Chapter 19- You're Crashing, But You're No Wave
AN: It's been a while, and this chapter's a bit shorter than the others have been of late. For that I'm sorry. But university has let out for the summer and all my exams are taken care of, so I hope to write more for all of you lovely people. Look at all of you! Reading, reviewing, favouriting, following I appreciate all the love this story's been getting. The title is a reference to the Fall Out Boy song of the same name, please, read on!
To Hermione's surprise, Harry snorted. "Surely you don't believe everything the boys in the auror's office say about her?"
"Well, I don't know if she's channeling Hecate specifically, but that woman knows more than any other person, witch, wizard, man, or woman, that I've ever met. She's not normal, Harry. I don't know if she had a gift before the Department of Mysteries got a hold of her or if they brought it out in her, but she knows things."
"What was her offer before?" Hermione asked curiously, feeling decidedly uneasy about whatever Harry had just agreed to do.
"Time in the chamber. They want to examine his brain, see if there's any magical residue between you and the former Tom Riddle. They're very interested in the connection you two supposedly had."
"The chamber?" Harry repeated, looking as dumbfounded as Hermione felt. She was a bit panicked though, where Harry didn't seem to be yet. If they were looking at magical residue, surely they'd see the effects of the potion still coursing through his veins.
"Think of a muggle sensory deprivation tank, except they cut you off from your magic." Kingsley supplied, shuffling his papers in an anxious sort of way. "A witch or wizard cut off from their magic for too long is a very dangerous thing. Many people go insane under their hands, Harry. You'll be lucky if you come out with an intact mind, and it will never be wholly sound again. If there's bad enough damage, you'll never be able to make it into the auror registries again. You could be giving up everything."
"And you've increased the toll with whatever you've done." Melina supplied quietly as she handed Kingsley the thing he seemed to be looking for. "It might mean more time in the chamber, it might be something else entirely. But you're a very sought after commodity Mr. Potter. They've been dying to experiment on you since you were quite young. You won't make it out unscathed, of that I'm certain." She and Kingsley exchanged significant looks.
"But there will be time enough to settle that, and it's now between you and her. You wanted to see me about something, I think?"
"Well, it seems silly now." Harry looked suddenly sheepish, hunching his shoulders like a boy much smaller than he was. "There were two things, actually. The first is why Hermione's with me today and it's more her idea then mine so…"
"Oh for goodness sake." She huffed exasperatedly. "I was hoping we could take you up on the offer to per-arranged seating. We just had a meeting with Padma about my gown and we found out that she was thinking about not going to the Ball due to the stigma surrounding her relationship. Harry and I think that's ridiculous, of course, and were hoping she and Clarisse could be seated with us, that it might shield her a bit from at least the more outward comments."
Kingsley looked briefly taken aback but smiled warmly. "Consider it done."
"Thank you, Minister." Hermione replied, relieved that he didn't seem to consider her request frivolous.
"The other thing I was hoping for was access to some records." This drew a considering look from Melina, Hermione noted.
"What kinds of records?"
Harry hesitated for a moment, then ploughed forward in true Gryffindor fashion, his shoulders a bit more resolute. "Confiscated substance records. I know I'm not part of the auror squad right now, and that you have no reason to give them to me, but I have reason to believe my life is in danger."
A stunned silence followed this proclamation, so thick Hermione almost didn't dare breathe.
Harry hadn't meant to do this in front of Hermione in case it all blew up in his face, which it certainly looked like it might do as he watched Kingsley's face morph from its usual calm exterior to a look of outright suspicion and confusion.
"What do you mean by that?" He asked slowly.
Taking a deep breath, Harry opened his mouth to speak, to find Hermione's hand clamped firmly over it. She ignored his muffled noise of affront and cast a flurry of spells, leaving him awash in the magic before she released him.
"Sorry, but if we're going to tell this story I'd rather we weren't being overhead." She said succinctly, crossing her arms and nodding to give him the go-ahead. "I have no desire to go to Azkaban, dementorless or not."
Kingsley had straightened even further at that, looking very grimly at the pair of them indeed.
"It seems that I've been dosed with Desidero Impios and we don't know what it's doing to me, how to get rid of it, anything. I'm terrified but I also don't want to be locked in Saint Mungo's being poked and prodded without anyone being able to do anything to actually help me. Hermione's already made more headway than anyone we've been in contact with, and I've talked to people on the street all the way up to wealthy dignitaries who claim to have taken the potion. If you could let us see anything you have, it might make all the difference."
"Well, you certainly know how to shock me even now, Harry." Kingsley said slowly. "I don't have a sample as far as I know, I don't know anyone who does. I was inclined to believe it was a rumor from how little actual proof we've seen of it."
"We won't need a sample." Hermione said quickly from his side, causing him to swivel around to look at her incredulously. She'd been going on and on about how a sample would help her immensely only a week ago.
"Someone anonymously sent me one." She elaborated, not looking at either of them. "I've already got it in a safe location and am conducting tests."
"But, your information could still be useful to us. Anything could really."
"I'm sorry, but how were you even able to get in here?" Melina asked suddenly. "Shouldn't our wards have gone off like crazy?"
"That's the headway Hermione's made so far. She's found a way to mask the potion for me until we can remove it."
"It hasn't worn off like a regular potion?" Kingsley asked.
"No, which is one of the reasons I'm concerned, frankly. It seemed to be strengthening before I reined it in, but I have no idea what kinds of havoc it could wreak if left unchecked." Hermione admitted.
"And you have no idea how you managed to ingest the most sought after illegal potion in all of the United Kingdom?"
"I didn't even know I had until I accidentally set off some dark magic detectors."
"Well, this changes a lot of things. It means we'll have to run you through security before the Ball to make sure you don't set off anything in public, and it also means that it could change what happens to you in the Department of Mysteries. I will be able to get the documents to Miss Granger, after Christmas, but in return I'm going to have to ask that any research you do that isn't directly related to Harry is shared with the Ministry. We need to find this potion and we need to do it quickly. There is already too much panic surrounding it in the community."
"I think I can do that, as long as it's shared directly with you. I have no desire to work with over-eager researchers who haven't had a fresh lead in weeks." Hermione replied. She wasn't ready to be too hopeful yet, but this could be a fruitful lead for helping Harry as long as Kingsley was able to keep it under wraps.
"Never let it be said that Harry Potter can't find trouble." Kingsley said ruefully, shaking his head. "But you better hurry along, you don't want to be late for your meeting with the Department. Melina, would you escort him? I'd like to have a few more words with Hermione."
And so Harry found himself escorted from the room, wondering if he would be on time because Kingsley had heard the Madame say so, or if he would have been on time regardless of her saying anything. The lift was late.
As the door swung shut behind Kingsley's assistant and Harry, Hermione took the now vacated chair in front of the Minister's desk with some trepidation. She didn't know the man all that well beyond her respect for him as a fighter, an Order member, and as a calm-headed politician. She hadn't a clue what he would want with her beyond questioning her more about Harry. It seemed that was all her life was these days, was always if she was honest with herself. Bailing out Harry, talking about Harry, organizing rebellions in Harry's name, helping Harry cope with life post-Voldemort, dealing with Harry's breakup, dealing with Harry's job loss, dealing with Harry's temper tantrums and press and image while she watched her own needs get pushed aside again and again. At least, she reminded herself, he occasionally remembered how much she was doing and said thank you. Sometimes even with extravagant dresses.
"I'm worried about Harry" Kingsley said with no preamble. "I know I didn't have much to do with your part in the war, that none of us really know what you all went through on your hunt for horocruxes, or what he went through when he faced Voldemort alone in the forest, but I do know that we didn't really offer any of you anything after it all. You were all thrust into the limelight, you didn't have time… to deal with everything. Now you're dealing with all of this. When Albus and I discussed mind magic— before you ask I had no idea that Harry was a horocrux, I was just trying to come up with a way to make stronger soliders, to bond magic so that teams worked better together— he hinted that a strong magically created connection to another person could have terrible consequences when we inevitably broke it. If I understand horocruxes correctly, then Harry had the strongest kind of magical connection to a person he could have for 16 years."
"Now you both come to me and it's clear that he's not thinking things through carefully, that he's been desperately trying to make a life for himself, that he's all over the place and throwing himself in every direction at once."
"He's never had a life that wasn't controlled by someone else, he's just trying to figure out how to manage his freedom." Hermione interjected quietly, but firmly.
"What I am trying to say," Kingsley said, backing down a bit "is that are you certain he did not take potion name of his own volition?"
"I was worried about that too," Hermione admitted "but the way he seemed so genuinely confused and upset… Harry is many things but he is not a good liar."
"Then the question we must ask ourselves is who would be able to get close enough to slip him the most controlled potion in the wizarding world, and how we can help him. I would also like to ask the both of you to consider thinking about therapy. For the both of you. I've seen what war can do to people and I firmly think talking to people, really talking, can help. Let me know."
Hermione pondered at the sudden offer of kindness from one of the most important political players currently on the board right now, and evaluated it to be coming from a genuine place. She wondered how long it would be before he was removed from the game. Kingsley was too kind and she worried that he might not be able to make the tough decisions that would be needed of him in the coming days, months, and even years as he struggled to make the government serve the people again. All that mentally noted, she smiled and promised to keep in touch saying that she'd look for his owl in regards to the research in the coming year, and even laughingly agreed to save him a dance at the ball before she made her way out of his office, wondering if she should follow Harry to the Department of Mysteries or if she would be better off waiting for him in the foyer.
Harry had lost track of time, and was pretty sure that is was only due to his glasses still sitting on his face that he had any notion of being upright. The three women who were questioning him all had eerily identical faces, but when you focused you could tell they weren't triplets, probably weren't even related. After Madame Warthers had met him at the doors, she'd taken him into a room where a light pink mist had descended over him, and after noting something on a brand new navy coloured file –
Which she informed him would be added to his larger case notes – had promptly ushered him into this room. She'd called the ladies her muses, and he was sure that was somehow significant but now as he struggled to hear and see straight to answer the next question before they moved his chair, poked or prodded him, seemed to rip the answers from his mind without needing him to speak a single word, he couldn't for the life of him recall any reason to worry. He'd started to sweat long ago but his clothes never seemed to dampen. Occasionally lights would flash or loud noises would sound but the questions never ended, the three women seemed unfazed by everything around them, the walls began to spin again. Harry groaned and closed his eyes, only to find them snap open again. One of the women made a tutting sound but he wasn't sure which.
"We can't have that and you know it, Mr. Potter." Another cooed. The lights went out abruptly but he could still see their faces, burned into his eyes. "We need you fully focused for round three."