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Chapter 32 : Chapter 32 Kreacher's Task
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“How long did your potion last?” Harry asked quietly, setting off after Hermione as Ron began to follow. He knew there would be explaining to do, but he strangely did not feel the need to ask Ron what had happened in the treasury office, to ask whether or not Hufflepuff’s cup was in Gringotts. The longer he delayed that discussion the better. “Mine lasted about twenty minutes or so.”
“Me too,” Ron replied, catching up to him and limping along. They watched Hermione looking around before taking her beaded purse from inside the briefcase. She hauled the tent from inside the bag and dropped it on the ground in the clearing she had decided on, giving it a swift kick to roll it out. Moments later the tent magically popped up. Ron turned and looked at him properly. “I waited before I took my second dose though…what happened to you mate, I saw that woma-”
“Harry,” Hermione called out in frustration, and he watched as she lowered her wand impatiently. “You’ll have to cast the wards, I can’t do it…I’m shaking too much,” she added as an afterthought. Although she looked quite steady Hermione immediately ducked into the tent, leaving he and Ron outside.
There was an awkward silence.
“I’ll err….go give her a hand,” he said uncomfortably, and he didn’t elaborate as he took quickly took refuge inside the tent, leaving Harry out in the cold.
Harry sighed the moment he was alone, running his hands through his hair as he turned on the spot and absently withdrew his wand. What were the charms they used? It felt like so long ago that they had dismantled the tent and removed the protective charms, though upon checking his watch it had hardly been more than two hours. It was still rather dark here, the weak light unable to penetrate the trees too deeply. Shaking his head to himself Harry raised his wand and cast the protective charms, ticking each of them off in his head. Illusion, Muggle repelling, Muffliato…what else was there to do? He would check with Hermione when he returned inside, but for the moment Harry stayed where he was, suppressing a shiver and enjoying the solitude while he could.
He didn’t want to go back inside and face the outcome of their break in. He knew things had not gone well for he and Hermione, and though Ron appeared relatively unscathed Harry knew he had not made it through without a hitch. At this he thought back to the witch who had recognised him in the elevator, and he was sure now more than ever that he knew who she was. Though he had only seen her picture once he was almost certain he knew who she was, though the implications of how she recognised him were too unbearable to consider.
They were all okay though, all three of them back in one piece, and for that he had to be thankful. With this thought he drew himself from his solitude and entered the tent, where the tension and nerves were clearly high. Ron sat alone on the couch, fully transformed back into himself and sitting with his head in his hands. Hermione was changing her clothes by her bed, and Harry looked away until she threw the skirt and shirt away into the corner, an action very unlike her. Ambling her way back over to Ron she perched herself on the coffee table and began to fidget, tapping her wand against her knee as she looked at Ron. Harry quickly removed the Ministry supplied overalls and settled for the clothing underneath, removing the shrunken and duplicated files from the pocket. He looked over his shoulder to ensure his friends didn’t see him slip them under the blankets on his bed. He would hide them properly later.
The atmosphere in the tent was still strangely uncomfortable, none of them speaking for a few moments until Ron raised his head and looked at Harry and Hermione in surprise, almost as if he had forgotten them. He hesitated before he told them what they were too afraid to ask. “It’s in Gringotts,” he confirmed.
Hermione gave a great sigh of relief, breaking into a smile before getting up and moving to sit beside him. “What vault is it in?” she asked breathlessly.
“In the Black family vault,” Ron answered, Hermione’s smile infectious. “Just like Harry said.” Reaching into his pockets he pulled out a crumpled scroll of parchment that must be the vault inventory, and handed it to Hermione.
Taking the scroll she jumped up and unrolled it, pacing around the room as she read. “This is brilliant…perfect really. All we need is a blood relative who hasn’t been disowned….oh if only Sirius had gotten along with his mother.”
“Did anyone see you?” Harry asked lowly. He alone was unsmiling, his jaw tight as Ron flushed and fidgeted before answering.
“Yeah…a security guard,” he admitted.
Harry’s heart sank at this, anger and frustration filling the place that it had been. He swore loudly and turned away, a rampage of thoughts barraging their way through his head.
“I was transformed,” Ron defended himself, Hermione looking up from the parchment. “I was Albert Blackman.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said quietly, her mind on the same level as Harry’s. “You were seen.”
“They’re going to know you’re an imposter!” Harry burst out. “They were always going to know it was us in there! We talked about this for weeks, Ron.”
“So they know Blackman was really an imposter, so what? We all got out.”
“Did anyone see you going in? Into the office itself?”
Ron flushed even further, confirming what Harry thought. “Yes.”
Harry swore again, furious beyond belief. Storming out of the tent he tried to take a deep breath, to calm himself down before he began to say what he was thinking out loud. Adding to his frustration Ron followed him out, still not understanding the implications of what he had done. ‘How could he not understand?’ Harry thought to himself. ‘They had talked about this for weeks.’
“Wait, Harry, what’s wrong?” Ron demanded. “We know where the cup is.”
“It doesn’t matter that it’s in Gringotts, because she’s going to move it now!” he yelled. “You idiot, you weren’t supposed to be seen! Now the Ministry knows we were in the Gringotts office!”
Realisation dawned on Ron, and he opened and closed his mouth around the reply that he couldn’t quite spit out. Finally he managed to begin speaking, trying to rectify his mistake. “I couldn’t help it!” he defended himself. “He just turned up out of nowhere, what was I supposed to do?”
“Use the invisibility cloak!” Harry yelled again, wanting to rush forward and belt him. “That’s why I gave it to you, not Hermione!”
“Stop it, both of you!” Hermione intervened, following them outside. “It doesn’t matter, everything’s going to be fine, alright?”
Harry forced himself to take a breath, not wanting to lose his temper at Hermione. She wasn’t the one who had ruined their entire plan. “No, we’re screwed, Hermione,” he rebutted her with a rough voice. “That camera took our picture when we left, we’re going to be all over the paper, and Lestrange is going to find out. She’s not stupid, she’ll move the cup out of Gringotts and then we’ve got nothing!”
“They may not print anything,” Hermione reasoned, looking from Harry to Ron and back again. “If the most wanted wizard in England can break into the ministry, they’ll look like fools. They won’t do that to their image, I’m sure of it.”
Shaking his head Harry turned to glare at Ron once more. “Doesn’t matter, she’ll hear about it somehow.”
Summoning his cloak from inside the tent Harry turned and walked away, passing the protective charms to find somewhere that he could cool off. He didn’t look back, unable to trust himself to keep his mouth closed, and so he kept walking until he was out of sight. Pulling his cloak on Harry slumped down at the base of a tree and tried to think, to convince himself that Bellatrix Lestrange would never hear about their break in, that she would have no reason to move the Horcrux from its current hiding place.
By now the Ministry would be in full lockdown, until such a time that they reviewed the security cameras and saw their escape. How long would it be before Blackman and Guinness were discovered outside the staff entrance, how long until they put it together that the Albert Blackman seen in the Gringotts office was really an imposter, one of them? For a moment he wished he hadn’t lost his temper at Ron, having so many questions to ask him about. Had he left the office just as he found it? Was everything left in its rightful place? Who exactly saw him? Did they still have time to track the guard down and erase his memory?
Harry had almost risen to his feet to go and find Hermione when he stopped, sitting back down dejectedly. The time to be modifying the guard’s memory had passed, and by now he would have told someone, by now they would be putting the entire sequence of events together. When they found the unconscious woman in the basement they would know even more.
At this thought Harry grew sick, not understanding where exactly he had slipped up. What had given him away? Had she seen him in the office during the brief moments that the Polyjuice failed and he returned to himself? What had she planned to do after confronting him? She seemed so calm, so sure of herself and that he wouldn’t hurt her. He pictured her face in his mind, and the more he thought of her the more certain he was of her identity. But for what reason would Sharon Neil be at the Ministry so early in the morning for? She worked in the Department of Magical Creatures, didn’t she? That didn’t exactly seem like it required around the clock work or early starts.
As the time passed Harry got his anger under control, and he grew calm in solitude. Though he quickly grew hungry he didn’t move, staying exactly where he was until late morning when he finally pulled himself to his feet and returned to the tent. When he entered he said nothing, glancing at Ron and Hermione before shrugging his cloak off and dropping it by his bed.
“Harry,” Hermione called to him, catching his attention.
“Yeah?” he replied with forced politeness, turning around and moving closer to the couch where Ron and Hermione sat side by side.
Hermione glanced at Ron before she continued. “We know what to do next…but you’re not going to like it…”
Harry pursed his lips, his hands slipping into his pockets as he sat on the chair before them. “Okay. What is it?”
“We need Malfoy,” Ron answered abruptly, grimacing when he saw Harry’s appalled expression. “I told you he wouldn’t like it,” he muttered to Hermione.
“Setting aside that you don’t like it,” Hermione began, but Harry quickly cut her off.
“It’s a good idea,” he said lowly, leaning forward and looking into the carpet. He thought hard to himself. “He would have access…and he’s the only one that we would have a chance of controlling.”
“And he’s the only Death Eater dumb enough to get caught by us,” Ron added, hoping to emit a laugh from his mate.
“Do we know where he is?” Harry asked, looking up at Hermione. “He probably didn’t stay at Hogwarts.”
“Well…that’s our next idea,” Hermione began, sharing a look with Ron. “But again, you probably won’t like it, I know I definitely don’t….it’s just that they did such a good job last time, and I know the stakes are higher now, but really they did an excellent job, and…” she trailed off as Ron placed his hand on her knee.
Ron looked at Harry with an apologetic expression. “We were thinking Dobby and Kreacher might be able to find out where he is for us.”
They were right; Harry definitely didn’t like this idea. The thought of Dobby tailing Malfoy made him immensely uncomfortable, knowing that it would be extremely dangerous for him, especially if he were to be caught. “Not Dobby,” he responded quietly, pinching the bridge of his nose. An intense headache was beginning, white spots appearing before his eyes. “It’s too dangerous.”
“What about Kreacher?” Ron persisted. “He would know where to look.”
Harry’s only response was a quick nod, clenching his eyes closed before standing up. “Kreacher, come here,” he spoke into the air.
A moment later Kreacher magically appeared by the arm of the couch, apparating in total silence. He appeared hunched over, still wearing his dirty old pillowcase. Looking up at Harry over his snout like nose his distaste for being summoned was clearly evident. “Master Potter called?” he mumbled.
Ron gave a cry of shock and jumped, startled by the sudden presence beside him. Kreacher turned slowly and looked at him too, his sunken eyes finally falling upon Hermione. Harry heard him muttering something under his breath, and so he began to speak before Kreacher could audibly insult Hermione.
“Kreacher, I need you to do something for me,” Harry began, satisfied when Kreacher turned to look back at him. For a moment he recalled the day that Sirius instructed the elf to obey Harry also, and his tight lipped expression had been comical.
He slowly gave a deep but scathing bow. “Yes….master?” he inquired.
Harry cast his mind back, trying to remember exactly the instructions he had given Kreacher in sixth year, when he had tailed Malfoy for the first time. “I want you to follow Draco Malfoy for me, and the same instructions as last time apply. Do not tell anyone what you are doing, why you are doing it or who told you to. From now on you speak only to us three. Do not make yourself known to anyone else, wizard or not, do not get caught following him…”
“Following the Malfoy boy again…” Kreacher began to mumble, looking into the carpet. “Mistress Black would disapprove.”
“Look at me, Kreacher,” Harry instructed, ignoring the ranting. The elf looked up. “I need to talk to Malfoy…follow him until he’s alone, and unprotected…he needs to be somewhere that we can access also. Then come back and tell me, no one else. Do you understand?”
Kreacher took a long pause before answering, looking for any loopholes in his instructions just as he had last time. “Yes, master Harry.”
The dissatisfied look on his face was enough for Harry, and he quickly glanced at Ron and Hermione. They gave a quick nod of approval. “Right, you can go now.”
Kreacher vanished in silence, only sparing time for a quick glare at Ron and Hermione. Alone again, the awkwardness from his fight with Ron returned, but none of them brought it up as they each briefly discussed what had happened that morning. Harry listened absently, scouring through the copy of the inventory that Ron had retrieved, studying each section with care. There was an unspoken agreement that despite the possibility of Bellatrix Lestrange removing the Horcrux from Gringotts, they would try anyway. Without looking, they would never know. If it wasn’t in there…Harry didn’t want to think about that, and so instead focused the vault itself.
To their surprise it seemed rather open to them, assuming they could get the upper hand on Malfoy. It contained mainly family heirlooms, many of them listed as belonging to a particular family or individual. Would this be a similar case to that of the Prophecy in the Department of Mysteries, where only those named could safely remove it? The brief note on Hufflepuff’s cup had no claim of ownership on it, though this made him a little suspicious. Did Lestrange truly trust her family enough to allow them access to Voldemort’s horcrux if they so desired, or did she think no one else would be interested when so many other trinkets were available to claim?
That had been four weeks ago, and mid-February brought them a fresh dusting of snow each night. Having nothing to do but wait for Kreacher’s return, the tent had suffered for the relief of their boredom. It was a complete mess, such to the point that a small part within Hermione had broken, and she had finally given up trying to clean up after them. The papers and documents they had retrieved from the Ministry were strewn about the tent, pursued and discarded at random. Harry had yet to remove the three duplicated folders he had taken from the conference room in the Magical Law Enforcement, securing them far beneath Ginny’s unused mattress and stowing the memories in the back of his mind.
For the moment the three of them made no plans regarding Gringotts, focusing instead on what to do with Malfoy. Assuming they could capture him of course. They all agreed that Malfoy would definitely not be staying with them in the tent, after all they wanted him alive when they used him to enter Gringotts. Harry and Ron were quite partial to tethering him to a close by tree, out in the elements unprotected, but Hermione put a stop to that train of thought very quickly.
“Actually Harry, is there a second bathroom at Privet Drive?” Hermione asked slowly, frowning.
“Why?” he replied, not giving an answer.
Harry sighed, wishing he had been able to act a little more concerned for the Dursleys when Hermione told him that they were gone. He had only managed to shrug his shoulders and ask why she looked at their file and not spent more time on her parents.
“Yes…there’s a second bathroom.”
“Well that’s perfect,” she proclaimed. “If we can secure the house, we can stay there and keep him in the second bathroom. If we keep him restrained we only have to take him food once a day. Other than that we can pretend he’s not even there.”
“You want to feed him?” Ron questioned sarcastically. “I wouldn’t even waste a mouldy loaf of bread on him.”
Harry stood up, grabbing his cloak and heading outside. “I should start the watch,” he said quietly, leaving Hermione and Ron alone.
It was dark outside now. Settling himself down outside the tent flap Harry cast a Bubble-Head charm around himself to keep out the weather, snow beginning to lightly fall. He fidgeted uncomfortably, unsure of what to do with his hands.
He couldn’t help but resent Ron and Hermione, for they were constantly coming up with good ideas of late, good ideas that never seemed to sit well with him. Now Hermione wanted to stay at Privet Drive…with Malfoy. The Dursleys could be in Timbuktu for all he cared, he still didn’t want to regress back to that stage of his life, remembering the last time he had seen the Dursleys, before what had happened last August. His life had already started spiralling with the death of Dumbledore, and to then be sent back to the Dursleys was just another kick in the guts. Harry shuddered, not wanting to think about that.
About an hour or so Hermione stepped outside to be with him, bringing a sandwich and mug of steaming coffee. “Doing alright out here?” she asked politely, offering him the plate.
“Yeah, thanks,” he replied, studying the sandwich before taking a bite.
“Sorry I brought up the Dursleys,” she continued, looking at him in worry. “We don’t have to bring Malfoy there…it’s just there’s only one bathroom at my home.”
“No, it’s a good idea,” Harry said with finality, finishing the conversation. Taking another bite of the sandwich he looked at her critically, knowing she hadn’t been acting herself that day. “Are you alright?”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” she berated him.
Harry rolled his eyes and swallowed quickly. “Are you alright?” he asked again.
“Oh yes,” she replied a little too quickly. “I’m fine.”
He raised his eyebrows at this. “Don’t give me that, Ginny taught me what it means when a girl uses the word ‘fine.’”
“What does it mean?” she challenged.
Shrugging, Harry took another bite of his sandwich before speaking, knowing it would aggravate her. “I dunno…” He swallowed. “But it definitely doesn’t mean fine.”
Hermione gave a short chuckle, looking into her lap as Harry patiently waited for her to answer him. “I don’t know what’s happened to me,” she sighed. “Nothing’s the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll think I’m being silly…”
“Of course I will, but get to the point.”
She looked rather down trodden. “I used to be really good…good at duelling…today I just don’t know what happened in that office. I got disarmed, Harry! Disarmed…”
“That happens to all of us, Hermione,” he answered her, a little annoyed.
“Not to me it doesn’t,” she replied indignantly. “I’m not used to that…that type of thing never happens to you.”
Harry paused, knowing what to say but unsure if he wanted to. “Last August, when Snape…took me,” he began. “I didn’t even have my wand on me….I still don’t remember where I left it. Pretty dumb, right?”
Hermione did not hesitate. “Yeah,” she agreed insensitively. “That was pretty dumb.”
“I’m just saying, it’s not going to be the last time someone catches you unaware, alright?”
“Well thanks,” she replied uncomfortably. “That makes me feel better.”
“I’m only here to help.”
She gave a small chuckle, elbowing him in the ribs. “You should go inside. I’ll do the watch tonight.”
Harry shook his head. “No, I’ll stay.”
“It’s okay, really. I had a nap this afternoon; I’ll be awake all night now.”
He could think of no further argument, and so nodded and stood up, taking his sandwich and coffee before heading inside. It was warmer inside, Ron seated before the small fireplace toasting a piece of bread. He looked up as Harry entered, giving an unexpected smile.
“Cold out there?”
“Yeah,” Harry answered softly, wandering towards the kitchen. He threw out the remainder of his sandwich and leant against the sink to finish his coffee. Rubbing his eyes he glanced at Ron, who appeared perfectly content before the fire as he spread a lump of jam onto his toast, licking his fingers clean. Drumming his fingers against his mug Harry wished he could find a way to tune out, to stop thinking so hard and relax just as his friends could. Despite what they had been doing recently Ron only seemed bored and unchallenged, while Hermione too seemed relaxed regardless of the concerns she had just voiced. Harry just couldn’t stop thinking, analysing his every move and wondering what was happening in the Ministry now.
More than once Hermione’s careful planning had helped them nab an owl as it soared through the early morning sky over London, successfully nicking the Daily Prophet had had been carrying. To his great surprise, nothing had been published in regard to the ministry break in, not even a whisper. How quickly had they made the connection between the imposters and the Gringotts office? Had Bellatrix Lestrange gotten wind of where they had been, of what they had done? It didn’t help that his scar had been burning on and off throughout the days, steadily worsening as evening broke. To his relief he heard no flicker of conversation or emotion that belonged to Voldemort; though he feared the nightmares that sleep brought him every night.
Harry jumped and gave a short shout, his right hand burning painfully as he spilt his coffee, the hot liquid splattering to the floor as the handle on the mug broke. A moment later it all went crashing to the floor with a loud smash. Swearing loudly Harry turned to the sink, avoiding the broken china and turning on the cold water.
“You alright?” Ron asked, hauling himself to his feet to investigate. “Geez, you need to relax. Stop breaking stuff,” he tried to laugh.
“Yes, Ron,” Harry replied solidly, the cold water soothing his red and inflamed skin. Turning off the water he cleared away the mess, shaking his hand as it began to smart.
“What’s going on in there?” Hermione called from outside.
“Nothing!” he and Ron replied in unison, their eyes meeting in a smirk.
There was another awkward silence as they waited for Hermione to reply, though she remained silent. Catching his eye again, Ron asked “Does that hurt?”
“Wanna play chess?”
Harry sighed. He definitely did not. “Sure.”
“I’ll go easy on you,” Ron said, clearly pleased. “You can start first.”
“You know that doesn’t make a difference,” Harry retorted, reluctantly sitting down in the lounge room as Ron set the board up on the coffee table.
“I know…it’s harder to play against Hermione.”
For the sake of keeping the peace Harry bit back his retort, clenching his jaw as Ron set up the board. They played in silence for a few moments, Harry often checking his watch until Ron took out one of his pieces.
“This would be better if we were drinking,” Ron commented, and it was clear that he hoped Harry would agree.
Harry smiled for the first time that day, agreeing with Ron. “If you insist on corrupting me.”
“Corrupting you?” Ron laughed as Harry stood up. “You’re the biggest piss-head in Gryffindor!”
“That’s Seamus, thank you,” Harry retorted, returning to the lounge room with a bottle of unopened scotch. In his head, he silently gave thanks to Ron’s Aunty Muriel. “I’m not the one who tried to snog a suit of armour.”
“In his defence it did have a strange chest plate…looked really-you know,” Ron laughed, motioning to his chest. “Are we using glasses for this stuff?”
Harry considered this for a moment. “No, that’s no way to get drunk.”
“Drunk? If you wanted to do that you could have just said. We’ll take a drink for every chess piece we lose.”
“And a drink for every piece we take,” Harry added.
“Challenge accepted,” Ron said enthusiastically, taking the bottle and having a preparatory sip. “Oh that stuff’s disgusting…better play well.”
When Harry awoke the next morning he wasn’t entirely aware of himself, unable to decide which body part hurt more. With a soft groan Harry moved over onto his front, a whirl of nausea and pain rushing from his stomach to his head, and he immediately froze in that position. The heavy pounding in his skull grew worse for a few minutes until he drew a deep breath, a pathetic groan escaping his lips.
“Oh good…you’re awake, it's about time.”
The intrusion on his silence sounded far away, growing closer with every word until the voice must be shouting in his ear. He was aware of a short sob of pain before he raised his heavy arm and flung it over his exposed ear, screwing his face up before suddenly finding a comfortable position. Breathing slowly, Harry welcomed the unconsciousness, and allowed it to overtake his mind and body.
Awakening again much later he was assaulted by the same pain and nausea, and he cracked open one of his eyes before clenching it shut. Whatever there was to see on the other side of his eyelids could wait. He lay still, relishing in the quiet and darkness for what seemed like hours, not thinking…not moving. That horrible sound penetrated his peace as it had before, the arm flung over his ear doing nothing to stem it. A rumbling from his throat told him that he was speaking…pleading more like it, and he prayed the noise would stop.
“Get up!” someone was screaming into his ear. “You’ve been asleep the whole day! Get up!”
“Stop yelling…” Harry groaned, pulling his legs up and tucking his chin into his chest.
“I’m not yelling!” the voice yelled again.
Instantly the noise stopped, and Harry breathed an audible sigh of relief that he felt though his entire body. Everything hurt, and he couldn’t find the state of mind to figure out exactly what…or why. He was hot, his skin burning all over except for the cool sensation that moved his hair back…an icy cold hand on his forehead to soothe him. The noise had changed. A soft and soothing voice replaced it as the cool hand continued to brush across his forehead.
“I know you don’t want to…but you must get up.”
“Ginny?” Harry murmured before he could think clearly. Someone so soothing could only be her. He was wrong.
There was a loud curse, a splash of water breaking him from his brief moment of peace. Harry gave a painful shout and tried to move, but he didn’t manage much and instead lay back down…the soft something he was laying on now completely soaked. He managed to open his eyes, taking longer than usual to focus on what stood before him.
It was Hermione. She looked livid.
“Oh…” he began, rolling away and onto his other side. “Oh…”
“Don’t you roll away from me Harry Potter,” she was berating him. She must be screaming again because every word was painful to his ears. “You did this to yourself, now get up.”
He remained silent, but even in his muddle up thoughts he knew she wasn’t going to leave him alone. “What happened?”
“What happened?” she relayed incredulously, and then took a deep breath. “What happened is that you climbed a tree looking for the frog that you dared Ron to eat after I confiscated your wands when Ron tried to remove his own canine tooth when you dared him to.”
“What?” Harry moaned, not understanding. “What?...what? Why does it hurt so much?”
“Why does it hurt?” she questioned. Harry yelled as she poked him sharply in the back. “You fell out of the tree!”
“I fell….out of a tree?”
“You’re not Tarzan, Harry!”
“Why did I fall out of a tree?” he half sobbed, still not understanding.
There was silence for a moment before Hermione gave a cry of frustration. He was blissfully alone again, and he shivered with cold now, but there seemed to be no sign of a blanket close by, his hands wearily searching for something to pull over his body. Giving up Harry squirmed and burrowed himself into the mattress, wiggling his toes to keep them warm. He must have dozed off again for when he was next aware of himself the nausea in his stomach had stemmed, leaving him with only the dull reminder of his pounding headache.
Cautiously opening his eyes Harry stared into the empty wall of the tent, stretching out his sore body beneath the blanket that had been tossed over him while he slept. Rubbing his eyes Harry propped himself up and looked around the interior of the tent, laying back down for a few moments. He was hungry, starving really, but the thought of any kind of food made his head spin and his stomach roll.
“Hermione?” he managed to croak in hopes that she was close by.
“What?” came her terse reply, and looking up Harry could see the top of her busy hair over the top of the couch.
He took a deep breath. “Can I please have a glass of w-?”
Harry gave a low groan of defeat. “Please?” he tried one last time, his mouth and throat horribly dry.
He sighed to himself, wanting to call her every horrible name he could think of…but couldn’t quite muster the breath. He lay there for a few more minutes until his thirst got the better of him, and he hauled himself upright before he could think too hard about the consequences. Swaying a little he grasped onto the bedpost. Looking around he saw that he had collapsed onto Ginny’s old bed, explaining the lack of pillow and blanket, but he gave this little thought as he stumbled across the tent towards the kitchen, putting his face beneath the tap and turning on the water.
“Gross, Harry!” Hermione berated him from where she sat on the couch. “Don’t drink like that, use a glass!”
He ignored her, finding sweet relief under the onslaught of icy cold water, and he gulped it down like it was his last drink before putting his head fully under. That was even better, the cold water spilling through his hair and down his neck and he stood hunched over in that position. Minutes later he turned off the tap but did not move, his eyes closed as he fought to find the strength to stand up right. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this ill, as though he had been repeatedly attacked by an over excited bludger.
“What happened last night?” Harry mumbled into the sink, not expecting Hermione to reply.
“Well,” she began, evidently not amused. “After you dared Ron to remove his own tooth you dared him to eat a live frog, at which point you…”
“I don’t want to know,” Harry cut her off, raising his hand in the air. With a great sigh he carefully raised his head from the sink and looked over to where she sat, his feet moving himself towards her of their own accord. Collapsing onto the couch beside her he accidentally sprayed her with water from his sopping wet hair.
“Harry! C’mon, please don’t do that, you’ve got it all over my book.”
Book…Harry turned and looked at the book that was closed in her lap, frowning as he tried to read the blurry title. Read…he could do that…. “What is that?...Wambore?”
“What?” Hermione asked incredulously, looking from Harry to the book. “No, it says Wandlore…not that it’s is any of your business.”
Hermione squirmed uncomfortably, turning around to peer behind them. “He’s asleep…in the bath tub.”
“In the bath tub?” Harry asked stupidly. He rubbed his eyes again and opened them wide, feeling as though he were seeing the world for the first time. “What’s he doing in the bath tub?”
“He fell asleep in there after he was sick all night,” Hermione sulked, turning around again and placing her book on the coffee table. “Can’t imagine that’s comfortable.”
“I’ve never slept in a bathtub,” Harry pondered, taking a deep refreshing breath and looking at her.
“That’s great, why don’t you put that on your resume?”
Harry swore to himself now. “What’s wrong with you this morning?”
“It’s the afternoon,” she corrected him, and at this she peered over her shoulder towards the bathroom before crossing her legs tightly. “It’s just he’s been in there a very long time…I really need to use the loo.”
“So? Just…go outside.”
“Go outside?” she questioned him, sitting straight now. “I can’t just go outside, Harry.”
“Why not? No one’s gonna look.”
She blushed terribly. “Girls don’t ‘just go’ outside.”
“Why? Is it because you’ll get your socks wet?” he teased.
“You’re not funny.”
“Just go in the loo then…Ron’s in the bathtub right? Close the curtain. Problem solved.”
“I had thought of that,” she admitted. “I just…I don’t know…”
They sat in silence for a few moments before Hermione jumped to her feet and rounded the couch, a resolved look on her face.
“Wait…” Harry began, feeling around the pockets of his trousers. “Where’s my wand?”
“I confiscated it.”
“And where’re my glasses?”
“Still in the tree.”
The bathroom door closed behind her, leaving Harry alone again. “Still in the tree,” he repeated to himself. Leaning back against the couch Harry took a moment to close his eyes and relax before a feeling of urgency seized him. Sitting up again he looked over himself, taking inventory of his clothing and shoes…relieved that he hadn’t lost anything else during the night he didn’t want to remember. Looking himself up and down he was relieved to find no sign that he had been sick…and he was still relatively in one piece.
“Ron!” came Hermione’s strangled voice, clearly affronted by whatever he had done.
Harry forced himself not to laugh as he listened to the yells coming from the bathroom, and his stomach rolled as he heard Ron retching as Hermione burst out the door.
“He’s awake,” she growled, furiously slamming the door behind her before storming out of the tent.
Ron’s retching continued, forcing Harry to unsteadily find his feet and wander towards the bathroom.
“You alright, mate?” he asked as he opened the door, the smell of stale vomit hitting him.
Ron had somehow wrapped himself around the toilet, hugging it with his arms and legs as he was ill, not looking up as Harry entered. Groaning Harry stumbled past him, glancing into the bathtub to ensure it was clean before collapsing into it, exhausted. His body grew hot as he lay there listening to Ron retching, and so he reached his arm high and turned on the shower, sighing again as the cold water soaked his clothing. He took a deep breath and could smell alcohol all through the bathroom.
“You know if you put the seat down, it’s easier to rest your elbows,” Harry commented.
Ron considered this for a moment before doing as Harry said, pulling down the seat and comfortably resting his arms and face. “You’re right…” he mumbled incoherently. “It’s warmer, too.”
“Hermione was just in here.”
“Oh…” Ron began, raising his head a little before shrugging unconcerned.
A few minutes later Ron finally raised his head, watching as Harry rested comfortably in the bathtub under the cold water. “That looks nice,” he commented wistfully, untangling his limbs from their embrace.
Harry hauled his sopping wet leg up onto the edge of the bathtub, blocking any advances. “Don’t even think about it.”
“Right,” Ron sighed, instead turning around and resting against the exposed pipes on the sink. “Ahhh…”
They lay in complete silence, recovering from the night before as Harry thought back to something Hermione had told him about last night. With a frown Harry raised his head and looked at his mate.
“Ron,” he began, hiding his anticipation when Ron looked his way. “Smile for me.”
Ron gave him an incredulous look before opening his mouth in a wide and gleeful smile. Just as Hermione said, there on the right side of his mouth was a gaping black hole where his canine tooth should be. Harry smirked and lay back down in the bathtub, not trusting himself to speak.
A/N Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, was definitely a pleasure to write.
Got some good exciting things coming up for you, hopefully no more dribs and drabs coming. Please leave me your thoughts in a review; I seem to get so few of them which is very discouraging. Without them I can only assume that readers are sticking around for a reason.
Thanks to Emily Wright for helping me out so much, we’ve been doing a lot of plotting lately, and she’s been a great help. Also, thanks to my readers.
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