One week later a group of people sat chatting amiably in the magically enlarged sitting room of Eleanor Cantwell. The room’s occupants, all members of the Order of the Phoenix, had one sole purpose in mind: the ultimate demise of the despised self-titled Lord Voldemort, otherwise known as Tom Riddle.
Today’s meeting of the Order of the Phoenix was to reviewall the information that had been gathered by members following Harry’s detailed debriefing by Dumbledore and Snape.
Harry had been extremely nervous and anxious when Dumbledore had suggested Snape use Legilimency to access Harry’s connective images to the Dark Lord. His shared ‘dreams’ or whatever they werewith Ginny had proved to have a rather unexpected, but definitely beneficial side effect. Ginny was able to help Harry protect thoughts that he wanted to keep private and Harry wanted to keep those times as private as possible.
Each time Snape said, ‘Legilimens,’ as he faced Harry, the first image that came to mind was Ginny’s smiling face. It was such a beautiful sightthat Harry focussed on that to the exclusion of all else.
It was ironic that now Snape was getting irate because Harry could block him so easily.
“Stop behaving like a lovesick puppy, Potter. You must focus on the times you shared thoughts with the Dark Lord. How else am I to assess what you saw and experienced?” snapped Snape.
Was it Harry’s imagination or was Dumbledore sniggering into his handkerchief, trying to hide his amusement at the Potions Master’s increasingly frustrated efforts to enter Harry’s mind?
Moody came to the rescue at that point. “Got another idea that might prove more useful than Legilimency, Snape.” He turned to his host and hollered, “Ellie, have you still got that Pensieve I brought you back from Luxor in ’52?”
Eleanor Cantwell’s firm voice responded, “Naturally. I may not choose to use it that often, but it has proved invaluable a time or two. What have you in mind, Alastor?”
“Thought we might get Potter here to use it so we can all see what he saw. Verbal recollection’s all well and good, but there may be something – or someone – that we might recognise that Potter may not even know is there,” said Moody succinctly.
The others present all nodded their acknowledgement of this suggestion. Eleanor left the room and returned a few minutes later. This Pensieve was much larger than Dumbledore’s and was made of an opalescent pale green glass that seemed to glow from within it. A number of beasts were etched into its wide rim. At one time Harry would have assumed them all to be mythical, but now he knew better.
Moulded and carved in the centre of the shallow dish was a single eye contained within a triangle and as Harry stared at it, the eye blinked! Dumbledore gave an amused chuckle this time, as did Eleanor, Tonks and Moody.
“Ah. I see you have noticed the eye, Harry!” said Eleanor.
Talk about stating the obvious! thought Harry, but he said nothing and simplynodded.
“This Pensieve, Harry, can ‘see’ if the memory it contains is a true memory or if it has somehow been corrupted, planted or modified. This type of Pensieve is extremely rare and highly prized. Occasionally they are used in Courts of Law as a last resort in determining truth in cases where verbal evidence is either impossible to obtain or where a Capital Offence has been committed.”
“It’s a shame it wasn’t available when Sirius was sent to Azkaban then,” Harry commented.
“Just so Harry,” came Kingsley’s response.
“Now, Harry, I would like you to simply sit back, relax and focus first of all on the time immediately after you entered the shop and were handed the silver Sickle.” As he spoke, Dumbledore stood and removed his wand from his robes. Harry was aware of the light contact of the wand tip to his left temple.
“You may find that closing your eyes will help you to concentrate better.”
Harry did so and was immediately aware of a slight tingle at the point of contact and could see the events unfolding in his mind’s eye.
It took Dumbledore almost two hours to ‘harvest’ all of Harry’s memories at the end of which Harry felt physically and emotionally drained.
Molly had been watching Harry like a hawk the whole time and as he slumped back in the chair, Molly rushed over to his side and placed her hand on his forehead.
“Bed!” Her tone brooked no argument. Harry obediently stood and followed her up the stairs. “Strip off and get into bed properly. You’ll rest much better if you do. I’ll have some lunch ready for when you wake.” Molly left the room and quietly shut the door. As soon as Harry’s head touched the pillow he was asleep.
Half awake and half asleep, Harry peered through slitted eyes, everything blurred as he had removed his glasses; all he could see was a gently smiling face and a curtain of red-gold hair.
Who was it?
It was Ginny… but was it?
Her eyes, they were green like his! Not Ginny then but … his mother?
No! Harry looked again – the eyes were no longer green they were a deep warm brown … it was Mrs. Weasley … but it was a younger – not present day – Mrs. Weasley!
Yet again the figure changed. The hair changed, became shorter and turned bright bubblegum pink.
Harry closed his eyes tight. His head felt like it was bursting with so many images floating through his mind.
Now he was lying down on that hard table once more, the mirror suspended over him; Harry had no choice, he had to open his eyes but as he did so he looked straight up into the glass.
The face looked like his face. The scar was his scar, but the eyes … They were blood red and slitted like a cat’s and were staring straight back at him.
The face smiled - a horrible feral smile- and broke into a chilling maniacal laugh.
The laugh grew louder and louder until it drowned out all other sounds.
“Harry! HARRY! Open your eyes…”
“No! NO! Leave me alone! It’s not time!”
Two strong hands gripped Harry by the shoulders and gently but firmly shook him to consciousness.
Harry opened his eyes back to the real world and looked into the face of Remus Lupin.
“Harry! Are you OK?”
“Don’t know. Head hurts! Feels like it’s been split open.He was in my head.” There was no need for Harry to explain who he meant by ‘he’.
“Madam Pomfrey said you might have trouble sleeping after this morning. Here, drink this.” Remus handed Harry a small glass containing a measure of green/blue potion. “It’s only Madam Pomfrey’s special headache cure, that’s all.” Harry nodded and drank it in one swallow.
“It might make you feel a little drunk, but it will take the pain away in no time. Once it has worked, come down to the kitchen.There’s someone there who’s dying to see you.”
Harry had a puzzled expression on his face, the obvious question of ‘who is it?’ left unspoken, but understood all the same.
“You’ll see who when you come down. Molly’s got food ready for you as well.”
As impatient as he was to find out just who was waiting downstairs to see him, Harry found that the headache cure made him move very sluggishly. Indeed he felt that each step he took and each movement he made felt as though he were wading through a large bath of very sticky treacle.
Harry supposed the potion slowed down his system to help it recover from all his recent ordeals; it did make him feel odd though as his brain seemed to be working somewhat quicker than normal, too. Thoughts seemed to be running through his head so fast he found he had a great deal of difficulty keeping them in any order. He worried, too, that some important thoughts might be lost amidst the mass of trivia that was also being churned up.
He wondered whether this was a normal side effect of the potion or as a result of his use of the Pensieve and it was with this thought still in his mind that he pushed open the door to Eleanor’s kitchen.
Harry had no chance to see who was waiting for him because as soon as he had crossed the threshold, he found arms flung around his neck and a great quantity of Weasley-red hair flowing across his face.
“Harry! Oh, Harry!” was all he could hear amid the muffled sobs into his shoulder.
“Ginny. Don’t… I’m fine,” said Harry.
At her snort of disbelief, Harry moved one hand up to gently move aside her hair so he could look at last into her eyes. “Really. I’m fine, especially now you’re here with me.” Harry spoke in a low gentle whisper that only Ginny could hear. Finally a small smile crept on to her wonderful, although blotchy and tear-stained, face.
A pristine white handkerchief was proffered by a silent figure to one side of the still embraced couple.
The two teenagers looked up to see a room full of adults all with extremely soppy faces and knew they had all refrained from gurgling, “Ahhh,” at the sight of two young people in the first throes of love.
All, that is, except for one.
Severus Snape stood to one side; he wore a look of profound distaste as though a cat had just vomited all over his favourite rug. He spoke with his customary curt manner.
“As Potter has finally awoken, can we please get to the business in hand or will this be yet another day wasted pandering to this boy’s needs?” He spat out the last two words with venom.
Harry and Ginny parted only reluctantly and sat at two vacant places at the large refectory table in the middle of the room.
Molly Weasley, however, threw the black-robed Potions Master a look as intense as any Voldemort could give.
“YOU,” she spat, “will have to wait until this YOUNG MAN’s physical needs are met first and that means food. If you wish you can stand there like some carrion crow waiting for scraps at the table or you can adjourn to the sitting room and leave Harry to eat his meal in peace. Heaven knows he’s had little enough of that!”
Without a word, Snape glared back, hard black eyes meeting Molly’s. He turned and with a somewhat theatrical flourish of his robes, he swept from the room. With much scraping of chairs everyone else stood and, somewhat chastened, left in Snape’s wake.
It was many hours later that Eleanor finally closed the door on the last of her numerous guests. The only ones left were Harry, as he was not yet fit to travel in Madam Pomfrey’s expert opinion and, surprisingly, Mad-EyeMoody.
“Do you know I honestly cannot remember when this old house has had quite so many people in it at the one time! So much for my quiet retirement!” These words, so heartfelt, were spoken by Eleanor as she sat wearily in a huge and extremely comfortable wing-backed armchair in front of the fireplace and placed her feet on a well-padded and well-used footstool after kicking off her shoes.
The companion to her chair, on the other side of the fireplace, was occupied by Moody; he looked very much at home and at peace, a rare sight indeed.
“Your usual, Alastor?” queried Eleanor and at the minutest nod of his head, Eleanor had conjured a glass of Moody’s favourite cognac.
“And you?” queried Moody.
“A nice mug of hot chocolate, I think,” said Eleanor in a gentle and somewhat sleepy voice. Instantly a steaming mug appeared on a spindle-legged table to her left, but as she raised it to her lips she added, “Mmm! A nice touch, thank you.”
“I thought you’d appreciate a shot of brandy in it. Just to help you sleep, of course.”
“Of course! Although I don’t think I’ll have much trouble after one of the longest and busiest weeks I’ve had in years!”
“Don’t give me that. Don’t think I don’t know you’ve been keeping a close watch on what’s going on. ‘Reckon your network is as good as Dumbledore’s any day.”
This interesting conversation was going on while Harry layhalf-asleepon a long comfortable sofa facing the fire. A colourful hand-knitted blanket had been laid over him and his head was on a big patchwork cushion. The two voices like a wireless in the background of Harry’s thoughts. He’d tried to relax and get his jumble of images and memories into some kind of order but it was so hard to do. If only Hermione were here. She’d help him, he knew, probably write everything down and then colour code her notes. He smiled to himself as he imagined it.
“There you are, Harry. This folder is for events that occurred in first year, then this one is for second year and so on. Highlights I’ve marked in green. Voldemort’s thoughts – oh, Ron, do give over – are in red bold ink. Theories are in yellow….”
Harry’s eyelids closed and he slept at last.
“What the-” Harry, startled, looked up to find what he thought was Crookshanks kneading his stomach, obviously wanting to settle on a nice warm Harry-shaped cushion for a doze in the cosy room. The fire had burned low in the hearth and a soft “Oh!” in a high-pitched voice made Harry turn his head. He just caught a brief glimpse of a house-elf in miniature wizard’s robes clearing away the dirty glass and mug before a soft ‘pop’ announced her departure.
The large ginger cat jumped indignantly from Harry, obviously annoyed that he wouldn’t sit still so he could be used as a convenient cat-bed and curled up on the hearthrug.
Harry sat up and stretched;he had become stiff while he had slept in an obviously awkward position on the couch. He rolled his head gingerly on his neck trying to find his glasses in the light of the dying fire. He spotted them on the table that sat beside Eleanor’s chair and placed them back on his face. Harry noticed that the ornate bookcase that covered one end of the room had the middle section pulled forward and was obviously a concealed door. The firelight only reached a short way into the opening, but from it was coming the unmistakable sounds of two people deep in conversation.
A simple brass candlestick with a snuffer hooked to itstood to one side of the opening atop a roll-top desk. Harry lifted it and a flame instantly sprang to life. Holding his breath, Harry stepped through the opening and saw a flight of steep stone steps descending into the recesses below the house. Harry had been told by Eleanor that her home was over 400 years old in parts and that her family had lived here the whole time. “Hill House” obviously had more than its share of secrets.
Harry’s sock-clad feet made no noise as he descended; the sound of voices, however, became louder the lower he went. Soon he could make out what was being said.
“… has no idea of course. I really don’t see why Albus has kept him in the dark for so long. He must learn of his ancestry sooner or later and I firmly believe he would gain much more than he would lose,” said Eleanor.
“Ellie, Harry’s been through so much these last two years,” came Moody’s unmistakable voice.
“He’s not the only one, Alastor. When I think of what Crouch did to you…”
“Steady on, old girl. I’m much stronger than I look and so is Harry. Do you think any old fifth year student could have dealt with everything Harry had to?”
“No, of course not. But all the same…”
“He’s not a child anymore, Ellie. The things he’s seen-”
“- and done! Yes, I know, Alastor. I saw his memory of his duel with Bellatrix. Do you honestly think Harry is aware of the possible consequences of these actions?” asked Eleanor fearfully.
“That I can’t possibly say. What I can say is that if I’d known, then by Merlin’s beard I’d probably make the same choices, even knowing how much pain I’d be saving myself. I believe Harry is strong enough to make the sacrifices necessary for the good of all and I think knowing how much pain it will cause him will not dissuade him from making the right choices when the time comes.
“As I said, Ellie, he’s strong, but he’s not inflexible.He may bend a little – a lot even – but his purpose and aim will be straight and true. And don’t forget, he won’t be alone. She’ll be always at his side.”
“Always. But that may be his biggest trial! So near and yet so far. Within his arm’s reach, but untouchable. Does she know?” asked Eleanor.
B/N: This is the last of the chapters that I’ve received so far. Sorry I didn’t get up as early as I had said! It got lost in a jumble of files and took me awhile to locate. J