CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: Suspicion The effects of the Suffico Solution wore off gradually over the next several hours. Madam Pomfrey insisted on keeping Harry in the infirmary so he could rest. The painful burning sensation in Harry's lungs and throat had quickly subsided. Neverthless, he continued to cough and have trouble breathing if he talked for too long or exerted himself. Tonks kept constant vigil over him, barely even consenting to let him pee by himself, and he hadn't been there more than an hour before Hermione appeared with Ron at her side. "Alright, mate?" Ron said, sitting heavily on the side of Harry's hospital bed. "Hermione said that you, er... stopped breathing." "Yeah," Harry said, avoiding Hermione's worried gaze, "but just for a bit." Ron shook his head. "I knew I was glad I gave up Potions." Hermione rolled her eyes. "I'm just glad to see you're okay, Harry," she said, resting on the other side of his bed. "I was so scared." "I heard you were brilliant," Tonks said to her. "I know you assisted Snape in brewing the antidote. If you hadn't been there to help, he might not have finished in time." Tonks studied her for a moment. "He must actually respect you. He wouldn't have asked for your help if he didn't." Hermione blushed and looked away, shrugging. "Thanks," Harry said, nudging her with his foot. She smiled weakly. "So," Ron said after a moment, "what do you reckon?" "About what?" Harry asked. Ron gave him an incredulous look. "About who wants to snuff you!" "Ron!" Hermione looked scandalized. "What? It's a valid question." Harry scowled. "Let me think. One fellow does come to mind. Name starts with a V." "Don't be cheeky," Hermione scolded. "Voldemort wasn't in the Potions classroom." "That we know of," Ron said, his eyes going wide. "He could have been under an invisibility cloak, or taking Polyjuice, or maybe--" "Do you honestly think that Voldemort himself could get into Hogwarts without Dumbledore knowing about it?" Hermione demanded. "Really. Use your head, Ron." "It might not have been You-Know-Who in person," Tonks said, "but there could very well be someone at Hogwarts working for him -- voluntarily or otherwise." "Who's in your class?" Ron asked. "Besides the three of us?" Hermione looked thoughtful and began ticking off names on her fingers. "There's Padma, Mo, and Gwyn from Ravenclaw, Justin and Phillipe from Hufflepuff, and from Slytherin, Nott, Pansy, Crabbe, Goyle--" "How did those two trolls get in when I didn't?" Ron demanded. "Cronyism," Tonks replied matter-of-factly. "--and Malfoy," Hermione finished, scowling at Ron. "That's the lot." "I'll give you two guesses who it is," Harry said wryly. "And the first one doesn't count." Hermione shook her head. "You're always so quick to pick on Malfoy, but it just doesn't add up." Harry began to protest, but Hermione beat him to it. "No, think about it; he and his family are a complete disgrace between the stunt you two -- three -- pulled in the Great Hall and his father's arrest. No one's bothered to break Lucius out of Azkaban when they easily could with the dementors gone..." She shook her head. "No. I don't think the Malfoys are very high in the Dark Lord's favor right now." "All the more reason for them to want to try to get rid of me," Harry protested. "If they could do that, they'd be back in his good graces in no time." Hermione bit her lip. "I still don't think it's him," she said quietly. "Well, who do you think it is?" Tonks wanted to know. "You obviously have your suspicions." Hermione glanced at Harry and then quickly away. "I'm not sure," she said finally. "I just don't think it's Malfoy." Ron snorted. "Since when do you stick up for him?" he asked sharply. "Is there something going on that we should know about?" "Don't be a pig," Hermione retorted. "I'd just as soon see Malfoy in Azkaban alongside his father, but I need a little more to go on than you and Harry not liking him." Ron looked like he was about to argue, but Hermione stood up abruptly. "It's getting late. What do you want to do about the DA meeting, Harry?" "Madam Pomfry's not letting me out of here until after dinner at least. You and Neville start the meeting, and I'll come along as soon as I can." "Are you sure you'll be up to it?" Tonks asked warily. "I'm up to it now!" Harry exclaimed. "I'm fine." Unfortunately, his claim was undermined by a sudden coughing fit. Tonks pounded him ineffectually on the back until he recovered. "Don't worry, Harry," Hermione said, patting his foot through the covers. "We'll take care of everything."
* * *
As soon as Madam Pomfry said it was okay, Harry left the hospital wing and headed straight for the Room of Requirement. Tonks had changed back into Dor and was clomping along stoically.
"I'm sorry, Harry," he said suddenly. "I let you down."
"What?" Harry scoffed. "You weren't even there."
"Exactly! I'm supposed to be your bodyguard, and today, I was nowhere near your body when you needed me."
"Don't be stupid," Harry retorted. "Even if you had been there, you wouldn't have been able to do anything more. No offense, but you're worse at Potions than I am."
"That's not the point," Dor argued. "If I'd been there, the perpetrator never would have dared get close enough to your potion to--" he paused, looking at Harry's confused expression. "What?"
"Nobody knows you're my bodyguard, remember?" Harry said. "Do you really think they would have been scared off putting the Monkswood in my potion by you? I mean, by Nymphadora Tonks, maybe, but not by Dorian Tucker."
Dor frowned, but didn't reply. They were silent until they reached the fourth floor corridor.
"That's funny," Harry said, stopping in front of the entrance to the Room of Requirement.
"What?" Dor demanded suspiciously, elbowing his way between Harry and the door. "What's funny?"
"It looks different is all," Harry said, pushing Dor out of the way. "The wood's darker, and look at the handle..." The knob was silver, polished with age and use. An ornate plate with curling vines and bright silver feathers attached it to the door.
"Maybe I'd better go in first," Dor said, readying his wand.
Harry rolled his eyes. "It's just Neville in there."
Dor ignored him and pushed open the heavy wooden door, wand drawn. There was a small startled cry from within.
As Harry entered the Room of Requirement, Neville scrambled to his feet. He'd been sitting on the floor next to a blazing hearth in what looked like a dusty old office. An enormous oak desk took up one end of the room and two dark leather chairs stood opposite the fireplace. Harry paused in the doorway, surprised.
"Harry!" Neville said breathlessly. "I -- I didn't think you were going to come. Hermione told us what happened. How are you feeling?"
"Loads better," Harry said, taking in the room. "How was the meeting?"
Neville looked away, apparently embarrassed. "Okay," he replied. He was watching Dor closely as the other boy peered anxiously around the room, rustling the curtains and opening desk drawers. "Hermione showed us a clotting charm so we can stop a cut from bleeding, and Professor Lindell picked up where you left off with stunning charms and shield charms."
"Did you do it... er, here?"
Neville blushed and shook his head quickly. "No. I mean -- no." He sighed. "I was waiting for you outside, and I guess the room thought I was... Anyway, it gave me my dad's office." He glanced up and met Harry's eyes, a worried expression on his face. "We can go out and try again if you want someplace different."
Harry shook his head quickly. "I think I'm okay now, Dor," he said pointedly. "You can tell Madam Pomfrey that you walked me all the way back to Gryffindor Tower if you want."
"OK," Dor said, still looking around. "Then I guess I'll just be going." He glanced at Neville as he pocketed his wand. "Cool room, Nev. See you back in the tower."
Harry began digging around in his pockets as soon as the door closed. "Here, I brought you something." He held out his hand and showed Neville Professor Lindell's Centre. He quickly explained what it was and what it was for, and demonstrated by centering his mind, until the roiling clouds inside the crystal quieted into a tight, compact ball.
"Wow," Neville breathed when Harry finally opened his eyes. He grinned. "That's pretty cool."
"Yeah," Harry said with a grin. "You try." Handing the crystal to Neville, Harry was surprised to see the rolling, boiling storm within become even more violent. Neville closed his eyes and Harry coached him, saying the same sorts of things that Professor Lindell had said to him in his first lessons, but Neville made very little progress. In fact, if anything, the clouds within the crystal seemed even more fierce and chaotic than before.
Neville's face crumpled into a frown, deep creases appearing between his eyebrows and across his forehead. Harry could see little beads of sweat breaking out across his forehead. He was obviously trying, but the clouds did not budge.
Panting, Neville closed his fist around the crystal and opened his eyes. "I... I can't do it," he said in a low voice.
"Sure you can," Harry said calmly. "It just takes practice. I didn't get it the first time either."
"Yeah," Neville said quietly, passing the Centre back to Harry, "but I'm not you."
"You're just giving up, then?" Harry asked.
Neville shrugged. "I'm not like you, Harry. You... You're special." Harry stared at him. "I mean," Neville continued, looking nervous, "look at all the stuff you can do."
"Nothing you couldn't," Harry retorted. "It's all stuff I've had to learn to get by."
Neville stared at his hands in his lap, unwilling to meet Harry's eyes.
"Look," Harry said, "you and the rest of the DA can do pretty much everything I can at this point. I don't see why--"
"We can't speak Parseltongue," Neville interjected. "And that's not something you can teach us."
"It's not something I would have chosen to learn," Harry replied hotly.
"But that's what I'm talking about," Neville said suddenly, rising from his chair. "It's the stuff you didn't learn that makes you different. And no matter how much you pretend that you can teach us to fight like you, or to do the same spells as you, we'll never be like you, because you're special, Harry. You're the boy who lived."
"Do you think I want to be the boy who lived?" Harry demanded, jumping out of his seat.
Neville looked slightly taken aback. "No, of course not, but--"
"It was just dumb luck. Bad luck! A coin toss -- heads or tails. The prophecy wasn't necessarily even about me. There were two babies -- Voldemort just -- his choice -- it was all by chance."
Neville stared at him. "W-w-what?"
Harry's anger fizzled and died as quickly as it had begun. He realized with a terrible sinking sensation that Neville had no idea what he was talking about.
"The prophecy," Harry said more slowly. "The one we stole from the Department of Mysteries last year. It was about a baby born at the end of July whose parents had defied Voldemort three times -- a baby who would defeat the Dark Lord."
"It... But..." Neville shook his head and swallowed hard. "It smashed. I dropped it."
"Professor Dumbledore told me what it said," Harry replied. "And he told me that it could have been about two different babies born at the end of July -- me, and you."
Neville stared at him. His face had gone completely white, and his eyes stood out starkly, wide and dark. Little wisps of hair clung to the sweat on his forehead in dark curls. Harry took a deep breath to steady himself.
"Voldemort got to my parents first. That's all."
He had always intended to tell Neville about the prophecy -- eventually -- and now, whether or not they liked it, it was out in the open now.
"I... I'm sorry. I didn't want to tell you like that. But you see -- we're more alike than you think."
Neville looked as though Harry had just punched him in the stomach. "That's-- that's why he attacked." He sputtered. "No one told-- No one ever-- You never said anything!"
Neville's eyes suddenly lit with a fire Harry had never seen in them before. "You're lying," he said in a low, deep voice.
Harry almost laughed. "I wish I were," he said gravely. "Listen, I didn't want to hear it any more than--"
"You're LYING!" Neville screamed. He shoved Harry, hard, sending him sprawling back into the armchair. "I'm not like you. I'm NOTHING like you!" Harry sat still, stunned into silence as Neville rushed out of the room.
"Harry?" Dor's voice was anxious as he poked his head into the room through the open door. "What happened?"
Harry stared beyond him at the open door through which Neville had just passed. "Neville happened," he said, bewildered.
* * *
"I have to go see Professor Dumbledore," Dor announced the next morning at breakfast, "and you're coming with me."
"What about Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Harry asked around a mouthful of porridge.
"We'll get him to write us a note," Dor announced, pushing back from the table. "Now, Harry."
Harry shrugged at Ron's questioning look and followed Dor out of the Great Hall. Dor was moving so quickly that he actually had to jog a little to catch him up.
"What's the rush?" Harry asked, but Dor did not reply. They stopped in front of the lonely gargoyle and Dor said "Laughing Lollies." The wall slid back to reveal the spiral staircase.
Silently, they rode up to the circular office where Dumbledore was sitting behind an open door, sipping his morning tea.
"Good morning Mr. Tucker, Mr. Potter," he said genially. "Have you had breakfast?"
"Yes, sir--" Harry began, but Dor cut him off.
"I need to talk to you, Professor," he said. He glanced at Harry. "Alone."
Dumbledore inclined his head. "Perhaps," he said slowly, "Mr. Potter would like to wait in my library."
Dor nodded and walked to the side door through which Harry had first seen Dorian Tucker enter the office. He pulled the door open to reveal a long hallway with many other doors leading off of it. Frowning, he quickly shut the door and opened it again, this time revealing a lavish washroom.
"How did you...?" Harry began, but Dor just shook his head.
"Professor?" he asked with an irritated note to his voice.
"Be firm with it, Mr. Tucker," Professor Dumbledore said casually as he cleared away his tea things.
The next time the door opened, they discovered what looked to be a potions laboratory complete with bubbling cauldron. Dor sighed and tried the door one more time. This time, it opened onto a small, octagonal room lined with books and with eight small octagonal windows, one at the top of each wall, and each a different color.
"Make yourself at home," Dumbledore said with a small smile in Harry's direction, "and we will endeavor to be brief."
Harry nodded and passed into the little library, wondering where exactly he was going. He'd never seen a room like this anywhere in the castle before. Dor gave him an apologetic look before closing him in.
Harry tossed his satchel into one of the chairs and wandered around the room glancing at the books. Many of the titles were written in languages he didn't understand, using symbols he had never seen before. Others had tantalizing titles like "The Sorceress of Stromboli" and "1001 Magical Soups." Harry was tempted to look through some of them, but if his few excursions into the Restricted Section of the main library had taught him anything, it was never to judge a book by its cover.
Sighing, Harry collapsed into the chair and watched the motes of dust that puffed up out of it dancing in the warm red sunbeams streaming through one of the high windows. Across from him, directly at eye level, was a book with intricate runes embossed in gold on its spine. They looked awfully familiar.
Remembering suddenly where he had seen the runes before, Harry pulled the amulet out from under his collar. It was warm and heavy against his palm, and the little red stone in the center seemed to come alive in the crimson tinted sunlight.
Remus. The memory of that cold grey morning so many months ago came spilling back into Harry's mind. He remembered how sad and alone Remus had looked; almost as sad and alone as Harry had felt.
We're all we have left now, he thought sadly. If anything happens to Remus, I'll really be alone...
Suddenly, he remembered Ginny's vision, and wondered if it could be real. She had been right about the fact that someone would try to kill him again, but could it be a coincidence? And if not, did that mean that Remus was actually locked up in a cage somewhere?
With a click, the door to Dumbledore's office opened, and Harry started from his unpleasant reverie. Tonks was standing in the doorway, one of the windows casting a blue light over her features.
"Are you done already?" Harry asked, scrambling to his feet.
"Just about," Tonks said. "I'm sorry it took so long."
Harry frowned at her as he followed her back into Dumbledore's office. "I was only in there for a few minutes."
Tonks glanced back at him. "It's been over an hour."
"And that is the beauty of a library," Professor Dumbledore interrupted, gesturing to two chairs in front of his desk. "I always find that time passes much more quickly in the company of a few good books."
Harry sat in the chair he was offered, still feeling confused.
"I imagine that you can guess the subject of our deliberations," Dumbledore said plainly once Harry and Tonks were seated.
Harry nodded. "You were talking about me."
Dumbledore inclined his head. "Tonks does not think that you are safe here any longer, not even with a body guard."
Harry glanced at Tonks, but she would not meet his gaze. She was staring at her hands determinedly.
"It isn't her fault, Headmaster," Harry said quickly. "She couldn't have known."
"That is precisely what I said," Dumbledore agreed, "but the fact remains that you almost died."
"Harry!" Tonks said suddenly. "Don't hate me. It's just, it might be the only way."
Harry stared at her. Abruptly, however, a new terrifying thought struck him. "You -- you're not going to send me away, are you?" The idea of being sent back to Privet Drive prematurely was too horrible even to think of. He turned to stare at Dumbledore. "Are you?"
Dumbledore studied Harry for a long moment before responding, and Harry thought he could almost feel the headmaster's mind trying to enter his. For once, he didn't fight it. He wanted Dumbledore to see his horror at the mere suggestion of being sent back to his Aunt and Uncle.
But the tendrils of thought he associated with Legilimency never found their way into his mind. Dumbledore blinked.
"No," he said softly. "No, I do not think that would be the best solution. Not, at least, until it becomes absolutely necessary.
"However, something must be done to better ensure your safety. You must not, under any circumstances, be out of Tonks' protection, not for any length of time or for any reason."
"Yes," Harry said, relief flooding through him. "Of course."
"And you must not eat or drink anything outside of the Great Hall. Not even sweets you bought yourself."
"Okay," Harry said, ready to agree to just about anything if it meant being allowed to stay at Hogwarts.
"And," Dumbledore said with a quick glance at Tonks, who had gone back to staring at her hands, "you will have to forgo practicing and playing Quidditch."
Anything, except that.
"What?" Harry stared at him, dumbfounded. "But Professor, I really don't think that's--"
"It is necessary," Dumbledore interrupted with a gentle shake of his head. "Tonks cannot fly with you during practices or games. You are a perfect target all alone in the air," he paused. "And there can no longer be any doubt that someone within these walls is trying to destroy you"
"Nothing's happened at Quidditch practice--" Harry said desperately.
"Nothing had happened in the Potions dungeon until yesterday afternoon," Dumbledore countered.
"But..." Harry sputtered. He sunk back into his chair, realizing with a terrible leaden feeling that there was no way to win this argument.
When Harry and Dor left Dumbledore's office, they were wearing identical expressions of miserable resolve. Defense Against the Dark Arts was almost finished, so they loitered around outside in the hallway until their classmates emerged from the lesson.
"What happened?" Hermione asked as soon as she saw Harry's face.
"Yeah, who died?" Ron asked glibly.
"I'm not allowed to play Quidditch any more," Harry said morosely. Ron paled under his freckles and his jaw fell open. Hermione glanced at Dor.
"It's too dangerous," Dor said apologetically.
"It's probably for the best," Hermione said, patting Harry on the arm.
"No it's not!" Ron shouted suddenly. "It's not for the best! Harry's the best Seeker and the best captain we've ever had. He can't just not be allowed to play!"
Harry stared at him. "You really think I'm the best captain?" he asked, more than a little surprised.
Ron blinked at him. "Well, of course. You're not nearly as crazy as Wood, and you're a lot easier to understand than Angelina. I don't know what we're going to do without you."
"Well," Harry said slowly, "we'll have to put it to a vote, but I'm going to tell the others that I think you should be the new captain."
Hermione grinned, and even Dor managed a small smile, but Ron frowned and looked pensive.
"I don't think I want to be captain," he said at last.
Harry's mouth dropped open in shock. "What? But all this time you--"
"If it's all the same to you," Ron interrupted, "I think I'd rather be co-captain."
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