Author's Note: Once again, I apologize for the long wait in between updates. Since my last update my computer has crashed and been saved. I've written a short story and submitted it to several magazines. I've also finished editing almost all of my novel. I've also obtained and lost a beta. (Anyone who is interested in beta-ing for me, please OWL me on the harrypotterfanfiction forums.) I've also gone through finals (and aced them, yay.) So, as far as excuses go, hey, at least I was productive.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Chapter 6: Shattered Normality
Harry awoke to heavy silence. He blinked repeatedly, trying to orient himself and figure out where he was. Looking around, he recognized the white walls of the hospital wing. His hand fumbled with his glasses on the table next to him. Finally, he could see again, but seeing Professor Lupin sitting next to him made him wish to be blind again. The events of the previous night came flooding back to him. Oh. This was going to be bad.
"Sir?" Harry asked, meeting the professor's eyes.
"Harry, how are you feeling?"
"Um…fine. I don't remember falling asleep here. I would've gone back to the dorms," Harry replied.
"Madame Pomfrey gave you a sleeping drought. She felt you could do with some rest."
"Oh," Harry said. He tried to work up some indignant rage, but found that he couldn't. He had been so very tired, after all. So very, very tired. "Sir…I don't mean to be rude, but what are you doing here?"
Looking at Professor Lupin, Harry saw he looked infinitely weary as he seemed to search for a proper reply.
"Do you remember, on the train, why I said the dementors came?" Professor Lupin asked.
"Yeah," Harry said, not quite sure where the conversation was headed. He had thought Professor Lupin would bring up the Dursleys immediately. "Sirius Black," Harry offered, when the professor seemed to be waiting for something more.
"Yes," Professor Lupin said, hesitantly.
Harry started to feel apprehensive. What was going on?
"What do you know about Sirius Black, Harry?"
"Um, Ron told me he killed a lot of people with one curse, and that he escaped from Azkaban recently, Professor."
Professor Lupin looked almost disappointed by how little Harry knew for a moment, before he said, "Alright. Well, last night, Harry, Sirius Black broke into the school." The professor still looked hesitant and apprehensive, and when he added, "into Gryffindor tower," Harry understood why.
Oh. Oh no. Was that why Professor Lupin wasn't interrogating him about the Dursleys? He was distracted by the break in? Had Black hurt one of his friends? Ron? Hermione? Oh, no. Harry couldn't quite manage to get any of that out though. He did blanch pale white, as he mouthed, "Oh."
Professor Lupin seemed distracted, but when he turned his attention back to Harry, he seemed to instantly understand. "He didn't hurt anyone, Harry!" he reassured immediately. "Your friends are safe. No one was hurt."
"But, Professor Lupin," Harry began, sitting straight up in bed, now that his heart was beating normally again, "I-I know that's bad, but why are you the one telling me?"
"Due to recent… circumstances," Professor Lupin said, "I felt it would be best if I were the one to tell you…"
"Tell me about the break in?" Harry finished for him.
"No, Harry," the professor corrected softly. "I hate to tell you this, but there are some things about Sirius Black that you haven't been told."
Harry almost wished that Professor Lupin was interrogating him about the Dursleys instead of telling him this.
The portrait to Gryffindor tower opened slowly, and Harry immediately noted that the common room seemed dead silent, despite being filled to the core. In the corner, he could see some first years huddled up, as though they would be safer by the closeness. He saw some of his classmates by the fire, along with some of the fourth years. Harry's eyes flickered around the room, noticing people here and there, but he couldn't find Ron or Hermione.
Resigned, he headed up towards his dorm. As he walked in, he immediately saw Ron and Hermione leaning up against his bed.
"Harry!" they both shouted, leaping up.
"Hey," Harry said, ashamed that his voice broke a little. "You guys are both okay?"
"Yeah," Ron reassured. "We're okay."
They stood in silent gratefulness for a moment, before Hermione said, "So you heard?"
"Yeah, Professor Lupin told me. What happened?" Harry asked, desperate to know more than the official version. Desperate to hear that the official version was wrong, and Sirius Black hadn't come at his friend with a knife, looking for Harry.
Ron hesitated, and with that Harry knew no amount of desperation would change what had happened. Ron wasn't the type of person to hesitate, after all.
"I woke up, and Sirius Black was over me. He had slashed the curtains, and of course, I scream bloody murder…" Ron began.
Ron's explanation, with Hermione's input every few seconds, only took a few minutes.
Hermione ended off saying, "I guess it was a good thing you weren't in the dorms."
This of course led to them asking Harry what had happened to him after class. He was hesitant to tell them the truth. It seemed Professor Lupin had forgotten about it, due to the near-disaster last night. They wouldn't let it drop though, pestering him. It almost seemed like they knew.
"Yeah, Harry," Ron added. "You never came back last night, not to the dorms or to the Great Hall later."
'Lie. Don't lie. Lie. Don't lie. Lie. Don't lie. Lie. Don't lie. Why would you lie to your best friend? Lie. Don't lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. They don't know. Professor Lupin may not bring it up again. Maybe Dumbledore will be to busy. Lie. Lie. Lie. To Ron and Hermione? To your best friends? You can't lose them.'
He couldn't bear the thought of losing them, but he couldn't bear the thought of lying to them. It wouldn't be the first time, but never before had they questioned him like this - like they already knew the answer. Harry shook away his paranoia as he half-lied, "Professor Lupin wanted to explain to me about Sirius Black. How he's after me."
"So what everyone's been saying is true?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, Hermione. It's true, but… there's more," Harry said. "Sirius Black was my parents' Secret Keeper."
Harry wanted to work up some anger for his situation. He was furious at this man, this man he didn't even know, for causing his parents death. And he knew it was selfish, but he was more furious at the man for landing him at the Dursleys.
"…and I can't believe this, but he's my godfather," Harry finished.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione breathed. "Your godfather." She sounded ill.
"Yes. Don't I just have the best family?" he asked, cursing himself the second he did. He had maneuvered them away from the topic of Sirius Black positively like a Slytherin, he liked to think. Yet, he had damned himself by bringing it up again.
He saw the moment the thought came into their minds. So it was to no surprise when Ron said, "Harry…"
Harry rubbed at the back of his neck. "Yes?"
"Your… boggart. Professor Lupin talked to you about your boggart too… didn't he?"
'Lie… Don't lie. Don't lie.' His internal debate was much shorter this time. Hiding was just so tiring.
"He did," Harry choked out, wondering how to begin.
He didn't have to though when Hermione interrupted his train of thought, blurting out, "I'm so sorry, Harry."
"What?" He was bewildered.
"This should never have happened. I should have just paid more attention, to what you said about your family, but no, I was just so ignorant! I should've known how they treated you! I should've known."
"Hermione," Harry said, reaching forward to pat her shoulder, to try to calm her. She pulled him close for a hug, though, as Ron watched awkwardly from the background. He winced from surprise, and she immediately jerked away from him.
"Oh, are you hurt? Oh, no!"
"No," Harry reassured her. "I'm fine. And I… don't blame you," he said, wondering how they had skipped an entire part of their conversation. Wondering at her guilt. "It's not your fault, at all. I… no one knew," he said to her. Then he turned to Ron, "I'm fine. I spent the night in the hospital wing, and I'm fine now."
Ron swallowed harshly. "So… it's true?"
Harry didn't ask what 'it' was; he simply nodded.
"And you're okay, now?" Ron asked, gruffly.
"I'm fine, Ron," Harry said. He almost believed it.
"You're not going back there," Hermione said, finally calmed. Now she seemed forceful and sure of herself again.
"I… I don't think so… no," Harry said. He hadn't realized the problem with the adults being focused on Sirius Black. He might actually have to go back there. For years, he had hid his secret. Now, the idea of going back there when people actually knew the truth was unbearable.
"No, no 'think,'"Hermione said. Ron moved next to her, standing by her side. "Harry, you are never going back there." They stood together there with him.
And, despite their young age, despite the world against them, despite another madman after him, despite the night he had just spent in the hospital wing, Harry believed her.
He had every reason to believe the worst and shake his head sadly at her words. He had every reason to be distrustful and hurtful. There were days that he was those things. There were days that he didn't believe in Hermione's words or Ron's reassurances. There were days that he didn't believe in anything.
Then there were days that he defeated a dark lord or his memory. There were days he battled snakes and trolls. There were days when he was the-boy-who-lived,and even the thought of his uncle didn't scare him.
Better than the days of his Gryffindor courage and the days his tragic past overshadowed his present were the days like today. The days where his life-long secret was found out, a madman was after him, and that madman happened to be his godfather. Those were the days, though, because he didn't have to spill his secret, his best friends simply knew. For once, Harry was grateful for that.
They knew, and he didn't have to tell them, and as much as he had wanted them to, they hadn't forgotten about what had happened. And it hurt that Lupin hadn't mentioned the Dursleys. He hadn't wanted him to, but it still hurt that he had been forgotten -- again.
All this horribleness, and they were the ones to apologize to him (like they were the ones who were wrong), and somehow, ten minutes later, they went into the Common Room, filled with their scared classmates, and started a House-wide chess match. (Harry knew Ron had only suggested the match to cheer him up. Harry thanked him. Ron didn't ask why.)
They would have to talk more about Black and the Dursleys, Harry knew. Hermione would interrogate him eventually, and Ron and she would ask him all those why's. For the first time ever, Harry realized he wasn't afraid of answering. That day, though, they ignored all that, and they played. The match went throughout all of Gryffindor, and by the time the day was over, the spell of doom and depression had been countered, if only for a little while.
Harry lost every match he played, rather terribly.