Chapter 8 : The Waiting
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Then he began writing.
It didn't take him long, the message was short and he'd figured out what to write on his run through Hogwarts. Once finished he read through it one more time.
This is Harry, I'm at Hogwarts with Neville. We've teamed up with our ancestors and the Dumbledores to figure out how to get back to our time. Time-turners have yet to be invented. I thought Hogwarts would be best place to wait, but I think I was wrong. I did something terrible, and I need you to help me fix it. Please, I can't do this without you.
I hope you're okay, please respond as soon as you get this message and let me know where you are.
Happy with what he wrote he quickly looked around for a suitable bird. He finally decided on a sturdy looking barn owl, he didn't know how far it would have to fly.
Tying the message to the owl's leg he looked the owl in the eye and said, "Take this to Hermione Granger."
The owl cocked it's head in confusion and Harry felt a shimmer of disappointment and fear. Was it possible the owl couldn't find someone not from this time? Or was Hermione not here at all?
Pushing aside the fear Harry looked the owl in the eyes again and brought up an image of Hermione in his head. "Bring this letter to Hermione Granger."
The owl still looked confused and Harry almost shouted in frustration and fear. Why couldn't the owl figure out who he meant?
Was Hermione not here? Or… Harry shuddered in fear, was she dead?
He slumped against the wall and stared at his hands.
Images of Hermione's body, lying as cold and lifeless as Cedric's flitted through his head. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes as he tried to not cry.
He didn't know how long he sat there, but eventually he had an epiphany.
He'd been asking the owl to find the Hermione he'd last seen, the sixteen year old Hermione, not the eleven year old Hermione! That had to be the reason! Harry wasn't exactly sure how the owls found people, but he'd always thought of the person he was sending the letter to when he spoke to the owl.
Jumping to his feet Harry looked the owl in the eyes again and pictured Hermione as she had looked when he'd first met her: all bushy hair and buckteeth. "Bring this to Hermione Granger."
The owl let out a little hoot of acknowledgement and lifted itself off its perch to fly swiftly out the window.
After sending his letter to Hermione Harry went down to dinner, where Richie and Neville refused to sit anywhere near him, unless he told them what was really the matter. Harry wasn't ready to do that so he'd been forced to sit between Misletie Chevalier and Preston.
Misletie had just stared at her food all through dinner and Preston had talked his ear off. Harry wasn't quite sure what he had talked about either. All he'd caught had been something about a pig and an outhouse.
It was hard to listen to someone when they talked with their mouth full of half-chewed food.
Along about dessert Harry had tried to get Misletie to talk to him, but she'd just shot him an angry, hate-filled glare before returning to her pudding. Harry wasn't sure what her problem was and he didn't think he wanted to know either. Harry spent the rest of dinner listening to the argument going on between the three Smith brothers. It was mildly entertaining - primarily because it reminded Harry of the arguments between the Weasley Brothers.
At the thought of the Weasleys a pang of sadness shot through him, he wondered, what had happened to Ron?
After dinner he served his detention with Professor Black. It was during this detention that he finally encountered the Headmaster in person.
"Good evening, Elladora. How was-"
Harry looked up from the lines he'd been writing to see a tall man with jet black hair, a pointed beard, and thin eyebrows standing in the doorway to Professor Black's office. He was dressed very professionally in midnight black robes that looked like they could stand on their own. Harry recognized him from a portrait he'd seen once in Professor Dumbledore's office.
He looked down his sharp nose at Harry and raised an eyebrow, "A detention already?"
Professor Black nodded, "Yes, he decided jumping off the tower in Astronomy class on Wednesday night was a good idea. Harry Potter, this is Headmaster Phineas Black, my brother." She looked at him pointedly, "I'm sure you know that by know, don't you?"
Actually, Harry hadn't noticed that. He had heard on the train who the Headmaster was, but he'd promptly forgotten as soon as he'd pulled the Sorting Hat off his head, it hadn't really been important. Rather than say that the identity of his Headmaster wasn't a big deal he just nodded politely and said, "Nice to meet you Headmaster."
Headmaster Black nodded back politely while his sharp eyes studied Harry. Harry felt as if the Headmaster could see into his very soul; after a moment though he turned his attention back to Professor Black.
"Elladora, I came here for a specific reason." From the way he said this Harry was certain that this specific reason was not discussable in front of a student. "But I also wanted to talk to you about Phineas. I heard from Xerin that he's causing problems in the Slytherin common room for Sirius. Could you please deal with that? Sirius does have his O.W.L.S. this year and he doesn't' need to worry about his little brother saying unacceptable things around our equals."
Professor Black shot a quick glare at Harry when she realized that he wasn't writing. Harry hurriedly began scribbling out, 'I will not act like an untrustworthy baby on the Astronomy Tower,' again
Once Professor Black was certain that Harry was doing what he was supposed to she spoke again, "I'll see what I can do. Don't worry about it. Also, you might want to check in on Weasley, he's spouting some very un-pure things lately, and around students too."
"Alright, I'll have a talk with him. Now, when are you going to be done with detention?"
"In about twenty minutes I think, he needs to finish the page he's on and one more."
"Sounds good, I'll see you in my office in thirty then."
Once Headmaster Black was gone Professor Black settled herself back at her desk and wrote something. Then she folded up the piece of paper, waved her wand, and sent it soaring out of her office. Once it was gone she smiled a small smile and went back to grading papers.
About ten minutes later Harry was on his way back to Gryffindor Tower as he massaged his cramping hand. He hated writing so much.
Upon reaching Gryffindor Tower he found most of the students to be enjoying their first Friday night at Hogwarts. Harry wasn't feeling very social though and since Richie and Neville refused to talk unless he told them the real reason he'd been out of it, he decided to just go to his room and go to bed. Though he had wanted to tell them about the letter he sent.
As he lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, his fingers slipped under his pillow and fingered the worn piece of parchment there.
After a moment he pulled it out and whispered, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good," as he tapped it with his map.
His eyes scanned the parchment, searching for any familiar name from the future, but all he saw was Albus Dumbledore relaxing in the Slytherin common room and Neville Longbottom in Gryffindor tower.
Sighing, he whispered, "Mischief managed," stuck the map back under his pillow and went to sleep. His want clenched tightly in his fist, just like it was every night since he'd come here.
On Saturday he woke early and went down to the Great Hall. Then he wandered the grounds until it was time for his detention. The rest of the day was spent getting to know just how Professor Rosier's potions cupboards differed from Snape's.
Harry wasn't impressed by the difference.
Rosier seemed to have an even greater fondness for creepy things in jars. It also looked like he'd never cleaned out a cupboard before; so many things were rotten that Harry almost threw up a couple times. He was so nauseated that he couldn't touch the sandwiches a house elf brought him at lunch.
By the time he was free and heading up to Gryffindor Tower to wash the rotten smell off of himself he was not in good mood, despite the glimmer of hope in his chest at the thought of his letter to Hermione.
As he was passing a deserted classroom near the dungeons when he heard some strange noises. There was some grunting and a small whimper.
Frowning, Harry peeked inside the classroom. What he saw there made him angry, very angry.
Standing in the room was the black-haired prefect from the Hogwarts Express. Next to him was a boy and a girl. The three of them were standing over a small figure lying on the ground.
"Do you understand the situation now, brother?" Sirius Black, the prefect asked coldly.
The figure on the ground just whimpered. Harry assumed that the figure was actually Phineas Black, the boy that was causing problems for Sirius according to the Headmaster.
"Sirius, I think he understands. Don't you Phineas?" The girl asked as she leaned over Phineas. Her voice was soft, as if she was trying to comfort him, but the sickly sweet smile on her face destroyed any affect her voice created.
Phineas just whimpered again and the girl leaned closer to him, "Phineas? Did you say something?" She reached out to touch his shoulder.
As soon as she touched his should he struck at her, as swiftly as a snake. She fell backwards as his small fist connected with her stomach. As she tried to catch her breath Phineas raced towards the doorway.
He never made it.
One of the other boys grabbed him. He thrashed in the boy's arms, trying to kick and punch him, but his blows seemed to have no effect.
Sirius let out a dry chuckle, "I'm glad to see you have the family spirit, if not the family brains." Then he sighed, "I didn't want to do anything more drastic, but you leave me no choice." He raised his wand, "Cru-"
Harry didn't think, he threw open the door and shouted, "Expelliarmus!"
He hadn't aimed the spell at the Sirius's wand; rather he'd aimed it at the boy holding Phineas.
Phineas shot out of the boy's hands. As soon as he hit the ground he took off running.
He ran through the doorway, grabbing Harry's arm and began dragging him down the hallway. Harry quickly got his feet under him so that he wasn't being dragged for long, rather, he was almost outpacing Phineas.
The two of them raced up stairways and down hallways. Eventually they reached a humpbacked witch that Harry found familiar. He pulled Phineas to a stop and quickly opened the secret passage. Just as he and Phineas disappeared into the tunnel he heard Sirius and his friends run past.
Harry sighed in relief. He had no doubt that if it came down to a magic duel he could hold his own against the fifth years, but he didn't want to give away how much he know. After all, what first year could do fifth year level spells? Especially when they'd only been at Hogwarts for a week? It was already bad enough that he'd cast Expelliarmus.
The two boys waited for what felt like an eternity, hoping they wouldn't be found. After a while the Slytherin boy, Phineas Black, turned to Harry and said, "Who are you and why did you save me?"
Harry frowned at the boy's cold, aristocratic tone. "I'm Harry Potter," he shrugged, "and I just did what I do." Hermione's accusation that Harry had a saving people thing flitted through his head and he couldn't help but smile, she'd been right, though he'd been too worried and angry at the time to acknowledge it.
Phineas looked at him with suspicion, "Really? A Potter? I suppose I should've seen the resemblance. You're the long-lost half-blood from a muggle woman, aren't you?" Harry nodded. "Anyways, what do you mean, 'I just did what I do'?"
"Exactly that. I can't stand by and watch someone get hurt while I'm doing nothing."
The boy chuckled, "No wonder you're in Gryffindor. I'm Phineas Black by the way. That was my brother and his two friends back there."
"So I gathered, can I ask why he was going to torture you?"
Phineas shrugged as he opened the passageway and looked out into the corridor. "Oh, the usual reasons. I made some comments about the government and the way the world is run, he didn't approve. My brother is even more of purist than my father."
Harry stared at Phineas in shock, "He tortures you regularly? And your father lets him!"
Phineas slipped out into the corridor. "Yes and no. My father has no idea that Sirius tortures me and if I told him he wouldn't believe me. Sirius is the golden boy, he can do no wrong."
Harry followed Phineas and proceeded to close the passage again. This boy's relationship with his brother sounded eerily like Harry's relationship with Dudley before those amazing, magical letters had arrived.
"Are you going to be safe going back to your common room tonight?"
Phineas shrugged, "Probably not, but he won't cast Crucio in the common room, even he's not that crazy. I'll just get some more common hexes put on me. Luckily I've spent the past month studying the counter curses to the ones he uses most often."
"Don't you have any friends in your house to help you?"
He let out a small snort, "This half-blood called Thompson is the leader of the band of boys this year. He's very charismatic and ambitious. Once he realized that I was out of favor with my brother and not my father's favorite he stopped trying to win me over. I'm allowed to be around them, but that's about it."
Harry frowned, "Thompson? Is he related to Emily Thompson in Gryffindor?"
"They're cousins I think. I know they grew up together. Every once in a while he laments the fact that she's not in Slytherin."
The two boys continued in silence until they reached the marble staircase. There they said goodbye before parting ways as Harry headed up and Phineas went down.
"Call me Harry, all my friends do."
Phineas smiled then, for the first time, "Okay, farewell then Harry."
"See you around, Phineas."
Harry found himself whistling as he went back to Gryffindor Tower. Between the letter to Hermione and the saving of Phineas and possible friendship he was in a good mood. He could always use more friends.
Still, in the back of his mind, he worried.
What changes would come from him having saved Phineas? And, would they be bad, or good?
The next two months passed by slowly for Harry.
Every morning for the first month he eagerly awaited the mail, always checking to see if a letter from Hermione arrived, and every morning he was disappointed. By the time October arrived he didn't even spare the owls a glance – for as the weeks slipped by he grew more and more depressed. He still refused to tell Richie and Neville about Albus, so they would have nothing to do with him.
In classes he still did poorly. Despite the fact that he knew all the material he still kept messing up. In potions he was the worst, his potion almost always went horribly, horribly wrong. Several times it almost killed him. Despite this he still enjoyed potions. It was the only class he had with Phineas. They two of them had a good time together, despite Harry's feelings the rest of the time, he could still manage a smile for this poor boy. Harry still felt the age gap with Phineas that he felt with the other first years, but like with Richie, it wasn't as bad. He was very intelligent and rather mature for his age.
Unfortunately, the good times with Phineas did nothing to stop his growing depression. Despite the fact that he was at Hogwarts it felt like that horrible summer when he'd been stuck at the Dursleys.
Even the weather seemed to affect his mood. About halfway through September the clouds rolled in and refused to move. It rained more often than not and once, in early October, it got so cold that it snowed.
Not even the excitement in the castle as Halloween and the first Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw grew closer could make Harry feel better.
In fact, if he hadn't felt determined to figure out what was wrong with Albus and get Neville back to the right time he might've just given up.
Using his growing friendship with Phineas, Harry was able to keep tabs on Albus. Apparently he'd quickly become best friends with Thompson. Even though Thompson was the acknowledged leader, Phineas was sure that he didn't do anything without Albus's permission. It was also because of Albus that Phineas was allowed to still be around them, though Phineas didn't know why.
It reminded Harry a little of Fudge and Dumbledore, just give Fudge more of a spine.
Oh, and a brain.
Part of Harry couldn't help but blame Fudge for his predicament right now. If he'd just believed him about Voldemort…
Images of shoving Fudge's bowler-cap clad head at Voldemort's nose-less face flitted through Harry's mind as he munched on his bacon early on Halloween morning.
As he moved on to his toast he heard the normal flap of wings as the morning post arrived, but he didn't bother to look up.
So it came as a complete surprise to him when a sturdy looking barn owl landed in front of him and stuck his leg out.
Harry's eyes grew wide and he saw that his hand was shaking as he reached out and untied the letter.
The owl grabbed a piece of bacon off of Preston's nearby plate and then flew off into the air.
Harry slowly turned the letter over and gasped.
There, written in a familiar tight handwriting were the words:
To: Harry Potter
From: Hermione Granger
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