Disclaimer: see part 1.
Chapter 9 – Dreams and Waking
Harry stood mutely as Professor Snape raged around Dumbledore's office, ranting that one of his best students had been assaulted and demanding to know why the headmaster was doing nothing about it. The Boy Who Lived barely heard Dumbledore's platitudes about having the other teachers searching the school as he stared at Pansy's profile, wondering what the outcome of this would be… knowing what it must be.
Expulsion, he thought sickly. Someone is going home, and never coming back… and that someone has to be me…
"Oh it's very serious indeed, Professor Snape," Dumbledore was saying, his eyes never leaving Harry's face as the potions master finally wound down, "someone has used one of the Unforgivable Curses on one of my students – in the front hall itself, no less… there will be at least one expulsion today, I am sure."
Harry's stomach did a lazy summersault.
"Of course," Snape said, inclining his head slightly. "If it is any use at all to you, Headmaster, I have eyewitness accounts from several members of my own house that say Potter is the one that cast the curse."
Dumbledore steepled his fingers. "Indeed?" he said calmly. "Because I have heard reports from every other house – and some Slytherins – saying that all Harry had time to do was cast a reflection spell before Mister Malfoy doused him with Elixir of Osiris."
Snape sucked in a sharp breath, his eyes snapping to the wetness on Harry's chest. "Impossible, Headmaster," he said softly, "he would have been dead long before now if that were the case."
Straightening his back, Harry defiantly recited, "'Note that whosoever giveth freely of the blood of the heart shall be untouched by the elixir's cold fingers.'" He turned his attention to Dumbledore, speaking before Snape could reply. "It was me," he said smoothly, his heart thumping in his chest, "I cast the Cruciatus on Malfoy."
"While you were covered in what you knew to be a fatal potion?" Dumbledore mused. "Cut off from every retreat, with the knowledge that your death was at hand… you still managed to summon the necessary ire and ill-will to send Mister Malfoy into the hospital wing?"
"He's… in the hospital wing?" Pansy whispered, breaking her silence for the first time since they had been brought to Dumbledore's office.
Snape folded his arms, narrowing his eyes as he regarded Harry. "Of course he is," he bit out, never looking away from the Gryffindor Seeker. "Madam Pomfry said the strength of the curse that hit him was equal to that of the Dark Lord himself." His dark eyes finally swung around to Pansy, making her shiver as they bored into her. "Only the most distilled, time-strengthened hate could have developed such a powerful blow… and only Mister Potter-"
"Severus," Dumbledore cut in softly, "I feel that it would be… unwise to throw accusations the likes of which you are prepared to throw without being one hundred percent certain of the facts… wouldn't you agree?"
"Of course, headmaster," Snape replied reluctantly.
The accusation of using one of the Unforgivable Curses was very close to a damning one in the wizarding world… and it was one that was not easily taken back.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Is there… anything you'd like to add to this conversation, Miss Parkinson?"
Before Pansy could reply – not that she seemed on the verge of it – Harry stepped forward. "I said it was me, sir," he whispered, carefully drawing his wand and setting it on Dumbledore's desk. "I'll… pack my things."
"Potter," Snape muttered, "it is not a matter of packing your things. The Cruciatus Curse is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Azkaban."
Harry nodded, swallowing with some difficulty. "Then… could you have my things sent to the Weasleys?" he asked, his voice trembling as he envisioned what the next few years of his life would be like. "They can… use them while I'm gone."
Snape and Dumbledore exchanged glances, and to Harry's surprise, Snape averted his eyes, shaking his head minutely as if in reply to an unspoken question.
"Harry," Dumbledore murmured, "no one here – Professor Snape included – believes you capable of the depth of hatred required to inflict the level of damage Mister Malfoy endured…"
"But it was me!" Harry said wildly, taking a discrete step to the side so he was blocking Pansy from Dumbledore's line of sight. "He… he threw the elixir on me, and I… I just cast the first curse I could think of!"
Dumbledore and Snape exchanged another glance, and this time, Snape ground his teeth, his nostrils flaring as he swept his cape around his wiry frame. "Well," he said icily, "since you have matters in hand here, I will excuse myself."
Snape's lips parted in an angry snarl. "Yes, headmaster," he hissed, "Mister Malfoy will be made aware of his situation as soon as he regains consciousness."
As Snape made his exit, Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, sighing loudly as he stared up at the ceiling. "I do so dislike these sticky situations," he said breezily, acting as if he was pondering what punishment to dole out for tipping over a bucket of water or loosening a floorboard. "Miss Parkinson," he said after a moment of quiet, "would you like to say anything right now? Anything at all?"
Pansy stared at her feet. "I… think I shouldn't, Headmaster," she said politely, "I don't think anything I could say would come out right."
Dumbledore toyed with a small globe on his desk.
"Then if you have nothing to say," he murmured, "I think I shall enlighten you on a few things."
"Yes, Headmaster," Pansy whispered, clearly steeling herself for the worst.
"It seems your friend Miss Bolstrode has had some concerns about your wellbeing," Dumbledore said calmly, his eyes flicking to Harry's for a moment before returning to Pansy. "She and several of your housemates came to see me shortly before you were brought here, and with the exception of two, they all said that you and Harry have been… studying together."
"How did they kn-" Pansy cut herself off, clearing her throat before continuing, "Why would they think that?"
Dumbledore's eyes crinkled at the corners. "Well I know that Miss Sanderson, for one, was following you on several occasions," he said, clearly amused, "it seems that there was a… consensus among the members of your house that you and Mister Malfoy were engaged in some kind of plot to harm Harry, and believe it or not… some of them were worried that you might be hurt."
Harry's jaw dropped. "They… huh?"
"Yes, Harry," Dumbledore said mildly, "they were concerned that your feud with Draco would draw Miss Parkinson in, resulting in her expulsion… or worse." His lips compressed slightly. "Gryffindor House does not hold exclusive rights to the concepts of friendship and loyalty."
It was a mild rebuke, but very effective.
"Of… of course," Harry whispered, going crimson, "of course."
"If one of my students actually used one of the Unforgivable Curses on another, however, I would have no choice but to expel them and report them to the ministry," Dumbledore observed, his voice heavy and serious. "It is quite a serious crime in our world, Harry, and not to be taken lightly." His eyes slipped to Pansy's as he concluded, "I am sure, however, that there are certain… pressures a student might face that could, conceivably, create the kind of mental strain that would lead him or her to resort to desperate measures to ensure their own safety. Wouldn't you agree, Miss Parkinson?"
Pansy lowered her eyes, her usually brash attitude conspicuously absent as she murmured, "Yes, Headmaster."
"Harry," Dumbledore said calmly, "do you agree that a student caught purposely inflicting harm on another should face immediate punishment?"
Harry opened his mouth to say, 'but it was me!' again, but closed it as he caught the glint in the headmaster's eye. "I suppose it would… depend on the circumstances, sir," he said carefully. "Danger to a person's… wellbeing can often cloud that person's judgment, making them do things they would not do under normal circumstances. Sir."
Dumbledore looked pleased. "Well spoken," he said, inclining his head in a minute bow. "So to further clarify your observation, we could say that one of the so-called Unforgivable Curses could be deemed forgivable – if the wizard or witch in question was not in possession of all of his or her facilities at the time, and if he or she understood that a repeat casting of the curse would bring swift retribution… correct?"
"I… yes, that is exactly how I feel."
"Excellent," Dumbledore said briskly, "so long as we are clear… you are excused."
Harry bowed. "Thank you, sir," he said formally, unable to keep the gratitude from his voice as he ushered Pansy from the headmaster's office.
They had made it less than ten feet from the gargoyle statue that guarded Dumbledore's office before Pansy came up short and demanded, "What just happened?"
Glancing around to make sure no one was around, Harry whispered, "We're ok – he's not going to expel you."
"Yes," Pansy huffed, "I know that – I'm not stupid, you know… I meant what happened with you trying to take the blame? I don't need your help, Potter!"
Harry looked stunned. "I couldn't just stand there, could I?" he blurted, taking another uneasy look around. "We're… friends – so I had to say something!" His voice lowered to a quiet whisper. "And besides… Dumbledore knows I've used the Cruciatus Curse before, so I thought if I could convince him that it was me, you would be ok."
They fell silent for a moment as Pansy digested this information, studying the hem of her robes with exaggerated care. "No one's… ever done anything like that for me before," she said finally.
Harry shrugged, clearly embarrassed. "I was… it was my fault anyway, so…"
Silence fell as the two teens regarded each other for a moment. "Harry," Pansy said finally, leaning back against the wall and resting the back of her head against its cool surface, "what happens now?"
"Well," Harry said slowly, "the term's over… I guess we go home and-"
"With us," Pansy cut in quietly, staring up at the ceiling and carefully avoiding his gaze. "What happens between you and me?" When the young man hesitated, she added, "Are we friends, Harry…?"
Harry shuffled his feet. "Do you want to be…?"
Pansy brought her eyes down, gazing levelly at Harry as his shoulders slumped.
"I want to be something else."
"What, er, what do you mean?"
"Don't know, really," Pansy said honestly, slowly shaking her head from side to side. "I just… 'friends' doesn't seem like a good word for us."
"Huh," Harry said thoughtfully, "well, umm, then I don't know what happens now."
Pansy nodded, looking back up to the ceiling. "D'you think he'll be expelled? Draco, I mean."
"Yeah, I reckon he will," Harry replied, finding that he just could not feel sorry about this fact.
He won't forget, either, he mused. If he tells them that Pansy cast the Cruciatus on him, things could get sticky, with or without Dumbledore on our side… but then again, that's if he saw it – he wasn't looking her way when she cast it, so maybe he doesn't know it was her. I guess no matter how it goes, Malfoy won't forget this… and we'll always have to watch for him to come looking for revenge on SOMEONE.
Realizing that a rather heavy silence had fallen since the mention of Malfoy's name, Harry leaned against the wall opposite Pansy, folding his arms and whispering, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"About Draco?" Pansy asked, closing her eyes. "No, not really… but I'll tell you a couple things, because of what you did for me." She drew a deep, steadying breath. "Draco and I… did have something going for a while."
When she said nothing more, Harry stammered, "O-oh…"
Pansy let the silence fall once more, debating just how much to tell the Gryffindor. Finally, she opened her mouth and just flew on autopilot. "We did things… I didn't really want to do," she said softly, keeping her eyes closed so she would not have to see his reaction. "He never made me do… that – obviously, since your potion worked – but we did… other things. Things that made me feel… dirty." Wrapping her hand around her suddenly chilled arms, she concluded, "I kept seeing all these magazine articles that said you shouldn't feel guilty if someone makes you do something you don't want to do, because they're the ones in the wrong for forcing you… but if I never said no, or really tried to stop it…"
Harry nodded, staring down at the floor as he remembered how it felt when the Imperious Curse first took hold – that helpless feeling of knowing you should not be doing what you are told, but being unable to stop. He realized that it was not truly a fair comparison, but he could not think of anything in his own experience that was remotely the same.
"So that's why you hated him."
"That's right," Pansy said flatly, her eyes glinting as she brought her attention to his face. "The Cruciatus only works if you mean it – we learned that in our second year… I meant to hurt him, Harry, but do you know something?" She broke eye contact. "It didn't make me feel like I thought it would. I thought seeing him in pain would make that little hollow feeling in my chest go away, but it just made it worse."
Again, Harry nodded. "It never does, really," he said quietly, "every time I do something that ends up hurting someone I don't like… well, I… I do feel satisfied for a second… but then I just end up feeling bad about it later – usually only a couple minutes later."
Pansy wiped her eyes with her thumb and forefinger. "You know something Harry?" she said softly, offering him a small smile. "I was wrong… you wouldn't have done that well in Slytherin."
"Thanks," Harry chuckled, his smile fading as soon as it materialized. "But if I was in Slytherin I know I would have had at least one friend…"
Pushing herself away from the wall, Pansy crossed the corridor, coming to stand in front of Harry. "I'm not your friend," she whispered seriously.
Harry looked into her eyes unflinchingly. "No," he replied calmly, "I guess you're not."
Neither of them would later remember who moved first. All they knew was that the echo of the word 'not' was still in the air when their lips collided, forcing Harry's back up against the wall as Pansy wrapped her fingers forcefully in his hair, ensuring that he would not be escaping her as he did on their first kiss. Harry, of course, was not planning to go anywhere, and did his best to keep up with the explosion of passion flooding from the girl's hungry lips, hooking his right arm around her slim waist and pulling her body up against his.
Pansy growled – quite literally – to show her appreciation of this move, parting her lips and pulling backward on Harry's hair, making him gasp and arch his neck to stop the pain. Moving quickly, Pansy's lips closed around his exposed throat, licking and sucking aggressively as her hands finally released him, moving down to his back and yanking him closer.
After several moments of this, she pulled away, leaving a large spot of saliva on his neck as she tried to catch her breath. "I want… to see you… this summer…"
Harry was entirely dumbfounded by this seemingly random comment. "I, er, live with muggles," he said lamely.
"Then come to my house," Pansy countered immediately, leaning forward and kissing his already-bruising throat with far more gentleness than she had ever exhibited before. "I want to have you all to myself," she said quietly, slipping her hand into his. "You said you wanted to know me – well, the only way that's going to happen is if we're away from this place… where I can think… where no one can see us and spread rumors…" she lowered her voice to a whisper. "Where I can figure out what, exactly, we are."
"I'd… I'd like that," Harry murmured, mildly surprised to find that he really would.
Slowly, Pansy put her hands behind his head, pulling his lips down to hers and giving him a deep, intensely open kiss. "Promise me," she breathed as they parted, "promise that you'll see me this summer, Harry."
Though he knew he was supposed to stay at the Dursleys' house to avoid attracting Lord Voldemort's attention, Harry nodded without a second thought. "I promise," he said solemnly. "Somehow, we'll get together this summer."
Pansy nodded, her shoulders slumping suddenly as she whispered, "I'm tired, Harry. I didn't sleep last night because I was thinking of what Malfoy was going to do, and if I should stop it or not."
"I'm glad you did!" Harry exclaimed, drawing a weak laugh from her. "Well," he said slowly, "I… if you don't want to go back to your dor-"
"I don't," Pansy cut in immediately.
"…you can come to mine."
Pansy averted her eyes. "I doubt your friends would welcome me," she pointed out.
"If you're with me, they won't stop you," Harry said calmly.
"You have no idea what kind of rumors you're about to start, do you?" Pansy asked wonderingly.
Harry shrugged. "I don't… really care that much, honestly," he said slowly, "I mean – people have been staring at me and making up rumors about me for six years. I'm kind of used to it."
Shaking her head, Pansy said, "This is going to make it much worse than you could imagine – trust me… but if you're sure, then lead the way."
( 0 0 0 )
Ron and the rest of Harry's dorm mates were busily packing as the Boy Who Lived appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Hey guys," he called softly, drawing their attention.
"What happened to your neck, mate?" Ron exclaimed, glancing up from stuffing sweaters into his trunk. "It looks like-"
He cut himself off as Pansy followed Harry up the stairs.
"Oi Harry," Dean Thomas said carefully, his eyes slipping to Pansy's as his hand slowly moved to cover his wand. "Friend of yours?"
Pansy's nostrils flared, and before she could stop herself, she was opening her mouth to say, "You'd better watch-"
"Yeah, actually," Harry cut in quickly, "she is."
The tension in the air was so thick that Pansy felt like she could reach out and touch it, but she could see from the looks all around her that anger would get her nowhere, so she swallowed her pride and murmured, "Harry said I could stay here for a few hours until the train leaves… I didn't mean to be rude."
"Well," the Weasley boy said finally, "any friend of Harry's, and all that…"
Though she doubted the sincerity of this notion, Pansy noticed that it had the desired effect. The other boys – though grumbling the whole while – went back to packing their things and lounging around, doing their best to avoid giving her dirty looks… or at least, giving her dirty looks while she could see.
"Thanks Ron," Harry murmured as he pulled back the canopy on his bed and gestured for her to lie down. "I owe you one."
As the curtain was drawn, Pansy could hear the boy named Ron hiss, "You owe me a lot more than one, mate! Have you gone mad? She's a Slytherin! Bringing Luna or Cho or Parvati up here is one thing, but-"
"Keep your voice down!" Harry cut in. "Just because she's in another house doesn't mean she's deaf!"
"Oh, right, sorry," Ron muttered, sounding embarrassed, "but really – this isn't good, Harry! Why did you bring her here? Why are you with her at all? McGonagall said all students were supposed to stay in their houses until they figured out who attacked Malfoy, didn't she? And she's a Slyth-"
"I know what house she's in!" Harry cut in sharply. "You don't have to keep saying it!"
"Weasley's right, Potter," one of the other boys piped up, "if you want us to trust you, you have to trust us first."
Pansy heard Harry sigh. "Alright," he said reluctantly, "you see, the day we got here…"
Closing her eyes, Pansy listened to Harry's version of the school year. Or rather, she listened to precisely three minutes of it before falling deeply asleep. She dreamt that summer was already upon them, and Harry had come to visit her as he'd promised. They were in her room, doing the kinds of things all the Witch Weekly magazines said you do when you meet 'the wizard of your dreams' and pretending that they hadn't a care in the world.
It was, she would decide upon waking, one hell of a nice dream.
…now if only she could find a way to make it more.
Author's notes: I finished this chapter before I finished chapter 8, and it ended up shorter. Sad, isn't it? Well, it's finally done, and barely in time to say 'Hey, I didn't know that would happen in book six!' I may do another Potter fic at some point in the future, but I think I'll wait until I've read HBP, so it'll be a few months at least.
Hope you enjoyed this one, though.
SxStrngSamurai read this last chapter for me to make sure it wasn't god-awful. I THINK he said it wasn't, but I can't remember. Curse you, old age!
Feedback is always welcome on any site with reviewing capabilities, or by e-mailing me directly at random1377(at-sign)yahoo(dot)com.