Can't we talk about this?
Sorry for the delay in posting this.
Let's see, besides moving countries, travelling for 6 weeks, then moving house twice since I got back, getting a job, buying a house, I guess real life just got in the way.
Anyway, we're back to our usual schedule now, so you can expect more than one update a quarter from now on...
I staggered onwards towards the Pope's chambers, occasionally bumping gently into the walls, with fluff clogging my mind and fatigue filling my body. It took me far less time, since though I was moving slower, I wasn’t continually taking side trips down blind corridors. I was still encountering wandering guards though. The last group of guards that I encountered forced me to change my tactics. Not through choice, but by necessity. Hoping against hope that they wouldn't come closer than they needed, I simply leaned silently against one wall, and allowed the patrol to pass.
Pity I didn't think of that tactic in the first place.
Though, given the fact that I haven’t seen a wizard since my escape, perhaps I’ve neutralised them all.
I waited for a time, which could well have been a minute, after the troops had turned down another corridor, out of sight. It took me a couple of seconds to remember what I was supposed to be doing once they'd gone.
Oh, that’s right. Break in to see the highly guarded Pope again. Bugger.
With sluggish limbs, I pushed myself from the wall and kept moving. After an eon, I found myself slowly approaching the antechamber entrance, which still displayed some fairly impressive damage. From the scorch marks on the walls to the tattered, scattered remains of carpet, it was obvious that a great deal of magical energy was expended here in an effort to get through my impromptu barriers. I would have felt some pride at that if I had the energy to spare.
Voices, maybe three or four, were coming from inside the antechamber, or perhaps from further on in the Pope's actual quarters. The voices were raised, but for the life of me, I couldn't focus enough to make sense of them.
The voices quietened suddenly, before a few shouted exclamations of surprise again reached my ears. I suppose someone told them something that they didn't want to hear.
I stopped moving, trying to make sense of it when a young member of the Swiss Guard strode out of the antechamber, his hands above his head. Blinking, I glanced around in vain, trying to discover to what exactly he was surrendering.
In less than a second however, he went from certain to unsure, and his hands instinctively dropped to his sidearm, before he forced himself to re-raise his arms. Though obviously nervous, the young guard had a fixed look of determination on his face. “I cannot see you,” he said to the empty corridor at large, never once fixing his line of sight on me. “But I have been told that you are in the corridor, and that I am to escort you in to an audience with His Holiness.”
I smothered a yawn, and tried to figure out if this was a trap.
The soldier began looking around more nervously. “Um, the man who told me that you were out here was quite definite. Apparently, there are ways you can sense your own kind. You may as well show yourself. Please?”
I nearly growled in my throat, trying to keep quiet, but also try and infer all the ramifications of giving up my invisibility. But for all my efforts, I just couldn't think.
I let my hands reach up and push the hood back, leaving my head floating in mid air. “Go on,” I urged him.
Unexpectedly, as it happened. The poor fellow was facing in the opposite direction, and started so violently at my voice that he nearly lost his balance on his return to earth. He'd jumped so high I'm sure I could have crawled under his booted feet before they landed had I been ready. The poor bugger finally managed to get his body back under control, only to notice that it was only my head visible.
That revelation sent him back onto his bum with a sort of half-squeak, half-yelp of trouser-dampening fright.
Sensing that I had at least some measure of power over him, I simply dead-panned, “Shall we?” while gesturing towards the doors. His face paled further, and it took me a second to realise that he couldn't see my arm, just my black-clad hand. Wow, a floating, detached head and hands. I just can't imagine why I get these kinds of reactions from people.
Rolling his head around in a sort of oval nod, the guard scrambled to his feet. He moved a little less fluidly than I had expected a highly trained soldier, with one trembling hand again securely clutched to his holstered weapon.
I closed my eyes, initially to give him the impression that trying to attack with a muggle weapon would be futile, only to have a sudden desire to keep them closed. It took an audible grunt of effort for me to lift them again.
Apparently, that was enough to convince him. “Um, could you please show yourself? Completely, I mean.”
I shook my head. “Not until I'm sure this isn't a trap.”
He swallowed nervously, but nodded. “Very well,” he said with an exaggeratedly deep voice, obviously trying to haul back some machismo into the situation. “Follow me.”
I gingerly stepped through the doorway to the Pope's chambers. The room was already cleaned and repaired, with the Pope half-lying, half-sitting up in an enormous bed. The bed had far more medical gadgets and gizmos built into it than were in half the hospitals in the entire city of Rome. The thing had wheels on it, with treads! I’m sure it could have exceeded the speed limit.
Besides the Holy chap, there were six other people in the room. Two guards standing behind the Pope's bed, looking ready to perform any guardly duties so ordered, (so long as it involved throwing someone out), the young fellow with the nervous tic who showed me in, and three elderly wizards, including the most unwelcome sight of Albus Dumbledore, whose expression was one of extreme disappointment.
“Where is Captain Giogi?” the Pope asked my escort curiously. I ignored the soldier as he shrugged.
I simply glared at Dumbledore, much of my fatigue suddenly disappearing under the blowtorch of anger at his expression. “What are you doing here?” I demanded, shrugging out of my invisibility robes. Some voice in my head told me I wanted my fists free for this.
The old man managed to keep a serene expression on his features. “You are fully aware that I am the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Harry. When one of the most protected sites in the world is penetrated, it is I who performs an investigation.” He gestured to his companions. “This is the Italian Mugwump, who also has jurisdiction over Vatican City, and this is Henri Kellermann, Head of Security for the ICW.”
I rolled my eyes. Of course it would be you, Dumbledore. You can't let anything out from under your control. Not Hogwarts, not the Wizengamot, not even politics around the world. But before I could voice any of this, the Pope had glanced from Dumbledore to me and back again before speaking up. “I assume the two of you know each other?”
Dumbledore gave the holy man a smile full of warmth. “Indeed, my friend. I've known Harry here since he was a baby.”
I nodded darkly. “Oh, that's right! That's when you decided to go against my parents' wishes and deposit me into an abusive household for ten years, before finally sending someone to check up on me,” I said in a sour tone, throwing my robes over a chair, making half of it appear to disappear.
Dumbledore gave me a glare that I pointedly ignored. In the mean time, I looked over the Pope, who was looking quite healthy for someone propped up in bed, and mighty curious as to what I had just said. “I'm sorry that you were hurt, Your Holiness. I guess I, and I suppose your engineers too, miscalculated. I'm glad to see you weren't too injured,” I said respectfully.
I received a smile and a gentle, dismissive wave. “My Safe Room performed adequately. The members of my household are far more protective, not to mention paranoid, of me that is strictly necessary. To tell the truth, I am only lying here today to stop my Captain of the Guard from escorting me to another location where I would be turned into little more than a medical pincushion until something could be found wrong with me. Speaking of the Captain, is there a reason he is not with you?”
I raised an eyebrow, a sudden knot appearing in my lower intestine. “This Captain, was he supposed to pick me up from the cell I was being held in?”
The Pope nodded slowly. “Yes...”
I winced, shrugged and sighed, not liking at all how this looked. Even so, I grabbed a free chair and sat down. “Sorry. I wasn't released, per se. I, er, sort of, um, blasted my way free. Sorry,” I repeated, a bit sheepishly.
“Harry!” Dumbledore interrupted. “What on earth have you done? Is all this chaos due to your actions?”
I speared him with a sideways glance, before holding up a fist, and extending the middle digit. Leaving the gesture in place, I turned back to the Pope. “I hope you can forgive me, but the only reason I sought you out now, rather than leaving at the first opportunity, is that I was told you have some of my possessions.” I released Dumbledore from my silent insult and held out the hand palm up to the Pope. “May I?”
The Pope had gone pale, and ignored my request. “You escaped? You are not here under escort?”
I opened my mouth to say something sarcastic, when a rather intense commotion from outside the room interrupted. A haggard looking guard with a little more decoration on his arm than most of the others burst into the room. “The prisoner has escaped! Your Holiness, we must evacuat-” he blurted, before seeing me sitting quite calmly in front of his boss.
I turned away from the stunned man, trusting that he wouldn’t shoot me in the back when his boss was in front of me in his line of fire, and spoke to the Pope once again. “As I told you earlier, Your Holiness, my actions were necessary. The item I retrieved from your cache had to be destroyed, not hidden. And while I know that my actions were morally wrong, I will reiterate that they were necessary. If I had tried to contact you with a request to destroy the tome, I cannot imagine that I would have even been given an interview. Even had I managed to secure a meeting with you, again, I cannot imagine that you would have allowed me access to your hoard of artefacts, even to destroy one.”
The Pope's smile disappeared, but he nodded faintly. “It is one of my sacred duties, to prevent any of the evil artefacts stored below from ever seeing the light of day once more. You are correct that no matter how persuasive you were, I would not have allowed you access.” He shook his head gently. “Though perhaps not for the reasons you suspect. It is far too dangerous, even for me to descend into the chamber too often. On occasion in the past, some Popes who were either too frail or scared sent proxies to deposit or collect something on their behalf. Each time, no one returned.”
Dumbledore coughed, and rose to his feet. “The rumours are true? You have a collection of dark magic here?” he demanded of the Pope. “Your predecessors have always denied it!”
The older of the two present guards rose and stepped forward, seemingly ready to toss the old fart out of the room on his arse. Something I would have paid good money to see. But the Pope raised his hand, silently radiating the kind of power and demanding the level of respect that not even Dumbledore managed. “Kindly keep your tone civil, Albus.”
Dumbledore's expression flickered between argumentative and contrition. While it was a sight I would normally have enjoyed, I did need to clear up something.
“There is a creature guarding the chamber below. It is intelligent enough to recognise whom is currently the Pope, and allow you access. Any others who got in would be dead within seconds,” I said.
The Pope's expression changed to one of shock. “There is a ritual to be followed each time a Pope enters the chamber. A sheep or goat must be sacrificed and lowered first. Is that for this creature?”
I shrugged. “Probably. But even if someone tossed it some food, it wouldn't ignore its duty. It must somehow recognise you and let you leave in peace.”
Dumbledore had gone pale. “Harry? What is down there?”
I gave him a sarcastic scowl, trying to convey that he should be able to figure it out. “A basilisk.”
Everyone in the room started shifting uneasily. “Yes, you mentioned that when you emerged, and I didn't believe you at the time. I'm not sure I believe you now. Are you suggesting that a mythical creature dwells beneath my chambers?” the Pope asked evenly.
I nodded. “And it's bloody big too, pardon my French. Judging from the diameter of the head, I'd say it was at least twice as old as the one I killed at school.”
“Harry,” Dumbledore wheezed, his tone indicating that I was giving away too much information. I didn't care.
The Pope appeared troubled at this. “I take if from your tone that you are not joking,” he said weakly. “If it is so deadly, how did you survive?”
I shook my head. “No, I'm not joking. A giant serpent that can kill with a look lives within earshot of this room. But its duty is to protect the artefacts below, preventing any from being removed, unless it is by the Pope.” I thought for a second. “Or me.”
Both the Pope and Dumbledore started suddenly. “What?” both blurted, suddenly far more worried, for different reasons.
I smirked at the pair's unconscious echoing. “How do you think I retrieved the book? The basilisk let me.”
The Pope looked ready to faint. “How?”
I sighed, looking around the room at our audience. Steeling myself, I answered, “Because I can speak to snakes. Any magical being who can speak the language of serpents can command and control any snake, including a basilisk.”
The Pope seemed to collapse deeper into his bed. “You can talk to serpents?” he asked as the Italian Mugwump blurted, “You’re a Parselmouth?”
I nodded, noticing even in my fatigued daze that the two ever-present guards moved away from the Pope and flanked me. “It's not a talent that I was born with,” I slurred tiredly, hoping to buy enough time to stop them from arresting me again. I didn't have the strength to break free once more. “The bastard we are trying to defeat tried to kill me as a baby. Somehow, the protection my mother gave me defeated him, and I absorbed some of his abilities.”
The Pope looked shaken. “Speaking to animals, especially snakes, has long been considered a demonic power, one gained by swearing fealty to the devil.”
I snorted. “So is raising people from the dead,” I responded pointedly. “I understand that someone who once did that was nailed to a bit of wood a while ago.”
The Pope actually smiled. “Point taken.”
I held out my hand once more. “May I have my wands back?”
Dumbledore frowned. “Wands, Harry? You have more than one?”
I closed my eyes and cursed my foggy brain. “Just a backup, in case of an emergency, old man. That's all,” I said wearily.
The Pope gestured to one of his guards, who used a key on a chain from his pocket to unlock an iron-bound chest. The thing looked as though it was strong enough to have withstood anything short of a nuclear bomb at ground zero, and, judging my the scorch marks and discolouration, probably had already done so. The guard opened the massive piece of furniture, straining slightly under the weight of the lid, and withdrew a large, decorated wooden box. It could have contained cigars.
The guard let the lid slam down before he returned to his boss' side. Deftly turning the box around to face me, he opened it slowly. With a smile, I gratefully raised my pilfered wand and wordlessly summoned the contents. My own wands, a small bottle filled with Potensavenenum, the shiv I stabbed the book with, and the tome in question, now sporting a hole through the front cover and most of the pages.
There was a faint pop as the two wands first broke through some sort of magical barrier, but they and my other items flew unimpeded to my waiting hands. The second my fingers curled around the two wands, a surging tide of warmth flooded up my arm, making me give a small, involuntary gasp of pleasure. The warmth drove away much of the brain fog that had settled in my frontal lobes, acting like a half dozen cups of thick, syrupy Italian quadruple-espressos.
Though I was far more awake, I didn't know how long it would last. I reversed the wand I had taken from the poor bugger downstairs, and handed it to my nervous escort. The man accepted it without comment, but he did wait for a confirming nod from the Pope before accepting it.
Dumbledore was looking at my wands with something akin to horror on his features. “Harry? That- That wand! That's Voldemort's wand!”
I sighed. “No, it's mine,” I disagreed, shaking my head. Both wizards sitting next to Dumbledore shuddered at the name, but no one else in the room reacted. “Spoils of war and all that rot. Besides, it is the only other wand in the world that is compatible with me to any great degree. Not to mention that they are brother wands, and as such, not something I'd want in the hands of an enemy.” I looked directly into his eyes. “And given the Ministry’s actions in the past, you know, little things like sending Dementors after me, I consider the entire bloody bureaucracy an enemy.”
Dumbledore actually had the grace to accept this quietly, though given the looks he was getting from his colleagues, I don’t suppose he was ready to defend the actions of the English Ministry at this time. Though I saw in his features that he would be bringing this topic up with me when we were alone. The Pope however, had some questions.
“Brother wands? What are brother wands?”
I held up my pair of wands. “Wands are traditionally made with wood and a magical core. Wands with the same type of magical core are similar. These wands are brothers. They are made of different wood, but both have a magical core donated by the same animal.” I shook my holly wand with my left hand, sending red and gold sparks out of the tip. I shook my yew wand with my right, again sending sparks flying, though the gold was mixed with silver. “But when you place them together, so they work with each other,” I said, holding them together in one hand and shaking them lightly, just once. A veritable cascade of red, gold, and silver sparks erupted from the tips, which caused a number of small fires in Dumbledore's beard and hair.
You know, sometimes life just gives you a free kick. As much as I'd like to claim that, it was an accident.
Dumbledore chuckled heartily as he patted out the flames. “Impressive Harry. You are not entirely correct in some assumptions, but that display was visually delightful.”
Vowing to talk to Zab at a later date to find out what he meant my 'not entirely correct assumptions', I rose to my feet, swaying only slightly. “Well, Your Holiness, I shall not take up any more of your time. The book is destroyed, and cannot be used. Thank you for your hospitality.”
The Pope raised a hand, and the guards turned their attention back onto me.
I was taking a breath to centre myself when the Pope spoke. “Before you leave, young man, perhaps you could inform me just what the book you destroyed was?”
Dumbledore spoke for me as I was calming down. “It was a simple tome, written by a great witch, that had been cursed by an evil wizard recently. That is all.”
The Pope nodded, but I said, “Bollocks.”
Both men turned to face me. Dumbledore with a warning expression, the Pope with a curious one.
I ignored the Pope, and continued to shout at Dumbledore. “Yes, I said 'bollocks'. Look, Old Man, you obviously haven't learned anything from how you and I have fallen out. Keeping secrets for the sake of keeping secrets is idiotic. Either you tell him the full truth or I will,” I demanded, wondering why I cared so much.
“Nothing I said was in any way incorrect, Harry.”
I snarled at him. “I suppose you'd call World War Two a fracas, then, as opposed to an unforgivable and tragic loss of lives?”
The Pope cleared his throat. “I appear to be missing something here.”
Despite Dumbledore's subtle, yet somehow emphatic shaking of his head, I simply replied, “The tome is,” I coughed, “was a priceless work of magical theory, written by a legendary witch, who was powerful enough to be one of the founders of the school I attended. The evil I told you about is a wizard who split his soul into several pieces, storing each piece in a different artefact. By destroying this book, I've destroyed that part of his soul, but lost much of the knowledge contained within. However, by destroying this book, he cannot use the piece of soul within to cling to life.”
Dumbledore winced, his two companions looking at him in an oddly accusatory way, but the Pope looked faintly ill. “Are you saying that there may be items stored below that have pieces of someone’s soul?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. The lore is essentially forbidden, since they are the blackest of magic. Apparently even evil wizards do not even pass this lore on to their students, and as such, they are pretty rare. All I know is that while these items exist, the person whose soul is stored within cannot be killed. That is why I decided to sneak past your guards and destroy it. I did what I could to keep Voldemort from destroying my friends, and if hunting down each and every one of the items is something that takes me decades to do, I’ll do it.”
The Pope settled back into his bed, looking thoughtful. “How did you know which item in my cache was the one you were after?”
This was an odd line of questioning. “Each of the items has, I mean – had, a special significance to Voldemort. And there are spells to detect such an item. I tracked down a likely suspect, broke in, confirmed it contained a piece of his soul, and destroyed it.”
The wizard Kellermann, who so far had not said a word, leaned back in his chair and crossed his impressively muscled arms over an equally impressive barrel-chest. “You say that like it was easy to break into the Vatican, instead of being considered impossible,” he said with a thick, Polish accent. Though his tone was jovial, I could see the deadly seriousness and determination behind his eyes. This was a man who, if necessary, would laugh to put someone at their ease, then slip poison into their drinks without remorse.
I shrugged, determined to be wary around him. “It took more power out of me than when I defeated Voldemort, plus the fact that I needed brother wands to pull it off. That and the fact that I may just be the only Parselmouth on the planet at the moment, and I doubt you’d find another individual who could pull it off,” I said, fighting off a blush. I didn’t want to sound egotistical, but it was true.
The Pope had an expression on his face that was almost a smile. “And I assume we have you to thank for the Stigmata displays downstairs?”
Dumbledore and the other wizards looked intrigued, but stayed silent as I smothered a yawn and nodded. “Yeah, they were supposed to be a diversion.”
The Pope nodded sagely, the twist to his elderly lips finally turning into a wry smile. “It was in fact those events that set off the alarm in many minds. A true Stigmata is only seen once in a lifetime, if at all. Two in five minutes was simply too much of a coincidence. Pray tell, how did you manage it?”
The final two hours of the conversation was basically taken up with me describing in detail exactly how I had penetrated the established defences, with the Captain chiming in with requests for more detailed explanations along the way, already incorporating the new information into his plans for greater defences. The Captain was furious at the simplicity at which I had convinced my interrogators to up the Veritaserum dose, though each of the wizards in the room found it rather amusing. Despite efforts by the Captain and Kellermann, the ICW security wizard, the Pope refused to have charges brought against me. All he asked was that I return to the Vatican in a month’s time for another interview. He pointed out in all seriousness that I may be charged with something then, but I just nodded and agreed to everything just to stop people talking to me.
We were escorted from the building by an entire squad of Swiss Guards, many of whom were sporting bandages of some kind. Dumbledore and his two colleagues said nothing to me as we were led away, but I got odd looks from each. I was in no condition to decipher the expressions however, so I just ignored their antics. We reached an underground garage, and were told to wait where we were, which turned out to be a curb. A wave of dizziness swept over me, and I felt a steadying hand placed on my shoulder. I rolled the shoulder with a small growl, and the hand was removed quickly. Determined not to show any weakness to these wizards again, I spread my stance a little wider and waited for whatever was to come next. It turned out to be a rather nice limousine, with blackened windows and Vatican licence plates.
We were bundled into the back, which was more luxurious than anything the Room of Requirement had dished up to me so far in my life. I sank gratefully into the soft velour, and felt my eyes close.
One of the wizards cleared his throat. Again, it took a massive effort on my part to open my eyes again.
“What?” I growled.
Dumbledore held out a pendant shaped like Fawkes. “Harry, here is a portkey to the Hogwarts Infirmary. You should use it now that we are beyond the wards of the Vatican, and let Madam Pomfrey take care of you for the next few days.”
I looked down at the pendant for what seemed like forever. It had been modelled on Fawkes quite well, with tiny ruby chips acting as glittering feathers, and perfect tiny onyx spheres as the phoenix’s eyes. It was as stunning as it was beautiful, and probably cost as much as my house. One thought brought forth one last flare of defiance. I was not going back to Hogwarts!
I shook my head as I slowly slipped my free hand into my pocket and gently grasped the bottle of Potensavenenum. As Dumbledore began to debate my decision, I levered out the cork with my thumb. Dumbledore had obviously finished whatever point he was trying to make, and was waiting for my response. Instead of speaking, I pulled the small glass gourd from my pocket and tossed back the frothy potion.
Oh, man, what a rush!
All of a sudden, my fingers were twitching with barely concealed nervous energy. Whereas a second ago I could hardly keep my eyes open, at this very instant I couldn’t imagine sleeping ever again.
I gave my escorts a savage grin. “Bye!”
I apparated out of the car with a loud crack.
My hotel room had obviously been cleaned in the days I had been away, which allowed me to quickly double check I had left nothing behind once I had summoned and packed all my belongings quickly. Glancing at my watch, I noted two things.
One, slight, almost invisible magical sparks were arcing and grounding themselves between my fingertips.
Two, that probably meant that I had only a few minutes left before the Potensavenenum ran its course. My body was obviously burning it too quickly.
I needed to check out, but since I’d paid for the room in advance, (avoiding having to let the muggle hotelier keep my passport) I didn’t need to leave any extra money. I cast a couple of lightening charms on my luggage and bent down to pick them up, only to find that instead of making the suitcases nearly weightless, they were only a few kilos lighter.
Damn, I had literally no magic left. Potensavenenum could only work with what you had, after all.
I dragged my bags out of the room, feeling my legs begin to weaken. They stopped shaking with nervous energy, and began quivering with fatigue. Fortunately, only a junior staff member was at the check-in counter when I finally reached it. Ignoring her questions, I slapped down my keys and kept going towards the elevator.
The instant I was alone in the muggle device, I reached into one of the pouches on one of my bags and scrabbled around inside. I quickly found the portkey I wanted, and activated it without hesitation.
I appeared in my bedroom at Grimmauld Place, the familiarity of the room nearly overwhelming me with relief at returning here. I managed to croak out, “Dobby!”
Instantly, Dobby appeared by my side. He took one look at me and nearly croaked himself. “Harry Potter sir, what has you done?”
With the last vestiges of Potensavenenum having left my body, I could just shake my head. “Bed. Help,” I whispered, weakly gesturing towards the king size bed against one wall.
Dobby bundled me into bed wordlessly, removing my outer robes and shoes. “Harry Potter sir is tired, yes? Does Harry Potter sir need Dobby to tell anyone he is home? Does Master need anything?” he asked, wringing his hands helplessly.
I shook my head. “Water…” I murmured.
Less than a second later, cool, fresh water was at my lips, and I drank thankfully. I was asleep before I finished swallowing.
A long, dreamless sleep was just what I needed. I wasn’t sure just how long I had been asleep, but the unwelcome sensation of a bladder of the verge of exploding dragged me into the realms of consciousness long before I felt even remotely rested. Keeping my eyes closed in an effort to stay as close to sleep as possible, I gently extended one arm to find the edge of the bed.
My fingers encountered an unexpected, warm object. Further detached exploration finally signalled in my mind that one of my girlfriends was sleeping on that side of me.
I rolled over, only to encounter another warm body.
It took me a second or two to realise that I was trapped. Signals from my bladder were increasing in urgency.
With a mental growl, I allowed myself to wake up a little more to try and solve this seemingly intractable puzzle. In the dim light of the room, Hermione was sleeping on my left, Blaise on my right. What was odd was that they were both fully clothed, and sleeping on top of the blankets. I blinked hard, dislodging the sleep that had built up in my tear ducts. On opening my eyes again, I noticed a thin beam of light coming in through the miniscule gap in the curtains. The thin sheet of golden light lit up the tiny specks of dust that hovered in the air, convincing me that it was daytime.
No wonder the girls were still clothed. They’d probably dozed off after a lazy afternoon of looking after a recumbent, boring boyfriend. I wiggled out of the sheets and crawled down the length of the bed, feeling relief as my bladder was no longer pressed against my intestines. I let my eyes close as I reached for the wall, and followed it to the ensuite.
Whoever invented silent-flushing toilets was a genius. While it took me nearly a full minute to take a piss, neither of my girls so much as stirred. I washed my hands and slowly made my way back to bed.
I tried to squirm back under the sheets without interrupting either girl’s nap, but Hermione noticed my movements and snapped awake. “Harry?” she whispered, looking over her shoulder at me, her hair looking rumpled and sticking out in all directions.
“Shhh,” I hushed, one finger pressed against my lips. I completed my wriggling, getting back under the covers without waking Blaise. “How are you?”
Hermione blinked. “How am I? Harry, you’re the one who’s been asleep for two days!” she hissed.
“That long?” I yawned, taking care to cover my mouth. If I’d been out for two days, my breath probably smelt like an open sewer.
“Yes, that long,” she whispered back harshly, before grabbing me around the shoulders and hugging tightly. “I was so worried about you.”
I patted her arm absently. “There, there,” I offered quietly, wanting to return to sleep.
Hermione pulled away. “What happened?” she demanded.
I shook my head. “Later. Turn round,” I finished with another yawn.
Taking another yawn, I waved a finger around in a circle at her, until she half rolled over, presenting her back to me.
With a smile, I draped an arm over her body, sliding my hand up her abdomen to the curve of her breasts, lay on my side and fell asleep once more, this time with a smile on my face, and the scent of her hair filling my nostrils.
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