CHAPTER THIRTEEN -- Calming the Storm
Harry woke early on Saturday morning, hoping to be able to post the results of the tryouts and be out of the common room before the rest of the house was awake. He threw on his tee shirt and jeans from the day before, quietly took out a quill and ink, and went downstairs to write Bundy's name on the roster. As he approached the notice board, however, he saw the name scrawled in an untidy hand and realized that Ron had already beaten him to it. Scowling, he took his quill and added Geoffrey Hooper's name as an alternate. The gesture assuaged his conscience at least a little bit.
"Morning Harry," someone called. Harry jumped. He hadn’t noticed Hermione sitting at a table nearby, her books spread out around her, and the remaining space littered with pages of translations of ancient runes.
"How can you be studying already?" he asked, taking a seat across from her. She gave him a patient smile.
"I think Ron was up before I was," she observed, nodding at the roster. Harry frowned.
"I don't know what's gotten into him!" he exclaimed, his frustration from the day before finally finding an outlet. "Yesterday he was trying to take over everything, like he doesn't think I know how to be captain or something. Do you think he's, I don't know, jealous?" Hermione smiled.
"Actually, I think this time it's the exact opposite. He's thrilled for you, Harry; so thrilled, in fact, that he's trying to live vicariously through you."
"Huh," Harry grumbled.
Hermione frowned at him suddenly.
"What's that you're wearing?" she asked, pointing at his shirt. Harry looked down, and realized that, in his rush, he had not tucked his father’s amulet into his collar. He quickly grabbed it and stuffed it in his shirt.
"Oh, nothing. Well, I mean, it's something Remus gave me. It was my dad's..." He found he didn't really want to share the amulet with anyone, which is why he hadn't told Hermione or Ron about it before. Hermione gave him a look of surprise.
"Remus?" she repeated. Suddenly, the portrait hole opened and Ron clambered into the common room.
"You're up!" he cried jovially. "Hey, I thought we might want to go down to breakfast a bit early. You know, to avoid the people who didn't make it on the team..." Harry suppressed a sigh and nodded, trying to look cheerful. He stood.
"Are you coming?" he asked Hermione. She glanced at Ron, who was looking around the room at anything but her, and shook her head.
"Oh come on," Harry said impatiently. Reluctantly, Hermione gathered her things together and followed them down. Harry walked awkwardly between Hermione and Ron, and none of them spoke. He considered telling them both off for being idiots when he was distracted by the sight awaiting them in the Great Hall. Although it was still quite empty of people, and much too early for mail, the long house tables were dotted here and there with an assortment of owls. Upon seeing them, Hermione hurried over to the first one. She took the parchment it was carrying and dropped a few sickles into the pouch on its leg.
"Early edition," she said enigmatically as she unrolled the parchment, and then Harry understood. The owls were all trying to deliver The Daily Prophet, but most of their recipients were still asleep.
"Look at this!" Hermione exclaimed, turning the front page to show them a large picture of Mad-Eye Moody looking very shifty, his magical eye spinning wildly in its socket.
"What's it say?" Harry asked, dropping onto the bench next to her. Hermione began to read the article out loud.
Ex-Auror Detained for Questioning
Ex-Auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, renowned for his extreme paranoia, fixation on security, and tendency to overreact to even the most harmless situation, may finally have taken his obsession too far. According to Prophet sources within the Ministry, Moody is being held for questioning in connection with the mysterious murder of a Muggle in Knockturn Alley two weeks ago.
The murder itself was hushed up by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and only recently discovered by Erin Braugh, Prophet reporter. Officially, the Ministry will only confirm that a Muggle was indeed found dead on the morning of 23rd August between Borgin and Burkes and Wormwood's Potables in Knockturn Alley. The Muggle is described as having been dressed as a wizard, but no wand was found on his person. How the Muggle was able to enter Knockturn Alley at all remains unknown.
Unofficially, sources within the Ministry reveal that none other than Mr. Moody himself transported the body to Auror Headquarters where a thorough investigation was begun. According to Ministry insiders, the Aurors identified the man as a Muggle by working with missing person reports provided to them by Muggle "Please-Men."
Moody's version of events, however, does not tally with the evidence. According to a Wizengamot scribe who wished to remain nameless, "Moody claims the Muggle tried to curse him, but we all know that's a load of codswollop, as Muggles can't very well curse anyone, can they?" Since no wand was ever found on the Muggle's person, the claim that Mr. Moody was under attack seems in line with his past litany of far-fetched conspiracy theories.
In fact, if anyone was indeed hurling hexes that day, it is likely that they were aimed at Harry Potter, who was reportedly traveling in Mr. Moody's company at the time. The Ministry denies any connection between the murdered Muggle and The Boy Who Lived.
Sources confirm that Mr. Moody continues to maintains his innocence with regards to the murder, and abides by his story that the Muggle was already dead when he found him in Knockturn Alley. When asked for a statement regarding the allegations, Mr. Moody told this Prophet reporter to "get your sorry arse off my front porch if you want to stay attached to your limbs."
Many questions remain unanswered. Why was a Muggle in Knockturn Alley? Why was Harry Potter traveling in the company of such a dubious guardian? And perhaps most chillingly, if Moody’s story is to be believed, why would a Muggle want to assassinate The Boy Who Lived? For accounts of other attempts on Harry Potter's life,
see pages 6 & 7 inclusive.
"That's crazy!" Harry exclaimed as Hermione finished reading. "We all saw what happened; that guy was cursing us!"
"Did you actually see him casting a spell?" Hermione asked, pointedly.
"No, but Moody did," Harry replied. "Remember? Mr. Weasley said so."
Ron shook his head in disbelief. "Dad never said anything about the guy being a Muggle! How did a Muggle get into Knockturn Alley by himself?" Ron reached across the table and grabbed the paper from Hermione to look at the article for himself.
"But that's just the point!" Hermione exclaimed. "A Muggle couldn't enter Diagon Alley or Knockturn Alley by himself, so someone must have let him in -- probably the same someone who killed him and was trying to curse Moody."
"But Moody said he saw the guy," Harry protested. "And he's not likely to make a mistake about that sort of thing -- especially not with that eye of his."
"What really concerns me," Hermione continued, "is that the Ministry was trying to cover the whole thing up. You can bet they know more than this reporter does."
By this time, more people had begun to arrive for breakfast. The students who didn't normally take the Daily Prophet were staring at the birds curiously, while the ones who did were eagerly paying for their copies and diving into the article.
"Bet you ten Galleons this 'unnamed scribe' is Percy," Ron spat. "That wanker'll do anything to get in the papers."
"Oh Ron!" Hermione groaned. "Percy apologized to your mum and dad, what more do you want?"
"Just because he apologized doesn't mean he isn't still a wanker," Ron replied. "Fred and George told me that if they ever get Percy alone in a room again--"
Hermione scoffed. "Those two will say anything, Ron!"
Ron's ears began to turn red. "Don't think you can have a go at them just because you're still sore at me for making a little joke!"
"A joke? Is that what that was? It was so vituperative -- I should have realized it was one of your attempts to be funny!" Ron glared at her. "That means mean and abusive," Hermione said scathingly.
"I know what it means!" Ron roared.
"Oh give it a rest, both of you!" Harry cried. Ron and Hermione both turned to stare at him as though they'd forgotten he was there. Harry composed himself. "I'm getting sick and tired of listening to you two bicker like two old marrieds!" He watched with some satisfaction the shock and embarrassment that passed over both faces.
"Harry..." Hermione said suddenly in a completely different tone. She was looking over his shoulder. Harry turned and saw Malfoy approaching from the Slytherin table, clutching a newspaper.
"Oy, Potter!" he called. "You're telling people that Muggles are out to get you now?" He laughed at his own joke, and a chorus of snickers erupted from the Slytherins behind him.
"Ignore him, Harry," Hermione hissed.
"Well if one of them is trying to off you, it's a shame he missed," Malfoy added. Harry clenched his fists and turned his back on Malfoy, but it hardly seemed to deter him.
"Honestly though," Malfoy drawled on, "it's too bad that old fraud Moody croaked him. Might have been the only Muggle in history I would have had something in common with."
Harry gritted his teeth and glanced at Hermione, who seemed to be willing him not to pick a fight with Malfoy.
"Harry?" came a concerned voice from behind the Slytherin.
Harry looked up suddenly. Gwyn was approaching them, a newspaper in her hands. She looked upset.
"Don't worry, Gwendolyn," Malfoy said suddenly, dropping his paper and catching Gwyn in his arms as she walked past him. Gwyn froze, her eyes flashing angrily. "I'll protect you from Prissy Potter and his Muggle assassins," Malfoy cooed in her ear. He ran one long manicured finger down her cheek.
Gwyn winced and pulled away from him.
"Take your hands off of me," she said in a low menacing voice. Harry stood up, reaching for his wand as Malfoy laughed casually.
"Aww... I just thought you might like the attention of a real man for once," he leered. Gwyn began to struggle, trying to evade his grasp, but he only pulled her closer.
"Let me go, Draco, or I swear -- I will make you a soprano!" Gwyn threatened, still trying to push away from him.
Malfoy laughed. "I love it when you talk dirty..." he whispered in her ear.
"You heard her, Malfoy," Harry said darkly, aiming his wand at Malfoy's head. "Let her go."
With his arms wrapped around Gwyn, Malfoy had no way of fighting back. He glared at Harry.
"Go ahead, Potter. There's nothing you can do that scares me." He squeezed Gwyn even tighter apparently enjoying himself as she groaned in disgust, still fighting against him. Suddenly, Neville appeared behind them, his wand also pointed at Malfoy's head.
"Do what he says!" Neville cried. Malfoy's arrogant smirk faltered slightly, but he didn't budge.
"Harry!" Hermione said suddenly in a warning tone. Harry glanced where she was looking and saw McGonagall entering the great hall. She was walking directly towards them, having exercised her uncanny ability to spot trouble a corridor away.
"What's going on here?" she asked loudly. Quickly, Harry and Neville lowered their wands. With lecherous slowness Malfoy let his hands slide off of Gwyn, who pushed him away with revulsion.
“You can’t ignore me forever, Gwendolyn,” he said coolly as she stormed out of the Hall.
McGonagall reached them and held each in her stern gaze. No one moved or spoke. "Back to your house tables," she said finally, deciding that nothing punishable had actually happened. With a final sneer, Malfoy turned and headed back towards the Slytherin table. Gwyn shot a strange look at Harry before disappearing around the corner and up the main stairs.
"Well!" McGonagall barked at Harry and Neville who were still standing, dumbly. "Sit down and eat your breakfast!" She marched away towards the staff table as Harry and Neville took their seats. Neville caught Harry's eye and gave him a solemn nod.
The entire Great Hall was buzzing as people who had seen the confrontation or read the article, now related the story to those who were just arriving. From all around the room curious students turned Harry’s way. Harry glanced down the table and saw a very solemn looking Dennis Creevy consoling Natalie MacDonald, who was crying into her kippers apparently having seen the notice upstairs.
Harry found he was no longer hungry.
"I'm going for a walk," he announced, standing up. Hermione nodded, and she too stood to go. Ron looked momentarily torn between his half-eaten breakfast and his friends, but quickly followed them.
Outside, the grounds were clinging to the last vestiges of summer before the cold wet autumn set in: the sky was brilliantly blue and completely cloudless and the air, while warm enough to be comfortable, felt crisp and clean. The trio headed to their favorite shade tree down by the lake, where Harry promptly slumped against the trunk. Hermione sat down opposite, watching him cautiously as she extracted a book from her bag. Ron ambled over to the lake and began looking for stones to skim. Except for the turning of pages and splash of pebbles, the three were silent.
Harry stared out across the calm water and brooded. Thoughts were racing though his mind at a mile a minute. He wanted to beat Malfoy to a bloody pulp for touching Gwyn. He wanted to burn down the Daily Prophet so they couldn't print any more ridiculous stories about him. He wanted to smack Ron and Hermione both for being such idiots to each other -- and unable to do any of it, he leaned back against the tree in defeat.
Something sharp prodded him in the bum. Wincing, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out the crystal that Professor Lindell had given him. He'd completely forgotten stowing it there when he'd left her office. The smoke inside the crystal was swirling and churning angrily, and Harry almost fancied he could see little bolts of lightning going off within it.
"What's that?" Hermione asked, interestedly.
"It's something Professor Lindell gave me to help practice Occlumency," Harry replied, turning the warm crystal over in his hand.
"Mmm," Hermione said, smiling and burying herself in her book once more. Harry considered the crystal again. Clearing his mind didn't sound like such a bad idea really. Closing his eyes, he pictured the crystal and tried to move the smoke. He found it more difficult this time, as images of Malfoy with Gwyn kept popping into his brain. Oh how he wished he could have gotten off one good hex...
What had Professor Lindell told him? To acknowledge the thoughts and let them go. He acknowledged that he would have liked to have cursed Malfoy into the next time zone and tried to let it go. The storm within the crystal quieted a little.
Harry's mind wandered. He was watching the smoke in the crystal get denser and denser in his mind's eye, and all the while he was listening to beautiful music. Beautiful, but so sad... Harry didn't know how long he had been sitting there, but he was startled out of his meditation when he heard Ron say, "Wicked!" He opened his eyes.
Hermione and Ron were both sitting on the grass in front of him, staring at the crystal that lay in his palm. The smoke had coalesced into a ball shape within the crystal. It was still not as compact or uniform as Professor Lindell's had been, but it was definitely an improvement.
"Sorry!" Ron whispered. Harry shook his head slightly and grinned.
"That's OK," he said, stowing the crystal back in his pocket. He felt a lot better. Slowly, however, he realized that he was still hearing the faint sounds of soft, sad music coming from somewhere far across the lake.
"Hey, do you hear that music?" he asked Ron and Hermione. They looked around, listening.
"Just barely" Ron said, straining to hear. “It sounds like crying.”
"I don't hear anything," Hermione replied. “It’s probably just an Augrey in the forest, though. I’d guess it’s going to rain soon.” She turned back to her book.
Harry glanced up at the cloudless sky, unconvinced.
“So, Hermione, have you written the Transfiguration essay yet?” Ron asked her. To Harry’s surprise she shook her head. They began to discuss the differences between animate to inanimate and inanimate to animate transfigurations, Augreys and arguments forgotten. Harry smiled to himself slightly as he listened to Hermione launch into a full on lecture, and watched Ron listening attentively.
Slowly he got up, motioning for the others to stay put. They were finally getting along again, and he wanted to leave them to it. Besides, he was extremely curious to know where the music was coming from. He began to make his way around the lake; all the while the music grew steadily louder and stronger, vibrating notes seeming to bend the very air. He didn't really pay attention to where he was going, but before he even realized how far he'd walked, he found himself looking at another large shady tree practically on the other side of the grounds. Sitting underneath it, playing a violin, was Gwyn.
The song was hauntingly bittersweet. It echoed off the timeless stones of the castle and rippled out across the lake as he walked towards her. Her back was to him, and as he approached, he could see that her eyes were closed as her fingers worked the strings and drew the bow across them. Listening rapturously, he convinced himself it was a magical instrument because of the way it seemed to draw him in. He stood behind her as she finished. She started to lay the bow down and then jumped as she noticed him standing there.
"Harry!" she exclaimed. "Jeez, you scared me!" She smiled at him, and he went to sit next to her.
"That was beautiful," he said quietly. She shrugged.
"Thanks. I'm glad someone thinks so. My house mates have made it pretty clear that they don't want me practicing in our common room any more, and Padma threatened to transfigure my violin into a pair of earmuffs if I didn't stop playing in our dorm room when she's trying to study -- which is all the freaking time!"
Harry smiled, but sensed quickly that Gwyn didn't think it was all that funny. She looked down at the instrument in her lap.
"I don't know what I'm going to do once the weather gets bad." She gave him a wry smile. "I've heard that English winters are wet and miserable, and neither wet nor miserable is good for a violin."
He nodded. They were silent for a moment.
"Where did you learn to play like that?" Harry asked.
"Private lessons. I've been studying music for years. My dad bought me a toy piano when I was about five, and when I started picking out 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' on it, he decided I ought to have lessons." She ran her fingertips along the sinuous curves of the exquisite instrument in her hands. "Music's always been a part of my life. It's like a part of me, actually," she said. "I love it. It's how I deal. Some people write journals, or paint pictures… or play Quiddich I guess. I make music."
Harry sat back in the grass. He'd never really thought about it, but he supposed Quiddich was a kind of release for him. He always felt better when he was on his broom. If music gave Gwyn that same feeling, he could understand why it was so important to her.
"So, that's twice you've come to my rescue," she said suddenly. Harry shrugged.
"It's no big deal," he said dismissively.
"It's a big deal to me!" Gwyn replied fiercely. "I'm not usually one of those damsel in distress types." She shuddered. "Gawd, Draco is so slimy! I feel like I need to take a bath." Harry laughed. Gwyn carefully laid her violin in the grass next to her and gathered the light black cardigan she was wearing closer about herself. She gave Harry a quizzical look.
“So... what exactly are you doing here?” she asked him, her eyes taking on that slightly hard edge she had so far reserved for Malfoy.
“I heard the music,” Harry said simply. She frowned at him.
“And I guess you thought that pointing a wand at Draco’s head in my defense somehow absolved you from having barely said two words to me all week?” Harry looked away.
“I was just...”
“Mad? Yeah, I got that. But you wouldn’t let me apologize or explain or anything.” She shrugged. “I figured you wanted to stay mad, so I quit trying.”
“I wasn’t mad,” Harry said defensively. Gwyn gave him a rather disbelieving look. “Alright, maybe I was a bit,” he admitted, “but I didn’t want to stay that way. I just didn’t know how to make you understand.” Gwyn sighed.
“Look, Harry, I didn’t mean to make fun of you. It’s just, you guys were being so serious... Talking about killing and dying as if it were something you did every day!” Harry looked her straight in the eye. He could tell that she wasn’t trying to make fun of him now; she honestly didn’t understand what it was like. He wished he could claim that kind of naiveté.
“Well,” he said finally. “I’ve never killed. Or died. Not yet, anyway. But the way things are going, it’s only a matter of time...”
She stared at him.
“You really are serious, aren’t you?” she demanded. He nodded, not breaking eye contact. She stared at him for a long moment, her eyes searching his. “Why?” she asked finally.
It was the one question he couldn’t answer. The one question he barely even allowed himself to acknowledge. It wasn’t in his nature to shake his fist at the blank, silent heavens and ask why me? He’d learned from a lifetime living with the Dursleys, that going down the paths those kinds of questions led, never brought you anywhere good.
With a deep sigh, he lay back on the grass and stared up at the branches of the tree above them. “There was a prophecy,” he said finally, “that said I would be the one to destroy the Dark Lord. It’s why Voldemort came after me when I was a baby. It’s why he killed my parents and tried to kill me, why he’s after me now, and why my friends have to know what it’s like to think about killing and dying. It's why I've had to watch two die, why I've had to watch Ron and Hermione get hurt, and why I've been as close to death myself as many times as I have.” He paused, staring at the glimpses of blue through the fluttering leaves. He felt lighter, having finally said all of that out loud. He sighed. “But why me? That I don't know.”
Gwyn was silent. She ran her fingers over the smooth shiny wood of the violin, lost in thought.
“I’m sorry,” she said finally, in a voice barely above a whisper. “I didn’t understand.” She gave a tiny, ironic laugh. “I still don’t; it doesn't make sense. All those deaths over a stupid prophesy?" She shook her head in disbelief. "But I shouldn’t have been making fun, and I’m sorry.”
Harry nodded, silently. He realized he’d forgiven her almost as soon as it had happened. He was too used to being thought an idiot and a freak to let a little friendly ribbing really bother him any more. Then why were you avoiding her? a small voice in the back of his brain asked. Because you were afraid of scaring her off?
Abruptly, Harry raised up on his elbow. “Do you still want to be friends, then?” he asked, “I mean, now that you know... who I am and all...” Gwyn’s face relaxed into a smile.
“Of course I do, Harry,” she said softly. “But I’m afraid I’m going to have trouble seeing you as anything more than that cute guy lying in the grass at the park on Magnolia Crescent, wearing baggy jeans and three year old sneakers.”
Harry grinned. He found he could live with that.
“Then come on,” he said, getting to his feet, “I’ve got something to show you.”
* * *
When they reached the stretch of hallway opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, Harry took Gwyn’s violin case from her and set it carefully on the floor.
“Where are we going?” Gwyn asked, staring around at the deserted corridor.
“We’re here,” Harry replied with a mischievous grin. “Remember how you told me you needed someplace to practice your music?” Gwyn nodded, a perplexed smile creeping across her face. “Well, what I want you to do, is to think really hard about the kind of place you’d like to have and walk back and forth in front of this bit of wall three times.” Gwyn stared at him disbelievingly, but she took a tentative step forward. She glanced back at him and he gave her an encouraging nod.
Closing her eyes, Gwyn paced slowly back in forth in front of the wall. When she stopped and opened her eyes, an old, white, wooden door had appeared in the stone wall. She gasped.
“That wasn’t there before!” she exclaimed. Harry grinned as he picked up her violin case. He went up to the door and turned the knob.
“Ladies first,” he said, holding the door open for her. Gwyn took a tentative step into the room and her face shone with pure amazement.
“Harry!” she cried walking into the room. She began spinning around, taking everything in. “Harry! How did you do this?” Harry followed her in and shut the door.
The room was considerably smaller than it usually was when the DA used it for meetings. The walls were painted a pale sea foam green color, and a very old tin light fixture hung in the middle of the room. On one wall was an old, slightly battered looking upright piano. On the other, a shelf covered in books of music. A black metal music stand stood in the center of the room near a small rickety whitewashed table with a chipped pitcher of water and glass on it. But the most startling thing was the window, out of which Gwyn was currently leaning.
Harry set her violin case onto the piano bench and went to look out with her. Although they were on the seventh floor of the castle, and the room was nowhere near an outside wall, the window looked out onto a pleasantly overgrown first floor courtyard filled with tall grasses, ancient gnarled fruit trees and several large bushes covered in yellow flowers. The other buildings he could see were long, low, weather beaten wooden barracks in desperate need of a fresh coat of white paint.
“How?” Gwyn asked, staring out into the courtyard and shaking her head in utter amazement.
“It’s called the Room of Requirement. It becomes whatever you need it to be,” Harry replied, staring out at the unusual surroundings. “Where are we?”
Gwyn whirled on him, her face a mask of absolute joy. A warm, dry breeze from the window ruffled her hair.
“We’re in one of the practice rooms at the Conservatory -- my old school!” She turned back to the window. “It’s perfect! Absolutely perfect! It’s exactly the way I remember it.” Suddenly she flung her arms around Harry and hugged him tightly. “Thank you!” she whispered in his ear, her breath tickling his hairs, “Thank you so much!” A bit dumbfounded, Harry put his arms around her and hugged her back. He was quite disappointed when she broke away to go and look at the piano.
She put her fingers out to the keys and played a chord, and then another. Suddenly, a wicked smile creeping across her face, she played the three highest notes in the keyboard in quick succession. She shook her head.
“Out of tune. Just like the real thing.” She turned back to him, her face glowing, her eyes shining. “Thank you, Harry. This is the best thing anyone’s ever given me.” Harry beamed.
“What are friends for?”
Thanks for reading! I had such a blast writing this chapter: a Daily Prophet article, Malfoy being the sick little monkey that he is, and the Room of Requirement -- what could be better?
I'm interested what everyone thinks about the dynamic between Malfoy and Gwyn and, conversely, about Harry's relationship with Gwyn. Are they working for you, not working for you? I'd really appreciate any feedback you can give.
Chapters 11 and 12 went down with the crash of the site database, as did any and all reviews posted after September 1. So, if you have anything interesting to say about either of those chapters, please leave me another review.
And an extra special big thanks to my amazing beta Kris for this chapter -- she did a lot of work on this one and I appreciate it (as I'm sure you do too!).
Write a Review Harry Potter and the Sect of the Serpent: Calming the Storm