Akirina: Hi all, I know I haven't been punctual on my updates. But anyways, here is the new chapter. Hopefully, I didn't do too dreadfully... I might be facing a little author's block at the moment. And much of my time is being taken up by my part time job. Thankfully, I'll only be working until end of this month. Well, enjoy!
Chapter 20: Excuse
"Did you hear what happened to Lee Jordan?"
"Heard that he was bitten by a snake… Absolutely terrible news…"
"They say Icarius Pollock is taking over Lee Jordan's commentator position for this Saturday's Quidditch match…"
"I think it was a Slytherin who wanted revenge… Snakes are the symbol of their house, aren't they…"
November approached with its dull grey weather, heralding the approach of winter. The Quidditch season was starting that week with a match between the two rival Houses, Slytherin and Gryffindor. Lee Jordan was still stuck in the Hospital Wing, under Madam Pomfrey's care. He was cured from the Boomslang's bite, but Madam Pomfrey thought that he could do with a bit more rest after the dreadful ordeal.
Lee was dealing fine with the fact that he had nearly died from a Boomslang's bite. He was a little shaky but he was in good spirits, especially with the Weasley twins daily visiting him with new pranks to plan and goods from the kitchens.
Harry had been fully interrogated by Snape during the privacy of their Occlumency lessons and Harry had tried to answer to the best of his abilities. He could not reveal too much, but what little he could tell Snape, he did.
Hermione, Ron and Neville had taken a little more trouble to deal with. Hermione was clearly scared by the prospect of someone nearly getting killed and the three of them were asking Harry to explain the situation more clearly to them.
Harry was forced to omit bits of his explanation that would obviously show the bits of information from the future. He had nearly given it away when Ron asked about Quirrell. It seemed that Ron was developing some suspicions about Quirrell for he had asked about getting Quirrell to prove that it wasn't he who had attacked Lee.
§Harry,§ Addy slid out from under his blankets. §What are you worrying about?§
§What do I do, Addy?§ Harry asked. §Voldemort's plans are clearly changing. He's attacked Lee Jordan, someone who doesn't have anything to do with me and he's planning to attack Neville and the rest!§
He had thought much about the vision that he had received and it was clear to him that Voldemort was after Neville. Neville was the next candidate of the prophecy so it was obvious that Voldemort's next target was him.
Addy thought for a bit, §Well, I can't say that it isn't unexpected. You know that whatever you've been doing would have affected the future sooner or later.§
§I didn't think it would affect the future this quickly!§ Harry muttered. §I thought I still had some time before the Butterfly effect started…§
§What will you do now?§ Addy asked. §He'll aim for your friends during the Quidditch match.§
§No, that's not determined yet.§ Harry said, §I had another vision about the Quidditch match. It was the Weasley twins who were hurt in this one.§
§The Weasley twins?§ Addy hissed in surprise. §What do they have to do with anything at all?§
§No idea.§ Harry replied. §I'm thinking that I'll have to come up with a reason to excuse myself from the Quidditch match… I can't go on the broomstick, not without knowing that my friends will be safe for the time being. I had planned to allow events to proceed as they were, but seeing as how he is attacking other blatantly…§
§It makes one wonder why he attacked the boy at all.§ Addy grumbled. §Where are your friends?§
§They're meeting with the students who have karate lessons with me to tell them that we have to reschedule our karate lessons. I'm going to be busy for the next few days.§ Harry replied absently as he thought over Addy's reply. Something in his gut had twisted when she wondered about Voldemort's motives for attacking Lee Jordan.
§I've got it!§ Harry leapt up. He was furious with himself, how could he not have thought about this earlier? It was obvious—too obvious why Lee Jordan would be attacked. Lee Jordan must have seen or heard something that would reveal the truth that Voldemort was Quirrell! And Voldemort had taken the fact that Slytherins and Gryffindors were hostile towards each other to place the blame on the Slytherins!
It was well thought that Harry was stunned that Voldemort had succeeded. Just the two Houses' hostility towards each other could allow Voldemort to get away with attacking a student that would have suspected him.
§What is it, Harry?§ Addy asked in concern.
§It's Voldemort, don't you see?§ Harry quickly explained what he had come up with to Addy. She hissed in agreement.
§I must ask Madam Pomfrey to check for an Obliviate charm on Lee Jordan.§ Harry muttered. "With this, surely Dumbledore can remove Quirrell from Hogwarts. It's much too dangerous for Quirrell to continue being here."
"Harry?" Neville popped his head into the dormitory room. "Ron and Hermione are back. Do you want to do Transfiguration homework with us?"
Harry stopped, staring at Neville for a moment before he shook his head. "I finished it earlier this week. Do you need help with it?"
Neville gnawed at his lip, "Well, it'd be nice to have you with us, you know. You do explanations better than Hermione, so it's easier to understand after you've explained things to Ron and I. Besides, Hermione likes talking to you about the more complex parts of Transfiguration when we're writing…"
Harry grinned at that. "I understand. I'll come down in a moment. Let me get my books first."
"Sure," Neville seemed to sigh in relief. "Oh yeah, Oliver Wood told me to tell you that he has arranged a practice session for tomorrow."
"Yeah, I know. Thank, Nev," Harry replied as he dug his books out from his bag. What was Ollie thinking, arranging a practice session before the Big Day? It would tire the players out and it was no doubt useless as they were already quite well prepared for the match.
The only problem was that Harry had to find a replacement so that he could prevent Quirrell from hurting anyone. The question was who was the most suitable for a replacement Seeker?
Maybe the Weasley twins would have some suggestions.
"Fred, George," Harry greeted the team's two Beaters as he slid into a seat next to them. His year mates threw him slightly curious looks but they settled themselves further them the table. The Weasley twins had chosen to seat themselves near the end of the House table, which was a good thing since Harry wanted to speak to them in private. With a flick of his wand, Harry set up privacy wards.
"Hello, Harry," the twins replied in unison.
"What are you doing here—"
"—don't you have your little friends to seat with?"
"I might ask the same of you," Harry replied smoothly as he scooped mashed potatoes onto his plate. "How is Lee, anyway?"
"—Just a little under weather." The twins replied cheerfully enough. "Thanks to you."
"We never to thank you for helping our friend—"
"—so belated thanks for saving Lee Jordan." They finished.
Harry swallowed the steak he was chewing before he replied. "No problem. Now, I need some help."
The twins narrowed their eyes at him.
"We'll be glad to be of help—"
"—just state what you need."
"I can't make it to Saturday's match." Harry stated, watching as the Weasley twins stared at him in shock.
"You can't mean it—"
"—How are we going to play without you?"
"That's my problem, actually," Harry started on his vegetables. "I need to know whether there is anyone in the House who is good enough at Quidditch and who has clearly been practicing at it."
The twins exchanged looks with each other. "It's not that there isn't—" "—but there isn't anyone who is as good as you. No one to guarantee victory as well as you do."
Harry nodded, "I understand," he answered. "But I really can't make it for the Quidditch match. I have a… pressing appointment."
"We'll get back to you about it." One of them finally replied. "But you're telling Oliver this yourself."
"Of course," Harry nodded at them as he stood up, "Thank you."
"There has to be some reasonable excuse I can give Oliver for not being able to participate in the Quidditch match…" Harry mumbled as he entered the empty dormitories after a long day of lessons.
§Harry, I have an idea about the excuse that you can give for skipping the match.§ Addy came to his rescue as she slithered out from a corner of the room. Harry blinked.
§Where did you come from, Addy?§ Harry asked.
§There is a hidden alcove in that corner,§ Addy replied, nodding her head towards the dark corner. §I found it earlier. It seems as if no one has gone there for a long time. It's very dusty.§
"It must be because my bed is blocking sight of it…" Harry murmured to himself, "I bet there's some sort of illusion too…"
§What excuse did you think up of?§ He asked.
§Broken arm.§ Addy replied. §You can pretend that you have a broken arm.§
Harry frowned. Even if he did so, he would not be able to sneak it past Madam Pomfrey. Anyway, a broken arm could be healed with a wave of a wand, so how would that help him? Shaking his head at Addy, he rejected the idea. He crossed over to his bed to dump his bag on the covers and pulled some books out of his trunk. He had to finish reading the theory on Animagus transformations so that he could begin his lessons as soon as possible.
His thoughts wandered back to the subject of thinking up of an excuse for missing the Quidditch match. He was deep in his thoughts as he left the room so he missed the dark figure that slipped out behind him. He failed to notice that the door had not clicked shut when he started towards the staircase.
It was only when he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise up that he realized that something was wrong. Harry started to turn around. However, to his shock he found out that his feet were tightly bound together. He started to overbalance and his mind blanked out in surprise. He had never seen any incident like this happening in his future!
As the stone steps grew larger in his vision, Harry regained his wits to cast a levitating charm on himself. He almost thought that it had not worked and held out a hand to stop himself from colliding with the floor and felt a sharp pain race threw his arm and leg. Then the world turned black.
White walls, white bed sheets… He was in the Hospital Wing. Harry squinted at the bright sun light flooding through windows as he sat up. Why was he here? What had happened? Then he remembered. Addy had tripped him and he had fell down the stairs. Someone must have called Professor McGonagall, for he could not remember anything after that.
Why had Addy done that? Harry scrunched his brows together in frustration. While it had certainly landed him in the Hospital Wing, it would not guarantee him leave from the Quidditch match.
"Well, Mr. Potter, you're finally awake!" Madam Pomfrey bustled into the Hospital Wing. "You gave your friends a nasty shock when you tumbled down the stairs like that."
"Madam Pomfrey," Harry greeted as he watched her levitate a tray of food over to him. "What time is it?"
"Oh, child," Madam Pomfrey frowned at him. "You're not planning to go to class in that state, are you? Granted, the broken arm and leg were easily cured but I'll not have a patient return to his lessons unless he is fully rested. I bet you tripped in your state of tiredness and fell down the stairs!"
"But—" Harry started out of habit before he stopped and gaped at her. Addy's stunt actually worked? They were actually buying the story that he had 'collapsed' down the stairs in his 'state of exhaustion'?
"No buts, child," Madam Pomfrey wagged her finger at him. "Now, you're to be excused from that Quidditch match as well. No strenuous exercise until I deem you recovered. And that means you're to stay here until I see fit."
Harry looked down to keep up his act. He had his excuse to miss the Quidditch match, but he was to be kept in the Hospital Wing until the Quidditch match was over. What fun, he thought drily. Well, he could get the others to take notes for him and his homework.
As Harry finished his lunch—it was already afternoon, he discovered—Oliver Wood came into the Hospital Wing with his three friends.
Oliver looked unhappy as he stopped in front of Harry's bed. He studied Harry carefully before he spoke, "Harry, are you alright? Madam Pomfrey says you're not to participate in the Quidditch match." Oliver scowled.
"I'm fine, Ollie." Harry reassured him, "Just tired, that's all."
"And he's staying in here until I deem him ready to leave," Madam Pomfrey declared firmly as she entered the infirmary and removed the tray from Harry.
Oliver scowled even harder but he left the subject alone. "We've found a replacement Seeker, anyway." He told Harry. "Ian McPhil is playing since he was the previous reserve Seeker. We haven't found a reserve Seeker, but if he does well for this match, I'll make him the reserve."
"That's good," Harry murmured. Oliver nodded and his scowl eased.
"Get some rest, Potter," he told the Seeker and left the infirmary.
Neville, Ron and Hermione came forward then, handing his notes and homework for him from the morning lessons to complete. Harry was relieved that he knew most of what had been taught, so it wasn't going to be a struggle for him to catch up with his lessons.
Neville was worried for the upcoming Potions lesson as that would mean that he would be getting into a lot of trouble with Professor Snape. Harry was the one who usually stopped him from making mistakes, so what was going to happen if Harry was not there?
Neville shuddered to think of the outcome.
"Longbottom, since your partner isn't here, you'll be working alone." Snape sneered at the frightened boy, "Surely you can manage one hour without him?"
"Y-yes, Professor." Neville trembled slightly.
Snape swept away from the boy, pointing his wand at the board. "You'll be doing the Cure for Boils today. Make sure that you add the porcupine quills after you've put the cauldron aside to cool."
Neville scrambled to write the instructions down, praying that he would not make a mistake for the entire lesson.
"Oh my, what happened to Mr. Longbottom?"
Harry was jolted from his afternoon doze as the doors to the Hospital Wing opened. He groped for his spectacles—they had not survived the accident but Hermione had repaired them—and put them on, turning towards the newcomers.
Dean Thomas was holding Neville, who was moaning. Harry noticed with a start that Neville had erupted in boils and remembered the incident that Neville was supposed to have for the first Potions lesson. They had been doing the Boil-Cure Potion then… They hadn't done that potion for the Potions lesson, much to his surprise. Instead, they had concocted the antidote for common poisons instead.
"Malfoy threw porcupine quills into Neville's cauldron when Neville was took it off the fire. Since it wasn't cooled, the potion exploded and Neville was the victim of the whole prank." Dean told her as she levitated to an infirmary bed.
"I see," Madam Pomfrey started to gather potions for Neville. "Go on back to class, Mr. Thomas. I'll deal with Neville's injury."
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," Dean quickly retreated.
Harry seethed at the news of Neville being ambushed by Draco. He had warned the blonde that if he picked on Neville again, he would seek revenge. Granted, Draco had to meet the expectations of his House, so he knew that Draco could not put off ambushing Gryffindors for long. So it was not unexpected that Neville would get hurt sooner or later. Harry just wished that Draco would realize that he had a choice; he could change his Housemates' views if he tried hard enough. Harry had seen that in a possible future.
"How is he, Madam Pomfrey?" Harry forced out as he watched Madam Pomfrey administer Neville with potions and salves.
"Well, he might have to stay here for a day. These boils are not going to go down any time soon… I'll need to drain them and then administer the Healing salve again…" Madam Pomfrey answered. "He'll be fine by tomorrow, I believe."
Harry sighed. At least Neville would be out of danger, he thought. The only ones who were in danger were the Weasley twins, Ron and Hermione. Maybe Oliver, if he started to suspect Quirrell. Speaking of the Weasley twins, their friend, Lee Jordan…
"Madam Pomfrey, where's Lee? I haven't seen him ever since I woke up." Harry inquired.
"Mr. Jordan?" Madam Pomfrey turned to stare at him as she finished applying the salve to Neville's boils. "He was discharged this morning. I determined him fit enough to leave the Hospital Wing and he took off happily enough.
"Now, talking about Mr. Jordan, Mr. Potter, I'll have to ask you how did you know that he was bitten by a Boomslang?" Madam Pomfrey asked as she screwed the lid of a jar tightly back and carried the bottles back to her cupboard.
"I thought Dumbledore would have had mentioned it to you…" Harry muttered. "I'm a Seer."
Madam Pomfrey stared at him in disbelief. "A Seer? Goodness, I haven't—A Seer, truly? Not like a fraud like Sybil Trelawney?"
Harry scoffed. "No, she's a prophet. She's not a Seer."
"I don't see the difference."
"Never mind," Harry quickly interjected, "Madam Pomfrey, did you check Lee Jordan for any signs of the Obliviate charm?"
"The Obliviate charm?" Madam Pomfrey looked confused. "No, I didn't think I would need to check whether he had been Obliviated. The child was bit by a snake—a Boomslang, at that—why would I need to check him for an Obliviate charm?"
Harry sighed and shook his head, turning away. It would do him no good to ask Madam Pomfrey to call Lee Jordan back. The boy would never be willing to come into the Hospital Wing. He didn't want to reveal his Seer abilities to anyone else, either.
"It's nothing, Madam Pomfrey," Harry dismissed the issue and turned to look at Neville, who was resting fitfully now. He idly wondered what punishment Snape would come up with for the both of them.
"Oh, Neville," Hermione anxiously tugged at her book strap as she entered the infirmary with Ron. "Professor Snape says that you and Harry are to turn up for detention next Monday. He wants a forty inch essay on the importance of adding the porcupine quills to the potion after it has cooled."
"The git even took twenty points away because Neville's cauldron blew up." Ron grumbled as he sat between Harry's and Neville's beds.
"That's not nice, Ron," Harry pointed out as he scratched something out on his parchment. Neville had paled at the news Hermione brought.
"Gran will be displeased to learn that I've blown up my first cauldron. I was hoping that Potions would pass without any mishaps…" Neville mumbled to himself.
Harry put his parchment and quill, seemingly done with his work. "Nev," he started, "I'm giving you Potions lessons every Sunday morning. Don't you think you're improving?"
"No offense, Harry," Neville replied, "But I freeze up every time I see Professor Snape. I can't work with him breathing down my neck."
"You're improving in Potions, though," Harry pointed out. "I bet you'll know the answer if I asked you what are the dangers of adding porcupine quills to any warm solutions."
"Well, an explosion, from what happened this afternoon," Neville muttered. "But an explosion is really the mildest consequence. If the potion was brewed badly, the explosion may cause a crater to form and the brewer and any others in the region may be harmed as the potion will cause magical burns. Magical burns are resistant to any form of magical treatment and in some cases, they may worsen if healing charms are attempted. The patient will have to endure a full month of torture before the burns heal completely."
"There," Harry pointed out triumphantly. "You just proved yourself wrong."
Neville looked stunned and even Hermione was staring at him in shock. A few months ago, Neville couldn't even remember what a bezoar was and he couldn't answer a simple question about the importance of adding potion ingredients at the specific timings. And now, he was able to answer a difficult question about porcupine quills. Even Hermione didn't know that magical burns could result from a bad explosion from a badly made potion.
"I-I suppose you're right, Harry," Neville whispered in disbelief. Then he broke out into a relieved grin. "I suppose all I need to work on is my self confidence, huh."
Ron laughed, "No joke, mate!" He clapped Neville on the shoulder and apologized when Neville cringed in pain for the badly-done potion had managed to splatter on the shoulder that Ron had hit. Hermione started to scold Ron, who mumbled apologies under his breath—to no one now—just to stop Hermione from admonishing him like a kid.
Harry watched him from his position in bed, knowing that this was one thing that he would never allow no one—not even Voldemort or Fate—to take away from him.