IMPORTANT - PLEASE READ! THIS IS NOT A FULL CHAPTER!
I wanted to post a note to tell you all that I am rewriting Invictus, taking into account the events of Book 6. Inspiration has indeed returned, at least somewhat. I will be reposting each chapter with revisions; it will, however, take some time. After I'm done with that, I'll get on with actually continuing the story. I don't want to make any promises – life has been hectic and my interest in Invictus waxes and wanes – but I think I'll have better luck writing it this time around.
A friendly warning: the rewritten version of Invictus (or Invictus 2.0, as I've taken to calling it) will have some important differences from the original version, so you might want to reread it once I'm done. I haven't really gotten very far with the revisions – just two chapters, and neither have been reposted yet – but I'm on winter break, so I should have time to get the entire story changed about.
As Author's Notes aren't allowed by themselves, and I certainly don't want to get my account shut down, I've also posted what I've got written of Chapter 15 of this version of Invictus. This will be the last update of this version.
Chapter 15, or at least what I've written of it, is unbeta'd, unedited, unchecked, unquotified, etc. You have been warned. Here be monstrous spelling and grammar.
Bongo was more than content with his position as Chance Cassidy's house elf. Mistress Chance wasn't kind, exactly, but neither was she cruel, and she was good friends with The Great Harry Potter.
Of course, Bongo was also content simply for having work to do. Many less imaginative house elves couldn't even conceive of being discontented while there was food to cook and floors to clean. Bongo was unusually self-aware for a house elf, however, and while he was happy with keeping the Lock and Lantern pristine and the denizens well-fed, he was also grateful that he'd gotten a rather cushy position in life with an owner who, for the most part, left him to his own devices.
And so it was in relatively good humor that Bongo woke a few hours before dawn and started sweeping, cleaning, and cooking in preparation for the first meal of the day.
Young Master Sheridan (Bongo couldn't bring himself to be so impudent as to call the boy by his nickname, Shay) woke with a cry of hunger at about three. Bongo hastened to the little Master's room to bottle-feed the child, who was all angry wails and teary brown eyes.
Hoping Mistress Chance hadn't woken - she could be rather short-tempered when her sleep was disrupted - Bongo finished feeding the child, settled him back into his crib, and popped back into the kitchen to finish some of his daily chores. Only a few people had stayed at the Inn overnight - business was bad, what with the Dark Lord out and about - so there wasn't very much to do.
An hour before dawn, Mistress Chance made her way into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed and scowling. "Damn sun. Damn birds twittering in the bloody trees. Damn mornings," she muttered, spitting out a wisp of hair that had made its way into her mouth. "Damn hair. Damn life."
Bongo winced. She was in one of those moods.
"Damn house elf," she added for good measure, upon seeing him.
He bowed silently, deeply grateful that house elf females didn't experience the odd transformation that, once a month, made perfectly amicable human women turn into raving lunatics.
"Don't you look at me like that," Mistress Chance snapped. Bongo was just a little too slow in glancing away, because his Mistress' cool grey eyes became watery and sad.
"Why are you staring at me? Because I look awful, don't I? I know I've gained weight..."
She burst into tears. Bongo tried to melt into the floor - this was far worse than usual. Normally Mistress Chance just got snappy and rude.
She never, never cried.
Well, except for those times when she'd been pregnant, but Bongo had tried to block those memories from his mind. He was sure The Great Harry Potter had done the same.
The solution, Bongo suspected, was to find something that would make Mistress Chance angry (and hope like hell that she wasn't pregnant again). Mistress Chance liked being angry, and would stop crying and start yelling, and Bongo knew where he stood with a yelling Mistress Chance. A little above knee level, generally.
Fortunately, with a stroke of luck that had to have come from whatever gods could bring themselves to bother with house elves, an owl with the morning paper arrived just then. Mistress Chance, sniffling and wiping snot onto the sleeve of her nightdress, snatched at it and sent the owl away with a knut.
She unfolded the paper and glanced at the front page, more out of habit than inclination.
She stopped crying.
Her nostrils flared, her jaw tightened with anger, and her knuckles went white where she clutched the Prophet. Bongo watched nervously as her lips moved while she read, hoping this would do the trick.
"That utter bitch!" his Mistress screeched after a few tense minutes, which Bongo had spent looking industrious and busy, just in case she got too angry. "A blood-spill quill? On Harry?"
Bongo froze. "Great Harry Potter has been hurt?" he demanded, before realizing he'd spoken out of turn. He immadiately whacked himself a few times on the head with his duster, but considering the handle was lightweight wood and the rest was pink feathers, the most it did to him was tickle his ears and make him sneeze.
"Oh, stop that," Mistress snapped. "And yes - the Defense professor hurt him and several of his schoolmates."
Bongo was horrified. "No one is to hurt children!" he cried, aghast. Much like centaurs, house elves cherished young lives. After all, offspring were a lot of work, and house elves liked work.
"Quite so," his Mistress agreed, in that sort of frozen calm that meant she was well and truly furious. "Bongo, fetch me some parchment, my quill, and my ink. I have a couple letters to write. And bring the fastest owl we have from the owlery."
And because Bongo wasn't one to argue with a direct order, especially when Mistress Chance was having one of those days, he dropped the duster and did as he was told.
Harry glared sourly around the Great Hall, wishing people would stop pointing at him and whispering. The Daily Prophet hadn't even arrived yet, but somehow everyone knew roughly what had happened the previous night, and that Umbridge had apparently been torturing students ever since she arrived at the school the year before. Of course, this being Hogwarts, all rumors soon spun wildly out of control.
By the time the food had been served, Umbridge had, according to rumor, killed off at least three students and fed them to the Giant Squid; allied herself with Snape to better torment their innocent pupils; and developed an interest in chains and whips and thumbscrews, and possibly the rack. At least, Harry thought that Hufflepuff meant 'rack' as in torture device. Any other meaning, when applied to Umbridge, was simply too horrible to contemplate.
Harry himself, as the rumors flew, became some sort of knight in shining armor who had subdued the evil sorceress and freed from a secret room in the dungeons several captives (said to be some skinny-looking first years that no one ever paid attention to, and thus could possibly have been missing for some time without anyone noticing).
Only a few people wanted to know what had actually happened; most Hogwarts students were content to let their imaginations run wild, as the truth was often disappointing. Of course, those who wanted to know what really went on between Harry and the exiled teacher were Harry's friends.
Harry managed to shrug off their questions, ignoring Draco's annoyance and Neville's hurt look. "You'll all know what happened sooner or later," he said gloomily.
"Yes, well, I'd much rather it be sooner," Draco retorted. "Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to not have information to hold over everyone else's heads? I feel positively common."
"The horror," Harry dead-panned.
"You weren't hurt too badly, were you?" Neville asked worriedly. "Gran told me about those quills - she said they can leave scars, if you use them too often. You aren't - she didn't-"
"I'm fine," Harry said, less testily than he'd answered most similar queries. When everyone else had asked if he was all right, it was really just an attempt to gain information. But Neville seemed genuinely concerned.
At least one person was more worried about Luna than was Harry. Everyone knew, after all, that Luna had weathered her share of confrontations with Umbridge, and so Theodore was ignoring Harry in favor of trying to extract information from his crush.
It was rather amusing to watch, in a morbid sort of way.
Harry privately thought the entire scene would have been more amusing if it had played out a few weeks earlier, when Theo was still distracted enough to think whatever Luna said made perfect sense. Unfortunately, Theo was back to his normal self, depriving Harry of a prime source of entertainment.
"Ah, Luna," Theo said, sidling over to where the blonde Ravenclaw was seated at the Gryffindor table, across from Harry and next to Neville. A lot of the Gryffindors weren't too happy that people from other houses were starting to invade their territory, but they mostly let it slide.
"Theodore!" Luna cried, as if she hadn't seen the Slytherin boy for weeks. "You won't believe what has happened!"
Everyone in earshot went quiet, wondering what she'd have to say about events with Umbridge. Theodore looked both fearful and angry - the same expression Harry imagined he'd worn himself when he realized Luna was one of Umbridge's victims.
"Yes? What?" Theo asked eagerly, toying absently with the amulet his father had given him. There was complete silence, everyone waiting with bated breath for a first-hand account of Umbridge's crimes.
"The Heliopaths have mutinied," she said, eyes wide. "Father says witnesses have reported seeing them running free in the wilderness!"
The silence took on a less expectant, and more incredulous, feel.
"Right," Theo said, blinking. Harry resisted the urge to laugh. "Ah, but, you know, what about everything with Umbridge?"
"Thoroughly despicable woman," Luna said airily. "I've no doubt it was due to her that the Heliopaths rebeled. Have I shown you my cork collection?"
And that was that; Theo was unable to extract any more information about Umbridge from Luna, and the rest of the school resolved once and for all that Loony Luna Lovegood was mad as an elderly hatter.
Yet the breakfast-time drama didn't truly begin until the mail arrived, carried by flocks of owls.
The Prophet was read with great interest by everyone, including Harry. He was somewhat aggravated by the way the writers managed to make him sound like some sort of martyred hero.
It was disgusting, not to mention embarrassing.
More than that, though, it was annoying. The Prophet's front-page article had prompted a veritable slew of letters either hailing Harry as the next Dumbledore or denouncing him as a degenerate brat trying to get a perfectly respectable woman in trouble. Draco, of course, just had to snatch a few of the letters, and due to the general unfairness of the universe, the ones he'd taken happened to be among the most embarrassing.
"Oh, look," he sneered, "a girl in America who wants to bear your lovechild. 'Oh, Harry, my loins tingle at the mere thought of you, my heart beats madly, like a madman trying to force his way out of his padded room; I dream of kissing you madly, of your lips on mine. Your name is so melodic, so madly beautiful - Harry Potter. Harry. Harry, you mad beast...' Harry, I never knew you were such a…mad…hit with women."
Ginny, though she'd previously been oddly quiet, giggled...well, madly. Neville had gone a rather bright red, while Theo, the traitor, snickered and demanded an encore.
"That girl sounds rather odd," Luna said, poking at her eggs with her wand. "You know, these look rather like Shnargle brains."
Further down the table, Granger was muttering angrily about floozies with no self-respect and Ron was laughing even harder than his sister. The rest of the Gryffindors were trying very hard to look like they weren't equally amused.
For one shining moment, Gryffindors and Slytherins were united in the cause of making Harry wish fervently that he'd never been born.
Draco smirked and read another. "And here's a good one...'You horrible horrible boy, Madame Umbridge never done a thing wrong, don't you talk about her like that. Someone should give you a good seeing-to. Dolores Umbridge is a fine woman, better than scum like you, you nasty cretin'. Harry, you're being contacted by delusional idiots. Now you have finally attained true celebrity status."
"Shut up, Draco."
"What about this one?" Draco asked, slitting open another envelope. Harry grabbed at the letter, but Draco was far enough away that he only had to lean back to be out of range.
Eyes glinting maliciously, he started to read: "'Harry - saw the article. Can't believe Dumbledore would let someone like that into the school; mark my words, I have a few choice things to say to him...'" Draco trailed off, scanning over the rest of the letter.
"Ah, Harry," Draco said slowly, "do you know someone named Chance?"
"What? Yes! Give me that!"
"No need to get out of sorts," Draco sniffed, tossing him the letter. "Is this your secret girlfriend, then?"
"No," Harry said curtly, glaring around him in an attempt to quell his classmates' curiosity.
"Thank Merlin," Draco sighed. "Considering the way she signed the letter, it'd be rather kinky if you were dating."
Harry blinked, then turned to the letter and read it through - Chance wanted to see him the next time he had a Hogsmeade weekend, if possible. She said it was important, and that both Shay and Bongo were fine. She also ranted on for a few pages about what she would like to do to Umbridge, and ended the letter with an unspeakably embarrassing, 'All my love, Aunty Chance'.
Thank God Draco hadn't read that bit aloud.
"Draco," he said, glaring, "if you ever, ever read my mail again..."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Yes yes, dismemberment and foul torture. I know. Who's Bongo?"
Harry scowled. What a twerp.
Chance paced her bedroom, her son watching sleepily from his crib. She'd sent off a letter to Harry, and one to the Headmaster of Hogwarts. She only hoped they got back to her soon.
It was still early, only ten in the morning, so the tavern was closed. Two of those who'd rented rooms last night had already cleared out, leaving just one - a notorious late riser who'd slept at the Lock and Lantern on more than a few occasions, mostly because he was an old friend of Chance's with nowhere else to stay on those occasions when he wanted to get away from his overbearing wife.
Thus, it came as a surprise when Bongo knocked timidly on her closed door and squeaked that she had a visitor.
After hastily pulling her dark hair back into a sloppy bun, Chance swept Shay up into her arms and walked downstairs, wondering who would call on her in the middle of the morning. It couldn't be Dumbledore...at least, it had better not be Dumbledore... To be seen on as being on amicable terms with the Headmaster would be borderline suicidal, at least for her.
An unfamiliar figure stood stiffly just inside the front doorway of the main room. He wore expensive-looking robes, and his hair was dark and slicked back. He looked...well, there was something distinctly shifty about him, despite his apparent wealth - or perhaps due to it. The man reeked of old money and purebloodedness, and in Chance's experience, wealthy purebloods were to be avoided at all costs.
She should know - she did, after all, come from a rich pureblooded family. Fortunately, her parents had been rather less traditional than the rest of the Cassidys, and had encouraged her to choose her own path in life rather than become just another aristocrat.
"Can I help you?" she asked, wishing she had left Shay upstairs. There was a glint in her visitor's eye that put her on edge.
"Yes, Miss Cassidy, I believe you can," the man said, all silk and poison.
Chance suddenly felt afraid. She had a horrible feeling she knew just who this man was - or rather, who he represented.
"Oh?" she said noncomittally, while plotting an escape route. Her arms tightened protectively around Shay, who slobbered on her shoulder in the pretense of a kiss.
"Yes indeed," the man said, smiling like a shark. "Madam, you may have heard of me. I am Athanasius Nott."
Chance's heart sank. Nott. Of course she'd heard of Nott; everyone who had connections with the darker elements of magical society knew he'd been a Death Eater, even if the Ministry never managed to prove it.
In some ways, he was even worse than, say, Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy had more influence and more money, but Nott was, according to just about everything she'd heard, by far the cleverest of the Death Eaters. And the most ruthless.
He was enjoying her reaction, as well - her shock, her fear.
Somehow, she managed to muster a smile, though she had no doubt it looked sickly. Why would a Death Eater come here, just to see her? Unless Snape...if Snape had told the Dark Lord of her friendship with Harry, of her declared neutrality...
It had been a risk, being so free with her former Head of House, and now she was beginning to think it had been a foolish one.
"You said I could help you?" she managed to say, surprised at how calm her voice came out.
"I did," Athanasius agreed, deceptively amiable. "I have a...an associate, one might say, of considerable power, Miss Cassidy, and he has taken something of an interest in you."
Oh Merlin. Associate? Chance managed not to grimace at the overly clichéd euphemism.
If she got out of this alive, she was going to kill Snape.
"Is that so," she said flatly, praying that Shay would be left unharmed even if she was killed.
As if somehow knowing his mother's attention had returned to him, Shay babbled happily to her, wrapping his chubby arms around her neck. Nott's smile grew even sharper.
"This associate of mine," Nott continued, eyes heavy-lidded, "feels that a woman with your...connections...could be of considerable use."
"Connections," she repeated blankly, her mouth dry.
"You have many friends, Miss Cassidy, in both areas of wizarding society," Nott said, looking much like a cat stalking a mouse. "A natural byproduct of running an Inn, I suppose."
Chance's eyes narrowed. Friends...but no mention made of a specific green-eyed friend. Could it be that this wasn't about Harry, that Snape had kept silent? Or was Nott just being as vague as possible?
"You say I have friends," she said slowly. "Exactly what sort of friends do you mean?"
"You are known to dwell somewhat...how shall I put this...in the grays of life, Madam. And your Inn is well-known both for its hospitality and your lack of curiosity when it comes to your customers' private lives. Friends of mine stop here often, as do friends of powerful wizards who have philosophies conflicting with those of my associate. A woman who is well-liked, who doesn't ask questions but listens very carefully to all that is said under her roof...a woman like that could go very far with the correct sponsorship."
Chance tried very hard not to gape. She was being recruited. It was so utterly ridiculous...
...yet it wasn't unexpected. She was, after all, a pureblood and a former Slytherin, known for casting a dark spell or two in her time... Hell, she'd even been taken out of the running for Head Girl because she was pegged as a future Death Eater!
But given the letters she'd written just a few hours ago, this all seemed surreal and somewhat comedic, in a 'laugh and end up with your entrails decorating your own tavern' way.
"I see," Chance said, wishing desperately that the man would just go away. "And when does your...associate...want an answer?"
Nott looked briefly surprised at her question; he had no doubt expected her to jump at the chance to serve the Dark Lord.
"My associate," and oh, she was getting so heartily sick of that stupid phrase, "is willing to give you a week to decide your course of action. I would like to remind you, however," he added, glancing pointedly at her son, "that it is best for everyone involved if you decide favorably in as timely a manner as possible."
"I'll keep that in mind," Chance said faintly. Half of her was willing to give in right then and there to keep Shay safe; the rest of her wanted to claw Nott's face off for daring to threaten her son, however obliquely.
"Good day, Miss Cassidy," Nott said, and let himself out.
Chance breathed out shakily and buried her face in Shay's curly blond hair, ignoring his whimper of annoyance. "Merlin," she murmured. "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"
Class that day was...well, not hell, he supposed, but certainly not heaven. Purgatory, maybe.
It should have been nice, having all - or at least most - of his teachers doting on him. But frankly, it was creepy and irritating, especially as Granger inexplicably wasn't muttering disparaging comments just loud enough for the teachers to realize they were favoring him outrageously and stop.
The rest of his classmates were just as bad. They seemed torn between treating him like a hero or treating him like someone who had undergone horrible torture and was now mentally, if not physically, scarred for life.
The fiftieth time someone asked if he was sure he was feeling all right, he snapped.
"I got a cut. It's gone. If anything in the past few months has scarred me forever, it was being forced to listen to Dumbledore's version of The Talk, all right?"
Of course, then everyone had to know what he was talking about, so Draco gleefully explained.
The hero-worship and pitying looks died down, then, to be replaced by smirks and giggles and ribald comments of, "Hey, Potter! Holstered your wand yet?"
Even worse was the occasional response by someone who'd witnessed his disastrous class with Umbridge a few days before. "No," one person called back, "but he's sure polishing it well!"
To top things off, Ginny was treating him like he was a leper. She wouldn't go near him, and every now and then he caught her looking him over coldly. It was disconcerting, especially as he didn't have any clue what he'd done to anger her.
By dinner, Harry was in an absolutely foul mood. He snapped and snarled and growled enough that even Draco started keeping a wide berth. Only Neville dared brave Harry's temper, mostly because Harry couldn't bring himself to be cruel to the chubby boy. Bullying Neville was like using a flamethrower on a little fluffy baby bunny. Harry didn't have the heart for it.
Really, it was as bad as trying to be cruel to Luna. She didn't even notice half the time, and the other half she thought whatever insults got thrown her way were hysterically funny, and would laugh until the offender retreated out of sheer embarrassment. Not that Harry had ever deliberately insulted Luna, but since coming to Hogwarts, he'd certainly seen others do so.
In fact, the only person who really seemed to get to Luna was Umbridge, and she was out of the picture now.
Harry sighed, drawing yet another concerned look from Neville. "What's wrong?" Neville asked quietly, so others at the Gryffindor table couldn't overhear. Fortunately, everyone else was staying as far away from Harry's bad mood as possible, so there really wasn't anyone around to eavesdrop.
"What isn't?" Harry complained. "Ginny's been weird around me all day, I'm the laughingstock of the school because of that stupid Talk, and I have my extra lessons tonight with Snape."
Neville winced. "I'd forgotten," the other boy confessed softly. "That you had extra lessons, I mean. Snape teaches?"
"Some of them," Harry said cautiously, not wanting to get too detailed.
"Still," Neville said, with a shy smile, "at least you don't have detention tonight."
Harry blinked, then chuckled. "At least there's that," he agreed tiredly.
"Maybe you should get some rest," Neville said, shifting back into mother hen mode. "You do have a little time before lessons, don't you? You probably shouldn't be yawning like that when you show up."
Harry, who had indeed been yawning, shook his head. "I should get there early," he said. Snape hadn't asked him to, but there were a few things Harry wanted to ask the surly Potions Master, and figured he'd best do it before lessons, rather than after, so Snape couldn't just kick him out.
"You should go, then," Neville said, nodding to the Head Table. Snape had just gotten up. "It looks like he's leaving."
Harry waited until Snape had left the Great Hall, then followed. He didn't go directly to the Slytherin's office, though - he didn't want to be too early as he wasn't sure how long he could stand being in close quarters with the Potions Bastard. Besides, there was something else he wanted to do first.
Leander didn't seem to surprised to see him this time, just nodded and asked, "What d'you want now?"
Harry grinned. "Getting tired of me?"
The vampire snorted. "I've been tired of you for years, Harry."
"Really not feeling the love, here!"
"My heart shrieks in pain."
Harry stared. "Well, that's...interesting imagery."
"Why are you here, Harry?" Leander sighed, eyebrows raised questioningly.
"What?" Harry demanded defensively. "Who says I can't just be here on a visit?"
"From what I've been given to understand," Leander said dryly, "you haven't the time to visit for purely social reasons. Now, get to the point."
"Aren't you just a sour little ball of bile," Harry muttered. Leander grinned just enough to bare his fangs.
"Fine, fine," Harry said with a sigh. "I was wondering if you could post a guard at the Lock and Lantern. She sent a letter today, and was less than discreet - if it had fallen into the wrong hands, everyone would've known which side she was on. I'm worried about her."
"Already done," Leander said, looking bored.
"I'm not as incompetent as you seem to think," the prince said sharply.
Harry frowned. "When have I ever called you incompetent?" he demanded. "That business with the other vampires isn't your fault, I know that, though I'm still angry you didn't tell me sooner."
Leander shrugged. "I'd not lecture others about keeping secrets, Harry. You certainly have enough of your own."
Harry bit back an angry retort, and said instead, "Yeah, whatever you say. I have a lesson."
Leander sneered. "Of course you do. You never used to run away, Harry."
Harry looked at his friend in disbelief. "I never did anything but run away, Leander. What the hell is your problem, anyway?"
"Maybe I'm tired of being your kept vampire."
Leander leaned in close to Harry, his eyes flashing blue lightning. "Let's take a close look at the past few months, Harry," he hissed. "The vampires assemble to fight on your side - because of me. I give up my time - my life - to guard yours. I post guards for your friends, I do everything I can to keep you safe, I beg the forest creatures to ally with you... And what've you done, Harry? Yelled at me because I don't give enough, ignored me because my presence is inconvenient, commanded me to do your bidding as if I'm a house elf."
Harry stared, shell-shocked. "What - you can't-"
"Go to your lesson, Harry," Leander said tiredly. "I have things to do."
"I saved your life," Harry said, and then cursed himself for saying it. He'd never, ever willingly brought that up before, never took advantage of that fact...
"Yes, you did," Leander agreed, eyes and expression unreadable. "And I'm beginning to think it's the only reason I bother sticking around."
Harry slammed into Snape's office, seething with anger and hurt. How could Leander...did he really think...why the hell was everything going wrong on a day everything should have been going right?
"Potter," Snape said as the door banged shut, "Dumbledore wishes to see you in his office tomorrow after dinner. He has ordered that your lesson tomorrow be canceled." The Professor sounded less than happy about Dumbledore's command.
"What's he want?" Harry demanded, glaring.
Snape's eyes narrowed. "Five points for disrespect, Potter."
Somehow, Harry managed to stop from showing the older man some real disrespect.
The lesson went downhill from there, steeply enough that Harry briefly thought he'd arrived in hell. Snape was completely without mercy, and Harry's reserves were depleted enough that he almost found himself begging for respite. By the time Snape kicked him out, Harry felt like crawling off somewhere and crying himself to sleep.
But then, Harry never cried. Tears were a weakness, and he couldn't afford weaknesses.
Besides, the last time he'd cried his eyelashes had stuck together and one had ended up stabbing him in the eye, which hurt like hell.
He almost headed back to Gryffindor Tower, but something made him remember Leander's earlier accusation - that he was running away.
Well, his lesson was over now. And he needed to clear the air with Leander. It didn't feel right, being so at odds with one of the few people he trusted. And Leander had a really freaky habit of putting dead vermin in Harry's bed when they were fighting. The vampire was as bad as a bloody cat.
Yawning all the way there, Harry finally arrived at Leander's rooms. He was about to knock when the door opened; Leander had no doubt anticipated his arrival.
"Ah. Harry," Leander said, sounding a little guilty.
Harry tried to respond, but another yawn overtook him, making his eyes tear up and his jaw crack. He wondered briefly if he could use his teary eyes to get some sympathy, maybe even a quick apology.
"Don't even think about it."
Harry scowled. "Mindreader," he accused, only it came out 'Mindreeeaaadaaaaaa', as yet another yawn tore itself from him.
Leander rolled his eyes. "Now I remember why I stay around," he muttered, herding Harry into the room. "You'd kill yourself out of sheer negligence if I didn't."
"We okay?" Harry managed to ask, even as he climbed into Leander's bed and curled up under the blankets.
Leander sighed. "Yes. Now sleep. I don't intend to be held responsible for your sudden death of extreme fatigue."
Harry was asleep by the time he finished yawning.
The next day was somewhat better, probably because it was a Saturday. Saturdays made everything better, because Harry could hide and pretend he didn't exist without being dragged to class by one of his traitorous friends.
He and Leander spent most of the day...not talking, because they were manly men who didn't need to, you know, get into any of that sensitive stuff...but by dinner, they were on good terms again.
Just as ordered, Harry went to the Headmaster's office after dinner. Dumbledore wasn't there, but Fawkes, with his scarlet and gold feathers resplendent, trilled a pleasant greeting.
Harry frowned, wondering why Dumbledore would have called him up to an empty office.
He normally would have taken advantage of such a situation by looking through the Headmaster's papers and searching the office for anything of interest, but the portraits lining the walls were watching him carefully, as if they were just waiting for him to put a toe out of line so they could report him. Harry wondered, a little sourly, if this was some kind of test. Dumbledore didn't go for petty manipulations - at least, Harry doubted he did - but it never hurt to be a suspicious bastard.
Well, okay, so it didn't exactly help his social life, but at least he was still alive and breathing.
Harry jumped guiltily, though for once he hadn't actually done anything wrong. "Headmaster," he said, turning towards the old man, who stood framed in the doorway.
"I trust you are doing well?" Dumbledore looked genuinely concerned, so Harry didn't bristle too much at the implication that he wasn't perfectly fine all of the time, no matter what.
"Well enough," he said instead with a shrug. "What did you want me here for?"
Dumbledore surveyed him critically over the tops of his spectacles, brow furrowed in thought. "I believe, Harry," he said finally, "that it is time you learned more about Tom Riddle."
Keep a lookout for the reposted chapters! Thanks to everyone who reviewed, I adore you all.