Chapter 17 : Timeless
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The next few weeks passed quickly for Harry, as everyday was filled with as much as it possibly could be. Between his daily classes, Animagus training, Occlumency lessons and quidditch practice, Harry rarely found a moment’s peace in which to relax on his own. Whenever such a moment did present itself, it was immediately and voluntarily given up to spend time with the only Weasley daughter.
Although Ginny did not have Animagus training nor Occlumency lessons, she still had her classes, quidditch practice, Prefects meetings and nightly patrols, as well as tutoring with Malfoy three times a week to manage. Between their busy schedules, it was quite a miracle that they found time to do anything at all. Nonetheless, they found themselves walking around the grounds several times a week, talking about Potions or Defence, their favorite lessons, or sometimes they would just stay in the common room and visit with their other friends, each of whom were nearly just as busy.
Ron seemed to be managing as usual, squeaking through classes by doing the minimal amount of work necessary and saving most of his energy for quidditch. Hermione on the contrary, was on the verge of a breakdown. She had four more courses than the regular sixth years, regularly scheduled the Prefect patrolling times, and for the first time the previous week had received an exceeds expectations on a Transfiguration essay.
She had cried for an hour upon receiving the returned assignment and no matter how hard they tried, neither Ginny, Harry nor Ron could console her. She had simply left the common room, not to be seen or heard from until three hours later when she returned. After that night, she had been leaving for the same period of time every other night, and refused to tell anyone where she had been going. On the whole, all of Gryffindor tower was engaged in something or other.
Neville appeared to be working harder than Harry had ever seen him work, especially in Potions. While they did still have the occasional accident, neither of the two had received grades lower than exceeds expectations, something that seemed not to bother Snape all that much. Harry wondered why he was no longer going out of his way to grade the pair zero for every lesson, but then realised that he could not, as they rarely made errors and left little to be criticised of their work. Snape did still manage to insult Harry on a regular basis, receiving ample snickers from his Slytherin students and, as expected, Snape showed no sign that he and Harry had had the discussion about Lily.
It seemed that Neville was taking several remedial lessons with the professors as he was rarely found in the common room during the evening and only stayed for a short time during meals before rushing off to work on his assignments. Even Dean and Seamus were putting in more effort than they had in past years, preparing for their N.E.W.T.s and trying their best to keep up with Parvati and Lavender, who as always, kept on top of their studies.
As a result of the sixth years’ hectic schedules, it happened that Harry and Marc had been spending quite a lot of time together as their free time tended to align, and were steadily becoming very close. Harry decided that while he could never replace Ron or Hermione, he did certainly come in at a close second. Although Marc was only a fifth year, the pair found themselves doing many of their homework assignments together and successfully helping one another understand the concepts that befuddled them. Harry was able to explain what the Hogwarts’ professors expected while Marc was able to give a Durmstrang perspective on Harry’s questions. He didn’t know how to explain it, but he was ease around Marc, and appreciated that the younger boy never judged him or treated him differently to any other student.
Everything in the castle was extremely fast paced and stressful, but for the first time since he had started at Hogwarts, Harry felt like any other ordinary teenager.
This quick-paced lifestyle was interrupted in the sixth week of term, by a large post owl at breakfast carrying a piece of parchment sealed by the Hogwarts crest. Harry tore open the parchment and read the short letter from the Headmaster inviting him up to his office at the end of the day’s lessons. Curious as to what it could mean, he stuffed the letter into his robes pocket and grabbed his things for class.
Today, Care of Magical Creatures was an interesting lesson, watching Charlie explain how to deal with a variety of the creatures they had learned about over the past five years, while Hagrid stood next to him handling the said creatures and asking each of the students to come up one at a time and demonstrate something they had learned about it.
It was set up as an inter-class challenge and the group was split in three to see which group could get the most correct displays of creature care. Hermione was called upon first to show what she knew about hippogriffs and impressed everyone by walking straight up to the magnificent creature and patting it on the beak before mounting it expertly with only the slightest of bows. The Gryffindors clapped loudly for her along with many of the other students, but Harry and Ron just smirked knowingly because she was actually sitting on Buckbeak, who already knew and trusted her well.
Harry had been surprised that Buckbeak was back at Hogwarts, what with his death sentence the last time, but Hagrid had explained to them before class that they simply had to be careful to call him by his new name, Witherwings, and winking at them conspicuously.
Next up was Justin Finch-Fletchley for Hufflepuff, who was presented with an empty area of grassland and a cow’s leg. He earned his team full marks by correctly identifying a thestral, despite not being able to see it, when he tore the flesh off the cow’s leg and waited patiently for the unseen creature to smell the blood.
Ron was unlucky enough to get a fully-grown blast-ended skrewt. He walked directly up to the creature’s pen and reached in with a leash, attempting to fasten it so to take it for a walk. He successfully attached the leash but only received part marks when the Skrewt caught him off-guard with its sucker end and Hagrid had to pull it off of Ron’s leg.
Harry went after Ron, and at Charlie’s request, showed the class how to properly hold off one of the smaller acromantulas from the Forbidden Forest. Hagrid explained to the class that while they would not learn about the giant spiders, every student in the school should have the ability to defend themselves against them. Harry simply used the ‘Arania Exeme’ spell he had used to save him and Ron in their second year.
The last person to go was Neville, and he was presented with a Unicorn. The stunning, white creature stood alone in a clearing just at the edge of the woods, eating what it could of leaves around it, while keeping a careful eye on the students that surrounded it. Neville took a few steps forward but then stopped.
‘I don’t think I should, Professors,’ he said to Charlie and Hagrid. ‘Since I’m a male it will only agitate the beast. That wouldn’t be fair to her.’
‘Full marks!’ Hagrid boomed, and everyone cheered for the reddening Gryffindor.
At the end of dinner that night, Harry told his friends that he had a meeting with McGonagall, concerning his career planning. He slowly made his way to the Headmaster’s office unsure of what the old wizard could want from him. Perhaps he had seen into some of his thoughts, although he had successfully kept him out of his mind during Occlumency. He had gotten so good at closing his mind that the last time Dumbledore had tried to enter it, Harry had seen the Headmaster’s thoughts instead, much the way he had done to Snape by accident the year before.
Once passed the gargoyle, Harry was spiralled up toward the office and stopped outside the open office door upon hearing the conversation within.
‘As I’ve already told you, she was the most qualified one for the job. I do not regret my decision and I stand by it,’ he heard Dumbledore say in a very polite but determined voice.
‘But can she be trusted? After all she is the wife of a-’ the other familiar voice started to say.
‘I’m afraid we will have to discuss this later. If it’s alright with you I will now ask Harry in so that he does not have to listen from outside the door.’
Harry pushed the door open with a crooked grin on his face and smiled apologetically. He sat behind his desk as usual and across from him sat Lupin, who was now getting up and smiling back at Harry.
‘Professor, uh, I mean Remus, how are you?’ he said rushing forward to give the man a hug. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I’m doing quite well, Harry, and I’ve been called here by Dumbledore, just like you,’ the light-haired man told him.
They both turned and looked expectantly at Dumbledore, who still sat quietly in his seat smiling and watching their interaction from behind his half-moon spectacles. He took a moment before speaking to place a lemon drop into his mouth.
‘Lemon drop, Harry? Remus?’
‘No, thank you,’ they both answered in unison, clearly eager for the reason they were brought before the Headmaster.
‘Very well,’ Dumbledore said with a resigned smile as he placed a handful of the tiny sweets into his robes pocket. ‘It has come to my attention that your training was going very well over the summer, Harry. And I’ve also recently learned from a very reliable source that you miss these lessons.’
Harry glanced over at Lupin, who turned his head the other way, reddening significantly.
‘I asked you both here to see if you would be willing to resume your training sessions.’ The pair looked up at each other with a look that clearly said yes, and Dumbledore chuckled lightly. ‘Just as I suspected.’
‘And now you won’t have to worry about calling me Remus anymore. Looks like I’ll be Professor Lupin all over again,’ he grinned at Harry.
‘This will be great! I was learning so much and it could all be extremely useful when it comes time to-’ he paused and looked down at the floor. It had been weeks since he had thought about what would be his final battle with the most powerful Dark Wizard of his time. With his busy schedule, there had not been time to worry about dueling technique and curse knowledge, let alone perfecting murder.
‘Harry, nobody expects you to do anything you don’t want to,’ Lupin said consolingly, and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder for comfort.
Harry gave Dumbledore a look that told him he still wasn’t ready to share the details of the prophecy and the old man gave the slightest of nods in return.
‘I think it best if Harry got back to his common room before the other two thirds of Gryffindor’s point losing team come looking for him.’
Harry chuckled politely at Dumbledore’s attempt to lighten the mood before saying goodnight and leaving the adults alone to discuss what he assumed would be matters of the Order.
At nine o’clock, four nights later, Harry and Ginny found themselves walking through the silent seventh floor corridor. Once inside the Room of Requirement, Harry was more than satisfied with the contents of their cauldron. The once thick, black substance had turned a violent shade of puce and had ceased bubbling.
Ginny carefully re-read the instructions for what must have been the hundredth time before finally drizzling in the Unicorn’s silver life force, being sure to trace the outline of a specific symbol drawn in the text. As the last drop of blood hit the surface of the potion, Harry and Ginny leaned over in time to watch it turn from the colour of Uncle Verrnon’s blotchy face to brilliant powder blue with a watery consistency.
They both leaned back as the brew began to give off a light mist of silver vapour and lightly bubbled once more, this time slowly and far more controlled.
‘That should do it,’ Ginny said proudly. ‘Now it just has to sit overnight and tomorrow we’ll see if I’m as brilliant as I say I am.’ She grinned widely, exposing her straight white teeth and fluttering her eyelids mockingly. ‘Now what do you want to do?’ she asked Harry as she placed the empty blood phial into the old store cupboard.
Harry had thought about this very thing for the last couple of days. He could hardly concentrate in any of his lessons, as his mind would begin to wander until it reached the topic of Ginny. Looking at her standing there in front of him, batting her eyelashes and laughing at all of his jokes. She must still fancy me, he thought. That was enough for him; he would ask her to the upcoming Hogsmeade trip. It would be perfect.
‘Uh, Ginny?’ he started, ‘I was wondering if maybe you would like to go with me to Hogsmeade?’ He felt so nervous that he just said it all quickly, thinking that if he took his time he might stop halfway through to be sick.
‘That would be wonderful!’ she said to him and smiled again. Harry’s heart leaped in his chest. She had said yes! Unfortunately his excitement was short-lived. ‘It looks like I’m going with Neville and Marc too,’ she continued. ‘And I’m sure if you ask Ron and Hermione they’ll come as well. It will be a real party at this rate! Dean and Seamus sure think so,’ she rolled her eyes. ‘Oh! That reminds me,’ she said, quickly stealing a glance at her watch, ‘I was supposed to meet Dean ten minutes ago. Sorry Harry, we’ll have to do this another night. See you.’
Harry waved silently from where he stood, unable to say anything, or more accurately, unwilling to say a word as it would probably involve the words stupid, prat, or idiot. How could he have been so daft to forget about Dean? If he found out about this he would be furious, not that Harry particularly cared at the moment. He was far more concerned with the way Ginny had let him believe that she was agreeing to go on a date with him. How could she toy with him that way and not show the slightest bit of concern for their friendship?
Walking back to the common room, he was feeling embarrassed and extremely foolish. Ginny was dating Dean, so why did he even bother asking her out? Of course she thought he had meant as friends, and after all the years of pining for him, it now appeared that Ginny Weasley was done waiting for the Boy-who-lived.’
That night up in his dormitory, he had the first restless sleep he’d had in weeks. He could not help but replay what had occurred between he and Ginny, and as he finally fell asleep his dreams began to take the shape of the heart-crushing scene. It played over and over in his mind, and no matter what he did to change the outcome, it always ended in his being left alone in the dark room while Ginny went off to meet with Dean.
Disturbing though it was, it really didn’t compare to what came next.
Harry found himself once again in the cold, damp cave, in which he had earlier seen and fought Voldemort in the previous nightmare. This time, Harry decided that he would not allow himself to be manipulated into using his emotions in a spell. The last time he had done that, he’d been rewarded with a body wracked with pain. This time he would simply stay hidden in the shadows and listen for anything of value to the Order.
He walked the same path to the entrance to the large cave and stared into the center. Voldemort was not present, but between two of the adjacent passages a very short, stout individual in a cloak was shackled to the wall.
Harry tried to see whom it was, thinking perhaps one of the Death Eaters being punished, but was unable to see their face for their cowl. The prisoner’s head was drooping low as though unconscious, and a thin rivulet of water ran down the wall behind him into a small pool at his feet. Harry did not envy this man.
Movement on one side of the cave drew Harry’s attention, and the cowardly form of Peter Pettigrew entered the cave, closely followed by two masked Death Eaters. The shorter of them stepped forward and very roughly slammed their fist into the side of the prisoner’s head without warning. A scream of pain echoed through the cave, causing Harry to wince until he heard the Death Eater laugh. It was a high pitch laugh that resonated off of the cave walls and caused Harry’s chest to tighten. He knew that laugh well as he had been haunted by it nearly every night in his dreams this summer. Bellatrix Lestrange continued to laugh maniacally as she stepped forward and took another swing at the side of the prisoner’s head, resulting in yet another scream of pain and more delighted laughter.
In the shadows, Harry shook with rage and fear as he stared at the monster that had taken his Godfather from him. He tried to control his emotions, but failed miserably and felt his temper rise higher and higher; Bellatrix needed to pay for what she had done.
Just as it had done in the Dursley’s kitchen two months before, Harry’s hair began to blow in an unfelt wind and the light in the cave began to dim. He grasped his fingers tightly around his wand, preparing to step forward into the cave and give Bellatrix what she deserved. He stopped abruptly as a third figure stepped out of the shadows, also covered in a cloak, and approached the shackled man. This figure was tall and thin and even though Harry could not see his face, he was certain that it was Voldemort. An instant cold ran through his body whenever they were within close proximity, and tonight, Harry veins were filled with ice water.
‘How is our favorite guest doing tonight?’ Voldemort’s chilling voice cut through the air sharply, reminding Harry what had happened last time, and prompting him to take a step back further into the shadows.
‘He is still saying nothing, my Lord,’ Bellatrix said with a glint of joy in her eyes. ‘Shall I torture him?’ she pleaded.
‘Not so fast, Bella,’ the cruel high voice answered thoughtfully. ‘If you ruin his mind, we’ll never get what we want. Now,’ he said turning to face the prisoner, ‘where will I find the list? It was not where it should have been and I know it was you who removed it.’
The prisoner said nothing still.
‘Come now old friend, must we really go through this again? As you know from our last several meetings, Bella will be all too pleased to administer the Cruciatus, and once she starts there really is no telling when it might end.’
Still the prisoner’s head hung low and no sound escaped from his body.
‘Very well, go ahead. No need to administer the memory charm as it appears he will no longer be of any use to us. Dispose of him when you are through. Wormtail will assist you.’ Harry watched as Pettigrew twitched nervously in the corner of the room where he was cast in shadow by his master’s figure.
‘My Lord,’ a feminine voice called out. It was the other Death Eater who as of yet had not spoken a word. Voldemort turned his attention to her and waited impatiently for her to continue. ‘I think there may be a way to use him still. He has shown previously to be of weak mind therefore it is possible that the Imperious could get the files returned, provided he knows where they are.’
‘I am certain that he does,’ Voldemort said sneering. ‘Good work. I knew it would not be a mistake to keep you around. You have proven to be far more useful than your counterpart, such a waste of pure blood.’
The Death Eater bowed before her master before he, Bellatrix, and Wormtail left the cave. Harry watched Voldemort’s follower near the prisoner and raise an arm in his direction. With her back to him it was difficult to see if she was holding a wand or some other weapon. Things started to darken around Harry and the last thing he heard before everything disappeared was the cold, familiar voice of the Death Eater shouting ‘Imperio.’
Harry awoke moments later gasping for breath and looking around him. The hangings were pulled tightly around his bed as usual and he opened one to let in some cool air. He thought back to his nightmare and of the prisoner hanging motionless on the wet cave wall, no way to escape and at the mercy of Bellatrix Lestrange. Then he realized that whatever happened now, that man would be sent back to whence he came under the Imperius curse to complete one of Voldemort’s tasks.
He had to warn the Order, and then there was the issue of this new Death Eater. Her voice had been so familiar, yet he could not place her. She couldn’t have been at the Department of Mysteries or she would have been caught along with the others. Voldemort had only spared Bellatrix, though now it appeared she had competition in this other woman. Voldemort had been pleased with her, something he rarely expressed, but other than that the only thing Harry knew about her was that she had a counterpart who had worked for Voldemort. Perhaps a brother or a husband.
He would have to tell Dumbledore about this dream and hopefully he would be able to make sense of it somehow. Suddenly, a memory rushed back to him from the first day of term. Hermione had shown them an article written by Rita Skeeter describing a break-in in the Ministry files department where only one set of files was missing. That was what Voldemort was after. The article had said that the file was missing, confusing Harry, because Voldemort had still been looking for a list according to his dream. So where was the list, and what was on it?
Harry walked across the dormitory and opened the window before climbing back onto his four-poster and trying to fall asleep. He would inform the Headmaster of the dream first thing in the morning.
He and Ginny walked together to the Room of Requirement the next morning after breakfast, both of them eager to learn whether or not their potion would work.
Harry had gone to see Dumbledore when he first woke up and explained every detail of the dream that he could remember, right down to his finding the masked Death Eater’s voice familiar. The Headmaster had nodded calmly when Harry was done explaining. Harry asked if he understood what it meant and Dumbledore had simply explained that the Order would do what they could with the information before reminding him to practice his Occlumency exercises before bed and then sending him down to breakfast. Harry was more than a little annoyed at the dismissal and had barely spoken to anyone until Ginny found him and reminded him that they still needed to check their potion.
They entered the small room and took their seats at the small table in the middle of the room bearing the cauldron. The light silver vapour no longer hovered on the surface and the brilliant blue substance was now a shimmering grey. Ginny appeared confused by its appearance, but dipped a ladle into the cauldron and poured samples into two separate phials.
‘Are you ready?’ she asked skeptically, handing him one and looking into his reassuring green eyes.
‘If you’re sure you still want to come with me,’ he asked one more time to be sure. ‘If we get caught we’ll probably be expelled. That is if we don’t get sent to Azkaban.’
‘Let’s just do this,’ she said, having made up her mind before showing up. ‘On the count of three.’
Together they held up their samples and counted to three before quickly drinking the entire sample. Harry coughed a little as his passed down his throat and then felt a tingling sensation as he felt the substance slide into his stomach.
‘That’s surprisingly sweet. Almost like a sugar quill,’ Ginny said as she placed the empty container on the table and looked up at Harry. ‘How do you feel?’
Harry was about to disappointedly tell her that he felt the same as usual, when his stomach gave a violent churn and he managed to turn away from Ginny just in time to empty its contents onto the floor. Feeling both shocked and embarrassed, Harry started to apologise but was cut off abruptly by the sound of Ginny retching on the other side of the table. After a few moments of awkward silence and cautious breathing, the pair turned to face one another.
‘So, I’m thinking it didn’t work,’ Harry ventured, and Ginny and he both burst out laughing.
‘You read the effects just like I did. It said that if the draught was brewed correctly it would react immediately upon consumption. We made a mistake,’ Ginny said, holding her stomach. ‘I just can’t figure out where. Up until yesterday, and even after we added the final ingredient, the potion displayed all the correct attributes. The colour this morning simply doesn’t make sense.’ She flipped through Harry’s Potions book and tried to understand where she had gone wrong. ‘We did everything exactly the way the text described.’
‘It’s alright, Gin. It was a long shot anyway. Thanks for trying,’ he said to the redhead with a smile to hide his disappointment. ‘Why don’t you head back to the common room and I’ll meet you there when I’m done tidying up.’
‘Don’t be silly, I’ll help you,’ she offered, but Harry explained that he wanted to do it on his own. She relented and told him that she would wait for him by the fire. He was glad that she had agreed to leave. Since their meeting yesterday, Harry had decided that it was no longer fair, on either of them, for him to spend time alone with Ginny. In a group was one thing, but their weekly walks around the grounds and their conversations about any and everything would have to end.
As soon as she was gone, Harry started to put all of their materials away until all that was left was the cauldron sitting in the middle of the room. He sat for a few minutes staring at what he had hoped would be his one chance to witness his parents on the happiest day of their lives. The grey substance lay perfectly still in its cauldron, taunting him with every disappointing gurgle.
Deciding it was over, Harry flicked his wand at the potion casting ‘Evanesco,’ and instantly cleared the bungled draught from its container. He grabbed the empty cauldron to place it in the store cupboard but stopped moving when he heard the hollow rattling of something in the bottom. He set it back down and peered over the edge to check what it was. Perhaps it was the ingredient that should not have been added to the draught, he thought bitterly.
Harry looked into the cauldron and gasped when he saw the edge of the tiny golden apparatus glinting from the torchlight in the room. How was this possible? The draught was definitely not meant to have this effect. Well, he decided, whatever had gone wrong was alright, because now he was going to see his parents' wedding as the proud new owner of a Time Turner.
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