A/N: I'm beginning to bring Harry's to groups of friends together, since keeping them separated for much longer seems uncharacteristic, considering this is a trying time for Harry. It didn't turn out like I'd hoped. I've pulled a Jim Butcher…
YAY! I'm a Notable TvTropes Referencer, and a member of three sections of the Trope Pantheon! This chapter has been bought to you by: TvTropes! Ruining your life since 2004! I still intend to be referenced on as many pages there for as many of my fics as possible! Please help me, as it feels like cheating if I do it myself. I need to catch up with S'Tarkan! TvTrope it, dattebayo!
Hey, everyone! Been busy with my Nanoha/Green Lantern/Negima/every-magical-girl-I-could-get-my-hands-on fic, Takamachi Nanoha of 2814 recently, as well as my Akane-centric fic, Akanema! Magistra Akane Magi!. Yes, that last is exactly what it sounds like. Still, you would it really hurt to give it a look? You might be pleasantly surprised. Also the NegiXNanoha fic, Overlords and Overkill. Check it out and tell me what you think, 'kay? In the meantime, TvTropes it, dattebayo!
Card Captor Harry
by Shadow Crystal Mage
Card 28, The Maze: Changes
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling does. I wish her well and covet her money. Card Captor Sakura belongs to CLAMP, not me. I covet their drawing skills. Both are used here without their owners' permission. I'm not doing this for money, so please don't sue me.
When Harry woke up on Sunday morning, it took him a moment to remember why he felt so miserable and tense and worried. Then the memory of the previous night rolled over him. He sat up and ripped back the curtains of his own four-poster, intending to talk to Ron, to force Ron to believe him—only to find that Ron's bed was empty; he had obviously gone down to breakfast.
"Watch it…" a sleepy voice said from the little nest-hammock Kero had made in one of the inside corners of the four-poster. It suddenly occurred to Harry how unsecured that thing was. More than a year of the Sun Guardian secretly sleeping there, and it only now occurred to him that they hadn't done a thing to make sure no one would notice him. Harry belatedly thanked his lucky stars– if he had such things, which he was inclined to doubt– that the Guardian was at least a quiet sleeper.
Harry dressed, hesitating for a moment before trying on the harness Keeper had left him. He'd give the other boy this much credit, it was actually fitted quite well. He wondered how he'd learned to work leather. Slipping the Clow book into the area made for it, Harry went down the spiral stairs to the common room.
The moment he appeared, the people who had already finished breakfast broke into applause again. The thought of going down into the Great Hall and facing the rest of the Gryffindors, all treating him like some sort of hero, was not inviting; it was that, however, or stay here and allow himself to be cornered by the Creevey brothers, who were both beckoning frantically to him to join them. He walked resignedly over to the portrait hole, pushed it open, climbed out of it, and found himself face-to-face with Hermione and Winter.
"Hello," Hermione said, holding up a stack of toast, which she was carrying in a napkin. "We brought you this... Want to go for a walk?"
"Good idea," said Harry gratefully.
Winter, who was holding a long loaf of bread that turned out to have been hollowed out and filled with bacon, sausages, and a few other things, peered at him with concern. "How do you feel?"
Harry thought about it, then winced partway through his considerations, sighing heavily.
"That bad, huh?"
Harry made a pitiful sound.
Hermione sighed and wrapped one arm around Harry's shoulders, patting him reassuringly. "There, there. We're here for you." Winter reached over and squeezed his hand reassuringly. It was a mark of his misery that the gesture didn't send him rocketing to the clouds in bliss.
Winter turned towards Hermione, her smile a bit apologetic. "We've never actually been officially introduced. Winter Moon, at your service." She offered her free hand to Hermione.
Hermione juggled the toast until she could properly shake hands with the other girl. "Hermione Granger. Nice to finally meet you. Properly, that is."
"He talks about you a lot," Winter said. "Keeps going on about how 'Hermione would know a spell for this'. It seems to be an article of faith for him."
"Really?" Hermione grinned, before ruffling Harry's hair. "Well, aren't you sweet."
"Toast please?" Harry pleaded. "I thought we were going for a walk?"
Smiling, Hermione handed him one as she led him away from the portrait hole and downstairs. "Why has it taken for long for the two of us to meet up, I wonder?" Hermione said, looking sideways around Harry, who was munching on his toast.
"Harry says you're deviant and a pervert and would be a bad influence on me," Winter said, and Harry winced, recalling that he'd said exactly those words, if a bit out of context. "Which I think is kind of unfair of him. I can be deviant and perverted on my own without bad influences."
Harry choked on his toast.
Ron wasn't sure how it had happened. Certainly he didn't think it could conceivably have happened under normal circumstances. But he'd been really pissed at Harry, and he hadn't been watching where he was going, and one thing had led to another…
"Why didn't you tell me, you git!" he cried as he amateurishly but passionately punched the board with the cushion with Harry's face on it, feeling the board shudder slightly with each blow. This had less to do with Ron's skill, which was a lack more than anything else, and more to do with his enthusiasm, of which he had a lot. "You just had to have it all for yourself again, didn't you! It's always about you!"
A very sloppy, overhead punch punctuated this tirade, and Lee winced despite herself. "Straighten out your arm!" she snapped. "You want to have a broken wrist, you idiot?" The next punch struck with rattling force. "Better."
He'd stormed out after breakfast to get away from everyone talking about last night's results. Had he been a more violent kind of person, he'd have been flinging his wand around randomly blasting flowers and raging at the sky like some kind of villain from a bad novel. However, being raised under the overprotective reign of Molly Weasley wasn't really conducive to that sort of thing, so he'd settled for stomping through flowers and clenching his fists as all sorts of injustices came to a head inside him.
He'd stomped around then lake, then felt like a little daredevil and waded a little way into the woods behind Hagrid's hut. When he'd heard the rhythmic thumping, he'd followed it out of curiousity, having nothing better to do. He'd found Lee in a clearing beating on this self-same board. Contrary to popular belief, not every encounter between Slytherin and Gryffindor House resulted in thermonuclear war. The Slytherin girl had merely looked at him and, beyond a polite nod of acknowledgement, and a blatant readjustment that pointed out she still had her wand on her, had gone back to smacking Harry's face repeatedly.
It had looked fun.
He'd asked. And rather then smirking at him or telling him to…well, any number of things, she'd stepped aside and gestured at him to go at it. He'd pounded at the board, his fists soon aching, with her standing to one side, occasionally speaking a word of correction as he raged on the substitute subject of his turmoil.
He'd been so absorbed in what he was doing, he'd missed the Slytherin's first yell of surprise…
They walked by the lake. It was an angst-ridden expository walk, not a romantic holding hands one. Harry felt the universe served him a disproportionate amount of the former and not enough of the latter. None at all, really. He really should write a strongly worded letter to someone.
It was a chilly morning, and they kept moving, munching their toast, as Harry told Hermione and Winter exactly what had happened after he had left the Gryffindor table the night before. To his immense relief, they accepted his story without question.
"Ouch," Winter winced in sympathy as he finished relating the circumstances. "That sucks."
"Well, of course I knew you hadn't entered yourself," Hermione said in agreement. "The look on your face when Dumbledore read out your name! But the question is, who did put it in? Because Moody's right, Harry... I don't think any student could have done it... they'd never be able to fool the Goblet, or get over Dumbledore's—"
"Have you seen Ron?" Harry interrupted.
"Erm... yes... he was at breakfast," she said.
"Does he still think I entered myself?" he asked
"Well... no, I don't think so... not really," said Hermione awkwardly.
Harry eyed her suspiciously. "What's that supposed to mean, 'not really'?"
"Oh Harry, isn't it obvious?" Hermione said despairingly. "He's jealous!"
"Jealous?" Harry said incredulously. "Jealous of what? He wants to make a prat of himself in front of the whole school, does he?"
"Well," Winter said, counting off on her fingers. "You are one of the best known students in the school, on the Quidditch team, are famous in your own right, have a fanclub, is known to have pulled a lot of crazy stunts–"
"WHAT!" Harry exclaimed, turning to her in horror. "Say that again?"
"You're known to have pulled a lot of crazy stunts?" Winter said innocently.
"You're famous in your own right?"
He glared at her, not in the mood. "After that!"
"Oh, you have your own fan club?" Winter said.
"Yes!" Harry said. "It's not true, is it? Tell me it's not true. Lie to me, if necessary!"
"Harry," said Hermione patiently, "you're you! And that's sort of Ron's problem. It's always you who gets all the attention, you know it is. I know it's not your fault," she added quickly, seeing Harry open his mouth furiously. "I know you don't ask for it... but— well— you know, Ron's got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you're his best friend, and you're really famous— he's always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it, but I suppose this is just one time too many...
"Great," said Harry bitterly. "Really great. Tell him from me I'll swap any time he wants. Tell him from me he's welcome to it... People gawping at my forehead everywhere I go...life and death situations on a yearly basis… chaos at every turn…"
"Stalking you for photos," Winter provided helpfully. Harry groaned, knowing he should have stopped Collin all those years ago when he'd had the chance.
"I'm not telling him anything," Hermione said shortly. "Tell him yourself. It's the only way to sort this out."
"I'm not running around after him trying to make him grow up!" Harry said, so loudly that several owls in a nearby tree took flight in alarm. "Maybe he'll believe I'm not enjoying myself once I've got my neck broken or—"
"That's not funny," said Hermione quietly. "That's not funny at all." She looked extremely anxious.
"Harry, I've been thinking—you know what we've got to do, don't you? Straight away, the moment we get back to the castle?"
"If you say go to the library and do research, I swear–" Harry began.
Hermione rolled her eyes and bopped him upside the head. "No, Quidditch for brains. I think that maybe you should… tell someone about this. An adult. Someone who can give you sage advice and a more mature perspective on things."
She gave him a significant look, glancing sideways at Winter, and doing the significant look thing again.
"Oh, like your godfather!" Winter said brightly. "He'd be able to give you advice, right?"
Hermione froze. She slowly turned her head to stare at Harry, then at Winter.
The Ravenclaw blinked at her. "What? Is something wrong? Why are you looking at us like that?"
"Harry…?" Hermione said slowly, glaring at him.
He laughed nervously. "Um, Winter knows about Sirius? Did I forget to mention that?"
Winter blinked. "Wait, was I not supposed to know?"
"Harry…" Hermione growled.
Suddenly, a Clow Card appeared.
"Oh, thank god!" Harry said.
"Huh?" Hermione said, surprised by the sudden change in Harry's attitude.
"Huh?" Winter agreed.
Well, technically, it didn't appear, per se. He felt it suddenly coming close, moving towards him at a decent rate. He frowned, narrowing his eyes to try an get a fix on it. No, it wasn't moving towards him directly, just getting closer. In fact…
He turned towards the nearest edge of the forest. Something was moving among the trees, amidsts the crash of undergrowth. Lights flickered, and he could feel the spells being cast as they blasted through small bushes and such. It was coming nearer…
"Harry?" Hermione said, sounding nervous. She was looking between him and the woods, licking her lips, her wand in hand.
"Stay behind me, both of you," Harry said, drawing his own wand.
A bush burst apart, and suddenly it was there. The Clow Card, which Harry was only able to identify by feeling, darted quick and low across the ground, on an almost perpendicular angle from them, looking like some kind of generic cute, fuzzy woodland creature. It fairly flew across the ground like a rocket.
Moments later, the underbrush broke again, and Ron leapt out, looking determined and angry, almost certainly swearing in what sounded like another language. He moved awkwardly, unnaturally, but was managing to put on a decent burst of speed as he ran after the Clow Card, the wand in his had flickering with smoothly and expertly in his hand as curse after curse flew at the Clow Card.
"Ron?-!" Hermione exclaimed in surprise. "What on earth do you think you're doing?"
Ron ignored her, instead looking over his shoulder at Harry. "Move it, Potter!" he snapped. "It's getting away!"
He bounded after the Clow Card while the three stared in shock, disappearing back into the treeline farther down the shore. A moment later, the underbrush broke again, this time less dramatically, and Lee stumbled into view. Unlike Ron, who'd been in school robes, albeit with the sleeves rolled up, she was in wearing a very rumpled olive drab and grey tracksuit, and looked nearly about to burst into tears. Her face was contorted in an almost comical expression of shock, and tears ran down her face. "H-harry? W-what's going on?"
Harry felt his jaw drop as Hermione and Winter stared in confusion. Then he swore and turned to run after Ron. "Stay there!" he cried to the three of them, already fumbling at his neck for his Key.
The Key settled into his hand, the familiar aria rose to his lips, and the red wand was there, a reassuring weight. He reached behind him, and was mildly surprised to feel the Clow Book slide out easily into his hand. The lock popped open with a tap, and he skidded slightly as he slowed, trying to get at the right Card. "DASH CARD! Jump Card"
He caught up to Ron in moments, heard the swearing in what he now recognized as Chinese. He over took him, running, leaping and bounding like some kind of ninja and bringing back vivid flashbacks of that time they'd been trapped by The Create Card. He spotted his quarry, and drew the Card he'd picked out before hand. "Float Card!"
The Card dissolved in his hands, reforming into a shape that looked vaguely like a hot-air balloon for a moment. Between one step and the next, Harry felt gravity being switched off. He floated for a moment, before the gravity came back on, and he heard Ron stumble and growl behind him. in front of him, the Clow Card floated alone, it's stubby little legs wiggling ineffectually against the air.
"Don't get close to it!" Ron snapped in a tone Harry had recognized with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "Its powers can be contact activated!"
Harry kept a wary distance from the Clow Card as Ron stomped over, eyes narrowed, face carved into a mask of restrained, controlled fury. This was not how Ron usually dealt with fury. The wand in his hands was level and aimed at the Card, though there was a suggestion that it would swing to Harry in a heartbeat if he moved wrong. It wasn't Ron's wand.
"Lee?-!" Harry said, not wanting to believe it.
'Ron' rolled his eyes. '"What gave me away?" 'he' snapped sarcastically. "Was it the fact I wasn't acting like a moron?"
"Stuff it," Harry said, leveling both his wands on her.
She raised an eyebrow. "Feeling inadequate are we?"
"What?" he snapped.
She shrugged dismissively, making him wonder what he'd missed, before turning to frown at the Clow Card. "Seal that thing already so I can get out of here. Honestly, how do you boys deal with walking like this?"
"Don't you already know?" Harry shot back. "It probably doesn't have anything you aren't already equipped with."
"Don't make me kick your ass, Potter," Lee growled.
There was a sound behind them, and they both whirled. Winter and Hermione skidded to a stop, 'Lee' between them, apparently too confused to move on her own. Lee snapped another invective, pointing her wand at Hermione. "Obli–"
Harry slammed into her at full Dash speed, knocking the wand out of alignment and interrupting the spell, which fizzled out. He bore her to the ground, or tried to, anyway. The initial window of surprise, he soon found himself twisted into a quite uncomfortable position, one arm behind his back, a wand to the back of his neck. His hand was twisted until the Sealing Wand dropped out of his hand. He'd already lost his holly wand sometime when he hit.
"Not as easy as on TV, is it?" Lee said coldly. There was no satisfaction in her voice. What satisfaction was there in manhandling a child? "For the sake of my cousin, who seems to like you for some unfathomable reason, I will allow you to explain yourself."
"Me?" Harry managed to gasp out. Was Ron really this freakishly strong? "What's the big idea, trying to Obliviate Hermione?" he demanded.
Lee's eyes flicked to Hermione, still where she was, too surprised at the rapid turn of events to react. Not anymore though. The shock was rapidly dwindling to make room for her straightforwardness
"What are you two doing?" she said, letting 'Lee' go and stomping towards them. "Ron, get off Harry this instant! I don't care what's going on between you two, stop it!"
"Hermione!" 'Lee' cried. "That's not me!"
Hermione blinked, looking at Ron in confusion, and the wand left Harry's neck. Two things happened at once.
"Float!" Harry cried out to the Clow Card still supporting the one they'd followed, just as Lee was about to let out another Memory Charm. Gravity disappeared again, and Harry twisted. The effective weightlessness allowed him to Lee off him, moving with the arm she'd pulled back behind him. She toppled, and the spell went wild, striking a lurking bowtruckle and removing what little memory it had as Harry grabbed randomly with the arm Lee held, managing to grab something. He got his legs under him and pushed off, The Jump Card launching him to the level of the treetops, Lee held in a one-handed grip. They hit the branches, and Harry released her, tossing her into a thick clump as the Float Card suddenly cut out. Lee slammed into them, and managed to grab the branches and secure herself before she fell. Harry landed lightly back on the ground a beat after Lee's wand. He grabbed for his own wands and whirled to point them upwards. "Don't move!" he cried.
Lee went still, hanging from the branches.
"HARRY!" Hermione cried as she and Ron stared at him.
You knew this day would come, a voice that made his insides want to writhe said. The secrecy is over…
"Hermione, Ron…" he said slowly, not looking away from the figure who hung from the branches above. "We have to talk…"
The explanation was confusing, especially since they had to be given out of order to explain why 'Lee' was so frantic. Winter managed to calm him down by feeding him a bacon on toast sandwich. How she'd managed to keep hold of the food through all that was a mystery Harry didn't bother dwelling on. He explained about how it looked like Ro nand Lee seemed to have switched bodies. Over Hermione's exclamations of impossibilities, he explained about how he had, so long ago, bought what he thought was a book in Diagon Alley. About the forces he had unleashed. About how he and Lee, and later Winter, had secretly been trying to gather them all to contain them for the past year.
Hermione slapped him.
Harry stumbled back, cheek burning. He offered no resistance, knowing that he deserved this outpouring of anger. Hermione had deserved this, and so had he. At least it was over.
Off to the side, Lee, still in Ron's body but back on the ground, made a small smile of grim approval. Ron, still in Lee's body and just finishing his sandwich, gave a start of surprise.
"What were you thinking?-!"Hermione said, sounding barely in control of herself. "Didn't you learn anything from what happened to Ginny? Don't you remember what the diary did to her?-!"
Harry stared at her, one hand raised to a burning cheek. He hadn't even thought of it like that, had never considered… But Hermione was still talking.
"Honestly, you took the word of some suspicious creature you've never heard of, telling you to keep it secret in exchange for granting you power, and you never considered it might have been a trick?" Hermione demanded. "Even after the Basilisk, and everyone who nearly died?-!"
"Hermione, this is different– " Harry said.
"Harry, we need to tell Dumbledore," Hermione said. "We need to tell him now!"
"No!" three voices chorused. Lee had stepped toward Hermione, and Harry shot her a warning look. She glared right back, but folded her arms in her robes.
"We can't tell him, Hermione," Harry said. "We can't tell anyone?"
"WHY?" Hermione demanded, brandishing the question like a weapon. "Because this creature told you to? Because it said the fate of the world depended on it? Because that's how they do it in all those anime and manga you like? This is real life Harry! You should know by now, magic doesn't automatically make the world better or worse. Magic is just another tool, a dangerous tool. And you're going to stand there and tell me that there are allegedly things loose that can destroy the country, and you don't want me to tell Dumbledore? Harry, think!"
Silence rang. Everyone stared at Hermione.
Then Lee slowly began to applaud. "Congratulations, Granger. You managed, in one explanation, to fully grasp every important repercussion of this situation. My compliments."
Hermione glared at her. "And you," she hissed. "I thought you were the decent sort, but this! Why?"
"She's a Slytherin, Hermione," Ron said, finally managing to stand beside her. He cast a look between Lee an Harry. "You can't trust them. These two deserve each other."
For once, Winter was silent on her opinion of that.
"You're being rash, Granger," Lee said. "There's no need to tell the Headmaster. At least, not right away. Not until you've fully considered the situation."
"What else is there to consider?" Hermione demanded.
"The possibility that we might be right," Lee said curtly. "Don't you think further thought is needed? Talking to the Headmaster is a final, irreversible step, one you can take at any time."
"You tried to Obliviate me!" Hermione snapped, some of her temper finally showing.
"And you saw Potter's opinion of that," Lee said, dry enough to make Snape proud.
Hermione hesitated, just a moment.
"Hermione, please," Harry pleaded. "We can't tell anyone. Can you imagine what would happen if Voldemort, or any of his followers still loose, or even just Wormtail could do if they got hold of the Cards?"
"Dumbledore can keep it," Hermione said. "He can keep it safe."
"And if the Ministry asks for it, Hermione?" Harry pressed. "If they don't trust him with it? Do you honestly trust the Ministry not to misuse it? One of the Cards has the power to utterly erase anything. Not just Vanish, Erase from existence. Do you want to trust that power to the people who kept Sirius in Azkaban? The ones who somehow let my name get snuck into the Goblet?"
"No magic can just erase," Hermione said. "It's impossible!"
"As impossible as two people switching bodies?" Lee asked, looking significantly at Ron. "As impossible as the power to stop time? To literally turn back the clock, undoing events, not just travel briefly to the past?"
"No one can do that," Hermione said, sounding once more sure of herself.
Lee gave Harry a look. He sighed and reached for the Clow Book. Hermione stared at it like it was going to bite her. He drew out a Card. "Hermione, take my hand."
She hesitated, but to her credit, didn't step back.
"Hermione," he said. "Ron. Please."
Warily, as if ready to leap back at the smallest half-provocation, Hermione took his hand. Winter nudged Ron, who gave her a suspicious look, and reached to grab Hermione's other hand. Lee bent down to pick up some rocks. She tossed them into the air.
"Time Card," Harry whispered, touching Card to Wand.
The world turned yellow… and stopped.
"Don't let go," Harry said. He sounded strained. "This is the hardest thing I can do, and it takes a lot out of me."
Hermione pursed her lips, but began to walk towards something that hung in the air. Ron and Harry trailed behind her, the former not looking at the latter. It was one of the stones Lee had thrown. It hung there, bleached yellow, nothing supporting it, perfectly still. Moving Ron's hand to her shoulder, Hermione drew her wand. "Finite Incantatem," she said.
In the spirit of all intellectual pioneers everywhere, Ron moved to the next step. He poked the rock with his free hand. It was utterly immovable.
"I told you," Harry said tiredly. "Time's stopped. Nothing will move here but us and the Clow Cards."
Off to the side, The Float still held the Card that had caused all this prisoner.
Hermione suddenly rounded on him, and Harry nearly let her go. There were tears in her eyes.
"Why didn't you tell us?" she said softly. "Winter knows. Lee knows. Why? why them, and not us?"
Harry avoided her eyes. "There was never a good time…"
"Either we were busy, or I was busy doing… this… or you and Ron were fighting, and I couldn't tell one of you without telling the other…" Harry flailed.
"Didn't you trust us?" Hermione said, as if he hadn't said anything.
"Herm… I wanted to tell you…" he said.
"So why?" she demanded. Tears or not, her eyes bore into his. He looked away.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"
Harry's head snapped back. Hermione's face was a rictus, tears still streaming. He met her gaze.
"I didn't want anyone else to know," he said, voice soft. "People… everyone thinks they know everything about me. People know more about my family than I do. I just… I just wanted something that just mine… my own little secret."
Hermione's had tightened on his. "Even from us?"
"I would have told you," he said. "When I was ready. Not like this."
Ron snorted. "Aren't you special enough?" he snarled.
Anger rose in Harry. "My parents are dead Ron. You're my only friends, and the only family I have doesn't want me. You think that's special? Because then Sirius is probably special too!"
Ron didn't back down, but he didn't shoot back.
"If you want it, it's yours now too," Harry said. "You know now. Do you feel special, Ron?"
The world flickered around them, and the stillness collapsed. Rocks fell as color rushed back into the world. Ron stumbled back away form him, turning away.
"Please…" Harry said. "Don't tell them. At least think about it. Hear us out."
"You were in Hong Kong this summer," Hermione said. Her eyes looked like they were examining him now. "What really happened?"
Harry hesitated. Then he told them. Above, the sun rose.
"You told us you didn't know," Hermione said.
"You lied to us." Her voice demanded an answer.
His voice was soft. "Yes…" His cheek burned.
But she didn't slap him again. The hurt in her eyes was enough. "So how do we know you're not still lying to us now?"
"You don't," Lee chirped in, sounding self-satisfied for some reason. "But really Granger, he stopped me from trying to Obliviate you twice. Doesn't that imply something?"
"For all I know, you've Obliviated me before," Hermione said.
Lee spread her hands.
"Stop helping me," Harry snapped at her.
"Seal the bloody Change Card so I can get out of here!" Lee snapped back. "You can go back to playing Jerry Springer all you want after that!" There was the clink of metal from her.
Harry glared at her, glanced at Hermione, then turned towards the Card, raising the Sealing Wand high. "Clow Card made by Clow Reed!" Harry cried. "I am the Card Captor, and I order you to return to your true form!" The Wand swung. "Change Card!"
Ron and Hermione stepped back as the wind rose, the Card dissolving back into a flat state. The Float collapsed as well, joining its sibling. Harry tucked the Float and Time back in the book. Then he turned and handed Hermione the third Card. "Here. Evidence for if you decide to speak to Dumbledore."
Lee's body blinked, raising its hands up to stare at them, then nodding in satisfaction as Ron suddenly gave a whoop. She then glared at Harry. "You can't decide that, Potter," she snapped.
"I didn't see you doing anything constructive," he snapped back. "I caught the Card fair and square. I decide what to do with it. This is what I've decided."
Hesitantly, Hermione took the Card, staring down at it.
"Just, you know, don't say its name out loud when you're holding it," Harry said.
Her eyes flicked up to him, then back down at the Card.
Lee glared, then rounded on Ron. He gave a start of surprise as she started going through his pockets. "What– ?" he said. "Not again!"
"Taking my things back," Lee snapped, as a flat box, several ofuda, and various metallic things made the transfer from Ron's pockets to under her clothes.
He glared at her in annoyance, but try as he might, he wasn't able to stop her. Instead, he focused his attention on Harry. "Where's mine?" he demanded.
Lee snorted. "Oh, please. You're not going to the Headmaster."
"Oh?" he challenged as the last of the things was taken back and she stepped out of his range. "You're going to Obliviate me too?"
"No," she said. "You're not going to say anything because that'll just make Potter more special. And you wouldn't want that, do you?"
"He's not going to tell because he's Harry's friend," Winter corrected, smiling at Ron. "Isn't that right?"
"Hermione, Ron, I know you two don't have any reason to listen to me now," he said. "But if you ever thought my opinion was worth anything, please. Don't tell anyone. Not until you've thought about it."
"Clow Reed is in the library," Lee said brusquely. She seemed to be turning more stable now that she was back in her body. "Look him up. Do the research. See if you don't come to any conclusions."
Ron's face twisted at the notion of research. He turned and stomped off.
Hermione tapped the Card, then slowly tucked it away. "I'll consider it, Harry," she said. Her eyes still weighed him. "I'm not sure I know you anymore."
He nodded. "I understand."
She turned to follow Ron, but paused after a few steps. "Remember to write to… you know," she said, eyes flicking to Lee. "I don't suppose you've told him about this either, but you should tell him about the Goblet."
She walked away.
You told me to keep you posted on what's happening at Hogwarts, so here goes…
No teachers or Ministry officials came swooping down on him later that day, so he supposed Ron and Hermione really were thinking it over. He'd have wanted to be alone, but Lee for some reason seemed positively giddy to impose her company on him, and he really couldn't find it in him to tell Winter off.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later," Lee said, leaning back against the tree overlooking the lake. "We've been lucky. Best it was them and not someone that couldn't be dealt with."
"Lee," Harry said coldly from Winter's other side. "If you ever try to Obliviate my friends, or anyone else again, I will Erase you."
She smirked at him. "After all that talk about not letting that kind of power get into the wrong hands."
"Lee," Winter asked. "Have you ever really Obliviated anyone?"
"Would you believe me if a I told you?" she retorted.
"Yes," Winter said, before Harry could give his scathing reply. "You're our friend. We'd believe you."
Lee looked at her sideways, but turned back to staring over the lake. "No, I haven't. Like I've said, we've been lucky. Plus everyone was kind of scared stupid last year, what with a murderer running around loose. Everyone was on lockdown. Fewer witnesses. I doubt it'll be like that this year."
"Oh, joy," Harry muttered sarcastically.
There was silence for a moment.
"So, are either of you going to tell me what happened with the Goblet of Fire or what?"
- To be continued...
A/N: While everyone in Harry Potter has issues, for most part I believe the books handled them fairly reasonably. And everyone who's going to go on about how the Dursleys were violent to Harry and the thing with the frying pan to the head, please note that Unreliable Narrator is in effect, and the fact Harry, the perspective character, was a child could skew the narrative. I've always felt those particular passages were exaggerated for effect to make it easier for the book's at-the-time target demographic to understand how Harry's home life wasn't exactly pleasant. And since Children are apparently Morons, they had to bump it up to Oliver Twist levels. But really, at that age, kids would tend to exaggerate favoritism to an outrageous degree. Something to keep in mind when deciding to treat every line of the early books as completely accurate. Remember, in the later books, Dudley was actually trying to be nice to Harry, but we never saw it because Harry was being all self-absorbed (with good, reason, but still!) what with being in the teen stage and all, and Harry only figured it out in hindsight that for the past two years, after the Dementors, Dudley has actually been treating him well. Harry's narration isn't always accurate. It's a good story-telling device, but absolutely murder on the fan discussions.
I will ignore any comments encouraging me to bash any characters, as I consider those hallmarks of shallow, uncreative minds. For crying out loud, there are sick minds who can conceive all sort of weird ways to hook up Harry with practically anyone, and you can't think of making the, in your opinion, dumb and stupid characters more likeable? Don't infect me with your bigotry! YOU CLEARLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE SUBTEXT OF THE STORY!
I originally had no intension of letting Hermione and Ron in one it until the middle of 5th year, where there would be BIG complications, but what the hell. It's not like I can keep to a schedule. Of, the days when I updated this once a week…
For those who will argue about whether Lee was speaking in Cantonese or Mandarin, answer is Harry doesn't know, so he couldn't specify. Really, perspective character and such apply here too.
I am not writing Hermione as a bitch. She's having a perfectly valid reaction.
Please review a lot if you want this updated within the month, while my muse for it is still revived.
Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.