Chapter 11 : Unexpected
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Harry returned to the common room by himself that night. The class had dismissed in a manner that was anything but orderly; Hermione and Ron had bustled off in the shuffle of things and Harry hadn’t seen them since. The dungeon had a sombre atmosphere; Harry walked slowly through the corridors as he made his way to the library. The darkness of the lower level made all the occupants glum in the dreary space; the mood always seemed to be saddened on its own accord. Stepping into the Entrance Hall, Harry’s eyes took a minute to adjust to the warm rays that the afternoon sun provided through the windows.
But now, it was after dinner, although Harry hadn’t eaten. Something inside of him was telling him not too; subconsciously proclaiming that it’d be best for him not to have to face Hermione just yet. It had taken Harry an hour to come to terms with their little exchange. He wasn’t quite sure what had happened, or why. All that aside, Harry knew that they would either never speak of it again, or Hermione would chase after him for an explanation.
Harry had spent this contemplative hour in Gryffindor’s Quarters; perched upon the burgundy cushion-clad sofa as he thought. And it was not until his thoughts drifted away as the sun slowly faded into the endless sky that he was woken from his reverie.
Harry returned to the common room by himself that night.
The sullenness of the dungeon seemed to have tagged along to accompany the usually warm common room atmosphere; it was incredibly quiet for eight o’clock, and even more surprising that Hermione was the only occupant. Harry entered to find her scribbling away on parchment, the room silent, and the mute glow from the fire emitting skittering light dancing across the throw rug.
“Hey.” Harry opted for mumbling instead of civil conversation as he kept walking past her until he reached the stairs for the boy’s dormitory. He didn’t bother to wonder why he felt the need to do so; it just came out that way, and he decided to play along with it.
“Harry, wait.” Hermione’s voice broke the silence in a way that would make the whole of the Wizarding World halt. Harry could do nothing but stop climbing the stairs. He didn’t have a choice; she was pleading, urging for him to turn around and look at her. So he did. The look in her eyes was dark, her brow furrowed with concern.
“It’s completely natural for it to bother you.” She stated simply. “After all you’ve been through, I can’t believe that I didn’t bother to think about all the things you must be feeling. All the emotions that you’re too scared or – or too embarrassed to let out.” She paused. “I’m sorry.”
“Hermione.” Harry sighed. “Hermione, it’s just if – if I could tell you, or – or if I ever could tell anyone, I just – well, I’m just afraid, I guess.”
“But what, Harry? What are you afraid of?” she asked this gently. It was an invitation to confidence, yet subtle.
Harry’s gaze drifted to the floor. If he had been sharply aware of anything going on around him, he would have noticed his trembling fingers, which he was gripping tightly together. One would have thought he was simply thinking, pondering the question. But the truth of the matter was, Harry knew exactly what he wanted to say, exactly what he wanted to shout at everyone who would listen. He bit his lip in concentration; it took all his might to keep control.
“I-I think, I think that I’m afraid of myself.” His voice wavered. “I’m afraid of what I’ve become now; what’s my purpose?” He was thankful that Hermione noticed the rhetorically phrased question and didn’t bother to reply. “I don’t have my – my nightmares, or people threatening me every day of my life.” His voiced rose on a smooth crescendo. “When Voldemort died, I lost a part of myself!” He exclaimed. “All – all that I’m left with is my memories, my bloody past that has etched worry into every part of me! I-I don’t know who I am anymore; I just don’t understand. I don’t know if I belong here anymore; my job is done, I played the superhero, but what happens when the game’s over?” His voice shook on the edge of hysterics before he lowered himself onto an armchair and rested his face in his hands. “What happens?”
“Life. That’s what happens, Harry. Your life goes on.” Hermione sat down on the armchair next to him.
“It’s not as simple as it sounds, Hermione. I feel like I’ve been trapped between everything I’ve come to know and accept, and this – this new, normal life. But the thing is, I can’t live a normal life, Hermione. I can’t just – just throw it all away! I can’t...I can’t...” Harry’s voice drifted off into nothingness. The room’s atmosphere had altered; it seemed as if the dimming fire had brightened with Harry’s voice as it got louder. The room appeared to be dancing; the fire waving along to an unheard melody, the recognizable glow from the moonlight slanting at odd angles through the exposed glass of the wide window panes. Harry’s thoughts faded into the silence, leaving his mind blank and vulnerable as he surveyed the room. He turned towards Hermione.
She was still seated. Her soft curls were an indecipherable shade of gold and orange, the mixtures of shadows blending indistinctly across her figure. She blinked and sighed just loud enough for him to hear her. The lighting in the room flickered to a deeper tone as the flame faded, and when Harry’s eyes adjusted to the change, he could faintly see the tear trailing its way down her cheek. He immediately softened.
“’Mione, please don’t cry; I –I didn’t mean to upset you.” He was pleading with her now, wanting her to help him overcome everything. “Please.”
She didn’t move; her face remained stone still, her hands folded gently in her lap, her breathing even. After a brief moment she turned to face him, not even bothering to flick her tears away.
“I’m crying for you, Harry.” Harry’s world stopped. He could almost hear the gears of his brain jam, before whirring back up to a frantic pace of thought. He didn’t know what to say, and if he did, he wouldn’t know how to say it. It took him a minute to realize that he was standing up, albeit trusting his entire weight on the back of the chair, on which he leaned. His head jerked to the portrait hole when he heard the tell-tale creak of the door opening.
Ron entered at full speed, his eyes immediately resting on Hermione. “Hermione, have you seen the schedule that Ginny posted about Head Student rounds? Because I seem to have – oh hello, Harry!” Harry didn’t answer, nor did Hermione.
Ron’s face instantly creased into a frown. “What – what’s happened?” He stuttered with uncertainty.
Harry was nearly knocked over by the wave of anger that swept over him. “I MISS VOLDEMORT, THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENED!” Harry’s sarcasm edged on the brim of satire as he shouted this to no one in particular. “That’s what’s happened.” Harry’s voice dropped to a whisper, before he turned and walked briskly to his dormitory, his door slamming behind him.
“Did – did he just say that he misses You-Know-Who?” Ron asked incredulously. Within this time, Hermione seemed to have regained her composure.
“Yes, Ron, that’s exactly what he said.” She gave him a small smile. “The schedule’s on that table over there, by the way.”
Harry had to teach the following morning; that seemed to be the only thing that willed him to get out of bed. It was still dim outside; the sun was slowly inching up from behind the horizon, lightly grazing the grounds in a thin glow. Harry averted his gaze from the window, and headed down to the common room. As he walked, he noticed that he felt different. His steps were quieter, his shoulders felt lighter. He came to the conclusion that after last night, after finally releasing the emotions that he had kept pent up inside over the past few months, he felt – well, not happy exactly, more like he was at peace with himself for the moment. It was an unfamiliar sensation that he welcomed; it kept his head on straight.
It was still early; no one was up yet. The common room was slowly flooding with early morning sun as the rays streaked lazily across the faded burgundy upholstery. He slung his bag over his shoulder and exited through the portrait hole. Harry sighed and looked up and down the corridor before taking a left and walking towards the library.
Madam Pince was strolling through the outer aisles near the entrance, prudently levitating some thick volumes up to the topmost shelves. Harry walked down the centre aisle, greeting her with a typical “Good Morning, Madam Pince” as he carried on.
He neared the end of the aisles that came before the iron-wrought gates that separated the library from the Restricted Section. When he reached the second last row of bookcases, something caught his eye.
It was an old book; the cover was faded, the spine cracked in multiple divisions. But the publication date of “The Magical Mysteries of the Ministry” isn’t what drew Harry over to the dusty volume. It was the intricate diagram of the veil sketched on the inside cover that intrigued him. He turned the book over in his hands to see ink stains of various sizes splattered haphazardly all over the covers, and he skimmed through the pages to see notes scrawled on nearly every page. Harry was elated when he came upon the chapter “The Veil”. On instinct, he slipped the book into his bag as he had always done; for all Madam Pince knew, Harry Potter had never borrowed a book from the Hogwarts library in his entire life, and he wasn’t about to start now.
Harry jerked his head around quickly when he heard a shuffling of feet from the next aisle over. Peering suspiciously around the corner to find the source of the noise, Harry jumped when someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind. He turned on his heel to see Professor Argilla standing behind him, a tall stack of books on potions held securely within his arms.
“Hello Professor Potter, I didn’t mean to frighten you. I was just curious as to what someone like you would be doing in a library at this hour.” He smiled warmly; Harry and Professor Argilla were on friendly terms. Potions classes had been going well, and Harry felt no awkwardness talking to the professor.
“I could ask you the same thing, Professor.” Harry smiled. Professor Argilla had grown on him; there was something about him that appealed to Harry, that drew him closer to him; a very strange familiarity.
“It’s just that – correct me if I’m wrong – but I believe you were just looking through a copy of “The Magical Mysteries of the Ministry”. Harry nodded sheepishly. The professor looked at him knowingly.
“Part of me was simply curious as to what use Harry Potter would put to such a book.” Harry couldn’t be sure if telling the professor even a little bit about his plan was in his best interests.
“Just some research, sir.”
“I see. Well something is telling me that Chapter 5 of that book is what you were specifically looking for.” Argilla looked at the book peeking out of Harry’s bag, before looking back up to meet Harry’s gaze. Harry pulled the book out from his bag and flipped over to Chapter 5. “The Veil”.
“Do I know you from somewhere, Professor?” Harry asked. He was suddenly very suspicious of the man; the man whose striking emerald eyes seemed to spark with a hidden excitement as he stared wisely at Harry. Harry searched Argilla’s face, looking for other silent clues that would lead him to believe that something wasn’t right.
Argilla turned and picked a random reference book from a shelf before facing Harry again. He placed the book on top of the others in his arm before meeting Harry’s burning stare. Argilla’s eyes flashed a mix of emotions as he ran his hand through his hair in a very Potter-esque way.
“Do you?” he inquired, before briskly walking in the other direction and exiting the library. It was suddenly very quiet, and Harry could see the dust particles floating in the broken ray of sun shining through the stained-glass window at the far end of the aisle.
He sighed hopelessly. “Do I?”
His mind was overwhelmingly muddled with mysteries as he entered his classroom 15 minutes early. When he had gone to the library on his way to Gryffindor’s Quarters, he had expected at least one of his confusing problems to become a little clearer. Instead of clarification, his questions were greeted with more questions, until all of his inquiries pooled together in a mixture of confusion. Within the next few months, he, Ron and Hermione were going to be getting prepared to go beyond the veil; he would have to supply the Expugnolers with more of his glow, which Hermione had identified as the “Wandless Protego”. Its power not only increases vision if used safely, it also acts as a defence shield in dangerous situations.
Harry was left wondering about numerous things other than their plan to rescue his godfather. His subconscious was questioning his feelings for Hermione, and if they might be reciprocated, which he highly doubted. He was worried about Ron and Ginny; even though Hermione and Harry’s relationship with Ron was on the mend, it still seemed unstable. Harry had never seen Ron recover from a fight like that so quickly, and he feared that when Ron’s infatuation with Luna ended, his anger would return. Things seemed better with Ginny, though. When Harry broke things off with her, he though she would begrudge him; but she recovered with ease, and stayed strong, which Harry was thankful for.
And now, he was faced with the enigma that was Professor Argilla. He was frightened of their similarities, of the flaws that they both shared. The professor’s eyes were identical to his. If Harry didn’t know any better, he would have thought that he and Argilla were blood relatives. But that was impossible.
Argilla knew which chapter Harry sought from “The Magical Mysteries of the Ministry”. Harry was unsettled by this; he kept trying to convince himself that was just an eerie coincidence, and that was that. But how could he? There was this man, his own Potions teacher, who was so similar to him. Something about Argilla was really getting to Harry; he knew too much, perhaps. He was too wise for his own good. Harry didn’t want to question this too much. For if he did, Harry knew, that it would just complicate things. And he couldn’t afford any more complications.
Harry had blocked out the fact that a voice had been calling his name. When he removed himself from his thoughts, he found himself face-to-face with Hermione.
“Harry! I was saying that Ron was looking for you.”
Harry surveyed the empty class and then checked the wall clock. His class had already begun, yet no one was here.
“Where is everybody?” He asked, confused.
“I think that’s what he wants to talk to you about, Harry.” She said softly.
“What’s happened?” he asked, his voice faintly tinted with urgency.
“Nothing’s happened, Harry. He just – he just wants to talk to you, that’s all.” She reassured him, trying to hide her uncertainty.
The corridors were cold and empty; the majority of the students were in classes, and the ones with spares were scattered around the school so sparsely that the chances of finding them was very unlikely. As he passed one of the clear windows, he noticed the light dusting of snow thinly layering the grounds; winter was approaching fast.
He rounded a corner and walked towards the oddly shaped portrait of a warlock that served as the entrance to the Head Student’s dormitories. Harry whispered “Hippogriff Feathers” and was immediately permitted to enter.
The dormitory looked like a miniature version of the Gryffindor Common Room; the same decor, same arrangement, same everything, just smaller. Ron sat on the sofa, scribbling furiously onto some parchment, pausing every now and then to think.
“Hey, Ron. Hermione said that you were looking for-” Ron cut him off.
“Harry!” he exclaimed, looking up from his parchment. “There you are!” Ron motioned for Harry to join him on the couch, to get a good view of what he was working on.
“I was on my way to your class today, so I could watch you teach like I usually do, right?” Harry nodded. “Well, as I was walking along that hall on the 2nd floor near Charms, I heard voices a little ways away. So, I peeked around the corner and I saw Argilla and McGonagall talking really fast at the end of the corridor.”
“Come on, Ron, what’s this about, I have to get to my class!” Harry snapped.
“That’s the thing Harry. You don’t have a class anymore.”
“What?!” Harry questioned loudly, clearly surprised.
“I remember Argilla saying ‘It’s only a matter of time until he finds out, Headmistress. And when he does, he won’t be the appropriate person to teach the 1st year Gryffindors.’ And she replied with something like ‘How is he going to find out, Prescott? This is a very delicate subject; even I was shocked when I found out!’.” Ron explained.
“I don’t understand, Ron. What am I supposed to find out?”
“I don’t know, Harry. I don’t think Hermione does, either. All I know is that McGonagall and Argilla made sure that you wouldn’t be teaching anymore.” Ron noticed the crestfallen look that Harry was desperately trying to hide. “I’m sorry, mate. Want to get some food?”
Harry gave Ron a small smile. “No thanks, Ron, I’ve got some stuff to do.”
“Okay, well, I’ll see you at lunch then?”
“Sure.” Harry ran his hands through his hair and watched as the portrait hole closed slowly behind Ron. “Now what?” he asked himself. And himself didn’t know.
Harry headed for the library thinking that Hermione would most likely be there. He found her at a table, bent over multiple books on varying subjects, as well as long piece of parchment. She glanced up after sensing his presence. Harry peered over at what she was drawing on the scroll. She didn’t stop looking at him until she met his gaze.
“Harry; we need to go to Gryffindor’s Quarters. I have to show you something.”
Harry noticed the urgency in her voice; it wasn’t an urgent bound by time, it was an urgency that screamed discovery, like she had figured out something that would change the world. She had.
A/N: Thanks so much for all of the feedback I've received. I've worked very hard on this chapter, so I hope that you enjoyed it. Please read and review - it means a lot.
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