Chapter Two: New Discoveries
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed chapter one! This chapter has been recently edited as well, so hopefully it will be easier to read. Thank you for all of your feedback, and please remember to leave a review!
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling, excluding the plot.
“Harry. Harry! Come on, wake up mate!” Two warm hands were roughly shaking Harry out of his slumber, gripping his shoulders tightly.
“Do you take pride in dislocating my shoulders, Ron?” Harry said in a muffled voice, pulling the covers up over his head.
“Sorry, but I really want to get to breakfast and I didn’t want to leave you here, or go alone, for that matter.” Ron said, a hint of pleading in his voice.
“Okay, fine, I’m up. Just give me a minute.” Harry mumbled as he slowly swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. “What time is it anyway?” he asked.
“You pretty much slept a whole day. That’s not saying I didn’t either, though. So, really it’s half-eight in the morning all over again.” Ron said, stepping towards the door, trying to encourage Harry to follow him.
Harry yawned. Despite his whole day of sleeping, he was still exhausted. It was a different type of exhaustion, however. Innocent people had died, yet everyone kept telling him that he had won, that they had won. If this was what victory felt like, Harry didn’t want any part of it. He was filled with such emptiness, such regret. If he had just found the Horcruxes sooner...if he had succeeded sooner, maybe some people would still be alive. Maybe the pain wouldn’t be as harsh, the damage as deep. Harry had been under so much pressure, he had received so much criticism over the past few years and now...now he was tired. Harry shook his head as if to rid the thoughts from his mind. He pulled his robes over his head and joined Ron. They headed down to the common room and found Ginny sitting there, along with Hermione.
“Hey, Harry. Sleep well?” asked Hermione.
“Better than ever, thanks.” He replied, rubbing his eyes. Regardless of how he was feeling, Harry didn’t want to worry her with his internal struggles. They’d all worried enough these past few years.
“Morning, Ron. Are you okay? You look pale.” Hermione asked.
“I need food. Really, I do.” Ron answered feverishly, gazing at the portrait hole longingly.
“Some things never change.” Hermione muttered under her breath.
Harry joined Ginny and Hermione on the couch as they agreed that they would meet Ron in the Great Hall in a few minutes. The three of them sat quietly for a moment. There was grief in the air, but Harry felt that the loss of Fred, Lupin and Tonks seemed to be outdone by the defeat of Voldemort. It was puzzling – should they be mourning or celebrating? Harry knew that balance was key; those who had died...they could never come back. But Voldemort couldn’t either. It was a dark, sombre happiness, and as the minutes grew longer, Harry began to despise the feeling. Eventually hunger took over.
“Can we, er, go get some food now?” Ginny asked hopefully.
“Weasleys.” Harry added, shaking his head. He had noticed that both Ginny and Ron had seemed rather cheerful, and it bothered him. They should be grieving, they should feel hopeless. He knew that when reality hit them all, it would be a struggle. He feared that they would all keep their feelings inside – from experience, Harry knew that isolating yourself from the sadness only made things darker. Despite this, he realized that he was being completely hypocritical. Waking from this reverie, Harry stood and followed Ginny and Hermione out of the portrait hole.
When they reached the main corridor off of Gryffindor Tower, they realized nothing had changed. There were still fallen statues and smashed banisters. The cracks in the walls allowed some sunlight to seep through, illuminating the passage in a light haze. Together, they managed to work their way down through the castle, carefully stepping over the debris. Once they arrived on the lower floors of Hogwarts, their task became much more of a struggle because of Professor Trelawney’s shattered crystal balls.
After a difficult journey, the three of them finally came to a halt at the base of the Grand Staircase. The doors of the Great Hall were spread wide, offering a clear view of most of its occupants.
“Why don’t you go ahead, Ginny? I’m sure your family will want to see you.” Hermione suggested, after seeing Ron and Mrs. Weasley sitting quietly in a corner.
“Are you ready, Harry?” Hermione asked with concern as she turned to look at him. Harry was now considered to be the saviour of the wizarding world, and the reaction that they had to his presence was bound to be overwhelming.
“Let’s just get this over with.” Harry said with a sigh, trying to keep his emotions in check, to stop his nerves from consuming him entirely.
They entered the Hall, not quite sure what to expect. The second he was seen, the remaining Gryffindors started to cheer and clap at an unnecessary volume. Harry flushed brilliantly as he quickly made his way to sit down, followed by Hermione. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws that had stayed behind to fight were applauding as well, and even, to his surprise, the majority of Slytherin house was congratulating him. All eyes were on them as they took a seat at the long Gryffindor table.
The cheering and clapping faded slowly into the previous chatter, after much praise. Hermione turned to face Harry, only to see that he was looking somewhere across the room. She followed his gaze and noticed that he was staring at the group of huddled Weasleys.
“It’s my entire fault.” He said quietly. “I should’ve...I could’ve...” Harry paused and gathered his thoughts, trying to swallow his guilt. “There was so much I could have done. I’m the reason all these families are torn up!”
“Harry, stop it! You’re not!” Hermione said, a hint of pleading in her voice.
“Yes, I am Hermione. I caused them to suffer. I brought this loss upon them! Voldemort was mine to destroy and I took my own sweet time doing it. People were dying while I was failing miserably. How can it not be my fault?!” he cried, his emerald eyes flaring up. A few curious gazes were fixed upon him. He shook his head solemnly and covered his face with his hands.
“You’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, Harry. We all tried the best we could, and we succeeded. Trust me!” She tried to reassure him, though her eyes were welling with tears. Harry was broken, and it killed her. “No one blames you!”
“I wish they would.”
“You can gain nothing from guilt. Stop, Harry! Just...just stop.” She wiped furiously at her eyes.
Harry absorbed her words as his only known comfort. He didn’t have his parents to run to, didn’t have Sirius for advice. He had his friends, and they were there, they wanted to help. Harry looked up at her.
“I’m sorry.” He said. Hermione gave him a sad smile. They both turned towards the front of the hall when they heard Professor McGonagall begin to speak.
“May I have your attention please.” She called throughout the hall, surveying the crowd. “These last few days have been traumatizing for all for us. We have all lost loved ones-” With that, Mrs. Weasley sobbed loudly. “And Hogwarts itself almost came to an end. If each and every one of you hadn’t been here to help, I’m sure many of us wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.” She paused and looked around, her eyes meeting Harry’s. “Thank you. The Hogwarts Express will be arriving at Hogsmeade station in 2 days time. Please spend the next while getting organized and settling important matters. But now, you cannot do this on an empty stomach, and the kitchen staff has kindly offered to prepare our meals. If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to come and ask me for assistance.” she finished. She waved her arms and the tables creaked under the weight of the platters and platters of food.
After the Hall broke out into conversation, Ron came over to sit with Harry and Hermione.
“Alright, I’ve been thinking about this all night. McGonagall is only giving us two days to figure out this secret, so we’ll have to work fast. I’m suggesting that we set to work right after breakfast.” Hermione said, looking first to Ron and then to Harry.
“Great idea.” said Ron, his mouth full.
“Hermione, that’s it!” Harry exclaimed. “You want to take your N.E.W.T.s don’t you?”
“Well, yes of course, but-”
Harry cut her off. “Why don’t we ask McGonagall if we can come back next year? I mean, I know we’ve all been planning on coming back for a little while, but why don’t we stay for the whole year?” he suggested.
The three of them sat around McGonagall’s desk, waiting for her reply.
“Well, I don’t see why not. N.E.W.T.s are extremely beneficial and are often vital qualifications for many occupations. Although I do feel that you three will have no trouble finding a job, I do think that completing your education is a very intelligent thing to do. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you all next year.” McGonagall reached across her desk and began rifling through some letters.
“That’s it?” Ron asked, puzzled.
“Yes, that is all. It’s given me an idea as well.” She paused, her sharp features softening slightly. “Oh and by the way, Mr. Weasley, your father has been asked to help supervise the reconstruction of Hogwarts this week, so I see no harm in allowing you three to stay a little longer to figure things out. That is, if you would like to, of course.” She gave a small smile before shooing them out. “I’ve got work to do now.”
“Why did that seem really easy?” Ron asked, as the trio walked slowly down the empty corridor.
“I really don’t know.” Hermione answered, just as confused. “But let’s not waste any time. I suggest we start in Snape’s office.”
When they reached the dungeon corridor, Harry entered first. It looked as it always did. The cold cauldrons on the tables, Snape’s desk neatly stacked with unmarked papers. A filing cabinet stood plainly behind the desk, cobwebs strewn across it. All that was missing was, well, Snape.
Snape. Harry thought. Harry had actually started to feel sorry for him. Now that he knew his past, everything seemed different. What would have become of their relationship if Snape had lived? Would he have treated Harry any differently? Harry doubted it.
He snapped back to reality as he heard Hermione cast Alohamora on the filing cabinet. She jumped back as all of the drawers flew open.
“I’ve decided that the most logical thing to do would be to check in here. He wouldn’t have left us a trail of clues. He probably didn’t even know that we’d try to find it. Because of this, we shouldn’t go looking for Harry’s file either. Any information we can make use of will probably be within the files of Lupin, Sirius, Peter and Harry’s father. It just makes more sense. If there’s any clue we need in here, it’s been here for a while. We know for a fact that it was most likely James who found this place, whatever it is.”
For the next quarter of an hour, they all searched.
“Found Lupin.” called Ron. He placed the file on the table and opened it. “These must be from before Snape’s time.” He said, blowing dust off some papers.
“Of course, Ron.” Said Hermione dramatically. “Snape went to school with them. These are from an older potions teacher.”
All of the papers were about his detentions and bad behaviour, but the last few pages were notes in a loose, scrawling cursive.
“Away from class every full moon.” Ron read. “Is with bad crowd. (Potter, Black, Pettigrew.)” Harry couldn’t help but smile to himself.
“Nothing.” said Ron disappointedly.
“Don’t give up yet.” Hermione said hopefully, eyeing Harry’s slight frustration. “There’s still more.”
A few minutes later, Harry found Sirius’. It was the strikingly similar to Lupin’s except for a paper about halfway through.
“Always at back of library. Something suspicious about him and Potter.” wrote the same scrawl.
“Back of the library...” Hermione muttered. She paused. “This is it! Come on!” Hermione exclaimed. Harry and Ron followed her, out of breath.
“What’s it?” Ron asked.
“Just come!” she added impatiently.
The library was deserted, and lucky for Hermione, hardly damaged. The usually crackling fire was cold, yet the library still looked inviting with the big plush armchairs, some books stacked upon the cushions.
Not stopping until they reached the Restricted Section, Hermione slowly pushed open the thin metal gate. Continuing on, they eventually reached the back, where 4 tapestries hung on the cold, stone wall, the symbols of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin all fading upon them.
Harry and Ron stood back and observed them, as if acknowledging their presence for the first time, while Hermione walked along the wall, feeling it for something unusual. She stopped in front of the Gryffindor tapestry.
“Here!” she finally exclaimed.
“What?” asked Harry, suddenly excited.
“There’s something here Harry! I’ve read some books saying that rooms are often disguised like this. Behind a tapestry, for instance. It’s probably hidden unless you have a key or something.”
“But we don’t have a key, Hermione.” Harry pointed out.
“Yeah, but it was left for you! Wouldn’t it make itself visible to its owner?” Ron spoke up.
Harry walked up to the tapestry of Gryffindor and lifted it up. A small metal plaque was bolted to the wall. It looked well worn. Two symbols were indented upon the surface next to a keyhole. An oval and a heart.
An oval and a heart. Harry thought to himself. He ran his fingers along the plaque, searching for something, anything that may provide an entrance. Then it came to him. He placed his thumb in the oval; right away he knew it had worked. The plaque burned white-hot and Harry quickly withdrew his hand. Ron gasped and Hermione jumped back as the small metal rectangle stretched larger and larger across the wall until it became a small door and sprouted a doorknob. They stood in a stunned silence for a moment, not knowing what to do or say.
“Harry! Go!” Hermione whispered.
Subconsciously, Harry twisted the knob and pulled it open. A thin passage showed itself in front of him. Harry turned around. Ron looked nervously at him and then followed. Hermione remained outside, wanting to be sure of what was ahead before entering. Harry stepped up and ducked through the door, with Ron following closely behind.
The passage ended and Ron took a sharp intake of breath. A deep scarlet room awaited them. It was dusty and faded, but still spectacular. A plush couch covered in gold-seamed cushions sat opposite a big canopy bed enrobed in red velvet. A dead fire was at the other end of the room, untouched. Harry shivered, out of both cold and anxiety. The room was ghostly and brilliant. It had not known heat for many years, and a chilled quiet hung before them in the thin air.
“Ron…” Harry paused. “You...you don’t think this might have been…”
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, and I’d really appreciate it if you left a review. I know that the story may seem a little bit fast-paced at the moment, but bear with me, it does get better. Thanks for reading, and I’ll try and get the next chapter up as soon as possible!
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