Chapter Thirteen: Friends in Unlikely Places
The next time Harry awoke he tested his legs. Finding himself capable of standing up, he uneasily walked to the door and out into the hallway. Small twinges of pain came from his side, but left quickly. At his door he stopped and lifted his shirt to look at the wound. A large, enflamed stripe of red, blue and green worked its way down his side.
Bloody fantastic, now where's Ron and Hermione? He began to whistle to himself as he walked slowly down the hallway, but quickly stopped. Harry grimaced and came to the realization that he had absolutely no musical talent, but not for want of trying.
In the dining hall, Harry found evidence of his two friend's latest meal. In the distance, possibly in the old courtyard, he heard the far away voice of his best mate.
Unfortunately for Harry, all the years of Quidditch injuries did him no good in realizing he was sick. Harry was still slightly concussed, and walking about only served to disorient him. In his youth, if he had slipped, or fallen, or was ill in any way, his Aunt Petunia would wave it off as 'the boy trying for attention again', Dudley would call him a crybaby, and his Uncle Vernon would make a non-committal grunt and return to his newspaper. Harry didn't realize this, but this contributed to his high tolerance for injury.
So, disoriented and confused, Harry managed to take the wrong, identical hallway to the courtyard… on the opposite side of the dining hall. Consequently, in two minutes a confused Harry was standing in an entirely different room, searching for the courtyard he was certain should be where he was standing.
And now the rooms are changing on themselves. Harry thought miserably. In his efforts to turn around, and go back the way he came, he tripped over his own two feet.
Harry let out a string of curse words he had only heard once from his uncle.
During the summer when Harry was seven, and Petunia was experimenting with cutting his hair, Dudley had gotten it into his head that all respectable boys of the age of seven built forts. So, in the backyard of number four, Privet Drive, Vernon and Dudley toiled away two months building a shoddy tree fort (which was destroyed in September, when Dudley discovered animals lived in trees). Additionally, most of the labor was done using drills from Uncle Vernon's drill company that he worked for. Needless to say, that fort was not the epitome of safe construction.
One summer day, Harry remembered hiding outdoors, behind a large bush, and watching their progress. Dudley was asked to hold something, and Vernon proceeded to drill noisily through the wood. At that time, Dudley noticed Harry in the bush. Distracted, he let go of the wood. Vernon drilled right into his hand.
The string of curses that he released was the same that Harry repeated in Tourlaville. These were also the same string of curses that turned their neighbor's face, Ms. Violet, an unattractive chartreuse color.
Regardless, Harry continued to curse and grip his side. In tripping, he had run into an old wooden chair. The top of the chair, an ornate, curvy wood piece, had rammed into his side. His vision went white and cloudy. Focus on not falling, his rational side told him. Keep your feet on the ground.
When the sensation began to pass, he straightened up. Mentally, he checked himself over. Ten fingers… ten toes. Wait, has that pinky always been bent like that? His side flared up in pain again and he crumpled disgracefully to the floor. As he fell, he vaguely registered a flickering, silvery white form in the corner float closer.
Harry let out a cry of pain. His vision clouded over and several tears leaked out his eyes. If anyone else had been present, he wouldn't have possessed the rationale to be embarrassed. Harry Potter, curled up on the ground, whimpering like a puppy that had just been kicked. Actually, his Uncle Vernon had kicked a puppy once, and Harry was fairly certain that he looked more pathetic than the puppy had.
"Do you feel… pain?"
And there, gliding toward Harry, was the unmistakable apparition he had seen and spoken with yesterday. Arguably, Harry was questioning his sanity at this point, but he still felt slightly victorious in seeing the ghost again. If Sir Leon appeared and Ron and Hermione could confirm it… Well, maybe he was not so mad. His side burned and writhed in agony, Harry gasped and panted on the floor.
"It is you…again." Sir Leon floated in his vision. He bobbed back and forth uneasily and the vision flickered. "The dark one…"
"The dark one?" Harry snorted indignantly. "What's that supposed to mean?" The back of his mind registered annoyance. He cringed and slowly turned to lay on his back. Excellent, now start working toward standing, and you'll be a functioning wizard in no time, Potter. He placed his hands on the stone ground and stumbled upward, using the traitorous dining room chair as an assist.
As soon as he was standing, Sir Leon wordlessly pointed to his head of hair. Oh, the dark one. Harry thought. At least he's not calling me The-Bloody-Boy-Who-Lived. "My name is Harry Potter." He explained.
"Yes…I am… Sir Leon." The ghost rolled its head and made eye contact with Harry. He shivered as his green eyes met those, strange, murky orbs.
"Harry?" Hermione questioned from the doorway. Harry turned to face her and shouted, as the image of Sir Leon began to fade.
Then he did something characteristically stupid of him to do.
He punched his side… hard.
Pain burst into his eyes, and his head, his very being, and he cried. A strange rush came through his head and he came to, halfway to the floor. He was bent in half with Ron and Hermione holding him up.
But, Harry smirked, they were staring at Sir Leon. "You are in… pain?" The apparition asked. Harry cradled his side. Ron turned the chair around and placed Harry delicately in it. He didn't have the energy to wince as his side flared and burned. He did, however, wave a hand in front of him.
"Ron, Hermione. Meet Sir Leon."
Hermione studied the strange looking Sir Leon and then extended her hand.
"How do you do?" She asked.
Harry had enough sense to laugh. Remembering his own actions when he first met ghosts in his first year. Of course this wasn't the first time Hermione had seen a ghost… but it's easy to forget. Ron quickly pushed her hand down and she blushed. "I met Sir Leon last night, when I woke up." Harry explained. "He's… er… attracted to pain, I think."
"I feel pain… in my very soul." Sir Leon's voice reverberated eerily around the room. It slithered in the shadows and returned to them in an echo. Hermione shivered and looked sadly at him.
"My name is Hermione, Sir Leon. It's a pleasure to meet you. Do you own this castle?" She gestured around her.
Sir Leon looked from left to right. He swiveled his head. He glanced at the ceiling. He drifted back and forth. He sniffed and looked at the floor intently. "I… lived here…."
"When?" Ron asked, and pointed to his clothing. He turned to Harry, "looks like he was living around the medieval times, doesn't explain how he knows English though…"
"Ron." Hermione sighed, "He's inhabited this house for what might be a thousand years, we're not the first people he's talked to. Just the first in a long time."
Sir Leon sighed and stared intently at Hermione. "My name… is Sir Leon." He repeated, for what Harry felt was the tenth time. He was very certain of his name, at least.
"Well, Sir Leon." Harry began. "Do you remember how you got here? Or do you remember you are dead? You are, in fact, a ghost in this place."
Silence descended on the group as Harry eagerly awaited Sir Leon's answer. He tapped his foot impatiently and looked into those, opaque silver orbs.
"I died... in 1105. Yes." Sir Leon drawled. Then suddenly, his countenance changed. Angry warped his features. His aristocratic nose crinkled fiercely, and his hands clenched. His eyes turned deep, obsidian black as he growled. "He killed me… that foul, repugnant beast. That perverse abomination of slime! A plague on wizard kind, he was. A PLAGUE! A DIABOLICAL MAR ON THE FACE OF THIS EARTH!"
He roared and vanished in a wave of wind. Harry held his hand over his eyes as the chill swept across him. It eased the ache and burn in his side, slightly. Ron blinked his eyes and took out his wand. "That's one angry ghost…" He muttered.
"Yeah…" Harry agreed. "Best be on our guard…"
"He's not a poltergeist, Ronald." Hermione lowered his wand with her hand.
All too soon, Sir Leon wavered back into being. He shimmered in front of them, his eyes still blazing, though dimmed slightly.
"My condolences on the manner of your death, Sir Leon." Harry said. "But… who exactly are you referring to?"
"Him," he spat. "A man of no conscience."
Harry pondered for a moment before tentatively asking his next question. "And… did you ever know any of the Hogwarts founders?"
Hermione gasped. "Yes! You were alive around that time. Did you ever hear about a school being built…? Or perhaps of the founders? Gryffindor?"
Sir Leon hissed. "YES. I've heard of those dunces. Of course I've heard of that idiot idea. Hiding witches and wizards in the mountains! Far from prying eyes, oh yes, I've heard of their gall." He sniffed. "Simpletons and that… that… that…"
"Yes?" Harry prodded.
"…Slytherin…"He spat loathingly. "That disgusting addlepate. That depraved, corrupt, sinful…!"
"Yes, we know." Ron drawled sarcastically.
"He took my wand!" Sir Leon continued, ignoring the three in front of him. "Never returned it to me! So I acquired another wand, and challenged him after I found out exactly what he did behind closed doors! With... with her!" He raved.
"Oh yes, I'll tell you exactly what happened! She was mine. Mine. And he had the slippery, skulking, skills to snatch her away from me… My Merwenna. And she died for him. She DIED for him. That snake! That evil, evil snake! Got in a fight they did… oh, yes. A duel to the death, him and that Godric. Kept it quiet, kept it secret, didn't want the populace to know there was dissent among the great teachers. Dissent among the best of us. And she… she was there!"
He wailed in despair. "She protected him from death! Protected him from justice! How injurious to me! It was only right that he would die at the hands of his most loyal friend, it was only honorable… and she couldn't even let him die. She could not allow him to redeem himself! And they didn't even pause, didn't let their eyes sweep over her still frame. No… they continued until the others stopped them. By then, it was too late! Death had taken her! And the snake left! LEFT! To his caves… to mourn. He said. To mourn their noxious affair."
"Caves?" Harry inquired. "Caves where?"
"So I confronted him! I confronted him and took him here, told him what was what. Told him never to dare… never to dare again. Then I took his wand from him… and I… He didn't fight. He didn't speak… he just looked at me with those empty eyes… leading to an empty soul and an empty heart. The snake looked only at her portrait. He was not WORTHY to look. He WAS NOT!"
Sir Leon wailed an unearthly sound and faded in and out of Harry's vision. He gripped his wand tightly and Hermione shuddered audibly as the castle thrummed with malignant energy.
"Harry… I don't like this." She gripped his left wrist, his wand hand. "There have been many documented accounts of malicious spirits haunting and terrorizing their victims. Sure, most of it is Muggle codswallop, but let's just not take the chance today."
Harry held up his hand and pointed to his ear.
"…Pain… oh the pain…" Sir Leon flittered from wall to wall. "…Oh the pain…"
"…Sir… If I could ask you a few questions…"
"And you!" He raged again. "What are you doing on MY land?"
"We're in hiding," Harry gesture to himself and his friends, "From the descendent of your enemy, Salazar Slytherin." Leon's eyes grew wide and he seemed to be about to enter a frenzy when Harry stopped him. "Yes, he's diabolical. You see, there was a prophecy made that makes me the only person who can kill him. So he's out for my head, you see?" Harry made a slitting motion with his wand.
"And this prophecy… the prophecy about me and him… has caused us to hide here, in your, er… lovely castle." He gestured to the dusty and half hinged chandelier above.
"Well… you may…" Sir Leon struggled with words for a moment and let out a garbled "…stay.."
"Thank you. I understand that that must be difficult for you," Harry continued. "Also… this bloke, this descendent. He was quite a bit obsessed with the Founders of Hogwarts. And he's taken a lot of their things and… er—"
"Enchanted them to be quite nasty," Hermione piped in, and nudged Harry forward.
"Yes... right." Harry searched his mind for his next words. "So do you think you could tell us about anything they might have left behind. Anything important they owned, or perhaps something they were known for?"
Sir Leon's countenance relaxed, He reached a ghostly hand to stroke the gold belt around his waist. "I do remember a few things… a few, before I was cast from their circle." He snarled. "They should have listened to me. Hufflepuff was the worst. She had a high-pitched voice that would scratch your ears and that insipid giggle. A drunk too, no doubt."
Sir Leon continued his diatribe listing various aspects of the founders that did not meet his expectations. Hufflepuff gave more thought into her hairstyle than politics, and lost her wand in very inconvenient places "… in a dragon's den, a dragon's den! It took us weeks to get it back!" Rowena Ravenclaw interrupted far too many conversations and spoke in riddles and rhymes, "…to promote the thought processes she told me…" Godric Gryffindor never took anything seriously and was facetious at best, "… there were far too many bar wenches in his jokes…" Salazar Slytherin, of course, remained largely unmentioned, which Harry thought was best for the moment.
During this diatribe, Hermione scoffed and huffed, and ran her hands through her frizzy hair. She only just managed to listen when one sentence caught her attention.
"… so they held his processional in Segetul, his homeland. North of here, buried in that old dragon's den Helga lost her wand in. Protected by quite a few trolls for a while to stop any looters—"
"Segetul?" Hemione jumped, "I remember that town from History of Magic. It was overrun in the fourth goblin war. Ragnov the Repugnant collapsed all the tunnels in the area because he thought wizard leaders were congregating there. A few were opened after the war was over, to search for the dead bodies of loved ones. They weren't found, and the caves are thought to be haunted."
Damn, I should have paid some attention in that class, Harry thought.
"Could we get there somehow?" Harry asked, turning to Hermione.
She bit her lip and thought. "It's relatively unknown. I'm sure it wouldn't be that much of a problem, really. I mean, I'm sure… V-voldemort doesn't know about this. No one has known the Founders resting places for a thousand years. "
"It's even further north of here?" Harry sighed. "It's cold enough already."
"Yes, it's closer to the north eastern coast in Scotland."
Harry nodded and dismissed Sir Leon with a wave. The apparition didn't seem to notice as he had long since wandered to the far left of the room and was currently midway through the wall, but had stopped in mild confusion. Ron blinked awake in the wooden chair he had been sitting in.
"So we're going someplace? Bloody finally," he cracked his knuckles, "we've got work to do."
It called again.
He couldn't run. His arms and legs were lead. He was so tired. So, so tired. He stood facing darkness. He was alone, all alone.
I'm coming for you.
Consciousness faded in and out.
Harry awoke in a layer of sweat.
Rocks were hard. Harry shifted on the large gray stone he was resting against. Only he wasn't really resting. His body was tense. He could feel the knots in his shoulders and neck, and the bruises on his left ankle from walking on unstable paths. It was their third day searching on the southern mountainside of Segetul's largest, most prominent mountain.
Harry fingered his wand. He had better luck without it really, but it was very comforting to have. It didn't respond well to him anymore. In fact, Harry like feeling his magic more and more, and it soon became his preferred response, though he was limited to the few things he had taught himself, and the lessons he had learned from Primal Magick.
Harry stopped mid-stride. I'm mad, I'm bloody mad. That was the wind. He took several calming breaths and struggled to contain the rising panic in his chest. Ron and Hermione remained oblivious ahead of him.
He dropped his pack and swiveled, facing the direction of the sound. A massive rock. Of course it's a rock, look around you, Potter, that's all that's out here!
He looked ahead. Hermione was fixing Ron's shoulder pack. Ron looked pleased and was whispering something in her ear. Harry turned back and reached his hand out. It was smooth. Smooth and warm. He closed his eyes and focused.
"No, I mean it. I appreciate it." Ron said.
No he doesn't, he's just saying that. He's your friend. Hermione chided herself and fought the upcoming blush. His hand was resting on her lower back. How did it get there? He had pulled her close to fix the leather clip… That's why, he wanted his stupid clip fixed.
"… Looks good even when you're not trying." Ron mumbled.
Hermione, oh Hermione. Her mother's voice said. Please pay attention to this boy. Pretend its class! Except this is far more important! It's a boy! Hermione rolled her eyes internally.
"I said, er, you're one of those girls that still looks good when you're not trying. You know…?" He pointed to the dirt on her check. "We've been hiking and things… and you still look…. Er… good."
"Good?" Hermione repeated. Oh God, I'm a parrot. Did I just sound like that? My voice is so… screechy.
"Yeah," he rumbled, a smile forming, "good."
Hermione raised her eyes to look at him. He has such nice eyes. I know all the girls like Harry's eyes but… oh, Ron's eyes are so nice and warm. His face was much closer than she thought, and he was also much taller than she thought. When did he get this tall? Last summer? Or was it the summer before that? Was that the summer she spent with Victor Krum? And now, just to spite her, the universe has made Ron more attractive to throw it in her face. Yes, that's it!
His jaw was so nice though. They should be saving the world right now, but it's so nice. Like his uncle's. Hermione saw a picture of the Prewett's once and they were very handsome. Ron looks like them. He has the best parts of Bill and Charlie in him, and the twin's influence was lessening as he got older. Hermione could swear he was getting more serious and…
Wait, where was Harry? Hermione looked to her left. He was resting his hands on a flat rock downhill from them, and closing his eyes.
"Maybe we should stop and rest a bit?" Ron's eyes followed hers.
That sounds nice, Ron, let's rest together.
"Er… yes let's all rest together. Harry too. So we don't get lost… er… yes." Hermione stumbled.
They both stood rooted to the spot. Silence. Hermione could hear her heart in her ears and she was sure she was completely red at this moment. And Harry isn't paying any attention. We… he… he could just. Hermione saw Ron lower his head and their foreheads rested against one another.
"So…" Ron grinned. "We're resting."
Hermione couldn't stop the giggle from rising. It was that giggle. The giggle Parvati and Padma used. The giggle Lavender Brown directed at all the boys in their years. She hated that giggle, but Ron laughed with her, so it was okay. She was doing well, wasn't she? She knew she needed to do something.
Then Ron and her were flung from their spot by a large explosion.