Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Again - it took a while. But at least it's out, right? heh heh...
Chapter Seven: Secrets
Harry supposed he should have expected the attention he was getting from the three-hundred-something pupils at Hogwarts - all of whom had by now heard of his stay in the hospital wing through the grape vine. But still, he had assumed at least a few of them had something better to do than to stare at him and whisper.
Well, to be fair, it was only really the Slytherins being malicious about it - the obvious extremity being Malfoy, though people seemed to be giggling more at the red welt on his face than his reenactments. The Ravenclaw portion of the Great Hall seemed to be interested in Harry; as if he were a conundrum they had been assigned to figure out. The Hufflepuffs mostly looked concerned about his well being, which made Harry feel half annoyed, and half grateful. His fellow Gryffindors were the most varied house - in terms of their reaction to his entrance.
The first years were whispering, all right, but most of them seemed to be more on the side of "OH MY WIZARD GOD IT'S HARRY POTTER!" than "I always knew he was a coward!" The students older than him (especially years five and up) were scoffing a bit, having reorganized their idea of him from one of them (a brave Gryffindor) to a Pygmy Puff in a lions' costume. Luckily, the people he knew seemed defensive of him - especially his dorm-mates.
There was an awkward silence, in which Harry shuffled his feet and concentrated his gaze on the staff table, which didn't help much, as Snape was smiling unnaturally at his predicament. Harry was close to just deciding to get Fred and George to tell them where the kitchens were and eat there, when Hermione yelled,
"Well? What are you looking at?" This seemed to be directed to the entire school (and staff) population. "Aren't you here to eat?" The Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and most Gryffindors flushed a little and turned back to their meals. Harry smiled at his female friend appreciatively, and she flashed him a little grin in return. Ron wedged himself in between them jovially and directed the three friends to their usual spot at the Gryffindor table, where they studiously began to ignore the whispers and stares of their housemates.
Ron searched in vain for a subject to pursue without it sounding forced. Then, his eyes lit up. "Hey Harry! Did you hear about the upset in the British Cup semifinals yesterday? The Chelsea Chinchillas totally dominated the Birmingham Blackbirds!" Harry smiled. Even with the stress of their friendship at the moment (and its quick, yet messy, resolution) Ron was just so... Ron.
"No, I haven't been able to keep up much with the scores over summer term - what was the score?" Harry replied, perhaps more eagerly than was his normal demeanor.
"210 - 40! But Bagman, the announcer, kept on raving about how it was all the new keeper's fault-" Harry's eyes shifted subtly towards Hermione, who was sitting to his left, and grinned at her complete lack of interest on the subject at hand. She had already pulled out her copy of Going Beyond Greatness: A Muggle-Born's Guide to Success in the Wizarding World.
Little by little, people stopped staring at them, eventually realizing that the food would indeed disappear eventually. Harry was just about to leave and head up to the Gryffindor Dormitories when he was approached by none other than Neville.
"Uhm... Harry?" Neville squeaked, looking distinctly uncomfortable. Harry hoped fervently he hadn't been bullied into going up to him and asking him something about his black out.
"Yeah, Neville?" Harry said, looking at his friend. Neville shifted again.
"This is kind of a weird request, but..." Here it comes, Harry thought grimly. "-could you help me drop Divination class?"
Harry blinked once. Then he blinked again.
"... oh!" Harry said, his surprised reaction coming a bit late. "Erm- yeah, sure... I think you just have to ask for a transfer, since it's so early in the year. McGonagall didn't seem to sad about taking people out of Trelawney's class for some reason."
Neville was visibly relieved. "T-Thanks, Harry!" He stuttered, and ran up the steps out of the Great Hall. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood together for a second, watching the doors bang behind him.
"That was unexpected," Ron said frankly. Hermione nodded as she slowly slung her book bag over her left shoulder. "To the Common Room, then, Harry?" Ron suggested.
Harry nodded, still rather speechless - as well as touched. Then quickly abolished himself for feeling that way - he shouldn't be so surprised at Neville's kindness. Neville, though shoved into the background oftentimes, was one of the most loyal people Harry knew. Shaking his head and smiling a little, Harry followed his friends up the stairwell and through the labyrinth of corridors to the Common Room.
To Harry's great relief, Harry and Ron were able to ascend into the third year boys' dormitory without much interruption. They had said their goodbyes to Hermione at the staircase, saying that they wanted to get away from the majority of students who were still whispering suspiciously.
Hermione had agreed this was a good idea and had ascended into the girls' dormitory to finish her school work in the quiet of her dorm.
When Harry finally reached his bed, he plopped onto it face-first, the oak frame squeaking a bit at the sudden weight. He exhaled loudly, his hot breath reflecting off the red bed covers and creating a mist over his nose. He flipped over with a grunt.
"Some first day for you," Ron commented, riffling through his stuffed bedside table drawer as he tried to find something. Harry groaned in approval, suddenly not having the strength to answer. "Hey, Harry, have you seen my quill?"
"I don't think so," Harry replied tiredly. "Have you checked under you bed?" Ron hung his head upside down over his mattress until it was suspended only a couple inches off the ground.
"Yes! Thanks, Harry," Ron said, grabbing the dusty quill and picking his half-finished Charms essay off the table with a look of disgust.
Harry laid in his bed, too tired even to move for a good hour. Finally, bemoaning his inability to fall asleep, Harry sat up and tapped the lamp next to his bed with his wand. The light turned on. He levitated his school books, parchment and a quill out of his school bag and let them drop with a "whump!" onto his lap. Picking up his potions textbook with distaste, Harry propped the text up onto his knees, dipped the quill into an inkwell on his bedside table, and began to write about Kileg Trivoli - inventor of the Waif's Wonder potion.
And then he did his Charms work. And then was about to pull out his Divinations book ("Unfogging the Future") when he remembered, with relief, that he was no longer taking the subject. Smiling in relief, Harry dropped his work to the left of his bed and jumped onto the chilled, wood floor. Shivering a bit, he changed into his pajamas and returned to his bed. Waving his wand tiredly, Harry muttered,
"Tempus." Neon-blue light floated in a ribbon out of his wand and formed the numbers. It was extremely early to be going to sleep - only 8:45. But all the same, Harry was tired. Switching off his light, Harry mumbled "goodnight," to Ron, flipped onto his side, and was asleep within a minute.
The next morning, Harry woke up the earliest he'd ever woken in Hogwarts. Well, excluding that one time in first year when Hedwig had landed on him at 3:00AM, but all the same. The earliest he'd ever woken without going back to sleep. It was 5:00, and Harry was wide awake.
He'd been laying in bed for the last half hour, and wasn't getting any more tired. Finally, with a grunt of annoyance, Harry leaped out of bed and got dressed as quickly as he could. Apparently, it was too early even for the house elves to have lit the Common Room fire, which channeled its heat (through magic vectors) around the Gryffindor Tower. Once he was layered up appropriately, Harry slipped past Seamus, Neville, Ron, and Dean and headed down into the Common Room.
The normally packed room was eerily silent, all the chairs empty except for one with a sleeping, shadow-eyed fifth year surrounded by O.W.L preparation review. Harry stepped out the portrait hole, waking the disgruntled Fat Lady. It was only then that he realized he had nothing to do outside the Gryffindor Tower. Double-checking that his wand was stowed safely in his front pocket, Harry wandered aimlessly around the castle.
In truth, it was the first time he'd ever just walked around Hogwarts without a set destination. Taking his time, Harry strolled along the corridors and moving staircases, stopping every once and a while to examine sleeping portraits. One, Harry noted with amusement, had fallen asleep suspended halfway between two portraits.
Heading upstairs without aim, Harry made an effort to go places he'd rarely (if ever) been before. It amazed him that after three years of calling Hogwarts his home, he still didn't know all its nooks and crannies. He walked further and further upwards until he had climbed to the very top of the Astronomy tower.
He stepped outside and shivered, quickly retreating into the gradually heating castle. It was much too cold out there. He meandered his way back down to the seventh floor, where the Gryffindor dorms were located, taking a different (slower) route than he usually would. He was nearly to the portrait of the Fat Lady when he stopped, feeling something was amiss. Harry looked around quickly, but saw no one.
He was about to shrug it off when he realized - his wand was gone. Ice formed in his blood. How could I have lost my wand? He asked himself repeatedly as he hurried back up the hall, eyes searching the wide hallways. When he'd almost reached the Astronomy tower when he doubled back.
I need to find my wand, I need to find my wand... he thought frantically, running back and forth along the hallway, peeking into the many hiding places it could have easily rolled into. Then, there was a grinding sound. Harry jumped, hand automatically reaching towards the pocket where his wand was usually stationed.
But nothing had changed in the hall; or so, for a moment, it seemed. Then, out of nowhere, a door appeared on the wall. It was ornate - with black iron swirls and levers creating an ornate locking system. Despite his wand-less panic, Harry was immediately intrigued. After all, a door had just appeared randomly!
Harry paused, checking down the hallways to make sure no one was looking. Nobody was there, excluding the waking portrait of Victorian-era man (labeled Barnabas the Barmy on the burnished nameplate below) surrounded by snoring, tutu-wearing trolls. The sleepy man waved.
Not able to hold back his curiosity, Harry grabbed the handle to the door and tugged. To his surprise, it fell open easily and without a sound. Again, Harry checked his surroundings. Then, he stepped inside the mysterious room.
First, Harry was disappointed. There seemed to be nothing strange or unusual about the hidden room he'd just discovered. Then, his eyes adjusting to the dim lighting, Harry's mouth dropped open into an obtuse-looking gape reminiscent of Crabbe or Goyle.
In the middle of the room, there was a spotlight. In the middle of the spotlight, there was a circular, stone pedestal. In the middle of the pedestal... was Harry's wand.
Harry gasped audibly, the sound seeming loud in the deathly silent room. Harry rushed forward, grabbing his phoenix and holly wand from the spotlight and examining it. It seemed to be in order... he checked it all around. Felt it in his hand. Weighed it on his palm. It seemed to be his wand... but how could it be? He had dropped his wand somewhere along the corridor between the Astronomy Tower and the Gryffindor dorms. If there was one place Harry knew his wand wasn't supposed to be, it was here. He'd never even seen this place before, much less dropped his wand in it!
Pulling the wand closer to his eyes, Harry looked at the bottom. Yep - there it was! The little scratch Ron had caused when he'd shoved a box of Ice Mice into Harry's pocket once during Charms and Flitwick had been approaching! There was no doubt about it - this was indeed his wand... but how?
Once again, Harry looked around the room. It was moderately small, with high ceilings and a tiled floor. Could it be some sort of room where lost things went when people dropped them? But if so, why didn't the professors tell them about it and have them go here when they reported lost items? Not to mention his wand was most certainly not the only lost thing in Hogwarts, and other than the pedestal and Harry, the room was empty. It didn't add up.
Holding his wand securely in his hand, Harry paced the room, examining the walls as if expecting another door to randomly open. About five minutes later, when he had been thoroughly convinced that there wasn't any more secret passageways attached to the mysterious room, decided to leave.
He was tempted to attempt to figure out further what was up with the room - at least get a head start on the research he'd be doing later - but realized he had no idea what time it was. Harry was suddenly nervous. What if classes had already started? And that settled it. Harry walked forcefully towards the doorway out of the room, and pulled it open.
He stepped outside.
After stepping out of the iron door, Harry whirled around, wondering if it would disappear into the stone wall. And indeed, after a couple of seconds, the black door began to melt until there was nothing left but a blank wall.
Harry blinked, and raised his hand to feel the wall where the door had disappeared. Yep, it was only wall. Leaning over so his ear was against the stone, Harry tapped it hard with his knuckles. There was no James Bond-esque hollow ringing. Harry rubbed his reddened knuckles in annoyance.
He examined the spot where the door had popped up for a couple more minutes. It remained steadfast and solid. Harry frowned. Perhaps he had to look at the ground and pace as he'd been doing when he was looking for his wand? He tried it, and waited expectantly, but no such door appeared. Disappointed, Harry trekked back to the portrait of the Fat Lady. He checked his watch. He still had an hour and a half until his first class.
Harry approached the stretching guard of the Gryffindor Common room. "Leo Prestantia," he recited dully.
"Right you are, dear," the Fat Lady agreed sleepily. "'Lion Superiority.' Quite right..." The portrait door swung open, and Harry stepped through. The Gryffindor Common Room was substantially more busy now, with several students comparing notes and essays, or talking quietly by the now-lit fireplace.
Harry was interested. He hadn't really been in the Common Room before 8:15AM before... he'd always been asleep. As it was approximately 7:30AM, he wasn't used to the mild traffic flowing through the comfortable room.
Eyes sweeping through the portrait-lined room, Harry's eyes lit up opon seeing a familar figure curled up in an arm chair by the fire. It was Hermione! Harry walked over. She was talking to Ginny, who was seated opposite her, wrapped in a rather lurid pink bathrobe which clashed brilliantly with her damp red hair.
"... like me," Ginny was saying, sounding down. "I don't know, Hermione. Do you think I have a chan-" but Hermione cut her off, her warm brown eyes widening.
"Hello, Harry!" she said loudly. The corners of Harry's mouth turned down. It wasn't like Hermione to be so rude and interrupting - especially towards Ginny, one of her best friends. Ginny, too, seemed to be angry at Hermione's interruption. Her face turned the reddest Harry had ever seen, and this was including Ron. She looked at Harry, eyes impossibly wide, before sprinting away to the girls' dorms. Harry was baffled. Hermione had been rude, but not that rude.
"What's with Ginny?" Harry asked, confused. Hermione, strangely, looked a bit triumphant that Ginny had left. Again, Harry frowned. It was even more unlike her to be glad her friend had left the room.
"She's... erm-" Hermione said, at a loss for words for once. "She's just nervous for- for... a Transfiguration quiz she has today." Harry raised an eyebrow. He rather doubted that was Ginny's problem, but decided not to press the subject. After all, he had bigger fish to fry.
"Hermione! Guess what?" Harry said, scooting closer to her. Her cheeks turned a bit rosy.
"So, I got up early today-" Hermione looked incredulous. "Yes, yes, I know... but anyways. I decided to explore a little around the castle. While I was out, I dropped my wand-"
Hermione gasped in horror. It was most wizard's and witch's worst nightmare to lose or break their wands.
"You lost your wand?" She whispered, dismayed. "But-"
"That's not the point of the story! Let me finish!" She huffed, and settled back into her seat. "Anyways, so I lost my wand. But when I was looking for it, this doorway popped up near that portrait of the wizard and those ballet dancing trolls down the corridor.
"I went inside, out of curiosity-" Hermione snorted in an unladylike manner, unsurprised, "-and inside this empty, on a little pedestal, was my wand!"
Hermione looked surprised, but then frowned. "Are you sure it's your wand?" she questioned. Harry nodded. "But... how could that have happened?"
"I don't know," Harry replied contemplatively. "I thought at first it might be some sort of magical lost-and-found, but-"
"-then there would have been other things there, yeah..." Hermione finished for him. She glanced at the antique grandfather clock standing in the corner of the Common Room. The gold hands read 7:48. "Why don't you show me where you saw the doorway?" she suggested. "I've got all my books and homework ready for the day... do you?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Finished it last night." She looked pleased.
"Great! Let's go!" He grabbed her wrist and pulled her through the considerably more crowded Common Room to the portrait. Excited, they climbed through the portrait hole and into the hall.
Behind them, at the top of the stairs leading to the girls' dorm, they neglected to see a sour-faced redhead glaring down at them before she whirled around and stomped back into her room.
END OF CHAPTER
Again, hope you liked it! Sorry, sorry for the late update! This, I'll admit, is certainly my side project for the moment. I'm in the last stretch of my other story, "Just My Luck," and hopefully I'll be done soon! After that, I'm going to focus on this story!
Anyways, as always, reviews are very much appreciated!