Chapter 1 : Black Roses and Bleeding Hearts
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When Harry reached the common room it was worse then he had thought. The usual decorations of thick red and gold banners had been replaced by wispy white curtains, adorned with pink and red hearts. The plush sofas and chairs near the roaring fireplace were covered with whimsical throws and pillows in the shapes of hearts and kissing lips. Even the red and orange flames that danced in the fireplace had turned against him. Harry watched for a moment as the crackling flames projected images of couples embracing and romantic scenes through out the room. Harry stood staring until he was brought back to the present by Neville bumping his arm as he tried to make his way up the stairs to the dormitory.
"Sorry mate." Neville smiled
Harry nodded, but did not speak.
"Harry?" Neville asked, " you alright?"
Harry shook his head, freeing himself from the spell of the dancing flames.
"Yeah," he replied with out looking at Neville, "I'm fine."
Without another word Harry made his way down the rest of the stairs and towards the exit. As he passed a cluster of chairs he saw Hermione and Ron already wrapped around each other out of the corner of his eye. Harry sighed and left the room.
Never once had Harry wished for the weekend to hurry up and be over, but without the distraction of class he was unable to block out the obvious efforts that had been made through out the school to make this Saturday a day for romance. The suits of armor that guarded the halls had all been freshly polished and someone had places wreaths of roses on each of the shining helmets. Normally this would have made Harry laugh, the shinny metal figures looked ridicules with there crowns of flowers, but it only made Harry sink deeper into depression.
The Great Hall was half filled when Harry arrived for breakfast. Harry paused in the door way and strengthened his resignation to make it through this dreaded day, but the concept of being around other people gave him the urge to flee back to the dormitory and put his head back under his blankets. Harry entered the room and let loose a great sigh. The Great Hall had also been decorated for the holiday and pink, red and white confetti fell from the ceiling disappearing before it hit the floor. Harry was just about to turn and sneak back up to the dormitory when Ron and Hermione came up behind him, fingers intertwined. Knowing there would be no escape now Harry turned and walked towards the Gryffindor table with Ron and Hermione close on his heels. Ron piled his plate high with sausages eggs and biscuits as usual and Hermione munched on toast and jam as they made their plans for the day. Harry sat beside them, silently staring at his own reflection in his empty plate.
After a bit Hermione noticed that Harry had not moved to fill his plate and turned to him.
"Everything alright Harry?" she asked.
Harry nodded, "Brilliant." he muttered.
Hermione frowned, she knew why Harry was acting oddly, and knew there was nothing she could do about it. Before she could think of anything to say to try and cheer Harry up he rose and left the room without word.
Not wanting to see the sappy decorations in the common room again, Harry decided to escape outside into the gloomy and overcast day. The sky was gray, and matched Harry's mood as he walked aimlessly across the wet grounds. When he reached the black lake Harry stopped. The water was like black glass and dimly reflected the storm clouds overhead. Harry stood and stared blankly at the lake, and did not notice the nearly black owl flying towards him. When the dark bird flew close enough to deliver its parcel Harry jumped. The sudden rush of wings startled him and it took Harry a moment to realize something had been dropped at his feet. Harry bent to pick up the item that lay before him and when he straightened Harry stood silently twirling a black rose between his fingers.
Harry stared at the dark flower for a long moment. Obviously someone shared his view on this manmade holiday and had noticed he felt the same, but who could it be from? Harry pondered this question as he made his way across the grounds and towards the Forbidden Forest . A soft mist began to fall from the sky as Harry neared the forest, and by the time he was able to duck under the canopy of the tall trees it was pouring. Harry stood at the edge of the forest, protected from the rain by the large pine trees, and watched the rain come down on the castle he preferred to call home. Not wanting to go any deeper into the forest alone Harry sat at the base of a towering pine tree and rested his back against the solid trunk as he watched the rain pour over the grounds.
It was nearly lunch time when Harry made his way back to the castle. It had been so peaceful sitting beneath the reliable tree watching the rain cleanse the Earth that Harry had dozed off and was now starving. What should have been a restful nap had been filled with strange dreams about hooded strangers delivering black roses, and as a result Harry was just as surly as when he had left the Great Hall that morning. Harry sat at the nearly deserted Gryffindor table and when lunch appeared Harry filled his plate and began to eat. Most of the school had gone down to the village and as a result the Great Hall was nearly empty. Harry was grateful for this and said a quick thanks that he would not be required to speak to anyone while he ate. In the middle of his second sandwich Harry heard a noise and looked up. The same black owl from the morning hovered above him and with a squawk dropped yet another black rose onto his plate. Confused Harry looked around. He had never received any sort of gift of Valentine's Day and had now received not one, but two roses. The fact that they were not the typical red roses didn't seem to matter and now Harry was determined to find the source of the flowers.
Harry pulled the first flower from beneath his cloak and placed it on the table next to the second, it should have been damaged, at least some from its travels, but the first rose sat pristinely beside the second. Obviously a charm had been cast on the flowers to protect them from damage, but this information did not bring Harry any closer to figuring out who had sent them. Harry finished his sandwich, idly twirling the stem of the second rose in his free hand, then stood and put the flowers beneath his cloak once again before making his way back up to the Gryffindor common room. The common room was empty, his class mates had not yet returned from Hogsmead, and Harry was glad to be alone. He sat in an overstuffed chair near the still roaring fire and contemplated what he would do next as he sat in solitude. After a while Gryffindor students began to trickle back into the tower and Harry stood, annoyed that he was no closer to figuring out who had sent the flowers then he had been an hour ago. As he turned to sneak up to the dormitory Harry heard Ron call his name.
"Oi! Harry!" Ron called as he walked over.
Harry stopped, there would be no escaping now, and turned to face Ron. Harry gave his friend a forced smile, after all it wasn't Ron's fault that Harry was alone yet again for Valentine's Day, and sat back down in the chair he had just vacated. Ron walked up to him, with Hermione close behind, and dropped an envelope into Harry's lap. Harry looked up at Ron confused before picking up the envelope.
"It was attached to the Fat Lady's painting," Ron explained, "And since you're the only
Harry in here I assumed it had to be for you."
Ron sat, obviously waiting for Harry to open the letter.
With a slight frown Harry ripped open the envelope and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. When he opened it Harry sucked in a breath, but did not speak.
"What is it?" Hermione asked
"Nothing," Harry replied as he hastily shoved the parchment into his pocket.
Hermione and Ron glanced at each other, but did not ask again.
"Got a little damp outside, “Harry said to no one in particular, "gonna go up and change."
With that Harry stood and walked up the stairs to the boys dormitory leaving Ron and Hermione in the common room staring after him. When Harry reached the dormitory he threw himself onto his bed and drew the thick red curtains. In the dim light Harry pulled the now crumpled note from his pocket. On the yellowed parchment was a drawing of a beating heart, Harry could nearly feel it throbbing in his hands. Dripping from the top of the drawing was a stream of blood that splashed into a small pool of red that glistened below the bottom point of the heart. Below the picture, in careful script, was a short
Meet me just after dark
Near the Black Lake
There was nothing else, no signature, no hint of who had sent the note. Obviously, it was from the same person who had sent the roses, Harry reasoned. It irritated Harry, even as the excitement filled him, that there was no signature. There were still several hours till nightfall, and Harry knew he would suffer until he knew the source of the bleeding heart and black roses. Determined not to spend the remainder of the day obsessing over the note Harry tore back the curtains around his bed and changed into fresh cloths. Once dressed, Harry sat and pulled out his wand to dry his still damp shoes. When his shoes were dry Harry put them on and stood, stuffing the note back into his pocket as he strode out of the dorm and back down the stairs.
The common room was full now, rosy cheeked students sat around the tables discussing the day’s adventures while couples huddled together on the couches near the hearth in various stages of cuddling and kissing. Harry looked around the room. Since the note had been attached to the outside of the door it stood to reason that his admirer was not a fellow Gryffindor. With that in mind Harry left the Gryffindor tower. A thought had occurred to him, that while he had to wait till dark to confirm the identity of his admirer he could still try to figure it out for himself. Harry wondered the halls, randomly making eye contact with passing students, trying to figure out if any of them reacted differently. It was nearly dinner time when Harry made his way back from the corridor he knew lead to the Ravenclaw common room. He had made eye contact with and bumped into students from every house, except Slytherin, and no one had blushed or giggled, or acted out of character at all. Frustrated Harry walked into the Great Hall and dropped down onto the bench beside Ron and Hermione. Recognizing the annoyed looked that crossed Harry's face, neither of them asked where he had been. Ron plowed his way through dinner while Hermione picked at roasted chicken and seasoned potatoes. Harry absently chewed on a biscuit as he counted down the time till sunset.
At seven o'clock the Great Hall began to clear out. Through the large glass windows Harry could see the sun setting over the Forbidden Forest and squirmed. Nearly time, he thought to himself. The Great Hall was nearly empty and the sky dark by the time Harry stood. Ron and Hermione had left nearly thirty minutes before and Harry had sat alone watching the sunset. Now it was full dark, and the time had finally come for Harry to find out who had sent the note and flowers. Bleeding hearts and black roses, Harry mused as he walked quickly down the stone steps, not your usual romantic gestures, he thought to himself. Harry made his way through the darkness, trying to keep his pace casual, as he watched the shifting shadows cast by the nearly full moon. When he neared the lake Harry slowed his pace. As anxious as he was to find out who waited for him in the dark, Harry felt his heart tremble with nerves as his hands shook. Harry wiped sweaty palms on his jeans as he approached the cluster of trees near the waters edge. Just before he reached the water Harry froze, he saw a cloaked and hooded figure standing near a large tree and knew it was the one who had sent the roses, the one who had sent him the image of the bleeding heart. Harry wiped sweaty hands on his jeans once more and approached the cloaked person. Through the darkness Harry could not make out any features of the one who waited for him, and the low hood hid the person's face completely. When Harry stood no more then a foot from the figure he felt a chill pass through his body. The figure had not moved. It stood motionless, head bowed, hidden in darkness. Enough of this secrecy, Harry thought fiercely, I'm done waiting. With that thought Harry reached over and pulled the hood from the strangers head exposing a mop of bleach blond hair. Harry gasped as the figure looked up and he came face to face with Draco Malfoy.
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