Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Second Fiddle

Them Apples

by Crucio_Crusade 3 reviews

Harry Potter is aware of the wizarding world. The only problem is he grew up apart from it. When he explored the magical world, he found dangers, wonders, and friendship.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Humor - Characters: Harry,Hermione,Neville,Voldemort - Warnings: [!] [V] [?] - Published: 2007-11-11 - Updated: 2007-11-12 - 6618 words

Disclaimer: This fan fiction was based on the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. I do not claim ownership on any character created by J.K. Rowling, and no money is collected from this story. This is one way I show appreciation to J.K. Rowling’s works. Other names or places on this story are fictional. Any similarity to actual name is purely coincidental.

Chapter 29: Them Apples

For hours, Madam Pomfrey and Lily worked hard to identify the spell cast on the esteemed headmaster. At first examination, it appeared Professor Dumbledore was merely sleeping. But, after attempting to wake him up, it revealed the spell was far more deadly. Professor Dumbledore regained consciousness, but he immediately went into convulsion. With tears streaming from his eyes, his horrible desolate scream, from some unimaginable pain or nightmare, echoed throughout the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey and Lily were left with no choice, but put him back to sleep.

With no idea how to treat Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey and Lily couldn’t offer any explanation to the witches and wizards present. Madam Pomfrey, then, asked everyone to wait outside, or better yet, go home. Most Order members reluctantly left. Some, however, decided to stay and kept vigil outside the door of the hospital wing. Professor McGonagall had invited a few select aurors and Order members, along with Neville’s young friends, to adjourn to the headmaster’s office. McGonagall easily transfigured a few insignificant items into chairs.

The teen witches and wizards found their seats near Fawkes’ stand. Ron didn’t wait for McGonagall to address everyone. He immediately asked the question that was presently troubling him. “How are we going to rescue Neville?”

“Ron!” Mrs. Weasley scolded, scandalized.

“What?” Ron asked hotly, his impatience showing in his face. “We are going to rescue Neville, aren’t we?” No one immediately reassured him. “Well, aren’t we?” Ron crossly looked around, impatiently waiting for an answer.

“Of course, we are,” Hermione uncertainly responded from Ron’s left. “This is the reason for this meeting, isn’t it?” She looked expectantly at Professor McGonagall for reassurance.

“Yes, it is,” McGonagall affirmed with subtly less confidence than she normally showed. “I also called all of you here to discuss how to find a cure for Professor Dumbledore.” She solemnly looked at everyone, especially at Lily. “I… Even though I have every confidence in Madam Pomfrey and Mrs. Potter’s healing skills, I urge every one of you to do your own research. Let us help our healers to find the counter-curse to You-Know-Who’s spell.”

“I hate to say this, but I don’t think it will be easy,” Mad Eye said sourly, clearly disheartened.

“A dark curse of Voldemort? I doubt if we can even find a counter-curse,” James remarked angrily.

Professor McGonagall flinched visibly at hearing You-Know-Who’s name. She wasn’t the only one. “Nevertheless, we must try. I hope all of you will do your best?” This time, she specifically directed her question to the largely adult wizards and witches present. She was glad everyone firmly agreed.

“Professor McGonagall, we like to help too,” Fred offered firmly. The Transfiguration professor uncertainly regarded him.

“Fred, I don’t think…” began Mrs. Weasley.

“We can help,” George said pugnaciously, effectively cutting his mother’s protest. He was a little annoyed at his mother and former Transfiguration teacher’s low opinion of them.

“I didn’t say you can’t.” McGonagall’s face might look serious, but there was a hint of amusement in her voice. “If I gave the impression that your help wasn’t needed, then, I apologize, Messrs. Weasley.”

“You don’t need to apologize to us, Professor McGonagall,” Fred said with a mischievous smile.

“Yeah,” agreed George readily. “But, it’s nice to know we’re right once in a while.” The twins faced each other and high fived. For a moment, the headmaster’s office was filled with laughter.

Ron looked around as if everyone had grown another head. “But, what about Neville?” He couldn’t understand why everyone was trying to avoid his question.

“Ron,” Mr. Weasley finally spoke. He felt everyone expected him to explain the situation to his son. “Make no mistake. We will do everything we can to save Neville. But, there is a slim chance we may never see him alive.” That was the most tactful answer he could give. In fact, he was being a little optimistic.

“That’s it?” Ron retorted disbelievingly. “Neville almost died saving the wizarding world. And that’s the best we can do for him in return?” For a moment, there was an incredulous look in his face. But, it soon changed into fury. “That’s not good enough!”

Mrs. Weasley, sitting opposite her son on the other side of the room, bristled with anger. She was about to scold Ron, but her husband touched her right hand. Mrs. Weasley confusedly looked at Mr. Weasley, who merely shook his head. “What do you suggest we do, Ron?”

For a moment, Ron looked mutinously at his father. “Draco Malfoy… I bet he knows where Neville is. We can interrogate him and his two goons, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Their fathers are Death Eaters. They can surely tell us where Neville is. If interrogation doesn’t work, we can search their houses. You did it before.”

“Ron…” With patience borne on raising boisterous twins and their equally energetic siblings, Mr. Weasley hoped he could make his son see the consequence of such actions. He tried to ignore the thought that his son might be suggesting something clandestine. “The Ministry has laws and procedures.” Mr. Weasley saw Ron was about to interrupt. He raised his right hand to prevent his son from speaking. “Let me finish, son. I understand you are very concern with your best friend. We all are. But, do you know what will happen if the Ministry invited certain people for questioning? Or, the Ministry suddenly decided to search every suspected Death Eater’s houses?” Mr. Weasley momentarily paused to let his son think over the questions. Ron remained quietly defiant.

Hermione provided the answer for his son, as always. “People will ask questions. And, if people start asking questions, they will know that Neville was captured by You-Know-Who. Witches and wizards will turn to Dumbledore for answers. Then, they’ll know he can’t answer them, because he’s suffering from some curse by You-Know-Who. People will panic.” There was a dismayed look on her face by the time she reached her conclusion. “This is terrible.”

“Why do we care? People will know anyway,” Ron said disparagingly. “I bet you a thousand galleons. First thing tomorrow morning, You-Know-Who will be boasting like some Cocker Spaniel that he’d captured Neville.”

“Ron… For once, will you let your brain do some thinking?” Ginny said irately. “Yes, people will know. But not before we do something about it, right?” She looked anxiously at all the adults around the room. Her expectation hanged in the air, unanswered.

“What we must do is conduct our search for Longbottom…” Mad Eye began dourly, intending to outline his search plan.

“And, Harry…” Hermione piped in self-consciously. James smiled gratefully at the bushy-haired witch, who smiled back at him, embarrassed. He wondered if there was something going on between her and his son.

Mad Eye briefly glared at Hermione for interrupting him. “And, Evans…”

“And, my Aunt Amelia…” Susan voiced unapologetically.

Mad Eye acknowledged her sympathetically. “And, Madam Bones… I haven’t forgotten her, lass.”

“And, Tonks…” George said loudly. “Mustn’t forget her.”

Mad Eye rolled his good eye with a long suffering sigh. “Anyone else I forgot to mention?” he asked sarcastically. He noticed everyone had a big smile on their faces. Nobody dared to laugh out loud, though. Everyone was trying to keep a straight face.

“Well… I was going to suggest my missing niffler, Gred.” Fred volunteered thoughtfully. “But, I figure he doesn’t count, or does he?” He looked hopefully at Mad Eye, whose dour expression grew dourer. “No, I guess not.” He, then, noticed Mad Eye was regarding him with an odd gleam in his eye. Feeling suddenly exposed, Fred inconspicuously moved his chair behind his twin.

Mrs. Weasley, feeling the young witches and wizards had stayed long enough, determinedly spoke. “It’s getting late. Time to go to bed, children.” She stood up, and looked meaningfully at the youths.


“This is so unfair.”

“We’re not children. We’re legally of age!”

“What about Neville? You haven’t told us how we’re going to rescue him!”

“You will know later,” Mrs. Weasley lightly assured them. The young witches and wizards, however, looked at her dubiously. “For now, it’s off to bed with you lot. Come on. Out you go.” The youths reluctantly obeyed her.

Almost at the door, Fred suddenly whirled around. “What about Snape? What are we going to do with him?” he blurted desperately, hoping his question would prolong their stay. For a moment, he saw the other Order members wonderingly looked at each other.

“If no one has any idea, Fred and I volunteer to take care of him.” Like his twin, George wanted to remain in the meeting. “We have a new line of joke products that need testing. We can sure use Snape’s help.” The twins looked at each other with sinister mischievous smiles.

“No. Leave him to me,” Mad Eyed said grimly. The twins were disappointed, and it showed. However, they didn’t raise any further question regarding the Potions Master. Judging by the expression on Mad Eye’s face, there was no doubt in their minds something unpleasant would happen to Snape.

It was almost dawn, when James and Lily Potter arrived home with heavy hearts and depress spirits. The meeting took longer than expected. As soon as they entered, Enjay, their house-elf, appeared.

“Welcome home, master and missus.” Enjay bowed low in deference.

“Thank you, Enjay,” Lily responded kindly. “How are the children?” She and James handed their cloaks to the house-elf.

“They is asleep, missus. I serve you breakfast.” Before Enjay could disappear, Lily stopped him.

“Don’t bother, Enjay. I’ll do it.” Lily and James couldn’t help smiling at the scandal look on Enjay’s face. “Don’t worry. Just go back to your bed. You’ll be needed to prepare breakfast for the children soon enough.” The house-elf disappeared without voicing his protest.

Lily and James, then, silently headed to the kitchen. James took out the cups and saucers, while Lily prepared tea. The meeting might be over, but it was obvious whatever was discussed, still occupied their minds.

“I hope Minister Scrimgeour will agree to Mad Eye’s plans. Twenty-four hour surveillance on known Death Eaters may help us find Neville. Access to Ministry library may also help me and other Order healers to research the curse put on Professor Dumbledore.” Lily opened the door of the pantry, and looked through the content. “Do you want something to eat, James?” When her husband didn’t answer, she turned around, concerned. “James?”

“Huh?” James looked distracted as he turned his attention to his wife. “I’m sorry Lils. I wasn’t listening. What were you saying?” For a moment, he looked contritely at his wife.

Lily’s concern look slightly turned to annoyance. But, she took pity on him. “I asked what you want to eat.”

“Oh… uhmm… Just a couple of toasts will do. I’m not that hungry,” James replied with sadden smile.

For a few moments, they sat quietly across each other on the breakfast table. The tea, Lily prepared, hadn’t been poured. And, the toasts, James’ requested, lay uneaten on a plate. Both of them were lost in their own thoughts.

“Oh, what are we doing moping around like children. We can’t very well think on an empty stomach.” Lily mechanically poured herself and her husband some tea. “Do you think we’ll be able to find Neville or a cure for Professor Dumbledore?” She couldn’t bring herself to mention Harry’s name. At the moment, it was a touchy subject between them. They nearly had a full blown argument earlier, and in front of the other Order members too.

James automatically accepted his cup, but he just set it on the table. He secretively watched his wife. He knew Lily felt awkward in his presence. She never talked too much unless it’s to let off stress. “Lily, will you forgive me? All the things I said to you earlier were hurtful and thoughtless. I didn’t know what came over me. Maybe, I was tired, or I was angry, or I was afraid. I’m not sure. My thoughts were all muddled at the time. And, I took out my frustrations on you. Will you forgive me? Please?” James’ face was full of misgiving. He reached out to touch his wife’s hand.

Lily stopped stirring her tea, and rested her hands over her lap. She agitatedly clasped and unclasped them. For a moment, she refused to look at her husband. But, when she did, there was cold fire in her eyes. “How could you accuse me of not looking after Harry? You, Dumbledore, and the rest of the Order went off without posting guards to our son. Voldemort was after him, remember? You should have stayed, instead of leaving with the others, like you’re in some kind of a crusade.”

James shamefully lowered his eyes, unable to bear the accusations of his wife. “I’m sorry, Lily. I realize now that I’m wrong. I placed the Order’s concern above our family. Will you forgive me?”

Lily wasn’t finished with her tirade. She had a bucketful of heartaches to unload. “You expected me to curse Snape to find out where our son was taken. What were you thinking, James? I’m a healer, for Merlin’s sake. I swore an oath not to deliberately harm a patient. Snape was aware of this. Why do you think he was so cocky?”

“But, he wasn’t a patient,” James protested mutinously. “He was a traitor.”

“He was an injured traitor,” Lily pointed out. “The fact that Madam Pomfrey and I delayed healing his superficial injury doesn’t mean we won’t heal him.”

Despite Lily’s apparent anger, James affectionately smiled at his wife. “You broke his hand. I hardly call that an act of a healer.”

Lily tried not to return her husband’s smile. She’s still angry at him. Nevertheless, her humor shone on her emerald eyes. “I’m allowed to protect my patient by whatever means necessary. Besides, he threatened to kill Harry. No one threatens my children, and gets away with it.” Then, suddenly, she lapsed into silence. Her fiery demeanor started to crumble. She just remembered she never protected Harry at all. He was now in the hands of the Dark Lord. She failed him like she did before. She quickly lowered her head to hide her tears. But, the strong shaking of her shoulders couldn’t hide her distress. “I killed him, James,” she said in a remorseful voice. “I let Snape deliver him to Voldemort. I killed Harry.”

James leapt to his feet, dropped down on one knee, and lovingly hugged her. Lily’s helpless sobs tore at his heart. He slowly rubbed her back. “Shhh… It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know Snivellus would turn against us. If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s mine. I wasn’t there for him. Besides, Harry may still be alive.” He felt his wife’s body continued to shake with grief. “Oh, Lily, please don’t cry. I’ll get him back.” He gently pulled her from him, and determinedly looked into her tear-filled eyes. His heart nearly broke at the sorrow and guilt in their depths. “I promise you. I will get him back.” Their eyes locked for a moment. James could see she wasn’t convinced. “I promise.” Although his own feeling of fear and helplessness churned in his stomach, his gaze remained unswerving. At last, he was rewarded with a tremulous smile, the flames of courage and determination returning to her eyes.


Lily hastily wiped the tears from her eyes and composed herself. “This is a first.” She heard James said. She was grateful to him for giving her a moment to collect herself. “Shouldn’t you, two, still be in bed?”

“I had a bad dream. It woke me up.” She heard her daughter replied.

“I had a bad dream too. I dreamed You-Know-Who was cursing Harry,” piped in her son.

“Voldemort. Call him Voldemort, William,” her husband reminded him.

She, then, felt, more than saw, them standing by her side. “Mum? Were you crying?” She looked up to see first the worried face of her son. Her daughter was standing a little behind William on his left. She slowly shook her head, giving them a watery smile.

“Well, a little.” She smiled fondly at her son. He’s so sweet. “Don’t worry, William. I’ll be fine.”

She could see her son uncertainly accepted her assurance. “Are we going to visit Harry today? You never take us to see him.” Lily momentarily threw her husband an anxious look. “What happened to him anyway? You never told us why he’s in the hospital wing.”

“Death Eaters happened to him. He didn’t have enough sense to stay away from them,” Chel said unkindly. Lily was shocked.

“Who told you Death Eaters were involved?” James tensely asked his daughter from behind her. Chel didn’t answer. She just lowered her head mutinously. James wearily sighed. He knew they should have told them. They were too bright not to notice anything. He slowly turned her around, and lifted her chin. “Chel, looked at me.” His daughter refused. “Chel…” James waited patiently until she did. “Chel, Harry was hurt, because he saved another wizard from Death Eaters. You should be proud of him.” His daughter remained rebelliously silent. “So, who told you Harry fought the Death Eaters?”

Chel looked embarrassed for a moment. She dropped her eyes again. “No one. I accidentally overheard Hermione telling the story to the others.”

Lily had an idea when that particular incident occurred. She turned her daughter to face her. “Honey, are you angry with Harry?” Chel didn’t answer. “Honey, Harry is not angry with you or William, just to me and your dad. And, you know why, don’t you?” Chel slowly nodded her head. Wanting her daughter and son to understand, Lily defended her oldest son’s behavior. “Because of our mistake, Harry has a lot of pain and bitterness to overcome. With the death of his Uncle Max still fresh in his mind, I doubt he’ll accept us as his parents anytime soon. I’m just grateful he’s polite whenever we talked to him. His Uncle Max raised him a well-mannered man.” Sadness briefly crossed her face. “You have noticed he’s friendly with you and William?” At her nod, she continued. “That means he doesn’t blame you in the least. Just be patient with him, alright?”

After a few moments of reflective silence, Lily’s face cleared. In a false happy tone of voice, she said, “Now, since you’re wide awake, you can make your bed before breakfast.” She calmly stood up, and guided her two children out of the kitchen. Her son loudly voiced his protest. “I don’t want to hear any complaint, William. You should give Enjay a break once in a while.”

James was left thoughtfully watching his family, less one at the moment. He had no idea how to keep his promise to his wife. But, he would use every resources afforded him by the Auror Office to find Harry.

In a small clearing at the Forbidden Forest, a small spotted deer was trying to reach a sapling. Once in a while, sonorous cries of birds, insects, and other animals would put it on the alert. But, it would continue nibbling, when no danger appeared. The deer basically ignored the leaves swaying gently under the touch of a light breeze, the hot sun beating down its back, and the peaceful beauty of its surroundings.

Then, suddenly, a figure appeared in mid-air, and fell to the grass covered ground with a soft thud. The noise startled the deer. For a moment, it stood still in fright. As it warily looked at the lump lying on the ground, other figures appeared, and gently landed. With the presence of danger, the deer quickly bounded away, and was swiftly out of sight.

“Oowww…” Harry’s painful groan was muffled by the soft green earth.

“Never travelled by portkey before, have you, Evans?” asked a smirking Neville, with a pronounced glee in his voice. “Don’t worry. You’ll get use to it. Falling on your face, that is.” Neville laughed at his own wit.

Harry woozily raised his head, and spat out a mouthful of grass. “Sod off, Longbottom.” Supporting himself with his hands, he slowly pushed himself off the ground. “Why didn’t anyone bloody tell me what to expect beforehand?” he asked grumpily. “It would have helped a little instead of just shouting, ‘Let go’.”

“Constant vigilance, Evans,” Neville mocked smugly. He was perfectly aware Harry knew very little about the wizarding world. It’s his way of getting back at Harry for being a pest.

“Constant vigilance, my arse.” Harry carelessly brushed the dirt off his cloak, while giving Neville an annoyed look. “That’s just a convenient excuse of a dimwitted mind.”

“What…” Neville’s eyes narrowed at the implication. “I’m dimwitted? I’m dimwitted?”

Harry smiled cynically. “I’m glad you finally admitted it. For a minute there, I thought your brain has been scrambled by too many portkey travels.”

“If there’s anyone who is dimwitted, it is you. You just haven’t realized it yet.” Neville has made a couple of threatening steps, before an angry yell stopped him.

“Will you two give it a rest?” Tonks was glaring at Neville and Harry. She, again, levitated the unconscious Madam Bones. “We’re not out of the woods yet. You-Know-Who may have us followed. So, I suggest you two quit arguing, and keep a careful watch on any sign of danger.”

“It’s not my fault,” Neville heatedly denied. “Ferret boy here started it.”

“Huh?” Harry grunted dumbly. “Ferret boy? Is that the best insult you can think of?”

Tonks just shook her head with a sigh. Ferret, or more formally, The Amazing Bouncing Ferret was the name Ron gave to Draco Malfoy, Neville’s school arch-rival. She wondered why Neville called Harry a ferret. Did he consider Harry an enemy? Normally, Neville was kind and gracious to muggle-borns, or to anyone new to the wizarding world. What was it about Harry that made him feel competitive?

“I couldn’t care less who started it. What did I tell you earlier?” Both Harry and Neville gave her a blank look. Tonks exasperatedly looked heavenward. “Before we escaped You-Know-Who’s lair, I told you to set aside your differences, and work together. Did I or did I not tell you that?” Both Harry and Neville guiltily nodded their heads, before giving each other accusatory looks. For a moment, Tonks sternly regarded the two young wizards. She had no doubt Harry and Neville would cooperate with her. This time, she hoped their truce would last a little bit longer.

While Tonks was busy scolding the two teenage wizards, Ferghus warily looked around for signs of danger, and to get their bearing. He saw no apparent danger. He did find out their current location though. “There!” His call caught the others’ attention. Then, they curiously turned where he was pointing. At a distance, high above the outcropping of trees, the eastside rampart wall of Hogwarts was clearly visible. “We probably have a half to an hour’s walk ahead of us. If we all keep a close watch for dangerous animals, Death Eaters, or mad Centaurs, we should be able to reach Hogwarts in one piece.” He calmly looked at Tonks, Neville, and lastly, Harry.

For a moment, Tonks gauged the distance herself. They could reach Hogwarts in no time at all, if they apparated. She secretively glanced at Ferghus. And then, her eyes travelled to the rest of the group. Although the Death Eater had helped them so far, her auror instinct still warned her not to trust him completely. She couldn’t risk leaving Madam Bones or Harry in his care. When she glanced at Ferghus again, she found him observing her shrewdly. She scowled inwardly. Perhaps, the Death Eater had realized the problem himself, and hence, suggested they walk.

She, then, turned her attention back to the others, her auror training firmly in place. “Alright… Like what Ferghus said, we have a half to an hour’s walk. Neville, you walk with me. Ferghus, you walk ahead. Harry, you follow behind him. I want everyone to keep any conversation to a minimum. I don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention. Do we all agree?” The three wizards silently nodded their heads. “Okay then. Ferghus, lead the way.”

They had been walking quietly for a while. Harry guessed it was past noon. Sometimes, it was hard to tell where they were heading, because of the tree canopy. But, when there’s a break, he welcomed the sight of Hogwarts. He had long ignored Tonk’s order of walking behind the ex-Death Eater. Ferghus just oddly glanced at him briefly, when he appeared at his side. Other than that, they walked in silence, keeping a careful watch where they’re heading.

“So, why did you stop me from telling the auror about her disguise?” Ferghus conversationally asked without breaking his stride. He talked very softly, but not soft enough for a werewolf’s hearing.

Harry indifferently shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. At the time, I thought it was funny,” he answered casually in the same soft voice.

“You do know you could have ruined our chance of escape with your childish prank?” Ferghus’ face might be impassive, but his voice sounded reproachful.

“Yeah, I realize that now,” Harry answered apologetically.

Ferghus just nodded his head in acknowledgement. “I was surprised Longbottom went along with your prank. You, two, don’t strike me as friends.”

Harry smirked. “He probably didn’t see anything wrong with it. He’s seen Tonks morphed a lot of times before, that he doesn’t pay attention to it anymore.”

Ferghus stopped for a few moments to check their bearing. “If you don’t mind my asking…” He briefly glanced at Harry to gauge his reaction. “Why aren’t you a friend of Longbottom? He could be a very powerful ally. You have stayed long enough in the wizarding world to know that a wizard is measured by the company he keeps.” Without waiting for an answer, he resumed their trek.

“That’s a very harsh view, don’t you think?” Harry curiously observed, effortlessly keeping stride with Ferghus.

“Perhaps,” Ferghus answered simply. Their conversation lapsed into silence. Although the ex-Death Eater wanted to hear Harry’s answer to his question, he didn’t insist on it. After a while, he put his question out of his mind. It seemed to him, Harry wasn’t going to answer it.

Harry ended up distractedly following Ferghus. Unknown to the ex-Death Eater, Harry was thinking about his question. Harry had remained silent, because he didn’t know what answer to give. Why wasn’t he a friend of Neville? He and Neville were cordial to each other at first. Being of the same age, he thought they could be friends. In fact, he developed a little admiration for Neville for defeating Voldemort, hence saving the wizarding world. But, his admiration didn’t last long.

After watching Neville countless times at dueling classes, Harry noticed The-Boy-Who-Lived wasn’t training seriously at all. Because of the threat presented by Voldemort, he had expected Neville to train even harder. But, it looked to him like Neville coasted on his natural skills and talents for magic. He found this unacceptable. Witches and wizards believed on the Chosen One to defeat Voldemort. When he pointed it out, Neville and Ron got uppity. Ron went as far as accused him of being jealous. It drove a wedge to a budding friendship between him and Neville.

Thinking about it now, Harry could see the blame lay also on him than just Neville…or Ron. Like most people in the wizarding world, he had fallen into their sheep mentality. Just because Neville was The-Boy-Who-Lived didn’t mean it’s his responsibility alone to defeat Voldemort. In fact, why would it be Neville’s responsibility at all? Maybe, next time Neville extended a hand of friendship, he should accept it. Neville had enough enemies as it was, without him being added to the list.

Tonks secretly watched Harry talking to the Death Eater. She might not like Harry conversing with a Death Eater. But, she couldn’t do anything about it. Harry was sometimes too stubborn to listen to her, or to anyone for that matter. She briefly glanced at Neville. She noticed beads of perspiration on his face. It was not unusual. After all, they had been walking for almost an hour. But, Neville had also spent some hours in You-Know-Who’s dungeon.

“You alright there, Neville?” Tonks asked with concern. It looked to her like Neville was going to pass out.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Neville didn’t like to admit it, but he was far from fine. He could still feel the after-effect of the Cruciatus Curse. He felt relieved, when Harry and the Death Eater stopped. He slumped to the ground in exhaustion, panting heavily.

“Are you sure you’re alright Neville?” He heard Tonks asked him again. He looked up and nodded silently. Tonks was standing not too far from him, vigilantly looking around. “We have covered enough grounds. I think this is a good spot to get another rest. Wait here, I’ll tell Harry and our Death Eater friend we’ll take a break.”

“Wait, Tonks.” Neville hastily called her, before she could walk away. The pink-haired auror inquiringly looked at him. “Last I saw a glimpse of Hogwarts, we’re a lot closer. If we keep on moving, we’re bound to reach the edge of the Forbidden Forest sooner.” He unsteadily stood up, leaning lightly against a tree trunk. Tonks was about to help him, but he waved her off. “Don’t worry about me. Worry about her.” He inclined his head towards Madam Bones, floating beside Tonks. “They’re starting to move again. Let’s go.”

Neville thoughtfully watched Harry as he tried to keep up with the others. He couldn’t quite figure him out. One moment, Evans was a happy-go-lucky bloke. The next, he was a Malfoy wannabe. When they first met, he didn’t expect Evans to know anything about him. After all, he grew up a muggle. So, it was safe to assume Evans wouldn’t be dazzled by his popularity. At first, he thought Evans could become one of his selected friends. But, that idea didn’t pan out.

Neville had no idea what he did wrong. He was cordial enough, except when Evans was being a jealous pest. In fact, the more he tried to win him over, the more Evans became anti-social… well, anti-social to him and Ron. Evans seemed to get along fine with Hermione, his girlfriend, and the others. As far as he knew, him, Ron, Snape… “No surprise there.” …, Professor Dumbledore, and the Potters were the only people Evans talked with reservation. Ron had been constantly warning him that Evans couldn’t be trusted. Was he right?

After several minutes, the trees thinned out, and then, completely cleared. They reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest without any incident. Standing side by side, they felt invigorated just by watching the majestic structure of Hogwarts. Further down their right side, they could see smoke, rising from the chimney of Hagrid’s hut.

Tonks wasted no time. She pointed her wand to the general direction of the hospital wing. An immense four-legged patronus burst from her wand. It raced across the expanse of open field, and was soon out of sight. “We best keep on walking. Order members will probably meet us,
before we reach the castle.”

Harry, Neville, and Tonks with Madam Bones in tow started walking again. Ferghus didn’t move. For a moment, he watched them slowly made their way to the castle. He saw Harry suddenly stopped, and turned around. “Aren’t you going to come with us?” At his question, the others stopped as well.

Ferghus smiled sadly. “I’m afraid not. I guess this is where we part company.”

“Why?” Harry asked, puzzled.

Ferghus shrugged casually. “I am a Death Eater, remember? I doubt the Ministry will just let me go even though I help you escape. Don’t worry. We will meet again.” But, even before he could take a step, a blunt command halted him.

“Stay where you are!” Tonks leveled her wand at the Death Eater. “You are under arrest!” She returned Ferghus’ sharp stare with her own.

“Tonks, what are you doing?” Harry asked in surprise. “Have you lost your mind?”

“Stay out of this, Harry.” Tonks didn’t even let her eyes off her target. “I can’t let him go. He is a Death Eater. He must answer for his crimes.”

“But… He helped us escape,” Harry said in Ferghus’ defense.

“And, I’m thankful at him for that. But, the fact still remains he helped You-Know-Who commit atrocities to both muggles and wizards. He must pay for his crimes.” Tonks hoped Harry would understand her action.

For a moment, Harry steadily gazed at Tonks’ unforgiving face. “I’m sorry.” He stepped between the pink-haired auror and the Death Eater. His wand leveled against Tonks. “I can’t let you arrest him.”

“Don’t be a stupid fool, Evans! Listen to Tonks!” Neville exclaimed angrily. He moved cautiously towards Harry with the intention of pulling him out of the way.

“Stay where you are, Neville. Let me handle this,” Tonks ordered grimly.

Frustrated, Neville took it out on Harry. “Come on, Evans! Don’t be such a prat! Get away from him! This doesn’t concern you!”

“Oh yes it does,” Harry answered coldly. “I don’t know how you, people, do it in your world. But, where I came from, I was taught to repay debt with honor not treachery.”

“We also don’t repay our debt with treachery, unless we are owed with treachery,” Tonks replied vehemently. “Don’t you see Harry? One act of random kindness doesn’t wash away the blood off his hands.” She gripped her wand a little tighter. “Step away, Harry. Don’t force me to curse you.” She was determined to bring the Death Eater to justice. She would go through Harry, if she had to. She heard Ron declared a number of times, that Harry would be a Slytherin if he attended Hogwarts. Looking at Harry now, he couldn’t be mistaken for any other House, but Gryffindor. Unfortunately, he was demonstrating Gryffindor’s weakest quality…misplaced honor.

“My lord…” Ferghus gently laid his left hand on Harry’s shoulder for a brief moment. “You don’t have to defend me. I hate to tell you this, but she’s right. I have done things I’m not proud of.” Even though he was holding his wand, he never attempted to point it at the pink-haired auror. He hoped his lord would resolve the situation for him, peacefully.

“Nevertheless, you helped us escape. At least, you should be repaid for that,” Harry stubbornly claimed, his eyes steadily focused on the pink-haired witch. “What do you say, Tonks? Let him go. It’ll make us even. Then, you can arrest him the next time you meet.”

“If only it was that simple, Harry.” There was a hint of regret in Tonk’s voice. “Unfortunately, there is the question of crimes he committed. Imagine yourself in place of the families of his victims. I’m sure, you, of all people, can understand that.” She paused for a moment to let her words sink in. “And, aurors will need to interrogate him for information about You-Know-Who.” Tonks uncompromising expression softened a little bit. “Please, listen to me Harry. Move away from him. This is auror business.”

Although he might appear unyielding to onlookers, Harry wasn’t so sure about his cause at the moment. Tonks reminded him of his own situation. If Flint saved his life, would he return the favor? His uncertainty lasted for only a few moments. He gripped his wand a little tighter. “Like I said, Tonks… I can’t let you arrest him.” He calmly stood his ground. He was determine to repay Ferghus’ one act of honor with another.

With neither Harry nor Tonks backing down, their disagreement had reached an impasse. With their wands pointed at one another, against the backdrop of the majestic Hogwarts Castle, they presented a compelling picture of indomitable duelists poised for battle. As if nature herself was held spellbound, silence permeated the air. A light wind gently blew their cloaks around their legs.

Ferghus, laying his hand again on Harry’s shoulder, broke the tense situation. “I was uncertain about your character before, my lord. But now, I’m convinced you truly deserved to be called /Arlgwydd Blaidd/.” For security reason, he had decided earlier not to bring Harry directly to his tribe’s elders. He would speak to them first, and then, introduce Harry later. But, this new turn of event forced him to stick to his original plan. Turning his attention to the pink-haired auror, he said, “As much as I want to surrender myself, I can’t do it. There are so many things at stake. Maybe someday… When this war is over. But for now, I’m afraid we have to leave.” Before Tonks could even react, Ferghus tightly grasped Harry’s shoulder, and disapparated.

Tonks slowly lowered her wand in disbelief. For a moment, she stared vacantly at the ground where Harry stood. As realization seeped in, she lost her composure. “Damn! I’m so stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” She furiously turned towards the Forbidden Forest, fighting herself not to blow up anything.

“It’s not your fault, Tonks,” Neville offered in consolation. “If he didn’t stand in your way, he wouldn’t have been taken hostage.” He had never seen Tonks this angry. It looked like she’s ready to curse anyone.

Tonks swiftly whirled around, anger still evident in her attitude. “Oh yes it is. I should have seen it coming. The bugger’s a Death Eater for Merlin’s sake.” She looked up to the sky, forcing herself to breathe deeply and evenly. Once she felt calm enough, she returned her attention to Neville. “He caught me with my breeches down.” She saw Neville quizzically regarded her cloak. She lightly touched his shoulder as she resumed the trek towards the castle. “Come on. We best keep going. I need to make a report to the Order…and to the Potters.”
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