Chapter 2: Insight
January 1, 1993
Harry and Hermione had ended up confined to the hospital wing for a whole week. Thankfully it was still winter break and they didn't have to deal with missing classes, but it is really easy to get sick of reading textbooks when that's all you can do. Of course, that's not to say that their time in the hospital wing was completely uninteresting.
During the long process of reversing the potion they discovered some very interesting things. For one, a cat turned out to be Hermione's natural animagus form, which is why her transformation seemed more "real" than Harry's. It was a relief for Hermione, as she just had to wait for the cleansing potions they were given to clear out the polyjuice effects, and she could be forced back to her original form!
Professor McGonagall came to talk with her about it and after a stern lecture about how she must not venture on the path to an animagus alone, in a few years she might be willing to grant approval. As it was certain things had to be addressed before her change back to human, she had to learn intricately the differences between her human and cat form before the reversal spell would work. Saying Hermione was excited was a huge understatement, she idolized the Scottish woman to a great extent and was overjoyed to receive private lessons.
Still that left Harry to be the sole victim of the healer's efforts and he can't say he appreciated it. Due to the puzzle that the boy was turning out to be, Pomphrey had decided to run an in-depth scan on the boy. This was typically not done because it had to be very precise and the process was lengthy, but Harry figured it had to be the healer's last resort.
As he understood it, polyjuice mistakes like these were rare, but the documented cases all had varying situations. The cleansing potion was a staple, as it was only after the polyjuice was completely removed from the system that changes could be reversed, but the effects were different for each person and the magic done to reverse was different in turn.
Not long after she finished the spell, Madam Pomphrey suddenly frowned and erected a silencing ward around his bed. This set Harry on edge, but the boy had almost anticipated this reaction. He figured it would reveal at least something of his troubled childhood, and while his heart was pounding harshly in his chest, a small part of him was grateful he didn't have to bring up the subject.
"Mr. Potter, these results are... very distressing. Do you ever go without eating for frequent periods of time?" For all his anxiety, Harry found it incredibly easy to nod yes to the question. The boy observed the woman's reaction and wasn't surprised to see the woman's frown deepen. "I intend to discuss this with you later when we have a bit more privacy." He received his first smile since entering the wing and calmed down a little. "Malnutrition isn't anything to laugh about, but it seems like yours and Miss Granger's little potions experiment had more than a few benefits."
The Healer then went on to explain that in his case it would be hard to do an "all at once" kind of change. It wasn't a healthy body they were dealing with, but one with some noticeable ailments and what was missing was "replaced" by the potion. His body could do with a great deal of strengthening, but the damage caused to his body by the abuse seemed to have been repaired. Even his eyesight was much improved, forcing the need for a new set of eye-ware.
Removing those changes that were beneficial seemed foolhardy, especially since the affects were accepted by his body and nervous system. Being a cat person turned out to be good thing! Harry was left much better off health wise than before. When Madam Pomphrey returned one day with a set of thin rectangular frames with a new prescription, Harry wasted no time in putting his old frames out of sight and nothing more was said about it.
The next several days were dedicated to more diagnostics and boredom. Any mention of the reasons to his abuse at his relatives hadn't come up until a two days before their release. Hermione had been brought into a separate room for a "biology" lesson and the Hospital Wing was empty again.
Harry had been leafing through a potions reference book that Hermione loaned him when Madam Pomphrey called the cat-boy into her office. It wasn't until he entered the doorway that he thought about the "why" of the event. He had become used to obeying the witch without question in regards to potions and treatment that it just didn't occur to him.
Madam Pomphrey fixed him with an unreadable look before motioning for him to sit down. A sense of panic was filling him, but his hand only shook slightly when he had to maneuver his tail in-between the chairs backing. "I thought long and hard on how to deal with this situation and I'm not certain what to do still." The woman sighed and pushed a few papers towards him. "I wasn't idle however, I did my own research into your past and I found many things that ruined my faith in the Headmaster."
At this point, Harry hadn't even reached towards the papers, and hearing that he was even more unwilling to. "Tell me, Harry, did Headmaster Dumbledore ever hint to you that he knew about your treatment at your relatives' home?"
His mouth was suddenly dry and he felt his hair standing on end. It took him several minutes, but he managed to respond. "Y-yes, ma'am, I mean I think so... the first letter I received was addressed to the cupboard under the stairs." At the witch's paling face he quickly continued, "And Hagrid had to give me my letter, the Dursley's wouldn't let me look at it… Hagrid knew how much they hated me, he would've told, right?"
The Healer slumped in her seat, muttering that yes, he would have. It was several minutes of silence before the witch spoke again. "Headmaster Dumbledore took a very unyielding stance to your protection, and in turn to your placement at the Dursley's. He didn't settle for anyone questioning his decision, and I think in his determination he reversed several actions that shouldn't have been."
It took Harry several moments to read between the lines, and understand just what happened. "You mean… people did notice? And try to help me?"
"Yes, dear…" It was the Healer's first break from formality. "I can't say I understand his actions, but I believe he thought the actions to remove you from the Dursley home were attempts to get to you, rather than any actual concern for your welfare. He obliviated the muggles and removed the evidence." She took a deep breath, pushing down her own anger at the situation. "For all the years I've known him, I noticed that he can become almost willfully blind to situations if he is too involved. I believe that is what happened here."
At first Harry's emotions revolved around the fact that people had noticed, people had tried to help him. Then onto the fact that the Dursleys were definitely wrong about what they did to him, and the little voice that told him he deserved these things finally died. Then a combination of anger and despair rose in his chest, driving all thoughts away other than 'How could he?', and he spent the next several minutes in silence trying to think of a way that Dumbledore couldn't have betrayed him so completely.
It was then he noticed the papers he had otherwise ignored, and felt a sudden need to know what they were. He muddled through the legal jargon with a single track mind before realizing what they were, legal permission to obliviated muggles… He flipped through the other pages, noting the number before reaching pages that weren't made of parchment. His frantic need to prove Pomphrey wrong abated as he stared into several confiscated forms that, as far as he could tell, revolved around removing him from the Dursley's care… one was even for adoption from a name he recognized as one of his primary school teachers.
"What gave him the right to do all this, ma'am? How could he do this?" His mood was now settled on despair. He felt betrayed in all senses of the word. Harry could honestly say he preferred it better when he thought the man just hadn't taken an interest in him for his younger years. Knowing that he had done all this, yet hadn't bothered to even check and see if the muggle authorities had it right? It was damning, in Harry's mind.
The witch took a deep breath, hesitating slightly before answering. "In the wizarding world guardianship is split between muggle and magical worlds for special cases. Muggleborns do not fall into this category always, it is a matter discussed between their parents and their school. However magical orphans who are placed in a muggle home are assigned a guardian to look after their welfare in the magical world."
"My guardian is Albus Dumbledore?" At Pomphrey's nod Harry fell apart. As the boy cried, Pomphrey comforted him with a practiced ease. Talking about such things to young student wasn't something that Pomphrey enjoyed or was even responsible for, but she wasn't going to be another adult in the string of many that failed the boy.
About fifteen minutes later his sobs eased into a sniffle and she wasted no time in handing him a mug of hot chocolate. "I know this is a lot to take in, but I wish to have your permission before taking this further."
Confused emerald eyes peered over the cup. "What do you mean?"
She sighed, "I will not allow you to return to your relatives, and I wish to take the evidence I've uncovered to the Headmaster." At the boy's startled face, she continued before he could interrupt. "What ever the reason he had for placing you there, I cannot see him being that evil to purposely leave you in danger."
'Danger?' The boy thought, his mind going back to the events of last year. 'We thought that he might have pushed us in the right direction to figure out the mystery but…even if I had the right to face him, was it right for the headmaster to allow it?' A sense of unease was filling him with the thought of the kindly matron facing Dumbledore. 'Oh god, what about memory charms? What if he doesn't listen to her like he's done with all the other people?!'
"Madam Pomphrey! Don't talk to him, please!" Harry was feeling panic over the first adult he felt he could trust being in danger.
The witch in question was rather confused, and said as much. "Why ever not?"
The boy gulped, almost feeling foolish about his thoughts. "What if he obliviates you like everyone else who has tried to help me? You don't deserve to have that happen..."
She was forced to entertain that thought, and end up nodding in agreement. "Well, it would have been foolish of me not to have backup anyway." Pomphrey stood up straight in her chair. "I will inform Professor McGonagall of all this, if I have your permission. That way if he does do something, the Professor can remove it immediately and we can take other measures."
Harry didn't really like the idea, but knew it was a pretty solid plan. He was warring between his personal embarrassment and the well being of someone else and it wasn't much of a battle. "You can tell her, I guess…"
The Healer sent him a reassuring smile before motioning towards the door. "Ms. Granger should be returning soon from her lesson. Could you tell Professor McGonagall that I'd like to talk to her?"
Just two days later they were being released from the hospital wing and Harry hadn't heard any more about the issue. Harry ended up sharing the information with Hermione, however. It was unintentional, but a comment about Dumbledore had sent the teen into a rant that revealed far too much. Of course, Hermione acted true to her personality and nagged until he explained all, well- most of it.
Still, his mood was bright despite it all. It was his first day of being cat-appendage-free in a week and he was enjoying it. Hermione was actually slightly depressed and kept reaching for an ear to scratch when she thought he wasn't looking. Of course, it could just be because it signaled the end of her personal lessons, Harry honestly didn't know.
Eating in the great hall was fantastic, and catching up with Ron was even more so. Turns out he spent most of the time they were confined pranking with his brothers and was proud of his use of the color charm on snowballs to re-invent to "pelt the Defense teacher with snowballs" trick. His brothers were beaming in pride whenever they caught a look at the polka-dotted Lockhart.
Hermione actually giggled a little before lecturing. Despite his concerns about Dumbledore, he couldn't help but think things were going well.
It was strange how quickly time passed at Hogwarts. In no time at all thoughts about his relatives and Dumbledore eased into the back of his mind. It was no surprise really; the weeks following the start of term were busy and full of Lockhart pranking. It seemed like Ron really opened season on the now disregarded Defense Professor. The man still had his fan girls, but everyone else was having fun.
It was even rumored Professor McGonagall had done something to the man, but the trio thought it was unlikely. In any case, the other professors were "determined" to discourage the culprits as the official statement stood, but the fact that not even the obvious pranks were punished led to the opposite conclusion.
Harry and Hermione were usually too busy to indulge in the pranking. Well, Hermione never wanted to participate, even if she laughed with the rest of them. They were instead reviewing what magic they could, and even Hermione was amazed at what she missed. In addition to that, a few references for defense led them to better textbooks for their first and second years of study and that itself took a great deal of time.
At times Harry snuck out to study on his own, especially when Hermione was absorbed into a thick textbook. She was a good friend, but she didn't appreciate opinions that differed from her own. The teen tried hard not to hold it against her, since she was always there when it counted, but it did wear on his nerves to have his ideas discarded easily.
In these instances he found himself studying the wizard version of psychology, typically called the "Mind Arts" lumped all together. There were a few references to the actual "mind arts" and magical techniques, but he was really just interested in figuring people out. In the muggle world he had spent a long time "people watching" as it was about the only thing he could do when socially isolated. While he understood a lot of ways people reacted to one another he never understood the reasons behind it.
With the situation with Dumbledore, Harry was desperate to find a reason he would act the way he had. Madam Pomphrey had given him a few ideas, but it wasn't enough. He wasn't content for accepting another's word solely on the matter. So while the worry about his relatives and Dumbledore's actions had faded; his curiosity into the "why" only grew.
Honestly, Harry found himself both disappointed at what he had found and eager to learn more despite it all. The young wizard quickly realized that people's emotions, thus actions couldn't be placed under a neat, dedicated label. There were exceptions to every rule, and the book quickly dissuaded his expectations of a quick answer. It seemed like the best teacher for the type of situations were experience but one book his studied did advise him on typical situations and reactions.
However Harry found that most books were dedicated to thinking critically and advised to keep a clear mind as often as possible. The more he read into it, the more he found how many wizards and witches he knew didn't know a thing about this type of magical study, let alone use it. It also explained why he only found references to it in advanced dueling books, as they are all for having a "clear mind" to properly access an opponent.
Still it nagged at the teen that all these books talked about "clearing one's mind" and having a "clear head" and such, yet never described how to. Harry quickly determined that this was one of those things that were entrenched in wizarding culture that no one really felt the need to explain. "Everyone" knew about it, after all.
So it was early on May 28th, very close to the end of term when Harry decided to dedicate the day to finding the answer. After hours of leafing through books and frustration, he had just found a slim book on Occumlency and figured he would try his luck. It didn't seem like there were many texts on the art, so Harry assumed it wasn't that useful.
It wasn't until he walked around the bookcase, into the studying area of the library that he noticed the whispers. "Kill… Tear... -" Instantly he felt on alert, why would someone be saying those things in a Library of all places? He brought up his wand and shifted into a stance he had been practicing. His alert ears picked up the noise of something dragging along the floor and startled when he heard a stack of books fall over.
He incanted the first spell that came to his mind, and whirled around to face a large pair of snake eyes through the light blue tint of his "protego" shield before the world became grey, then black.
Sorry for the wait. Been having some internet troubles, right now I'm stealing it from a friends house just to post this. Might take me a few days to respond to emails, but I hope you all like this chapter. I had a big struggle with my characters trying to be over dramatic, and I hope I managed to fix it, but it's possible I failed. Oh, and I do have reasons for petrifying Harry! :D I'll get the next up asap.
Thank you for reading.