The first Monday of October found Harry sitting in the Great Hall during breakfast, chewing at the end of a quill while he contemplated his Defense Against the Dark Arts essay. And although he was starring at words about Banshees and how to counteract their magic, he was thinking about Boggarts. It had been two weeks since Lupin's lesson, yet Harry still found himself unsettled by the event.
He had spent the lesson worrying over what his Boggart could possibly be. When he considered the thing he feared most, he could only think of loosing Tom. He remembered First Year, when Tom was missing and he hadn't known if his friend was even alive anymore.
Then, he worried about what form a Boggart would take in front of Harry's teacher and classmates. He wondered what that shape would reveal about Tom.
Harry had been honestly relieved when Lupin ended class before Harry could take his turn at the Boggart. He was so relieved, he hadn't questioned Lupin's actions. However, after pondering the event for several days, Harry wondered why the professor hadn't wanted Harry to face the Boggart.
Harry wondered if Lupin suspected something.
Gathering his nerve, Harry resolved to speak with Lupin before classes that morning. Harry began to gather his homework and stuff it into his bag, intent on tracking the Defense professor down. However, as he turned away from the table, Harry almost ran into Neville.
"Oh, mornin' Neville," Harry greeted, surprised by Neville's proximity. The two were almost stepping on each others toes. "Everything all right?"
"I suppose," Neville answered, backing away from Harry a little. However, he stayed close enough that others wouldn't hear their conversation. "I guess I really wanted to ask you the same thing."
Harry frowned. "Everything's all right with me," Harry told him. "Why?"
"I don't know," Neville answered. "You've been disappearing a lot, and you've seemed kinda distracted."
"How do you mean?" Harry asked, frowning at the implication of Neville's words.
Neville shrugged and shuffled his feet a little. Focusing his eyes on a point behind Harry, he said, "It's just, you and Hermione always say you're studying in the library during the weekends, but I can never find you there."
Harry blushed as he realized he'd been caught in a lie.
Neville was blushing, too. "You know... you can tell me if you're..."
Now, Harry frowned. "If I'm what?"
"If you're... you know... and with Hermione..."
Suddenly understanding what Neville was getting at, Harry cried, "What? No!"
His voice was a little too loud, and the students eating breakfast turned to stare at the pair.
"Oh! Okay," Neville said quickly, all too happy to accept that two of his closest friends weren't carrying on a secret relationship without telling him. However, at the same time... Neville had done a good job at convincing himself that the two were carrying on in secret. He had been very careful about considering the evidence and all possible conclusions before approaching Harry with his suspicions. Neville thought that he and Harry were friends, and he definitely thought he knew Harry and Hermione, so Neville asked, "But... why not?"
Again blushing furiously, Harry said, "Can we not talk about this here?"
"Oh! Yeah, um..."
"Why don't we walk to class?" Harry suggested.
Neville quickly agreed, and the two started out of the Great Hall.
"Look," Harry began, "Hermione and I aren't going out or anything."
Again, Neville wanted to ask Why not?, but his courage was beginning to fail him, and he was becoming overly embarrassed by his mistake. Still, he was able to ask, "Then why have you two been lying about studying in the library?"
"We may not be going out, but we've still been discussing a lot of things which can't really be discussed in public, you know?"
"Oh, like Sirius Black?" Neville guessed.
Jumping at the excuse, Harry said, "Exactly."
Yet, at this admission, Neville still looked incredibly hurt. "You can talk to me about that kind of stuff, too, you know. I bet I could help a little."
Harry sighed as remorse washed over him. He had to keep reminding himself that he had more than three or four friends, and just because he couldn't trust them with a few pieces of choice information didn't mean he couldn't trust them with anything.
"I know you can help, Neville. You already have, remember? On the train, when you were able to tell me Black's connection to my parents? Sorry I keep dismissing you. Things have just been... really stressful the last few weeks, and I haven't been acting properly."
An apology and the validation of their friendship was all Neville needed, and he was able to give Harry a small grin. "I understand, Harry. Just... don't forget that I'm around if you need anything."
Harry gave Neville a large smile and a nod. Neville returned the smile before remembering that he hadn't had breakfast yet. He promised he'd meet Harry after classes that day, then Neville started back towards the Great Hall.
Harry sighed in relief. However, he felt bad about leaving Neville out of the loop. Harry knew he could trust Neville, and the guy had taught Harry a ton of things about High Wizarding Society in the past. Harry wondered if he could trust Neville with a few more of his secrets.
However, before Harry could come to any sort of conclusion, a voice sounded behind him, calling his name.
Harry turned, and he saw Professor Lupin standing in a doorway across the hall. He was mortified when he realized that he had automatically led Neville to this area for their little conversation because DADA would be his first class of the day, and Lupin had probably heard most of what they were talking about.
"Oh, good morning professor," Harry called to the professor.
"Harry, would you care to join me for a cup of tea before class?" Lupin asked.
Harry desperately wanted to decline. He didn't want the professor involved in his affairs. However, Harry soon remembered what his intentions were before he'd met with Neville, and Harry remembered that he indeed had something to discuss with Lupin.
Still, Harry was hesitant when he accepted Professor Lupin's invitation.
Soon, Harry was settled in Lupin's office with a cup of tea, and Lupin was sitting across from him.
"I know you have classes this morning," Lupin began, "But I feel we need to discuss a few things. I couldn't help but overhear your conversation with Mr. Longbottom."
"Yeah," Harry acknowledged. After the pair left the Great Hall, they hadn't exactly been discrete.
"And Harry, I'm concerned about the issue of Sirius Black," Lupin finished.
Harry shifted uneasily, staring into his cup of tea.
"Is what you said to Mr. Longbottom true, Harry?"
Harry frowned. "Which part?" he asked. Harry wondered why Professor Lupin would care about Harry and Neville's friendship, especially when Harry had just apologized for his behavior in the past weeks.
"Have you been researching Sirius Black? Is that why you've seemed so distracted during the last few weeks?" Lupin asked.
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I guess that's part of it, sure."
"Have you spoken to Professor McGonagal about this, Harry?"
Now, Harry gave the professor a challenging frown. "Would she actually tell me anything?"
Harry was surprised when Lupin gave a light chuckle at Harry's behavior. "I suppose she wouldn't, no."
The way Lupin acknowledged Harry's concern with a laugh made him feel as if the man was belittling him, and Harry's temper flared. "I'm not a child!"
Lupin shook his head. "Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean we won't try to protect you."
"Protect me?" Harry asked. "From what?"
The very notion that the professors were trying to protect him was preposterous. After all, they didn't know anything about him. As far as Harry could tell, they had no reason to protect him. All he had was Tom. And Hermione. And the twins. And maybe Neville. The professors of Hogwarts, however, were completely uninvolved as far as Harry was concerned.
Lupin seemed to understand all of this in Harry's expression, and he sighed. "The very fact that you ask that question suggests that you don't understand. You don't know what Black wants. You don't know what he's capable of. You don't understand what lengths he'd go to in order to hurt you, Harry."
Harry frowned, considering Lupin's warning. "But you do know?" Harry asked.
Lupin nodded. "Better than almost anyone, I'd guess."
"But you won't tell me," Harry pouted.
Lupin shook his head. "No. Not right now, anyways. You say you're not a child, but this issue is clearly weighing heavily on you. I couldn't bare you with any more burden."
"Would you tell me, though?" Harry asked. "If you knew I could handle it?"
Slowly, Lupin nodded. "If I knew you could be responsible about it, then yes."
Harry nodded resolutely, already planning to meet with Tom and Hermione so they could discuss ways to ring the information out of Lupin.
"Now, I'm sorry to cut our conversation short, but it's almost time for class," Lupin stated. "However, if there's anything else you wish to discuss, feel free to visit me during my office hours."
Harry almost groaned when he realized their time was up and he still hadn't had a chance to ask about the Boggart incident. He'd have to be content in searching Lupin out during office hours.
Annoying Note: It/s a short chapter, but hey! It/s a chapter! And with my track record on updating, I feel like this counts for something.
Hope you guys enjoyed this new bit of drama. Review and tell me what you think.
Next chapter: With Neville/s help, the gang gets serious about Sirius, and Tom tells Harry about his new Slytherin friends.