Love and Regret
The kiss deepened, fingers tangled in Hermione’s sodden golden ringlets, Harry’s anxiety began to dissipate. What did it matter if they were both unclothed in the Room of Requirement? The only way that anyone could enter and discover them would be to ask specifically for a jaccuzi which looked like an Enchanted Fairy Grotto. The chances of such an occurrence were vanishingly small.
Harry let himself go, his passion rising, lips tracing a path to Hermione’s neck, fingers disentangling and roaming southward. Eddies and currents swirled in the bubbling cauldron and sparks of magic began to fly as the fervor grew, and the pair started to lose themselves in one another. Harry’s last coherent thought before he was swept away completely by the tide of bliss was of how much he loved Hermione. Magic arced like bolts of lightning, and the chamber trembled and rocked as they peaked.
Minerva McGonagall frowned, passing the letter from the Triwizard Commission back to the headmaster. Professor Dumbledore put the letter down and reached into his desk.
“I think we’ll be needing this,” he said, pulling out a bottle of Dragon Barrel brandy.
He then poured a snifter each for his deputy headmistress and the Potions master as well as himself. Neither of the professors accompanying the headmaster raised any objections. The angry deputy headmistress took a big gulp from her snifter before speaking.
“So,” fumed McGonagall. “There is no way that we can prevent the Third Task? ...nor at least have some say as to what sorts of creatures and magical obstacles are to be employed?”
“I do not believe so,” Dumbledore sighed. “It seems quite clear that we have been forestalled from having any input ourselves. We can only be thankful that the Skrewts bred for the task at the insistence of the Triwizard Commission have been killing each other off. Hopefully, there will be few left by the time June arrives.”
Snape and McGonagall both snorted at the notion that Hagrid needed encouragement from an outside agency to breed dangerous creatures. But indeed, at the beginning of the year the Commission had given Hagrid the eggs produced by breeding a Manticore with a Fire-Crab, knowing that Hagrid would be all too eager to comply, despite Dumbledore’s own reticence.
“And what of the Acromantulas?” McGonagall wondered aloud. “Perhaps Hagrid’s friend Aragog will have some sway?”
Snape rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be so naive Minerva,” the Potions master sneered. “Even if Aragog so commanded, without his presence to stay them, the Acromantulas chosen by the Ministry for the Third Task will not obey his command when the blood of wizards calls to them. We must face facts - there is little we can do unless the Champions signal for help.
“The Warding Charms placed around the Maze by the Commission will prevent any teacher or headmaster from entering the Maze unless we are directly called upon to provide aid.”
“But we know less than half of what the Champions will be facing in the Maze,” snapped McGonagall. “Albus, surely the Commission can give us at least an inkling of what else they have in store for the Champions.”
The headmaster sighed again. “Alas, Minerva, our hands are tied. You know as well as I do that the Ministry is in unscrupulous hands. The best I can do is to ensure that all of the Champions and their mentors are as informed as ourselves. I shall confer with Olympe and Igor on the morrow...”
At that moment, one of Dumbledore’s delicate instruments began to whir and oscillate wildly, emitting sparks and a puff of smoke. The lanterns flickered and a slight tremor shook the office. Fawkes ruffled his feathers and uttered a little squawk. Snape’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Good Heavens!” exclaimed McGonagall. “What on earth was that?”
“I do not know,” answered the headmaster, looking as perplexed as his staff-members. He clambered out of his seat quickly and examined several of his contraptions, including the one which had sparked.
“There appears to have been some sort of magical power surge in the castle,” said Dumbledore after a moment, “However, there is no sign of castle breach, nor of Dark magical attack. Is anyone running an experiment at the moment? Flitwick perhaps?”
“Not to my knowledge,” replied McGonagall.
“If I may, Headmaster, perhaps we just experienced the effects of an outburst of accidental magic somewhere in the castle,” suggested Snape. “As unusual as it may be, on occasion, teenagers can still be given to such events.”
“Hmm...” Dumbledore stroked his long silvery beard pensively. “You may be onto something Severus. Such has indeed occurred in the past; however, this particular outburst must have been remarkably powerful to have shaken the entire castle...”
“Bloody Hell Hermione! What was that? What happened?” Still dazed and feeling quite giddy from their playful watery escapade, Harry peered at his wife expectantly. Hermione giggled nervously as the euphoria of passion began to ebb.
“I... I’m not sure Harry, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was an accidental release of magic... I suppose it’s something that must happen to wizards occasionally when they have intercourse - especially if it’s really good and they’re really, really in love...”
Harry looked perplexed. “But everything shook Hermione - the castle shook, like an earthquake - and there was a flash - like lightning. Even when I was angry and blew up Aunt Marge like a balloon, I’ve never had such a strong burst of accidental magic.”
Hermione peered at the churning water and the crystalline stalactites of the Room of Requirement’s Fairy Grotto, an idea forming in her whirring brain.
“Hmm... well there were two of us for one thing, amplifying the magic exponentially,” she began, turning slightly pink. “We both... erm... peaked at the same time. Also, perhaps, in the water - maybe it’s like when an electrical charge is introduced to saltwater. It’s possible that it may have conducted the magic - further amplified it - and released it into the castle walls.”
“I don’t know Harry. I’m just speculating - I can’t be certain.”
“Right!” Harry nodded, gulping anxiously. “Well, that makes as much sense as anything I suppose - let’s get out of here...”
Harry fervently hoped that there had been no damage, and that they could avoid getting into trouble. Hurriedly, the Potters dressed and fled the Room of Requirement. Harry’s wildly thumping heart began to slow when it seemed that there were no panicking hordes in the hallways of Hogwarts, and everything seemed intact.
But all hopes of forgetting about the incident completely were dashed when they found themselves in the Great Hall at dinner. They arrived late. Seated at the Mingling Table already were some of their friends. Under normal circumstances, Harry would have been happy to see Ron, Seamus, and Dean among them. But they appeared to be deep in discussion regarding an unusual occurrence.
“...and me and Seamus were playing wizard chess by the window...” Ron was telling Dora and Daphne.
“And I was losing as usual,” Seamus interjected.
“...and it rattled so hard I was sure it was going to break,” Ron continued.
Dean rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t that hard...”
“I didn’t notice it at all,” Neville chimed in.
“Nor I,” said Daphne. “I was in my room and I didn’t feel a thing. But I did see the lights flickering.”
At that moment, Ron noticed Harry and Hermione taking their seats.
“Oh, hi Harry, Hermione,” said Ron excitedly, “Did you feel that castle-quake?”
“Er...” said Harry as he flushed.
He glanced at Hermione, whose cheeks had also taken on a rosy tinge. Fortunately, Harry was saved from answering by the arrival of the Feast. He breathed a deep sigh of relief and began to tuck in. Hermione was equally glad of the distraction that the food provided. Dora eyed the Potters with amusement, supposing that they had been too occupied to notice the quake.
The evening was cold and dry. A peacock strutted in the moonlit gardens of an opulent Wiltshire estate, its cry piercing the night. Inside the manor, a bitter Warlock brooded. Lucius Malfoy scowled as he sipped his brandy, wondering where he had gone wrong. His narrowed eyes lit upon the empty armchair near the fire where his wife should be seated.
Lucius was still puzzled as to how Narcissa had discovered that he had transferred funds into their son’s private vault at Gringotts. It was unlike her to check on the finances - a fact that he had been counting on. In any case, that had only been the beginning of the row. One thing had led to another, and somehow the argument had turned from their son to what Narcissa had termed as Lucius’s own “questionable choices” in the past - a clear dig at his days as a Death Eater.
“...and where are you now while our son follows in your footsteps?” Narcissa had shouted, “Spending your days at the Ministry hatching new plots and schemes to undermine Dumbledore.”
“And why not?” Lucius had angrily retorted. “Finally, we have a competent Minister of our persuasion, dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to put an end to the dilution of our bloodlines. Why shouldn’t I be doing all I can to help find a solution to the Mudblood problem once and for all?”
His next words had just slipped out, unintended, in the heat of anger. He had wished he could take them back the moment he’d said them.
“...Carrying on like this, anyone might think you a Blood Traitor!” Lucius had snapped at his wife.
That had silenced Narcissa; but at what cost? She had stared at him coldly for a moment before turning on her high heels and storming from the parlour. Several minutes later, Lucius had heard her furious footsteps echoing through the manor, and then the front door slamming shut.
And now he sat alone, nursing a brandy snifter which needed refilling. Lucius supposed he should have seen this coming. Narcissa had been slipping away - growing more and more distant since the Quidditch World Cup. And if he were being honest with himself, the warning signs that they were drifting apart had been apparent since the Chamber of Secrets business.
Pouring himself another brandy, Lucius Malfoy’s scowl grew deeper when he recalled the argument which had stemmed from the loss of the House Elf. He had been forced to reveal his own hand in the opening of the Chamber to his wife. And his promise that Draco - as a Pureblood - had never been in any danger had fallen on deaf ears.
“...and what of the other students at Hogwarts,” Narcissa had shouted then. “They are just children...”
“Just children,” his wife had called them. Just children? Had Narcissa forgotten that Mudblood children eventually grew up to breed even more filth? Perhaps it was for the best that Narcissa had fled to her ancestral home, empty though it was. And perhaps his harsh words - Blood Traitor - had not been so far off the mark.
Harry’s dreams that night were fitful. Feeling her husband restless beside her, Hermione woke several times. After the third time she gave Harry a little shake.
“Harry, are you alright?” she asked. Harry woke with a start.
“Th...thanks for waking me Hermione...” Harry rubbed at his burning scar, his face clammy and pale. “Yeah... yeah, I’m alright. It’s not too bad...”
“It’s Voldemort again, isn’t it?” Lines of worry creased Hermione’s brow. “Is he doing something horrible?”
“No - it would be worse if he was,” Harry replied. “I’m just getting flashes - glimpses of him and Wormtail and the others. They’re making plans.”
“To come after you again?” asked Hermione.
Harry shook his head. “Not yet. Voldemort wants to build up his forces and... and revenge himself against some of the Death Eaters who didn’t rejoin him. I don’t quite remember all the details, but I know that he’s sending Crabbe and Goyle - their fathers I mean - to recruit Giants.”
“Should we wake Dumbledore and tell him? Or can it wait till morning?”
“Anytime tomorrow should be okay,” said Harry. “It’s nothing urgent really.”
“Alright then,” said Hermione, giving him a little kiss. She put her arm around him and snuggled closer, laying her bushy head on his shoulder. “Would you like some hot cocoa - to help you go back to sleep?”
Harry grinned as the soreness in his scar began to ebb, catching a whiff of her minty fragrance. He gave Hermione a kiss on her forehead.
“No thanks, I’m feeling loads better already.”
Harry felt even better the following morning, having fallen back to sleep in his wife’s arms. He awoke to see the golden highlights of her hair gleaming in the sun pouring through the window. Feeling refreshed and lighter, Harry remembered more of what he had seen in his dreams. The knowledge kept him slightly distracted throughout the day while he attended classes. When lessons were over, Harry eagerly made his way to Dumbledore’s office with Hermione.
When the Potters entered, they caught Dumbledore peering wistfully at a little ancient sepia photograph of a young girl with fair hair. In his hand, the headmaster clutched a ring with a cracked gemstone - the horcrux which they had discovered and killed several days ago. Harry and Hermione both felt a bit awkward, as if they had interrupted Dumbledore in a contemplative moment of great personal importance.
But if Dumbledore felt put out, he did a good job of hiding it. The look of melancholy in his eye was quickly replaced with his usual twinkles.
“Ah, Harry, Mrs Potter - please be seated,” said Dumbledore warmly as he returned the ring to a drawer in his desk. “I had been meaning to speak with you in any case Harry. But first you may tell me what is on your mind.”
“Thank you sir,” Harry responded politely, doing his best to restrain his curiosity about the picture on Dumbledore’s desk. “I had another dream... er... vision I mean - last night.”
“I take it the matter is of no great urgency then,” the headmaster keenly observed.
“Yeah... I mean no... er, well, I suppose you can judge for yourself, but at least it wasn’t anything dreadful anyway. It’s just that Voldemort was making plans and I thought you should know what he’s up to.”
“Indeed Harry - please continue.”
“Yes sir. Anyway, apparently Voldemort means to build up his forces before doing much else - he’s sending Crabbe and Goyle somewhere to look for Giants for one thing. And MacNair is supposed to be capturing Mountain Trolls - like the one which almost got Hermione first year. And he’s sending Avery out to recruit criminal types - hooligans and such, I think.
“Wormtail’s already got some Werewolves on their side. Who he really wants though, is the Lestranges and some others - but they’re in...”
“Azkaban,” said Dumbledore quietly. “That means that eventually Voldemort will seek to take Azkaban by force to free his most loyal former supporters.”
“Er... right!” Harry agreed. “But he’s got to wait a bit until he’s got a big enough army to do it. And in the meantime, Voldemort’s planning to go after some of the Death Eaters on the outside who didn’t return to him.”
“Yes, I expected as much...” Dumbledore nodded. “Those who defy Voldemort do so at their own peril. There are ways for the cautious to protect themselves of course, though some may be feeling overconfident, lulled into a false sense of security by Voldemort’s defeat and long absence. Those shall no doubt find themselves caught off-guard, much to their dismay.
“Well Harry,” he continued, “I must thank you for the update. There is little I can do to prevent an attack on Azkaban given our current situation with the Ministry, other than to warn Madam Bones that such may occur. We shall have to leave that in her capable hands, though I fear that it will not stop an eventual prison-break. Dementors have an affinity for Dark wizards, and may be swayed to join Voldemort’s cause.
“Now, to that which I had intended to bring to your attention. I had been planning on having Professor Moody reveal the latest information regarding the Third Task, but as you are here in my office, I may as well tell you myself...
Dumbledore told Harry and Hermione what was known, which was less than what he would have liked. And by the time the meeting with the headmaster adjourned, Hermione was infuriated by the sparsity of the information. Harry thought that if she were any angrier, flames might shoot from her eyes.
“Giant venomous spiders,” Hermione huffed under her breath as they made their way to the Room of Requirement for practice, “I can’t believe it Harry...”
“And Blast-Ended Skrewts,” said Harry helpfully. “Don’t forget those.”
“But that’s not even the half of it,” Hermione said crossly. “This is no joke Harry. You have to be prepared for anything. We have no idea what else you’ll be facing. For all we know, they could set loose a horde of Inferi in the Maze.”
Harry sighed, seeing how worked up Hermione had become at the idea of him facing swarms of deadly unknown creatures and obstacles. He began to feel bad when he realised that Hermione was taking it so hard that she was on the verge of hyperventilation. They had been planning on practicing with their patronuses before meeting up with Daphne for their workout, but that was starting to look like a dim prospect.
Then it hit Harry - Cheering Charms - that ought to get them both in a good mood again. At least good enough to try experimenting with their patronuses.
“Hermione please,” Harry implored. “Everything will work out - we’ve got months to train. If you’d like, I can do a Cheering Charm on you.”
“I’m sorry Harry,” said Hermione apologetically when it struck her that Harry was doing his best to take things in stride. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I just hate this stupid tournament - I can’t bear the thought of losing you. Yes, a Cheering Charm sounds nice.”
Harry performed the charm, and Hermione began to feel much better. Hermione returned the favour, and soon they were both feeling a bit giggly by the time they reached the Room of Requirement. Happiest memories at the forefront of their minds - and they had many to choose from - both Potters conjured their patronuses.
A sublime joy swept through Harry and Hermione when the etheric stag and doe burst from their wands for the first time since they had chased away the Dementors in third year. Harry was absolutely stunned at the intensity of their radiant luminosity; they were much brighter than he recalled, nearly blindingly so. The Room of Requirement was flooded with the pulsing light, and their bodies tingled with seraphic ecstasy as the magic swirled around them.
The headmaster looked up from his desk when he heard it - the whirring of one of his delicate silver and gold instruments. Fawkes uttered a questioning trill as he eyed the equipment warily. Dumbledore half expected sparks and a puff of smoke again. But something was different this time; there was no quake and the lights were stable.
Regardless, according to the instrument readings, it was clear that another powerful outpouring of magic of extremely high frequencies was occurring somewhere in the castle once again. But this time the magic was under control - directed in some sort of application that seemed vaguely familiar. The most curious thing was that as before, the location of the surge could not be pinpointed.
Dumbledore was quite keen on solving this mystery, but he had to consider his priorities. The school certainly was in no danger from the mysterious magical outburst - on the contrary, the surges seemed to have only strengthened the school’s defences. For the timebeing, the headmaster had more pressing concerns that did indeed present a danger to not only the school, but the entirety of Magical Britain.
For one thing, his most immediate and important decision was whether or not to send Hagrid on a dangerous, quite likely fruitless mission with minuscule chance of success. Dumbledore had to weigh his options carefully. Quite simply, beyond the fact of friendship, he couldn’t afford to lose his Care of Magical Creatures professor at this critical phase of the Triwizard tournament.
The weeks leading up to Easter passed more quickly than Harry and Hermione thought possible. Schoolwork and training kept them both too busy to worry about things. There had been no sign that Voldemort had made anymore significant moves, and Harry was pleased that he hadn’t had to endure the stress that came whenever Voldemort was personally involved in a kill.
Daphne seemed to be getting on reasonably well, having been adopted as a friend by Parvati and Lavender. Fleur seemed to find Daphne’s presence pleasing as well. Hermione was thrilled to find herself regularly in three-way dinner conversations in French, as Daphne had spent some summers at the French Riviera also. And gradually - with Dora’s help - Daphne was building up her strength and enduring Professor Moody’s workouts and training sessions.
Much to Ron’s delight, Harry managed to find some time to hang out, play a few games of chess, and do a little flying together with a few other friends as well. Ron couldn’t believe his luck to finally meet Viktor Krum properly.
All in all, with Hermione at his side, Harry was feeling happy - happy enough to almost forget that a dangerous Dark wizard and the Minister were both plotting against him. Only one thing in that time served as a reminder of the circumstances which loomed over Harry’s life.
One day, nearly two weeks after that fateful day upon which Voldemort had restored himself, Snape approached Harry at the end of Potions. Harry wondered if he’d done something wrong, because Snape looked almost as sour as he had through much of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. In fact, the Potters had both noticed Snape’s increased moodiness the past two weeks and chalked it up to his being disturbed by Voldemort’s renewal.
After everyone else had left the dungeon, Harry and Hermione sat there before Snape’s desk, anxiously awaiting some sort of reprimand - for what, they did not know. The tension grew in the silence; finally, as if it hurt, Snape spoke.
“Potter,” he began sharply before catching himself and moderating his tone, “...Harry - what I am about to tell you is for your ears only. I have allowed Mrs Potter to stay because she is your... spouse.
“Let me begin by saying that I am unaccustomed to discussing matters of personal interest... with anyone. However, there are certain facts which concern us both - facts which you deserve to know. Our fates are entwined more than you can possibly imagine...”
Harry felt a strong urge to point out that he had an inkling that Snape had known his mother, having gleaned at least that much from Voldemort’s mind the afternoon that Voldemort had sent out the signal to his Death Eaters. But Hermione must have sensed Harry’s urge, because she gave him a gentle nudge. Harry decided that perhaps it was better to simply let Snape speak uninterrupted.
“At one time,” Snape continued, “when I was a student at Hogwarts, I knew your parents. Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew were also known to me. We had a sordid history which I have no desire to relive in detail. Suffice it to say that your father and his friends - I loathed them, and they loathed me.
“Your mother however, was a different matter altogether. For many years, we had been... friends. I regret to say that I took that friendship for granted... and lost it. Indeed, I have many regrets - not the least of which is that eventually your parents married...” Snape couldn’t help himself, saying that last part with a sneer. He halted a moment to recover himself, then began again.
“Now, I should say that what happened next, were the further indiscretions of a young and foolish man. During my youth at Hogwarts, my friends were nearly all followers of the Dark Lord, and I - like them - joined him upon my graduation... another act I regret to this day.
“You are aware - I believe - of the Prophecy and that the Dark Lord came to learn of it. What you may not know, is how that came to be... My greatest regret of all...”
“Harry...” Snape paused again, a flicker of pain and sorrow in his eyes.
“It was me,” he continued, so softly that it was almost a whisper. “I overheard part of the Prophecy, and relayed it to the Dark Lord. It was only... only when I learned that your mother - that Lily... that she would be targeted by the Dark Lord that I switched sides. I begged Dumbledore to save her... but it was too late... the deed was done...” Snape trailed off, a muscle twitching in his jaw, his dark eyes glistening.
Harry was flabbergasted. The rest of the story he knew of course; Wormtail had betrayed his parents, deliberately selling them out to Voldemort. But he couldn’t believe that Snape himself had been the one to tell Voldemort about the prophecy. If he hadn’t, Harry’s parents might be alive today. Harry didn’t know what to feel - nor what to say. Hermione took his hand, biting her lip, struggling to contain her tears.
Snape managed to speak one last time.
“You had to know!” he croaked. Then Snape stood up abruptly and strode out of the classroom in a swirl of robes.
Harry still couldn’t believe it. It took him several days to recover from Snape’s stunning revelation. But recover he did. One thing Harry was sure of, was that Snape had been very brave to reveal his part in things. Snape could have gone to his grave in silence and Harry would have been none the wiser. Another thing that Harry was sure of, Snape had loved Harry’s mother very much.
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