Chapter 16, Part Two: Unexpected Visitors
Harry woke up feeling exhausted. At first, he wasn't quite sure where he was or what time it was. Then he remembered his friends' visits and turned his head to see if Char was awake yet.
A glimpse at the windows told him that it was already past six in the morning. Sleeping in like that had happened more and more often in the past few weeks, but usually he didn't feel as tired when it occurred. Something had woken him up.
Harry checked himself to make sure he hadn't suffered from a nightmare and then checked the walls to see if there was anything unusual going on. His eyesight was blurry and he realized that a full month had passed since he had taken his eyesight potion. Groaning almost soundlessly, he remembered that the potion was in the boy's bathroom of the Hufflepuff Basement. A few months ago, this wouldn't have bothered him since his glasses hadn't worked very well in the first place; now, he became aware just how much more he had been relying on his eyes these days. The eleven-year-old sat up, closed his eyes and listened.
He heard muffled voices from the corridors. Soundlessly, Harry stepped out of bed and moved towards the entrance doors of the Infirmary. He was forced to crack the door open in order to identify the voices.
'The boys are sleeping, Frank,' he heard Madam Pomfrey say, sounding irritated. 'Surely, this interrogation can wait a few hours.'
'It can't. My son nearly died, Poppy, I need to know what occurred.' Harry didn't like the personal tone between the matron and the Auror.
'Besides,' another voice, Harry didn't recognize, chimed in. It sounded strange: hoarse and sharp. 'The boy will be more honest with us when he's too tired to omit the truth.'
Harry was chilled by that statement.
'What makes you think he would want to be anything but truthful?' This time it was a female voice.
'Snape was a little too accommodating, don't you think? I knew he was hiding something from the very beginning of the interrogation and it's obviously something about the boy's involvement. If it weren't for Frank's son, we wouldn't even know that it was the boy who brought Snape to the Infirmary.'
Harry shivered violently. His heart threatened to jump out of his chest. He was breathing heavily, but somehow the air didn't fill his lungs.
'Alastor, I think you are reading a bit too much into this,' the female tried to soothe her forceful colleague.
'I agree with Laura, Alastor,' yet another male voice Harry was unable to identify spoke. It was deep and calm and sounded as if it was perfect for storytelling. However, that didn't really help comfort Harry's agitated spirit. 'Frank, listen,' the same male said after a moment, 'I understand that you're worried. It's your son after all, but it doesn't take three team supervisors and a senior agent for this. Your team would have been sufficient.'
Although he would have thought it impossible, Harry's heart started beating even faster. Team supervisors? Senior agents?
'It was the first sighting of Voldemort in ten years, Shacklebolt,' the hoarse voice spoke again. 'I'd wager that's important enough.'
'The case, surely. However, we are talking about interrogating a child here…'
'Exactly,' the mediwitch began sharply, but was immediately interrupted by the rough voice.
'A child who already knows we are here.'
Harry didn't need his eyes to see they were all looking at the entrance door to the Infirmary.
"Harry," Madam Pomfrey sighed, sounding crestfallen.
"Char!" he hissed. "Wake up! Hide!"
Trained reflexes had the older boy up and ready in moments.
"Where?" No other questions were necessary.
Harry gestured towards a small shaft hidden behind a movable lattice he'd discovered on his third voluntary visit to the Infirmary. It didn't lead anywhere, but it would keep his friend out of sight. Without hesitation, Char removed the lattice, slipped in behind it and cowered a little so he wouldn't be seen. Harry put everything back into place, then ran towards Madam Pomfrey's office.
"Hold it!" an authoritative voice shouted. The street-trained orphan didn't hesitate, jumped and slammed the door shut behind him. He knew he wasn't safe and opened the window as it was the only escape route available. The door shattered into pieces behind him, and there was a sharp cry of 'Alastor, enough!' as Harry moved onto the window ledge.
"No, child!" he heard the wizard with the deep, kind voice shout, but he didn't look back towards the blurry faces he was bound to see without his potion.
'Don't let me fall,' he thought, hoping the castle heard him. He couldn't see very well since his potion had worn off, but he knew that he was too high up to jump to the ground. Then he felt a familiar warmth a few feet to the right of the ledge he occupied. He jumped and managed to land on another window ledge. Peering into the room, he thought he could make out the Hospital Wing.
"Stay where you are," the unfamiliar woman's voice was laced with something very close to panic.
Not remaining to find out which sentiment it was, he listened to the walls one more time and found a brick protruding from the wall to his right. He stepped on it and started climbing.
He heard the window he'd just peered through being opened and he started climbing faster, grabbing the protruding bricks, which were kind enough to emit that warm shimmer of something that the people here seemed to be calling Influence. A searing-hot warning caused him to hold in his step and a red light Harry had never seen before flew right past him.
"Alastor, you will not stun the boy!" Harry heard the unknown witch shout. Not bothering to remain to hear the aggressive Auror's answer, the underage wizard continued climbing as fast as he could. For a moment, he thought about kicking off a brick, but if he did, then he might lose his hold on the wall.
"Harry, for love of Morgana, please, come down!" he heard Madam Pomfrey call, her voice shook with distress. His gut twitched in a moment of sympathy, but he couldn't look back without endangering himself.
Finally, his hands took hold off a windowpane above him. Letting the walls lead him, Harry climbed onto it, and looked inside. The window was small but large enough for a child of his stature to squeeze through.
Luckily, it was open. Unfortunately, the window was six feet above a staircase.
Luckily, it was one of those staircases that didn't move. Unfortunately, he heard the shouts from the Infirmary drawing closer.
Harry jumped and, completely lacking elegance, landed somewhat shakily on the staircase. He hastened upstairs, praying that Char had managed to stay hidden.
He needed a place to hide. Before he was able to do that however, he felt another warning… Darkness followed.
Harry was familiar with the soft bed beneath his body, but his head felt uncommonly heavy and just about ready to explode. He could hardly lift his eyelids and decided not do so anyway when he heard agitated voices.
"Stunning a student! For Merlin's sake, Alastor! Of all foolish things…"
"You have already said so, three times actually, Poppy. It's time for us to calm down…" That was the woman called Laura, if Harry's memory served right. He remembered his flight from the Aurors and felt like crying once he realize just how much he'd failed. He hoped Char was safe.
"On a staircase no less…" Madame Pomfrey continued furiously, unwilling to let go of the matter.
"We needed to ask him some questions. Nobody with a clean conscience runs like that from Aurors," the rough voice, which probably belonged to Alastor, said.
"Or perhaps he's just a young child who heard too many horror stories," the calm voice spoke again.
Harry heard the door to the Infirmary open. Several people entered, of which he recognized two, Kertak and Natruk, immediately. Additionally, he was now capable of identifying the long, confident yet quiet strides of Professor Snape.
"Is it common practice for Aurors to pursue an eleven-year-old child as if he was a dark wizard?" Snape sneered impartially. "If that is the case, I offer my most sincere condolences."
"What for?" Unless Harry's mind was playing tricks on him, that was Frank Longbottom's voice.
"For your loss of common sense."
Harry just barely managed to suppress a snicker, and it was a miracle his facial expression remained unchanged.
"Now see there, Snape," the rough voice hissed coldly. "I would have scraped him off the castle wall if I'd thought him to be an enemy."
"I am sure he'll be grateful to hear you only risked his life once," the dark-cloaked wizard sneered.
"My dear friends, please," Dumbledore's calming voice ceased all insults. "Harry is already awake and I am sure he has something to say on the matter. Additionally, I can't imagine your hiding place to be very comfortable, Richard. Why don't you emerge?"
Within seconds, Harry had to decide how to deal with the coppers. Puppy dog eyes worked until you were about six or seven years old; after that nobody bought it anymore. Outright hostility was never a good idea once they got you.
He opened his eyes and sat up quickly when he heard the lattice being removed from Char's hiding place.
"Who's that?" the Auror named Alastor asked brusquely. At the same time, his face moved closer to Harry's as if to inspect the young boy. The underage wizard released a choked exclamation of shock when he looked into a heavily scarred face. The man stared at him with only one eye, the other was completely white. The wizard leaned back an instant later and turned his face towards Char's hideaway, but not far enough to let Harry out of sight completely. The terrified gasp which followed indicated that his brother had seen the scarred face.
"Alastor!" Professor McGonagall admonished him sharply. "Don't scare him!"
"Everything is fine, Richard," nilràu Natruk said calmly. "You can come forth."
Harry didn't need to turn his head to know Char didn't move.
The Aurors with the exception of Alastor, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey started to speak at once, trying to coax out Char.
Harry's protective instincts kicked in as he could imagine his brother trying to retreat further into the dead-end. He opened his mouth to shut them up, but before he was able to, he heard the Potions Master's voice.
"Maybe, you should give the child some space unless you want to suffocate him by mistake." It was a sneer, as if he couldn't care less what happened to Char.
His words were effective as several bodies backed away. Then Harry saw Snape move as well giving the boys the opportunity to gain eye-contact (or at least for Harry to look at the blurry face that was hopefully his brother). Slowly, the underage wizard nodded and Char scrambled out and was by his side within seconds. Both were tense and Harry could feel the slight trembles which shook Char's entire body. With a start, Harry realized that his friend had probably suffered something close to a panic attack when he'd seen Harry's unconscious body.
"I'm okay," he whispered, grabbing onto his brother's arm reassuringly. Kertak somehow managed to pass through Aurors and teachers and laid an arm on his shoulder.
"Boy!" the scar-faced man named Alastor shouted, again with his face far too close to Harry's liking, causing Char to flinch violently, which Harry instinctively refused to allow himself to do.
An instinct that he knew would cost him the second he saw those eyes narrow.
"Enough!" Madame Pomfrey cried sharply, and everyone turned to face the normally serene and calm mediwitch. "Auror Moody, you will leave my Hospital Wing at once or I will personally demonstrate what we learn in training to immobilize uncooperative patients!"
"Alastor, I think it would be best if you left," the headmaster decided to interrupt before blood was drawn. "In fact, the only people I want to remain are Poppy, Pomona, young Richard and Harry as well as Frank. Everybody else I must ask to leave."
While Harry was glad the Aurors left, he thought that the departure of Kertak, Natruk, and three teachers whose support he could almost expect left the odds against him.
Coppers didn't like it when you were capable of holding their gaze, they absolutely despised cheeky retorts, and they couldn't care less about you. Also, some of them were really good with mind games, while others relished in violence. They were less cruel when you pretended to be shy and cooperative.
Keeping all those thoughts in mind, Harry lowered his gaze, pretending to examine his fingers. He heard his friend, Natruk, his teachers and the coppers leave, but he didn't bother to look up.
"Are you in any pain, Harry?" Lacius' father asked.
"No, sir," he muttered truthfully, hating every second of his submissive display.
Coppers were hypocrites, too. They didn't show any respect, but they demanded it from everybody else.
How he hated those power games!
"Well, that's good," the man's voice was kind, almost chipper. "Would you mind if I asked you some questions?"
Sure he minded, but ever since when did a copper care about that? It was a rhetorical question he decided not to answer.
"Would you tell me everything you remember of the events occurring three days ago?" His voice was still soft and understanding, which was another display of duplicity. His son probably told him of their strained relationship.
Anyway, best get it over with. The events with Snape, he narrated quickly, pretending not to remember much of it. He basically told Lacius' father that he had no clue how Snape was bested by Quirrell and that he couldn't really say how he'd moved his teacher out of the dungeons towards the Hospital Wing. He then spoke of how he found out what Lacius was up to and some of the decisions that he made afterwards. Just when he was about to jump to the events inside of the Stone Chamber, Mr. Longbottom interrupted him.
"How did you get past Fluffy?"
"Fl-who?" Harry diverted him. He very well knew who Fluffy was as he'd talked to Hagrid yesterday morning.
"The three-headed dog," the Auror explained patiently.
What was the last song he'd heard? Never before was he this grateful that Sisters Augustine and Margret were nuns.
"'Daily, Daily Sing to Mary'"
That particular song didn't seem to be familiar to Mr. Longbottom. Undeterred, the wizard continued with his interrogation, however.
"Then after the trapdoor, what did you encounter?"
'Thank you, Dean!'
"Some eerie plant, which tried to strangle me, sir," Harry answered calmly.
"How did you get past it?"
"I d… don't really remember, sir," Harry stuttered, hoping that Frank Longbottom would interpret this as accidental magic coming into play.
"I see. Then you fetched the key and went past Dean and Seamus, whom you told to stay where they are."
"Yes, sir," Harry answered timidly, starting to feel annoyed by this type of interview.
"The troll was already dead and you encountered Professor Snape's riddle. What bottle did you take to go further?"
Whoa! Tricky question. He didn't have the slightest clue. Heck, he couldn't remember the bottles on the table!
"I don't remember, sir," he said quietly, hoping his confusion was misinterpreted to his favour. He sincerely disliked guesswork like that.
"I see." The neutral tone set Harry's nerves on edge.
"What happened when you caught up with Lacius and Professor Quirrell?"
This was the point it got tricky. If he told the truth, it would be interpreted as a lie as Frank Longbottom was bound to believe his son first. If he decided to lie, he had no idea what story to tell.
"It all happened really fast, sir. I'm sorry I can't remember. It was really scary." Only one out of three sentences was an actual lie.
"I don't believe you," the sharp tone caused Harry to look up, feeling startled. He looked into the face he'd seen before. The likeness to Lacius was uncanny. "You say you don't remember," the magical copper continued. "But Dean, Seamus and my boy told me that you seemed coherent when you interacted with them. You claim to have sung to Fluffy, but you've never entered that particular room. You say you don't remember which bottle you took, but not a single one of them revealed any traces of you."
Harry felt trapped and was about to make a beginner's mistake in dealing with coppers if it wasn't for Char who saw right through the bluff.
"Sir, I'm no wizard, but Harry was certainly in that room. First, what other way do you suggest he took and second, he was transported to the Hospital Wing by the teachers. They had to bring him through that particular room, right?"
The way the Auror's face twitched told him that he hadn't expected for them to see through the story he'd invented.
Again, a copper's hypocrisy was laid open for the world to see. They could lie right into your face, but beware if you decided to return the favour.
Grateful, Harry gave Char a short glance before focusing on Longbottom.
"I believe you aren't entirely honest with me, Harry," the Auror began anew. "What happened?"
"I think I've just told you everything I know." Now that was an outright lie and it burned him, but he forced himself to stay calm.
"You seem not to remember anything," now that was a disbelieving tone if he ever heard one. "Perhaps, a reminder would help you. There were two bricks on the ground inside of the chamber where you encountered Professor Quirrell. Do you remember who removed them from the wall?"
"No, sir," he answered.
"Do you remember the conversation occurring between Professor Quirrell and yourself?"
"What did he mean when he mentioned that you received a mark some other day?"
'Damn it, Lacius!'
"I don't know, sir," he forced his voice to remain steady.
A flat hand connected with Harry's bedside table emitting a loud 'thud' and Char flinched, though he refused to abandon his best friend.
"Harry, I'm not your enemy, but you need to help me here. Please, my son almost died and I need to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Then maybe you should teach him not to get himself involved with suicide missions," Harry stated unsympathetically.
"Harry! That's ten points from Hufflepuff. I can't believe you!" his Head of House rebuked him. Normally, the first-year Hufflepuff would feel ashamed for losing points, but in this moment, he wondered whether he'd actually foregone school rules.
Frank Longbottom frowned deeply, "You aren't like them." The sentence was stated as fact, laced with disbelief. "You look like James and Lily combined, but you couldn't be more different."
Harry blinked and looked away. This kind of rebuke hurt; seared him, though he couldn't say for sure why. The announcement stated plainly that the Auror had liked his parents, but he didn't like him. The underage wizard set his jaw and looked into space with indifferent eyes, so the insults would run past him without touching him.
Coppers generally hated that attitude, those in his district used to call it 'the arrogance of a street brat.'
"I see," the Auror said neutrally, but there was a dangerous undertone and Harry braced himself for whatever would follow. "Harry Potter, I forbid you to have whatsoever contact with my son."
Harry's heart was beating faster, but he didn't back down that easily, "Believe me, sir, prolonged contact with Lacius is one of the last things on my mind."
"I wasn't talking about Lacius and you know it. Your parents are amongst the most intelligent people I've ever come to know, one of the few things you've undoubtedly inherited. You won't go near Neville, you hear me?" The boy with the unruly hair tried to remember the last time he'd been on the other side of such a tone of voice.
In this moment, he realized he'd hardly ever dealt with the parents of Others before. No, actually, there was that one time a few days into his stay at St. Mary's Orphanage…
Harry wouldn't be himself if he gave up a potential friendship because a copper ordered him to.
"Loud and clear," he answered sarcastically, his emerald green eyes were blazing angrily. "You have a strange way of repaying debts, sir," he added.
"My parents died to save your sons and therefore your family owes mine. I don't speak of money, sir, but allowing me to stay friends with Neville seems to be the kind of payment I'd accept." He knew how cold he sounded, but he was so angry he wanted to scream at the injustice.
"I owe your parents a great debt. My payment is that I will let your lies be." The Auror was angry. His voice shook from suppressed fury.
'Idiot!' Harry reprimanded himself. Irritating law enforcement was definitely second nature to him.
"I won't resort to means that would ensure your utter cooperation," the Auror continued calmly. "That is how far my loyalty to your parents goes. However, I don't want you near my son!"
Means that would ensure your utter cooperation?
Harry shuddered none too subtly. What was he talking about? Legilimency? Something else entirely?
He was screwed.
Char froze simultaneously. He too was aware of the implications.
"Frank, really, you are agitating my patient," Madame Pomfrey came to the rescue. "I must ask you to leave."
"Of course, Poppy," the wizard said gently. "Goodbye Poppy, Pomona, boys." Without a single glance at the headmaster or even acknowledging his existence, he turned and left. Professor Dumbledore gave Char a kind smile, Harry a probing look and excused himself from the ladies in the room.
Professor Sprout shook her head, appalled by Harry's behaviour. She lit into him, telling him in no uncertain terms how disappointed she was in his behaviour, and that such a disrespectful demeanour was unworthy of a member of her House. Once her tirade was over, she left. Harry's eyes never stopped examining his fingers throughout her entire lecture. He was grateful to note that Madame Pomfrey apparently decided to give him some space as she inquired whether he was in any discomfort and then, once he assured her that he was fine, left for her office.
With a groan, Harry's forehead collided with Char's chest.
"It coulda been worse, you know," his best friend seemed to have decided that humour was the best course of action in this kind of situation. "You could've…er… attacked the coppers or tried to kill 'em."
"Shut your gob," Harry moaned, which was followed by a shuddering laugh.
"Or you coulda insulted him… any worse than you already did by, let's say, outright telling him he was an unfit father. There is the possibility the copper didn't entirely get you after all," Char continued, grinning mischievously. Harry knew he wasn't truly amused by the situation, but the blundering comments achieved their goal as the eleven-year-old, while keeping his face hidden, laughed a bit less desperately.
"Fuck, I'm screwed," Harry muffled into Char's shirt, once he sobered up.
"You have many talents, Ry," Char hardly ever used his nickname from St. Mary's when they were alone, but it gave Harry a feeling of belonging he hadn't known he missed. "Talking to coppers isn't one of them. You ain't in too much trouble, I think. They didn't arrest you at least, and your House-Head… Head of House, whatever… she's just worried I'm sure." Harry's shoulders fell dejectedly because he simply couldn't believe that. She seemed way over her head in dealing with him.
What if she refused to allow him to remain in her House? Would he be resorted? Or expelled?
"I'm so screwed," he repeated in defeat. Worst-case scenario hadn't quite occurred, but it was bad enough.
"No! Look, that Laura lady kept admonishing the scar-faced copper for immobilizing you and the other copper didn't seem to have it in for you either. Snape came to the rescue and the other teachers seemed very reluctant to leave your side, too. Kertak and Mr. Natruk looked ready to fight the headmaster when they were asked to leave. You aren't alone, and for once, it's not just kids by your side either. It's not that bad."
Gratefully, the terrified child hugged his fourteen-year-old brother tightly.
"I can't see a thing, it's driving me nuts," Harry said.
"Where are your lenses, or potion, or whatever is taking care of your abdominal eyesight?"
"Bathroom. Not here," he added, when he felt Char remove in order to stand up. "Hufflepuff Basement. You don't want to, believe me, you'll end up in one of the towers," he said when Char didn't stop in his movements.
"I think I know the difference between going up and going down, Harry. Nobody is as good as you when it comes to orientation, but I am capable of that."
"Not with moody staircases you aren't."
"Alastor, please, stop pacing around. It's agitating," Laura Lewis, supervisor of the Auror team for Mind Crimes, said in a tone that spoke of annoyance. At the same time, it could also be said from her tone that she felt a deep respect for the senior officer. "The boy is hardly a threat to Frank."
"You don't see what I see, Lewis," Alastor aka "Mad-Eye" Moody retorted coldly. "The boy's being cheeky, he completely lacks respect. He's manipulative. That little boy is trouble, mark my words. Only those who've been in trouble with law enforcement before feel this kind of antipathy for Aurors."
Laura was glad that the older goblin decided to take his agitated son – or whatever their relation – aside, so he wouldn't hear this accusation.
"Alastor, I can assure you Harry is an excellent student, a good child, very smart and modest," Professor McGonagall tried to reason with the experienced Auror. "He's been a student of mine for a while now and let me assure you that he's just a young boy whose childhood wasn't easy, but he overcame those obstacles admirably."
"Funny. I distinctly remember hearing those very same things before, about fifty years ago," Moody snorted in a condescending manner.
The moment these words were spoken, the doors to the Hospital Wing opened and Frank Longbottom emerged. His face was grim.
"Let's go," he said.
"Frank, may I have a word with you, please?" Dumbledore, who'd left the Infirmary mere seconds after Frank's exit, spoke up.
"You may not," the Auror only said and continued walking as if he hadn't heard anything.
"What did he tell you?" Auror Lewis asked, remaining where she was so Frank Longbottom was forced to stop. He turned his back to Dumbledore, so he didn't have to look at him.
"Nothing, or rather, he was either silent or lied into my face. Without my child's statement I'd be forced to take immediate action, but as it is…" a sigh. "We don't need his statement for this case."
"What about the spell which revealed that there were three cores but four magical beings involved?" Kingsley Shacklebolt interjected. He politely gave a nod to Professor Sprout as she left. She looked utterly miserable and walked past them without uttering a single word. Gryffindor's Head of House was clearly torn, but decided to follow her instead of waiting for the conclusion.
"Accidental magic," Lacius' father stated behind gritted teeth. "Nothing else."
"Yes, and his clear display of power when he decided to flee was but a coincidental occurrence," the dark-skinned Auror said sceptically. He didn't presume the boy to be a threat like Alastor, but something didn't add up here.
"He didn't commit a crime," Frank Longbottom explained. "There is no need for using Veritaserum on him. I'll spare him this."
All looked at Moody who frowned, which had a rather intensifying effect on the scars.
"He's a good actor," the senior Auror admitted gruffly.
"Not really. He's not a very skilled liar," the father of twins contradicted, "why?"
Alastor didn't say anything, but the frown drew deeper lines into his face.
"Do you have any objection to leaving, Alastor?" Kingsley Shacklebolt asked, which was met with a wry grin.
"I'm just a mere foot soldier, Shacklebolt. It's not my decision."
"You are the most experienced Auror in the room, if you think there is more to the story…"
"I know there is more to story. However, I don't think we need the boy for that." He remained silent for a moment. Then, already moving towards the Infirmary, he said, "Anyway, I think an apology is in order."
Six pairs of eyes stared at the paranoid Auror disbelievingly.
"There is no way you are going in there alone," Flitwick said sharply and moved forward to stand in between door and Auror, glad to facing the wizard's hip at least. "He must be terrified of you."
"Don't underestimate this boy's nerves, Flitwick," Moody said roughly. "Move aside."
"Do as Alastor says, Filius," Professor Dumbledore ordered. "He has the right to apologize without prying eyes and ears. However, Alastor, keep in mind what I think of harming my students."
"Headmaster, I protest," Snape intervened. "You cannot possibly let this happen."
The oldest wizard present ignored all protests and only a few minutes later, Alastor Moody entered the Infirmary by himself. The remaining Heads of House refused to leave, standing in front of the Hospital Wing, ready to intervene if necessary. They were accompanied by nilràu Natruk and Kertak, the latter being beside himself with worry and anger. Frank Longbottom finally accepted the headmaster's invitation to a private conversation, albeit reluctantly, while the remaining Aurors decided to stand a bit away from the worried party, but close enough to act if necessary.
When the door opened, Harry instantly brazed himself. He had no idea who'd entered, but the walls buzzed with tension. There was the strange sound of wood hitting the floor with every step the stranger made, as if he bore a wooden cane instead of a leg.
Char's terrified gasp caused him to squint in order to recognize the intruder. The hands on his shoulder tightened to the point it was almost too painful to bear.
"Potter," a rough voice greeted him and the boy with emerald green eyes nearly fled the second he realized who it was. Only, he was too far away and would be immobilized before he was capable of leaving the bed. Even if, through a miracle, he managed to get away, Char would suffer the consequences. Instinctively, he moved his body in front of his brother.
"He's a head taller than you, Potter, you couldn't cover him if you tried," the Auror said, but the smugness Harry expected was absent.
"I'm fast, sir," the eleven-year-old said.
"Undoubtedly and for the rest of his life, he'll have to bear the knowledge of being responsible for your death." The statement was devoid of all emotion.
Char and Harry stared at the seasoned Auror, feeling both terrified and bewildered.
"If I didn't do that, I would have to live with the knowledge of having refused to help him for the rest of my life," Harry countered.
"Ah, yes. Consequences. There are always consequences when faced with situations of life and death. Never easy. Never without pain. You are too young to know that, though," the rough voice sounded strangely soft.
"I can't imagine why you'd be surprised, sir. Given that you were ready to fight me. Cop… Law enforcement doesn't generally attack without cause." It bordered on a miracle, but Harry managed to say those words without rolling eyes or any other hint of sarcasm.
"In this case, I did," the man said, and Harry's eyes opened wide in astonishment. "You care. That's all I needed to know. I expected someone else entirely and acted accordingly. You should be careful choosing your friends, though. Not him, he's loyal," he said immediately when Harry opened his mouth to protest. "I'm talking adults. Snape's not someone you can trust."
"Everybody makes mistakes, sir, especially when they're young," Harry defended the Potions Master carefully. Oh, he had his doubts, but he would sooner trust Snape than some Auror he hardly knew.
"So, you know. Unexpected," the blurry face that was Alastor Moody muttered. "Very well then, Potter. I have the distinct feeling we'll be seeing each other again. Hopefully not at wandpoint." A short, rough, hoarse laugh followed. Char's upper body leaned back, frightened. The Auror sobered up and said serenely, "Don't forget, boys: constant vigilance!" Harry could see the face shake as if he was nodding to himself, "Yes, be ever careful. Constant vigilance!"
With this last, strange piece of advice, the Auror left and Harry was now sure that he noticed a limp.
Char looked at Harry and they were close enough to each other for Harry to see that his friend made a gesture to indicate that Moody was nuts.
"Now that's not very nice," the Auror said, as his hand touched the handle to the door.
"Do you have eyes on the back of your head, sir, or are you simply a good judge of men?" Harry asked, a bit bemused by the situation of casual talk with a copper who'd attacked him not so long ago and amused by Char's startled reaction.
Harry frowned, hearing sincerity in the man's voice, but the words didn't make sense.
"You don't really see me, do you?" Now that question sounded almost gentle. "James couldn't see anything without his glasses either. He was almost as good as you at covering up that kind of weakness though."
Again, the copper drew nearer, but Harry didn't feel quite as panicked anymore. The mention of his father gave him a slight feeling of safety, though he couldn't explain why. The wizard came close enough for Harry to see his scarred face clearly. Never before had he seen eyes like these, but he'd long ago learned not to stare at or be startled by disfigurement. Still, he couldn't help his reaction when he saw the rigid, blue eye rotate in its socket.
The grin would have been frightening, but Moody's natural eye sparkled with amusement.
"Now that's an honest reaction, Potter. Keep it up."
Without another word, the strangest copper Harry had ever encountered in his entire life left the room.
"Now that was…" Char began, but didn't know how to continue.
"Unexpected," Harry repeated the Auror's earlier reaction and shook his head disbelievingly.
A/N: As promised, the second part of this chapter.
Thank you for reading and especially for those who reviewed the last chapter (note to self: new chapter + complaint = more reviews ;) Nah, I'm kidding :D). It keeps me motivated, especially through the more difficult parts of the story.
Special thanks to DaiVath for beta-ing, you did a great job as always, maybe next time I'll get the safe/save part right ;)
Dearest 0TruestBlue0, I hope you like the update and I hope you'll help me revise this story again some time in the future.
Random Note: I've been reading a lot of LotR fanfiction lately and found the stories of Lamiel, Thundera Tiger, Legolass Q and Jedi Sapphire to be most recommendable. Just in case any of you are interested in LotR fanfiction that are mainly about Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli :)
Hopefully, my next update won't be too long... Until then, bye and enjoy your weekend :)