After dinner, Harry sat in his bed with Ginny beside him, holding her hand. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny already decided to fill Harry in on how Slughorn managed to find the book and on what they'd read in it.
"For now, we have to keep the secret from Harry that we are the ones attempting to mend his soul," Hermione had stated firmly and hastily to Ron and Ginny after pulling them aside in the empty seating room after dinner that night. "We couldn't risk him knowing it yet. He surely won't take it well." Ron and Ginny had agreed, looking downcast.
"The first ingredient," said Harry after listening to Hermione describe the ingredients that they had read in the book. "You think it is a Thestral's hair?"
Hermione went back to her pacing again while Ron sat on a chair beside the desk. He was nervous at the discussion they were having with Harry which he knew would inevitably reveal their purpose which Hermione had warned them against revealing sooner than he had thought.
"Yes," she answered. "It's very fitting concerning how it was described in the book, unless you know of something else, Harry."
Harry shook his head and asked, "How are we getting the hair?"
"Well," Hermione was looking at Ron and Ginny, not entirely sure whether or not to tell Harry that they were planning on asking Hagrid. "We actually don't know yet. We need wild Thestrals, and they're rare."
"I think I know who can help us," Harry said excitedly, but the rest of them already knew who it was.
"Hagrid?" Ron asked just to fill Harry's question quickly.
Harry was taken aback. He didn't know Ron could read his mind. Ron gave an uncomfortable smile.
"Yeah," he said. "He liked those creatures, so maybe he knows where to find wild ones."
Hermione nodded. "You're right, Harry. We could send him a letter."
"I'll do that," Ron volunteered quickly, and Harry was surprised again at Ron's behaviour, not that it was bad, but there was something odd about him that made Harry suspicious of the three of them. Ron, on the other hand, didn't want Harry to know that they were planning to tell Hagrid about Harry's situation.
"Right," said Hermione shortly. "Now that we've decided on that, let's move on to the next ingredient."
"Oh, finally," muttered Ginny.
Hermione held the book and read it aloud:
A piece of the doorway where life departs
They all stared blankly at Hermione. Ron could have sworn that each ingredient gave him a big headache.
"Seriously, why can't they just make it simple like 'a pinch of salt'?" Ron asked in an exasperated tone. "So is it referring to a gate on the cemetery?"
"Is it like a portkey?" Ginny piped up.
"Hmmm…" mused Hermione, unsure of Ginny's guess. "Portkeys instantly brings anyone touching it to a specific location… it could be the doorway, but it's very unlikely. It doesn't make sense to the part where it mentioned 'where life departs'."
"A portal of some sort, then?" Ginny guessed again. "It would make perfect sense if it referred to a portal. But looking for the doorway where it would lead someone to the afterlife seemed impossible to find. Honestly, I'm running out of ideas."
"We can talk to a dead person and ask whether they know of a doorway," Ron suggested sarcastically. "Maybe they could tell us."
"Ron's idea isn't bad at all," stated Ginny. "We can talk to a ghost at Hogwarts if we really have to."
"Do you think they would know?" asked Hermione, looking doubtful. "I mean, if they know about a doorway, their soul would have departed already, wouldn't they? They wouldn't stay as ghosts forever."
"Is there any other way then to talk to a ghost who has departed?" Ron asked in a hopeless voice.
"There's one," said Hermione. "I know it's simply pointless to even bring it up since it was lost in the forest..." she glanced uncertainly at Harry.
"You mean, the Resurrection stone?" Ron asked in earnest, knowing instantly to what she was referring.
Harry looked up at them at once. At that moment, his memories in the Forbidden forest came flooding back in his mind. He had turned the stone over in his hand three times, enabling him to talk to his parents, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. He remembered they had been neither ghost nor truly flesh. Along with Ron and Hermione, Harry had told Dumbledore's portrait that he had dropped it in the Forbidden Forest and would not go looking for it again to which Dumbledore had quickly agreed.
"Yes," Hermione answered Ron. "The stone has the power to recall the dead, but - well..." she trailed off.
Harry watched them uncomfortably. There was nothing they could do about the stone. He wouldn't be able to pinpoint exactly where, and to go looking for it again would be extremely hard and a waste of time. He wanted to help his friends, but like Hermione had said, it would be pointless.
"Let's just forget about the stone," said Ron quietly. "Do you know of any other way to talk to a departed soul?" He looked expectantly at his friends, but all of them stayed silent.
Harry closed his eyes and remembered the night he talked to his parents and his godfather, Sirius. He missed him so much. Harry still couldn't believe the dream he had of him floating away and dying on the Veil –
Harry gave a sharp intake of breath abruptly. He opened his eyes and tried to repeat the ingredient in his mind, 'A piece of the doorway where life departs'. His heart hammered fast. Could it be that the Veil is a doorway because a soul might depart on it just like what happened to Sirius? he thought seriously to himself. It made perfect sense, and it fit!
Harry chose this moment to intervene. "Yes," he voiced out suddenly, his eyes glinting fervently at them all.
Hermione stopped her pacing which Ron thought was a relief as it had started to annoy him.
"What do you mean, Harry?" she asked eagerly.
"The Veil," he said simply. At first, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny didn't understand what Harry meant about 'The Veil', and slowly, as though a fog had cleared their minds, realization finally dawned on their faces.
"Yes!" Hermione squeaked with delight. "Oh my goodness, Harry. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Why didn't you tell us earlier?" Ron questioned, he was a little surprised at Harry, but he gave a smirk that said 'Well done' for saving their minds from overthinking.
"I only just remembered the dream I had of Sirius floating away on some sort of an archway," Harry answered Ron. "And then you told me he fell through the Veil."
"Couldn't you still remember the whole thing of what happened that day?" asked Ginny. She was looking at Harry sadly.
Harry thought for a moment. "I've had flashes of memories... but they're all jumbled in my head in some way. Anyway -" He straightened up. "Let's just say for now that we've figured out the second ingredient, how do we get there? And what does it mean 'a piece of a doorway'? Do we have to dig in the rock surrounding the Veil?"
"It was very hard and confusing to get to it," reckoned Hermione, thinking hard. "The Death Chamber where the Veil is located is a room in the Department of Mysteries. To be able to get there, we have to take the lifts to level Nine from the Ministry Atrium. Apart from the plain black door that leads to the Entrance Chamber, that level has no other windows or doors... and the chamber has a circular room with handleless doors that would disorient any unauthorized personnel, but it would respond to a verbal request for an exit by the opening of the correct door."
"We might have to ask someone from the Ministry if they could do us a favour of getting that piece," Ron advised. "Mind you, it'll be difficult to let them agree on us that easily. They will want explanations as to why they're doing it."
"Maybe dad or Percy can help us," Ginny suggested. "Dad has been inside the Department of Mysteries when he was guarding the prophecy like two years ago. He would know of the Veil for sure."
Ron snorted at hearing Percy's name. "Sure, dad can do it, but I don't think I would trust Percy that much. He's such a nosy git if you ask me and only thinks of his own well-being. I still haven't forgiven him after what he did to our family."
"He's changed already, Ron," Ginny argued. "He knows where he stands now... and don't forget, he gave up his room to Harry so he can live with us. Isn't that enough proof? You need to forgive him. He means no harm to us now."
"I'll forgive him if he even knows where the Veil is at." Ron snapped at her. "I'm sure he doesn't even know how to get to the Department of Mysteries."
Ginny could only sigh in frustration. Harry knew from experience that it was always hard to argue with Ron when things got tough. Ignoring this was the only way.
Hermione suddenly chimed in to break Ron and Ginny's momentary argument. "To answer your question, Harry, I think you're right. They would have to dig and get a piece of the stone archway since it asks for a 'piece' of it."
"Do you imagine yourself drinking the potion with a piece of stone in it – plus the hair of a Thestral?" asked Ron, looking disgusted. "I think I'm gonna be sick before I even ask what the third ingredient is."
Then all of them quickly looked at the third ingredient that, according to the book, was the second to the last before they would start brewing. It read:
A tear from a guise to obscure from demise
"A what?" they chorused altogether after reading, except Hermione.
Ron scratched his head, obviously not liking what he had just read.
"'A guise to obscure from demise'," he repeated and stared at his two best friends who were in deep thought as well. "What does it mean?"
"Well," began Hermione. "See here," she indicated the word 'guise' and said, "It means form," then she read the next one, "Obscure means 'undiscovered' or 'unknown', while this –" she pointed at the word 'demise'. "Means 'death'," she expertly translated to them.
"So, you're saying…?" Ron tried to guess but his mind had apparently failed to work at the moment.
"– That we have to look for a certain form that cannot be discovered by death." Hermione finally declared.
All three of them stared at their friend who was patiently waiting for them to give out suggestions. When no one spoke, she sighed and said, "Let's put it this way, what makes a form undiscovered?"
"When you try to hide?" Harry asked uncertainly.
Hermione nodded. "And hiding from death means?" she gestured for Harry to continue with his guesses.
"Hang on," said Ron, looking bewildered. "Is it even possible to hide from death? I mean, if it's your turn to die, you die. There's no other way around it, is there?"
"I don't think it refers to the actual dying," explained Hermione. "I think it refers to Death itself. So let's go back to my original question, shall we?" She eyed them all with excitement, and they nodded. "Hiding from Death means?"
"You have to be invisible," Harry answered at once. "And to do that, you have to have the –"
"Invisibility Cloak!" The three of them chorused again. Ginny had a look in her eyes that showed how enthusiastic she was for finally unveiling the cryptic ingredients.
"But the question is," Ginny spoke to them after a while. "Where is the cloak?"
Harry wondered that too, but Hermione was prompt to answer it for Ginny.
"I still have it in my beaded bag."
"Did you bring the bag, then?" Harry asked right away.
"Yes, I brought it with me when I came here. It's in Ginny's room. I haven't really had the chance to empty the contents, so all the things we brought with us when we left the Burrow a few months ago are still there."
Harry was relieved to hear that. He was about to panic at the thought that Hermione might not have had it with her that whole time.
"What do we do with the cloak, then?" Ron asked curiously.
Hermione looked hesitant to say the next step, especially to Harry. She knew he wouldn't like it, but she had no choice.
"We tear it," she whispered without looking at any of them.
"What?!" Harry asked loudly as though he hadn't heard the first time. He wanted to hear it wrong so badly and not let Hermione confirm it again. Ron and Ginny were looking at them tensely.
"It's what it said in the book, Harry." Hermione croaked nervously.
"We only need to rip a small portion of it," she asserted quickly, and added in a low voice, "I believe."
Harry's mouth hung open, still not believing that they actually had to ruin the cloak.
"But the Cloak of Invisibility is like the king of all cloaks!" declared Ron. "Could you really rip it apart?" He gazed at Hermione uncertainly.
"Remember, Xenophilius confirmed that no enchantments or spells can rip or damage it, but only the possessor of the cloak can," she glanced at Harry who looked away quickly. "You are the possessor, Harry."
Harry found it hard to believe Hermione's words at the moment. He valued the cloak for so long; it had been passed down from generations to generations and only to be torn down by, who else, but him. He didn't want to accept it, but - What else can I do? he frustratedly asked himself silently.
"It's probably the only way, Harry," Hermione said softly after a moment of silence. "I'm sorry."
Harry nodded his understanding but didn't bring it up again. Hermione was glad enough to leave it and checked the last ingredient in the book.
A drop of the afflicted's blood
"It's my blood," Harry said simply. There was no need to deduce it. It was simple, and Hermione nodded.
"How long do you guys think we have to wait before we have collected all the ingredients?" Ginny asked.
Hermione began calculating mentally. "Since we have the last two ingredients... we will only be needing the Thestral's hair... and the piece of the archway. Hopefully, it wouldn't take us months before we get them."
"Months?" Ron asked incredulously. "I don't think Harry –" he stopped abruptly after realizing what he was about to say. He glanced at Harry apologetically, but Harry dismissed his meaning.
"It's okay," Harry mumbled, paying his attention elsewhere other than at Ron or anyone else. "I know you meant to say that I don't have that much time left. I wish I could say that it's not true, but I would only be lying to myself. So I guess it's best for me to say... I'll just do what I can to stay alive."
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were silent for a moment.
"We will have to ask dad about the Veil, Ron," Ginny told him quietly. "And send the letter to Hagrid straightaway."
"It's too late now," Ron pointed out, checking the time on the wall. "Dad's asleep and Pig won't want to deliver a mail at midnight knowing the recipient is fast asleep as well."
"Let's do it early the next day, then," she suggested and looked at Harry apologetically, but he just merely shrugged as though saying it didn't matter to him.
"So, how long do we have to brew this potion?" inquired Ron, his eyes travelling from Hermione and to the book that she held. "Does it say?"
Hermione checked. "Only an hour. The ingredients are really hard to find for someone who hasn't got any knowledge about –" she gasped suddenly.
"What?" everyone asked her in alarm.
"I only just realized – but it must be just a coincidence as well," Hermione's eyes were wide while she muttered under her breath.
"Just say it already, will you?" Ron cried with an exasperated sigh. With all the times they had to guess the ingredients, Harry could tell that it had started to annoy Ron, and even he had become rather impatient.
"The three ingredients," she uttered excitedly. "They are very similar to the Deathly Hallows!"
They all looked astonished.
"I would assume that the tail hair of the Thestral is a very powerful core to be used in a wand," Hermione explained quickly. "And the only powerful wand we know existed is the Elder Wand. The archway of the Veil enables you to look through the afterlife like the Resurrection stone –"
"No wonder I could hear faint whispering and murmuring noises as though someone was standing right behind the Veil and trying to communicate with me when I approached it," Harry confessed, unsure of why he had remembered it all of a sudden like it hadn't left his mind, but only the death of Sirius had been lost. He seemingly thought his memories had been put in disarray and he had a hard time putting them back together.
"Right," agreed Hermione. "And Harry's Cloak of Invisibility is the same as the one in the story, making all three ingredients exactly like Deathly Hallows."
Confused, Ron asked, "So... what does that have to do with anything?"
"This makes me confident that we have the right ingredients - just like having the three hallows makes you a Master of Death. This, perhaps, does the same with a sickness like Harry's," replied Hermione assertively.
Ron mused. "And you said it only takes an hour to brew the potion... but why is the time so short?"
"Looking for the ingredients are complicated enough that no one would probably dare try and do it," guessed Hermione. "And brewing it I would say... The ingredients have one similar power in them that mixing them as one wouldn't take that long."
All these revelations made Harry's heart beat faster. He breathed a sigh of relief. He began to feel excited and hopeful that looking for a cure was very much possible. Harry spoke with excitement before he could even stop himself. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I can't wait to drink that potion and be done with this damaged soul!" His face broke into a smile as renewed hope came into existence inside him.
If there was one thing that Harry wasn't expecting to see after figuring out the ingredients, it was the reactions he received from Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. He could see fear and alarm on their faces as though they had swallowed something they shouldn't. He could feel Ginny's hand turn ice-cold as he held hers, Ron had suddenly broken out with sweats, and Hermione just stood transfixed on the spot looking rather petrified.
"What's going on?" he asked uncertainly; he began to look terrified at their ongoing reaction. "Did I say something wrong?"
No one dared to glance at Harry. Hermione fidgeted nervously and miserably failing to calm herself. Ron and Ginny averted their eyes somewhere else.
"What?" Harry asked them again, slowly losing his patience.
Hermione made a deep, nervous breath and said in a quivering voice, "Harry… d-don't be mad and please hear me out f-first."
"Why? What did you do?" he asked in a dangerous voice.
"N-nothing," squeaked Hermione. "We did nothing, Harry."
"So what's the problem, then?" he asked impatiently.
Hermione hesitated. Her throat seemed dry at the moment. She looked at Ron and Ginny for help, but they only gave her worried glances. She cleared her throat and said, "Harry… the potion is meant to be drunk by… us."
Hermione's revelation had left Harry totally flabbergasted. Clearly they had read the book wrong, Harry thought in alarm. "But why? There must be a mistake. I am the one with the damaged soul, so I should be the one drinking the potion, right?" Harry glanced at them for confirmation.
"Harry, the book didn't say that you were the one who had to drink it," Ginny said softly in spite of her nervousness. "But the one attempting to save your soul have to."
Harry felt like his head was going to burst. He stared at Ginny with a mingle of worry and panic. "Wait - what are you saying, 'the one attempting to save?'" But Harry somehow already knew what it meant.
"We are the ones attempting to save your soul, mate." Ron finally disclosed the secret Hermione had warned them against revealing from the beginning. "We are the ones drinking the potion."
Harry shook his head in protest. "No, that couldn't be right. You must've read the instructions wrong."
"It's the only way, Harry." Hermione quietly stated.
"The only way to save my soul?" Harry asked incredulously.
Ron frowned at him. "Why? Do you really think you will be doing this all by yourself?"
"That's exactly what I think!" snapped Harry, frustration bursting inside him. "I don't want any of you to be involved –"
"It's our decision!" Ron fired back. "We're saving your life even if it means we have to risk our soul –"
Harry was stunned.
"WHAT!" he bellowed. Did I hear you right? You're going to risk your soul?" Harry's mind was in a panic.
Ron was terrified for accidentally spilling the truth to Harry.
"Harry, please listen!" cried Hermione who was now extremely frantic.
But Harry chose not to listen. He suddenly stood up and grabbed the book from Hermione who only realized too late what Harry was doing. He turned the pages quickly as though checking for something. His inside had gone numb when he reached the page from which they had been reading and his eyes scanned over the part where it said, 'It would amount to a higher price to recondition the soul back if attempted. And if it should fail, in accordance with who may have tried, the cost will, therefore, be marked the same as the other.' He was tremendously devastated. He could feel his blood draining and his hands shaking. Harry dropped the book on the floor and stumbled to the bathroom where he threw up all the contents he had ate that afternoon.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny quickly followed him out. They watched him worriedly as he retched and heaved in the toilet. Ginny rubbed his back to comfort him and heard him sob silently. Ron and Hermione exchanged a sad look.
… Marked the same as the other... Those words kept repeating in Harry's mind. They can't do this. They shouldn't do this. Their own souls will be in danger!
"Please…" Harry muttered weakly. "Why you –" he heaved. "All want to risk your life?"
"Isn't it obvious, mate? We're family... and families help each other," Ron replied calmly.
Harry silently considered this. "But if you fail in this attempt –" his vision went foggy from unshed tears.
"Who said we're going to fail?" Ginny asked unbelievably. "It seems as though you expect us to mess it up. You have to have faith in us, Harry."
"You do trust us, don't you?" asked Hermione in a little disheartened tone of voice.
"I do," Harry answered quickly as he leaned his back on the wall and sat on the floor. "I have faith in you guys. I'm sorry if it doesn't seem like it… I just don't like the idea of all of you trying to risk your life just to save me. Your souls will suffer the same fate as me."
"We've gone over that consequence, Harry," reasoned Hermione. "We've already decided to push through with it regardless."
"Plus, it's not as exciting if there's no risk involved. Ow!" exclaimed Ron when Hermione stepped on his foot. "Besides, aren't you glad that you have us to help you out or else you're doomed? This is a fight you cannot take by yourself, Harry. You have to have backups in order to win."
Harry smiled at that. He was lucky to have friends who were willing to be by his side no matter what, but he still couldn't stop himself from feeling sad and worried for their well-being. They had made it sound like it was an easy task to do. It was true that they had taken risks and had overcome most of them, but he only wished this time that the chance that they were about to take would not fail, and instead, succeed so as to say it was worth it.
Harry slept fitfully that night. Images of his friends with their souls being ripped slowly and painfully apart because of him kept flashing in his mind. In the middle of the night, he laid awake in his bed thinking about the ingredients and summarizing what he had just learned. They had gone this far, and it was only a matter of time before his friends would start brewing the potion, drink it, and risk their lives. But a sudden question popped in his head, Does it say in the book that it needs all three people when attempting to save a soul? He didn't remember it being mentioned in the book. He would have to ask Hermione when she woke up. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
To be continued...
A/N: To those who have read this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for all the wonderful reviews, as well as those who followed and favorited. It was always inspiring and encouraging to continue writing. Once again, thank you for supporting this story!
My one-shot Draco Malfoy story called "Troubled Mind" is now posted. Do check it out!
Beta-read by KVeronicaP
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