Chapter 5: The Boy Who Lived
Sunday morning Harry had barely sat down at the Gryffindor table before Professor McGonagall was standing over him.
"If you would, Potter, follow me. Professor Dumbledore would like a word with you," she said once she was sure she had his attention. "And don't worry about breakfast; the Headmaster will make sure you get your meal."
Nodding, Harry shot Ron a nervous look before following after. Has the Headmaster finally decided to send him away after all?
The walk was silent as Harry did his best to keep up with McGonagall. The gargoyle was very interesting when it sprang to life, moving aside to let them pass when the Professor gave the password "sugar cubes."
"The Headmaster will be joining you in a moment. For now, I suggest you sit and help yourself to the food," McGonagall said as she directed him into the office and shut the door behind him.
Harry stared at everything with wide eyes. This certainly wasn't what he thought a Headmasters office would look like. Things whirled and twirled, others bubbled and smoked. He expected the books and maps and figured other pompous decorations would fill the place, not such wildly eccentric items. Harry wanted to browse about and figure out what all the different shiny devices did, but he sat down on the chair provided, helping himself to a plate of food. The Headmaster's desk was laid out like the tables down in the Great Hall, filled with all sorts of delicious pastries, fruits and breakfast items.
He was halfway through the food on his plate when he began to feel full and sat the plate back down. Harry bit his lip, unsure of what he should do with his leftovers. He was unaccustomed to having so much food, and it felt wrong when he couldn't finish everything. Maybe he should attempt at least one more bite?
"Ah, Harry my boy. I do hope you enjoyed the food," Dumbledore said as he sat behind the desk and helped himself to a jelly filled pastry. "The food here really is divine, isn't it?" His eyes twinkled at Harry as the boy just stared back, the food completely forgotten.
"And how was your first week of school?" he asked between licking his fingers of the sticky sugar, earning a small smile from the boy.
Harry shrugged, unsure how to answer the Headmaster.
"Right, if you don't mind, Harry, I know a spell that would make it easy for us to communicate. I have something very important to talk to you about, and it would make it a lot easier if our conversation wasn't so one sided. However, if I do this, I will be able to hear all your conscious thoughts, so you will have to focus; the mind does have a way of wandering away on stray thoughts."
A spell to hear his thoughts? That would certainly make things a bit easier, but Harry wasn't quite sure about it. What if he started thinking about things he shouldn't? Like the Dursleys. Harry shuddered. That would not be good. But then, if he focused like the headmaster said, then it shouldn't be an issue. He bit his lower lip and sucked in a deep breath before given the headmaster a sharp nod.
"Excellent," Dumbledore clapped. He smiled at the boy reassuringly, and then flicked his wand at him. "Audi mensmentis."
Harry sat still for a moment, just staring at the older man. Did it work? He certainly didn't feel any different.
"Yes, Harry my boy, it worked quite well," Albus answered.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Now doesn't this make things easier?" he asked.
Harry agreed. His eyes were wide in awe. This was a very handy spell. Maybe if his friends learned it, he wouldn't have to worry about trying to communicate with them all the time.
"It's an idea," Dumbledore said. "However, as I said before, you would have to really focus your thoughts to keep them from drifting. Also, only the caster can hear you, so while one might be able to cast the spell, I wouldn't recommend two of the same at once."
Oh. Well then, looked like he was gonna have to help teach the sign language he did know. He sighed. He was kind of hoping that he wouldn't have to acknowledge the fact that his language skills weren't where they should be.
Dumbledore gave a chuckle and shook his head, smiling warmly at the boy. "Well, shall we get on to business?" he asked and continued on at Harry's polite nod.
"Right. What do you know about your parents, Harry?" the older man asked, studying the boy as he awaited his reply.
Harry frowned. His parents? Aunt Petunia never really talked about them and when she did, she would only say that they died in a car crash and left them to raise him. He vaguely remembered Aunt Marge taunting him with the fact that his father was drunk, but Harry refused to believe that. He liked to think his parents were better than the Dursleys and would have shown him loved have they been around. They certainly never told him he was a wizard. That was quite the pleasant shock for him when Professor Snape arrived on their door step and hurried him off before the Dursleys could truly object.
Harry sighed. He still couldn't believe that the Professor wasn't who he thought he was.
"Harry," Dumbledore said softly, bringing the boy back out of his reverie. "Your parents did not die in a car crash. No, instead, they gave their life to protect you from a very dark wizard. Have you heard of Voldimort? Or as people prefer to say, You-know-who or He-who-must-not-be-named.
It sounded familiar; he thought maybe he heard some of the other kids mention those names.
"Because your parents loved you so much, when Voldimort cast his killing curse, it rebounded off you and back at him, resulting in that scar," he said, motioning to the lighting shape scar on the boy's forehead.
Harry's fingers traced the scar. But why? Why would anyone want to kill a baby?
"Your parents defied the dark lord on more than one occasion. He viewed them as a threat, one to be eliminated. But because of your mother's love, her sacrifice, you were able to live. You became what the wizarding world knows you as; the-boy-who-lived." Dumbledore handed Harry a newspaper, the Daily Prophet. "The reason I called you in here was so that you would know what was going on before you saw this. And so that you can ask what ever questions you need."
Confused, Harry scanned the front page and frowned. It was him. Somehow, someone managed to get a picture of him as he was getting off the train in Hogsmead.
The Silent Boy Who Lived
It has been brought to the attention of Daily Prophet that our hero, Harry Potter is mute. It is unclear if this is a condition brought on by the killing curse from You-Know-Who or something else. Friends of the Potter family claim they remember Harry as a happy, babbling baby. It is the Daily Prophets opinion that Harry Potter be examined by a professional team experienced in evaluation to determine curse or defect. Only the best in medical care should be expected for The Boy Who Lived.
The headmaster was right; he did have a lot of questions.
"Do you suppose it's from the curse?"
"Could it be mental?"
"I never heard of a mute wizard before."
Harry wasn't sure if his face could redden more than it was, but with the encouragement of his two friends, he did his best to ignore them. It'd only been a few days since his release from the Infirmary and the school was still reeling from the fact that he was mute. But still, the unwanted and very rude attention presented towards him made Harry uncomfortable. He could only hope that given time, the whispers would stop. Though, after what Professor Dumbledore shared with him, he kind of had his doubts.
The Headmaster had told him everything; about what led to the deaths of his parents and his decision to send Harry to stay with the Dursleys. He couldn't help but wonder if the life the Headmaster was trying to shield him from would have been the better one. He even briefly wondered why no one ever checked up on him. If he was some hero, why did no one bother to see if he was okay? But of course, that was self evident. Why would they? No matter what he did as a baby, Harry was still nothing more than a freak. The headmaster never addressed those thoughts, and Harry did his best to brush them away the moment they started to crowd his mind.
After the meeting was done with, the Hedmaster offered him a lemon drop and sent him on his way. "Life has a way of zigzagging when you least expect it, Harry," the old man had stated. "It's up to you if you're going to zag or zig when it counts." To say that left him confused would have been an understatement.
With effort, Harry ignored the mutterings and focused on communicating with his friends. Hermione wasn't sure how long of a wait it would be to receive her requested books, but she convinced Harry to at least share what he did know. They were sitting in the Great Hall eating their evening meal while Harry showed them once again how to sign the alphabet. The other students at the Gryffindor table watched Harry curiously, some even attempting to twist their fingers into the proper shapes.
"Blimey, this is hard," Ron complained as he failed yet again to make it through the whole alphabet. "I didn't even know it was possible to get cramps in fingers. Are you sure there isn't a spell we could use?"
"Stop whining, Ronald, it's not that complicated," Hermione chided. "And a spell would be useless even if there was one. It's not like he's talking in a foreign language; it's English, just with hands instead."
"Easy for you to say, you already memorized the signs," Ron groused, but like a champ, he continued to practice. Harry couldn't help but smile; it seemed the two lived to bicker with each other. And soon, he'd be able to really talk with his friends without the awkwardness of searching for a quill and parchment. He wanted the Headmaster to teach the mind spell to his friends, but the professor had simply replied that magic wasn't always the answer to a problem.
It took a week for the books to arrive, but Harry was able to share a few more signs with his friends. 'Thank you' was the first gesture he showed them. They had gotten into a routine of sorts, with Harry first writing a word – and Hermione correcting his spelling as needed - before showing them the action to go with it. With his limited knowledge, Harry was able to begin to breach the silence between him and his friends.
Of course, it didn't take long for the Slytherins to pick up on what was going on. Every time they passed Draco and his friends, they would "sign" at them. Usually, the signs consisted of ugly facial expressions while they flapped their hands about as if they couldn't control their bodies. Ron almost got into blows with them over it, but Harry and Hermione held him back. The fact that one of the schools professors was watching seemed to help, too. Still, Ron couldn't help but ball up his fists at his sides and grit his teeth whenever it happened. Harry figured it'd be a matter of time before the red head finally blew his top. Secretly though, Harry loved the fact that his friends cared that much for him. He never once had anyone stick up for him.
When Thursday came, Harry dutifully presented himself to the medi-witch as ordered. After going over how he was feeling and checking his balance, Poppy gave Harry the option of coming back the next day after classes to begin his treatments, or to wait another week. It was tempting, to put off more pain, but, Harry honestly wanted it over with. So when Friday evening came, Harry sat nervously swinging his legs over the side of the bed in the infirmary while Hermione and Ron checked out the books that finally arrived.
Her parents sent her three books; Sign Language for Beginners, Talking with Your Hands, and Sign Language: A History. Harry had a feeling the last was purely for the girls' enjoyment. He wished he could be as excited about the books as she was, but right now, his thoughts were currently worrying over the procedures Madame Pomfrey had planned for him. Ron and Hermione where only allowed to stay so long as they left without complaint when the time came. The two were quick to agree, not wanting to see their friend suffer the wait alone – though they still didn't know why Harry needed to be in the Infirmary in the first place.
"I bet they're going to do experimental spells to help Harry talk again," Ron had guessed. Hermione wasn't too sure about that. She thought that maybe there was more going on with Harry than just his lack of voice, but it wasn't her place to speculate. If Harry wanted them to know, he would tell them.
Right now, Hermione had the book Sign Language for Beginners open on her lap. She seemed pleased to know that Harry really did teach them the correct way to sign the alphabet. Ron on the other hand looked down right bored as they all sat there in silence. His legs were stretched out as far as they could reach in front of him while he leaned his head back against the chair, staring straight up at the ceiling. It didn't really look all the comfortable.
"So what is it that they're going to do?" Ron finally asked as he breathed a sigh of impatience. He tilted his head forward to look at Harry, but didn't really bother to change his position.
Harry shrugged. He knew he should say something to them, but he just didn't know what. It was still too much for him that the adults knew of his treatment at the Dursleys. The way the medi-witch mothered him suggested that the people here in the magical world cared far more than his relatives ever did, but it was so ingrained in him to keep silent, it was hard to consider otherwise.
Propping the ever present notebook on his lap, Harry hovered the quill hesitantly over the paper. "I have broken bones that didn't heel right," he finally put down. "There going to fix it." There, that seemed innocent enough of an answer.
Hermione was quick to correct the words for him.
"Sorry to hear that, mate," Ron said after reading the sentences. "I once broke my leg playing a game of Quidditch with Fred and George. Fell off my broom..." Ron shivered. "That was not a fun experience."
"But Harry, did you mean to use the plural?" Hermione asked. When both Harry and Ron just blinked at her, Hermione signed. "You wrote "bones", as in more than one. How many bones did you break?"
Harry shook his head. That was a question that he wasn't willing to answer just yet. There were just too many for him to remember, and each time was not a pleasant memory. Thankfully Poppy chose that time to enter, saving Harry from having to come up with any kind of answer for the girl.
"Time's up!" the medi-witch announced as she drew closer to the bed. "You two may come back when Mister Potter is feeling well enough for visitors," she offered as the two gathered their belongings.
"That'd be brilliant," Ron smiled.
"Thank you, Madame Pomfrey," Hermione said before directing her attention to Harry. "Good luck, Harry. See you tomorrow."
Harry smiled back at the concern he saw radiating from the girl. He still had yet to think of a way to thank her properly for fixing his glasses. He didn't think Ron would be much help with that. Maybe Madame Pomfrey could help him think of something for her, he mused.
As the door closed behind the two, Pomfrey directed Harry to the Infirmary showers and placed a clean garment on a rack for him to change into. When he was done, he was to slip back into bed, and then she'd give him a potion to help knock him out.
They had decided to work on the ribs first during his checkup. While there wasn't really a guaranteed way to heal the bones, a couple of them where sitting wrong. If it wasn't fixed, it would only be time before they fractured again and puncture something and that was something they wanted to avoid. At least with the help of magic, the bones could be guided and encouraged to heal the right way.
Harry placed his things neatly on the chair closest to his bed and then slipped back under the sheet. His stomach was turning violently on him as he waited for Madame Pomfrey to return with the potion. She informed him that he would sleep through it all, and even through part of recovery, but that when he did wake up, he'd still feel a bit of pain. He tried to console himself with the fact that she was trying to help him.
"Here you go, Mister Potter," Madame Pomfrey said, smiling warmly at him as she handed him the potion. Harry sat up and sniffed at it, pulling a face of disgust. It smelled horrid. The medi-witch chuckled. "I know. It's not the best tasting in the world. Drink it fast, that way it's over before you know it," she advised.
Nodding, Harry did just that. He threw his head back and chugged the contents down as fast as he could. It helped, but he still gagged a bit.
"Sleep well, Harry," Madame Pomfrey murmured as she brushed his hair away from his face. He smiled sleepily up at her and yawned. Soon, much faster than he expected, he was pulled into a potion induced sleep.