Harry, Hermione, and Daphne discuss the Stone. A horrible secret comes out.
[*The Definition of Betrayal
Time passed. The snow melted, the days lengthened, and the year drew to a close. January had already slipped into February and March and April. Now, it was May, and the Exams were fast approaching. Harry and his friends were spending more and more time in the Library, a feat which became easier once Slytherin was pushed out of running for the Quiditch Cup (Thanks to Harry, Slytherin had won all of its matches, but the Chasers hadn't been able to acquire enough points to earn the House any hope of winning the Cup. There was also no prize for guessing who everyone blamed for that little mishap).
Harry and his fiancé were, at that moment, studying in a back table of the Library, waiting for Hermione. Harry caught himself reread the same sentence twice. Hermione was never late.
The pair looked up from their books to see the bushy-haired girl running towards them.
"What is?" Daphne asked.
"Hagrid," the Muggleborn witch answered. "I just . . . realized . . . isn't it odd that he's wanted a dragon his whole life, and he met someone who just happened to have a dragon egg?"
That brought Harry up short. How many wizards kept dragons' eggs in their pockets? How was the mysterious card-player able to get a hold of one in the first place? And, why would he reveal it to some random stranger who might very well turn him into the Aurors?
Turning to Daphne, he saw she had reached same conclusion. "So, you think there was a reason that wizard gave the egg to Hagrid?" she asked. "What do you think it was?"
"It must have been a decoy to trick Hagrid into revealing information about the Stone!" Hermione cried. "We have to talk to Hagrid immediately."
Daphne nodded. Harry frowned, but began gathering up his things. Something was not right about this scenario, but what could it be?
The trio began racing down the halls. "Slow down, Hermione!" Daphne cried. "What are we supposed to do?"
Hermione stumbled. "We'll . . . talk to Hagrid," she said.
"So, you think he'll just tell us what he talked about with that stranger?" Daphne asked. "I don't know; that memory probably isn't one he's very fond of."
Hermione frowned. "But he has to . . . That's what—I mean. . ."
A tiny lightbulb went off in Harry's brain. It was not a very bright one; in fact, everything its light touched seemed darker and more threatening. "This isn't your idea, is it, Hermione?"
Daphne whipped her head around to face him, eyes wide, gasping a little. Hermione's eyes went even wider. "What . . . Harry . . . no—I mean," she rooted through the library that was her mind, looking for the answer; it had never failed her before.
"Dumbledore suggested this to you, didn't he?" Harry said; it wasn't really a question. "You're not very good at lying, Hermione."
The brunette witch bowed her head. ". . . yes," she whispered.
Daphne's jaw dropped. "What . . . Hermione . . . How could you?"
"I wanted to keep you safe!" Hermione cried out. Harry and Daphne stared at her; she swallowed. "It was . . . after the Troll attack," she stammered. "Professor Dumbledore . . . he brought me to his office . . . he told me that you had saved me . . . but you'd nearly gotten yourself killed doing it . . . and he said you'd probably do something like it again . . . he said you needed someone to . . . to look out for you . . ."
"You mean. . . you thought you could pay back your life-debt by spying on Harry?" Daphne accused.
"No!" Hermione cried. "No, I just . . . I . . ." She broke into tears. "I didn't want to lose you—either of you!"
"'Lose . . . us?'" Daphne asked.
"Dumbledore said you'd take chances, and you are!" Hermione continued, unclear as to whether or not she'd heard Daphne's question. "You two were the first friends I ever made! And, and you nearly died for me! That Troll could have killed you!" She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Dumbledore warned me, Harry, that you'd dangerous things, and he was right. The Forbidden Forest . . . guarding the stone . . . exploring the Halls . . ." Hermione struggled for what to say next, unfortunately, Daphne found her voice then.
"Lies," the Slytherin hissed like the snake she was. Her eyes were fixed in a terrible scowl, made all the more horrifying by the tears leaking out. "All lies! Everything you say—"
"Stop, Daphne!" Harry clamped his hand down on his fiancé's shoulder and squeezed. The blond witch turned to face him; Harry wasn't scowling. He was frowning, yes, but not consumed with rage as she was. He sighed. "Like I said . . . Hermione . . . isn't very good at lying." The brunette witch's heart clenched when Harry hesitated at her name. "Let's just calm down and think for a moment, all right?"
Daphne didn't say anything, but she nodded. Harry accepted it and turned back to Hermione. "Hermione, did Dumbledore say anything else to you?" he asked.
"No," she replied, wiping away her tears. "He just said that you needed to question Hagrid about the stranger who gave him Norbert's egg . . . immediately."
"Well, maybe I should," Harry said.
"You can't be serious!" Daphne interrupted. "That's exactly what he wants you to do."
"Maybe, but I need to know what's he's hoping to get out of it," Harry insisted. "Anyway, it won't work out completely as planned, because you and Hermione are going to go to Uncle Severus and tell him about all of this."
"I don't need her," Daphne growled.
". . . Fine," Harry replied. "Hermione, you're with me," he addressed the Gryffindor girl. "Come on." With that, he started off to Hagrid's.
Hermione followed behind him, not saying anything and trying to cry any further. What was the point?
"They're both gone?" Harry asked.
"That's what McGonigal said," Daphne growled. "Something about the old man 'wanting his expert opinion,' or some other such nonsense. It was just an excuse to get Severus away from us."
"But, why?" Hermione asked, timidly. Daphne ignored her.
Harry, however, was frowning for a different reason. "Hermione and I have more bad news. We spoke with Hagrid; apparently he told his 'friend' how to get past Fluffy."
Daphne's eyes widened. "No."
"Unfortunately, he did," Harry responded. "Which means that Voldemort or whoever it was knows how to get past the first obstacle protecting the Stone."
"What do we do?" Daphne asked, looking—surprisingly—paler than normal.
"Why hasn't Voldemort taken the Stone already?" Hermione wondered. "I mean," she insisted when Daphne pointedly ignored her and Harry failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation." It's been months since Hagrid got Norbert's egg; why hasn't Voldmort tried to take the Stone before now?" That reduced everyone to silence for a few moments.
"Because Dumbledore was still here," Daphne whispered.
"But now he's gone, and so's Uncle Severus," Harry added.
The three were silent for a moment. Then, Harry looked up and declared. "I'm going after him."
"What?" both girls asked, trying to comprehend the insane thing they had just heard come out of his mouth.
"Dumbledore was the only thing Voldemort ever feared," Harry said. "With him gone, Voldemort will try to steal the Stone. If he gets it, he'll be strong again."
"And, he'll have an endless source of gold to fund his plans," Daphne realized.
"He probably can't make a move until tonight," Harry said. "So, that's when we'll go."
"All right," Daphne replied, gathering up her courage. Who said only Gryffindors knew how to be brave?
"I'm coming too," Hermione declared.
"Daphne examined her under skeptical eyes, but Harry spoke softly. "You don't have to Hermione; it will be dangerous," a chuckle escaped his mouth, "and we're probably going to break a lot of rules."
"I don't care," Hermione responded. "I've been a horrible friend, and I'm going to make up for it."
The pair stared into each other's eyes for a moment, before Harry nodded. "All right, let's get ready."
[*Author's Notes: Well, I hope that comforts all of you who were annoyed at how Harry's always getting henpecked, as it were. A while ago, someone commented that Harry wasn't exhibiting that much in the way of Slytherin cunning. Again I hope this makes up for it, although cunning isn't the attribute I really want to give Harry . . .
[*What? You think I'm just going to tell you right here? Maybe later . . .