Chapter Fourteen - Confession Is Good For the Soul
Two days after his "chat" with Cho Chang, Harry had walked over to St. Mungo's Medical Library to return a few books and pick up a few more. Harry had already read every book in the library about combinations of spells and potions and other various things, particularly their impact on the mind. But that was not every book written in the magical world on the subject. Out some of the inheritance from Sirius Black, Harry had endowed a fund to search the world for any book on the subject and acquire it for the library.
Healer Wratley had taken to the new project for the library with a zest he said himself he hadn't had for anything in years. The books were not plentiful, but there was a steady stream coming in now. Five books had arrived in the in the last week and they were expecting ten more over the next three to four weeks. Not everything in each new book was new information, but after reading each one Harry felt like he had more to go on and yet, not enough.
Claire was sitting beside Luna brushing her hair. There were spells that would do this for her but she used the mindless time brushing to pray for Luna. In spite of all of the magic around her, in spite of not being any closer to understanding where magical creatures were in the overall scheme of creation and man, she felt like she was here because her Lord wanted her to be. If that was so, and to convince her otherwise would be impossible, she was going to bring every power and reason and God-given ability, talent and gift she could muster to bear on the problem. Prayer was her most powerful weapon.
Harry had heard her praying one night before he was released as a patient. As she came to an end he commented, "Claire, I cannot thank you enough for praying for us. I do not fully understand how we witches and wizards fit into to the grand scheme of things, but I have asked God for help every day since the end of my sixth year. I hope...I think... I hope He hears me. I KNOW
he hears you."
"I have a one track mind sometimes. In the future can we talk about God some? I am so tired right now but I want to know more about Him after all the weight of this is over."
Claire was near tears with the portent of this. "Harry, if you ask Him every day like you said, and I don't doubt you, He does
hear you and He is helping you. We can have that discussion any time you want. In the mean time, it is a joy in my life to know that I can pray for you two with your permission. I believe that makes my prayers somehow just that much more effective."
That day, when Harry was visiting the library, Claire heard a voice from the fireplace. She ran to it not knowing if she could talk to the caller or not, but she tried just to see.
Claire shouted, "Hello, this is Sister Mary Claire, Luna's nurse. Harry Potter is not here right now but should be back in less than a half hour. May I be of some assistance?"
"Sister, this is Cho Chang from Hogwarts. We met briefly when Harry was still in a coma. Harry asked me to get together some of Luna's personal affects and bring them to the ward to brighten her...em...day. Can I send three boxes through to you? They are not very heavy but too bulky to walk through with. If it all right, I will also come through after you clear the final box away. Oh, and you do not need to shout. Please just speak in a normal tone if you are within six to eight feet of the fireplace."
Claire felt embarrassed at her shouting but Cho had not seemed concerned. "I will catch the boxes or what ever is necessary. Just send them one at a time and let me call out when I am ready for the next one. Of course you are welcomed as well."
The boxes were not really even that bulky but Claire understood how they might be difficult to carry through. She had only seen Harry come and go by way of the Floo Network. Harry had always had a difficult time with it and always ended up falling or nearly so. He also had a great deal of soot all over him when he arrived and had to use the Cleaning Spell several times to straighten himself afterwards.
Cho followed shortly after the last package. She seemed to have little difficulty with Floo Transit Instability as Harry called it.
"Welcome Professor Chang. Or is it Potions Mistress Chang? Harry has told me how much he enjoys your classes. Speaking of Harry, he has told me he is terrible at Floo travel and I could not believe that the Hero of the Century could do anything magical poorly. But either you are world class at Floo travel or he is really bad at it."
"Isn't that funny?" Cho said as she used a whispered, "Scourgify"
on one little dirt speck on her robe. "I had heard from several including Harry that he couldn't do it very well. The first time I saw him crashing out of a fireplace covered with debris I thought it was a joke."
"As for my title, I an Assistant Professor and Acting Potions Mistress, but Sister Mary Claire, could you please call me Cho? I still am not quite acclimated to the adult world having graduated from Hogwarts and turning right around and going back as an instructor."
"Cho, welcome to our little corner of the world, and please call me Claire. Am I correct in assuming you have brought all of this to brighten Luna's area? I am grateful and Harry should be back soon. I know he will want to thank you as well."
Cho's face darkened and of course Claire saw it in spite of her attempt to cover it. Claire assumed there might be some left over crush on Cho's part towards Harry. Cho wished that was all there was to it.
Claire charged right into the boxes and in a little while they had everything unpacked and were deciding how to proceed with decorating. Claire offered to go for tape but a wave of the wand and everything stuck right where they wanted it.
They put up posters from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw events. There was also a framed copy of The Quibbler
with the first story telling the truth about Harry and Voldomort's return, published in Harry's fifth year.
"I remember when that issue came out," said Cho. Most of the world though Harry had lost his mind. A few Gryffindor's, very few, and only Luna from our house truly believed Harry. I wanted
to believe him, but the Daily Prophet
and the Minister of Magic thought he was crazy and said so whenever they could."
"Then that story came out. It was the unreliable Quibbler
, but it rang so true. It made so much sense whereas the official stories had such gapping holes in them. I felt embarrassed that I had not supported Harry more actively."
"Looney...I mean Luna," Cho said through a blush, "did not even like Harry as a boyfriend at that time but she believed him. I was supposed to be Harry's romantic interest and what had I done--nothing."
Claire felt the best way to respond was to continue with the decorating. Cho had placed the third and smallest box under the edge of Luna's hospital bed. When she had done so Cho looked into Luna's open and vacant eyes for just a second, and turned trying to hide her shudder. Claire figured that the smallest box was something she would explain later to her or to Harry.
Claire pulled the last item out of the second box. It was an odd stuffed animal with no manufacturer's label. She looked up to Cho, "Is this a magical creature..." then it hit her, "or is this a Crumple-Horned Snorkack?"
Cho brightened for a moment. "Right you are the second time Claire. According to Luna, and she may be the last one to believe in them since her father's death, that is the exact likeness of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack of myth and legend."
"We laughed at her whenever she mentioned such fancies of thought. And Harry paid the most famous seamstress in England to create that stuffed toy to Luna's detailed description. He has a way of making Looney... I mean Luna look grand in the midst of her peculiarities. And even now I cannot stop calling her Looney even though I have known for almost two years he does not like that."
Cho's words dribbled out at the last and she stopped to stare at the stuffed creature, frozen in place except for a tear making its way down her cheek.
If Claire had any trait that could be considered magical, it was her ability to get people to open up to her after moments. She joked that it was the religious habit she wore, but it was an almost palpable empathy you knew she had for your situation almost instantly.
"Cho, you can tell me about it if you want." Claire's tenderness with these words did not work at first it seemed. But then Cho heaved a great sigh and turned to her with eyes on the verge of flooding.
"Claire. Do you think Harry could ever possibly forgive someone who he thought he could trust, who betrayed her in a terrible way?"
Claire was alarmed. Harry had told her of the events around Luna's abduction the day of the final battle. Surely.... "Cho, you did not have anything to do with Luna being captured?"
For a moment Cho looked horrified and then laughed bitterly through her tears. "Nothing like that! I did something terrible on a more personal level. Did Harry tell you about Luna's small personal items disappearing at the start of school and then showing up in the last days?"
Claire's relief at this was immense. She almost laughed but held it in check. She just nodded the Cho that she knew of the ongoing school prank.
"Well, I not only participate in it even this year when I knew Harry did not approve; I was the one that started it when I was in third year and Luna was a first. She tore my robes on the train with her massive trunk that year. I started it when I helped her pick up her stuff--I took a pair of her socks. I later encouraged others to do the same when she proved to the whole of Ravenclaw House that she was... well...she was Looney! I think I was the first one to call her that though I cannot be sure."
Claire was about to say something but Cho held up her hand to continue this confessional session. "The worse thing is that I took her diary that first week. Luna had charmed it to keep it closed and I did not try to open it. I just hid it well--too well. At the end of the year when Marietta suggested we give her things back, I forgot that I had hid the diary. I really did forget!
The tears were flowing again and Cho sobbed. Claire put her hand on Cho's shoulder and brought her in close for a motherly hug. They stood there with the anguish the only sound between them.
Cho finally pushed away but not completely out of Claire's arms. "I did not discover the diary until I finished my last year and was moving all of my things from the Ravenclaw dorms to my teacher's quarters. A house elf was helping and they are so good at cleaning and finding the smallest dust specks. This one handed me the book as if it was mine and I put it in a box and did a double take over thirty seconds later."
"Five years I had it. Luna was over half way through a new diary I was to find out when I looked one day when she was writing in her new journal in the common room. She was clearly the apple of Harry's eye. Witch Weekly
had done a cover story on her when it got out that they were boyfriend and girlfriend."
"Claire, I wanted to give it back. I really did. Now I have
to give it back and to Harry. I am terrified to give it back; not because he will do me harm. I wish he would curse me once or twice. I know he will look at me and give me that disappointed look that kills me. What am I going to do?"
That last sentence was punctuated by a sob after its shrill delivery. Claire grabbed her close again and let her Cho cry it out. Claire thought Cho was right. That was probably what Harry would do. He was kind, but he was only seventeen. This was the kind of thing Harry did not do very well.
"Cho. We will face him together."
Harry showed up in five more minutes. Claire had spent the time waiting asking Cho about her classes.
Harry walked in very happy to see her and quickly shifted to concern--first for Luna, then for Cho. Cho bravely blurted out her story pretty much as she had told Claire, just not including the things Harry obviously knew.
Harry kept a straight face but it was clear he was working at it. He looked neither angry nor upset but he was not happy.
"Cho, Claire, would you wait here just a minute. Please don't go anywhere. Just a minute please." He was so quietly adamant that they could not deny him. He walked over to Luna and looked into her eyes, speaking to her quietly. Cho looked at Claire with a question on her face but neither of them spoke.
If they had looked at a watch they would have known that Harry came back exactly sixty seconds later. His face was neutral. He went up to Cho and Claire together and stood and faced exactly between. His eyes cut to Cho.
"Cho. I am disappointed in you. I thought better than that of you." Claire moved to speak but she had to move to grab Cho's arm. Cho was beginning to slump just the slightest. Harry held up his hand without being too rude to cut off any remark by Claire.
Gently but with riveting words Harry continued. "You did only slightly worse than I did for the first six months that I knew her. Had I been there in Ravenclaw I would have probably been right there helping you hide stuff from her. The thing is that Luna probably knew you were involved--not specifically with the diary. She would have asked you for it if she had known. Thanks for bringing it back even at this late date."
"I found out that Luna knew all that year before we corresponded and fell in love that I thought badly of her. She knows that she is called and thought of as Looney even now. Even though it hurts in one sense, in another sense she knows that the most damage is done to the one who thinks she is Looney. They miss out on knowing better anyone a bit odd or different. She taught me that people different from us are probably more interesting because of those differences."
"I have never heard Luna say anything bad about anyone except Draco Malfoy and Minister Fudge. Think about how odd a combination that is. When she first told me about her missing things, she had nothing bad to say. I bet if she were awake right now all that she would say is thanks for returning it."
"Cho, how could I say anything more than that to you? Please forgive me for the harsh words I had for you earlier. Luna would be disappointed in me."
Cho burst into tears and threw herself into Harry's arms. Harry was startled at first but Claire made a calming gesture with her hand and gave him a very pleased look.
After Cho calmed a bit Harry pushed her back enough to see her face. "Cho could you help me with something?" She looked him in the eyes and sniffed in a very unladylike manner and nodded, not trusting herself to speak. "I need someone to help me correlate all of this information and come up with an indexing system. I have been filing things alphabetically, which is only slightly better than shoving stuff in drawers or boxes. I need a Ravenclaw brain to figure out how to make this work."
She looked up at him, brought her sleeve up wipe her eyes and nose, and laughed in a halfway happy sobbing way. She said, "Of course Harry. I will help in any way I can, but I have heard about your research. This is probably mostly over my head."
They spent the next 40 minutes discussing his ideas and the different ways they should accomplish this. Claire brought them Pumpkin juice from the cafeteria. They had not realized she had left them. Claire was so proud of Harry for the way he handle this situation she could scarcely wait to tell him.
Harry sat beside Luna later that evening telling her about his day. "There is a part of me dear that wants to read your diary. But I will not invade your privacy. I am glad it is back. You told me that this was your mother's diary before yours. You started writing in it right after her death. A part of me wants to read her thoughts, but I won't."
Aldys Derwent was the great, great, great grandson of Dilys Derwent. She was both a Healer at St. Mungo's in the 18th Century and had also been a Headmistress at Hogwarts. Her portraits still hang in both buildings.
Obtuse, contrary, cantankerous, down right ornery. All of these words fit Healer Dilys Derwent. He refused any Floo calls and Floo visitors. Harry was advised to write a formal letter using the hospital typing pool to make the letter as business-like as possible. He sent off the letter and had to wait for the reply. In an era when any owl post in the Greater London area took less than 30 minutes one way, most responses sent in the morning were answered later the same day, early the next morning at the latest.
Derwent responded almost a week later.
Harry received Derwent's response. It was a hand written note penned to the bottom of the formal letter sent on official St Mungo's parchment.
Potter- - - I don't talk to celebrities. - - - Derwent
Harry pulled out a piece of Hogwarts parchment, wishing he had done it his way in the first place.
Dear Healer Derwent,
I am a student at Hogwarts and I am fighting a tough battle to help my girlfriend.
I saw you relative's portrait in the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts and at St. Mungo's. I know you family has long standing ties with the students at my school so I write to ask for your help.
My girlfriend, Luna Lovegood, is in a coma from the Cruciatus Curse due to the recent fighting. I am trying to find a way to help her. I know you were very far along in researching this matter before the tragic accident in your laboratory.
Could you please find time to discuss this with me. Knowing what you accomplished and where you think problems may occur will be of great help.
Regardless of what you have heard about me, please consider me nothing more than a student who needs your help. I never asked for my lot in life, but I am asking for your help.
Thank you sir,
Harry Potter Seventh Year
Off it went to Harry's surprise the response came back within two hours. Once again the response was only a note penned to the bottom of his note:
Potter- - - Come at 3:00 pm. Bring your research. 3113 Churling Lane, North of Oxford- - - Derwent
Harry had packed all of his research notes into a case that measured six feet long, almost two feet wide, and eighteen inches deep. It was very heavy. He then lightened it and shrank it to the size of a brief case. Wearing his Hogwarts robes, he walked to St. Mungo's Apparation Center and in moments he was standing at the door of 3113 Churling Lane.
Harry knocked on the door and stood back. He realized at that moment he did not know what to expect. He had only been in three homes of magical people in his life. 12 Grimmauld Place was hardly a typical home, neither was the Burrow he suspected. He wasn't even sure Mrs. Figg's home counted as a magical home since she was a squib.
3113 Churling Lane was not a large or imposing structure but Harry knew looks could be deceiving. With engorgement charms and spells and wards to camouflage or hide altogether the purpose or existence of a home, who could imagine what he would find inside.
Even with this series of thoughts what Harry found was Not
what he expected.
The door was answered by a house elf, but not the typical house elf in Harry's experiences. This house elf was, well, better feed. That is not fat but more filled out than Dobby or Winky or any of the other house elves Harry saw during his trips to the kitchens at Hogwarts.
The second significant difference with this house elf was his apparel. He was formally dressed like a butler Harry had seen in muggle movies during his youth at the Dursley's.
The introduction was the third major difference and perhaps the most startling aspect of the fifteen seconds since the door had opened.
"Mr. Harry Potter, sir. Welcome to Derwent House. I am Gently. Spelled like the word "gently" but pronounced with a hard "G" like the Belgian city of Ghent. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir. Healer Derwent is expecting you."
The most startling part of this small speech was not that it was a spoken in a manner that Harry had never heard from a house elf. But when the elf had introduced himself, he had held out his hand to shake. Harry had naturally taken it before realizing what had just occurred.
This house elf wasn't even acting like a servant but like a member of the family household.
Gently lead Harry into a sitting room, offered him a chair, and apparated out. The very next second Harry heard a craggy but commanding voice from the opposite direction.
"Potter. I'm Derwent. My time is valuable boy. What's on your mind?"
Harry leapt to his feet at the first words, stammered, then calmed himself with a gulp and began. "As I wrote sir, I am looking for a cure for my girlfriend who was stricken by a particularly nasty Cruciatus Curse and is in a coma. I understand you have gone farther than others towards a cure and I want to discuss your work, ask your opinion on how to proceed, and learn anything you think might help with this."
'Pop!' Before Derwent could speak Gently apparated in with full tea, muffin, and biscuit service. He had changed from his butler's outfit and was now wearing the white dinner jacket of a Head Waiter.
After looking to his host who nodded, Harry took the offered tea that Gently fixed it to his liking. He reached for the offered plate heaped with biscuits when Derwent sneezed the loudest sneeze Harry had ever heard. Harry flinched at the sound and two biscuits fell to the floor. He was about to reach down to recover the lost items when he heard another 'pop' right before his eyes.
Gently had apparated from the room, leaving the serving tray suspended in mid air. A second later Gently reappeared with another 'pop' and was dressed in the starched white uniform of a cleaning service orderly. Gently was already kneeling and with whisk and dustpan to clean the spill. "Allow me sir."
Three seconds later the mess was swept up and 'pop' followed almost immediately by 'pop' and Gently was back in the Head Waiter outfit holding the tray as if he had never left. "Two more sir?"
Harry shook his head and Gently went to serve Derwent. The healer took tea and 'pop,' Gently was gone.
Derwent's eyes hardly left Harry's during this exchange. He smiled a slightly disgusted smile. "Potter, please excuse Gently. He loves to dress the part of whatever role he is playing at the moment. It may shock you to know that over sixty years ago I gave him his clothes to free him. I was not dissatisfied with him in anyway. Three years before I inherited him and Derwent House from my father at his death. I had read of the muggle history of ending slavery as a youth and I could not see keeping a house elf as anything other than that odious institution."
"Gently tried to kill himself the day I handed him a coat. I had always thought he looked cold in this drafty old place. I promised to take him back into servitude if he would tell me why he would rather end his live than be set free. Three years later he accepted the position as my paid man servant and overall fact totem."
"I never married. Gently has been my companion and friend as well. If you tell him I said that I will call you a liar to your face. He has a good mind and has even assisted me in research projects. Alas, we become like the ones we associate with and I fear he has assumed my arrogance and crotchetiness. I, on the other hand, am nicer to people when he is around because he provides me with my humanity."
Derwent cleared his voice and assumed the rougher tone of voice he began with minutes ago. "Potter, you probably think me a fool like all others in wizard-kind due to my views of house elves. But remember, you are a guest in my house at your request and I will brook no rebuke of my actions or thoughts."
"Oh no, sir." Harry was quick to say. "One house elf I know I consider a close friend of mine. I helped him gain his freedom from a vile position of tortured slavery. I did not grow up in the wizarding world and only found out there was such a thing as a house elf in my second year at Hogwarts. I am amazed that more witches and wizards do not think as you."
Derwent gazed at him with intensity for what seemed like an age to Harry. He finally blushed and lowered his eyes only to hear Derwent's next words.
"I guess it is true." Harry looked up and was about to ask what was true when the healer interrupted that possibility.
"Okay, Potter. I hear from my young colleague Wratley, that you have a keen mind and a few unorthodox ideas. I made a career of pursuing the unorthodox so I cannot blame you for that. That briefcase holds all of your notes? Good God man, that all you have."
Harry set the case on the floor and without thinking he waved his hand and it expanded to full size.
"I guess it is true. Leave that there. Call here again tomorrow at the same time and I will tell you what I believe will help you. Probably I will tell you to leave and give up on this as I have. But I am willing to be amazed by a novel idea and approach."
"Good day to you Potter." And with that Derwent left the room. 'Pop.'
'Pop.' "Mr. Potter."
Harry almost jumped form his skin when Gently apparated and spoke to him from right behind him by less than a foot.
"It was a pleasure to meet you sir. I cannot remember when we have had such an exciting afternoon. We look forward to your visit tomorrow." He said this while steering Harry to the door. It opened before them and Harry was on the landing before he could say anything other than, "Goodbye Gently."
"Good afternoon sir."
And Harry stood staring at the closed door for almost a minute wondering what had just transpired.
Harry made his way towards the elevators from the St. Mungo's Apparation Foyer. He was lost in thought. The doors of the elevator opened and as it opened he heard a near screamed, "Harry!" He was nearly knocked over by a fourteen-year-old girl jumping up to hug him.
Author's Note --The end is coming soon!
-- I believe this story will take one more chapter and an epilogue.
A/N -- New Story Soon!
In a few weeks I will be posting a new story line. This one will take place long before the founding of Hogwarts. It will reveal how magic as we know it in Harry's day originally came to England. If you would like to be notified when it goes up please e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks for your interest.
Disclaimer---As always, what belongs to J K Rowlings is J K Rowlings'. What belongs to anyone else is theirs. Everything left is mine, I guess, but remember the old adage -- "There is nothing new under the sun." - Aaran St. Vines***