Author's note: -Kyra has run away to hide herself in fright. She may or may not be back at the end of the chapter.-
Disclaimer: -Kyra asks that you please cross apply all previous disclaimers to this chapter as well.-
--This was a computer generated message--
Ron was angry. How could Malfoy have been the one to find out what had happened to Harry? It should have been him or Hermione, who actually cared about Harry, not Malfoy, who hated him. Admittedly, Malfoy had told Dumbledore right away about what had happened, but still… It irked him that Hermione kept defending him. She was supposed to be his girlfriend, not Malfoy's! He shuddered convulsively at the thought of Hermione and Malfoy as an item, and hurriedly turned his thoughts back to packing for the summer.
He threw his things into his trunk, trying not to look at Harry's bed next to his. He obviously hadn't intended to be so badly injured, because all of his things were still there. Even the invisibility cloak was carefully folded under his pillow. Ron, feeling only slightly guilty about looking at his friend's personal things, moved over and looked into Harry's trunk. There was the usual mass of robes and muggle clothes for weekends, along with parchment, quills, and inkbottles. Ron pawed through those, making a note to put them back when he was done. Underneath all the clutter, Ron found a battered book. Curious, he opened it, and discovered a picture of Harry's parents. They looked incredibly young, and Ron realized with a start that they'd only been a couple years older than he was when Harry was born. The pictures moved in chronological order, from what was obviously a proposal to Harry's first birthday. It had only been a few months after that that Lily and James had been killed. Ron examined the couple, noting how in love they looked and how blissfully unaware they were of the tragedy that was lurking in their near future. It almost made him cry to see Sirius, still a free man and James' best friend, the best man at their wedding, and the Godfather to their first child. He wished that the pictures could speak, but they remained stubbornly silent.
Finally, knowing that there was more in Harry's trunk and wanting to look at it before his guilt got to him, Ron put the photo album on top of the mass of clothes and school supplies. A broken piece of mirror came to his fingers as he dug into the trunk again, and he looked at it for a long moment, wondering why Harry would have kept something like that. He wrapped it in a spare sock and put it back into the trunk. There wasn't much left, and Ron quickly passed over the letters. Many of them were from Sirius, and others were from him and Hermione. He didn't read them, only reaching in for the last time. His hand closed on a piece of parchment, and when he pulled it out, he realized that it was a picture of Harry. It was only of his face, but it was so detailed that, if it had been in color, Ron would have sworn that it had been a photograph. Curiously, he looked for an artist's signature. He didn't think that Ginny was that talented, though it could have been a charm. There it was! He squinted to make out the words at the very bottom of the picture.
For Harry, so that you can see what I mean. Draco
Ron's blood froze yet again. Idly, he wondered if it was possible for his blood to remain permanently frozen, but his mind quickly returned to the object at hand. Malfoy. No, not even. Draco. Harry was on first name terms with the git. And what did the message mean? So that you can see what I mean. Was it…?
Ron firmly shoved the thought out of his head. Harry was his best friend. He wouldn't do Harry the disservice of assuming something like… well, like that. Then again… No. Ron shoved the picture back into the trunk and dumped the clothes back on top of it. He resisted the urge to slam the lid as well. Instead, he retreated to his bed. He pulled the curtains so that he wouldn't have to look at the trunk, but it did no good. The picture was imprinted into his brain. He saw the image as clearly as though it was being held in front of his nose. Closing his eyes only made it worse.
Eventually, he did the only thing he thought would work. He grabbed his broom and stalked out of the dormitory. No one questioned him as he walked as fast as he could out to the Quidditch pitch. Once there, he mounted his broom and took off, trying to fly as fast and high as he could. He threaded through the goal posts, fiercely not thinking about anything but getting the maximum speed and agility out of his broom.
The distraction worked for a little while. Finally, though, he had to come back to Earth, as it were. He landed his broom and slowly, unwillingly trudged towards the castle. The exercise had dulled his thoughts slightly, and it was enough to be able to contemplate returning to Gryffindor tower. He didn't think he could bear the dormitory yet, but at least the common room didn't seem like such an uninhabitable place any more. He propped his broom against the wall and dropped into a chair, not sure if he wanted company or not. Hermione was gone, probably off working, he thought a little sourly. She would never stop working, even if the world ended. Though, he realized, if she did stop working, then he would be really worried.
Eventually, he glanced at his watch and noted that he'd missed lunch. His mother would be coming to pick him, Hermione, and Ginny up in an hour and a half. His stomach reminded him that he hadn't eaten, but he ignored it. He didn't want to move, not even to satisfy his hunger. And so he sat, looking moodily into the fire and not noticing as the common room slowly emptied and refilled, moving with a rhythm and pattern that was neither totally magical nor totally natural.
Ginny's mum picked them up promptly at four, just like she'd promised. She collected Harry's trunk as well, sweeping all of his things into it with an absent-minded attitude. She kissed the three teenagers, then moved off to exchange a few intense words with Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. Obviously, she'd won whatever argument they'd been having, because she looked marginally happier when she returned.
"Right," she said, determinedly cheerful. "Albus has given me permission to Apparate with the three of you, so come on." She led them out onto the grounds and passed the shield that kept the muggles out. Once they'd passed it, Ginny looked around. They hadn't left on the main path, and she realized that she didn't know where they were. It was an odd feeling, and it made her slightly uncomfortable. Apparently her connection with Dancing Moon didn't extend past the boundaries when it came to being at home in the forest. Her mum stopped in the shadow of two trees, and gave Harry's trunk to Hermione. "Just think of home, dears. Let me do all the work."
Ginny pictured the Burrow, and hoped that she was doing it right. She only had time to gasp at the awful pulling sensation that filled her before she found herself stumbling to catch her balance on the lawn of her home. Hermione caught her, and Ginny smiled her thanks, thinking that Fred and George's Apparatuses had improved the process a lot. Her mum had taken Harry's trunk back, and she was leading the three students towards the house. "Come along!" she said, when she realized that they weren't following. Ginny started up the path, and Hermione and Ron followed. Ron lagged slightly, and Ginny wondered what was on his mind. She hadn't seen him since that morning, since before Dumbledore had given them all the news. It was Hermione who'd told Ginny, and she was almost certain that Hermione hadn't told her the entire story. Ginny had wanted to ask Ron, but she hadn't found him. Now, it was obvious that he didn't want to talk about anything at all.
In the front room of the house, all of her brothers were waiting. Hermione received hugs from everyone, as did Ginny, except from Fred and George, who gave them both candy instead. Ginny gave it back to them. She saw Ron slip up to his room as soon as he could, and Hermione get sucked into a conversation with her dad, presumably about some muggle technology or other. Ginny herself was starting to feel useless again. Fred and George had gone back to teasing Bill, and Charley was listening in to the conversation between her dad and Hermione. Her mum had vanished into the kitchen, and Ginny was left standing in the middle of the room. With a sigh, she took her trunk and began to drag it up the stairs. Halfway up, she realized where she was, and cast a levitation charm on it. That made the job much faster, and she was soon directing it to the foot of her bed. She would unpack later, when she'd had time to relax and take in the fact that she was home once again.
After about ten minutes, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," Ginny called, wondering what her mother wanted. Her brothers never bothered to nock.
To her initial surprise, it was Hermione, not Molly Weasley who was waiting. Then, Ginny remembered that Hermione would by staying, and that this was where she always slept. "Do you mind if I put my stuff in here?" Hermione asked. "I can ask your mum for a bit of closet, but for now…"
Ginny grinned. "Go right ahead," she said. "And you can just hang your clothes in my closet. I don't have nearly enough stuff to fill it." Ginny gestured at her antique closet, which was only half full. "Mum inherited if from some relative or other, and it's not worth enough to sell."
Hermione nodded, and directed her trunk to land gently next to Ginny's. She opened it, and began to rummage through it. She came out with a type of notebook, one with a piece of metal twisted around and around through little holes on one side. Ginny looked at it curiously.
"It's called a spiral notebook," Hermione explained, seeing Ginny's look. "I use it as a diary."
Ginny looked at her sharply. She would never, ever write in a diary again, and she was instinctively mistrustful of any diary at all.
"It's completely non-sentient," Hermione assured her. "I bought it in a muggle store to make sure."
Ginny nodded, but she still wasn't quite relaxed around it. "I'll write in it outside, if it makes you nervous," Hermione offered, but Ginny shook her head.
"It's fine," she said. "I have to get used to it again sometime. May as well start with a safe one."
Hermione nodded, and pulled a long plastic tube out of the pocket of her bag. She pulled off the cap to reveal a point. She flipped open the spiral notebook and folded it in half, then put the point of the tube onto the paper. She began to write, and Ginny couldn't help watching her. Hermione wrote smoothly, unhurriedly, carefully chronicling the events of her life. Ginny wished that she were the same way. She always seemed to have to overburden everything with emotion and by the end, none of her words made any sense. Hermione seemed to be able to detach herself from her emotions, and Ginny wondered how she did it.
Finally, Hermione put down the tube. She looked up, and the two pairs of brown eyes met. Hermione grinned slightly and held out the diary. "Do you want to read it?" she asked.
The temptation was enormous, but Ginny shook her head. "No," she said. "Keep it private. Trust me, you never write the same way when you know that someone will be reading what you read."
Hermione shrugged, but Ginny thought that she looked relieved. Ginny didn't blame her. Before they could talk any more, Ginny's mum's voice carried up the stairs to them. "Girls! Come down quickly!"
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a glance, then pounded down the stairs together. They found the entire family, even Ron, crowded around the fire. Lupin's head was looking out at them. Ginny eyed him critically. He looked more tired than usual, and there were more lines on his face. Though she couldn't see his robes, she knew that they would be shabby and disheveled. His eyes were clear, though, and his voice sounded normal. "Hello Hermione, Ginny. As I was telling the others, the Healers at St. Mungo's have managed to stabilize him. He hasn't regained consciousness yet, but he's out of immediate danger. They don't think that there was too much mental damage, though we won't know for sure until he wakes up. Just thought that I should let you all know."
Ginny's mum seemed to deflate a little at the end of Lupin's message. "Thank the Heavens," she breathed. "Remus, are you busy tonight?"
Lupin nodded. "Sorry Molly. You know I'd love to come over, but I have… a previous engagement."
Far from looking put out, Ginny's mum looked inordinately pleased. She nodded, and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "Well, it's about time!"
Lupin nodded to everyone, then vanished from the flames. Ginny's mum turned to the assembled Weasley clan plus Hermione. "This calls for a celebration," she announced. "Ginny, come help me prepare."
Magdalene Jones had been a Healer for all of her adult life. She'd seen horrific injuries, both to bodies and to souls, and she'd though that she had managed to close off her emotions. She'd trained for years beside Healer Gwendolyn, the best Healer of her generation, and the venerable Healer had taught Magdalene that to close herself off was the best thing that she could do, both for herself and her patients. Magdalene had learned well, and she'd developed practices to help her close herself off. There was only so far one could go, but as time went on, Magdalene had begun to wonder what would happen when she finally managed to separate herself from all emotion. Already, she could view the worst of the injuries without flinching, and she would do what needed to be done without thinking about who she was working on. This ability had quickly helped her rise to one of the most respected Healers in the building. Of course, her area of expertise made closing herself off much harder. Many Healers could afford to be completely closed off with their patients, but Magdalene didn't work with normal patients. She worked with children. No one else in St. Mungo's worked exclusively with children, and because of her training in the field, she was the youngest Master Healer in the building.
There were times when being a child Healer was a problem, though. To her came the youngest and most broken of the patients. She'd seen everything, from broken limbs to battered heads, to broomstick injuries, to children who were obviously abused. Those last were the hardest. She was unmarried, and she had no wish for children of her own, but all of her patients were like her own children while they were there. The accidents she could deal with. Those children were brought in by concerned parents, who worried and hovered and annoyed her with questions. But the abused, or battered children. They would be brought in by stern-faced Ministry officials, and they would leave without a word. Magdalene would be left alone with them, and it would hurt her heart. She didn't know how people could do that to children, and she hated the way the children would look at her in suspicion and fear.
She'd known who he was, of course. Everyone in the Wizarding World knew who he was. Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. The one who'd faced You-Know-Who as a child and survived. The one who, since then, had dealt with the ministry, the Daily Prophet, monsters, criminals, betrayal, gossip, lies, and, if what he said was true, You-Know-Who himself. He'd done more in sixteen years than most people did in sixty. He was a brilliant athlete, the youngest person to make it on to the Gryffindor Quidditch team in a century. He had loyal friends, and he was loyal to them as well. He was famous, and he didn't seem to care. It was enough to make anyone love him.
And there was his face. Magdalene had seen in everywhere, in books, in paintings, in the Prophet… Harry Potter was everywhere. Like everyone else in her generation, Magdalene had studied the pictures until she knew them by heart. There were his green eyes, breathtaking, even as a baby. She'd been captivated by them from the beginning, and she would take out pictures of him from the Prophet and study them. He was always looking straight at her, and she could never tell if the expression in them was one of congratulation, or of accusation. She wanted to know, and she was afraid to know, and she knew that she was acting like a silly teenager, but she didn't care.
So, when a redheaded Ministry official named Arthur Weasley had checked him into St. Mungo's, Magdalene had hoped that he would be given to her. Sure enough, Matron had taken one look at him and said, "This one's for Magdalene." And she'd promptly vanished back into her office. It was up to Magdalene to send him up to room 17 and examine him thoroughly. Mr. Weasley had said that he had been found in the catacombs of the Ministry, and that he was suffering from repeated bouts of a very high intensity Cruciatus curse. That much was plain to see. There were always some who would use the curse, and Magdalene had dealt with many cases over the years. None of them had been this bad, though, and as she carefully healed the smaller cuts and bruises, she wondered who would do this to a boy. A child, for Merlin's sake! The thought of the person who could do this made her sick.
Harry had obviously not had an easy time. He didn't regain consciousness, and his nights were plagued by nightmares. She'd taken to staying up with him, signing up for the night shift so that she could spend time with him. She wouldn't even bring a book or a magazine with her when she sat with him. She would watch him toss and writhe, and she would wince whenever he screamed. He screamed every night, and every night, he would break his voice down to a mere whisper. He never spoke, not until his voice was gone. When that happened, he would slump down and curl into a ball, and he would whisper, "Forgive me." Those were the only two words he ever said, and Magdalene wondered every night who he was asking. Maybe he was asking himself. Every night, though, it would break her heart. She knew children who'd gone through impossibly tough times, but he touched her deeply. Maybe it was his refusal to say anything else, or maybe just the emotion infused in his words. She wished she knew who he was asking, and she was afraid to know who he was asking. What did he think he'd done that needed forgiveness so badly? Children who had been abused thought that it was their fault sometimes, she knew, but once they were away from the abusive adult, they learned to accept that they were not at fault. Harry, though, didn't seem anywhere close to that realization. She told herself that he wasn't even awake yet, but his desperate whisper still cut her to the center of her very soul.
No one could touch him. She'd tried, at the beginning. When his nightmares came, she'd tried holding his hand and smoothing his hair away from his face, like she did with all the other children she looked after, but he didn't let her. Whenever someone came into contact with him, he would pull savagely away, and his dreams would be worse. She supposed that it made sense, if he'd been abused. Even if it had just been a curse, it would cause him to loathe human contact. Magdalene learned to keep her distance. For the tasks that should have required that she touch him, she came up with creative magical solutions that were neither easy nor fun nor professional, but that kept him calm. That was what was important, after all.
She was relaxing in the lounge, a steaming mug of tea in one hand, and a cheap romance magazine in the other, when Under-Healer Jamie, her flame-headed apprentice burst in. "Healer Magdalene!" he gasped.
She looked up, setting the magazine aside. "Calm down, Jamie," she ordered. "What's happened?"
He took a few gasping breaths, then said, in a more normal tone, "He's awake, Healer. The patient in room 17. Harry Potter."
Magdalene set her tea aside and nodded to the few other Healers who were in the lounge. "Thank you, Jamie," she said. She knew that he was expecting her to ask him to join her, but she didn't. She felt that this was something that she had to do alone.
He was sitting up, backed up into a corner. His eyes were wide and angry, and she could see a hint of a wild animal peeking through. His frame, which had lost much of its muscle tone during his stay in the hospital, was shaking slightly, but he didn't move as she shut the door carefully behind her. "My name is Healer Magdalene," she said gently, not coming any closer. "I won't hurt you. I want to help you. You're in St. Mungo's. You've been unconscious for two weeks."
He relaxed a little at the tone of her voice, and the wild animal look left his eyes. He looked around, then whispered, "Glasses."
She summoned them, and gently placed them on the bedside table. She didn't know if she could touch him yet, and she didn't want to risk traumatizing him again. He picked them up and placed them on his nose. He blinked slightly, readjusting to being able to see properly again, then said, "Thank you. How long?"
"Two weeks," she said again.
He processed the information, and she thought that she could see him putting it into context with what he remembered. She wanted to ask him what had happened so badly, but she held herself in check. He would tell her when he was ready, not before. Maybe he wouldn't ever tell her. She wondered how to get whoever he did choose to tell to tell her. Mr. Weasley had talked about fighting You-Know-Who, but that was almost certainly rubbish, even for Harry Potter. What would You-Know-Who be doing in the Ministry? For that matter, what had Harry been doing at the Ministry?
"Who are you?" he asked.
His quiet voice dragged her back to reality, and she answered, "My name is Healer Magdalene." His voice didn't sound like someone who had just been through trauma, she realized. He was controlled and courteous, even if he didn't say very much yet. She marveled at his strength of character.
"I'm going to ask you a few questions to find out the state of your mind. Do you understand?"
He nodded. "I understand." His voice was the same, cool and controlled, calm and quiet.
"Do you know who you are?" she asked him, wondering if it was an act.
"Harry Potter," he answered.
"Where do you go to school?"
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
"What does this say?"
"Magdalene Jones, child health specialist."
She nodded, satisfied. If there was any mental damage, it was minor. "Are you hungry?" she asked him. He shook his head. "Thirsty?"
He considered for a moment, then said, "Coffee?"
She hesitated. Patients weren't normally allowed coffee, but this was surely a special case. One mug couldn't do that much harm, could it? She took a deep breath, then conjured up a small mug. She put it on the bedside table as well, watching as he reached for it. He held it for a moment, letting the aroma of the bitter liquid calm him. He closed his eyes as he took the first sip, allowing a small smile to curve his lips. He didn't open them again until he'd taken several sips, and when he finally put the cup down again, the smile was gone.
"Do you want anything to do?" she asked hesitantly, disoriented by the look that she saw in his often-studied green eyes. "I know that it can be boring just staying here all the time."
"Can I write a letter?" he asked, almost hesitantly.
She looked at him in surprise. "Who do you want to write to?" she asked before she could stop herself.
His face closed again, and his eyes hardened. "A friend. If it's too much trouble, I don't mind waiting."
"No trouble at all," she assured him. "I'll be right back." She left the room, shutting the door behind her before slumping against the wall. What she saw in his eyes was scaring her. He might seem to be in control, and for the moment, he was. But she knew children like this, children who'd gone through terrible times. They buried themselves in their memories, or they wouldn't face them. He was doing neither. He was putting off facing them, true, but she knew that he knew that he would have to do it eventually. He had embraced a concept that most adults ran away screaming from. He wouldn't need any of her prepared speeches about letting it out and bleeding out the poison. He'd already heard those lectures, already knew what he had to do.
She became aware that she'd been out for a long time, and she shook her head, annoyed. There would be time to marvel at his strength of mind when she wasn't on shift. She hurried to the lounge and returned to his room with the items that he'd asked for. He thanked her politely, but she noticed that he waited until she'd left the room to begin writing.
Gradually, Magdalene got to know her teenage patient. He never spoke about himself, never anything about his school or his friends, but he was intelligent, and listened with interest to her stories about her life and her job. He still wouldn't let anybody close, but he was slowly getting strong enough to do some of the simple things himself, and it was getting easier every time. He took all of the potions that she gave him without complaint, except for the dreamless sleep.
"I have to learn to face them someday," he told her firmly, the third time he refused to take it.
"You have to get better first," she snapped, out of patience.
"I have to do both. I won't get better until I face them."
She threw her hands up in frustration. "Fine! Whatever you say. But next time you have a nightmare, don't come crying to me!"
"I won't," he assured her simply, and she immediately regretted her temper.
"Harry," she said gently. "If there's anything that you want, just know that I'm here."
He nodded, but didn't take her up on her rather blunt hint. She sighed. He always seemed to ignore her hints, just as he appeared not to realize that she was about to die of curiosity. He never said anything at all, and the only thing she had to go on was his broken whisper from the nights. If anything, that made her even more desperate to know what had happened to him. Surely, if it was that traumatic, he would need someone to talk to! But he didn't, and she was reduced to eavesdropping on his nightmares in the hopes of finding out more about what had happened. So far, she hadn't found out anything.
Jamie liked him too. Magdalene knew that her apprentice was worried about taking on a full Healer's role, and she hoped that the relationship that he was developing with Harry would convince him that he was fully capable. Harry wouldn't tell Jamie anything either, and, to Magdalene's annoyance, Jamie didn't seem to mind nearly as much as she herself did.
"He doesn't really know us," he said in the lounge one day, trying to explain. "He doesn't see us as friends."
She started to protest, but he stopped her. "I know that he should, but he doesn't. Healer Magdalene, can you imagine what he's been through?"
"No!" she said. "That's my problem! I don't know, and so I can't relate to it."
"Maybe he doesn't want us to relate to him. Maybe that's the point. If we don't know what happened, we can't pity him."
"How can he think that we would pity him?" she demanded, horrified at the very idea. She'd been trained never to pity her patients, just as all Healers were. Pity wouldn't endear them to their patients, and nothing any Healer could say would alleviate the pain brought on by pity.
"He doesn't know us," Jamie repeated. "If you'll excuse me, Healer." He left on an errand or other, and she was left with a profound sense of unease.
Finally, she judged that Harry was strong enough to have a few visitors. She contacted the family of the man who'd found him, and told him that Harry could have two visitors. To her surprise, they weren't Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Two teenagers, the same age as Harry, arrived at the front desk and were directed to room 17. Healer Magdalene let them in, then retreated. She watched them through the window, seeing how Harry wouldn't let them touch him either. The sound of their conversation leaked through, and she couldn't help listening in.
"We've been worried about you, mate," the boy said.
"Everyone was thrilled when you woke up," the girl added.
Harry looked at both of them. "Are both of you staying at the Burrow?"
The girl nodded. "Mrs. Weasley talked to my parents, and they agreed that I should stay with Ron's family until we were sure you were safe. They like you a lot, and they were really worried."
"We were all really worried!" the boy added. "You scared us pretty badly!"
Harry sighed. "Sorry," he said quietly.
The boy looked a little annoyed. "Why didn't you tell us that you were going?" he demanded.
"You know where I was? How?"
The two visitors exchanged a glance. Then, the girl said, "Malfoy. He got one of his friends to look for you in her Orb, and they went to Dumbledore."
Harry nodded. "Where is he?"
"Malfoy?" the boy demanded.
Harry nodded again.
The girl frowned. "We don't know. No one's seen him since the end of school."
Magdalene wasn't sure if it was only her imagination, but she thought that she saw Harry's shoulders slump a little. He didn't let on that he was disappointed, if he was, and there was a long moment of slightly tense silence. Then, the redheaded boy blurted out, "Why didn't You-Know-Who kill you?"
Magdalene frowned, wondering just what kind of question that was. She remembered days of watching Harry's face close at the merest mention of anything that had happened to him, and prepared herself to go in and intervene if she was needed.
Harry shrugged, obviously struggling not to push them too far away. "I don't know," he said. "It's not like he didn't try, after all."
The girl frowned. "Harry," she said dangerously.
He sighed. "Look, I don't know, all right? He tried to possess me again, and then he left. I don't know why!"
A speculative look passed over the girl's face. "What were you thinking about when he tried to possess you?"
Harry's face closed instantly, and he renounced all efforts not to push them away. "Not screaming," he said bluntly. Even Magdalene could tell that it was a lie.
"What else?" the boy pressed. Apparently he realized what the girl was thinking. "You remember last year? Dumbledore told you that he couldn't possess you because of love. Maybe that's it."
"He's wrong," Harry said flatly. "Maybe Voldemort just got bored."
"You went to save Malfoy's parents, didn't you?" the girl asked suddenly.
"Well, why did you do it?" the boy demanded.
"Because they were in danger," Harry snapped. "Did you expect me just to sit there and watch him kill them without even trying to help?"
"They would have done that if it had been you," the boy pointed out.
"And? Are you saying that I should descend to their level?" Harry demanded, his voice icily dangerous.
"No, of course not!" the girl said hastily. Obviously she recognized the danger signs as well as Magdalene did. "I was just wondering, that's all."
"Well there's your answer," Harry said sulkily.
She didn't say anything more, but Magdalene was sure she saw a triumphant expression flicker across the girl's worried face. They spent another few minutes in stiff silence, then Magdalene judged that enough time had passed, and she ushered the two out. She thought privately that they looked slightly relieved. She didn't blame them.
"When will we be able to see him again?" the boy asked.
She frowned. "I'm not entirely sure," she admitted. "I'll floo your house when you can."
The girl nodded. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Magdalene answered, and escorted them back down the stairs.
They came again, and as Harry recovered, more people came with them. She couldn't help noticing that, though he was glad to see all of them, none of them seemed to be the one that he wrote to every morning. He never posted his letters, and everyone had learned not to ask about them. Still, Magdalene was glad that he was willing to talk to them all, even if he still wouldn't let anyone touch him. Many of the adults who came to see him seemed to know what had happened, and they would ask him questions, trying to catch him off balance. He never took the bait, and the adults would leave rather frustrated. Magdalene sympathized immensely.
He'd been awake for over a month when the blond boy arrived. He came alone, and the welcome witch told Magdalene later that he seemed nervous. He was very clear about who he wanted to see though, and she gave him directions to Harry's room. He met Magdalene coming out of the room. "Can I go in?" he asked quietly.
Magdalene was about to refuse, but she caught the look on his face. He seemed almost desperate, and she gave in. "Be quick," she said, nodding towards the door.
"Thank you," he said gratefully, and he slipped easily through the door.
She moved quickly to her window and cast a listening charm. She felt bad about spying on them like this, but she just had to know.
Harry looked up from his parchment as the door closed, and his face stilled. "Draco?" he whispered.
Draco crossed the room and dropped into the chair next to Harry's bed. "Of course."
"I waited for you," Harry whispered.
"I'm sorry," Draco said quietly. "I… I didn't know if you still wanted me."
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"It's my fault that you're here."
Harry shook his head firmly. "No. Draco, it's not your fault. It's his. His and mine. I chose to go, didn't I?"
"They were my parents."
"That's not your fault."
Draco looked down, and the forlorn look on his face made Magdalene want to cry. "I feel so guilty," he murmured.
Harry looked at Draco. His face was anguished, and Magdalene knew that she was finally going to find out what had happened to him. She held her breath, straining to hear everything that he said.
"I'm the guilty one, Draco. I couldn't save them."
Draco started to open his mouth, but Harry stopped him. "Please," he said, and Draco nodded. "I tried, Draco. I really did. He told me, when I arrived. He told me that I had come too late. They were there, Draco. Both of them still alive. He tortured them in front of me. I couldn't do anything. He… he laughed. He told me that I could kill your mother. I refused. I was strong enough to do that, at least. He put the curse on me, and he made me point my wand at her. I almost did it, Draco. I…I wanted to do it. I wanted to say the words and kill her. He… he said that I wanted to do it. He was right."
Harry was crying, and Draco reached over and touched his hand. Harry gripped it tightly. Magdalene gasped. No one could touch Harry! Yet here he was, holding this boy's hand voluntarily, clinging to it as though it was the only thing that connected him to the real world. The shock almost made her miss Draco's next words.
"It wasn't you," Draco said soothingly. "It was him. He made you want to. It wasn't you." His other arm had snaked around Harry's back, and the pale teenager held Harry as he wept.
"How can you be so sure? I wanted to kill her so badly, Draco. But… but I didn't." He sounded almost like a small child when he said that, puzzled that he'd gotten an answer wrong. "He cursed me so hard. I screamed. I still scream. I can hear him, Draco. In my head. He's always there. He's always with me, and he's trying to get me to go with him. One day, I won't be strong enough to resist."
"I'll help you," Draco promised. "Always. When we swore, in the classroom, I meant it. I will always be there for you, Harry."
Harry reached out blindly, and Draco took his other hand. The blond teenager leaned into the contact, as though trying to absorb all of Harry's problems himself.
"It hurts," Harry whispered. "Gods, Draco. It still hurts so damn much."
"I know," Draco agreed. He slipped out of the chair and onto the bed, gathering Harry into him. Harry clung to him, shaking. Draco was running his hands over Harry's back, murmuring soothing words that Magdalene couldn't understand and didn't want to. There was only so much she was willing to eavesdrop on.
"They're all there. Not just him. All of them. Your parents, mine. Sirius. Cedric… all of them."
Draco lifted an ironic eyebrow. "And what do my parents have to say?" he asked dryly.
Harry managed a weak chuckle, though he didn't lessen his grip on the other boy. "They're rather incoherent," he said.
Draco opened his mouth, the closed it again. A horrified look had come across his face. "Are they… I mean, can he… see?"
Magdalene had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but Harry obviously did. "I don't know," he whispered. "I don't know."
Magdalene could see that the dynamics of the duo had changed. Draco was still supporting Harry, but the black-haired boy was also holding Draco, comforting him, transmitting strength and reassurance. She had to admit respect for the strength of their love. Few parings could give each other comfort simultaneously. They obviously cared deeply about each other, and they communicated without needing to say a word. A gesture, a touch, even just a thought… they were transmitting and receiving instinctively, without either one realizing what they were doing. Magdalene felt uncommonly jealous. Did they realize just how precious that kind of love was?
Draco leaned over suddenly, and gently placed his mouth over Harry's. The two stilled, completely unaware that they were being watched. Magdalene was transfixed by what she saw. She couldn't look away, couldn't close the scene out. She had to know how it ended.
Harry pulled away first. His green eyes were very sad, but determined as well. "Draco, stop."
Draco pulled back instantly. "What's wrong, Harry?" he asked anxiously.
There was slightly panicked look in Draco's eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"Draco, we can't. I love you, Draco. I don't want anything to happen to you. We don't know if they can see through me. Or if you'll be forced to join. We can't know. If we stay together, Voldemort will come after us. After you. I can't bear to risk you. I… I would die if you did."
"Harry," Draco whispered, helplessly.
"Forgive me," Harry whispered, and Magdalene finally knew just who he'd been talking to all those nights. She made no effort to curb the tears that filled her eyes.
"Always," Draco promised. He moved in to kiss Harry again, then thought better of it. Gently, he extracted his hands from Harry's. "If you change your mind," he whispered, letting the sentence hang. He stood and moved quickly to the door. Magdalene ended the spell and turned away from the window, but not soon enough to avoid seeing Harry curl up in his corner, tears streaming down his own face.
Author's note two: Kyra is still too scared of what you will all say to write an A/N, so she's left it up to me. All I can say is that I had my reasons for demanding that we end it this way, and that I hope you understand. (And, of course, that I am very sorry if I am misjudging you all. I would love to rub into Kyra's face that there wasn't actually anything to be afraid of...
Let's see, what else? Uh, many thanks go to Jaycinthe Bleu's story The Sliver Swan, which can be found at witchfics(dot)com. It is one of our favorite stories, and it has nothing to do with our knowing the author. Many thanks also go to all of you, our wonderful readers and reviewers. You have provided us with so much insight into this story that it's absolutely mind-boggling. We're honored that you like this, our first real effort at a long fanfiction, this much. Thank you for your support and your patience with us. We would love to name you all, but there are far, far too many of you. You know who you are!
Again, thank you to everyone,
Caroline here. Before you go, we would ask that you please complete this short reader survey:
1. Does this story need a sequel?
2. If you answered yes to the previous question, when should the sequel be set?
3. If you answered yes to question one, should the sequel be writen and posted before Emerald Fog itself is revised?
Thank you for you time and cooperation.