Midnight Duel, Midday Love
Book of Revelation: Chapter 6
Book of Revelation: Chapter 6
The tea had already been replaced three times by the house elves. Now, another elf appeared and quietly packed up the tea set, gently collecting the silverware so even the faintest clink didn't escape. A fresh pot of tea was then set out with new china cups. A faint pop, and the elf disappeared.
Sirius ignored him.
In his arms slept his godson. For the first time in a month, Harry slept soundly.
Sirius closed his eyes and rolled his neck, listening to the vertebrae creak. With a sigh, he looked down and gently brushed Harry's hair out of his eyes.
James' son looks so peaceful lying there, Sirius thought. Peace was not something that had been a major feature in Harry's life. Nor in Sirius' either for that matter, at least for the last sixteen years.
Sirius ground his teeth together in frustration. Harry should have been able to grow up with James and Lily. He should have been loved, respected and nurtured. He should have grown up playing pranks and having pranks played on him. He should have been taken out at six months of age against Lily's wishes and taken on his first broom flight.
He should have flirted with the local village girls in Godric's Hollow. He should have known the rules of Quidditch before he could walk. He should have had the chance to yell at his mother for her being too protective and overbearing; to argue with his father about what broom was better.
He should have been able to sneak out with his godfather and get pissed on his fifteenth birthday on butterbeer and firewhiskey. He should have had to listen to his godfather being scolded by his mother while he was retching his guts out into the upstairs toilet.
Damn it, Harry should have lived his life!
He should not have had to face the darkest wizard of recent times at the age of eleven. He should not have had to face down and kill one of the most terrifying and lethal monsters in the world before he was a teenager. He should not have had to watch as a school mate was murdered. He should not have had to witness the rebirth of a wizard of almost palpable evil. He should not have been put into a prison that was considered, with no false pretenses, to be hell on earth.
He should not have been raped by a friend. Especially not by a friend who is a member of a family who supposedly considers Harry one of their own.
He should not just be waiting to die.
Sirius sighed and slowly drew his wand from his robes. As gently as he could, he levitated his godson up and over to an antique couch that was covered with leather softer that a baby's skin. Quickly he covered Harry with a warmed blanket and quietly left the room.
The silencing charm on the room had kept the sounds of Black's Pad from interrupting Sirius and Harry, and now Sirius could hear the sounds of the house. With a wry grin, he could hear Dudley's shouts of surprise at something or other.
Sirius apparated to the main entertainment room, itself half the size of a muggle football field. Dudley was shouting and laughing at the far end over the residual effect of one of the twin's concoctions.
Sirius shook his head. From everything Harry had told him about his cousin, he had expected a younger version of Vernon. Not this strapping, playful, friendly fellow. Sirius wondered what it meant, that Harry ran to his cousin, rather than his godfather, when in need of a place to stay.
"Not what you expected, eh Black?"
Sirius looked over his shoulder and out of the corner of his eye at Moody. "Who are you talking about? Harry, or Dudley?"
"Take your pick." the ex-auror said, as he stepped forward, his wooden leg clumping on the polished wooden floor. The grizzled wizard slowly lowered himself into one of the comfortable chairs. "I've just been talking to Albus in the fire. I'm guessing from your expression that you've just been given the same information."
"The rape." Sirius said flatly.
"Aye." Moody nodded. "It complicates things."
With a snarl, Sirius picked up one of the antique vases and hurled it against the wall. "Complicates things, my arse. It makes things impossible."
Moody just stared at Sirius, his face carefully expressionless. "I'm not sure what Po-, Harry told you about who it was..."
"He told me."
"Then you know who her father is."
Sirius nodded. "I also know things Harry hasn't figured out for himself yet."
"Like that Albus will probably expel him, just to cover up what happened. That bitch will be made out to be the victim, and Harry will have to live with the stigma of being expelled from Hogwarts."
Moody nodded. "I'm impressed. I didn't think you'd be thinking so clearly."
Sirius rubbed the back of his wrist across his forehead. "Moody, I know what is going on more than you think."
"You're an Unspeakable."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Do you know, or did you guess?"
"Educated guess. I know enough of them to recognise the signs."
Sirius nodded, a wry grin on his face. "I suppose you would."
"So, you work for the man whose daughter raped your godson. I wouldn't begin to try to understand the stresses that will put on your work."
Sirius pursed his lips, looking at Moody thoughtfully. Coming to a decision, he said, "Moody, I was brought straight into the Department of Mysteries simply because Arthur wanted someone there who would report directly to him, but who also wouldn't have a history with the other Unspeakables. Did you know that two of the Death Eaters Harry killed that day were from the Department? Unspeakables, Moody! Who knows what they told Voldemort?"
"They weren't undercover?"
"Nope. Standard operating procedure states that they report to someone who is not in the field. No notes, files or evidence was found to suggest that they were infiltrating with an aim to bring him down."
Moody narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "You found something on the raid."
Sirius nodded slowly. "The items we recovered from the raid indicated that Voldemort was getting his hands on items that had been confiscated by the Unspeakables. Arthur has put me in charge of cleaning out the Department. I'm experiencing... resistance."
"I bet. Why are you telling me this?"
"Because of Harry. He said that he didn't tell me about what happened because he wanted to forget it. That he didn't come here because he didn't feel comfortable at Malfoy's old place. Now, he knows who I work for." Sirius growled in frustration. "Now he thinks that his problems are too petty to bother me with."
Moody looked surprised. "You want me to be his sounding board?"
Sirius nodded. "He trusts you. He told me what you said when Snape suggested he shouldn't be with you and the other teachers when testing the first golem. The fact that you trust him and you believe in him, has made him look up to you." Sirius sighed. "Albus has kept too many secrets from him for Harry to feel completely comfortable opening up to him. Not that I blame him."
"Don't blame who? Harry or Albus?"
Sirius snorted. "Both. Telling an eleven year old boy why the most powerful dark wizard in recent history wants to kill you would be difficult to justify. While having the entire world betray you would make it difficult to trust again. I think that Harry and Albus will eventually see eye to eye, but it will be a long time coming."
Moody appeared to consider this. "Maybe. The pair of them have more of a 'comrade in arms' relationship than a 'student and teacher'. But you're not telling me everything."
Sirius nodded. "I want to tell you, just to get your opinion on how to proceed. I'd need to put a memory charm on you afterwards though."
Sirius looked over at Dudley, who was still rummaging around in the tester kit Sirius had bought from the Weasley twins. "Worse. Do you know about Harry's scar?"
Moody blinked and frowned at the unexpected question. "Only that he got it when his parents were murdered, and it was caused by the curse thrown his way."
With a deep sigh, Sirius extracted a hip flask and took a sip. He offered it silently to Moody, who declined with a shake of his head. Sirius continued, "Whenever Voldemort is nearby, or in a particularly bad mood, Harry's scar hurts. Burns even. He has visions, Moody. He can... 'see' what is happening around Voldemort."
Moody's eyes widened. "He would have been the perfect spy!"
Sirius shook his head. "Azkaban killed it for a while, but when he got back together with Cho, she woke up something inside of him. Something good and pure. His scar started hurting almost immediately." Sirius shook his head and took another sip. "The last time it hurt was directly after Harry destroyed his forces. He saw Wormtail and Pritchart in a hut, with what we thought at the time were the last of his Death Eaters."
Moody looked interested. "At the time?"
Sirius grimaced. "We used polyjuice to identify the corpses from Harry's ambush, at least, those that were unidentifiable by sight. We cross checked them on the list he gave us before the raid, and noticed that there was another name missing."
Moody's scarred face took on an expression of disbelief. "Bollocks. I saw Macnair's body myself."
Sirius shook his head. "Not the Macnair who worked for the ministry. His nephew."
Moody cocked his head to the side. "I didn't know he had a nephew. Didn't know he had any siblings."
Sirius nodded. "His sister was sent to Durmstrang. Got pregnant and came back to England without finishing her schooling."
Moody shrugged. "So there is another Death Eater out there. One more for us to bring in."
With a sigh, Sirius said, "From here on, I'd need to obliviate you."
Moody crossed his arms and leant back in the chair. "This fellow scares you that much?"
Sirius shook his head. "It's what we've deduced from what Harry has told us."
"How bad, 'potentially'?"
Sirius rubbed his eyes. "Anything from 'Unload your long term stocks' to 'Check out those four dudes on horses'."
Moody closed his eyes. "That's what I like about you, Black. You can make a declaration of imminent Armageddon sound amusing."
"Believe me, it's not funny."
"I agree. Alright. Tell me. I agree to have a memory charm placed on me."
Sirius nodded, and put away his hip flask, then withdrew his wand. Pointing it at Dudley on the other side of the room and muttering a charm, Harry's cousin yawned and sat on a couch. Seconds later, he was fast asleep.
"Right. Have you ever heard of the potion called 'Serpent's Tears'?"
Moody shook his head slowly. "It sounds vaguely familiar, but I have no idea what it does."
"It causes the magic in a wizard to leech out through his skin and crystallise. The process is documented to be most painful, probably on par with the Cruciatus. It kills magical creatures, but if imbibed by a person with magical talent, it turns the wizard into a muggle."
Moody's lower lip pouted slightly as he thought. "No one at the ministry knows how to brew it, do they?" he guessed.
Sirius shook his head, a small smile on his face. "Did you guess that the same way I did?"
Moody shrugged. "If the ministry had the recipe, instead of putting criminals with life sentences into Azkaban, they'd could administer that potion, and turn the criminals loose in the muggle world. They'd never bother the wizarding world again."
Sirius nodded. "It was the same line of reasoning for me too. Personal experience, I guess."
Moody smiled. "You said the magic crystallises. Can that be used for something?"
Sirius nodded. "It depends if the victim is willing or unwilling."
"Which is worse?"
"Willing, definitely. If the imbiber is unwilling, or willing but under duress, you can only create a potion from the crystals by dissolving them in an elixir of Serpent's Blood that will allow the drinker to absorb the victim's power, but that gain is only temporary. Your own power recovers from use, like a slowly filling well. Any power gained from taking the potion is gone once used, like a glass of water. It is only really good for a quick boost of power before a planned major expenditure."
Sirius shrugged. "The potion is complicated, and difficult to make. If the recipe was published, I'd guess that fewer than a dozen people in the world could create it, even with practice. The effort is generally not worth the return."
"And if the victim is willing?"
Sirius closed his eyes. "If the drinker willingly takes the potion, through honour, duty, loyalty or whatever, the crystals can be used in a ritual to open a rift to another plane of existence."
"Plane of existence?"
Sirius nodded. "This sort of thing isn't taught at school, or even at auror college. Only a few of the more learned sorcerers on the planet understand the concepts involved, but in mageling's terms, the different planes of existence are places where the 'universal numbers' are different."
Moody snorted with amusement. "That's in mageling terms?"
"Sorry, I just don't know how to explain it better to someone who doesn't have an understanding of the different universal numbers. Let's see. You know that the ratio between the diameter of a circle and its circumference is known as pi. Three point one four blah blah blah. Infinite precision."
"Yeah. I learned this at muggle primary school."
"Right. Now, imagine if pi was a different number."
Moody frowned. "How? It can't be different."
Sirius nodded. "Difficult to imagine, isn't it. Pi is a universal number. If it was different, the entire universe would be different. Anything from a pink sky to gravity being reversed. Whatever. Now, Harry told us that Macnair's nephew didn't exhibit magic at all. We found the recipe for Serpent's Tears in a potion lab during the raid on Buckingham Palace. Written on a sandstone slab in hieroglyphs. We know Narcissa Malfoy has the ability and talent to brew it. If Voldemort has convinced the younger Macnair to willingly take Serpent's tears, then he could have the ability to open a rift.
Moody looked shaken. "What is in these other planes of existence?"
Sirius sighed. "The only one documented, and by documentation I mean the same twelve and a half thousand year old stone tablet written in hieroglyphs, is a rift to a planar level where the beings there live on life energy."
"Live on life energy?" Moody repeated.
"Yes. They eat things that are alive."
"And that differs from us how?"
"They don't live on food. It is theorised by the Department eggheads that the dementors originally come from that plane. The first documentation of the existence of dementors is about as old as that stone record. They live on life energy. Souls."
Moody looked shaken. "If Voldemort opened a rift to a place with unlimited dementors..."
"Or worse." Sirius added.
"...then, bloody hell, the whole world would be destroyed."
Sirius nodded. "Yep." he said softly.
Ginny was spared a painful collapse on the floor by her father's timely catch.
"L't m' go." she mumbled. "G'tta h'lp Harry."
Arthur gently pushed Ginny into bed. "Not now, Sweetheart. There is nothing you can do for him."
Cho frowned, having noticed Ginny. "Why are you here, Ginny?"
Cho immediately noticed the temperature of the room drop. Not one of the three adults in the room met her gaze.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Miss Weasley was the victim of an unfocused magical blast. She is simply here for observation."
Cho's eyes widened. With quick strides, she moved to Ginny's side and picked up Ginny's hand. "Are you OK, Gin?"
Ginny nodded slightly, not looking up at Cho. She pulled her hand from Cho's comforting grasp.
"What's the matter?" Cho asked, confused.
Dumbledore stood, his knees creaking audibly. "You have a right to know the events of this evening, Miss Chang, but not just now. I would be very appreciative if you would locate Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley- Ronald, that is." corrected Dumbledore, giving Arthur an apologetic look. "I believe they will be happy to spend some time comforting Miss Weasley here. Once you have found and directed them to the hospital ward, I would like you to come and see me in my office."
Ginny slowly opened her eyes a little. She could make out two silhouettes in the faint light of the room. "R'n?" she mumbled.
Ginny felt each of her hands taken. "I'm here, Gin. So is 'Mione. Cho got us to come and visit you."
"Th't's n'ce" Ginny replied.
Hermione spoke up. "I know it seems like it isn't really the time but, Merry Christmas, Ginny."
"Yeah." said Ron. "I know it isn't really morning yet, since the sun hasn't risen, but we brought you your presents from the common room."
"That's right." said Hermione. "It looks as though your mum has sent you another jumper."
Ginny frowned. "Where is mum?" she asked, her voice getting stronger.
Ron swallowed nervously. "Dad told us not to tell her you were hurt. Said that you needed to be given space. I reckon she'll go mental when she finds out dad knew you were hurt but didn't tell her."
"Come on, Ginny. Open your presents." urged Hermione. She leaned over and turned on the bedside lamp.
Ginny looked at the small pile of presents in front of her. Given how guilty she felt, she couldn't bring herself to open even one.
"Come on Gin. Here, open mum's. We all know what that will be."
Ginny slowly tore the wrapping off her annual Weasley knitted sweater. Slowly, she ran her fingers over the soft wool, feeling the texture. It reminded her of home, her mother's love, family, peace. Everything Harry didn't have, and would never have.
Ron watched as tears formed in Ginny's eyes as she looked at the navy blue sweater. He bit his lip, nervous and not a little scared at how his little sister was behaving. He looked to Hermione for answers.
Unusually, it appeared she didn't have any.
"Here, Gin. Open this one." he said, pushing a small square present into her hands.
With quivering hands, Ginny slowly tore the carefully prepared paper. She withdrew a simple wooden box, polished to a deep shine. Ginny lifted the fitted lid to find a beautiful coil of polished unicorn ivory.
As the light fell on the beautiful gift, the two girls gasped with delight. Ginny gently lifted the bracelet out of its container and slipped it onto her left wrist. Looking in the bottom of the box, Ginny withdrew a small Christmas card.
Reverently, Ginny opened the card and read the contents.
Thank you for everything you have done for me. This year has been so much easier with your help, friendship and love.
This bracelet is charmed to prevent anything from attacking your mind. Even the Imperius curse cannot overcome its magic, as long as you believe in yourself.
While you wear it, you will never have another nightmare about the Chamber of Secrets. You will finally be free of Riddle's grasp forever.
Ginny's face screwed up yet again, and she howled in shame and guilt. Her two companions stared at her reaction in shock.
Ginny tore off the bracelet and put it back in its beautiful box. "I can't... I just can't" she whispered.
"Gin, why did Harry attack you like that?" Hermione asked her.
"Didn't you hear my dad, 'Mione?" Ron pointed out. "He said that it wasn't Harry."
Hermione gave Ron a look of frustration. "No, he said to think about what happened last time Harry did something out of character. When was that?"
Ron frowned. "When he was supposed to have killed Crabbe."
Hermione shook her head. "No, Ron. It was when he joined Voldemort. He did it for different reasons than everyone thought at the time. While we all condemned him, he was trying to save us. Your dad was trying to get you to see that he may have had a good reason to do what he did."
Ron opened and closed his mouth a few times before Ginny surprised them by whispering, "He did."
"He did what?" asked Hermione, confused.
"Have a good reason." finished Ginny.
Ron's eyes betrayed their confusion before becoming hard, and they bored into his younger sister's own. "What reason?" he asked in a flat, unfriendly tone.
Ginny looked uncertainly at her brother. "You know, don't you?"
"I think I do. I wish I didn't." he snarled.
"Ron! How dare you talk to Ginny like that?" said a shocked Hermione.
Ron's face coloured, and his breathing became heavy. "Well?" he demanded, staring straight at Ginny.
Ginny swallowed. "It was me. I took the potion."
Hermione blinked. "The potion?" she said disbelievingly as Ron stood up abruptly.
"I was thinking of ways to hurt him, Ginny. I was coming up with all sorts of things to do to him for hurting you. I wanted to hurt my best friend because of what he did to you. Now, it turns out that I was thinking about doing those things to the wrong person!"
Ginny shrank back, away from her brother's temper. Hermione stood and placed her hands on Ron's broad chest.
"Ron! Don't-" she started before he roughly slapped her hands away. Turning on his heel, Ron stormed out of the ward, slamming the door behind him.
Ginny started crying again. Through tear-filled eyes she looked up at Hermione.
Hermione looked blankly from the door to Ginny and back again, holding the wrist that Ron has struck to her chest. Finally her eyes settled on Ginny's.
"Why?" Hermione asked, her expression one of intense horror.
"Because I needed him to love me, just once. Only once."
Hermione sat back down. "Only once? What would you have done if you finished and had another chance to do it again? Would you have taken it?"
Ginny slowly wiped the tears from her cheeks, deep in thought for a long time. "I don't know." she finally admitted.
Hermione dropped her gaze to her own hands. "Gin, you've done something really bad. You don't need me to tell you that. But what are you going to do to fix things?"
"I don't know. Dumbledore wants to expel him."
"What?" screeched Hermione.
Ginny jumped in alarm, but nodded. "He said that Harry needs to be expelled, to cover for me. So Dad doesn't have to resign."
Hermione's hand flew to her mouth. "My God!" she said. "You can't be serious!"
Ginny nodded mournfully. "Without my father in charge of the ministry, it could collapse from within. Dumbledore thinks that only Dad can hold things together, but he can't if it comes out that... that..."
"That his daughter raped The-Boy-Who-Lived." finished Hermione. This set off a new wave of tears from Ginny.
Hermione was silent and let Ginny cry for a long time. After almost half an hour, Hermione finally broke the silence.
"Gin, this is serious. If Harry is expelled, it will remain with him for his entire life. We need to come up with a way, something, that will allow both Harry and you to remain in school."
Ginny nodded earnestly. "I'd do anything to help. Anything!"
Hermione shook her head. "Normally I wouldn't be a party to this. I think the most terrible thing that any politician can do is use someone else for their own advantage. Helping cover up something like this is just wrong." She looked up at the sterile, white ceiling. "But we need to help Harry now."
"What do we do?"
Hermione pursed her lips together tightly. "You need to stay out of sight, and out of the way. I'm going to try and recruit help."
"Why do I need to stay out of the way? I want to help!"
Hermione looked at her sternly. "I'm going to summon the Marauders, and they need to be thinking clearly. I don't think Sirius would think clearly if he sees you nearby."
Ginny's breath caught in her throat as she remembered Cho's story of what happened when Sirius kidnapped her from the hospital ward. Having someone so powerful and so devoted to Harry know what happened simply instilled fear.
Ginny was finally beginning to realise the full meaning of the phrase 'face the consequences.'
Hermione took out the charm bracelet Harry had made for Ginny. "Put this on, Gin. If Harry loves you enough to make it for you, he may love you enough to forgive you."
Ron sat on his bed looking between Harry's empty bed and the Christmas gift Harry had made for him. A single small piece of polished amber was set into a platinum band. Inside the amber, frozen in time, was a tiny spider.
According to Harry's note, the ring would detect if any spiders or spider-kin were nearby, and drive them away with a high-pitched noise too high for humans, or even dogs and cats to hear. In essence, anyone wearing this ring would never be approached by a spider again.
Ron felt supremely unworthy of such a gift.
Watching his sister hurled backwards by Harry's magic had frightened Ron. Not because for the first time he had witnessed the reserves of power Harry had at his command, but because he thought that Ginny might not survive. Once he was informed that Ginny would quickly make a full recovery, he had instantly switched into vengeance mode.
For a few hours, Ron had entertained fantasies of hurting his best friend. Over and over he had imagined his fist landing on Harry's face, turning it into pulp.
Now he felt dirty.
Ginny had been the one who raped Harry. Ginny, who supposedly loved him. Ron closed his eyes.
Harry had once told Ron the reason he felt that he had cheated on Cho was because the person who raped him kissed differently from Cho. The mistletoe over the door to the Great Hall forced any couple who walked beneath it to kiss to enter.
How ironic, that a tradition with such a benign purpose would be the catalyst for such horrible events.
Now Ron wondered what would happen. Would Harry be expelled? Would Ginny? Will Harry still be Ron's friend, or would looking at Ron remind Harry too much of Ginny?
Ron ground his teeth together. Before that terrible night, he had not thought it was possible for a female to rape a man. Some of Ron's own favourite fantasies involved Hermione tying him up and having her way with him. But seeing the change that came over Harry after that night opened Ron's eyes.
Harry had become a virtual recluse. He wouldn't eat at normal times to avoid crowds, he hadn't spoken much above a whisper. Occasionally, Ron had got frustrated and almost told him to snap out of it, but Ginny had been there the whole time.
Ron cradled his head. Ginny. She had been so conscientious of Harry's wellbeing that not even Cho had been upset with the amount of attention he received. Now, knowing the single fact that it had been Ginny that had caused Harry to become so reclusive, the reason she spent time with him became a little sinister.
Ron groaned and fell back on his bed. He had initially thought that the war would split his family, Percy had left after all. But thanks to Harry, the Ministry firmly had the upper hand in the fight against Voldemort. Now, it would appear that his family would be torn apart by the selfish actions of his own little sister.