Chapter 16 : Chapter Sixteen: Closer
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Harry's body jolted, a small gasp leaving his mouth as he awoke. Keeping his eyes closed, he took deep breaths to slow his heart rate and tried to calm himself. Another dream, just another dream. He frantically reassured himself, ignoring the prickling feeling in his scar as he sat up on his elbows and wiped the sweat from his brow. After a minute, he felt calmer and had regained control of himself. He laid back down, kicking the covers off his overheated body as he did so. Harry felt confused, he hadn't had a dream about Voldemort for over a month now, what was happening?
Deciding not to let his sluggish brain overthink it, Harry closed his eyes and tried to fall back asleep. After watching the clock turn from two-thirty to three, Harry gave up on the idea. He hoisted himself out of the bed and placed his feet on the freezing floor, quickly slipping his glasses onto his nose before getting off the bed and heading down to the common room. It was empty so he headed towards the couch closest to the fireplace. As he sat down, Harry felt the tingling sensation in his scar heighten and once again tried to ignore it, not wanting to deal with it at that moment.
Instead he laid down on the couch and placed a cold hand over his forehead, sighing as it soothed his heated skin. I'm probably just sick, Harry thought as he switched hands, using the other one to wipe away some of the sweat on his chest. That's when the pain hit him. Harry gave a garbled mixture of a yelp and a gasp, the hand on his forehead shooting over to his scar and pressing against it, his body doubling over as he tried to bear the pain.
Swearing as he tried to catch his breath, Harry rolled onto his side and quickly checked his hand for any blood from his scar. He was relieved when he found none. At that moment, an even more agonizing pain shot through his scar and a strangled cry escaped his mouth. He rushed to put his hand back over his scar but the sharp movement jolted his body and sent him crashing to the floor. At this point Harry didn't care where he was, all he could focus on was the pain that was consuming him, nothing he did would relieve it-
"Hello?" A quiet voice asked from near the girls dormitory.
Harry couldn't pick up his head to see who had come down, at this point couldn't care less who saw him, all he could think of was the pain.
"Harry!" The voice said loudly.
Harry cracked his eyes open and found his vision blurry, out of the corner of his eye he could see his glasses laying near his shoulder, and tried to focus on the figure approaching him.
"Hermione?" He managed to croak out.
Hermione rushed over and kneeled by his side, putting her cold, soft hands on either side of his face, as she came into focus Harry could see how scared and alarmed she was at the sight of him. Her face was pale and her voice shook with panic.
"What happened? What hurts? God damn it! Sirius was right, you weren't ready!" She muttered frantically, searching him for injuries.
"It's my bloody scar, M'ione." Harry whispered.
Before she could respond, Harry cried out as the pain intensified, radiating through his jerking body, engulfing him in hell. He could feel Hermione trying to restrain his body and could only just hear her muttering under her breath, trying her best to console him.
"Hermione? What's wrong?" A familiar voice said nearby.
"George! Please, help me!" Hermione begged, sounding close to tears.
"What's going on - Harry!" George said, sounding startled.
Suddenly Harry felt another pair of arms touching him and, as he felt his consciousness start to leave him, was glad someone else besides Hermione was there to help him. His relief was short lived as the pain flared up again and, with one last choked gasp, Harry blacked out.
He could feel hands touching his forehead, neck, checking his pulse, and smoothing back his hair. Harry breathed in through his nose and swallowed, his mouth forming a grimace as he tasted the potions that must have been forced down his throat and made his stomach churn uncomfortably. Harry shifted on the bed so his back wasn't in a painful position. As he did he felt a not uncomfortable weight on his feet but couldn't figure out what it was. It didn't matter though, Harry felt comfortable and safe where he was, the pain was finally gone.
"Are they still here?" A feminine voice interrupted his momentary bliss from nearby.
"Yes, they just went to the kitchens for a quick lunch." A man's voice replied.
"I understand Albus excused everyone from classes today, I do, but they don't need to stay in here, they can't expect Potter to wake up so quickly." The woman said irritably.
It took Harry a moment before he recognized the voice of Madam Pomfrey, only then did he realize that he was in the Hospital Wing. What a surprise, Harry thought sarcastically.
"They're his friends, I would have done the same for mine - I still do." He heard the male voice say right next to him, and felt his hair smoothed back again.
Silence fell in the room, the only sounds were the other people in the room breathing and the birds chirping outside. Harry didn't like the silence, it made him feel awkward, the center of attention, and right now he knew he was. He almost sighed in relief when he heard the Hospital Wing door open and more than one person enter. The group of people were talking and, after a moment of concentration, he realized it was Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George. Harry couldn't tell what they were talking about but he didn't like the tone of their voices.
"Is he awake yet, Remus?" Hermione asked, and Harry felt the mattress dip as her and someone else sat on the bed.
Harry heard a sigh next to him. "No, not yet. Poppy can't pinpoint when exactly he'll wake up, but with the potions she's been feeding him it should be soon." Remus responded.
After a moment of silence, Fred started up a conversation about Quidditch in which everyone but Hermione gladly participated. Harry sat there content to just hear his friends voices, in a way, reassuring him that he was okay. He should have known it wouldn't last for long as a sharp bolt of pain went through his scar like lightening. He lifted his hand to his scar instinctively, his face scrunching up in pain.
"Harry?" Ginny asked, placing a soft hand over his.
Harry opened his eyes and relaxed his arm as the pain faded into nothing. He looked around at the blurry people who surrounded him.
"Here,'" Remus said, handing Harry his glasses, "I fixed the crack on the lens for you."
Harry took his glasses from Remus and placed them on his face. For a moment he was confused by what Remus said but then realized he must have broken them when he fell.
"Thank you." Harry croaked, his throat dry.
Remus forced a smile, looking tired and drained as he shifted on the chair next to Harry's bed. Harry smiled back and looked to his group of friends, all of whom looked at him anxiously, somewhat apprehensive, as if approaching a spooked animal.
"You don't have to worry, I'm fine." Harry told them, trying to reassure them.
"No you aren't, I saw you. If that's your definition of 'fine' then you're even crazier than I thought." George said, his voice stern.
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes and settled on grabbing a fistful of his blankets, trying to relieve his sudden annoyance.
"It was just Vol-" Harry started, but was cut off.
"It wasn't just that, Harry! You were thrashing around on the floor screaming, and knowing your high tolerance of pain it must have been one hell of a mood swing from You-Know-Who." Ron growled out, glaring at Harry.
Harry opened his mouth but nothing came out, he had nothing to say. He knew Ron was right, he couldn't deny it. Harry huffed in annoyance and laid back against his pillows, looking away from Ron. His eyes widened for a moment when he saw a large, black dog laying at his feet, looking at him with big eyes.
"Padfoot." He whispered, the dog gave a little whine and moved closer to Harry, laying one paw on Harry's leg.
"How are you feeling?" Hermione asked quickly, her eyes watching him carefully.
"I'm better." Harry replied after a moment.
He hardly noticed the silence that fell again as he looked at Sirius and then a moment later at Remus, confused as to why they were here with him. As he opened his mouth to voice his thoughts another shot of pain when through his scar and, for a moment, he felt excited and happy. It took a minute for the pain to go away and confusion replaced the foreign giddiness in him.
"Something big must have happened." Harry muttered as he rubbed at his scar, which was a little redder than usual.
Harry glanced up in time to see almost everyone shift uncomfortably, looking hesitant to say anything. He noticed Ginny almost spoke but her big brown eyes glanced around the room and she bit down on her lower lip, keeping the words inside her mouth.
"So I'm right, what happened? What did Voldemort do?" Harry asked, worry resonating from his voice.
He ignored the inadvertent flinches from the Weasley's, his eyes glancing from Remus to his friends, expecting an answer from either of them. Even before any words had escaped their mouths, Harry guessed it was bad, since Remus and Sirius were at Hogwarts with him instead of at Headquarters, and he vaguely remembered Madam Pomfrey saying classes were canceled today.
"Voldemort attacked the Ministry last night, Harry, that's why your scar hurt so much. A few people died in the attack-" Hermione started but she couldn't finish: looking worried and, to Harry's horror, scared.
"Oh Merlin, who?"
"Fudge is dead."
Harry felt his jaw drop in shock, "What?"
"Fudge is dead, Voldemort killed him while his Death Eaters attacked the employees." Remus responded, and Harry caught the tremble in his voice.
Harry saw Ron shudder out of the corner of his eye, and dread flared inside him.
"Mr. Weasley - " Harry gasped out with bulging eyes.
"No, no, no. He's fine. He left work early yesterday because of an Order meeting."
Harry sat on the bed in shock, hardly noticing the stares he was receiving. The Ministry was attacked by Voldemort, Fudge was killed. He couldn't wrap his brain around the idea. Was the Ministry ruined? Where did that leave the Wizarding World? Pandemonium? Fear? Both? Harry let out a shaky breath and opened his mouth, but Remus seemed to know what he was thinking and started talking.
"Dumbledore received word of what was going to happen the moment it before the attack, and arrived in time to make Voldemort flee the Ministry after he killed Fudge. Right now Dumbledore is temporarily Minister until we can find someone new, and McGonagall will be temporary Headmaster of Hogwarts. After Dumbledore got the situation settled down somewhat he contacted me and Sirius at Grimmauld Place, and told us to come here because he believes Headquarters isn't safe at the moment. " Remus told him with forced calmness in his voice.
It took Harry a moment to take in what Remus just said, his mind sluggish from shock and tiredness. He slumped against the metal headboard behind him, his mouth open slightly as his mind processed everything.
"Would you give Harry and I a moment? Make sure to lock the door behind you, I don't want anyone wandering in." Remus said suddenly, his eyes glancing from Harry to Padfoot.
"Of course." Hermione muttered as the rest nodded in agreement, and together they left the Hospital Wing, the lock clicking behind them.
Almost as soon as the door shut Padfoot jumped off the bed, transforming into Sirius, shocking Harry with how pale and pinched his face looked. Harry knew Sirius was taking the news hard, because the last time he saw Sirius look this stressed was when they met in the Shrieking Shack in his third year. Sirius walked over to Harry and sat on his side, casually putting his arm around Harry's shoulders.
"How are you holding up, pup?" He asked instantly, his eyes roaming over Harry's figure.
"You have ears, you heard me before," Harry said with a roll of his eyes, desperately wanting to lighten the mood, but it didn't work. "I'm fine, the pain comes and goes, but not as bad as last night."
"Good." Sirius sighed, relief evident in his voice.
"We're lucky that we came here when we did," Remus said, switching back to the subject, "Because we have our hands on something of Voldemort's."
Harry instantly perked up, "On what?" He asked incredulously.
Remus reached into his pocket and searched for a minute, then his fingers came out with a chain dangling from them. Harry recognized it immediately - it was the locket he found over the summer.
"What would he want this that piece of shit? OI!" Harry yelled in surprise as Sirius smacked him upside the head.
"Watch your language." He said sternly, pointing his finger at Harry, but he couldn't keep the small smile from tugging at his lips.
"So now you're concerned about me swearing." Harry teased, momentarily forgetting the situation.
"Anyway," Remus interrupted, clearing his throat, "We know what it is, and why Voldemort would want to get his grubby little hands on it."
"What is it?" Harry asked eagerly.
"It's called a Horcrux."
Harry walked slowly up the staircase as he made his way to Gryffindor Tower, his mind reeling. He couldn't believe how desperate Voldemort was to become immortal, to even consider tearing his soul into pieces. It was inhuman. Sick. Harry thought he was going to loose the contents in his stomach when Remus told him what a Horcrux was. Shaking his head as if the action would rid his thoughts, he tried to think of anything else, telling himself that Sirius and Remus had everything under control with the whole Horcrux thing, that they would take care of it.
"Jobberknoll." Harry muttered to the Fat Lady as he approached her, and as the door swung opened he quickly entered the common room.
He noticed right away that it was almost empty, he saw Hermione and the Weasley's huddled together on the couch, a couple first years in the corner talking, and a few sixth and seventh years sitting at the chess table. Harry walked over to his friends and flopped down on the couch next to Fred, taking a deep breath.
"Madam Pomfrey actually let you out?" Ron blurted out from the couch in front of Harry, looking at him incredulously.
"I didn't get away so easily," Harry said with a smile as he grabbed a small bottle of out his robe pocket, "I have to take a dose of this for the next week."
He heard a chuckle escape Ron's mouth and felt the corners of his own mouth pick up, flashing a rare grin on his face.
"What happened after we left?" Ginny asked, looking at him curiously.
"Remus mentioned that Voldemort tried to take the Prophesy when he attacked." Harry said truthfully, but with a small shake of his head told them that that wasn't all, but he couldn't say.
"He didn't get it, did he?" George asked, eyes wide.
"No, but he was close. He went down the wrong corridor and ran into Dumbledore." Harry replied with relish.
He saw almost everyone smile at the thought, and he himself couldn't fight the smile on his face. He looked over at Hermione and noticed she was distant, she was the one usually asking him questions before anyone else could open their mouths.
"M'ione? You okay?" He asked her gently, glancing over at Ron to see if he knew, but was answered with a shrug and a frown.
"It's just a lot to take in," She started with a sigh, "Everything's happened so fast. He's getter closer and stronger, and I don't like it, it scares me."
"It scares us all, M'ione, " Ron - surprising - spoke up after a minute of silence, "No one likes the idea. But I'd rather have him attack now when we somewhat expect him to then to attack later when we don't. V-V-Voldemort's coming, but we won't make it easy for him."
Everyone stared at Ron for a moment, mixed between shock and awe at what he had said. George clapped his hand on Ron's shoulder and gave his younger brother an encouraging smile.
"Ronnie's right, he's coming sooner than we might of thought, but at least we knowing he's coming now and not later." George said, his voice and face rarely serious.
The words had the desired effect on everyone, but Harry felt the words hit him like a ton of bricks. Voldemort was coming, and he would come after Harry. A shudder ran through Harry at the thought, flashes of himself at the Riddle House playing like a movie inside his head. What would he do when he came face to face with Voldemort again? He felt his heartbeat quicken on its own accord at the thought, and closed his eyes as he took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. Harry told himself not to worry, but he mind shouted back why not? He had every right to worry.
"-What do you think, Harry?" George asked, snapping Harry out of his thoughts.
"Excuse me?" Harry asked, looking up.
"Do you think that there's gonna be new rules enforced because of what happened at the Ministry?" George repeated.
"I-I don't know, I can't think straight ... Excuse me." Harry said vaguely as he sat up, walking towards the Boy's Dorm as fast as he could without raising suspicion.
Harry felt eyes staring at his back and the effort failed, they knew something was wrong. You need to learn to be less suspicious, it would save you from the lectures, he thought irritably as he hurried up the stairs. As he walked into the room he kicked off the trainers he was wearing, shoving them under his bed with his foot as he sat, shrugging off his robe and unbuttoning his flannel shirt and throwing them on the floor, put his glasses on his nightstand, and laid on his back in nothing but a t-shirt and trousers with his wand sticking out of the pocket. He stared at the hanging on his bed, unconsciously picking lint off his blanket as he lost himself in his thoughts.
Why is it always me? His mind kept repeating, thinking of all the traumatic events in his life, I'm just a kid, I don't deserve this. A soft chuckle left his mouth without his permission, no one deserved this. Harry closed his eyes and relaxed against the bed, his exhaustion from the day finally catching up to him. He felt himself start to drift off, and welcomed it, when he heard the door to the room open. Harry snapped his eyes open and sat straight up, his arm reaching for his wand as his eyes tried to make out who was in front of him. The person walked closer and stood in front of him, and even with his blurry vision he knew it was her. Ginny.
"Hey." He said softly, his hand enclosing over his glasses instead and secured them on top of his nose.
"Hi there sleepy head." She replied, sitting next to him on the bed.
Harry couldn't help but be aware of how close she was sitting next to him, on his bed. Harry felt his cheeks warm at the thought, and felt goosebumps rise on his arm were her skin touched his. Was she aware of the affect she had on him? Did she know how crazy she drove him?
"What are you doing up here?" Harry found himself asking.
He looked over at her and saw a flicker of concern cross her features before she composed herself. "I saw your face when George said what he said. The prat shouldn't of even brought it in the first place. They all know how much pressure is on you right now, the brainless gits!" Ginny said angrily, her eyes blazing.
Without really thinking Harry placed his hand on top of hers on the bed, and felt the tension in her body ease. "They shouldn't have to watch what they say just because I'm in the room, I don't blame them. It just got me thinking."
Ginny sighed and ran her free hand through her ginger hair. "There you go thinking again." She muttered teasingly.
Harry chuckled, " I know, its dreadful. The Great and Mighty Harry Potter thinking! That's absurd."
Ginny giggled and shook her head, "I didn't mean it like that. I meant that some of the ideas that form in your head scream danger and you're deaf to any warnings."
Harry felt the smile slip off his face, but he knew she was right. When was one of his ideas ever safe? He looked down at his lap and gave a sigh, and to his surprise he felt her grip his hand tightly.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Harry. I just want you to know that, and before you ever do anything you believe you have to do please run past me, or Ron, Or Hermione, or someone in my family. All we want to do is help you, but you need to help us in return."
Harry sighed and looked away from her, but kept his hand in hers, holding it tightly. "It isn't easy for me to let people in." He admitted sheepishly.
"I know it's hard. I just want to understand that we're here for you, no matter what." Ginny replied with a small smile.
Harry felt himself flush slightly, not used to hearing people saying they cared for him. Ginny squeezed his hand tighter, and Harry looked up to see her dazzling smile, and felt a smile grow on his face.
"Thanks." He whispered.
She just smiled and leaned in closer to him, and Harry felt himself freeze and his eyes widen. What was she doing? He felt her lips brush against his cheek for a moment before she pulled away, her cheeks tinged pink. Ginny then pulled her hand out of his and sat up off the bed.
"Your welcome. Come down later if you want to, but if you don't, we understand. Today's been stressful on everyone."
And with that Ginny left the dorm, leaving a still stunned Harry on the bed. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts before a large smile grew on his face, his eyes bright as he touched his cheek, which he found warm from Ginny's lips and his own blush. Coming out of daze Harry laid back down on the bed, his arms folded behind his head as he let his exhaustion consume him. Progress, Harry thought tiredly before he fell asleep, his dreams filled with Ginny.
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