Clocks slay time. Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels. Only when the clock stops does time come to life. –William Faulkner
Magic surrounded him on every side.
The notion of escaping from the thick-walled sphere didn't even cross Harry's mind. He was trapped, completely and utterly; caged in by unyielding golden light, ironically of his own design.
He knew the spell. He'd created it, which is why he knew there was no crack in the solid walls of glowing magic to be exploited.
Granted, Harry had no idea that the spell would actually work, at any level, if used. It was still in its prototype stages, a baby in its own right. It was only a fantasy he'd had. A dream. It was just a few words; a Latin phrase he'd strung together. Harry wasn't even sure if the expressions he'd used were correct in their placement. He was in no way fluent in Latin, and he hadn't checked it with any linguistics experts or wizards who made their living off the creation of spells. He hadn't tested it either (on inanimate objects or harmless bunnies) in any way to see if the spell was even within the realm of doing what it was supposed to. It was, for all intents and purposes, merely a thought he'd put to parchment.
An idea to open a pathway home.
And now, because some random person had stumbled across his spell—Harry was beyond clueless as to how—he was probably being catapulted through the fabric of time and space; optimistically, back to his original time. It would be terrible (but not entirely unlikely) if he ended up trapped even further in the past, or overshot his future.
Magic pulsed and rushed through the air around him. Harry closed his eyes and sighed, his whole posture screaming defeat. He didn't want to go back. He wasn't ready. This was his home now, in the past, with Tom and Dmitry and Abraxas and Orion, until he was forced to return to his present (lest a universe-collapsing paradox be born).
It was too soon.
The light of the spell surrounding him began to grow brighter and brighter, signaling its end, until Harry had to close his eyes and shield them with his arm as it reached the brilliant intensity of the sun. Then, suddenly, with a great whoosh of air that that left a ringing in his ears, the spell dissipated and everything beyond his eyelids settled into darkness again.
Harry really didn't want to open his eyes. He was extremely apprehensive about what he may or may not see when he did. However, he wasn't sorted Gryffindor for nothing, even if he was a Slytherin now. Mustering up all the courage he could find within and ignoring the churning waves of despair in his stomach, he lowered his arm and wretched open his eyes in one move.
He didn't even have time to blink before a slightly larger body slammed into him, entrapping Harry in a hug tighter than an anacondas grip. He choked for air and swore he felt his eyes pop out of their sockets. Muffled Russian phrases reached his ear, and Harry paused in his attempts at regaining full use of his airways to actually observe his surroundings, a small sliver of hope blossoming within.
His very familiar surroundings...
He was still here! Where he should be, in the past! The spell hadn't worked after all. Harry didn't even spare that thought a moment of disappointment. The spell's failure meant he needed to take it back to the drawing board, and for that, he was glad. He was eternally grateful that it had failed. Harry had thought it strange that the spell would work the first time it was ever used. It would have been one of those one-in-a-million chances.
Harry relaxed further into Dmitry's embrace, then immediately stiffened again. He snapped his head to the side so fast his neck cracked and the world spun for the briefest of moments before his vision settled.
Viridian eyes searched out the hedges through the broken window of the pub where the spell had flown in from, and settled on the face of an unknown Hufflepuff girl. She looked to be around the same age as him, but he couldn't recall having ever seen her in any of his classes. Harry assumed she was a year older, given the power necessary to get that particular spell to do anything, even if it was only the light show she had caused.
He memorized every detail of her face. It was necessary in order to pick her out of the crowd later, when Harry could find her and question her thoroughly about how and why she used that spell against him. In the brief seconds that he etched her face into his memory, Harry noted the deep despair in her eyes. Despair that she had failed, he was sure, but that anguish was quickly replaced by obvious fear when she realized he was looking directly at her.
She jumped up and ran off, to where exactly, Harry knew not, but it didn't matter. He'd find her when they made it back to the school.
Hearing his name brought him back to reality and he turned his head back to meet two deep, ice-blue pools filled with concern.
"Are you alright?"
"He might be once you let him go and allow him to breathe," Abraxas said, smoothly picking himself over the rubble to get to the embracing pair. His demeanor was calm, but the slight tremor in his voice gave away just how shaken he truly was by what had just occurred.
"We should probably get him to the hospital wing," Orion added hesitantly, eyeing Harry up and down as if he could identify with naked vision alone any ailment that plagued the bespectacled fifth year.
"And how do you suggest we do that?" Dmitry frowned. "The fight might be done in here, but it sounds like it's still going strong out there." He gestured vaguely towards the symphony of battle sounds drifting through the destroyed walls of the pub. Harry sincerely hoped they wouldn't have to pay for damages.
Tom, who had been standing, unblinkingly as if in a trance off to the side, stepped forward and raised his wand. "Move." His commanding tone left no room for arguments, and Dmitry hurriedly complied with the order. Harry stiffened ever so slightly but stayed perfectly still. He recognized the complicated movements of Tom's wand and the chanted incantation he was saying. He'd heard it far too many times to count during his many trips to the hospital wing.
It took a full minute and the end of Tom's wand turning blue for the older boy to be somewhat satisfied with Harry's current health.
"He should still visit the hospital wing," Orion maintained as Tom tucked his wand away, but then immediately clammed up when Tom's frigid glare was directed his way.
"Of course he has to go to the hospital wing," Tom snarled, the tone of his voice belaying a barely contained fury. "But it's like Dmitry said; there is no conceivable way to reach the hospital wing with the destruction going on out there. So, forgive me, Black, if I simply wanted to make absolutely sure Harry didn't obtain an easily fixable yet simultaneously detrimental injury from whatever spell that was."
Orion flinched backwards and muttered an apology. Tom's only indication of acknowledgement was the slight relaxing of his harshly furrowed brows.
Harry took a moment to survey the silent patrons left in The Three Broomsticks. All of them had their attention directed his way with various ranges of horror and surprise frozen on their faces. He couldn't blame them. He was sure if he had been a witness, he would look exactly the same. In fact, he wished he could relay on his face exactly how distressed he was. But no matter how petrified, weary, or how much he felt like breaking down completely, he couldn't. Harry learned his lesson the first time around, during his life in the future.
Cracks of apparition sounded outside and one of the older students standing back in the crowd sagged in relief. "It's the Ministry. The Aurors are here!"
"Or it's more reinforcements for Grindelwald's forces," Tom sneered, ever the pessimist, at the girl, who shrunk into herself at his poisonous glare.
"Tom." The older boy's head whipped around to meet Harry's eyes. Harry gave a small shake of his head, and Tom's eyes narrowed, lips thinning, before he huffed and crossed his arms. He wouldn't spit out rude comments anymore, hopefully, but Harry could tell by his rigid stance that it would be a difficult task to carry out.
Two scarlet-robed wizards burst through the utterly destroyed doors, only to have nearly every wand in the place directed their way before the startled people realized they were Aurors.
"Whoa, there," the taller of the two, a bearded man with thick, dark hair said quickly, holding both his hands up in front of him to placate the frightened crowd he was faced with. "Everybody just calm down. We aren't here to hurt you we're simply trying to be sure everyone in here's safe and unharmed."
"The place looks a wreck from outside," the other man, a blonde, agreed to prove their good intentions, although the way he was surveying his surroundings made it clear that he thought the interior fared no better.
"We're all fine, I think," Madam Tahlia said shakily. She was still behind her bar, though she was further down now from where the dueling had been going on. She pointed towards Harry's group of friends. "Those boys protected us when those men," her finger gestured towards Grindelwald's unconscious followers (the Aurors wands were immediately out and reinforcing the bindings on the three villains), "attacked." She bit her bottom lip, hesitating for a moment before continuing. "They won, as you can see, but then a spell came through one of my broken windows from outside and hit the boy with glasses. He seems fine, but should probably be seen by a healer. His friend performed a standard Healer check, level three, and no symptoms showed themselves, but they could always just be dormant for the time being."
Harry's hand twitched at the implication.
The dark-haired Auror turned towards the group of Slytherins and raised an eyebrow, clearly surprised that it was members of the House of Snakes and all things evil who had defended against Grindelwald's muggle-hating minions.
"There's still a bit of riff-raff that's being rounded up out there," he said directly to Harry, "and even then there's quite a mess that needs to be tidied up. However, I must ask, did you get hit by a wayward spell?"
Harry gave a stiff nod.
"Do you know which one it was?"
"No." Harry couldn't tell them the truth.
"Right then. Travers!" he barked. The second Auror stepped forward.
"Use a piece of this rubble to make the boy a portkey directly to the gates of Hogwarts. It's like Madame Tahlia said—" he gave the barista a cheeky wink that didn't fit well with the ominous situation, "—we wouldn't want him to suddenly drop dead due to hidden symptoms manifesting undetected. That would mean more paperwork."
Travers nodded his agreement and came towards Harry, summoning a chunk of broken wall to him as he walked.
"You can take one friend with you," he said when he was in front of Harry, "in case you have sudden complications. Someone from the Department will come by the hospital wing later to question you and whoever tags along. It's standard procedure, especially in cases where citizen arrests are made."
"Alright," Harry agreed easily. There was no point in arguing. His gaze shifted to Tom and the other boy stepped forward.
Auror Travers noticed and pointed his wand at the debris in his hand. "Portus. There. It should do its job fine. You three," he swung his arm to incorporate Dmitry, Abraxas, and Orion, then pointed towards the bar, "go stand over there and wait for me or my partner for questioning." They complied immediately, though Dmitry seemed more reluctant and kept sending worry-filled glances back at Harry.
Tom stepped over an upturned chair to stand next to Harry. He took the younger boy's elbow firmly in his grasp, and at Harry's questioning gaze he mumbled, "In case you're too weak to travel by portkey. It would be bad for you to lose consciousness and let go during the trip."
Harry rolled his eyes, but said nothing. He was mildly insulted, but not enough so to make a scene. Tom was coming from a good place, and if allowing the older boy this small action would pacify his stewing panic, then Harry would permit it.
"That's a good idea," Travers broke in. Harry frowned at the Auror for having listened in, but if the man noticed, he ignored it. "Here's the portkey. Once you take it, you're gone."
"Understood," Tom responded. He looked at Harry. "You ready?"
"Yes." With Harry's positive answer, Tom reached out and plucked the piece of wall from Auror Travers' outstretched palm. Immediately, Harry felt the nauseating sensation of portkey travel take hold and turn his stomach. Colors whizzed by in a blur and, seconds after they started, the sickening trip was over and the wrought iron gates of Hogwarts stood tall in front of the duo. Tom's hold on his arm kept Harry from falling over as he usually did during most forms of magical travel, but he still stumbled when they landed.
"Let's go." Tom wasted no time in dragging Harry towards the castle. The grounds were eerily silent and completely deserted. Harry thought it was odd, seeing the peaceful serenity of the school when they had just come from the wreckage in Hogsmeade. Of course, that picture was completely shattered when he turned his head back and saw the dark pillars of smoke rising in the distance where he knew the wizarding village to be.
As they approached the entrance to the school, the heavy oak doors opened with more speed than Harry ever expected them capable of, and Professor Slughorn emerged. His frantic mien became even more distressed when he saw exactly who was standing on the castles threshold.
"Oh my goodness—you boys—Hogsmeade—what's happened?" Slughorn stuttered out stumbling over his words.
Tom was blunt and to the point. "As I'm sure you could tell, Professor, Hogsmeade fell under attack. Harry was hit by a spell and an Auror created a portkey to take us back to the castle."
"Mr. Evans was? Are you alright?" Slughorn asked, full of concern for his student.
"I feel fine," Harry responded, "but everyone still wants me to see the nurse. I don't mind though," he added quickly at the darkening expression on Tom's face. "I agree that I should probably get a quick check to be sure I truly am healthy."
"Quite right, quite right." Slughorn's head bobbed up and down with each word. "I would accompany you to the hospital wing myself, but, ehm…" He gave a small cough out of nervousness. "I'm supposed to stay here; see if any students show up. Orders of course, from Headmaster Dippet. He and most of the faculty rushed off to Hogsmeade the second wind of the attack reached our ears. Terrible, terrible thing, isn't it?" he said, more to himself than to Harry and Tom.
"Of course, Professor," Tom concurred out of politeness. "However, we really should get going…" He drifted off, not needing to restate his mission. It seemed to snap Slughorn out of whatever thought he'd been having and back to reality with a start.
"Ah yes, off you go, then. The younger students have been ordered to and confined in their Houses, so you shouldn't be impeded along the way." Tom inclined his head in thanks and ushered Harry up the stone steps and past the Potions Professor. They reached the grand staircase quickly enough, and continued on towards the hospital wing. Though they saw not a single student or teacher on their silent trek, the inquisitive eyes of portraits and hushed whispers murmured by the painted figures followed the duo for the entire journey.
As they rounded the corner into the hall where the hospital wing was located, a faint commotion reached their ears from the end of the corridor through the closed doors of the medical area. Tom, who hadn't let go of Harry's arm the whole time they'd been walking, pushed open one of the doors when they reached it. The sight that greeted the two was a very harassed Hogwarts medi-witch and what could only be extra help in the form of healers sent over from (Harry assumed) St. Mungo's.
"First petrifications, now an assault by Grindelwald… Merlin help us against whatever vile attack this school is faced with next!" Madam O'Brien, assistant to Hogwarts' Healer, groused as she fluttered around the room, preparing for the onslaught of injured that would be arriving soon.
"What are you two doing here?" A Healer had caught sight of Harry and Tom hovering in the doorway and came striding over. She pursed his lips and narrowed her eyes at the two, clearly thinking they were up to no good, and placed her hands on her hips. "Shouldn't you be in your common rooms?"
Tom glared daggers at the woman. "We've just come from Hogsmeade." Harry didn't fault the Healer for her mistake. Neither of them looked injured. They were just extremely dusty from being knocked around in their duels.
Tom's statement rang throughout the room and froze everyone inside for a split second. Harry was sure the older boy was thoroughly enjoying the look of horrified shock on the face of the Healer in front of them, if the smug air rolling off the older boy in waves was anything to go by.
"Mr. Riddle, Mr. Evans!" Madam O'Brien rushed over. "Are you two alright?" She didn't wait for a response and started waving her wand in intricate patterns at Harry, chanting under her breath. The flabbergasted Healer began doing the same to Tom, though she looked a bit like she'd swallowed a lemon and would rather not.
"I'm fine," Tom stated, confidently. His eyes flicked to Harry, and his piercing gaze made the tiny hairs on the back of the younger boy's neck stand up. Or maybe it was the magic from Madam O'Brien's spell. Harry couldn't be sure. "Harry and I—and Abraxas Malfoy, Orion Black, and Dmitry Volynski—ended up getting in a duel with a few of Grindelwald's followers."
Gasps were heard all around the room and the Healer, who had slacked in her checking for harmful magic on Tom after his first declaration, began again with renewed fervor.
"We all made it through without any lasting damage," Tom assured quickly, not liking the converging mass of Healers that headed their way once he spoke of the duel. "Any wounds we did receive were superficial. Harry's the one with the problem." All eyes turned towards the younger boy, and Harry ground his teeth at the attention. "We were in The Three Broomsticks when the attack began, and some of the windows were shattered by stray spells. The five of us finished our duels, coming out on top, when another spell—one completely unrecognizable to any of us there—came through from outside and struck Harry. It was yellow, and a golden sphere encased him, with chains of ruins circling the orb. We couldn't see him inside, and it was impenetrable, as far as I could tell, because Dmitry began casting anything he could at it to break its shell. But he didn't get to try everything in his vast repertoire because it only lasted… well, I'm not sure, to be honest, but it wasn't for too long."
By the end of his story, everyone in the room was frowning. Madam O'Brien's brows were also furrowed in concentration as she continued waving her wand over Harry. "There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with him that the scans can pick up… But that doesn't mean he won't start showing something later."
"Should we give him a potion?" a male Healer asked from the back. Clearly Harry's nonexistent medical condition was of great interest to everyone there. He understood, though, from an academic standpoint. They were Healers, and he'd been hit with a spell none of them could identify.
The Healer who had been attending Tom barked out a short, condescending laugh. "And what potion do you suggest, Michael? He shows no symptoms. Are you trying to poison him?"
Healer Michael's frown deepened and changed from thoughtful to indignant, but he said nothing more.
"I don't think there's really anything we can do for him, at the time being…" Madam O'Brien pronounced slowly. "You said the ball of light surrounding him was covered in runes? Did you happen to see any of them? It might help us determine what the spell was supposed to do, and therefore, any concealed symptoms."
"Not really," Tom admitted, internally berating himself. "They were moving incredibly fast in their paths around the sphere. I was only able to catch one, and I'm still not one hundred percent certain it's correct. It looked like the symbol for either Raido or Wunjo."
"Raido or Wunjo..." another female Healer repeated slowly from her place between two beds. "Well, we can't determine anything from a single rune, and certainly not from either of those. In order to figure out what's wrong with him, definitively, we'd need at least five in the chain."
"If there's really anything wrong with him at all," Healer Michael pointed out. "And do you honestly think we'd be able to glean anything from just five? Did you hear nothing the other boy said? Whatever the smaller one—" Harry glowered at the slight to his height, "—was hit with was an extremely complex spell. Double that number of runes you pulled from thin air, and maybe, just maybe, you might have been able to get somewhere. Especially since there were multiple chains." He looked to Tom quickly for conformation, which was given. "And since there were multiple chains, it could be that only one of them was the main action the spell was supposed to take, and the others simply amplified it in some way."
"Or nullified it, since he shows no symptoms," put the woman, logically.
"Or made it so that the victim appears fine but symptoms manifest later in the most devastating way, which is why I would like to keep you, Mr. Evans, overnight for observation," Collin Mitchell (current Healer under the employ of Hogwarts) said, stepping out of his office and cutting through the other Healers debate. "Unfortunately, seeing as how there's nothing wrong with you now, and we haven't got any extra beds to share, thanks to the illustrious malefactor who thought it a marvelous idea to petrify your classmates this year, you should go down to the Great Hall, where I've been informed they are to gather the Hogsmeade students, and wait there until I send Madam O'Brien to fetch you. I don't want you, Mr. Evans, or Mr. Riddle crowding my hospital wing. There will be enough of it from the injured."
"Yes, sir," Harry and Tom said at the same time.
"Good. After all, Mr. Evans," the corner of his mouth quirked up in a wry half-grin, "If my assistant, Madam O'Brien, is correct and your symptoms are only delayed in appearing…" Healer Mitchell snorted cynically. "Let's just say you better hope the rune Mr. Riddle saw was Wunjo, and all you'll experience is heightened feelings of joy or bliss. Unless it was paired with another rune or two to inflict negative emotions of depression and whatnot—which seems likely, since it was used in the midst of battle."
Healer Mitchell stroked his short goatee in a pondering sort of way. "Realistically, and unluckily for you, what Mr. Riddle probably saw was Raido; the rune of transportation. Which is why we want you here for observation," Healer Mitchell said with a hearty laugh that didn't seem appropriate for such a serious declaration. "It would be terrible if it activated later and your innards all disappeared somewhere else."
Harry's mouth stretched in a tense grin that was really more like a grimace. He hadn't thought of that. Oh please, Merlin, don't let that happen…
A low rumble of noise could be heard coming from the bowels of the castle and drifting through the door Tom and Harry had left open. Everyone in the room stood up straighter. "Right, then. Shoo, you two. We have work to do," Healer Mitchell announced, and Madam O'Brien ushered the two out of the room.
"Oh." Harry turned back around for a brief moment. "Madam O'Brien?" She tilted her head to the side and motioned for him to continue. "I think there might be an Auror who shows up here sometime; to question Tom and me. It's about the men we dueled. The man who made our portkey was saying something about protocol, I think. If he does show up, could you just direct him down to the Great Hall?"
She gave a single, sharp nod. "Of course. Now, off you go. And good luck. I really hope I'm mistaken about all this and there truly isn't anything wrong with you… But one can never be too careful, and we, as Hogwarts medical staff, would be in for a terrible lawsuit if something grievous were to present itself."
Harry sent the fretting woman a warm smile. He'd always liked her from the few interactions they'd shared. "I understand."
The two Slytherin boys turned and headed back down the way they came. This time, however, the walk was much louder, due to the fact that people had begun arriving. They passed a fair few injured on the way.
And then, out of the blue, "I saw who hit you. With the spell." Tom's voice was quiet, but so unexpected that Harry jolted to a halt.
"What?" It was the only word he could formulate, his mind moving a million miles a second.
A teacher came hurrying around the corner, two stretchers carrying two unconscious students levitating before her. Tom and Harry moved from the center of the corridor, out of her way, and into an unused classroom once she passed.
When the door was shut, Tom turned back to Harry and repeated what he said. "I saw who shot the spell at you, back in Hogsmeade. I know who did it." Pure, unadulterated hatred seeped from his voice, making Harry take a small step back.
"You… Know who did it?" Harry restated tentatively. That wasn't good. Harry didn't need Tom going off and avenging him before he could question the girl, or worse, questioning her himself.
Tom clenched his jaw. "Yesss. I saw her, that filthy little mudblood. That loathsome, insignificant Hufflepuff. Her name is Alexandria Moore. We're in the same year. I'd recognize her repulsive face anywhere." He gave a rather terrifying grin, showing all his teeth. "I've yet to repay her for spilling a bag of compost on my robes in Herbology, but now I think I have sufficient reason to do that and more to the pathetic waste of air. She'll be begging for me to kill her once I'm through teaching her not to touch what's mine."
Okay, that wasn't good. Evil intent oozed from Tom's every pore. Harry had to find a way to calm him down before he went off and did something drastic—like torturing the girl until she was suicidal. He had no fond feelings for her—that was to be sure—but Harry was trying to keep Tom from becoming a mass-murdering megalomaniac. He'd been unable to stop the deliberate killing of Tom's muggle father, but he'd do his best to curb Tom's unnecessary homicidal urges in this one case (even if a part of Harry really wanted to see her hurt in some way, too).
"I want to be there when you question her." Harry figured the first chance they'd have at questioning Moore was after the Yule break, and he had the entirety of it to calm Tom down until the elder's fury was sedated well enough. Trying to do so now would only cause a large and unnecessary blow-up.
"Fine," Tom said tightly, malice swirling in his eyes. "I suppose it's your right to be there, to hear from the whore's own lips why she tried to do away with you."
"You don't know for sure that's what her purpose was," Harry put, in vain. It didn't even sound convincing to his own ears.
"Of course that's what she meant to do," Tom hissed out furiously in parseltongue, taking a menacing step forward and balling his hands into fists. "She meant to hurt you, Harry. That's the only reason why she would have hit you with a spell and run away afterwards, like a bloody coward."
"Alright, alright." Harry put both his hands up, palms facing out, to try and placate Tom. They weren't going to get anywhere by staying on this topic, so it was time to move on. "I understand that you're upset, I'm upset, but you need to calm down. We need to get down to the Great Hall. We can't stay here—no matter how much I'd like to. Someone will come looking for us eventually, and after a day like today, we'd probably end up receiving detention all break long or have a large amount of House points deducted, or something."
Tom was breathing heavily through his nose, his nostrils flared out in rage, but Harry could see him beginning to make an effort to stow his anger away, for the time being. In an attempt to speed up the process, he moved forward and placed a hand on Tom's cheek, stroking in softly with his thumb. Harry tilted his head and stood on his tiptoes to meet Tom's mouth with his own. Their kiss was slow and gentle, passionate and burning. Desire bubbled in Harry's stomach as he used his lips convey that want and to erase Tom's tension; to reassure the distressed boy that he was fine.
Harry pulled away, ending the kiss sooner than he would have liked. They couldn't stay in the room any longer.
"Come on, let's go."
The entrance hall was wall-to-wall packed with people, but there appeared to be a sort of system in place that people were following. Each student, if Harry understood correctly, was stopping at a teacher before being directed towards either the Great Hall or the hospital wing. It seemed easy enough. He and Tom weaved through the congested crowd and came to a stop behind Professor Slughorn, who looked to be in charge of the organized chaos. Tom tapped the portly man on the shoulder and he turned, relief flooding his features.
"Oh, you two. I trust everything turned out alright, since you're both back down here?"
"They couldn't find anything wrong with either of us, but they want Harry to spend the night in the wing for observational purposes," Tom relayed, emotionlessly, as if on autopilot. "Healer Mitchell said he'd send Madam O'Brien down once everything's calmed down on his end."
Anxiousness once again overtook Professor Slughorn's face and made him look much older than he was. Pity filled his eyes, and he directed it Harry's way, something the younger boy really wished the professor wouldn't do. It made him rather uncomfortable.
"I see." Professor Slughorn scanned the parchment he was holding and made two slashes on it with his quill. "Alright then. I've marked it down here. Damn useful for keeping track of the students, this is. I really must thank Hector when this miserable circus is over. A drink at the pub, I think would be good." He turned back to the crowd of waiting students in various degrees of emotional turmoil, and Harry and Tom eased into the mass of their peers entering the Great Hall. Once inside, it was much easier to make their way over to their House table.
The din was deafening and the wails of many students didn't help lessen it any. If he stayed here very long, like Harry thought was to be the case, then the only symptom that would present itself when he was scanned upon his return to the hospital wing would be a massive migraine.
They neared the Slytherin table where most of their housemates looked quite shaken by the traumatic event, but were holding up well. There was no distraught sobbing coming from a single member of the House of Serpents, but a fair few number of the third-years were pale and shaking.
Harry scanned the table quickly for his friends. He caught sight of Dmitry sitting with Abraxas and Orion at the same time the Russian saw him. Dmitry's shoulders sagged and hope painted itself across his face; as if Harry's mere uninjured appearance in the Hall was enough to assuage any and every fear he ever held. Dmitry gestured for Harry and Tom to come over. The duo did, and space was made for them to sit.
"How are you?" Dmitry questioned once Harry was within easy earshot.
"I feel fine," Harry said with a shrug. Really, what else could he say?
"They're going to keep him in the hospital wing overnight, though, just in case," Tom added.
Harry scowled and quickly reassured, "But I'll be fine. Since nothing life-threateningly terrible has occurred yet, I doubt anything will happen later."
"Unless there's a time-delay, like with the first, ah, victim of the petrification attacks," Orion said, carefully choosing his words lest they were overheard by unwanted ears. "Everyone was at dinner when the disillusionment spell dropped and her body was able to be seen, which is why there were, and still are, no suspects. Such a thing isn't completely unheard of during battles. Though the aftermath is usually the victim's body exploding, which significantly damages the area he or she is in. Generally it's a hospital or a Ministry office. Somewhere important like that." Orion's mind caught up with his mouth, and he hastily backtracked. "Of course, I'm not saying that will happen you you. I'm sure if they meant for you to blow up, your body would already be stuck to the walls."
"Right… What happened with you lot after Tom and I left?" Harry quickly changed the subject from his health. It was nice that people cared, but he didn't need to constantly hear how he might die later and just didn't know it now.
"Nothing too exciting, really," Abraxas said, jumping into the conversation before Orion could put his other foot in his mouth. "With the arrival of the Aurors, Grindelwald's forces began making their escape. Some were captured, many weren't. Apparently the teachers had come to help in the fight, but they were stuck down on the other end of the village and were trying to get as many students off the main street as they could."
"Which was good for those students, but not for everyone else stuck past Zonko's," Dmitry added dryly. "Like us."
Orion nodded. "Thankfully not many of people were grievously injured, I think. Only some had to be levitated away on stretchers. I saw one girl portkeyed away to St. Mungo's. But there were still a lot of others with minor cuts and bruises and broken limbs. Luckily, those can be healed quite quickly."
"That's good, I guess," Harry admitted, glad that injuries were minimal.
"Why have they shepherded us into the Great Hall?" Tom inquired. "The first and second-years and anyone else who stayed at the castle are all in their dorms, shouldn't we be there too?"
"I'm not too sure," Abraxas began, "but if I had to guess, I'd say it's so they know exactly who's where and can find any student easily, if need be. It might be difficult if suddenly they needed one of us but they didn't know if we were in our common room, on our way there, or had snuck off to do whatever else it is we wanted to do."
"They'll probably escort us to our common rooms once they've finished taking inventory of us all," Orion added, halfheartedly. "Though, I must say, if they're going to keep us corralled in here, the least they could do is provide some food—"
Orion was cut off from complaining as a large silver platter full of sandwich halves materialized in front of him with a small pop. The people around the five stopped and glanced over at the source of the sound with varying ranges of jealousy. Their envy was soon quelled, however, when similar pops were heard up and down the table and around the rest of the Great Hall as well.
Orion was overjoyed, if the look of extreme delight plastered across his face was anything to go by. "Wonderful!" He picked up a sandwich and took a bite. "I love house elves."
"As do I," Dmitry agreed, mimicking Orion's actions. Harry took a sandwich as well, not realizing just how hungry he was until Orion brought it up. The excitement in the village had caused them to miss lunch, and his empty stomach was beginning to remind him of that fact.
"What did you tell the Aurors?" Tom asked once everyone had eaten at least one of the delicious morsels and was going back for seconds. "Exactly what happened, or were there any details you thought were better forgotten."
"Not really. It didn't seem like they cared too much about the details of how we got to the point in time where they stormed the building," Abraxas informed. "We each had to be questioned separately—"
"Which was weird," Orion interrupted. "I don't know why—"
"—BUT they only wanted to know the basics of what happened and such," Abraxas continued, shooting Orion a silencing glare. "They wanted to know what spells we used and that sort of stuff. They weren't interested in every move we made. They wanted to know how we came to be in the pub to begin with, though that point was rather obvious and unexciting, save for Orion's grand entrance." He rolled his eyes while Orion beamed at the accurate description of his arrival on the scene.
Harry's mouth turned down as his eyes narrowed at the Black heir. "You were late to lunch," he reminded, and Orion's self-important smile dimmed. "Please don't tell me it was because you were off charming another woman, or if you were, please don't tell me it was one you haven't yet wooed?"
"Eheh, well, you see," Orion looked around nervously. "I mean; it's not like I recently 'wooed her.' But, uhm, we hadn't before gone on any sort of outing that could be considered a 'date,' exactly…"
Harry remained unimpressed. "And what about that girl, the—oh, gosh, who was it? The… Ravenclaw prefect?" He looked to Tom, who gave a smirk and a nod in return, and whirled back to Orion. "You were with her just last night, weren't you? Are you trying to instigate a catfight that will have your name solidified infamously in Hogwarts, A History?"
"Well it's not like Celia and I are together, and she knew we were just having a bit of fun," Orion defended helplessly.
"I have to agree with Harry on this point," Abraxas said. "I don't know what's happened to cause you to seek solace with every female Hogwarts has to offer, but it's unseemly. It is not the actions you should be taking. Think of the disgrace that would be brought upon your family and your name. It will only cause problems for you in the future, both while you're in school and later in life. So, until you deem it time to inform me or any one of us what has happened to cause such lewd behaviour, I suggest you find another pastime," Abraxas finished with a disgusted sniff. "Like Exploding Snap."
Orion's face was twisted in an odd expression and he looked as though he were trying to find the right words, but all powers of speech had deserted him for the moment. The air around the five was suddenly filled with a thick, heavy tension that Harry desperately wished someone would break. He regretted bringing up Orion's tardiness now that Abraxas had used it to scold the other sixth-year. It made for an incredibly uncomfortable setting.
"So, Orion, you said your family has an estate in Russia?" Dmitry awkwardly began. Harry could have kissed him.
"Yes. It's been in the family for a few generations."
"Are you going to be visiting this break? We could meet up…" And so began the new conversation, thanks solely to Dmitry, that brought everyone's attentions away from Orion's scandalous activities and onto the topic of what they were doing over the Yule break. Harry and Tom couldn't much contribute to the discussion since there wasn't much of anything interesting to be done at Hogwarts, but Harry enjoyed listening to his friends plans and inserting his opinion here and there.
"Excuse me?" Harry turned around in his seat and saw the tall, bearded Auror from The Three Broomsticks standing behind him. "Mr. Evans and Mr. Riddle?"
"Yes," Tom said for the two of them.
"If you'll both be so kind as to follow me, we can begin the questioning process."
Harry and Tom shared a look before getting up and following the man out of the Hall. The entrance hall was much less crowded than before, there were only a few straggling students speaking with teachers, and most of the faculty had gone off somewhere. There were one or two staff members in the Great Hall watching over the rest of the school, but they were aided by the Head Boy and Girl. A few Aurors also stood near the large doors leading outside and were conversing with Professor Marleious, the Charms instructor.
"Okay, then." The three of them stopped in front of the second Auror who had arrived at the pub, Travers. "Mr. Riddle, was it?" The dark-haired Auror looked at Tom.
"You'll be going along with Travers here, and Mr. Evans?" Harry nodded. "You'll come with me."
The four of them split off into pairs and Harry followed his interrogator into the small room where first-years were brought before their sorting.
"Alright then," the Auror started when the door had shut behind them. "I'm Auror Davis, and I have a few questions for you. I would appreciate it if you answer truthfully and with as little embellishment as possible. I don't want to stay at this school any longer than I have to."
"Okay," Harry said. He agreed with Auror Davis and also wished for their session together to be completed quickly. Interrogations made him uncomfortable.
"Good. Now, in your own words, describe your experience, please?"
So Harry did, starting with his and Tom's arrival in The Three Broomsticks, and ending with being hit by the golden spell (omitting the name of the slightly Darker curse he'd used when dueling Grindelwald's follower). Auror Davis had used a Dict-O-Quill to gather Harry's statement.
"I see, I see. And you didn't feel anything strange when you were hit with the spell? Every detail helps, especially when I have to write up my report," Auror Davis asked, not really expecting Harry to give a detailed response of any merit.
"Not really. It all happened so fast. I couldn't see anything but golden light when the spell surrounded me. I couldn't hear anything from outside it. I didn't even know Dmitry—my friend—was shooting spells at it until I heard so afterwards. There was nothing but me." Harry hesitated, contemplating whether to continue or not. "It was almost like… While I was encased in the spell, I was in my own… World."
Auror Davis looked up from the notes he was reviewing, sharply. "Your own world?"
Harry nodded once. "Yes. Like the space inside the orb where I was located was my own dimension, separate from the one where everyone else was. I don't know if it's true, that's just how I felt," he quickly amended.
"If that's the case, then, you're quite lucky the spell didn't take," Auror Davis said pensively. "It might have wiped you from existence, if that's what it was supposed to do, which makes it even more dangerous than I previously thought. Of course, it could be nothing. As you said, it's just a feeling you had. We'll just question our captives thoroughly to see if any of them know who might have shot off the spell or what it's true purpose was. It's impossible to know at this time if it was meant for you or for someone else, and you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Harry gave a small smile. "I have a knack for that."
Auror Davis chuckled. "Good to see you still have a sense of humor after everything that's happened today. But I think that's everything I needed to know. " He quickly scanned his notes. "Yes, this seems to be a parallel to the stories your friends gave." He plucked the quill from where it hovered on its tip against the parchment, and signed his name. "Excellent. This interview is over. You may go now."
He held the door open for Harry, and Harry quietly murmured his thanks. Together they made the quick walk back to the now-empty entrance hall, where they parted ways, Auror Davis turning to go up the marble staircase, and Harry watching him go.
Had he made a mistake, telling the Auror so much truthful information about the spell he'd been hit with; the spell he'd invented? Harry didn't know what possessed him to ramble on about it the way he had. Auror Davis had been keenly interested in every minor detail he could give. It was likely that the information would be handed over to the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries if the Aurors couldn't figure out what the spell was supposed to do; but only if they felt there to be any serious danger from it could hypothetically cause. Hopefully they'd pass his statement off as just the nonsensical babbling of a shaken teen.
Now, though, it was too late for regrets. What's done is done. Next time, I'll keep my mouth shut.
Harry started for the doors of the Great Hall, through which he could still hear the voices of the students, when they opened fractionally and the most unexpected person was let out.
He couldn't believe it. He blinked twice, rubbed his eyes, and just stared. It wasn't luck, it was Fate intervening on his behalf and sending that meddlesome girl directly into his line of sight, when he was alone and she, unsurrounded.
And who was he to question Fate?
Harry slipped, unnoticed by the prey he stalked, down the stairs behind her, following at a fair pace, quietly, and with all the stealth he could muster. From the route she'd taken, it appeared that she was headed for her House.
She rounded the bend and Harry quickened his step, hoping to catch her in the hall before she entered the Hufflepuff common room. It might not be his only chance to corner her, but it was certainly a good one. And it was one where he didn't run the possibility of Tom stumbling across them (since Harry was sure the older boy was either still being questioned or of the opinion that Harry's questioning was just going a bit long). And Harry needed to know why she'd used that spell; needed to find out on his own, even though no more than an hour ago he had promised Tom that they would question her together.
Just like earlier when the spell hit him and Harry wasn't ready to return home, he wasn't ready to air all his truths quite yet.
In the flickering torchlight that illuminated the hall, Harry watched Alexandria Moore approach the twin barrels that guarded the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room. It was now or never.
Quicker than a striking viper, Harry raised his wand and shot off a stunning spell. It wasn't a powerful one that would knock her off her feet like what he'd done to the Grindelwald follower in The Three Broomsticks. There was no need to fill it with such force, especially when the only outcome Harry could foresee if he did so was on-edge professors swooping down on him. And that would hinder his process. Significantly.
His spell did its job well enough and he watched with hollow eyes as the girl's body crumpled to the floor. There wasn't a moment to lose—not a second to waste observing her body and thinking dreadfully angry thoughts. Hearing footsteps approaching from somewhere behind him, Harry levitated her body up and swiftly continued past the two barrels and further into the basement. The level of the school he was on currently was not as complex or labyrinth-like as the dungeons, but there were still a few unused rooms. Not classrooms exactly—more like excess storage space—but it would suit Harry's purposes just fine.
The third door he came across, he entered, and placed as many privacy and protection wards on it as he possibly could. The room was small, there was barely enough space for a bed, but it was empty, completely and totally. Harry let the Moore girl fall to the floor and sent out ropes to bind her. She would be disoriented when he lifted the Stupefy, but that would soon pass, and he really didn't feel like having another duel, no matter how easy, that day.
He chewed on his inner cheek, contemplating the body laid out before him and what he'd say when she woke. "Ennervate."
Muddy brown eyes blinked open blearily. All it took was a second for Moore to realize she was bound and in a dark, unfamiliar room.
"Lumos." The tip of Harry's wand illuminated, showing off his face, and the rest of the empty room. Moore squinted against the sudden bright light, her shoulders hunching as if that would somehow help shield her from it. Harry said nothing the whole time. He just stood there, waiting patiently, until the twit of a girl registered exactly who was in the room with her. It certainly was an entertaining sight when she did. Her eyes widened and she let out a shrill shriek. Her struggles became more frantic and she even started crying hysterically for help.
As if anyone could hear her, Harry thought in a brief flash of maliciousness. He'd soundproofed the small chamber in a most efficient manner. There would be no hero coming to rescue this pathetic witch. However, her frenzied screams were grating on his nerves. And he'd never accomplish his task if he couldn't make himself heard over her voice.
"Silencio." The screeching stopped, though her mouth still moved. For whatever reason, this seemed to terrify Moore even more. Harry sighed and rubbed a hand down his face.
"Stop it." She did. Huh. He hadn't exactly expected that, but he wasn't about to let his mild amazement show in his face. "No one can hear you. I've silenced the whole room. No matter how loudly you shout, or scream, or whatever else it is you women do when you're scared, no one will come and save you."
Harry let that fact sink in for a moment, and when he could see the acceptance flicker in her panicked eyes, he continued. "Now, I have a few questions I'd like answered. I think you know what they are already. I don't want to hurt you, but if you don't cooperate, I will." He hardened his voice and his gaze to sound more intimidating. He didn't want to hurt her, very much, and he didn't know any spells that would be useful for interrogations that would make the task go any faster if Moore refused to cooperate. Since he'd abandoned his dream of becoming an Auror, he didn't think such techniques were much of a necessity to learn.
Shows what you know.
It took a long moment for her brain to process it, but Moore eventually gave a jerky nod. Harry's lips curled into a sinister smile. He had to keep up appearances. "Good." He lifted the silencing spell, but left her bonds in place. Copying slightly from the speech he'd received from Auror Davis, Harry improvised, "I want this to be over and done with just as much as you do so we can both be on our way. I have other, better, things to do than spend more minutes of my life than necessary in your presence. Whatever I ask, I want you to be straightforward in your answer, got it?"
"Yes," she rasped out. It was good Moore turned out to be such a submissive Hufflepuff. If it were a Gryffindor, Harry doubted even threats of torture would be able to break through their stubborn, stupid bravery.
"Wonderful. I'm glad we see eye-to-eye on this subject. Now..." He paused, trying to come up with the best question his muddled mind could. "Why did you leave the Great Hall? I thought everyone was supposed to stay there."
Moore looked extremely uncomfortable, but answered anyway. "They've started letting a few of us return to the common rooms; if we wanted to go. I had no reason to stay in the Hall, so I left."
"Why aren't the teachers escorting you?" Harry wasn't complaining, he was simply curious.
"They're busy, or something," Moore muttered, looking at the floor. "Professor Marleious came into the Hall and spoke to Professors Tilbet and Merrythought, and then they announced that we were free to either remain in the Great Hall or return to our common rooms. Then they left. Nearly everyone decided to stay, but I didn't want to be around anybody anymore, so I went to my room."
"Hmm." It was a reasonable excuse, Harry supposed. As long as it was the truth, but he had no way of being completely sure without using Veritaserum. Unfortunately, he didn't have any Truth Potion on hand, so he'd have to give Moore the benefit of the doubt and assume she was too terrified of him to risk her good health by lying.
It was time to get to the heart of the matter. "Why did you shoot off that spell earlier? At me; in Hogsmeade."
Her mouth tightened into a thin line of defiance, but the tremors of Moore's body betrayed her frightened state. Harry tapped his wand against his thigh as he waited. He counted each beat, and if he reached ninety and she hadn't answered...
Sixty-six, sixty-seven, sixty-eight—
"Because you hurt my sister."
The tapping of his wand stopped, and Harry scrunched up his face in unalloyed confusion. "What?" As far as he could tell, he hadn't physically hurt anyone the entire time he'd been at Hogwarts. Did he slight Moore's sister emotionally? He didn't know anyone who went by that name though, other than the girl bound before him, and he'd only just learned of her surname that day.
His incomprehension did not go unnoticed. It seemed to both embolden Moore and infuriate her.
"Don't act like you don't know!" She struggled to sit up, twisting her body and working her abdominals to get out of the laying position she'd been in. "You and your evil ways. You're a Slytherin; you practice Dark magic! You think you're above everyone else because you're family's managed to inbreed in every generation. I came to this school, I heard the rumors, and I wouldn't have believed them if I hadn't seen you and your House acting all high-and-mighty, like a bunch of snot-nosed rich brats. But lording over everyone else wasn't enough for you," Moore sneered, becoming more impassioned with every word. Harry let her continue her rant uninterrupted since it was getting him answers, no matter how odd.
"It's not enough for Harry Evans that muggle-borns are already faced with discrimination at every turn in this world. No," she said with a hysteric, mirthless giggle, "I think you just couldn't handle the fact that we're overcoming it. That we're successfully integrating ourselves into this magical society. That more and more muggle-borns are coming into the wizarding world and staying, no matter what you and your Pureblood friends try to do to force us out. It must really burn you to know that you couldn't do anything about our success the legal way."
Harry's eyebrows rose higher and higher as he managed to catch on to what she was implying. "Hold on, you don't think—"
"Don't tell me what to think!" she screeched, taking full advantage of Harry's silencing spells and piercing his eardrums with her shrill voice, making him flinch. Moore didn't seem to realize as she continued on her tirade, "I might be a Hufflepuff, but that doesn't mean you can boss me around! I know what the rest of the school thinks about my House; that you all look down on us as stupid just because we're friendlier than the rest of you rude, pompous, pretentious—ugh!" she growled out, clearly frustrated. "But you know what? I didn't care. I was content to live my life and finish up at this prejudice-filled academy of learning. But then you had to come along and ruin it all by petrifying my sister!"
Ah, Harry realized. Moore's sister must have been the third student petrified. He hadn't heard the name of the student—he couldn't remember if he'd even heard the gender—but now her anger made sense, sort of. Even though it was entirely misplaced.
"Don't deny it!"
"I won't believe your—"
"SHUT UP!" Ringing silence filled the room. Harry took a deep breath and scowled down at Moore, who returned with a savage one of her own. "I know there are rumors circulating the school about how I'm Slytherin's heir, but that's a load of Hippogriff shit. It's only a rumor because Dumbledore couldn't keep his mouth shut—"
"I heard it from Aquila Edavane."
Harry couldn't help but let his jaw go slack. What? Moore sneered up at him in smug contempt, clearly thinking that this new bit of information proved her point. "Yes, Edavane told me all about you and your plot to rid the world of us dirty Mudbloods," she spat, her face contorting into a most ugly expression at the vile word before returning to one of vindictive glee. "I bet you didn't expect to be betrayed by one of your own? But really, what could you expect? You're friends aren't loyal like us Hufflepuffs—"
Harry burst out laughing, he couldn't help it. It wasn't that he thought it particularly funny. The situation was too ridiculous. Moore didn't appreciate being laughed at (who would?) and sat there, glaring hatefully at Harry until he managed to get himself back under control.
"Ahah," he wiped a stray tear from his eye. "Aquila Edavane, you said?'
"Yes," Moore repeated. "She confirmed my fears this morning."
Well that's convenient, I guess."'Confirmed your fears?'" Harry questioned, cocking his head to the side and brushing his stray thought away, storing it in the back of his mind for later.
"Yes. I've been suspicious of you for a while now." It seemed that Moore had no problem divulging all her secrets. Then again, if she really truly did believe with every fiber of her being that Harry was the Heir of Slytherin and had been petrifying students, she probably thought she was going to die soon and saw this as her last confession. It wouldn't be too difficult for her to believe that her current predicament was her last moments in life, especially after a day like today. Being a muggle-born, Moore was well aware of the wars waged in the muggle world. The devastation World War 2 had caused, and was still causing. And having been in the thick of Grindelwald's attack today... It would be much easier for her to delude herself into assuming that now were her final minutes on this earth.
"Why did you suspect me?"
"It's just the way you are. The presence that surrounds you."
"And I suppose the rumors didn't help at all, did they?" Harry asked wryly.
"My sister was only in second year!" Moore snapped suddenly. "She's a good girl, so kind, so sweet, and you hurt her! So I hurt you," she snarled, like a rabid beast, spittle flying from her mouth. It wasn't a pretty sight, and quite frankly, Harry was tiring of the avenging-older-sister face. He was spending much too long down here with Moore; someone—namely Tom—would come looking for him soon, which was something he dearly did not need.
"Tell me about Aquila," he directed. "She told you I'm the one whose been attacking the students?"
"It's not necessary for you give any more than one worded answers. I get it, you hate me. But that's gotten old already, so please, humor me." Once again he was on the receiving end of an incensed glare. "And... The spell... You got it from her as well?" It was a wild guess, but didn't seem entirely impossible.
"Yes," Moore ground out. Harry closed his eyes. Everything was beginning to fall into place. Things were finally starting to make sense. But they did not paint a very pretty picture.
"Did she tell you what the spell would do?"
"No." Thank Merlin. Maybe Aquila didn't know either? Doubtful. Opening his eyes, Harry stared down, meeting vicious brown.
"So, you were suspicious of me, Aquila confirmed your suspicions this morning, told you to perform this spell without telling you what it did, and what? You just did it? Like that? No questions asked, even though Aquila's one of the slimy Slytherins you so despise?"
Moore pursed her lips. "She told me it would show you for what you truly were. It would help my sister get better—"
"Your sister would be fine by now if the bloody school weren't so cheap and ordered a batch of bloody Mandrake drought!" Harry shouted, tired of hearing Moore's excuses. His raised tone seemed to shock her into silence. That, or it was his words. "For Merlin's sake, you stupid, stupid girl. You're sister's neither dead nor dying; she's petrified. She's in a perfectly preserved state and will once again rejoin us in the realm where time continues moving forward once she's had a bit of potion. Whatever spell Edavane had you shoot at me—" Harry wasn't going to admit he knew what it was, "—wouldn't have done a bloody thing!" Bluffing seemed to be his forte that day.
Harry wanted to punch something—preferably Moore's gobsmacked face. Sadly, he couldn't, and so he settled for the next best thing. Using every ounce of his Occlumency training, Harry cleared his mind of all thoughts. In doing so, he helped bring about a meditative state that calmed the swirling tempest of emotions being whipped up within.
"Wh-What are you doing?" Harry couldn't blame the quivering in Moore's voice. Going from hot to cold so quickly never boded well for the person on the receiving end; in this case, Moore. He looked at her, eyes carefully blank, pointed his wand, and murmured one word.
Harry wasn't a master of memory charms like Lockhart. He couldn't take away a single memory that happened years ago, or even a single moment that occurred hours prior. He could only wipe away events in chunks. In the case of Alexandria Moore, he took away Saturday, December eighteenth, nineteen forty-three. Her face was blank as her eyes glazed over—the telltale signs of an Obliviate. In that short span of time, Harry got rid of her bindings and lowered the charms he had on the room.
"Today is Saturday, it's the last day of the term," he said, helping Moore to her feet. People were always more susceptible to whatever they were told in the first minute after their memories had been wiped. "There was an attack on Hogsmeade today by the Dark Lord Grindelwald's forces." They left the room and he led her quickly down the corridor. "You were there, but you fell and hit your head. You blacked out. You remember nothing."
He gave Moore a little push in the direction of her common room and hid, counting silently in his head to three hundred before exiting the alcove where he was stationed.
Harry's footfalls echoed, bouncing off the stone walls as he hurried, deep in thought, back to the Great Hall. What he had heard disturbed him. That Aquila could possibly know... No, knew—because she did know something. But to what extent, Harry wasn't sure. It was bad, that much was obvious. Did she know about how he didn't really belong in this time period, or did she simply think his research was just that. Research.
He could hear his heart pounding in his ears as it beat erratically in his chest. This was not good. It was the worst situation imaginable. Harry felt entirely helpless, breathing heavily through his mouth and he marched speedily through the corridors, pondering his next move.
What could he do?
Everyone was leaving tomorrow. Even most of the students who had originally planned on staying behind in the castle were probably going to change their plans and return home. Doubtless, they wanted to spend time with their families after such a sudden, horrible attack. Aquila had never planned on staying behind in the first place, so the next and only time Harry could confront her would be after the break.
And he would do so.
It would be quick and there would be a lot of Veritaserum involved. Aquila was not like Moore. She wouldn't be persuaded to give out the desired information without some amount of torture actually taking place. She knew Harry wasn't the Heir of Slytherin, so he couldn't scare the information out of her with that angle. He would have to brew the potion over the break. Slughorn would probably notice if some of his stock mysteriously vanished, and Harry wasn't willing to risk it. Veritaserum was much too expensive to buy on its own, and heavily regulated by the Ministry.
Of course, the second sizable problem Harry was faced with was what he would do with Aquila after he found out what she knew. His Obliviate only worked with Moore because she had learned of the information that day. She was approached by Aquila that morning. He hadn't wanted to erase her memory of the whole day, but there wasn't anything else he could do with the timeframe he had and the skill set he possessed. With Aquila... Well, he couldn't just erase her memory for the month of December, now could he? It would be suspicious, even more so than Moore remembering nothing about the Hogsmeade attack. Harry only hoped anyone who did notice simply brushed it off as Moore suppressing memories and didn't push too hard. Or believed her when she said she fell and hit her head. The only problem with Moore's story for anyone who decided to check it out fully (Tom) would be that there weren't any records of her visiting the hospital wing, and Harry didn't care enough about completely solidifying it to risk suspension and suspicion by sneaking into Healer Mitchell's office and falsifying their records.
He gnawed on his lowed lip and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. He needed to calm down. If he entered the Hall as agitated as he was now, he wouldn't even be able to hide his distress from a Gryffindor first-year. And he couldn't have Tom getting any more suspicious than the older boy would be when he found out Moore remembered nothing about the Hogsmeade day. Merlin help the poor girl when that came to light.
Deep breaths, Harry. Deep breaths.
Maybe there was a potion that would make Aquila forget? Or some other spell that was not Obliviate? It would probably be labeled as Dark, of that, Harry was positive. Anything that messed with another's mind generally was. The only reason Obliviate wasn't banned completely was because Aurors needed to be able to use it on muggles who saw something they shouldn't. But even then, ordinary people weren't allowed to just fire off the memory charm whenever fancy took. If anyone ever found out what he did, Harry would probably spend a few months or even a year in Azkaban. He wasn't completely sure on Wizarding Laws, and so the exact amount of time he'd be forced to acquaint himself with the dementors was mainly guesswork on his part. The exact timespan didn't matter, however, because only a day amongst them with no patronus charm to guard against their hunger would surely break his sanity.
So Harry vowed not to get caught.
There was plenty of time to sneakily browse the library and its Restricted Section. If Tom asked, Harry would say he was trying to find the spell used on him. If the older boy made no mention or comment, Harry wouldn't bring it to his attention. Either way, the Yule holidays were beginning to look like they wouldn't be much of a holiday at all.
And that was the price Harry would pay for his secrecy.
He finally took in his surroundings and Harry noticed he was back in the entrance hall. He paused and took a final few steadying breaths before schooling his features into blank neutrality and striding back into the dining room. There were less people than there were before he left. It seemed more students had voted to return to their common rooms instead of staying in the Great Hall to gossip and nibble on the snacks the house elves provided for the shell-shocked children. Or it could be that those who hadn't left felt safer in a larger group. Harry didn't know, nor did he care.
He made a beeline for the Slytherin table, whose occupants looked less shaken, yet still fearful all the same. As he approached his friends, Abraxas looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"That took a while."
Harry shrugged half-heartedly and slid into the open seat next to Dmitry. "He had a lot of questions." Lie; lie through your teeth. "I think he was trying to discern my state of mind. Since being hit by weird glowing ball-things tend to cause dramatic breakdowns in unfortunate cases such as mine."
Abraxas hummed and went back to talking about how he thought he'd done on his exams.
Harry's eyes drifted lazily down the table and halted on a head of strawberry blonde curls. The owner was deep in conversation with those around her and didn't see Harry's gaze harden. Didn't see the bone-chilling stare that promised retribution and demanded answers. If she had, she surely would have become a blubbering mess and left Hogwarts, and maybe even England, for good.
AN: Sorry for any mistakes in the chapter. I edited it kind of quickly. I hope you liked it! Also, thank you to everyone who reviewed. It helped me get this chapter out quicker than I thought I'd be able to.