Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter 19: Summer Brings No Light
It was a situation that Hermione Jane Granger had often found herself in over the last few days. She sat in the corner of the Gryffindor 2nd Year Girl's Dormitory, on one of the low windowstools, and gazed out onto the Hogwarts Grounds, lit only by the light of the moon. Tears tracked silently down her face, dripping off of her chin and falling to the ground. She made no attempt to wipe them away.
After all, what right did she have to be ashamed? What right did she have to wallow in her own misery?
Her eyes were fixed on the distant lights in Hagrid's cabin, the only sight that she could make out clearly on the moonlit night. It was around midnight, but Hagrid apparently hadn't retired for the night. It was fairly likely that he was drunk and collapsed on the floor of his hut. He'd taken what had happened to Harry surprisingly hard.
Hermione supposed it was reasonable enough. They all missed the signs. Hermione still wasn't sure how Harry had been so…stupid…
Speak for yourself, Hermione. Weren't you the one giving Tom a vote of confidence last week when Ginny was skeptical?
Hermione had to admit that her subconscious had hit the nail right on the head. Harry had the sixteen-year old form of a Dark Lord in his head, a Dark Lord extremely manipulative and deceitful. Harry may be really mature at times, but truthfully, he's still just a twelve-year old wizard in training.
A twelve-year old wizard who had gone through one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable. And we don't even know the whole story, and won't, until Daphne and Ginny wake up.
Harry's guardian was expected to make a full recovery, and Madam Pomfrey had healed her wounds and treated her exposure to the Cruciatus Curse, which she suspected might have been put on her while she was unconscious. However, her largest problem was the almost total magical exhaustion she had suffered. Her magic had been depleted to dangerous levels, just as Hermione's had when she had been attacked by Quirrell in the Forbidden Forest the previous year. It was actually testament to just how hard Daphne had fought that a witch renowned for her power and endurance had nearly killed herself with little aid from her adversary. Madam Pomfrey expected she would be awake in a day or two, as she was recovering rapidly.
Though when she'd visited Ginny, Hermione had always noticed that the Grey Maiden was rather restless, tossing and turning, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Hermione didn't even want to ponder the horrific nightmares that the woman was suffering.
As for her other best friend, Ginny had been within a minute of death when Dumbledore had destroyed the Diary. Her magic was also entirely depleted; mostly by one spell that Dumbledore was shocked to discover had been cast after the Rite of Unwilling Sacrifice was begun. Hermione was sure that there was a story behind that. Beyond her magic, physically, her life force, which had been restored to her body with the destruction of Riddle's power base, was slowly seeping back into her system; recharging her 'batteries,' for lack of a better term.
Hermione had awoken at around noon the day after she'd been attacked. As she opened her eyes, she was assaulted by images of what had happened, specifically, of her best friend attacking her with an extraordinarily painful curse. She supposed it had something to do with the nightmares she could only vaguely remember, though.
Hermione began shivering as she remembered. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to block out the horrifying images.
"How are you, dear?" Madam Pomfrey asked from beside her, in a warm, caring voice. "Forget that, I'm sure you are frightened to death," she chided herself. "Well, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that you'll make a full recovery."
Hermione frowned. "How long have I been unconscious?" she asked in a shaky voice.
Madam Pomfrey smiled sadly. "Only about a day and a half…you were very fortunate, dear," she said, as she checked her temperature, laying a hand on Hermione's forehead. She frowned. "Perhaps not, you're cold as ice." She waved her wand, and Hermione suddenly felt much warmer. "Warming Charm, dear, one of the only non-verbal spells I can use, besides my Healing Magic, of course."
She moved towards the end of the bed, and tucked the sheets back under the bed. Hermione saw her glanced over a group of beds on the other side of the Hospital Wing, and froze.
Black hair. Red hair. Blond hair.
Harry. Ginny. Daphne.
"Madam Pomfrey?" Hermione asked nervously. The matron followed her gaze. "Yes, they all came yesterday, about three hours after you. Miss Weasley and Mrs. Dressler are suffering from Magical Exhaustion thought Miss Weasley is also recovering from nearly having her life force drained from her by some pureblooded ritual." Hermione's blood froze, but she was surprised by the anger in the Mediwitch's voice.
"What?" Hermione asked disbelievingly. Obviously, something had happened.
Madam Pomfrey had a pained look on her face. "I really don't know much about it, Miss Granger, and I'm only breaking my oath of silence because you are their friend." She turned back to her, sympathy and pity in her eyes. "I'm sorry dear, but you'll have to ask your Head of House."
"What about the Petrified victims?" Hermione blurted as the matron turned to go.
Madam Pomfrey blinked. "Oh, well, they'll be awoken tomorrow morning. Severus is putting the finishing touches of the Mandrake Restorative Draught. I expect you're interested in the well being of Miss Turpin?"
"Yes," she admitted, "but what I'm more concerned about is that Ron might try to attack Harry when he wakes up." She looked at her earnestly. "They don't get along."
"I know that," the Mediwitch said, sighing. "I'll keep them separated. Hopefully Miss Weasley wakes tomorrow as well, though I wouldn't bet on it. The entire Weasley clan is coming to visit them."
Hermione sank back into the sheets. Could things get any worse?
The matron gave her another sympathetic look. "Don't worry, I'll ward them away from you if I have to."
"That's not it," Hermione explained. "I'm afraid that Ron's going to cry bloody murder when he wakes up, and the whole school will know."
Madam Pomfrey sighed. "I don't think we've got the legal stance to put an Unbreakable Bond on him to ensure his silence, so unfortunately, you are probably right…Now, you are still recovering. Get some sleep, Miss Granger." She left.
Hermione stared at her friends for a while, but that brought her negative thoughts to the forefront of her mind yet again. She settled for staring out the window at the evening sky until she fell asleep. For once, schoolwork, or how she was going to explain this to her parents, was the last thing on her mind.
Hermione choked back a sob, leaning her head against the window. She didn't want to wake Lavender and Parvati, who had, at first, treated her as a helpless victim. Then, once they had discovered that she was 'deluded,' and believed Harry innocent, she was, again, a traitor of sorts. It was a rather strong stance for a pair of ditzy twelve-year old girls.
Of course, things hadn't gotten any better the next day, when she had finally awoken. It had not been surprising that Ron had been livid, but the problem was that the only person there that believed his innocence was Hermione. To be perfectly honest, she supposed that she wanted to believe in his innocence…she couldn't bear the thought that Harry, who had been such a wonderful friend, her first real friend, had been responsible for all of this by his own free will…
Hermione was awoken by loud yelling, and groaned as she opened her eyes, the sun nearly blinding her. It appeared to be mid-morning, but the window opposite her pointed directly to the east.
She rolled over, squinting her eyes as she tried to make out what was going on.
"…I'M GOING TO KILL HIM! THE BLOODY BASTARD HURT GINNY!" Ron bellowed at the top of his lungs.
Hermione looked the scene over carefully. A sea of redheads surrounded Ron's bed. She recognized Fred and George, who looked as murderous as Hermione had ever seen them. Percy was trying hard to maintain his composure, but his ears were bright red, and his eyes were searching the Infirmary for his brother's attacker. Hermione saw Ginny's parents as well. Mrs. Weasley appeared absolutely furious, but also very frustrated. Hermione supposed it was against her nature to be angry with a child; it certainly fit with what Ginny had told them about her mum. Her father looked confused, as if unsure of what to do.
"Mister Weasley!" her Head of House snapped, walking over towards them. "You will do nothing of the sort. I understand that you have been through a great ordeal, but rest assured," she said, pausing and clenching her teeth, "so has he."
Fred made a noise of disbelief. Hermione knew they had never really trusted Harry, though they had tried to find a reason to like him. Things had actually been going well, before…all hell broke loose. "Does that matter?" Fred snapped back. "He hurt our brother, and our sister nearly died." There was a sob that sounded like it came from Molly Weasley. "He needs to answer for that."
Ron had apparently reached the same conclusion, and forced his way out of his bed, taking unsteady steps, his wand, which had been lying on this nightstand, now clenched in his hand. Hermione now saw that he was approaching where Daphne and Harry lay, their beds within a foot of each other, and Daphne's right arm was actually touching Harry's side. She mothers even when she's unconscious, Hermione marveled.
Hermione tried to get up, but was far too weak, and fell back to the bed, looking on helplessly. Arthur Weasley was bright red, and stood up, trying to stop his son. Percy, ever the disciplinarian, actually drew his wand and shouted over to his brother to stop. Molly still had her head buried in her hands, and was sitting on her daughter's bed, which Hermione now saw had been moved from its place near Harry's and Daphne's beds.
But neither Arthur Weasley nor Minerva McGonagall stopped the angry boy. Instead, Severus Snape intercepted him, appearing out of nowhere. In an instant, he shoved the boy back and drew his wand, leveling it at the Gryffindor. His face was set and emotionless, but his gaze was cold and unforgiving.
Ron took a step back, and opened his mouth to say something, but Snape beat him again. "You will do nothing of the sort, Mr. Weasley," he replied in a cold voice that made Hermione shiver. "In fact, you will return to your bed, if you have the slightest clue about what is good for you."
Ron snarled at him, but said nothing. Snape was relentless.
"If you could overcome your awe-inspiring stupidity and use the brain that rarely manifests itself, you might realize that Potter looks a bit…well, dead. That's because he is severely injured." Snape took another step forward, his eyes glittering with malice. "You may have been through a traumatic experience, Weasley, but Potter endured the enviable pleasure of having the Dark Lord in his mind for the duration of the school year. And that was before his mind was ripped to shreds."
He advanced again, and Ron whimpered and backed away. "I've been in his head, Weasley, as per instructions by the Head Master. It looks like a muggle bomb went off inside. The mind is a complex entity, Weasley, and often will organize itself into shapes, which can be seen with Legilimency. Potter appears to have had a mind that resembled a Quidditch Pitch. Not that one can tell any longer…"
Fred and George stepped forward to help out their brother, but Arthur grabbed both of them by the back of their shirts and hauled them back. Ron stood alone in the middle of the Infirmary. Snape was looming over him now, his wand still leveled at Ron's chest. He looked like he was restraining himself from cursing the idiot into oblivion.
"Sure," Ron scoffed. "He's probably awake, listening to our conversation right now." He turned to the unconscious form of his nemesis. "Aren't you, Potter?"
Hermione opened her mouth for a scathing retort, but Snape grabbed Ron by the front of his robes and shook him. Minerva barked, "Severus!" but Snape waved her off.
"Shut up. You know nothing. Potter is teetering on the edge of life and sanity, and you are here, screaming at his lifeless form like an irritated ape. Do you think attacking an unconscious boy makes you any more of a man?" he taunted, pushing the Gryffindor away. "I may not always get along with him, but he is a Slytherin, and thus, he is in my charge. If you attempt to harm him, harm will come to you. At least, until Dressler awakens…after that, you can have a free shot at him...just be aware that your poor parents probably won't get enough of you back to fill a matchbox." With that, he spun on his heel and walked over to Harry's bedside, sitting on the windowsill, glaring at Ron.
"You're just protecting your own you bloody Dark Wizard!" Ron shouted.
Molly Weasley was up in an instant. "RONALD BILLIUS WEASLEY!"
"Mister Weasley," McGonagall said sharply. "I will not tolerate insults to Hogwarts professors."
"It's hardly an insult, Minerva," Snape interrupted. "But nonetheless, she is correct, Weasley. I'm afraid you'll be spending your first Mondays and Thursdays in the dungeons with me, cleaning up the messes you dunderheads make on a regular basis…"
Hermione saw the lights in Hagrid's cabin go out, and she knew that the Gamekeeper had finally decided to retire for the night. She wondered if she should do the same. A loud snore from Lavender answered that question. She closed her eyes, leaning against the cold window.
It was going to be a long, long week.
Daphne Dressler made the familiar climb up the spiral staircase to Albus Dumbledore's office. She could hear loud voices from inside and picked up her pace.
Daphne had awoken just two days earlier after being unconscious for nearly a week; considering the amount of magic she'd expended, it was remarkable that it had only been that long. Her first feeling had been that of her hand resting on Harry's side. She had been in a panic, trying to get out of bed and make up for what she had done, but Madam Pomfrey had jumped in and sedated her. When she woke up the next time, she was more aware and rational. She had cried, for the first time since the Prophecy was made known to her, after she had discovered that what had happened was much more than a bad dream
And after all that Daphne had suffered, had been forced to endure, they all paled in comparison to the horror and the guilt that she felt.
Yes, the guilt. It was crushing, suffocating, as if someone had put Hagrid's weight on her shoulders. It was ever present, making biting comments about her failings that made her want to break down. It was a daily struggle to go about maintaining her composure. But she was strong, if not in reality than in the perceptions of others. She couldn't afford changing that perception. It was a part of who she was, a reason that people were more likely to do what she wanted.
But the guilt remained. The guilt for not realizing that the light of her life was being possessed by the Dark Lord. Terribly enough, she felt guilty for trusting him, for believing that everything he said was the truth and that he understood what was going on and that she could trust his actions. She did not want to believe that her adopted son could make such a grievous error. Even after the previous year, when Harry had concealed mental and verbal abuse by a Hogwarts Professor, neglect from the rest of the faculty and reprehensible behavior by the student body; behavior that was only likely to get worse the next year, as rumors of what had happened spread around the school. Harry had hidden his misery and his frustration, simply to avoid upsetting her.
It made Daphne wonder if she had made a mistake by revealing all of her past. Well, she had not given him the juicy details, but she had outlined her career and her actions. And he had accepted them. What she hadn't realized was that she made Harry reluctant to add to her suffering. He wanted her to be happy, just as she wanted him to be happy. And on occasion, those two purposes clashed.
Then there was the duel itself.
She'd lost it. There was no other way to describe it. Not the duel, but all the control, all of the discipline that she was so known for had disintegrated simply from the truth of Riddle's taunts. She had allowed her anger to take her over, to exact its vengeance for the first time since she had massacred Edmond's murderers.
Most of them, at least. Two remained. Antonin Dolohov, who had cast the curse, was incarcerated in Azkaban. The other, Thomas Avery, was in high-standing with the Ministry. Daphne would have to lie in wait until the opportunity presented itself.
But that was irrelevant. What did matter was that she had unleashed the power that had put the fear of Merlin into the hearts of the Death Eaters. She'd used an Unforgivable, funneling all of the agony and despair of her life into one spell. It was, she thought, most comparable to an angry parent beating their child, blaming them for things that were not their fault. Of course, that was not what Daphne had intended, but nonetheless, it had happened. And one thing that Daphne had learned was that to fight self-doubt, one had to take full responsibility for their actions.
And it had been her mistake that had led to Harry lying unconscious, his mind broken. Riddle had described what she had done, by forcibly removing him, as uprooting a tree, a tree whose roots ran deep into the ground. Only Harry's mind is the soil the tree was planted on…
Daphne reached the top of the staircase, and approached the large oak door. The shouting continued. She thought she recognized the voice, but couldn't quite place it. Without knocking, she pushed the door open.
It revealed a rather interesting scene. Lucius Malfoy was standing in front of Dumbledore's desk, a grey-green house elf trying to shine his shoes. Malfoy, his sleek silvery-blond hair combed neatly behind him into a ponytail, appeared absolutely livid. His face was flushed, and his eyes were blazing. He didn't even notice Daphne enter and close the door softly behind her. Daphne also saw Snape, who was standing in the shadows, observing the entire affair with a rather severe expression. McGonagall was also standing near Dumbledore, her features stoic.
The object of Malfoy's rage was sitting calmly at his desk, peering at the furious ex-Death Eater over his half-moon spectacles. "I'm sorry, Lucius," Dumbledore said once Malfoy had finished ranting, "but the Board of Governors seem to have changed their minds about removing me. The threat has been averted."
"Yes, but at what cost, Dumbledore?" Malfoy asked angrily. "Four students Petrified, one cursed, and two lying unconscious in the Hospital Wing. Not to mention that one of those two is the Boy-Who-Lived?"
To all the world, Lucius Malfoy, Chair of the Board of Governors for Hogwarts and a respected member of the Pureblood Wizarding Family Assembly, (an extremely influential interest group that often had the ear of the Minister,) appeared to be a concerned parent who was also representing what he thought were the best interests of all of the students at Hogwarts. But that would mean forgetting that the man was, and likely still is: a Death Eater. He wants Dumbledore removed because when Voldemort returns, a disgraced Albus Dumbledore will be much less of a threat, Daphne told herself.
"And why exactly are you so concerned about the well-being of the students, Malfoy?" Daphne interjected. "I can't be the only one here who believes you are not merely acting in what you believe to be the best interests of all. What hidden agenda could you be serving by getting Albus sacked?" a mocking tone sneaking into her question.
Malfoy spun around, snarling. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded to Dumbledore, still looking at Daphne. "What is she doing here?"
Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling. What is the man not amused by? "Daphne is simply a concerned guardian who wished to speak with me. That said, I value her opinions and thoughts…and her question is a valid one."
"She is accusing me of coming here under false pretenses," Malfoy insisted. "She is neither an employee of Hogwarts, nor of the Ministry. I will not have your disturbed lapdog being a part of this private conversation."
Daphne snapped. "Lapdog?" she repeated mockingly. "Who was it that kissed Voldemort's boots, Lucius? Are you sure you aren't seeking to clear the way so that once your leader is revived, he may rule unchallenged. I'd expect nothing less from a member of his inner circle."
If Lucius had become any angrier, he would have been frothing at the mouth. "How dare you!"
Daphne locked eyes with him, refusing to back down. Suddenly, something flickered across Daphne's mind. "…It will be Potter then…"
Rage flared at the small tidbit gleaned by her unintentional Legilimency. Daphne considered what she'd just seen. It could be just a random thought, but on the other hand, Malfoy might have something to do with what had occurred. He might be partially responsible for the fact that her son was lying in the Hospital Wing.
Daphne had taken a look inside his mind with Legilimency, and while it had appeared that his mind was healing, slowly, his thoughts had been a mass of fragmented painful memories and confused images. He was, at the moment, certifiably insane. Daphne could only hope that his magic would keep him unconscious long enough so that when he finally awoke, he'd be lucid. Madam Pomfrey was optimistic that with Harry's power and natural healing ability he might recover fully. Harry always recovered from injuries much faster than the average wizard, an ability he had probably inherited from his father who suffered serious Quidditch injuries from time to time..
But it would never be the same. He would always be haunted, and maybe always be a bit unstable. Hopefully, with Occlumency training and long-term natural mental reconstruction, he'd be okay. It didn't mean that Daphne would forgive herself any sooner, but it meant that she might be able to live with herself.
But standing in front of her might be the person responsible for the entire fiasco.
She called upon her magic, focusing it into a wedge of power, and sent a burst of magic straight at Malfoy, who cried out in pain. His attempts at Occlumency were blown away. Daphne ripped into his mind.
She began searching frantically, looking for the memory that she had glimpsed. She could hear him screaming, hear Snape and Minerva imploring her to stop, but she ignored them.
She kept searching, tearing through his memories. Then she found what she was looking for.
"….So this is the company you keep, a murderer, the friend of a Mudblood, and a pair of Muggles? I suppose like attracts like." Daphne glanced around the memory, searching for something she had missed. This was the only possible opportunity Lucius had had to slip Harry the diary.
Arthur Weasley, whose ears were already bright red, growled and lunged at the senior Malfoy. Daphne saw the look of shock on Malfoy's face as Weasley shoved him backwards into the book shelf. She saw herself begin to move, flicking her wrist to arm herself.
Lucius shoved Arthur away, then drew his wand and fired the Slicing Curse which she blocked with a nonverbal Deflection Spell. But this time she didn't pay attention to that; she knew what had happened. She saw Hagrid rushing over as he saw the developing duel…then, she saw him. Draco Malfoy slunk in from the shadows, and nonchalantly walked towards where Harry and Hermione were standing.
Daphne watched closely as the Pureblood Heir slowly slid his hand into the pocket of his robes then fumbled for a moment before getting a grip. With Hermione and Harry fixated by the sight in front of them, he flipped a book that Daphne instantly recognized as the Diary into Harry's cauldron, before continuing to the exit, a wide smirk on his face…
Just then, she was forcibly ejected from Malfoy's mind. The ex-Death Eater was on the ground, clutching his head. Dumbledore was standing off to the side, looking absolutely furious.
"DAPHNE!" Dumbledore bellowed angrily.
She ignored him. Instead, she focused on her target. Her voice was full of venom, and her anger buckled at its barriers once more. This time, she was inclined to let it out. She wanted to see Lucius Malfoy die a long, painful death for what he had done to the two Potters she loved.
"You bastard…" she hissed. She opened her mouth, and then stopped. Without even noticing, she had drawn her wand, which was pointed as Malfoy's heart. The incantation for the Cruciatus Curse was on her lips. The blood was pounding in her brain. Malfoy appeared to be livid, but there was more than a little fear in his eyes. The wrath of the Grey Maiden was legendary among the Death Eaters. It was the reason she was the most feared and respected Auror in the First War. Even Alastor Moody couldn't match her proficiency and willingness to use the Dark Arts. Barty Crouch's decree that Aurors could use Unforgivable Curses on suspected Death Eaters might as well have been tailor-made for her. It had come two months after she had tortured the McCourns.
"Daphne! What is the meaning of this?" McGonagall demanded. Snape was frowning, as if he knew something. He probably does.
"Daphne, you will release him now!" Dumbledore ordered. The Voice of Command slammed into Daphne's Occlumency Shields and dissipated. The compulsion failed.
"Not until I see him brought to justice," she said between clenched teeth. "This filth is the reason that my son nearly died, that a number of students nearly died." She paused, allowing what she had just said to sink in. The fear in Malfoy's eyes had increased tenfold. "He gave Harry the Diary."
"You can't prove anything, Dressler," Malfoy said from his position on the floor. "The Wizengamot won't accept testimony forcibly taken from another's mind," he sneered. "There is no evidence to back up your outrageous claim."
A plan formed in Daphne's mind, and she smiled nastily. "Who ever said I needed the Wizengamot?"
"What are you playing at, Daphne?"
Daphne raised her wand. "I, born Daphne Artemis O'Connor, demand recompense for wrongs done to Harry James Potter, my ward, by Lucius Abraxas Malfoy. I swear on my magic that I will, from this day forward, place all responsibility for harm done to my ward by any member of the Malfoy family on the magic of Draco Malfoy, son and heir of Lucius. In the name of Merlin's Magic do I swear this Vow of Vengeance."
A beam of white light shot forth from the tip of her wand, then broke into separate beams. One went directly backwards and struck Daphne in the heart. There was a tingling sensation, but it was brief and Daphne ignored it. The second beam struck Malfoy's heart, and an expression of surprise appeared on his face. Two more beams flew out of the room, seeking out the magical cores of Harry and Draco.
Daphne lowered her wand, hardening her eyes. "You know the price now, Lucius."
Malfoyspluttered, completely losing his composure. "You bloody bitch! I'll have you hauled out in front of the entire Wizengamot! And I'll make sure your 'son' watches the entire thing! How dare you threaten my son?" he demanded.
"Lucius. Daphne. SILENCE!" Dumbledore roared. "That was entirely unnecessary, Daphne. I order you to remove that Vow. I know that you can."
Daphne stood straight up, her eyes still not leaving the man sprawled in front of him. The expression of rage still on his face, he pulled himself to his feet, propping himself up the cane that Daphne knew contained his wand. "No."
"Daphne!" McGonagall cried. "He's a child! No matter what his father…" she sent a glare full of hatred at the ex-Death Eater, "…may have done, Draco is innocent!"
"Hardly," she mocked, "he's the one who dropped the Diary in my ward's cauldron." He eyes remained locked on Malfoy, who was sending her a look of utmost loathing that would have had most witches running in the opposite direction, dodging a vicious Cruciatus Curse. But Daphne was not most witches.
"Be that as it may," Snape's silky voice interjected, "Draco was simply following his father's wishes. He…looks up to Lucius a great deal. He believed that by doing so he would receive praise. It's like that ridiculous experiment that Squib performed on the dog."
"I beg you not to compare my son to a dirty mongrel, Severus,"Malfoy said softly. "But the analogy is relevant. You have no admissible evidence against me, you have none against Draco. Remove the Vow."
"Go to hell, Lucius," Daphne spat. "Join your brethren. Say hello to Rosier for me."
"DAPHNE!" Dumbledore cried angrily. "You will be silent…In fact, you will leave now. You are dismissed, Daphne. Attend to your ward."
"No," she replied again. She straightened, and matched Malfoy's eyes again. "My son nearly died…I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again."
"Fine,"Malfoy spat. "Come Dobby," he ordered to the House-Elf.
Dobby? "We're not finished, Lucius," Daphne warned.Malfoy turned around, looking more exasperated than anything else.
"What do you want now? A duel?"
"Daphne…" Dumbledore warned, his voice full of fury. She knew she'd get it from the Light Sorcerer when this was over, but that wasn't important now. Dumbledore would not dress her down in front of the enemy. She'd earned that right.
"No," Daphne said. "Remember, Lucius, when I swore the Vow, I demanded recompense. You have yet to pay it."
"I never thought I'd see the day when the Grey Maiden would be begging for pocket change…" Snape interjected icily.
"I want your House-Elf."
"I want your House-Elf. Free him now. I think that a House-Elf is worth more than any of the money the Malfoys have in their coffers. I would never sink so low as to rely in your funds," she snapped.
Malfoy gritted his teeth. He violently yanked off his right glove and hurled it in Dobby's direction. The excited House-Elf missed it. Lucius cursed, picked it up, and drilled Dobby in the head with it. Dobby was too rapturous to notice, and held the glove like a priceless relic. He mumbled something incoherent, then broke down crying.
Malfoy, disgusted, stormed out. Daphne could feel his magic seeking to destroy something. It was a foul stench, compared to Dumbledore's sweet perfume.
"Dobby thanks Daphne Dressler…Dobby will never forget Daphne Dressler!" the House-Elf squealed. He ran over and hugged Daphne around the ankles. The ex-Auror allowed herself a small smile. As if there was any doubt that Lucius had mistreated his House-Elves. He hurt one so much that the magical bonds that tied him to the Malfoy Family were frayed. Otherwise, he'd never be this happy.
"Dobby?" Daphne asked. "How would you like to work for me and Harry at Dressler Manor?"
The House-Elf began crying loudly, wiping his eyes with his filthy pillowcase, and Daphne feared that she'd made the wrong decision. But he hugged her ankle even tighter, mumbling word of thanks. Daphne smiled, though it was a bit forced. "I'll take that as a yes?"
Dobby broke away from her, still sniffling. He nodded. "Dobby would be honored," he said in a reverent voice.
Daphne smiled, this time a genuine one. "Very well. Report to Dressler Manor, and tell my other House-Elves that you have been made a member of my household. I'm sure you'll do excellent work."
"Thank you Daphne Dressler," he said after a pause. Then, with a CRACK, he vanished. Daphne suspected that House-Elves could sneak through the cracks in the anti-apparition wards, but had never tested that theory.
She took a deep breath, and then turned to face Dumbledore, who was obviously not amused by her behavior. Snape had a look on his face that might just have been pity.
Ginny had not taken a step out of the Hospital Wing when she was bowled over by a fast-moving object, which wrapped her into a bone-crushing hug that her Mum would have been proud of. The vast quantities of bushy brown hair obscuring her vision told her who it was, and she squeezed her best friend just as tightly, tears streaming down both of their faces. When Hermione slowly let go, Ginny saw Madam Pomfrey standing in the doorway of the Hospital Wing, a sad smile on her face and her eyes glistening with tears. She left.
"Are you alright?" Hermione asked quietly.
Ginny nodded. "Just a little tired," she admitted. She'd been filled in on what happened to her…and to Harry, by her friend's guardian. The woman had taken up an indefinite vigil at Harry's bedside, her legs propped up on a chair, a book in her hands. She'd occasionally walk over to brush the hair away from Harry's face or to whisper something to him, but other than that, she didn't move. And until Harry does, she probably won't spend much time away from him, Ginny thought. Still, she didn't tell me the whole truth. She said she did something stupid to put him into a coma, but she didn't specify what…
Ginny tried to pry her thoughts away from that topic, and wiped at the tears already streaming down her face. "How's the school been taking it?"
Hermione winced. "Half of them are convinced that Harry's faking it," she said, angry bitterness in her voice. Ginny was in a mind to hex all of them; her brothers were probably leading the group. "…The rest are just confused. They don't understand why Harry would attack his two best friends and then end up in a coma while his friends woke up much sooner."
"Let me guess," Ginny began angrily. "My brothers are part of the former category?"
Hermione sighed. "They don't want you near him ever again. Snape had to stop Ronald from attacking him after they gave out the Mandrake Restorative Draught."
Ginny felt pain in her hands, then realized that her fingernails were digging into her palm. She tried to relax, and took a deep breath. "They aren't going to get what they want, then."
Hermione looked depressed, and Ginny knew that wasn't all. "What else?"
Her bushy haired best friend bit her lip, a sure sign of distress. "Well, your parents were kind of in agreement with them," she said very quickly.
Ginny felt herself pale. "What?"
Hermione was biting her lip so hard she winced. "Well, you mum didn't really blame Harry…"
Ginny nodded impatiently. She knew that her mother would just as soon smother the orphan boy with hugs. Her mum might get angry with them at times, but it was over bad behavior, not about being a dark wizard. And she did send him a Weasley sweater…
"…Well, she sort of implied that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for you to be around him anymore, that he was dangerous." Hermione paced in a circle, and then stopped, looking her in the eye. "She said she thought it might be best if you spent more time with your family and with the Gryffindor's…"
Ginny was not sure she had ever been this furious with her mother at any point in her eleven and a half years of existence. It was obvious that it was a misunderstanding, and that her mum was very overprotective of her and was doing it out of love, not dislike of Harry…
No, it was the fact that she thought Ginny should spend more time with the Gryffindor's, (that she meant Ron went unspoken,) and that made Ginny shake with anger. "SHE DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING!"Ginny cried, her voice hoarse. "How can she say that..?"
Hermione shook her head. "I don't know…I suppose it looks pretty bad if you don't know Harry…or don't know the entire story…"
"I don't care…" Ginny said, leaning against a wall, sobbing. "Harry's in a bloody coma and Mum's worrying about my safety…" Hermione made a move to come closer to her, but thought better of it. "What about my dad?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shrugged. "He seemed rather confused about what to do," she admitted. "I'm not sure what he thinks…should we go down to dinner?"
Ginny nodded. "You're sitting at the Slytherin Table. Malfoy can sod off."
Hermione smiled sadly. "Thanks, Gin."
The Great Hall quieted as Dumbledore rose. There was a clatter of silverware, but no voices broke the solemn silence.
Dumbledore cleared his voice, and Hermione sat up straight, listening intently. Ron Weasley, sitting near her, had a scowl on his face, one that had been mostly ever-present since Snape had threatened him. On the other hand, he hadn't visited the Hospital Wing either. Daphne had refused to have Harry moved to St. Mungo's to avoid his condition being made into a spectacle.
Unfortunately, that was going to happen anyway, and with Daphne's reluctant blessing. Dumbledore had argued to her that the wizarding world could not be allowed to completely doubt the Boy-Who-Lived, especially when he was incapable of defending himself. Daphne had given in to that argument, and had told Hermione and Ginny what to expect. The Grey Maiden herself was presumably maintaining her silent vigil at Harry's bedside.
"Good evening to you all," Dumbledore said, his voice amplified by a Sonorus Charm. "Another year is at its end…how time flies." Dumbledore managed to sound wistful even though he didn't look as though he believed it. It had undoubtedly been a long year for the aging Headmaster.
"However, of more importance than the Leaving Feast and the awarding of the House Cup are the events that have occurred throughout this school term. Events that have seen several of our students Petrified, one cursed, and two others nearly killed." A hush of whispers broke out at the last, but they were silenced by a stern glare from McGonagall. "I believe that it is best to share some of what we know with you, the student body, and your parents through you."
"First, it is true that there was a Basilisk unleashed upon students this year by the so-called 'Heir of Slytherin.' However, that is about as truthful as most of the rumors circulating the school get."
The entire Hall, with a few exceptions, was now staring at Dumbledore, awestruck, open-mouthed.
"Harry Potter is not the Heir of Slytherin. It is true that he was involved, but it is not true that he did it of his own free will. Mr. Potter is an unfortunate victim, and in many ways a reflection of the weight we have placed upon the shoulders of a twelve-year old orphan."
Ron and a few others scoffed. Hermione sent the idiotic redhead the most fearsome glare she could muster. Snape followed up with one of his own, likely accompanied by a burst of Legilimency, and Ron paled.
"Harry Potter is not responsible for anything that happened to Miss Turpin, Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Boot, or Mrs. Norris. Mr. Potter was at the time, possessed by a shade of none other than a sixteen-year old Lord Voldemort, the true blood Heir of Salazar Slytherin." There were a number of gasps and muffled cries of horror, especially among the younger girls. Hermione ignored them. She thought Dumbledore was doing an excellent job thus far.
"Many wizards and witches, with far more experience than Mr. Potter have been deceived by Lord Voldemort. He is not to be held responsible for any of the terrible events, and I will not tolerate further slander of his name. Mr. Potter was critically wounded around a month ago, and remains unconscious in the Hospital Wing. We have had to place a guard on him to assure no foul play." He sounded disgusted as he said these words, which were technically true. Whether Daphne had gone there by her own conscience was irrelevant, it accomplished Dumbledore's intent to make the students ashamed of their behavior. It was like a father disciplining a young child for stealing a wand and performing magic. It was absolutely masterful.
"I also will not tolerate any harassment of Mr. Potter's friends. They have undergone a traumatic experience, and you have no right to demand answers from them. If they wish, they may share their experiences. Keep my prior warning in mind."
"And now I call upon a moment of silence for Mr. Potter, who is currently fighting for his life…and his sanity…"
There were more than a few gasps, expressions of disbelief, and strangled cries. Even Ron looked like he'd eaten something that had disagreed with him. Still, Hermione thought, did he have to include that? Now everyone's going to be all over Harry, expecting him to lose it at any moment next year…if he recovers…
Hermione was shocked by that last thought. Not IF, when…
The rest of the Leaving Feast passed in a haze for Hermione. She paid little attention when Ravenclaw won the House Cup, and the Slytherins were reinstated as Quidditch Champions (Gryffindor's 420-200 victory, which had relied more on the skills of the Gryffindor Chasers than McGlaggen's Seeking abilities, had not been nearly enough to make up the deficit). Ginny seemed to be rather out of it as well. Hermione glanced over at Terry Boot and Lisa Turpin s the students began to rise and file out of the Great Hall. They had rather glum expressions on their faces. Hermione hoped it meant that they were worried about Harry.
After a restless night of little sleep, Hermione found Ginny in the library and the two left to make one last trip to see Harry before they left for the summer.
They entered the Hospital Wing, and, as usual, found Daphne in her chair next to Harry's bed, a large red Potions book on her lap, which she was thumbing through absently. Always alert, she greeted them without even looking up. "Hello girls," she said. Her tone was bright, but ever since the Chamber, it had also carried a rather dead, gloomy quality. Nor did her smile reach her eyes, which remained clouded with pain. Hermione wondered if Daphne was suffering nightmares from her actions.
"Hello Daphne," Ginny said quietly, taking a seat on Harry's bed. She absently reached over and touched Harry's forearm, almost a reassuring gesture. Hermione felt the urge to do the same. It was very difficult getting through the day without him.
"I suppose you'll be leaving on the Hogwarts Express at eleven." It wasn't a question. Hermione suddenly felt guilty, something which the sensitive Legilimens picked up on quickly. "Don't feel guilty. Harry wouldn't want you to neglect your families, in your case, Hermione; they haven't seen you for a year."
Hermione nodded at the Grey Maiden's logic. "Well, I guess we came up to say goodbye…is there any change?" she asked hopefully.
Daphne's eyes told her everything she needed to know, but she answered anyway. "No. His mind is healing, and that's a good sign. That doesn't mean he'll come out of this unscathed." She shifted in her chair, and flicked her eyes back and forth between Hermione and Ginny. Hermione felt rather uncomfortable, as if she was being examined under a microscope. "He'll need you two to help him recover." Ginny gulped, but nodded.
"What's wrong?" Daphne asked. It was accusatory, though there was some concern.
"My parents…I don't know if they'll let me be friends with Harry anymore," Ginny replied, her eyes glistening with tears. "Mum's so damn overprotective of me that she wants me to stay away from him, because he's dangerous."
"I can't deny the last," Daphne admitted. "He's a high profile target, and a very active individual. He has to be…" she trailed of cryptically. "You two have been excellent friends to him; I want you to know that. I hope you'll continue to be so in the future."
"I don't care what my family says," Ginny replied defiantly. "I'll be Harry's friend because I want to be his friend."
Daphne smiled. "Don't anger Molly; she's got quite a temper."
"Harry's like a brother to me," Hermione found herself saying. "I'd never abandon him."
"I know, Hermione," Daphne reassured her. "I didn't doubt you. I'm sorry if that's what it came across as."
There was a long, awkward silence in which Ginny fidgeted with a lock of her hair, Hermione bit her lip and Daphne stared aimlessly out the window.
"When he recovers, what are you going to do?" Ginny asked, breaking the silence.
Daphne shrugged. "It depends on how healed his mind is. If he's sane and stable," she said in a strained voice, obviously concerned about the alternative, "then I'll take him back to Dressler Manor. You two are welcome to come, of course. Tonks will probably be stopping by, though she's reaching the toughest part of Auror School."
"Will you owl us when Harry wakes up?" Hermione asked.
Daphne blinked. "Of course…why wouldn't I?" she asked, frowning.
"I do not doubt that you would. I just want to be there for him."
"Me too," piped up Ginny.
Daphne smiled, her eyes brightening for the first time. Though Hermione could see the tears that were threatening to fall as well. "Thank you."
Hermione checked her watch, but then Daphne asked, "Hermione? Are you planning to tell your parents about what happened this year?"
Hermione shook her head. She'd made up her mind a while ago, and had informed McGonagall that she did not want her parents notified without her consent. Her Head of House had understood. "No. I don't want to risk them forbidding me to go to Hogwarts next year."
Daphne nodded grimly. "Be careful, Hermione," she warned. "Don't get caught in a situation where it all comes crashing down on you."
"We've got to get going," Ginny pointed out. Daphne got up from her chair, and proceeded to give each of them a tight hug.
"Take care of yourselves. You'll know as soon as he's lucid." Hermione ignored what Daphne was implying by her word choice.
"Goodbye Daphne," the two said together.
Daphne smiled. "Goodbye girls. I hope to see you very soon."
Hermione put an arm around Ginny's shoulders, and they turned to leave. They hadn't gotten six steps away when Daphne called out, "Ginny!"
The redhead twisted her way out of Hermione's arms and turned to look at Harry's guardian. "Yes?"
"Thank you for saving my life," Daphne said quietly. Ginny blinked.
"You don't remember?" Daphne asked.
Ginny frowned. "I thought it was just a dream. I think I used a Striking Curse."
Daphne nodded. "You did. It hit Riddle on the back, and prevented him from completing the incantation." Ginny turned white as a sheet. It was obvious what Daphne meant.
"You're welcome…" she whispered, her eyes wide.
"Be proud of yourself, Ginny. Even in all that pain, with your life and magic slipping away from you, you still fought him. And you saved everything."
"I guess I did…" Ginny replied in a vacant-sounding voice. "Wow…"
Daphne laughed, but it didn't last. After another long, awkward silence, Hermione took Ginny's hand in hers, and squeezed gently. "C'mon Ginny…"
Then redhead relaxed, and this time allowed Hermione to wrap her arm around her shoulders.
With one last sad look at Harry and Daphne, the two friends, tears glistening in both of their eyes, began the long journey home.
A/N:AND SHE'S DONE! WOHOOO!
So ends Book 2 of this massive thing that has really exceeded most of my expectations. I hoped to change the books, not rewrite them, but the latter has been much more fun.
One note about the Muggle techonology I mention: I think that only the most pampered purebloods are completely ignorant. Snape's father was Muggle, so its likely he knows what a bomb is. Since Arthur Weasley deals with Muggle objects on an everyday basis, I'm assuming that Ron at least knows that bombs are not good things. Obviously, Hermione knows about everything Muggle. Harry does too, from living in close contact with Muggles at a young age.
Well, I've already started the prologue of SoD, so I'm not going to keep you waiting. I'm having too much fun with this story.
That said, the more reviews of substance that I get, the more motivated I am to write. Just to give you an idea, a few major plot changes for SoD were proposed by readers. I do listen to what you have to say.
As for SoD, a summary is up on my profile now. Remus will play a major role, and a number of chracters from 5 and 6 will make an early appearance.
REVIEWS! REVIEWS! REVIEWS!