Chapter Eighteen: Of Dreams and American Oddities
If anyone is still here reading this…I'd be freaking amazed…seriously…if you're still reading this and are, like, freaking thrilled, OH MY GOD IT'S FINALLY UPDATED!, then you are freaking awesome. That's all I have to say.
Charmedfan: To address your question, when Paige says, "You mean he thought Chris was…eww," she was referring to Dumbledore thinking that Chris His Student was the son of Chris The Whitelighter. Meaning Chris was the son of…Chris. Which would be weird if Dumbledore knew they were the same person like Paige. It would mean that Chris and Piper had…well, in the words of Paige, "Eww."
Harry was unsure how long they had sat out by the lake in silence though he knew it had been a good deal after the sun had dipped below the trees in the Forbidden Forest. When he finally looked back over at his company, he had been greeted with the sight of the slumbering American nestled comfortably against the roots of the log curled in on himself. Even sleeping Chris still appeared exhausted and it was obvious he hadn't been sleeping well at all. Hadn't since he'd arrived really and, though Harry had first attributed it to time difference, he wondered now if perhaps Chris was suffering from the same nightly issue he was.
At length Harry had gently shaken the sleeping brunette awake suggesting they head back to the castle and the two had parted ways at the Grand Staircase Harry heading up and Chris heading down.
The look Chris had given him nagged him the next few days although Chris said no more on the subject, not even treading near it despite Harry's subtle attempts to steer conversation to their time at the lakeside. Chris made no mention of it whatsoever, however Harry did notice he showed up a lot more out of nowhere whenever Ron and Hermione were off on Prefect duties or elsewhere and Harry was feeling lonely. Which was comforting although a little hazardous to his health every time the American scared the bloody hell out of him. Someday Chris was going to give him a heart attack.
Today they were outside again at a different spot around the lake enjoying the unusually warm and sunny day. Chris was stretched languidly out on a large boulder soaking in the sun while Harry sat on the edge of the rock next to Chris's feet staring out across the lake.
Harry frowned suddenly glancing over at the motionless Slytherin. "Are you…purring?" he asked disbelievingly, not certain what to call the sounds Chris was making.
Chris grinned lazily peering at him through slightly open eyes. "Dude, it's warm," he said as if it explained everything.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, and so you're purring?"
"I'm not purring. I'm humming in pleasure," Chris murmured smiling contentedly.
"Ron's right. You are weird. You're like a cat," Harry muttered.
"Well my one cousin does call me Kitty."
"Is it because you purr?" Harry asked solemnly.
"No," Chris sneered, "it's because, according to her and Wyatt, I always land on my feet."
Harry shook his head muttering about American oddities and how he'd love to test that theory. "So where is Wyatt today?" he asked louder.
"Chatting up some blonde bimbo in the Great Hall," Chris said sighing. He shifted, stretching lightly then resuming his passive position. "I thought it best to leave before my brain cells died from lack of intelligent conversation."
"Oh so that's why you're here? To escape unintelligent conversation?"
"Yep. Plus I had to take advantage of this frickin' awesome sunshine," Chris drawled.
Harry shook his head grumbling about how strange the American was and silently contemplating the question of why he was there. Surely there were other people Chris would want to spend time with besides him, as he certainly wasn't the best of company most of the time. And Chris certainly wasn't hurting for people to hang around with like he was. Chris wasn't sociable on many levels but people seemed to gravitate to him. It wasn't a big mystery as to why either. He and his brother both shared many of the qualities that the other students flocked around. Both were confident, sincere, good-looking, with a hint of mystery and lacking any bad reputation of being attention-seeking liars. The only difference was Wyatt seemed to like his admirers while Chris avoided his. Speaking of admirers…
"He still after you about Parvati?"
"Not really. He's dropped the idea for now. I think my continual contempt for the subject convinced him it would be hazardous to Parvati's mental health to deal with me." Chris sighed lightly and Harry could almost feel a shift in the air, anticipating the severity of his next comment. "You still mad at Dumbledore?"
"What?" Even slightly expected it threw him.
"Dumbledore. Why are you mad at him?"
Harry scowled and hunched his shoulders an irrational wave of irritation sweeping over him. What the bloody hell had made Chris ask that question?
"I'm not mad at him," Harry muttered reflexively. Okay, so that was a lie. But his anger towards Dumbledore was none of Chris's business. None. The American had no right asking him that sort of question.
"Ahuh," Chris said in that tone of voice he had that made it sound like he knew exactly what Harry was thinking. Harry shivered from the feeling of being laid bare, like an open book for Chris to read.
"I'm not," he insisted.
Chris sat up, drawing his legs towards himself to sit comfortably and leveling Harry with a soft, knowing look. "I didn't mean to pry. If you don't want to talk about it then don't. I just thought you seemed bothered lately and I thought maybe I could help."
Harry stifled a laugh that boarded too close to hysterical and shook his head at the absurd idea. Help. Why did everyone think he needed help? Did he look that pathetic? Did he come off as that mental?
He toyed with the idea briefly of telling Chris. Spilling everything. It'd feel good and he was pretty sure he wouldn't have to worry about Chris's reaction like he would with Hermione or worry about him completely not getting it like Ron.
"No one really understands," he found himself saying.
"Are you sure?" Chris's reply was immediate, almost like he'd been expecting Harry to say it.
"What it's like to be me," Harry elaborated certain Chris hadn't understood at first.
"I knew what you meant. And I think I can infer a little."
Harry laughed recalling others' efforts to try and comprehend what it was like to be the 'Chosen One' and the 'Boy Who Lived'. "Doubt it."
"Glad to see I have your faith," Chris said sardonically. He leaned forward propping his chin in his hand and eyeing Harry critically. "Let's see, you feel neglected in a sense. Parents dead, sent to live with an aunt and uncle who don't want you. Estranged from your true world until you came to school, you always feel slightly as if you're intruding on something that doesn't belong to you. Recently…you've found some family but even now you still feel like something's missing. But back to my earlier point, when you came to school, that's when things got really fun."
Harry snapped his neck to the side to stare at Chris. He'd never mentioned his family situation though he supposed it wasn't much of a stretch to figure it out if he talked to the right people. Chris just smirked at him and continued.
"First you find out you're a freak because you're a wizard. It's why even before you never fit in with the mor—muggle world. You were always different. Then you came here, a place filled with wizards, a place you hoped would be your paradise home, and you discovered you're still different. You're their hero, their Chosen One. You're famous but, still, you're an outcast. They fawn over you, practically worship you, but keep their distance. You're almost untouchable to them. Fearless, courageous, powerful, all these things they see you as being. They're in awe of you because you're not like them. They're afraid of you because you're not like them. And it irks you. How am I doin' so far?" Chris asked.
Harry just stared at him too bewildered to do any more.
"I'll take that as a 'I'm doing okay.' Moving on. It irks you because you wish they would see for what you are. Another wizard in training. Just a person like them. You want nothing more than to be normal but know you never can be. So you keep your distance and try to live up to all their ridiculous expectations all the while wanting to tell them to screw themselves and you boil inside letting everything simmer until you feel like you feel now, where one wrong move is likely to make you explode."
Harry's voice seemed to have left him, leaving him a gaping fish out of water. Chris wasn't smirking anymore, simply regarding him seriously. Everything he'd just said had hit nearly spot on and Harry couldn't wrap his mind around it.
"How did you…?"
Chris arched an eyebrow, the mischievous look he normally had returning. "Didn't I tell you? I'm psychic."
Harry rolled his eyes, something he found himself doing more and more as he spent time with Chris. "Funny," he said.
"It's true." Chris plastered an endearingly forgetful expression on his face looking embarrassed. "So silly of me. How could I have forgotten?" he asked adopting a mock British accent.
"Sure." Harry sighed shaking his head. "You're the first person who's really gotten it and you don't even really know me much."
Chris shrugged dropping his façade and allowing his American accent to once again sharply accentuate his words. "Sometimes it's the people who know you the least that see you the best. I'm free of preconceived paradigms. That and I'm good at reading people. It's kinda what I do."
"You read people?"
"Anyone ever tell you you're really strange?" Harry asked.
"Lots of people. Anybody tell you you're really crabby lately?"
"Will you answer my first question now?"
Harry didn't reply instead watching the water ripple forward and back against the rocks below his feet. The familiar swirl of emotions flooded inside him, and he shifted away so he wouldn't have to see Chris, focusing on quelling his irritation.
Why was he mad at Dumbledore? Bloody hell, he didn't know, he just was. He hated that he was always irritable. He was pissed that Dumbledore was ignoring him. He felt excluded because he wasn't in with Ron and Hermione. Which of course just rerouted into more frustration. Harry interlocked his fingers turning his hands out to stare at his palms. His chest tightened as he thought about it all, his stomach souring and twisting in on itself. Why was he angry? Logically there was no reason. He had friends. He had Hogwarts. He even had Sirius, his godfather.
He let out a light breath trying to slow his racing thoughts. Hagrid was still gone. Hermione and Ron were Prefects leaving him alone as they moved up. Dumbledore couldn't even look at him. The Wizarding world thought he was a liar. Everyone in school avoided him. Voldemort was back. Cedric was dead.
Harry closed his eyes forcing the thoughts from his mind.
"Harry?" Chris's tone had changed, going from gently inquisitive to soft and imploring.
"No." Harry kept his answer short, unsure why he had even considered the possibility of telling Chris any of it. So Chris could read him. So what? Harry barely knew him. Why was he here? He braced himself for Chris's follow up questions.
Harry blinked. No prying? No 'Harry, really…rubbish, rubbish, rubbish'? No unwanted advice? No anything? "That's it?" he asked out loud turning to Chris surprised.
Chris arched an eyebrow and laughed softly. "I'm in no position to be judging you, Golden Boy. None at all."
"What do you mean by that?"
Chris shook his head grinning his infectious smile. "Uh uh. You keep your secrets and I'll keep mine."
"So you admit to having secrets?" Harry asked half-interestedly, meaning it as more rhetorical than anything.
Chris's grin faded slightly, and his tone was matter-of-fact when he replied. "Everyone has secrets, Harry."
"Everyone?" Harry said turning to face Chris head on.
"You, me, and Dupree. Gandalf, Chuck Norris, Draco, even Luna Lovegood."
Harry frowned wondering who Dupree and Chuck Norris was before refocusing. "You know Luna Lovegood?"
Chris chuckled. "I've met her. Weird blonde chick, wacko earrings, but sound of mind."
Harry raised his eyebrows, seriously doubting Chris's mental stability now. "Sound of mind?"
"Perhaps not on the surface," Chris admitted shrugging. "But where it counts, yes."
"So, if I told you my secrets would you tell me yours?" Harry asked going back to their earlier subject.
Chris cast him a sidelong glance, appraising him. "You aren't going to tell me."
Harry shook his head. "No. But if I did, would you?"
Chris frowned; pondering the question for a long moment then shook his head slowly. "No. Not all of them at least."
"Fair enough. You mind if I ask why?" Harry said.
Chris smiled sadly. "Some things are meant to be kept close to the heart. They're not for sharing no matter how much you might want to," he paused a moment then rose to his feet cuffing Harry lightly on the shoulder, "Come on, dude, we should get back to the castle."
Harry nodded, rising to his feet and following after the dark haired American, regarding him thoughtfully. And despite the cryptic way he had answered, Harry knew exactly what meant.
The trek up to the castle was silent between the two boys as they worked their way up the hill from the expansive lake to the looming school, their footsteps completely hushed by the soft grass.
Moving around it was almost uncomfortably warm, and Chris found himself debating on whether or not to remove his coat despite how much he had been eagerly drinking in the heat only a few minutes earlier.
In the shade of the bridge, however, it was noticeably cooler so he left his coat on as they started across probably the longest bridge for walking in history. He cast his gaze to the side like he usually did, enjoying the near dizzying view far below.
He didn't realize Harry stopping until he ran into him. Chris stumbled back looking around for a reason to the sudden halt. "Whoa, what?" he asked following Harry's gaze to a large crowd gathered in front of the Hogwarts doors. He furrowed his brows. "What's goin' on?"
Harry shook his head slightly moving forward again at a faster pace. "Dunno."
Chris looked around, searching for a familiar face in the crowd and trying to see what was in the middle of the ring of people.
"Cho!" Harry called darting off the left. Chris followed immediately spotting the dark haired Asian girl. "What's going on?" Harry asked breathlessly.
Cho looked worried as she nibbled on her lower lip. "It's Professor Trelawney."
Chris sighed as the pieces clicked together almost instantly. "Bitch," he whispered turning around to peer through the crowd again.
"What?" Harry said clearly not making the connection Chris had. "Who?"
"Sixteen years I've lived and taught here. Hogwarts is my home. You can't do this," Trelawney wailed hysterically, sniffling into her handkerchief, surrounded by several large trunks.
Umbridge stood imperiously before her wearing a look of utmost satisfaction. "Actually," she said lifting her fat head a little, "I can."
Trelawney moaned again, burying her face dejectedly in her hands. Professor McGonagall gasped, appearing suddenly at the top of the stairs from the castle. She hurried down the steps to Trelawney, taking the distraught woman comfortingly in her arms. She shushed her fellow professor and turned to glare hatefully at Umbridge, eyes narrowing and lips pressing into a firm, thin line.
"Something you'd like to say?" Umbridge asked sweetly.
"Oh, there are several things I would like to say," McGonagall began angrily. Chris raised an eyebrow, anticipating several nasty sentences to follow, but McGonagall was cut off.
"Professor McGonagall, might I ask you to escort Sybil back inside?" Professor Dumbledore asked suddenly appearing, like the tall Gryffindor professor had earlier, at the top of the stairs.
McGonagall fell silent then nodded, turning her full attention to the Divination teacher. "Sybil, dear. This way." She waved her wand purposefully and all of the luggage floated up the steps ahead of the two women.
Trelawney grabbed Dumbledore's hands as she passed giving him a fervent thank you as McGonagall guided her into the school.
Umbridge drew herself up righteously. "Dumbledore, may I remind you that under the terms of Educational Decree Number Twenty-Three, as enacted by the minister—"
"You have the right to dismiss my teachers," Dumbledore interrupted quietly but powerfully. "You do not, however, have the authority to banish them from the grounds. That power remains with the Headmaster."
Umbridge regarded him shrewdly for a moment then smiled sinisterly. "For now," she declared. She drew her pathetic height up as far as she could and strode past the Headmaster disappearing through the doors.
The Headmaster was silent a minute before looking around at the gathered students as if just realizing they were there. "Don't you all have studying to do?" he asked in the same tone one might inquire about the weather.
The effect was instantaneous with a great majority of the students scattering on his words. Chris grunted as he was jostled from behind, a sharp elbow jabbing into his back. He spun around pushing the offending person off and ignoring their mumbled sorry. Cho looked around finally grabbing onto the red-haired friend Chris had seen her with earlier and giving him and Harry a quick wave goodbye as she and Flamehead disappeared into the crowd.
Harry…Harry was not where he was a second ago. Chris turned, trying and failing to locate the Chosen One.
Harry's voice was audible over the now loudly talking throng of students.
"Professor! Professor Dumbledore! Professor!"
Chris finally spotted the wizard bounding up the steps and shoving his peers out of the way as he went. Chris darted after him pushing the other kids out of his path.
"Professor Dumbledore!" Harry shouted one last time before halting and looking utterly dejected as the other students filed around him in the corridor. Chris caught up and gingerly touched Harry's shoulder. Harry spun around, anger dancing across his features as he gestured pointedly at nothing in particular. "Why?" he demanded. "Why is he ignoring me?"
Chris shrugged, honestly having no clear idea as to why the old man was doing what he was. "I don't know. Most people I can read like books. Gandalf? Utter gibberish."
Harry ran his hands through his head letting loose a mirthless laugh. "Brilliant," he muttered darkly. "You know he's barely said a word to me since last year? Saw him at my hearing and he ignored me, he's been keeping things from me all summer, and now he won't even look at me!"
They were starting to attract odd and attentive looks. Chris punched Harry lightly in the arm. "Cool off, dude, for a sec, will ya? No yelling in hallways. You'll attract unwanted attention."
Harry glared at him but said nothing more, only crossing his arms and glowering.
Chris sighed then arched an eyebrow spotting a familiar bushy brown puff of hair paired with a shock of red. "Heads up, its your minions."
Hermione practically looked like she was seething. "Did you see that?" she hissed. Ron cast her a sideways look almost like he was scared of her. Chris stifled a grin at that as Harry replied with an affirmative to Hermione's question.
"I can't believe she actually tried to make Trelawney leave," Harry said shaking his head.
"I know," Ron said. "I mean she's a bloody terrible teacher, but—"
"That foul, evil, old gargoyle," Hermione fumed interrupting angrily. "We're not learning how to defend ourselves. We're not learning how to pass our OWLs. She's taking over the entire school!"
Harry sat comfortably on his favorite chair in the deserted common room long after everyone else had retired to bed. His mind was simply too chaotic for sleeping, his thoughts rampant and restless.
Unable to sleep he had remained in his chair, aimlessly skimming over a discarded Daily Prophet he'd found slightly intrigued by one article.
Security has been and will remain the Ministry's top Priority.
Furthermore, we have convincing evidence that these disappearances are the work of notorious mass murder Sirius Black.
Harry jumped at the sudden sound of his name looking over to the doorways to the dormitories then around the room for the source of the sound but he was still alone.
"Harry, down here."
Harry whipped back around to face the fire; utterly shocked to see his godfather's head nestled in among the flames. Nothing else. Just his head.
"Sirius," he breathed. He set aside the newspaper all but throwing himself down on the rug before the fireplace. "What are you doing here?" he asked unable to keep the smile off his face.
"Answering your letter," Sirius's head replied.
Harry nodded thinking back to the letter he'd sent weeks ago to his godfather explaining all about his feeling at being back to school and his worries of Umbridge as well as his ponderings of the two new Americans and his odd but growing friendship with a Slytherin.
"You said you were worried about Umbridge," Sirius continued. "What's she doing? Training you to kill half-breeds?"
Harry furrowed his eyebrows confused but shook his head. "No, she's not letting us use magic at all."
Sirius's head moved like he was shrugging except he had no shoulders. "Well, I'm not surprised. Latest intelligence is that Fudge doesn't want you trained in combat."
Harry scoffed settling himself cross-legged before the fire. "Combat? What does he think? That we're forming some sort of wizard army?"
"That's exactly what he thinks," Sirius said gravely. "That Dumbledore is assembling his own forces to take on the Ministry. He's becoming more paranoid by the minute." He paused, chewing on his lower lip. "The others wouldn't want me telling you this, Harry, but things aren't going at all well with the Order."
Harry frowned and leaned forward some as Sirius continued speaking.
"Fudge is blocking the truth at every turn and these disappearances are just how it started before. Voldemort is on the move. And the Order is just finding a lot of dead ends. Dumbledore's gone as far as to enlist some help from the Americas but even they're having little luck."
"Dumbledore got help from America?" Harry asked puzzled.
Sirius's head bobbled as he nodded. "Yes, and they…Someone's coming. I have to go. I'm sorry I can't be of more help. But for now, at least, it looks like you're on your own." And with that Sirius's head disappeared from the flames leaving Harry even more confused and conflicted than he had been.
Harry remained in the common room the rest of the night, dozing on and off as he pondered what Sirius had told him. Wondered about how few people there really were working against Voldemort and all his followers as Fudge and the rest of the denying Wizarding world thwarted and hindered the Order at every opportunity. How likely was it that the Order could succeed at such an impossible feat? It was scary to think that Voldemort might actually win this time around, that the side of good could actually lose. But this wasn't a movie or a book. This was real life and as Chris had once said in one of their many conversations, the bad guys didn't always lose.
It was a terrifying reality and one that Harry finally fell into a fitful sleep thinking about. He dreamed a different dream that night. Not one of long, dark corridors and moving doors and glass spheres.
Instead it was one of him standing outside Hogwarts, staring up at the large castle, as is soared proudly upward reaching as if to touch the sky. He was across the lake from the school, the water lapping gently at his feet as he stood on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Parts of the castle were obscured by the branches of the trees behind him. It was awe inspiring, the way everything was together with the castle, the water, and the moonlight caressing everything with its silver glow.
He jumped then, when someone spoke behind him.
"It's a trap."
Harry spun around, mouth falling open in shock when he saw Chris leaning against one of the trunks, partially shrouded in shadow.
"What?" was all Harry could manage though a thousand words and questions were stampeding through his brain.
"It's a trap." Chris repeated stepping forward. His expression was earnest, eyes worried as he locked gazes with Harry. "Believe me. It's a trap." He seemed to be having trouble speaking, only managing to blurt out a few words at a time.
"What is? What's a trap?"
"Don't. Go. In that. Room." Chris bit out looking pained now.
Icy dread crawled up Harry's spine as Chris struggled to speak. Chris reached out, clutching at Harry's collar in a surprisingly strong grip. Harry grabbed his arms, trying to keep the smaller boy steady.
"Chris? What's going on?"
A rustling sound came from the trees and Harry looked around fearfully, a feeling impending doom filling him
"Trust me," Chris whispered. "Don't go in."
Harry blinked; light blurring is sight for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the sun streaming in through the windows. He was still in the armchair he'd been sitting in last night and the realization brought to attention his aching back and neck from his awkward sleeping position.
Something rustled and he finally looked around to see Hermione and Ron sitting on the small couch adjacent to him staring vacantly at the paper he'd been reading last night and the article about the disappearances.
Hermione ran her finger along the words then said quietly without looking up, "He's really out there, isn't he?"
Harry didn't need her to elaborate on who He was. He sat up fully and nodded, unsure why she was asking like she was.
"We've got to be able to defend ourselves," she said, voice strengthening as she looked up and glanced between Ron and Harry. "And if Umbridge refuses to teach us how, we need someone who will."
Harry sighed scratching his head. "Good luck with that, Hermione."
"I've already thought about it," she said rushed. She bit her lip looking nervous and glanced at Ron. "We both have and we think," Ron kicked her foot slightly and Hermione glared at him before correcting herself, "I think I've come up with a solution."
Harry shook his head trying to decide if it was the remnants of the dream and sleep crowding his brain or if Hermione really wasn't making any sense. "Oh, really?"
"Yes," she said.
"Well, let's hear it then," Harry said after a moment of silence. Hermione glanced at Ron again then swallowed like she was gathering her courage.
Harry frowned. "What?"
Hermione smiled a bit. "No. You, Harry."
It took a moment for it to sink in but when it did he abruptly stood up in shock immediately discounting it. "No!"
Hermione jumped looking taken aback and Ron was startled.
"That's a terrible idea," Harry blurted. "What the bloody hell made you think of that?"
Hermione jutted her chin out a little like she always did when fighting for her point. "I think it's an excellent idea. You know a lot about the defense against the dark arts and you've lived through a lot of it. You know how it really is."
"Yes," Harry said. "And it's nothing like a classroom. None of you have any idea what it's really like. You don't know—"
"You're right," Hermione said standing to face him. "This is why it needs to be you." She regarded him carefully as he stared at her feeling all his reasons for saying no fading away. He didn't know what she saw in his expression but whatever it was convinced her that she had won the argument. She smiled slightly and walked away heading back up to the girls' dormitory.
Harry sighed and turned to Ron who held his hands up in surrender. "This is mad," Harry exclaimed. "Who'd want to be taught by me? I'm a nutter, remember?"
Ron smiled. "Look on the bright side, you can't be any worse than old toad face."
Harry rolled his eyes at his completely unhelpful friend. "Thanks, Ron."
Ron clapped his hand on Harry's shoulder saying with mock seriousness, "I'm here for you, mate."
All right…I have nothing to say besides I'm frickin' sorry this took so freaking long to put up…college seriously…messing with my routine...and my life...but hey
Kay, so, really hope to have the next one up WAY freaking faster…like soon…hopefully two weeks…that's my goal…and we're gonna see how it goes.