Okay, the end of a long and difficult week. Here's the next chapter, with a little surprise at the end... and, alas, the Avatars will be on their way soon. Hope you enjoy and please review.
Disclaimer: See Chapter One.
Chapter Thirty-One: A Time to Reveal
Harry arrived at his Study of Galeic Magic class late the next morning. He had contemplated skipping it, but had decided to tell Cole the truth and he was going to stick by it. Their lesson was the last in a series of ones on magical creatures of the Galeic world, such as dwarves, ogres, fairies, even the Lady of the Lake. It had been a lot more interesting than Hagrid's Study of Magical Creatures, if Harry had to be truthful, and the guests were usually better behaved too, although Cole admitted something had to be done about the ogre's stench. It was actually quite shocking how different some creatures were in the different worlds, and how similar others were.
"That's natural selection for you," Cole had joked one lesson. Unfortunately for him, Hermione was the only one to get the joke.
Deciding to hang back after the class, Harry waved by to Ron and Hermione and waited for Cole to finish wiping the board.
"Something I can do for you, Harry?" Cole asked. "If it's about getting that memory from Slughorn, I think we should have a meeting about it sometime this week. Ron and Hermione can come if you like, but we really need to get a move on it. We need a plan."
"I agree, sir, and I'll be happy to make time for a meeting, but I'm actually not here about that."
"Okay." Cole finished what he was doing and gave Harry his full attention. "Spill."
"You'll probably be mad, and you have every right to be, but I want you to hear me out before you do."
"Okay," Cole repeated.
Harry took a breath in and started his story. "Leo came to Ron and I the other night when we were in the Hospital Wing and he asked us to do something for him. Now, while I don't feel comfortable telling you this because I promised him I wouldn't, I need to. I need to apologise for what I did."
"Why? What did you do?"
"He wanted me to... uh... well, sorta... spy on you."
"Spy on me?" Cole, remembering his promise to let Harry tell his story, kept his emotions in check.
"Yes, sir. He wanted to know who you've been meeting with, like last night in Hong Kong and why. He said you were spying on the Elders and you were using another whitelighter to do so."
"Did he tell you who the whitelighter was or why I was spying?"
"So naturally you decided to help him out? Why? Were you curious as to who I was meeting and why?"
"I guess so, sir. I think that I was hopeful that Leo would tell me what he found out."
Cole looked at him, his expression unreadable. And then... "I was asked to find out what the Elders knew about a coming 'guardian' by Dumbledore and Gideon. I had a friend, a whitelighter, help me because I'm not allowed to go up there. He was eavesdropping on their conversations, and relaying anything about this 'guardian' to me. This information could shape the war against Voldemort. It was vital that the Order knew what the Elders knew."
"Okay," Harry said in a small voice.
"I didn't tell Leo because I didn't want him to become concerned over yet another thing. I didn't want to pit him against the Elders. It was better off that he didn't know anything until I had something of value to tell him."
"I'm sorry, Professor, I should have come to you," Harry said quickly. "I shouldn't have betrayed your trust like this."
"No, Harry," Cole whispered softly. "You shouldn't have. But I am willing to give you another chance. I will keep my faith and trust in you. And I have already told you everything I know about what I was doing."
"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "Thank you."
"You may tell your friends, as you tell them everything, but I don't want this going around, Harry."
"I understand, Professor." Harry got up to leave.
"In war, truth is always the first casualty," Cole said as Harry was leaving.
As soon as his classes were over for the day, Cole took off to Hogsmeade and then shimmered straight to Magic School. He had books to drop off for Paige about Hekabeic Magic, but really, he felt like getting away from Hogwarts. There was too much going on there, and between his orders from Dumbledore and his betrayal by Harry, he really couldn't stand it anymore. He needed a holiday, but the school term was far from over.
"Cole," Paige greeted warmly.
He glared at her. She genuinely looked overworked and there was a mountain of files on her desk that almost reached the ceiling. He sat down without being offered a seat.
"What's up?" Paige asked, ignoring her work.
"Nothing. I just brought those texts you wanted."
"Thanks, Cole. This is gonna work out great in tomorrow's advanced class." She took her turn to glare at him. "Okay, seriously. What's up?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"Duh. Isn't that what soon-to-be sister-in-law's are about?"
"You're a little chirpier about it this time than last time Phoebe and I were getting married."
"That's because I thought you were evil last time. And I was right. This time I know you're not."
"So, spill. What's got you so down, Mister?"
"You want the truth?"
Paige nodded. "I think I can handle the truth."
Smiling, Cole placed wards around the room to make sure that they couldn't be overheard and then told her about Harry's confession and what Leo had asked him to do.
"Leo was spying on you? Wait a second, why didn't you tell us about these meetings and why you're spying on the Elders?"
"Because that would involve telling you my source and I can't do that yet. I'm not allowed. I did, however, break my promise and tell Phoebe."
"Okay, okay. But lemme get this straight. You're upset about Leo spying on you to find out why you're spying on the Elders."
"I'm spying on the Elders because those are my Orders from Dumbledore and Gideon."
"Well, in case you don't remember, Gideon is dead and he betrayed us."
"I do, but the information he was after still has Dumbledore interested. And it's important too. This 'Guardian' may have enough power to help us in our fight against Voldemort. It might be our most important venture yet."
She looked at him shrewdly. "I'll give you that one. But why didn't the Elders tell us if it was so important?"
"We don't trust them, remember. They normally don't share such important information with us until it's too late anyway," Cole said spitefully. "But Leo... you know, I thought he trusted me. At least, I hope that he did."
"Yeah, but Leo at the moment... he doesn't trust anyone," Paige pointed out. "So I wouldn't take it that personally."
"It is personal, Paige. He convinced two of my closest allies and friends to whisper in his ear."
"I know, that is a little harsh, even for the way he's been acting now."
"Why doesn't he trust me?"
Paige burst out laughing and Cole just glared at her.
"I thought we'd moved past that," he commented bitterly.
"Oh, we have, it just sounded funny."
"Yeah, well, I never thought I see the day we're you'd be my confidante."
"Yeah. That's weird too." Paige was still giggling. "But seriously, Cole, you know that we all trust you with our lives. Even Leo. But because you didn't tell him what you were up to with the Elders he decided to find out another way."
"I know you're right," he replied.
"I'm always right, as it would turn out." She stood up suddenly, as if the simple action was a silent plea to rid Cole from her office. "Now, you have to go home to Phoebe. She wants to talk wedding with you."
"Oh, I'd really rather not," he replied.
"Oh, yes, you have to. But don't worry, I think she wants it smaller this time."
"I really hope so. Oh, and Paige..."
"Thanks." And he shimmered back to the Manor.
"Location, Cole," his fiancée told him firmly. "It's all about location."
"I thought it was all about us."
Phoebe gave him a loving look. "Yes, but I want us to get married in a beautiful, serene, tranquil, elemental..." she drifted off in thought.
"Okay..." Cole muttered. "Do you have any ideas?"
"I don't know... A British countryside castle? A giant gondola in Venice? A blue-roofed villa in Santorini? An uninhabited isle in the Great Barrier Reef? A scene out of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand? A Japanese Garden in Kyoto?"
"We have a Japanese Tea Garden here in San Francisco," Cole pointed out. A glare was returned in his direction.
"I'm serious, Cole," Phoebe blurted out. "There is a lull in demonic activity, sort of, and Death Eater insurgency. We should take advantage of it."
He got up from the lounge and walker over to her, placing his hands on her crossed arms. "We will get married, I promise, but we are not a deadline here."
"Actually—" But Phoebe was cut off by Cole's phone.
"Yeah, Remus?" he said, answering it. His mood suddenly changed and the smile on his face disappeared. "I'll be right there." He looked down at Phoebe. "I have to go."
"Yeah, of course," she said understandingly. He kissed her lips lightly and then shimmered away.
Piper, who was standing in the doorway only feet away, looked strangely at her sister. "What was that about?"
"What? He had to go."
"No, before that. Before his phone rang. Why are you pushing to get married so quickly?"
"Look... it's not really important..."
"Phoebe," Piper's stern voice said.
"I don't want to tell you again before I tell Cole."
"Tell me what... again?"
Phoebe looked torn. She was bursting to tell the truth, and some part of her sane mind was holding her back. "Look, can we just drop this?"
"No," Piper replied simply. "Can you just tell me?"
"Fine." Phoebe looked defeated. "But don't tell anybody before I tell Cole."
"You might want to have a seat."
"Oh, will you just tell me and stop stalling already!"
Phoebe sighed and looked her sister directly in the eye. "I'm pregnant... again..."
Piper was speechless, but the corners of her mouth were starting to twitch into a smile.