Magic Never Dies ~ Chapter Six
current location: Still at that window...
current mood: awake
current song: Great Expectations ~ Elbow
Title: Magic Never Dies
Word Count: 3,700
Rating:R (future chapters)
Summary: This Fic won Portkeys' Felix Felicis Fiction Competition and garnered over 2,500 positive reviews. This is a completed alternative version of Book 7 for the Determinedly Delusional H/Hr shipper. Action/Adventure/Romance/Humor - a bit of everything.
Official Fine Print: Nope. Not mine. The brainchildren of the mighty pen of JK Rowling. Just playing with them. Honest.
The bell tolled during breakfast just two days later. Ron, Harry and Hermione were all eating together; the change in dynamics between the three had actually acted something like an escape valve and they were all a little easier around each other than they had been. Harry hadn’t actually been conscious that Ron’s sleeping habits were anything other than his true nature shrugging off six years of Hogwarts hours, but it felt oddly right to have him back with them in the mornings. He knew that Hermione and Ron had talked. So far he and Ron had not, at least in so many words. There was lots of very pre-verbal animalistic male ritual behavior going on; Harry was ruefully aware that he’d probably done everything short of actually licking Hermione in front of Ron to get his none too subtle point across, but he’d also allowed himself to be pretty thoroughly pushed around on several occasions that could have gone either way, dutifully doing his belly-up-to-the-big-lion time to keep the peace.
Neither had suggested resuming practice dueling quite yet.
“Owl on the roof.” Hermione said absently when it rang a second time, deeply absorbed in a thick, musty copy of Dark Magic Your Mother Never Taught You. She hadn’t found anything about horcruxes yet, but it was fascinating reading none the less. Repulsive, but fascinating.
“I’ll get it,” said Harry, pushing back his chair.
Hermione looked up from her book then and glared at Ron.
“What? He offered, and it’s good exercise for him, keep things from stiffening up.” Ron told her. “Not everything is supposed to, you know.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll…”
“I can do it, for Merlin’s sake, I’m not a cripple or anything. It’s fine. You just sit there flaccidly and enjoy the Prophet, Ron. Hey, ready for a little dueling practice this afternoon?” Harry grinned at Ron as he passed on his way to the stairs.
Ron grinned back, “Absolutely. Prepare to be whipped, Oh Chosen One.”
“Oh there’s a good idea.” Hermione muttered, returning to her book. “You’d better not take the roof off, either of you.”
The fact that her tea was stone cold the next time she took a sip alerted Hermione to the passage of time she’d lost to about three chapters. Ron was still engrossed in the Quidditch results but there was no sign of Harry.
She closed her book. “I wonder what’s happened to Harry?”
“Owl must have needed a reply,” Ron commented unconcernedly.
“I’m going to go check,” she decided.
“Call it what you like,” said Ron.
“Are you going to be permanently insufferable about this, or is this just a phase?” Hermione asked him.
“Haven’t decided yet,” he told her cheerfully. “But it seems a waste not to make the most of it.”
She reflected that he was probably well entitled to more than the usual fair share of teasing as she climbed the seemingly endless stairs to the roof. He’d been really good about the whole thing so far, there was definitely the feeling of having dodged a bullet amongst all three of them. Hermione’s heart may have discovered that it had long been more invested in Harry than she’d allowed herself to believe, but she still understood the importance of Ron’s friendship both to Harry and, if she were honest, to herself as well. It was a difficult balance, three, but the payoff if it could be managed was tripled also. They were far stronger together, and anything that upped the odds of Harry’s survival was worth fighting for in Hermione’s book.
She opened the door to the roof and stepped out into a beautiful, crisp blue-skied September morning to find Harry on his knees with Fawkes perched beside him. The phoenix’s gaze was calm and ageless; Harry’s eyes when he raised them to her were so anguished it physically hurt her to meet them.
“He won’t go away,” Harry told her quietly, his voice hollow.
“No,” she said, coming to sit beside him. “I don’t expect he will now.”
“Hermione, I can’t.”
“You’ll have to. Dumbledore obviously thought you could, Fawkes does,”
“Calm down, Harry. It doesn’t have to mean everything you’re thinking. Fawkes has chosen you to be the leader of the Order, not to try and replace Dumbledore. Think about it. Rufus Scrimgeour kept wanting you to go and be a rallying point for the Ministry. He wasn’t asking you to run the Ministry; mind you, he was calculating that your presence there would give people a sense of confidence. Well, now you can be that for the Order, something you actually believe in. Not faking people into thinking that things are okay when they aren’t, but helping them find the resolve to work together and defend themselves. You don’t have to pretend to know everything or be in charge of anything, you can just choose someone you think Dumbledore trusted to be the actual leader and get on with the horcruxes yourself.”
She could see that he was listening carefully to her; she hoped that her words were reaching him. Fawkes warbled agreeably and nudged Harry’s shoulder with his head. She saw him reach out a shaking hand and stroke the fiery bird’s soft plumage. She knew by the set of his shoulders how miserable he was, how the ache of missing Dumbledore and the weight of all that was before him had come rushing back with Fawkes appearance; she reckoned that Fawkes had always known his destination and had been trying to give Harry time. But time ultimately waited for no one and Voldemort certainly wouldn’t either.
Her heart bled for him; it took several minutes for the reality of the last couple of days to seep back into her consciousness; to poke her gently and remind her how things had changed. She slid a tentative arm around his shoulders as reassuringly as she could, uncertain of his reaction. He stiffened and then seemed to remember as well, turning gratefully into her embrace. Every muscle in his body felt coiled and tensed against accepting the meaning of Fawkes’ presence. She stroked her hand gently along his wand arm, forgetting, and he winced. Fawkes eyes seemed to light up and he waddled closer, and leant over between them. He looked from one to the other expectantly. Hermione remained uncertain what he wanted but Harry sighed and pushed up the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Fawkes’ eyes welled up over the angry spell slash that ran up Harry’s arm, healing the stubborn damage before her eyes. As the last tear fell Harry suddenly moved so that it missed the very end of the cut and splashed instead on to Hermione’s hand. Immediately a sense of calm and well being swelled within her such as she had never known before. Her mind felt clear and serene, her body almost weightless. Her eyes widened. Fawkes trilled, a lovely liquid sound like a laugh, and looked admonishingly towards Harry.
“You needed to feel that,” he said. “Everyone should, at least once.” He leaned down and kissed her gently, his lips barely brushing hers. She had a distinct feeling that it was for Fawkes’ benefit and Harry was showing him the lay of the land now. She realized that it produced a sensation within her similar to the phoenix tears except for the pure contentment. With Harry, she always wanted more.
“So what do you have to do now?” she asked. “Do you know?”
“I think I’m supposed to call a meeting and see who comes. They all have a chance to rejoin or not. But who’s going to come when they see it’s just me? They’ll think it’s an awful joke,” he said worriedly.
“No, Harry. I don’t think they will. They all know what Dumbledore thought about you. They’ll at least come to see what you’re going to do and decide for themselves. You’ve just got to be prepared with a plan so they can see that you’re serious.”
“Just.” Harry snorted.
“I’ll help. Ron will help. He’s the chess master after all; he knows just how all the pieces should go.” Hermione reminded him. She couldn’t help but notice that he looked heartened somehow when she reminded him of that.
And then went still. “What about Snape?” he said, broken again. “What the hell do I do about Snape?”
“Here’s a thought,” said Ron, when they had reconvened in the kitchen and the significance of Fawkes appearance been explained. “You send everyone the time and place of the meeting, and then you all sit and wait the five or so minutes it’ll take for You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters to come wipe out the entire Order after Snape tells him where to find you. ‘Cause that’s exactly what he’d do if you trust him.”
“Dumbledore trusted him,” Hermione said doubtfully.
“Dumbledore did lots of wacky, questionable things,” Ron retorted. “Doesn’t mean Harry has to make the same mistakes, does it?”
“I saw him kill Dumbledore,” Harry said slowly. “But Dumbledore could have released me from the spell if he’d really wanted help. Without even saying a word. Snape didn’t know I was there, at least at first. Draco didn’t. Snape walked toward him when Dumbledore said his name… their eyes… Merlin, they were talking.” His eyes widened, he clearly hadn’t thought along those lines before. “The two of them could have legilimensed anything to each other.”
“Maybe Dumbledore knew Snape had read his mind and knew you were there. Maybe he was trying to protect you from the rest.” Hermione suggested.
Harry snorted. “Snape was supposed to be a master of Occlumency, of blocking Voldemort out, and even I got through once. He wasn’t anywhere close to Dumbledore as a Legilimens, he couldn’t have read Dumbledore’s mind unless Dumbledore wanted him to. No, I think they were discussing something Dumbledore wanted. He actually begged Snape, said ‘Severus, please…’ like ‘please listen’ or ‘please don’t do this…”
“Or please do it. I’m dying anyway, please finish it so that Draco doesn’t fail and you won’t be exposed. Maybe Dumbledore really thought Snape was in danger of being found out. He’d let himself be killed rather than sacrifice Snapes’ ability to spy on Voldemort for the Order,” Hermione said slowly. She knew Harry wasn’t going to like a word of it.
“I’m dying anyway? How do you figure that?” Harry asked angrily. Ron’s eyes goggled.
“He was very old. His reactions weren’t what they used to be; look at his hand. He’d drunk that horrible potion. I know I wasn’t there and I can’t judge, but I sincerely doubt Voldemort left a Horcrux in something that had to be drunk to empty and wasn’t poisonous. Maybe Dumbledore guessed as much, not the specifics but the type of thing he’d do. That’s why he let you go with him, Harry. He wanted you to see for yourself because he didn’t think he’d be around to tell you what sort of other enchantments Voldemort might use.”
Harry made a sound like all of the air was being forcibly expelled from his lungs. Fawkes chirruped from his perch on the back of one of the kitchen chairs and moved closer. “You think…”
“I think Harry. I don’t know. But we should look at every possibility, and one possibility is that Snape was still acting under Dumbledore’s orders when he took his life that night. Dumbledore believed in you, Harry, he seemed to feel very strongly that you are the one who can and will take on Voldemort. It’s not out of the realm of logic or possibility to believe he would sacrifice himself to that end.”
“I saw the hate on Snape’s face, Hermione. You weren’t there for that, either. I saw it.”
“But was it Dumbledore he hated,” she asked hesitantly, “or you, Harry. Having to follow through orders to kill someone he considered a mentor or friend, so that you, whom he despised, could live to fight another day?”
It was a brutal thing to ask him and Hermione hated to do it. Harry looked as if she’d slapped him. But he needed to consider it.
“Nice, Hermione. How about another option?” Ron said furiously. “How about he hated Dumbledore, he especially hates Harry and while he’s at it, by the way, he hates me and you, too. This is Snape we’re talking about, Snape after a year’s worth of indulging his excuse for a heart in Dark Arts, may I add. Maybe he just hates everyone. Maybe he’s just as evil as You Know Who.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. If he’s so evil, why didn’t he just kill Harry later, by Hagrids’ hut? ”
“I told you, Hermione. He said ‘have you forgotten our orders? Potter belongs to the Dark Lord – we are to leave him!’” Harry said dully. “Much as he might’ve liked to, he was afraid.”
“Potter belongs to the Dark Lord…” Hermione repeated thoughtfully.
“Because Voldemort’s realized it, too,” he explained. “And you know what else I think? I think he meant for my mother to watch that night. I think he wanted her to see me die to make that horcux, because her suffering would delight him. That was his mistake. I don’t think he thought for a moment that she would throw herself in front of me, and that’s what screwed up his spell. Look at me! Avada Kedavra doesn’t leave a mark. I’ve seen enough of it to know. Well, there’s a mark on me. A mark that burns and throbs and sears according to his moods. I heard them, when the Dementors came at me during the Quidditch match third year. It’s why I fell. She was screaming ‘Not Harry!,” and he said, ‘Stand aside you silly girl. Stand aside, now.’ And she cried, ‘Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead.’
If he’d meant just to kill us all, why not just do it as he came across us? My Dad first, then my Mom and then me. Why ask her to stand aside? Because he meant to make something hideous out of me and he succeeded – just not the way he planned. He didn’t get to use me to make a horcrux, he made me into one instead. He’s figured it out now as well and he needs to be the one to kill me so he can either control it, or Merlin forbid, take it back. He had to get rid of Dumbledore because he knew Dumbledore would warn me and I’d go after the other horcruxes as if my life depended on it.”
“Harry, we don’t know any of that for sure, but I am begging you to do one thing,” Hermione said nervously. “Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone else what you suspect. No matter how much we trust them. As far as we know, no one else knows about the horcrux theory, and there are lots of good reasons Dumbledore didn’t want them to. If what you think is true and if the Ministry or even some members of the Order understood… think about it. You’d be a much bigger pawn in all of this then ever before. Some would want to put you in Azkaban to control you or even to sacrifice you to weaken his chances of surviving. Some would be more interested than ever in capturing you and selling you or making a gift of you to Voldemort in exchange for whatever they could get. Please, promise me you’ll keep this between us.”
Unbelievable. Hermione Granger was telling him not to tell a teacher.
“I bet Snape already knows. Whether it’s from Dumbledore or Voldemort or just figuring it out on his own, I’m willing to bet he knows. It’s right up his alley; he probably thinks it’s brilliant.” Harry said. “That’s probably what crawled up his robes when I taunted him about killing me just like he killed my Dad. He probably wanted to finish me so bad it hurt, but because of the Dark Screw Up he couldn’t. How’s that for irony?”
“You’d think he would have enjoyed that crucio though then, wouldn’t you Harry? It’s hardly likely it would have killed you. And why would he care if you were insane as long as you were alive? But he stopped it, and maybe, just maybe, he stopped them because he’s still on our side.”
“Talk about playing the Devils’ advocate. Severus Snape,” said Harry coldly, “has never, ever been on my side. He may have been doing what Dumbledore wanted, I’m willing to try and believe that if that’s what you really think Hermione, but I don’t believe for a minute he’ll ever have any loyalty to me.”
“Face it Harry, you are never going to like Snape.” Hermione said desperately, hating the thought of something as twisted as Snape coming between them now. “No one could ever honestly blame you. I don’t, I never could. But you can’t let the past color all your decisions about him now. You’ve got to get beyond it. Dumbledore never backed down on that.”
In the end, all their arguments didn’t matter. It turned out Harry didn’t have a choice.
Fawkes chose that moment to pluck a feather from his tail and hopped over to Hermione, nudging her gently aside. He dipped the uncut feather in Hermione’s ink pot then balanced it on its tip on the parchment beside her stack of books. Much like Rita Skeeter’s Quick Quotes Quill it began at once to write unaided.
‘Procedures For Calling a Re-Forming Meeting of The Order of the Phoenix,’ scrawled its way across the parchment.
“Couldn’t have done that before, could you?” Harry asked him. Fawkes beady eyes clearly seemed to be saying ‘No. You had to get that out of your system first.’
The procedures called for all of the former members to be notified without exception and given the option to rejoin or not. Harry was to send his patronus to one member, who would then continue the chain to notify the next. The last would inform Harry that the round was complete. Those that showed for the meeting had the option of swearing themselves to Harry or having their memories altered for their own safety as well as the Orders’ if they chose not to rejoin.
“We’ll meet here,” Harry decided, “since Snape already knows about it. It won’t be giving anything new away in case we have to move on… suddenly.”
“Assuming we live that long,” said Ron gloomily.
“And I think we should meet next Tuesday night. That gives us a chance to see what Dumbledore’s portrait might tell us before hand. The only question left is who do I send my patronus to?” He looked questioningly at Fawkes; the Order did not have ranks or positions, it was hard to tell if there should be any significance in the choice. On the plus side there also seemed to be nothing in the rules that precluded Hermione’s suggestion of Harry’s role either, although figurehead to a secret society seemed something of an oxymoron. (“Go easy on yourself, Harry” Ron had said when he suggested as much. “You may not be the fastest broom in the shed, but you’re nobody’s idiot, either.”)
“You should start the way you mean to go on,” Hermione decided. “Who are you going to ask to lead? Have you made a decision?”
Harry knew that Mr. Weasley would be a popular choice, but there was a certain amount of baggage there he couldn’t quite face at the moment. He didn’t need a father figure telling him what to do, not at this late point, and he felt intuitively that while Arthur Weasley was the most loyal, resilient foot soldier you could ever ask for, helming the Order might well be an unwelcome strain on him. Not to mention Mrs. Weasley. He still vividly remembered viewing Mrs. Weasley’s boggart upstairs, her fear of the war’s impact on her large target of a family. No, he knew who he would choose and he knew Dumbledore had always liked and trusted him.
“Remus,” he said. “I think it should be Lupin. He’s the last of the Marauders, after all, he’s got a lot invested in this as well.”
Hermione and Ron both nodded acceptingly.
“Nice boost for the werewolf movement too.” Ron said. “Give Bill something to aspire to if….”
Harry allowed his eyes to close, envisioning the moment he walked out on to the roof that morning and found Fawkes waiting for him, then embedding the time, date and place of the meeting into the memory. He was quite sure Lupin would know what to do. Remembering Snape’s taunts the night Dumbledore died he called on his patronus without words, opening his eyes to find the silvery form of the stag already erupting from his wand. Its large eyes seemed to survey its surroundings until it located Harry, then lowering its antlers in a sort of clumsy bow it galloped off through the kitchen wall and on beyond the house.
“Cool,” said Ron admiringly. Hermione remained silent a moment, lips parted in surprise.
“When,” she asked at last, “did you learn to do that?”
“D’nno. I didn’t, really. It just felt like what I was supposed to do. The funny thing is it seems to have worked. Unless it comes back with an order of Chinese take away or something.”
The thought of Harry’s patronus re-appearing with Chinese food was enough to lighten the mood for all three of them; they all laughed at the same moment, and Harry and Hermione met each other’s eyes in some relief. Harry had always respected Hermione’s opinions and she knew she could speak her mind to him but it seemed hard somehow to remind someone of their most painful blind spots and then invite them up to your room for a snog; a prospect now definitely on her mind.
Ron was reminded it was quite nearly time for lunch.