Chapter 4 : A Hidden Secret
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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts
"Who...?" Harry groaned as Rylan began back through the woods. Rylan shouted out Hermione's name, hearing branches and twigs as she came. He looked back down to Harry, "Rylan. I'm your brother."
"What the..." Harry murmured before falling into unconsciousness.
Rylan shook in anxiety, holding his little brother in his arms. He didn't exactly know why, but he was relieved that Harry had passed out. He didn't know what to say or do. What was supposed to happen next? Rylan surely didn't know.
"Hermione," Rylan said again. He met up with her and they set back towards the burrow. The unconscious Harry now had all of Hermione's attention and Rylan found himself becoming exceedingly jealous. He ignored it as color rose to his cheeks. She asked, "Was he awake when you found him?"
"Yes. Only for a second." Rylan replied.
"We have to hurry. Look at him." Hermione groaned, inspecting the cuts, bruises, and welts on Harry's body. His clothing was torn and ragged and his face looked much more narrow. Had he been eating enough? It surely didn't look like it. He looked like he had been starving himself and also been beaten.
They broke off into a jog and, at last, reached the burrow. Hermione gave him strict orders and set up the stairs to wake the rest of the house hold. Rylan did as Hermione told him and set Harry on one of the couches, Harry's head rolling back and forth as it came to rest on the arm. Rylan lowered himself onto a coffee table and stared into his brother's face.
So this was his brother...
So this was Harry Potter.
Rylan wasn't surprised at all that Hermione had mistaken him for Harry. They did, indeed, look like a mirror image. Only Harry looked more beaten and torn up, along with thinner.One of the lenses in Harry's glasses was cracked and had to have been impossible to see through. His hair was past his shoulders, cut off and flipped to one side. There was a long scratch down one cheek and blood coming from his lips.
He reached out an unsteady hand and brushed back his brother's long hair. And there, hidden beneath the long mane of raven hair, was the scar Rylan had heard so much about. In the shape of a lightening bolt. However, he was confused. Scars didn't constantly bleed. They bled when they first embedded the skin and closed over, leaving an indention in the skin with a faint red line. This was why Rylan found himself lost.
There was blood seeping through the scar, running down his forehead.
Immediately wanting to help Harry as much as he could, Rylan ripped the sleeve of his shirt and dabbed at Harry's forehead with it, getting rid of the blood. Yet no matter how hard he tried, the blood reemerged, a constantly flow. He found himself simply pressing the cloth against his head, worried about the amount of blood Harry might have already lost.
All sorts of commotions began to form from upstairs. Rumbles began and people flooded in. The Weasley's crammed into the living room and Hermione followed. In her nightgown with a shaw draped over her shoulders, Mrs. Weasley grasped her chest and whispered in pure horror, "Merlin..."
Rylan continued to press the cloth on Harry's forehead. Hermione murmured, "What's wrong with his forehead?"
"He's bleeding." Rylan replied, glancing back to his brother.
"From where?" Hermione gasped.
Mrs. Weasley questioned as well. "His scar?"
Another tumble came and Ginny burst into the living room. Her chocolate brown eyes went wide and she took a step back. The Weasleys glanced to Ginny, imaging what she must have felt seeing the one she loved so hopeless and damaged. Everyone watched Ginny stare at Harry, her lips pursed and her eyes wide and her shoulders quivering.
"Right," Mr. Weasley broke the silence. Everybody suddenly turned their heads in his directions. He purposely directed his attention away from his daughter, "We can't just leave Harry here. Molly, let's see the damage."
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stepped forward. Mr. Weasley looked over his shoulder and commanded, "Fred, George, Ginny, back to bed."
Fred and George grumbled and murmured protests. George debated, "Oh come on, Dad."
Fred shrugged his shoulders, "Nah. He's passed out. Can't be too exciting any more."
The boys trudged up the stairs and Ginny followed behind them, looking back over her shoulder to the unconscious Harry reluctantly. She protested, "What about Ron and Hermione?"
"All right. You too." Mrs. Weasley ordered, sending the two away.
Ron began slumping away, his ginger hair in a tussle on top of his head. He glowered at Rylan through the darkness of the room for a moment and then exclaimed, "And him??"
"Rylan is an adult and has the right to make his own decisions." Mr. Weasley said, giving Ron and Hermione a push. George burst back down the stairs at his father's comment, "Wait. Legal adult. Let me down, let me down! He's just a few months younger than we are."
"But you two are my children. I still have control over you." Mrs. Weasley countered, shoving them all up the stairs. "To bed with you. Harry will be fine."
They all stomped up the stairs, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Rylan with the unconscious Harry. Mrs. Weasley bustled forward, draping the shaw about her, "Let me see that scar, dear."
Rylan removed the cloth, blood still steadily oozing out of the scar. She murmured, "Oh, dear..."
"I'll fetch your wand, Molly." Mr. Weasley said kindly, gently touching her arm. She looked to him over her shoulder, "Thank you, Arthur."
Mrs. Weasley ran her fingers through Harry's dirty, matted hair. She asked Rylan, remaining ever so calm. "How did you find him?"
"I was talking with Hermione," Rylan began. He purposely left out the details. Those were to be kept only to himself, "and this light just burst inside and Hermione said we had to follow it. So we did. It led us straight to him."
"Well, it had a name. I just can't remember it. It started with a p?" Rylan groaned, rubbing his temples and closing his eyes. He stifled a yawn with his hand. Mrs. Weasley nodded, "A patronus."
"Yes. That's the one." Rylan murmured. He looked to his brother and he felt guilt boil inside him. He had learned in such a short period of time that his brother's life had been put in danger countless times. Rylan had always lived at the Orphanage with danger in his life. Yet, Harry had had an idea of his parents and Rylan had known nothing, had nothing. He didn't exist to anybody besides the other children at the orphanage, his school mates, and Miss Cassidy. Harry was famous and had the money their parents had set aside for him. When it all added up, Rylan found themselves tied at the "It's a Sucky Life" Competition.
Arthur came back in and handed Molly her wand. She gave him a quiet thank you and took Harry's glasses off of his nose and repaired them, setting them gently back on to his face. Rylan knelt down next to the couch as Arthur stood behind Molly, his hands on her shoulders as she played the Healer. Rylan began playing with his brother's hair. It felt like he was toying with his own hair, only, for the time being, Harry's was much more filthy and knotted.
Rylan covered yet another yawn. Mrs. Weasley turned to him, mending Harry's wounds, "Rylan, it's late. You should head off to bed."
"Oh, no. It's - " He yawned quietly before he continued. "I'm fine. I don't want to leave him."
She gave him a sympathetic look and continued on as Rylan lost himself in his brother again. Rylan found himself aching for Harry to open his eyes. He wanted to see their color. Where they like his? Did Harry have his mother's eyes or his father's eyes? He was sure Harry would know, including everyone around them. But, most of all, he wanted to be there to take
care of his little brother. He wanted to be the first one he saw when he woke up.
Rylan let his head fall against the arm chest, the fabric warm and soft on his cheek. Mr. Weasley's voice kept Rylan from falling into the depths of sleep, "Rylan, really. You go on up to bed. Take the extra in Ron's room again."
"No. Really. I'm fine."
"Go to bed, dear." Molly urged, shaking her head as she dabbed at Harry's forehead, which had yet to stop bleeding. He rose from his knees and groaned an agreement. He questioned, only leaving until he was positively sure, "He won't wake up?"
"I'm sorry, but I don't think Harry's waking up for awhile." Mrs. Weasley said sadly.
"He'll be fine?'
"He will be fine. Get some rest." Molly urged again. Rylan nodded and trudged up the stairs. He passed Fred and George's room where he heard murmurs and then he passed Ginny's room. He hesitated.
Hermione was in there.
He strained his ears to see if they were awake still. When he heard a heated conversation, he lightly stepped towards the door and pressed his ear against it. Even though, he knew it was wrong to be eavesdropping, he couldn't stop the uncontrollable want to hear her precious voice.
Ginny was speaking. Then her voice came in, lighting up his heart. He listened intently.
"Harry's patronus came in and we just ran out searching for him. Rylan found him and we came back. That was all. You didn't miss anything."
"He was awake. He was awake, wasn't he?" Ginny urged. Her voice sounded upset and Rylan couldn't decipher whether there were tears in her voice or not. Hermione spoke again, "For a little while. Only for a moment with Rylan though. Harry didn't even see me."
"He should have seen me. Why couldn't I have been there..." Her voice trailed off, groaning.
"I know you miss him, Ginny." Rylan found himself with his palms against the door, wishing the wood under his hands was Hermione's warm and fragile body again. He closed his eyes and continued to listen to her speak, "It's not your fault. It was simply by chance that we were the ones who found him."
"You don't know what it feels like to have the one you love, the one who you would give your heart and your whole life to, be taken away from you. I can't have that happen again."
"You won't, Ginny. I know you won't."
Ginny's voice became muffled and Rylan felt like he could see them perfectly. He knew Hermione's arm was draped across Ginny's shoulders and she was comforting her, letting her cry against her. For the moment, he wished his shoulders were Ginny's. Hermione spoke once more before Rylan trudged down to Ron's room, "Come on. Let's get some sleep. He'll be awake in the morning."
Rylan opened the door to Ron's bedroom. It was tiny and still the disturbing Chudley Cannons orange. It was so small that Rylan had to actually duck his head to enter it. Ron was already sleeping soundly on his bed again, his lanky legs hanging over the edges and a disgusting snore rippling deep from within his throat. Rylan groaned and crawled into the bed, not wanting to shower or change. He just wanted one thing. To see her again.
Without slipping under the covers, brushing the twigs out of his hair, or taking off his shoes, Rylan touched his lips delicately with his finger and remembered Hermione's kiss. Then he drifted off into peaceful sleep.
It was the kind of day when the birds are chirping, there isn't a could in the sky, and the smell of the grass rises in the air and submerges your senses. It was the kind of day when the family sits around in the back yard, playing games and drinking lemonade until it's time to lay out a blanket and watch the sun set. And these were the exact things the Weasleys and Potters were doing.
The children were running wild, screaming and giggling as they played in the backyard while they're parents chattered away like no body's business. Rylan Potter emerged from within the depths of the house, carrying two more pitches or water and lemonade. His wife followed with a tray of cookies. She set the tray down on the patio table and shouted into the yard, "Kids, cookies!"
"Oh yes!" Screams came from the yard and they dropped their brooms and raced up the stairs. In an instant, the cookies were gone.
His wife giggled as Rylan came up behind her and kissed her cheek. She whispered, "I love you."
"I love you too." He replied, running his fingers through her hair. For a moment, he placed his hands on her waist, and then wrapped them tightly about her body. Rylan looked across the patio to his brother, Harry, smiling and winking over to him, popping a cookie into his mouth. Ron chuckled, "You can't keep your hands off her for two seconds."
Rylan looked towards Ron, an adoring smile spread across his face at the thoughts of his wife. He leaned his cheek against the top of her head, shaking his own and chuckling, "Nope. Never."
Harry laughed and rose, wiping his hands on his jeans and giving his own wife a gentle kiss. He laughed out, "Come on, Rylan, Ron! It's time for some Quidditch."
"All right!" Ron agreed enthusiastically, jumping up from his seat and bounding down the stairs. Rylan gave her a swift kiss and followed. The children screamed, "Parents! Run away!" and they fled to the creek down the hill. The men mounted the brooms currently strewn about the yard and began.
With flushed cheeks and an embarrassed smile, Hermione walked over to Ginny. She lowered herself into a chair and watched the men compete, laughter emerging. Ginny laughed, crossing her ankles and resting her feet on the table. She grumbled, looking at the empty trays, "Silly buggers. Children. No wonder we have no food anymore. They eat it all. Especially the sugar."
"Oh, Merlin," Hermione laughed. She shook her head, "Consider yourself lucky you don't have the twins. Last week I found the boys on the floor with the bags of sugar ripped open and poured all along the kitchen floor."
"They are little devils." Ginny giggled.
"Yes. Try living with them." Hermione smiled back.
There were joyous screams as the children bounded back up. The twins burst into the house. Hermione jumped up, shouting, "What are those? In our hands. What are those?"
The seven-year-old boys burst into the house with snickers. Hermione chased after them, shouting, "No, no! Come back. Not frogs! Frogs!!"
Ginny slapped her thigh with laughter, spitting water on her jeans. She did her best to silence her laughter when Hermione ran back out, pointing a threatening finger at her, "Don't you dare."
"I can't help it!" Ginny laughed, gasping for breath. Hermione groaned, rolling her eyes, "Boys, no. Frogs stay outside."
Rylan jumped off his broom and Hermione flinched from the height. He chuckled and danced up the stairs. He wrapped his arms about her and smiled, shaking his head. "They're seven-year-old boys. They're going to be messy. Besides, it's the easiest thing to clean up."
Hermione glowered, "But the carpet. I just - "
"Mmmm." Hermione shook her head, struggling to break free of her husband. Her frown fell and was replaced with the largest of smiles. Rylan came forward again and touched her cheek. Hermione questioned him again and Rylan shook his head, "My god, you're beautiful."
Hermione blushed and rose on her tip toes, wrapping her arms about his neck. Rylan met her halfway for a passionate kiss.
Rylan's eyes fluttered open the next morning and he rolled onto his side, tucking his arms into his chest. He sighed and let the happiest smile spread across his face. He had had the most amazing dream. Yet he found his heart aching for it to all be real.
He showered and changed before trudging down the stairs. He immediately looked to the couch where he had laid his brother late that night. He was gone. Rylan burst around the corner and into the kitchen. He lost his breath. Had he left? Had he run away again? Was he all right? He asked, his heart racing, "Where's Harry?"
"We set up another and moved him into the drawing room. Calm down, dear. He's fine." Mrs. Weasley waved a hand of dismissal.
"Has he woken up yet?"
"No, Rylan. Take a deep breath. Hermione is tending to him right now." She said again. Ron, Fred, and George looked up from their breakfast, their mouths full. Ron gave a growl behind his teeth, his mouth full of food. Mrs. Weasley scolded, "Ron. Shut your mouth."
He glanced to his mother and closed his mouth, continuing to chew. He rolled his eyes. Rylan raised his eyebrows at Ron and bolted from the room as Mrs. Weasley was offering up breakfast. He called down the stairs, "No, thank you!"
He ran into the drawing room and found Hermione sitting on a chair next to the bed, eying Harry. She lifted her head to him, "Hi."
He returned her smile, loosing his breath. She was so breathtakingly beautiful. Her long hair was a tangled mess, unbrushed, and her eyes sparkled. Her round cheeks and lips gave off a delicate blaze. Her voice made his heart ache. He replied, "Hi."
She blushed and turned her face away as she realized Rylan was still staring at her intently. She murmured, flushed, "Oh, please. Don't look at me. I haven't even showered or changed yet."
But you look so beautiful... He smiled gently, almost sympathetically, and looked away from her as she wished. He looked to his brother and asked under his breath, "He still hasn't woken up?"
"Not a budge." Hermione sighed. "Ginny's still asleep. I thought someone should be here if and when he woke up."
"That's kind." Rylan smiled. Hermione nodded. She seemed to be avoiding the inevitable truth. That she was all he could think about.
She saw in his eyes and the way he moved that he was thinking about their kiss. She pursed her lips as the heat rose between them. She didn't know what to do. She did, after all, really like Rylan. But she couldn't handle it. She could tell by the way his hands twitched as rested against his legs that they were aching to be elsewhere. Hermione suggested, wanting room to think, "Have you had breakfast yet? You should eat, Rylan."
He waited a moment and then agreed. "All right."
He left the room, closing the door with a soft click. Hermione sighed and took her head into her hands. She groaned. She couldn't deny the way her heart fluttered whenever she saw him. Whenever his hazel eyes drifted upon her, she couldn't breathe. She simply couldn't. She would find herself gasping for breath. She would stare at the long curve of his nose, his lips and his narrow jaw. His raven hair was so luscious and inviting. She just wanted to run her hands through it. And then the way he spoke. He spoke with such kindness, his voice so low and caring. Hermione loved the way Rylan would talk. She felt as if it were from his very heart. He was gentle in what he did, the way he comforted his unconscious brother by brushing back his hair or any other way.
Hermione sighed and giggled. She straightened up and resumed to Harry. She titled her head to the side, comparing Rylan to Harry. Harry did look younger and he looked as if he was the more immature one, the one who hadn't had a difficult life at all, which Hermione knew was false. She smiled. It faded when she spotted blood trickling down the arm hanging over the couch. She lifted the limp arm, setting it in her lap, and pulled her wand up. She pushed up Harry's sleeve, prepared to heal a cut Molly might have missed.
A cut wasn't what she found.
On Harry's inner forearm was the Dark Mark. Hermione gasped and shook her head. She murmured, "No, no. Harry, what have you done..."
She brushed her fingers over the tattoo and the snake began to bite, slithering in and out of the skull and around its head. Tears swelled in her eyes and she ripped the sleeve down, bringing her arms into her chest. She rose and backed away from Harry, pressing her body against the wall. She cradled her body and buried her head in the cradle, moaning, "No, no, no. Harry, no."
Harry gave a groan from the bed and footsteps rose from the stairs. Someone called her name. She blinked, her eyes flashing, and raced forward. She acted before she could think twice. She ripped up his sleeve once more, the snake still revolving, and pressed her wand against it, "Velieris tergumis!"
Tan sparks shot out the end of it and coiled themselves around Harry's arm, seeming to sink into the skin. Within a second, a layer of skin hid the mark from view. With perfect timing, Hermione gingerly placed her feet up on the bed and eased back in the chair, stowing her wand away as Ron strolled in. He shut the door behind himself, asking. "How is he?"
Hermione shrugged, regaining her breath from the sudden adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her mind was rattled with the dark mark. Had Harry betrayed them?? Or had he been tricked?? She wanted answers.
No, she didn't just want them. She needed them. It was like an itch, desperately waiting to be scratched. She shoved it off reluctantly and tried to speak in a natural tone, "He hasn't stirred."
"What's wrong, Hermione?" She didn't hide her emotions too well. She dug deep within her head for an easy lie. She found it easier than she thought. "I'm just worried about Harry."
Ron nodded. Apparently that was all he needed to hear. He sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned against the wall the bed was shoved into the corner of. Ron lifted Hermione's legs and placed them in his lap.
Hermione almost flinched at the sudden contact. Ron rarely touched her. Almost never. The friction was new and alien to her. She didn't like it, yet Ron's fingertips were warm on ankle as he readjusted her legs. She ignored the sudden tension she knew only she felt.
Ron gave her a steady smile and began to stated uneasily. "Rylan seems into you."
"Oh." Hermione pursed her lips. Ron's sudden accusation compelled her. He was being so unlike himself. Hermione nodded, trying to find the easiest path to take. "Yes. I thought so."
"You like him?" He coughed out, clearing his throat in between each word.
"Well..." That was all she could manage and she left it at that. Ron let out and uneasy hum, his fingers yet to leave her ankle. Harry's body gave a jolt in the bed and they both jumped to her feet. Ron was immediately speaking to Harry and Hermione on her knees, weaving her fingers through his matted hair. He still wouldn't wake. They both bell back, their hopes shattered. For an instant they thought he had finally awoken.
Ron suggested, "You need some rest. Why don't you go eat and I'll look after him?"
Hermione's mind flew back to the dark mark? What if he found it? Ron Weasley, she knew, couldn't possibly contain that within the three of them without making too big a deal out of it. Before any rash decisions were made, Hermione needed to hear Harry's side of the story. No, she had to be the one to take care of Harry.
She shook her head, "No, really. I'm fine, Ronald."
"You sure?" He pressed the matter further.
Hermione nodded again and questioned, "Didn't your mum say the garden needed degnoming?"
Ron muttered curses under his breath and rose, leaving the room. Hermione smirked at Ron's displeasure. It still pleased her greatly to see him so annoyed and agitated. She chuckled and cut short when Harry grunted, "Hermione?"
Her eyes widened and her head shot to her friend. "Harry!"
Her arms were around his neck, hugging him tightly. She asked, beginning to rant at an extremely fast pace, "Oh, Harry. Merlin, don't you ever leave us like that again. You hear? You couldn't have been killed. What the hell were you out there doing? Why are you so hurt?"
Harry gave a weak chuckled and let his head fall back. He just began slowly, almost too mundane and relaxed. "I'm glad someone saw my patronus. I wasn't sure if that would work, but I wouldn't have made it there."
"What happened to you?" Hermione whispered, aghast.
"Hermione, I went out to do what I had to."
"Don't you go all heroic on me again." Hermione accused. She assumed Harry didn't remember anything about Rylan. Otherwise, she assumed he would already be blurting questions about his brother.
"All heroic? Don't you start giving me that - Ginny..." Harry bolted up right and then grunted fiercely at the pain that shot through his head. He laid back down as Ginny bolted forward. She was still in her sleep wear, which was currently a pair of lounge pants and baggy t-shirt. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were a blaze. She yelped, already pointing an accusing finger, her temper beginning to ignite. "Harry Freaking Potter, you don't leave like that!"
"Ginny, please." Harry groaned, rolling his head on the pillow.
Hermione looked back and forth from the two. Ginny stood fuming, her hands on her hips like a scolding mother. Ginny looked quickly to Hermione, "Hermione, would you please?"
She pursed her lips and looked to Harry, quickly eying Harry's fore arm. She gritted her teeth as a fierce debate raged on inside her head. She knew she shouldn't leave him. He would be fine for a minute though, wouldn't he.
Hermione rose uneasily and squeaked, "Sure." She strode past them, her eyes on the floor, fleeing from the room. Ginny eyed her suspiciously as she passed and then, when the door shut, Ginny's arms were around Harry.
Harry sighed into her neck and moaned, buring his head and wanting to stay forever, "You have to understand."
"No." Ginny exclaimed, pulling away. She sat on the bed, pushing hard against Harry's chest with a hand. "You had no right to leave me like that. You know you didn't. Why, Harry?"
"You can't be apart of this. I won't let you get hurt."
"To hell with being hurt!" Ginny narrowed her eye brows, wrinkling her nose in displeasure. Her expression softened as Harry frowned, his eyes full of pain and anguish. She removed the threatening hand from Harry's chest and slid it up his throat and around his neck. Her thumb rubbed his cheek in circles, creating a routine. She said in a painful voice, her heart filling with what she had missed during his absence, "I would rather die than to miss a single second with you."
He caught her hand in his own and kissed her fingers. He whispered, shaking his head as displeasure ran through his body. She was throwing herself into so much trouble. "You're so complicated. I wish you could see."
"I wish you could see that I love you." Ginny frowned. She pulled away and climbed to the end of the bed. She folded her legs beneath her and pouted. Harry leaned forward, placing his weight on an arm, his body twitching in pain. He brushed back a strand of bangs, hanging low into her eyes, out of the way and behind her ear. He whispered, his voice low and intoxicating, as dazzling as it could ever be.
"You know I love you."