my senses doesn't work. That doesn't make me an invalid. If you want to be my friend, you'd best remember that."
Hermione stood over him, obviously wanting to say more, but Neville chose that moment to say that he was ready to go. With a quick goodbye to him, Draco and Ron, the girl went over and held on to Neville's arm as she and Dumbledore began walking with him back to the Merlin tower.
Harry let himself slide back down and lay his head against the pillows. He liked Hermione. For the most part, she was a very smart girl, but when it came to his blindness, unfortunately, she nearly as bad as Dumbledore.
"She'll come around, Harry," said Draco from his armchair on the other side of Harry's bed. "Hermione means well, but I think she's a bit of a mother hen when it comes to you." Harry heard the scuff of the chair as Draco pushed right up beside the bed. "I'm glad that old windbag left with her," the blond continued. "I don't' know how long I could have faked being asleep with him bouncing around the room like that.
"He really isn't that bad," returned Harry weekly. "How long have I been here anyway? It feels like days."
"It has," replied Draco. "Severus brought you up here three days ago. Nev was up and around the next morning but you were in worse shape. Between the burns on your chest and the beating Quirrell gave you…" Draco paused; he was lost in the memories of what had happened just a few days before.
Reminded of the charm by his friends words, Harry reached up tentatively to touch the spot where the pendant had always lay. It was gone, but in its place was a scar about the size of a pence. Madam Pomfrey had healed him as best she could but even so, he could feel the outline of the pendant burned into his skin for the rest of his life. Oddly, he could also feel the image of the coiled serpent inside it as well.
"It's not fair really," Draco grumbled. "Why do you get all the cool scars?"
Grinning to himself, Harry reminded, "I don't think you want one like this. It's not worth it." Cocking his head to listen, Harry asked, "Where's Madam Pomfrey?"
Sounding a bit perplexed, Draco replied, "She's in her office. Surely you can tell that with your…"
"It hasn't worked since I got rid of the charm. Sal told me that there was a chance it would happen, the same with my magic too. He never did say if it was permanent or not."
Harry paused, it hurt to hear it again, but he wanted to know what Draco had seen. In a quiet voice he asked, "What did you see in the chamber? What happened to… to Hedwig?"
Taking a deep breath, the blond began to explain. "We went back to check on the Weasel, like you said. All he could do was whine about his arm. I don't see how you can work in the hospital wing. All that moaning and complaining – it's…"
"Er… right. Anyway, Hedwig suddenly shows up with Severus then wraps herself around my shoulders and goes to sleep. Uncle was absolutely beside himself when we told him everything. He docked Hermione fifty points for Gryffindor stupidity over her little stunt with the body-bind. When we told him you were waiting for Neville in the fire-room, he lit out like a scalded cat and told us to stay with Weasel… of course we followed him."
"I have a name, you know," growled Ron sleepily from the other bed.
"Right… The Weasel looked fine, so we went after Severus. Uncle had turned off the fires in the room somehow and neither he nor you were there. We heard voices coming from the next room and snuck in."
The blond paused again, and heaved a slightly shuddering sigh. "When we saw you with your foot on Neville's neck… It's all my fault," he said so quietly that only Harry could hear. "You were standing there, in so much pain, fighting the charm. I hated myself then, I still do. You were my first real friend and when father started playing his sick little game, I just stood by."
Sensing Draco about to go off on another tangent, Harry groped until he found his friend's hand and grasped it tightly. "It's alright, Draco," he soothed. "I'm fine now. Just go on, what else did you see?"
"Well it was then that Hedwig leapt off my shoulders and started flying crazy circles over us. Severus was beside himself trying to break through the shield that Quirrell and that… thing on his head put up. When he told you to kill Neville…"
Draco paused and took a deep breath. "There was smoke coming off your chest. Hermione and I started yelling to you and Severus cast so many spells trying to get through that he burned himself pretty badly. When Quirrell started kicking you, we all lost it. Hedwig vanished and reappeared between you right when the professor was casting…"
"I know," choked Harry. "What happened to her?"
"She spat something at Quirrell right as the spell hit her. She was thrown back at you and went all limp," Draco continued raggedly. The blond had become dependant on the coatl's company, nearly as much as Harry had, in the past few weeks. "We all screamed at that. Quirrell just fell back, clutching his face. We couldn't see much, but it really looked like it was melting right off of the bones."
"Her venom," supplied Harry in a hollow voice. "My book said it's like acid."
"When Quirrell fell, the shield did too," Draco went on. "We all came running over. Neville was starting to stir, but you were badly hurt. Severus picked you up straight away and ran with you all the way to the hospital wing. Hermione and I stayed back to help Neville… Here," he said, pushing a delicate chain into Harry's hand. "I had Severus look at it. He says all the magic is gone. I thought maybe you'd want it."
Harry held the cold metal in his hand. Unable to sense magic like he normally should, the boy still felt certain that Draco was right. The charm's magic was gone, and perhaps his own as well.
He'd known the risk. Sal had explained it to him down in the chamber. To save Neville and free himself, Harry had taken that chance. Now his sixth sense had quit working. Only time would tell if it was to return. Still, Harry knew to be rid of the charm's influence he would do it all the same way again if he had to. They talked a bit longer until Madam Pomfrey came out and pronounced both Ron and Harry ready to go back to their dorms. Tonight was the end of year feast and neither boy wanted to miss it.
Harry, Draco, Neville and Hermione entered the great hall together that evening. The room was decked out in silver and green, celebrating Slytherin's winning the house cup for the seventh year in a row. A huge banner showing the Slytherin serpent covered the wall behind the high table.
When they walked ink, there was a sudden hush. The hall was full of students and as the friends made their way to their seats, Harry could hear dozens of whispered comments by the assembled children. Most of the quiet conversations featured Neville. Fortunately, Dumbledore chose that moment to rise and the quiet babble died away.
"Another year gone," said the headmaster cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old mans wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into this delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were… you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts.
"Now as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus. In fifty place is Merlin's Crest with three hundred points; in forth place is Gryffindor with three hundred and ten points; in third, Hufflepuff has three hundred fifty points; Ravenclaw has four hundred twenty and Slytherin with four hundred fifty points."
A storm of cheers broke out from the Slytherin table and from the Merlin's as well, to a lesser extent. Harry clapped along with Draco, happy for his friend.
"Yes, yes, well done Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events must be taken into account."
The room went suddenly quiet and Harry could swear he heard Draco's knuckles crack as he squeezed both hands into tight fists with nervousness.
"Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Lets see – yes.
"First to Mr. Ron Weasley – for the best played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor fifty points."
The Gryffindor table seemed to explode in a massive round of cheers. Harry applauded with the other Merlins, but was sure Draco wasn't participating.
When silence had come again, Dumbledore went on.
"Second – to Miss Hermione Granger… for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."
Again came a roar of approval from the Gryffindor table. Above the din, Harry could almost swear he heard Draco growling.
"Third – to Mr. Neville Longbottom," continued the headmaster, making the room go silent again. "For pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor house sixty points."
The din was deafening. The Gryffindors were beside themselves; they'd outmatched Slytherin for points and now stood to take the house cup. Draco and his housemates from Slytherin, however, howled in disapproval. Harry happened to agree with them, Dumbledore had engineered the pointes so Gryffindor could take the cup."
"Forth," Dumbledore's words again stilled the room, as he wasn't done yet. "To Mr. Harry Potter, though he inadvisably put himself at great risk by following his friends, he did lend aid to a fallen companion. I award Ravenclaw forty points."
There was dead silence in the hall for a few moments until the Ravenclaw table broke out in cheers of their own. It was unprecedented; Ravenclaw and Gryffindor were tied in points for the house cup! For the first time, Harry was glad that his inner eye was on the blink. The sheer rage that must be coming off his blond friend would have likely knocked him out.
"Finally – To Draco Malfoy, for standing with his friends regardless of the personal cost," both Draco and Harry flinched at Dumbledore's words, Lucius would not be pleased when word reached him of his son's activities. "I award Slytherin house ten points."
Harry couldn't believe it, a three, no… a four-way tie! Not only would Slytherin now have the four hundred sixty points that the other houses held, but Merlin crest had matched them as well. Harry was happy that Slytherin had been included, but still felt that the headmaster had slighted them by awarding Draco's help with so little points.
"Which means," the headmaster went on. "We need a little change of decoration."
He clapped his hands. Rather than vanishing, the Slytherin banner resized itself to make room for one from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw to reappear on either side of it, each of them outlined in blue, signifying Merlin's crest. The hangings all around the hall alternated between the four house colours.
Harry prodded Draco out of his funk and even got the blond to congratulate Hermione and Neville for their house's success. After that, the friends relaxed and had one of the most enjoyable nights that Harry could remember.
Harry sat alone on the parapet of the astronomy tower playing his flute. It was very early in the morning of their last day until summer break. All of his things were packed and in just a few hours, they would be boarding the train back home. He couldn't wait to be with Aunt Petunia and Dudley again but there would be quite a lot here that he would miss.
The boy played no particular tune; he just let his fingers flow over the holes and let feeling translate into music. Hedwig had loved when Harry played, she would sway and dance in her own way to the song of the flute. Memories of her played through his head and the tears began to fall again.
"You mourn Hedwig."
Harry didn't jump at the sudden voice from just behind him. He'd been expecting Sal to come here, hoping he would. He felt a connection to the old wizard that he couldn't explain, but felt strongly in any case. Harry didn't answer Sal's question, he didn't trust himself to say anything yet, and it hurt too much. He just sat and continued to play.
Sal listened in silence for several minutes. Trying again to draw the boy out, he said, "You're good. Wizards today rely on magical instruments far too much anymore. It's good to hear someone playing honestly. I used to be quite the singer you know."
"Thank the gods you reserved it for when you were bathing," came a voice from a little farther along the wall.
Startled, Harry dropped the flute to his lap and asked, "Who's there?"
"Harry," said Sal in mock formality. "May I introduce Ric, fellow custodian of Hogwarts and a brother to me. Ric, Meet Harry Potter."
Harry put his hand out politely and felt it enveloped in a smooth, firm grip. "How do you do, Lad?" said Ric in a warm, rich voice. "Sal has only wonderful things to say about you."
" Er… thanks," replied Harry. Something about the two seemed so right and familiar. It nagged at the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite put it together.
"Has your second sight shown any sign of returning?" asked Sal.
Shaking his head as much in wonder that the old wizard knew about his loss as to answer the question, Harry replied, "No, I think it may be gone for good."
"A bit dramatic aren't we?" asked Sal with a grin as he silently moved the boy's cane several feet from where he'd left it. "I wouldn't worry, Harry. The magic is still there within you. Give yourself some time to recover and everything will be as it was."
"Not everything," Harry mumbled as he rubbed his cheek, remembering the feel of Hedwig's feathers on hi skin.
"You miss her terribly," Sal commented quietly. "Hedwig put her self between you and that curse for a reason; she wanted you to live. Grieve her lad it's to be expected. Nevertheless, don't stop living in the process. She would want you to move on when the time was right."
Heaving a heavy sigh, Harry lifted his flute again and played it a bit longer. He understood what Sal was saying in his head. He knew why Hedwig had done what she had. His heart, however, didn't care. He missed her and wished for nothing more than that she was with him now. A thought occurred to him and he put the flute back on his lap again.
"Sal," he said. "If you know someone and trust them pretty much, but then find out that he worked for Voldemort in the last war. How can you know if he can be trusted? How would I know?"
"This is Severus you're speaking of," Sal guessed. Harry nodded. "He's a bitter man, Harry. The events of his life have conspired against him. He ended up making several bad choices in his youth. It's all a part of being human.
"I also know that near the end of the war, Snape came back to the school seeking Dumbledore's help. I know that he said he was sick of the slaughter, of Voldemort's madness. What I don't know is his sincerity. He's never had his loyalties tested after Voldemort's fall.
Sal put his hands on Harry's shoulders. You'll have to trust your instincts with him," he said softly. "In the end, that's all that anyone can do."
The old wizard glanced up at the sun as it began rising above the trees. "Morning has come, Harry. It's time you headed back to your tower."
Nodding, Harry reached for his cane. Not finding it where it should be, he groped around a bit, and then his hand stretched unerringly towards the missing cane. It leapt from the wall and slapped firmly into Harry's hand.
"Thanks Sal," Harry said, waving with the cane as he shuffled to the stairway leading down to the castle proper.
"You're welcome Harry," the old wizard called after him. Then in a quieter voice, almost to himself, he said, "It's only a matter of time, my boy."
Harry and his friends stood on the platform, waiting to board the train to King's Cross. His fears about his friends safety were eased a bit when he found out Neville had shared his fear with Dumbledore about Hermione's safety. The headmaster assured him that Ministry aurors had begun an investigation into the fire and that Hermione and her family would be watched.
It also came to light that Draco's father had received an owl from Wizard Family Services regarding the possible abuse of Draco. No charges were to be pressed, there was no evidence as of yet. Now, however, agents of the department would be making spot checks on the family to check on Draco's continued physical and mental health.
They were about to board the train when they heard Hagrid calling. Harry turned and found himself enveloped in the man's hairy coat.
"I'm goin' t' miss yeh Harry," said the half giant as he released the boy. "Now I know yeh can' see them, but I got a album put t'gether from people tha' knew yer parents. Maybe yer friends can tell yeh what they look like."
Harry took the book, touched that the groundskeeper had gone to so much trouble for him. Clutching the book to his chest, Harry gave Hagrid one last hug before climbing on board. Moments later, the whistle sounded and the Hogwarts express left the station bound for London.
Hogwarts felt empty now that the students had gone. The staff, free for the summer, had also left, leaving Mr. Filch, Ms Norris, and Professor Dumbledore as the sole occupants aside from the house elves.
Corridors that had been brightly lit just days before were now dark and cold. For the most part nothing stirred, nothing moved. In a small room, only accessible from the third floor corridor, sat an ornate mirror of exceptional beauty. By the look of it, one would think that it had sat untouched for an eternity. It lay undisturbed except for the soft breeze that seemed to come from nowhere.
Read and Review!
Alright kiddies, this is the final chapter of Blind Faith Book 1. I will be writing Druid's Apprentice book 2 for now. Review and tell me how much u want Blind Faith to continue, maybe it will speed me along.
Curls of Serenity: that's the plan. I will be working on book 2 of Druid's apprentice next, however.
Separatrix: yeah, I probably will remove that cliffie thing, I agree. As to Severus, he will be talking with Harry, next book.
Aqua Mage: Some of his friends get it, some don't… unfortunately more of his enemies see his potential than his friends do.
Top Quark: Not like snakes much?
Pimplidimpli:I had actually wanted to introduce fifth house in another story I'm working on, but I Agree in principal, it really doesn't add that much to the story. I will, however continue with it here and see how it develops.
I would answer all of you but there's forty-four reviews for this chapter alone!
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