A/N: Well, this comes as a suprise. I honestly wasn't expecting myself to write much more of this, having dedicated myself much more fully to my new fic, "Of Cabbages and Kings"... but inspiration came, and who am I to deny it? I hope the chapter doesn't disappoint, despite the long break. If all goes well, you MAY be seeing more of this... have a little bit of chap 7 written... but Cabbages & Kings comes first, I'm afraid.
me directly after breakfast.
Password is Cockroach Clusters
Harry frowned as he stared at the letter sitting innocuously on his plate. Why on earth would Albus Dumbledore be calling him up? Harry was not a part of the Order, despite all his protestations, and Dumbledore persisted in his foolish belief that an uninformed Harry is a happy Harry. Personally, Harry felt Dumbledore kept him uninformed to keep him a tool, a weapon, and avoid the possibility of seeing him as an equal.
Albus Dumbledore did not have equals.
Then was it about the battle? No, Dumbledore had already had words with him about that, and it surely could not be for his time in the dungeons, as Dumbledore had never caught him out before. And for some reason, he felt that Draco would not betray him. Maybe it was about his mysterious absence from the Dorm room that night? No, because surely Dumbledore would have already brought it up. And Dumbledore had never shown any worry about his lack of application in classes…
Shrugging, Harry merely folded the note and put it in his pocket before returning to his meal, sharing a slight grin with the blonde across the hall. Whatever it was that Dumbledore wanted, at least he had some support now.
Twenty minutes later found Harry sitting across the desk from clearly disturbed Dumbledore. Gently stroking Fawkes, Harry watched impassively as Dumbledore searched through his draw to reveal a white envelope, with a broken wax seal in the form of an emerald snake.
"What is that, Headmaster?" Harry asked, playing the expected role of the agreeable student. "I've never seen anyone seal their letters like that before."
Genially, but with a hint of steel to his voice, Dumbledore replied, "That was what I was about to ask you, child. Are you sure you have never seen this letter before in your life?"
"Positive," Harry replied.
Eyes narrowed in distrust, Dumbledore opened the envelope once more and began to read the missive out loud.
The success of your most recent battle is entirely due to one Harry Potter, indeed we were hardly bereft by the absence of your order. Otherwise, the organization of your teachers was most appalling, and the aurors were a lamentable mess.
I remain your obedient servant,
"Now, Master Potter, I ask you again. Did you have anything to do with this?"
"No, of course not!" Harry replied angrily, "How DARE you suggest that!"
"It is no secret that you have long wanted to have a larger role in this war, even among your peers. Young Ronald is frequently mentioning your complaints and your attempt to sabotage his command on the train last week. And now we have a letter from a mysterious source praising you and degrading him, he who is supported by almost all is peers?"
"His command? WHAT command? He wasn't doing anything but talk of how wonderful he was. If it wasn't for me, half your students would be dead! However, that you think I would stoop so low as to go running to you for help… headmaster, what do you take me for?"
"A child," Dumbledore retorted coldly. "A child who will do anything to get what he wants. And I don't know how you learnt about the Spectre, but know that the Order will not respond to your threats. S.S. is dead, and you would be wise not to repeat this childishness, Harry."
Angered, Harry rose from his seat to storm out the door, only to be stopped by Dumbledore's last words. "Oh, and Harry? You will be staying in your dorm for the entirety of the next mission, if I have to chain you there myself. You may go."
Over the next few weeks, Harry noticed several more letters, each sealed with that distinctive emerald serpent and signed "S.S." Whoever this S.S. was, it seemed to delight in insulting and threatening the majority of the teachers, Gryffindor house, and those aurors stationed on Hogwarts grounds. Indeed, Harry saw several notes directed to Ron, who seemed to hate Harry more with each missive.
Indeed, the whole school seemed to be more angered with Harry than normal, as if they too suspected him for the cause. And he couldn't deny that it made sense - Harry was conspicuous in his lack of missives, and the positive light in which those received seemed to hold him. And no matter how he responded, no one seemed to believe him.
But as the weeks progressed, the letters began to be joined by other strange phenomenon. Classrooms were mysteriously flooded, or staircases redirected. A flock of Cornish pixies was let loose in the Gryffindor dormitory. All the torches on the second floor corridor were snuffed out, so that not even Dumbledore was able to restore them, despite his utilization of Hogwarts' magic itself. And occasionally, a deep and frightening laugh could be heard in the lower reaches of the school.
Though initially many of these occurrences were blamed on Peeves, it soon became clear that not even the most powerful of poltergeists was capable of spelling two dozen suits of armor into a ceaseless recital of "Mac the Knife", let alone forcing the enchanted ceiling of the great all to appear continually stormy. No, it appeared that the school was dealing with something far more sinister. But what?
Rumours began to arise among the students, about a creature called the Spectre. Half-man, half-shadows, he was thought to be the enemy of all children and followers of the light, a darkness to worthy that of Voldemort. Apparently, he had appeared at Hogwarts once before, with the same system of threatening notes, and one student vanished forever.
Ronald became a hero again, as he recited all he could learn from his older brother Bill, who was a prefect when the last reign of the Spectre came to an end. Ron, of course, claimed that his brother had killed the Spectre, and that Ron himself could easily destroy this imitator, but Harry just snorted and rolled his eyes. He had talked to Bill himself, and Bill knew nothing more than that the Spectre had simply stopped haunting. But wit his place among the students as it was, he knew none would listen.
No, Harry determined to stay far away from all this talk of Spectres and demons and less savory things, spending much of his time with Draco. Though he was not permitted in Hogsmeade - for safety reasons, of course - he and Draco had many chances to be alone together, where they would play quidditch or chess, or merely sit and talk. To Harry's surprise, he found himself revealing information he had never told anyone but his angel. He told Draco of his horrible childhood, of how much he had needed Sirius, how terribly his death had hurt. And Draco, in turn, told Harry of a childhood with fake smiles at day and cold sneers at night, where nothing he did was ever good enough.
Though Harry sometimes wished for the simple comfort of his Angel, in Draco he found someone he could have fun with as well as confide in, someone who could understand his danger from Voldemort and desire for revenge, Draco being high on the wanted list himself. And if Draco tended to expect Harry to follow his lead, well, it was the least he could do in return for having such a good friend.
However, Harry couldn't help missing his Angel, who had understood him perfectly, who had treated him with the respect and trust that no one, not even Draco, had ever shown. But it was Harry's fault, and he must live with the consequences. It didn't stop the pain, but it helped him keep going.
He was reminiscing on his short day with his Angel, in fact, when he found his feet almost taking the road to his secret chamber. Turning away, he heard the voice of Mundungus Fletcher, one of the order's representatives in the school, and crept closer to listen. "Like yellow parchment is his skin. A gaping hole serves as the eye that never grew… if you don't watch out, his fangs will tear the skin from your very bones!" Mundungus leered, and the girls gathered around his feet leapt back in fear.
Smirking, Mundungus opened his mouth to continue, only to find a hand that grabbed is arm and spun him to face… McGonagal. She seemed to have come out of nowhere, like the very Spectre of which they spoke. "Those who speak of what they know, find too late that prudent silence is wise. Mundungus Fletcher, the Spectre is nothing to joke about, and nor should you be entertaining these young girls' fancies as it is. The headmaster and staff have enough to worry about."
With that, she turned and strode away, leaving Harry and the girls stunned to silence. So… there really was a Spectre? And if so, how did McGonagall know him?
Not for the first time, a thought drifted into Harry's mind… but he shoved it away before it became too clear. He would NOT think that! Angry at himself, he strode confidently down the hall and past the girls, not stopping until he reached the relative safety of his common room. Suddenly, the halls seemed entirely too dark.
Not long afterwards, Harry and Draco were enjoying a picnic near the lake. With september drawing to a close, colder days were drawing near, and both were eager to spend time in the sun while it still remained. However, Harry could not help but feel slightly awkward around Draco, despite all that the other boy had done for him. Draco was a good friend, he appreciated him, treated him like he was important, did with him all the things he yearned to do... and yet, there was always something missing.
Then, as Harry was joking about the new Defence teacher, he noticed Draco staring at him. Uncomfortable, his voice slowly petered out, while he shifted in his seat. What was it that Draco wanted at him? Why was he staring at him?
When the other boy leaned forward and kissed him, Harry was astounded. Quickly breaking the kiss and backing away slightly, he incredulously asked, "What was that, Draco?"
Confused, and not a little bit hurt, the other boy tried to move closer, making Harry back away further. "What was what, Harry?" he asked softly, though failing to conceal his irritation. "I take you out for a romantic picnic, what do you think it was? Surely you're not that oblivious. Now," he added, smiling graciously, "Come back over here and let me show you how a gentleman should treat his love."
Backing away further, brow furrowed in confusion, Harry stated, "I don't understand. We're friends, that's all we are. And i like you, Draco, but i thought you respected me enough not to tell me what to do." He tried to maintain his calm, but his annoyance leaked out towards the end. Surely Draco knew that Harry needed to make his own decisions? Who did Draco think he was, kissing him like that?
"But, Harry..." Draco wheedled, "You know you want me, I can see it in your eyes, in how your body," he stroked Harry's thigh, sending involuntary shivers up his spine, "Responds to my very touch. All I'm doing is giving you what you want."
Before Harry could retort, he was silenced by Draco's final words: "And I love you, Harry." He seemed so very honest...
Confusion swelled in Harry's heart. On the one hand, Draco was nice to him, and he wanted his friend to be happy. On the other hand... "I'm sorry, Draco," Harry said quietly, lifting himself to his feet. "I can't discuss this with you right now."
He felt Draco's gaze on his back all the way to the castle.
Subconsciously wandering the halls, Harry supposed he shouldn't be surprised when he found himself at his room in the dungeons. Where else was there for him to go? He had thought that Draco was there for him, but suddenly he viewed everything he had ever said in search of ulterior motives. Was this why Draco had talked to him that day, to win another notch in his belt? Oh, Harry knew that Draco had had many partners, of both sexes... but he had never shown anyone the affection he had shown Harry...
"Oh Angel, I'm so confused," he murmured aloud, though he had little hope his Angel would hear, let alone care. No, he had destroyed all chance of that weeks ago, when he allowed his foolish initial shock to come between he and his truest friend. But nevertheless, he continued to talk, as if the very act of airing his problems could help him solve them.
"I just don't know what to do. I mean, I like Draco, I really do. He's been nice to me, and i so wanted a friend... without you, I have nobody, and everyone needs somebody, don't they angel? Even at the Dursleys, I used to have Jim to talk to, even if he was only a broken teddy, but now i don't know where we stand. He says he loves me, but how can I believe that? Nobody's ever loved me, nobody, and how can I trust him, a Malfoy? is he just using me? Or am I being too doubting..."
He talked until his throat grew sore, whereupon he sat with his back against the cold silver of the mirror and sobbed. He was almost asleep when he heard a voice echo through the stone chamber. "Oh, my child..."
"Angel, is that you?" he asked, sitting upright. No response. "Angel, can you hear me?" The room seemed to grow smaller around him, the silence almost audible. "Angel, please, if you're there, give me a sign, something, anything! I know I was cruel, I know, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, I couldn't mean it, appearance isn't important, you know that, I'm so sorry, so sorry, won't you please forgive me? Oh Angel, don't hate me, I couldn't bear it if you hated me..."
"Oh, my child," he heard again, sadly echoing from the grey stone. Then... yes! The mirror opened behind him, and he stood just in time to be caught in a pair of familiarly warm arms, sleeved and gloved in purest black. "Oh, my child," the figure repeated once more, tenderly cradling the younger man in his arms as if he were much younger. "How could I ever hate you?"
Review Responses: (If any of you are still reading this. lol.)
Lotrox: Yes, I've seen the film, but I want to see it on stage! However much we love our Gerry, it's just not quite the same. Also, I see myself writing two endings, so as to satisfy both groups of people... but as to which is the REAL ending, well, you'll juist have to find out when we get there :P
Shelik: Why thankyou, I'm honoured. However, I do recommend you check out my faves, as they are universally better than me :)
King Mana: Thankyou! And no, Snape's not horrid looking enough to be a phantom just as he is.
Little Lotte Daae: Am glad you like it. Yay for random HP/PotO crossovers :D
Lady Artemis Cosmos: I resisted the urge to say something sacrastic. Aren't you proud of me? And yes, this is based on Phantom, which is the point. Am glad you like it.
Serena23: Thankyou, and no, am not updating very frequently. Yes, am horrible. Bad, naughty Morauko. No cookie for me :(