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Chapter 22 : A Final Fracture
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"Sweetie, are you losing weight? You just seem thinner."
Harry thought it was a rather odd question for her to ask, considering that she looked as though she had lost a few pounds herself and sported heavy bags under her eyes. He was saved from answering her by the sound of a shrieking female voice he identified as Ms. Weasley.
"...and they never come around anymore at all! The last I heard of them was back in September when they had said they found a place to stay in Hogsmeade. Well, I'll have you know that I sent letters around to every open inn in Hogsmeade and the surrounding area and they aren't there! I don't know what we're going to do about them Arthur! They just won't give up the joke shop! And they can't even so much as write to their worried mother! And Percy, he's never around either. You'd think his willingness to join the Order would have made him want to spend a little time with us as well, but no."
He sat in silence for much of the rest of the meal, just taking in that fact that he could ask his mother to pass the bowl of potatoes and she would hand them to him. His mother. He felt his heart bursting with love at everything about his mother and father. Though things were a lot different now then they had been during the summer, he would never forget these moments. He couldn't help but wondering if they would last.
Leaving to go back to Hogwarts was excruciating. He felt as though he had been kicked in the chest mercilessly, unfairly, and wrongly. Christmas had gone quite badly.
Sirius had been convicted of attempting to break into the Department of Mysteries, proving Harry's point that Fudge didn't need evidence, he just needed a will to accomplish a conviction and it was as good as done. He had been sentenced to twenty-five years in Azkaban. Twenty-five years!
And now he was being parted from the two people who could really comfort him about it and being asked to return to a world where he was as welcome as a troll in a dress shop. Ron and Alice had lightened up a bit on him in lieu of Sirius' sentence, but if it had come between the two Weasleys hating him forever and Sirius' freedom, there would have never been any question as to which he would have preferred.
He embraced his parents tightly together to say goodbye; he was more than glad that both of them could be there to see him off to school again. Separating from them was worse somehow the second time than it had been the first. There was an odd sense of foreboding, but then the train whistle sounded and their bonds broke yet again.
He sat quietly on the train in the same compartment as Ron and Alice (Neville had gone off somewhere again) and there was subdued silence. There was no longer any hatred there. Bad feelings of course, but no hatred. Sirius' conviction had helped put a lot of things in a different perspective. He had a terrible Christmas morning in spite of it being the first one he had ever spent with his parents, and everything else about the world was now shadowed too.
He wondered to himself if he ought to have told his parents about Voldemort no longer needing the prophecy. Guarding the Department of Mysteries clearly hadn't worked out in Sirius's favor. Twice now, actually. In the end he had fatefully decided against it, reasoning that they might think him insane or overprotective.
He looked out the window at the fields stretching for miles. Mounds of snow were clumped in patches, and the sky hung a dark gray, promising snow and other things to come. He ripped the drapes closed and closed his eyes, determined to sleep and put his troubles out of his mind.
He was beginning to hate the halls of Hogwarts. He arrived with the slew of other students and had dinner with Ron and Alice and they continued to avoid looking at him or talking to him, which was more than fine by Harry. His mind drifted off into so many things... why was he in this world? How could he go back? Should he go back? How could a scar he no longer had still hurt? Was it possibly Fred and George who had come from the Shrieking Shack that afternoon in Hogsmeade as Mrs. Weasley had unknowingly hinted? Why did Sirius have to be found guilty? Why was Percy working for Voldemort? Why was he in this world? How could he go back? Should he go back? The questions just continued to cycle over and over as more students left the Great Hall on their way to bed.
He was very nearly the last one to leave from the table and he trudged wearily up to his dorm room, not at all anticipating falling asleep and anticipating even less the prospect of tomorrow.
"You should be getting to bed Mr. Potter."
He whirled around to see Snape standing just behind him with his arms folded in front of his chest. It made him a bit angry to be told to do something that he was already going to do, especially by Snape.
"You should be minding your own greasy business," he muttered through clenched teeth.
Snape gave him a superior smile and stalked off through the hallway. He was likely going to double back and follow Harry to his common room to make sure he went there. The Harry of his former life hadn't done much to help his credibility, though it wasn't as though he had ever had much credibility with Snape anyway. He would take the long passage back to his room: no need to get into a fight with Snape over nothing.
He was walking down the hallway on the fourth floor on the way finally to his common room when he heard something that he could have been much better without having heard.
"I like you too Neville."
He ducked behind a statue of an ugly peg-legged wizard before the pair could see him. He watched on in pain as Hermione and Neville kissed, touched, kissed some more. It was like having his heart slowly wrenched from his chest and put on display before him. So that was where Neville had been? He now added a few more questions to the ones already cycling in his head. Why Hermione? Why Neville? Why Neville and Hermione?
When he did reach his common room, he stalked up to his bed half full with raging fury and half full of disheartened loss. He lay in bed for quite some time, thinking to himself how very right Riddle might have been about Neville in the first place. He felt so betrayed, so left out in the cold.
He was drifting in a lake a summer not too long ago in the wonderful place that was his dream world. It was an escape, and it was free of torture and free of Riddle. Then suddenly there was someone calling him, calling him back, calling back everything to its proper fate. He turned around to find himself in the lost bedroom at Grimmauld Place, and facing Percy Weasley and Voldemort.
He woke up with a jump and almost screamed when he immediately noticed someone was standing right over him, wielding a wand and ready to strike. It was neither Neville nor Ron, someone else, tall and more foreboding than ever.
"Mr. Potter? I know that it's late, but the headmaster needs to speak to you at once," said the stern voice of Professor McGongall. It was almost eerie how sinister she seemed bordered by dark silhouettes and crouching over him like a starving tigress.
"He wants to speak to me?" Harry stuttered. He had been sure at least that the days of being disturbed in the middle of the night were gone, along with the scar he once had, but perhaps not. "What's this about? Why now?"
"Just come with me Potter. Get dressed and come with me."
Her voice seemed almost remorseful and hollow, like she was the bearer of terrible news. He felt a knot rising in his stomach as she left the room and he quickly threw on his bathrobe and pushed his glasses onto his face.
He followed her through the disconcertingly dark hallway and down several flights of stairs before he really knew where he was going. When they reached the stone gargoyle Harry could feel the lump rising so far up in his throat that he was very near throwing up from the anxiety.
"Licorice Wand," Professor McGonagall said quietly.
They entered into the familiar realm of the headmaster: there were familiar trinkets and toys cast all about and rows and rows of former headmasters gazing down upon the room. Dumbledore himself sat in the cozy seat behind his desk, massaging his temples and looking far too worn.
"Sit down Harry," he said quietly, though not in his usual cheerful way.
Harry looked about the room for any place to sit but found none. He didn't want to bother with a chair anyway: he needed an explanation as to why he had been called down to Professor Dumbledore's office at two-thirty in the morning. The anticipation was beginning to eat at him.
"Oh, I nearly forgot, one can forget things you know," he said, trying to feign a light tone as he flicked his wand and an overstuffed maroon armchair appeared before Dumbledore's desk.
Professor McGonagall quietly exited the room and Harry sat across from Dumbledore in a fashion similar to fiercely debating foreign dignitaries. Harry needed an answer; the suspense of not knowing was hurting him intensely.
"There's been an attack," Dumbledore began.
"Not that. Anything but that," Harry thought to himself, grieving before he even knew what had happened or to whom. In a way he already knew.
"Your parents have been taken to St. Mungo's Harry. There was a confrontation at Grimmauld Place," Dumbledore's eyes seemed to be keeping tears at bay as best as possible, but there was a glint of a tear forming in his left eye and Harry concentrated on that, watched it grow larger and larger and then briefly fall from his face and onto his robes as though it had never been shed at all. It was just easier to watch the tear than believe that his parents were.
"Are they?- Are they?-" the words caught in his throat. He didn't want to ask the question, because such a question would demand an answer, and he wasn't sure he wanted one.
"They are alive, Harry…"
Dumbledore trailed off, clearly searching for the appropriate words and for a fleeting moment he felt fear lifting from his shoulders.
"…but I do not know to what end. They were tortured Harry. I don't wish to tell you this, and no one should ever have to hear it, but it seems unlikely they will ever be the same again. It is too early to tell how much of a recovery they might make, if any-" Dumbledore's voice wandered again, and Harry couldn't help but observe how he couldn't look him in the eye. He began blinking back tears.
His parents shared the same fate now as the Longbottoms. Not the dead ones, but the original Longbottoms. Why? Who? And how? He forgot to be stunned; he forgot to feel pain. The only emotion he sensed was white, hot, rage brewing deep within him that he had never felt before. It quickly overwhelmed the tears running down his cheeks and for the first time he felt bloodlust and the call of revenge.
"We believed the house to be nearly unable to be breeched, however, we must have been wrong. We now think that it was someone from within our own group that betrayed them. It had been protected by many charms Harry, so we still do not know how it happened."
"They were attacked in Grimmauld Place?" Harry whispered, choking as he did so.
"It was a dangerous job Harry, and they knew that going into it. Just no one could have expected it at the Black residence. There are just things-"
"What do you know about dangerous?! What do you know about anything?!" he screamed back at Dumbledore, hardly daring to believe he would discount their incapacitation as just a part of a job.
"There are things that need to be protected, things that are worth dying for-"
"Well, they weren't lucky enough to die, were they?! Instead they're going to live out the rest of their lives in the crazy ward at St. Mungo's! There is nothing that needs to be protected, you idiot! He doesn't need the prophecy! He never did!"
He didn't feel as guilty screaming at Dumbledore as he once had. Dumbledore seemed blown away by the last part of the outburst and slowly began to rise from his seat. Harry, on the other hand, had had enough. He jumped out of the conjured, high-backed armchair and sped quickly out of the room, feeling so murderous that it was a fortunate thing that no one crossed his path on his way back to his dorm room.
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