Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice; but for those who love, time is eternity - Henry Van Dyke
By evening, the spare room was cleaned and ready, Harry had eaten (a little), and Heather Louise had insisted he spent the night. Even though he had nowhere else to go, he still protested that she didn’t have to put up hospitality for him, but she found his hesitation amusing, and assured him (more than once) that she was happy to put him up until his headmaster (or whoever) turned up.
Something about Harry had intrigued Heather Louise, but she couldn’t quite work out what. In a way, he reminded her of herself when she was a child… but she couldn’t explain why she was so interested in the boy’s situation.
It certainly wasn’t bad, Harry thought, watching the light from the cars on the bedroom walls. The bed was comfortable; the room was spacey and neatly furnished. Heather Louise certainly wasn’t a bad cook either, although Harry hadn’t had the appetite to eat much.
He sighed and rolled over under the sheets. She’d asked him tentatively about his parents, and he’d repeated what the Dursleys had told him for ten years, and showed her his scar, but nothing else. She seemed very nice, and definitely trusted him. She was pretty too – long, auburn waves and deep brown eyes. Her manners and the way she moved reminded him of someone, although for the life of him he couldn’t think who.
It was a little past midnight. Harry wondered who Dumbledore was sending to get him – although Dumbledore had said he himself would come. Did he mean it? Was he coming with someone else from the Order? Harry shook himself mentally – he didn’t know why he was obsessing. In spite of everything Dumbledore had said in his last letter, he had lied to Harry, he had abandoned him and he had ignored him for a whole year. Harry was hurt and certainly not ready to see him again – although if his headmaster turned up dressed as a Muggle it might be worth it. Harry couldn’t help sniggering slightly at this thought. He just hoped whoever came would be better at appearances than the wizards at the Quidditch World Cup…
When Harry woke, he was in an unfamiliar bed in darkness. As he lay still, his arms for some reason over his head, the events of the previous day came to him. He closed his eyes again and tried to go back to sleep, but he felt dizzy, and… *What?*
Harry leaned up on one elbow. His hair felt wet. He looked at the pillow, and saw, even in the dim light, a mass of dark stains.
Harry fumbled for his wand, then remembered he didn’t have it. He felt the lamp on the bedside table and switched it on.
It was a mess. His pillow was unevenly coated in blood. There was some on his sheets and pyjamas as well. Harry realized he had been tossing and turning in his sleep, getting it everywhere. It didn’t take long to locate the source.
It wasn’t his lines.
On the insides of both his wrists were deep slashes, as if someone had swiped at them with a blade. They looked fresh and were bleeding profusely. Harry scrambled out of bed, trying not to get blood anywhere else. He immediately, swayed and grasped the headboard. He had stood up too quick and was losing blood fast.
Harry didn’t know how he managed to get into the bathroom. He ran his wrists under cold water, hoping it would stall the bleeding, but started to feel dangerously light-headed. Abandoning that plan, he pressed them together into a folded towel, squeezed between his knees. After an agonizingly long time, the bleeding seemed to slow and Harry borrowed two handkerchiefs from a pile of clean laundry and somehow managed to tie one round each wrist. Exhausted and still feeling dizzy, he ran the cold bath tap and tried to clean the blood out of the towels, sheets and pillowcase. He soon discovered that cold water was not the best option, but he didn’t dare run the hot, should the noise of the boiler cutting in wake Heather Louise. He kept emptying and refilling the bath, and finally managed to get everything reasonably clean. He wrung it all out as best he could and hung it out in the airing cupboard, hoping Heather Louise wouldn’t notice next day.
Harry didn’t dare go back to sleep after that. He found some clean bedclothes and successfully changed them, but sat up in bed, reading one of the Muggle stories from the landing bookcase, and praying silently for help. By morning, he had resolved to tell Dumbledore everything, despite their conflict. Harry knew he needed help now, and, painful as it was to admit, Dumbledore was the best person to ask.
Despite his resolution, Harry slipped into a sleep around dawn, and was awoken by Heather Louise coming in. He quickly shoved his hands under the quilt, and crossed his fingers.
“Morning, Harry. Sleep well?”
“Okay,” he lied. Heather Louise scrutinized him closely.
“You don’t look very well. Are you feeling alright?”
Harry nodded but was overcome by a fit of coughing. Heather Louise frowned and moved forwards, placing a hand on his forehead before he could jerk away.
“Liar. You’re not at all well. You’re really hot; I think you’ve got a fever.”
Harry started to protest, but she noticed him shivering and pulled the covers around him properly.
“You’re staying in bed today, Harry. No buts,” she added as he opened his mouth. “When your teacher comes, you can both stay until you’re well enough to travel.”
Harry gave up protesting and lay back as Heather Louise smoothed the covers like Mrs Weasley did. Harry realized he did feel ill; and although he didn’t like the fussing, staying in bed didn’t sound such a bad thing.
Heather Louise was really kind to him all day; she fixed him a special breakfast of fruit and a pancake when he said he couldn’t eat much, and finding ways for him to amuse himself. Harry didn’t feel any better by lunchtime, and when Heather Louise took his temperature, she saw it had gone up even more. She instructed him gently but firmly to rest, and left him in peace.
Harry was scared to sleep, but eventually he felt his eyes closing, despite his valiant efforts to keep them open. When Heather Louise came to check on him, she found him in a peaceful slumber, and left him to it; moving down to the living-room with plans to sort through unpaid bills.
The bills were hardly interesting enough to keep her awake, and Heather Louise didn’t realize she’d fallen asleep till she was rudely awoken. Whoever was barking enough to call at this time of night had their finger on the doorbell a lot longer than was strictly necessary. They’d wake Harry up if they weren’t careful… Heather Louise was normally a patient woman, but she always tended to be short tempered in the evenings when she was tired, and the stranger had interrupted her sleep, so when she answered the door it was rather more aggressively than usual. As she pulled the door open and growled “Yes?” both she and the stranger on the doorstep jumped from shock.
The man on the doorstep had jumped at the sudden, unfriendly greeting. Heather Louise jumped because she had never seen a more bizarre appearance.
He was tall, thin, and very old, with long silver hair and beard. He had a kind face which was temporarily in an expression of surprise. Behind half-moon glasses he had very friendly blue eyes… they seemed to twinkle even in the dim light and Heather Louise was sure she’d seen them before somewhere… but she was just as sure she’d have remembered this man if she’d seen him. He was wearing jeans, a blue shirt, trainers, a beige jacket and a waterproof coat. The clothes would have looked perfectly ordinary, had they not been on this man – but his features made Heather Louise think of Merlin, or Gandalf… the modern clothes contrasted strongly.
“I’m so sorry… I don’t normally get people calling at this time. Can I help you?”
“Heather Louise Thrapp?”
“Yes,” she replied, her impatience retreating.
“Albus Dumbledore.” He held out a hand and Heather Louise shook it. “Do you have a Harry Potter in residence?”
The first thought that struck her was that Harry had either lied, or this stranger had got the name wrong. Or he was after another boy altogether, but he knew her name, and it was highly unlikely to be a coincidence.
The second thought was that she had an odd feeling she’d heard the name Harry Potter before. Maybe Harry had mentioned it, and she’d forgotten? Also unlikely, but possible…
The last, and hardest to shake off, was the mixed thoughts Albus Dumbledore caused. The feeling that she’d seen his eyes before hadn’t gone away, and there was something oddly familiar about the rest of him too. From the odd way he was surveying her, he was feeling something of the same sort.
“I have a Harry Evans,” she said bluntly, pulling herself together. Albus Dumbledore chuckled.
“I should have guessed. May I…”
“Oh, of course; come in!” Dumbledore was standing in the porch and therefore avoiding the rain, but it was still a pretty cold night, despite the time of year.
He stepped into the hall and Heather Louise shut the door behind him and took his coat. She noticed, but didn’t think about the fact that the raincoat was bone dry, despite the drizzle outside…
“Where is Harry?” Dumbledore asked as she forced the hall cupboard door shut.
“He’s asleep upstairs. You must be his teacher, am I right?”
“I am indeed. I hope he hasn’t been any trouble?” the man asked anxiously.
One thing Harry wasn’t aware of was that Heather Louise, besides his best efforts, had noticed what he was so desperately trying to hide from her.
“Not exactly,” Heather Louise bit her lip, “but I think there are a couple of things you should know.”
A spasm of fear flitted across Dumbledore’s face.
“I don’t know who is responsible for Harry, and I know it isn’t any of my business…”
Heather Louise led him into the living room and they both sat down.
“I’m sorry if I seem rude. But Harry has told me a bit of what his life has been like, and I was shocked. I mean, he mostly lives at a boarding school, and yet I’ve gathered that no-one realized how unhappy he was at home! I know it’s nothing to do with me but -”
Dumbledore held up a hand and she fell silent.
“Miss Thrapp, I honestly appreciate your concern, but I am afraid you do not know the full picture.”
“I know, I’m only saying -”
“Please, Miss Thrapp, listen to me. There are valid reasons why Harry has had to stay at his relatives’ during the school holidays, and I take full responsibility – as I told Harry not long ago.” For a moment a shadow seemed to pass over his face, but he shook it off and continued. “The reasons are very difficult to explain, and I won’t betray Harry’s privacy in revealing them; but I will say that even though we knew it was bad at Harry’s, we didn’t know the full picture, like you said. I’m hoping to be able to set up an alternative arrangement with Harry as soon as possible – that is, if he listens to me for long enough.” Dumbledore gave a weak smile, but Heather Louise got the impression he knew that Harry was less than happy with him, and now she was beginning to see why. But still, even if the man was responsible for Harry’s home life, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for Dumbledore. Unless he was an extremely good actor, he seemed to genuinely regret what he’d done.
Silence fell for a moment, and then Heather Louise said quietly, “I think there’s something you should see, Mr Dumbledore.”
She led him quietly upstairs, and entered the spare room. Harry was lying on his front with one arm up over his head, and the other hanging off the bed. The bloody handkerchiefs were in full view.
Dumbledore gasped quietly when he saw them. He moved forwards swiftly and gently eased one half-off Harry’s wrist to see how bad it was.
He looked down at Harry in horror, then turned back to Heather Louise.
“They were like that today. Last night I thought I heard someone in the bathroom, but I didn’t look. I swear they weren’t like that yesterday. I don’t think he knows I noticed.”
Harry stirred, and Dumbledore eased the makeshift bandage back onto Harry’s wrist.
“Miss Thrapp, do you have a first-aid kit?”
Heather Louise nodded. “Somewhere. I’ll try and find it…” she hesitated. “Do you want a cup of tea?”
Dumbledore stared at her.
“Okay, bad idea,” she mumbled and hurried out of the room.
After dropping a considerable amount of boxes and other items over the bathroom carpet (who knew a medicine cabinet could hold so much?) Heather Louise realized the first-aid kit was not there. Muttering rude words under her breath, she hurried to pick everything up and went back to the spare room.
Harry was curled up, the covers twisted around him, sobbing quietly into the pillow. She started forward, but stopped herself: Dumbledore was there beside him, gently caressing Harry’s face, speaking to him softly so Heather Louise couldn’t hear. Harry was becoming quieter, more relaxed; Dumbledore seemed to be handling the situation alright on his own. However, concern and plain curiosity held her back, so she hovered in the doorway, watching the scene.
It was really quite touching, Heather Louise thought, watching the old man and the young boy. The latter had stopped crying and become still, but for some reason Dumbledore hadn’t stopped holding him. Heather Louise had a shrewd suspicion that he didn’t want to. He was looking down at the boy with a mixture of emotions on his face – pain, guilt… love. He moved his hand to Harry’s, and suddenly let out an exclamation, making Heather Louise jump and Harry stir.
There was a dark red stain on the sheets.
Dumbledore ripped back the covers. Harry’s right hand was close against his t-shirt. Deep cuts adorned the skin, weeping blood. Dumbledore looked sick. Heather Louise moved closer, and her heart turned to ice when she saw what the wound spelled.
“Harry,” Dumbledore said shakily, “Harry, wake up!”
Harry murmured and turned his head, a frown appearing on his face.
“Harry, you need to wake up. Come on,”
Dumbledore shook Harry gently. Heather Louise didn’t know whether to call for an ambulance or try and help.
“I didn’ doi,” Harry said to his pillow.
“Harry. Wake up,”
He was being tried in front of the Wizengamot. The faceless judge was accusing him of murdering Sirius Black.
“No!” Harry said, though no-one was listening to him.
The court broke into muttering. The words “saving-people-thing” rang in the room. People stared at him; people he knew. Ron and Hermione were there; they shook their heads at him, saying, “Sorry Harry, it’s for your own good.” Rita Skeeter was sitting in a corner, scribbling down the trial. Umbridge was smirking. Sirius was there. As Harry turned to greet him, he shook his head and said, “I’m sorry, Harry…”
“I didn’t!” Harry cried. “I didn’t kill you, it was Bellatrix! Why won’t you help me?”
“You’re own your own, Harry.”
“I didn’t do it,” Harry whispered.
He turned to the last member of the jury.
“Professor Dumbledore,” he said, his voice shaking, “please help me…”
The headmaster surveyed him with his blue eyes.
“Harry… Harry, wake up.”
“What could I do, Harry? The prophecy sets you apart. You need to walk life on your own. I cannot help you.”
“But you can! You did last year…”
“Harry, you need to wake up. Come on,”
Dumbledore merely smiled and turned his back on Harry.
The judge pointed. Harry turned. Where his chair had been there was now an archway with a flickering veil.
“I DIDN’T DO IT!”
“Harry. Wake up.”
Before Harry could do anything, someone pushed him from behind. He fell through the archway, darkness pressing in on all sides…
He opened his eyes blearily.
It was still dark – he hadn’t been asleep long. He could hear muttering in the room. He raised his left hand and rubbed his eyes sleepily.
There was a click, and light suddenly blared in front of his eyes.
“Sorry! I always forget to turn it down first.”
The speaker was Heather Louise. Harry, who could see only coloured lights for a few minutes, mumbled, “What’s going on?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” replied a familiar voice.
“P-Professor Dumbledore?” Harry stammered. “Is that you?”
“I was last time I looked,” the headmaster chuckled before turning serious again. “Now Harry, may I ask you about this?”
He held up Harry’s hand. The words Umbridge had forced him to engrave in his skin were gleaming with blood. Harry gasped.
“You don’t know how this happened?”
“N-no,” Harry said. “Only that I’ve always been asleep when -”
“Always been asleep? You mean this has happened before???”
“Um, yes sir.”
For a moment Dumbledore looked as if he might blow up. Heather Louise actually took a step backwards.
“And,” he carried on, after having regained himself, “you never thought to inform someone?”
*I’m really in for it now* Harry shook his head and waited for the explosion.
It never came.
“Miss Thrapp,” the headmaster said in a voice of forced calm, “did you find that first aid kit?”
“Er, no. I’ll try again.” Heather Louise left the room.
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled.
Dumbledore shut the door and took out his wand.
“I’m not angry, Harry.”
He took Harry’s bleeding hand in his and gently pulled off the bloody handkerchief. Harry winced.
“Um, sir, it’s not how it looks… those appeared just like the lines.”
Dumbledore looked at him intensely. “When?”
“Um… last night, I think.”
Dumbledore began to mutter incantations. It didn’t have an effect, and this seemed to unnerve him.
“Professor?” Harry asked.
“Will you have to modify her memories?”
Dumbledore paused, apparently thinking hard. At last he said, “I hope not Harry, but sometimes it is unavoidable. I think we’re just going to have to hope she doesn’t notice anything else. If not, we might be able to get away with it.”
Harry nodded, not convinced.
They could hear Heather Louise rummaging about in the bathroom next door. Dumbledore looked more and more worried as spell after spell didn’t work on the wounds. In the end he put his wand away, muttering what Harry strongly suspected were rude words under his breath.
“Professor?” Harry asked. “Why won’t it work?”
Dumbledore visibly bit his lip. For a moment he hesitated before replying, “I have a hunch… but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.”
That didn’t tell Harry much, but he didn’t have a chance to ask anything else – Heather Louise re-entered the room with a box.
“Sorry it took so long,” she panted. “That’ll teach me to pile things up…”
Her hands trembled as she found a clean bandage and lotions in the box. “It’s not much…”
“It will suffice.” Dumbledore took the items and turned back to Harry’s hand. The cut had stopped bleeding now, but the wound was still raw. Heather Louise left the room again.
“Harry, this will probably sting.”
It did. Harry gritted his teeth – after all, it was no worse than anything he’d had to endure under Madam Pomfrey, and a lot better than most of them.
Despite the sting, Harry felt much calmer. Dumbledore’s touch was gentle and somehow soothing. Harry leaned back against the bedroom wall, watching him.
We have a lot of things that need to be discussed.
Harry knew it would be about the prophecy. He wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it right now; which was strange, because the last few nights when he’d been lying awake, he’d been wishing there was someone he could talk to. He hadn’t talked to Ron or Hermione since he’d got off the Hogwarts Express. He was lonely, and miserable. Harry caught Dumbledore’s eye – he at least knew something of what he was going through. Harry thought of the continuous apology inside the letter back at Privet Drive. He didn’t know what to think. Dumbledore had practically abandoned him – three times! This made him think of his dream. *At least the real-life Dumbledore tried, and had good intentions,* the forgiving side of Harry argued. *That’s got to count for something.* Harry shuddered, remembering the way dream Dumbledore had turned his back on him.
“About the other day…”
Harry opened his mouth, and closed it again. Dumbledore finished Harry’s hand and turned to the other. Harry winced slightly as his elbow twinged.
“Does that hurt?”
“Ouch – yeah. I fell on it three days ago.”
Dumbledore shot him a look of exasperation, and pulled out his wand again.
Bad timing. Heather Louise re-entered just as Dumbledore murmured the spell. Harry heard her gasp as his pain disappeared.
“What just happened?”
“Er…” Harry looked desperately at his headmaster for help, but Dumbledore looked resigned. He cast Harry a "Sorry but it’s inevitable now" look and pointed his wand towards her.
Heather Louise, however, had other ideas. Seeing the movement, her eyes narrowed and she almost snarled, “If you’re thinking of Obliviating my memories then you’ve got another think coming, Mr Dumbledore.”
Write a Review Chameleon I: Emeralds and Green Light: Of Magic and Memories