Chapter 37 : Admissions And Accusations
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“What was the statue in the Chamber?”
“Answer the question!”
“There were a few,” Sirius said, baffled. “Snakes, mostly, and a massive one of Slytherin.” A thought struck him - a grim one, but if this was the only way to let someone know, even if help would never come in time.... “And Harry Potter,” he added loudly. The mirror in his pocket warmed ever so slightly. “But he’s not a statue.”
He heard rustling through the mirror, and coughed loudly to cover the sound of Harry’s sleepy, “Padfoot?”
Robards gave didn’t seem at all pleased by Sirius’ answer; he was frowning and his mouth was pressed into a hard, thin line.
“Before your trial, what spell did McKinnon use on you, down in the holding cells?”
Sirius baulked, but Robards’ expression was unchanged. Still, very few people knew what had happened down in the holding cells, so Sirius thought Robards might actually be Robards. A very, tentative sort of relief stole over him.
“One that could have killed me,” he replied, aware that Harry was still listening in; he could hear the faint sound of him breathing, but at least he’d had the sense to keep quiet.
“Well, you’re you, at least,” Robards sighed. “Small comfort.”
“I don’t want to hear anything out of your mouth that isn’t an explanation for this,” Robards said, and pulled a small pile of parchment out of his desk drawer. He slid it atop the desk to where Sirius - who was curious despite himself - could read them.
They were the letters he’d sent, with the false sightings of Eric. Sirius looked up, an eyebrow raised, but said nothing.
“Amanda Welbedier doesn’t exist. And neither does Verona F. Doyle, Percival Abbington or J. Lynch. And when I undid the handwriting charms on them, they all seem to have been written by you.” Sirius winced; not only because of Robards, but because Harry had gone utterly silent; Robards wasn’t the only one Sirius had been keeping things from.
“I’ve worked with you, Black,” Robards said, clearly trying to sound curt, but only managing to sound tired. “I know your hand, and when I got the magical traces on the handwriting spells checked, they’re all yours.
“I was at your trial, and I know you’d do anything for that boy of yours, so I simply cannot understand why you’d be working with a man that killed your Auror partner and nearly killed McKinnon, who Imperiused a twelve year old, and who is known to be in league with the man that betrayed your friends and got you sent to Azkaban for it. But this… setting false trails, and sending us all around in circle-”
“I’m not helping him,” Sirius said. “Not even close.”
“Oh, good,” Robards said. “I understand completely now, so I’ll just send you on your way...” If his tone hadn’t made it clear that that was not going to be the case, the flat look he directed at Sirius across the desk would have.
Sirius watched Robards back, considering his options. Silently, he willed the mirror’s connection to close, and felt it cool slightly. Doubtless Harry was confused and - if he’d understood any of what Robards was talking about - probably quite unimpressed with Sirius, but they’d talk about that when Sirius wasn’t tied to a chair. Right now, he needed to sort things out with Robards.
“I thought this was the best way.”
“And what way might that be?” Sirius shook his head, and Robards made a frustrated noise.
“Do you trust me?” Sirius asked.
“I thought I did,” Robards said, giving Sirius a thoughtful look. “Can’t say I’m as confident in that as I was, though.”
“Fair enough,” Sirius said, grimacing. “Look-”
“No,” Robards said, “you look. You’ve obstructed a case.” He waved at the stack of letters. “My case. We think Munch could’ve had someone on the inside, and you’re looking an awful lot like a suspect at the moment. You either talk to me, or I start investigating. Properly.”
“There’s nothing to find,” Sirius said.
“Then stop wasting my bloody time and start explaining. We’re supposed to be on the same side, here, Black, in case you’ve forgotten.”
And they were; Robards wouldn’t be analysing the handwriting on Sirius’ letters if he was in league with Crouch, wouldn’t restrain him and question him. Sirius was a bit relieved that he could have help with this all again, could have someone to trust. It had been his decision to handle it all alone, and while he couldn’t quite regret it, it was exhausting. He glanced up at Robards, and in amongst the frustration, and anger and embarrassment and suspicion, Sirius smelled something else; hurt.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
“I don’t want an apology,” Robards said gruffly, “I want an explanation.”
“No, you don’t,” Sirius sighed. “It’s all pretty grim.” Robards gestured for him to continue. A wary sort of curiosity was settling on his face, and Sirius figured this room - warded as it had been to keep him in - was as good a place as any to talk. “Munch isn’t Crouch. Or Crouch isn’t Munch- whichever. Munch is probably dead, and Crouch is somewhere in the Ministry, probably having a good laugh at us all… Unless he’s actually Dumbledore, in which case he’s laughing at us from Hogwarts.”
Robards didn’t question it, just nodded slowly and said, “You didn’t want to let on that you knew. If it wasn’t Munch, it could’ve been anyone. Even me.” He flicked his wand and the ropes around Sirius disappeared. Sirius nodded in thanks and rolled his shoulders, revelling in the freedom of movement. “I don’t suppose you’ve worked out who it is, or why?”
“No,” Sirius muttered. “To both. Voldemort’s-” Robards didn’t flinch at the name like so many others did, but he did look uncomfortable. “-got some plan, but your guess is as good as mine.”
“First Shacklebolt, now you,” Robards said, shaking his head. Sirius looked up and saw a wary sort of pity on Robards’ face, and it took him a moment to realise why; it was the first time Sirius had pointed the finger at Voldemort, in all the years they’d been working together. Oh, he’d alluded to it, certainly, but couldn’t recall ever saying it outright as he had just then. He’d either never had the time, or wouldn’t have been able to explain enough to be convincing without giving Harry’s odd dreams away, or mentioning the horcruxes. “I know they’re- Crouch and Pettigrew are both old Death Eaters, but that doesn’t mean… You Know Who’s gone.”
“I wish,” Sirius said. He hesitated for just a moment, and then sighed. “It’s all him. It’s always been him. Did you think Quirrell - the mild-mannered Muggle Studies Professor - murdered an eleven year old so he could infiltrate a school for fun, or that Croaker pushed me through the Veil because he felt like it-”
“He was working with Quirrell-”
“Who was working with Voldemort,” Sirius said.
“Quirrell fled,” Robards said after a moment. “If he was in league with You-Know-Who, why hasn’t he surfaced again now, with the other two?”
“Perhaps he’s had a change of heart,” Sirius said delicately. Robards narrowed his eyes, and Sirius shook his head. Thankfully, Robards didn’t push the point, just pursed his lips and leaned back in his chair.
“And last year? I suppose he told Crouch to give the Weasley girl the Riddle diary?”
“I don’t know,” Sirius admitted. “I don’t even know if it was Crouch that gave it to her.” Harry’d never had an answer for how she’d got it, and Sirius wasn’t a big enough git to ask Ginny himself. “As for Riddle… Surely you don’t think Voldemort’s mother named him Voldemort?” Sirius smiled wryly despite himself.
“Well, when you put it like that,” Robards murmured, and his mouth twitched just a bit, but he sobered quickly. “None of this is in the reports - I know, I’ve read them.” He drummed his fingers on the desk. “How can you be so sure?”
“Harry,” Sirius said. “And that’s all I’m giving you on that.”
“Well.” Robards studied Sirius’ face for a long moment, and then inclined his head. Sirius let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. “This certainly makes everything a little more complicated.” Robards rubbed his eyes.
“Nothing’s changed,” Sirius said. “Just… now you know who’s behind it all - really behind it. Assuming you believe me.”
“Not completely,” Robards said, and Sirius frowned. “You haven’t given me any real proof, you realise. But that boy of yours was there for that business with Quirrell, and was in the Chamber well before we were, so if he’s told you that’s what’s happening… Well, I’m not foolish enough to disregard it.”
“All right,” Sirius said evenly. “So what now?”
“Now,” Robards said with a thin smile, “we stop them - whoever they might be.”
“Just like that, eh?” Sirius asked, smiling back.
“Probably not,” Robards sighed. “But the two of us working together have surely got a better chance than you did by yourself.”
“And if I have real leads, that I can’t explain fully?” Sirius asked.
“Then I’ll have to trust you,” Robards said simply. “Like you’re going to have to trust me to be on your side.” Sirius nodded and stood, but Robards’ voice stopped him. “I mean it, Black,” he said. “Together. No more feeding me your false bloody leads.”
Sirius left the office and stopped by his cubicle only long enough to pack his things away. Then, he caught the lift down into the Atrium and Flooed home.
The kitchen was dark when Sirius stepped out into it, so he assumed Kreacher had already gone to bed.
Bed sounded like a wonderful idea, but Sirius had one last thing to do: he pulled out his mirror and murmured, “Harry Potter.”
Harry answered at once; it looked like he was down in the common room, and he had a glint in his eye that made Sirius think he was tired, but too on-edge to sleep. “Padfoot!?” he said, looking relieved. For a moment at least; before Sirius could get a word in, his expression had switched to wary. “What’s going on?”
“Misunderstanding with Robards,” Sirius said, “but we’ve sorted it out.”
“What was the misunderstanding?” Harry asked. It was an innocent enough question, only he’d heard enough through the mirror before to know most of the answer. Sirius didn’t miss the way his eyes flashed.
Sirius told him. Told him that he had believed Harry about Eric, but hadn’t known who to trust, and had worried about Wormtail or Crouch eavesdropping on those he did trust, and he told Harry about the letters and Robards’ interrogation.
“Someone could be eavesdropping right now,” Harry pointed out, rather stiffly.
“I know,” Sirius sighed. “But you’d heard most of it, and I couldn’t leave you not knowing the rest-” Harry’s jaw had set, and Sirius winced. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Harry said, but it was obviously not.
“Really?” Sirius asked doubtfully.
“No, not really” Harry said angrily. “You could have told me you were worried about eavesdroppers, but you didn’t, you lied!”
“I know.” Sirius didn’t argue, because Harry was right. Harry scowled at him through the mirror. “Spit it out,” Sirius said, attempting a smile. “Whatever you have to say, I’ve probably brought it on myself.”
“You were angry with me for going after Wormtail on my own,” Harry said, “only now you’ve done the same with Crouch.”
“Now hang on, that’s a bit different,” Sirius said, frowning. “I haven’t run, wandless after Crouch-”
“Robards had you Disarmed and tied to a chair,” Harry pointed out, jaw still set. “If he’d been Crouch-”
“I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” Sirius said.
“Or what if he’d killed you? Or taken you to Vol-”
“Harry, it wasn’t Crouch,” Sirius said.
“But it could have been!”
“Yes, it could,” Sirius said as patiently as he could. Harry had just been worried, he told himself, and now that worry was manifesting as anger. “That’s a risk of the job.”
“When I take risks-”
“I’m an Auror,” Sirius said irritably. “You’re thirteen. I’d say it’s a bit more reasonable for me to take risks than you.”
Harry’s jaw twitched, which told Sirius just what he thought of that.
“Right,” he said angrily, “you’re the Auror, so I s’pose I’ll let you work out what Voldemort’s up to. I’m only thirteen, right? What would I know?”
“I only do it because I have to, when there’s no one else to help,” Harry said. “You could have had help, could have told people what was going on and you didn’t!”
“You’re upset because I didn’t tell you,” Sirius said gently. “Not because I didn’t tell anyone else. And I’m sorry. I know you tell me everything-”
“I don’t, actually,” Harry said, chin coming up.
“Don’t you?” Sirius asked, amused.
“No,” Harry said, and Sirius’ amusement faded.
“What haven’t you told me?” he asked, a little concerned. Harry said nothing, but his expression was defiant.
“Right,” Sirius said. “Right. Great. Look, we’re both tired and a bit- on edge-” Harry snorted. “-so I’m calling it a night. We’re both going to sleep and calm down, and then I’ll talk to you tomorrow, all right?”
“Sure,” Harry said, seeming to deflate a little.
* * *
Harry jerked upright and looked around.
Ginny looked up from a nearby armchair, her head cocked to the side. Scowling, Harry flopped back down, rubbing his face, which he was sure had an indent in it from lying on his glasses. He didn’t remember falling asleep, but his wand and mirror were still on the coffee table, so he supposed he must have.
“Morning,” he muttered, glancing at the common room window. It was still dark out. “Is it morning?”
“Near enough,” Ginny said, shrugging, and turned the page of her book. “But not near enough that you couldn’t go back upstairs if you wanted to.”
Harry did want to, but he had a suspicion he’d end up lying awake, glaring at the hangings of his four poster if he did. The common room ceiling got his glare instead. There was a splotchy purple stain up there that he’d never noticed before. Merlin only knew what had caused it.
He slid his legs over and sat up with a yawn, but didn’t move beyond that. Ginny didn’t say anything, just glanced at him and settled back behind her book.
Harry wasn’t sure whether he was relieved she wasn’t asking questions, or annoyed; he’d calmed a little overnight, but was still far from happy with Padfoot and wanted to talk about it all to someone that wasn’t Padfoot.
Moony would have been his first choice, except he was in France… although Dora might not be; she’d been spending more and more time in Britain as part of an international Auror team. And she’d given him advice before, after Mad-Eye’s lesson on werewolves. And, she was an Auror, so she might be able to teach him about Silencing Charms, so Padfoot could stop using eavesdroppers as an excuse not to tell him things.
Harry pushed himself off the couch and shuffled over to the fireplace, figuring it was worth a shot.
He took a pinch of Floo Powder from the pot on the mantel and glanced over at Ginny.
“You don’t mind, do you?” he asked.
“No,” she said, giving him a curious look. “Who do you need to talk to?”
“Dora,” Harry said. Ginny’s eyes brightened. “Maybe. If she’s there.” Harry tossed the powder into the dying fire and it flared green. “Remus Lupin’s cottage, Hurtwood Forest,” he said, and stuck his head into the flames.
They whooshed around his head and tongues of emerald fire tickled his nose and ears, and then everything stilled and he was looking into the dark sitting room of Moony’s cottage.
“Hello?” he called. “Dora?” The cottage was silent. “Dora?” He heard something in the corridor, and a shadow moved a before the lights flickered on.
Dora stared at him from the doorway, wearing an oversized tshirt that Harry thought he’d seen Moony in last summer.
“Harry?” she asked nonplussed, hair going from a pale, sleepy blue to a nervous green. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong- just Padfoot being...” Maybe this hadn’t been the best idea, he thought, struggling to find the right words. “He- I just wanted to-”
“Sounds like you need a chat,” she said, and Harry nodded, relieved. She smiled and glanced down. “One sec.” And she disappeared back down the hallway.
“Hang on!” she called back, and so Harry did. She was back a few seconds later, wearing pyjama bottoms and had put an old jumper on over her borrowed tshirt. “Now,” she yawned, flopping down onto the floor in front of the fireplace, “what’s happened?”
“Don’t thank me yet,” she said, “I might be completely unhelpful.” That coaxed a grin out of Harry, and it lingered, even as he explained what had happened that night.
By the time he’d finished talking, Dora’s smile had faded, but she looked troubled rather than angry. Harry, who was feeling angry now that he’d brought everything back up, frowned at her.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said. “I- keeping you out of it isn’t the best way to handle things-”
“Exactly!” Harry said.
“But,” Dora said, giving Harry a playfully stern look, “I’m sure Sirius thought he was doing what was best.”
“He changed his mind pretty quick once Robards figured him out,” Harry muttered. “And if I hadn’t heard them through the mirror, he probably wouldn’t have told me at all!”
“But you did hear him, so he did tell you,” Dora said, shrugging. “And he probably wasn’t even meant to - there are some fairly strict confidentiality laws in place.“ She didn’t look disapproving, at least.
“He has to tell me,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I’m just as involved as he is.”
“Harry,” Dora said, voice suddenly gentle, “has it ever occurred to you that Sirius might not want you involved?”
“It’s not that simple,” Harry mumbled, thinking of the Prophecy. Dora clearly didn’t know, or if she did, clearly believed it was something that could be put off until he was older.
“It is,” Dora said. “Sirius is an Auror, and he’s trained for this sort of thing. You’re still at Hogwarts.” She gave him a wry grin. “I’d have killed anyone that said that sort of thing to me when I was at school, but… well, it’s true. Sirius’d do a bit better than you would against a Death Eater, I think, and-”
“It’s not Death Eaters I’m worried about,” Harry muttered. “What if Crouch had worked out what he was up to, and sent him off somewhere?”
“How would he send him off?” Dora asked, looking baffled.
“Portkey,” Harry said at once. “He’s already used one on Eric, and that either went to Voldemort or Wormtail.”
“Sirius is more than a match for Wormtail,” Dora said. “From what I’ve heard about that day in Hogsmeade, he would’ve had him if-” She pulled a face and her hair flashed pink for just a moment.
“If I wasn’t in the way,” Harry said.
“You weren’t in the way,” Dora said firmly. “Sirius just cared more about protecting you than he did about bringing down Wormtail.”
“And if I hadn’t been there, he probably would have had him,” Harry said. “It’s fine; it’s true. And I told you, it’s not Death Eaters that are the problem, it’s-”
“Voldemort,” she said quietly. Harry nodded stiffly. “He’d probably put up a bit more of a fight than Wormtail, I’ll give you that.” She flashed him a grin, but Harry didn’t feel up to returning it, and it faded. “I know you’ve been up against him before, and done - well, brilliantly, all things considered - but again, Harry, Sirius is an Auror, and, well, he’s trained for this sort of thing. You’re not.”
But that was just it, Harry thought miserably. Trained or not, Harry would do far better against Voldemort than Padfoot could ever hope to. The prophecy would see to that, he was sure, and even if there was no prophecy, Voldemort was had previously been inclined to stop and talk to Harry, giving Harry precious time to think. Padfoot would get no such luxury.
“I get it,” Dora continued, “where you’re coming from. But I- it’s hard not to see it from his side too, you know? We all want you safe.” Harry said nothing, and Dora looked at his face and laughed ruefully. “I warned you I’d probably not be very helpful,” she said. “How about this: Sirius has done an awful, awful thing, by keeping this all from you, and I’m very angry. And so’s Remus - or he will be, when I tell him. We’ll both be having words with Sirius.” Dora gave Harry a hopeful look. “Better?”
“Not really,” Harry said, but managed a smile for her this time.
“Bugger,” Dora said, and they both laughed, but then there was a tap on the window. “I’ve got to get that- Whoops,” Dora said, stumbling over the edge of the rug as she stood. Harry was expecting an owl, but when Dora opened the kitchen window, it was a fat grey pigeon that soared in. “Wotcher,” Dora said brightly.
The pigeon landed on the back of a chair, nibbled on a bit of bread clutched in its scaled foot, and a woman appeared.
“Morning,” she said cheerfully, and then glanced at Harry. “So you’re why I couldn’t Floo through.”
“Sorry,” he said.
“Nah,” the woman said. She spoke with a faint accent - Australian, maybe - and Harry thought he’d seen her a few times in Moony and Dora’s building in France, and at their wedding, but he didn’t know her name. He assumed she was now on the same international team as Dora. “‘S’all good. Gave me an excuse to have a morning fly-”
“You could’ve Apparated,” Dora said. She shot Harry an apologetic look and he gestured that he could go, but she shook her head and held up a hand.
“I wasn’t in that much of a hurry,” the woman said, looking amused, and then pulled a face. “It’s Bagman again.”
“Of course it is,” Dora muttered, hair turning an irritated orange colour. “Did he say what he wants?”
“Does he ever?” But the other woman glanced Harry’s way again, and he wasn’t sure that was entirely true; she just couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about it in front of him.
“Right. Does Phil know?”
“When I spoke to Dave Turner, it sounded like he was going to tell him, but I said we’d grab Black and Wellington-”
“S’pose I should get dressed, then.”
“I wouldn’t bother. I slept in this,” the other woman said, shrugging, as she pulled at her hooded jumper. Dora laughed, and came to kneel by the fire again.
“Sorry, Harry,” she said.
“It’s fine,” he said. He glanced at the window, and the lightening sky outside. His stomach rumbled - an odd feeling, since it was still connected to him and yet all the way at Hogwarts. “I should probably have breakfast soon-”
“Breakfast,” Dora said, enviously. “Have something for me, won’t you?”
“I’ve got breadcrusts,” the other woman offered, patting her pocket. “If you don’t mind being a pigeon...”
“I’ll pass,” Dora laughed. “Sorry I wasn’t much help,” she said to Harry. “Sounds like I’ll be seeing Sirius this morning, though, so I can have a word with him if you want-”
“It’s fine,” Harry said again. “I’ll see you later.”
“All right,” Dora said uncertainly. “Well, I’ll talk to you soon. And I’ll see you at Easter, if not before, eh?”
“We’re playing Ravenclaw in March,” Harry said.
“Brilliant,” Dora said. “Owl me the date, and I’ll try to make sure I’m in the country.” Harry grinned at her, said another goodbye and pulled his head out of the fire.
“Feel any better?” Ginny asked.
“A little,” Harry said. Dora hadn’t been the sympathetic ear he’d hoped for her to be, but talking to her seemed to have helped anyway.
There were a few more people in the common room now, and a sixth year girl shooed Harry away from the Floo so she could use it.
“She’s been waiting pretty much the whole time you were talking,” Ginny told him. She closed her book, tucked it into the bag at her feet, and stretched, then stood. “Are you hungry?”
His stomach rumbled in response.
Ten minutes later, after Harry had changed and told a barely stirring Ron that he’d meet them at breakfast (Draco had already sealed himself in the bathroom), he and Ginny were halfway to the Great Hall when Harry realised something: Silencing Charms.
“What about them?” Ginny asked warily, and Harry realised he’d spoken allowed.
“I forgot to ask Dora about them,” Harry said, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t suppose you know anything about them?” He glanced at Ginny without much hope, and noticed she looked uncomfortable. “Do you?”
“A bit,” she said.
“How?” A thought occurred to him and he grimaced. “Did- er-Tom-”
“No, he didn’t.” There was a long pause, and then she said, “I learned them on my own.”
“Really?” Harry asked. “When? Why?” Ginny didn’t answer, and if her scent was anything to go by, he didn’t think she was going to. “Sorry,” he said hastily. “Do you think you could teach me?”
“Dreams?” she asked, shooting him a sympathetic, sideways look. “Is that why you were downstairs?”
“Dreams?” Harry repeated blankly. They were almost to the Great Hall now. He could hear the soft murmurs of those that were even earlier to breakfast than they were. “No, Padfoot and I were talking- well, arguing, really-” Ginny’s eyebrows shot up. “-but he mentioned he’s been worried about eavesdroppers here at Hogwarts, so I thought if I learned a spell...”
“I don’t know how good mine will be for that,” Ginny said after a moment. “It’s good for sealed places, like rooms, or er- curtains around a four-poster...”
“Dreams,” Harry murmured. She nodded stiffly. “So your dorm mates don’t hear?”
“They like me much better these days.”
“I reckon Ron and Draco would like me better if I shut up at night,” Harry mused, and Ginny laughed.
“They’d probably worry that you were so quiet,” she pointed out. “Think you’d suffocated or something.” They grinned at each other. “I can teach you though, if you think it’ll help with your eavesdropping problem.”
“Brilliant. I have Quidditch after dinner, but after that-” He pushed open the door to the Great Hall when someone cleared their throat behind him. He spun to see Cho - looking a little windswept in her Quidditch robes - and her curly haired friend. “Hey,” Harry said, smiling. Cho was smiling too, but he remembered what Luna had said about her being upset with him, and felt his smile wither. He eyed her uniform again, figuring she’d just come from practice, and he went to ask, but it came out all wrong: “Are you Quidditch?”
Ginny snorted a laugh and Harry felt his cheeks heat up. Cho frowned, and her friend folded her arms.
“See you later, Harry,” Ginny said, and slipped into the Hall. Cho’s friend went too, with a warning look at Harry.
“Am I Quidditch?” Cho asked weakly, when they were gone.
“I meant to say have you just had Quidditch?” Harry said, face flaming.
“Oh. Well, yes.” She gestured unnecessarily at her robes, and then looked back up at him, somewhat expectantly. Harry looked around for something to say. He could see Ginny, joining Luna at the Ravenclaw table, and Cho’s friend - also at the Ravenclaw table - but she’d sat as far from Ginny and Luna as possible.
“Luna thought I should give you an aubergine,” Harry heard himself say.
“What?” Cho asked, looking at him like he’d gone mad. Harry wished he hadn’t said anything at all.
“They’re an apologetic vegetable, apparently,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “And I’m- you know, sorry I couldn’t go yesterday.”
“Oh,” Cho said faintly. She smelled disappointed, though, and he wasn’t sure why. “It’s- I went with Marietta and Riley, so it wasn’t too bad. Did you- what did you do instead?”
“Library,” Harry said. “That’s when Luna told me about…”
“Aubergines, yes.” But there was a frown on Cho’s pretty face now. “So you went to the library with Loony Lovegood on the Hogsmeade Valentine’s Day?”
“Luna,” Harry corrected quietly. “And Ginny and Colin. Yeah.” But Cho’s expression hadn’t changed. “Why?”
“On Hogsmeade’s Valentine’s Day,” Cho prompted, looking miserable.
“She’s- Luna wasn’t my Valentine,” Harry said, catching on. “Besides, today’s actual Valentine’s Day-” At least he thought someone had said it was today. “-and I’m with you right now, so-”
“Oh, so you did remember?” Cho asked, looking quite upset. Harry pulled her away from the doors; people were starting to stare, both from within the Hall, and from outside it as they came down to breakfast. “I suppose that’s why you and Ginny Weasley came down alone this morning, too?”
“Me and- Ginny?” Harry asked, baffled.
“She’s not as nice as you think,” Cho said, face an angry pink. “She got Marietta a detention, you know. Her first one ever.” As Marietta had insulted Hagrid the last time he saw her - except for today - Harry couldn’t find it in himself to care much. Nor could he work out why Cho was upset - and she was upset, he could smell it - with him because her friend had been given a detention.
“Look,” Harry said, summoning his courage to reach out and put a hand on Cho’s arm, and was relieved when she didn’t pull away, “I’m not- I don’t know what Marietta and Ginny have to do with me. I’m sorry I forgot about today.” Cho made a sound somewhere between a huff and a sniff. “Happy Valentine’s Day?” Harry tried.
“Happy Valentine’s Day?” Cho repeated thickly. “That’s it? You forgot, and now all you can say is a really pathetic ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’?” She looked so disappointed Harry thought she might cry.
“Riley got Marietta flowers, and a pair of earrings-”
But before she could continue, Harry’s friends appeared. He didn’t think he’d ever been so pleased to see them, and that was saying something.
“Hey, Chang,” Ron said, appearing behind Cho (“Ron, no,” Hermione moaned, hurrying forward.) “Have you eaten already, Harry?”
“Not yet,” Harry said. Hermione tugged Ron away from them and toward Draco and the doors. Harry locked eyes with Ron, begging him non-verbally to make an excuse so that Harry could go with them.
“Sorry,” Hermione was saying, but directed it more at Cho than Harry. “We’ll just be in here, Harry, when you’re-”
“It’s fine,” Cho said. “I think we were done talking anyway.” Harry tried not to look too relieved. “And I’m sure Harry’d much rather be with you than me, right, Harry?” Cho’s tone was cool. Harry stared at her, uncertain. With the way she’d been acting this morning, he would much rather be with his friends, but there was something about the way she’d said it...
“Oh,” Hermione said, “no, Cho, he’d much rather be-”
“It’s fine,” Cho said. “I’ve got other things to do, anyway.” And she spun on her heel and marched toward the stairs. Marietta dashed out of the Great Hall, holding a stack of toast and an orange, giving Harry a nasty look as she passed.
“Go after her, Harry,” Hermione urged.
“Why?” Harry asked, pushing the doors of the Great Hall open. His mood, which had been improving since his talk with Tonks, had soured again. “So I can listen to her insult you as well? She’s already had a go at Luna and Ginny this morning, and told me I’m not as good as Riley-”
“What’d she say about Ginny?” Ron asked, ears turning red.
“Something about her not being very nice, and getting Cho’s friend a detention-”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said, while Draco poured them all juice. “She’s jealous. You didn’t go to Hogsmeade with her yesterday, and spent it with Ginny and Luna instead-”
“And Colin,” Harry said.
Hermione threw her hands up in the air.
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