HP vs Love (Pt 1)

Seventh Horcrux

Chapter 8: Harry Potter vs. Love (Pt. 1)

Pushing through the late August crowd of students and their families, I made my way into the Leaky Cauldron. With a nod to Tom, I headed upstairs to one of its private rooms.

“Harry!” Ginevra tried to tackle me with a hug, but, thankfully, I got a shield up just in time. I edged around her, greeting Rita Skeeter as I settled into a chair.

The reporter smiled a shark-like grin, and, with a snap of her fingers, her Quick Quotes Quill started scribbling on the sheet beside her. “Good to see you. I was starting to wonder if I ever would. Your stunning, young –”

“Publicist,” Ginevra said helpfully.

Skeeter’s smile widened. “…publicist has been putting me off for months. So tell me, Harry, just where have you been all summer? The wizarding public is dying to know.”

I said, “I’ve been living in a magically-expanded trunk.”

Rita Skeeter gasped, and even her quill paused. “Oh, I wouldn’t keep doing that. My coworker’s father owned one of those. The charms broke when he was inside, and they had to bury him in it. Two-hundred people attended the funeral, social event of the season. I, of course, reported.”

“I found another downside last June,” I said.

Skeeter leaned forward eagerly, saying, “Really? Go on, don’t keep us in suspense.”

“Hermione mailed me to France. At least, I think it was France. Do they speak French anywhere else?”

Skeeter tapped her chin with a sharp, red-painted fingernail. “Well, there’s Canada.”

“No, that doesn’t seem right,” I muttered.

“Some parts of Africa, too,” Ginevra said.

“That might have been it,” I said. “Anyway, I tried to get back to Britain by crossing the nearest body of water, but that just put me in Asia. So, now, I’ve been to all seven continents…At least, presuming that was Africa, and I’ve made a lot of friends who I never intend to see again. But the weird part is that I don’t feel like I’ve learned anything.”

“Not _every _adventure has a moral lesson. Just the best ones,” Ginevra said.

I shook my head. “No, I mean: I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t learn the Oriental mystic arts or any new languages. And I still don’t know what the Americans do. This trip was completely pointless.”

We all spent a moment contemplating that much of our lifetime is taken up by useless and often futile endeavors. At least, that’s what I was thinking about. I don’t know about Ginevra and Skeeter.

Skeeter broke the silence. “Why exactly do you think that Hermione Granger shipped you abroad? Was it a lover’s spat? A shocking and unprovoked attack upon Wizarding Britain’s savior? A clear sign of her growing mental instability?”

“That went really well,” Ginevra enthused, nearly bouncing in her seat. “I think Skeeter likes you. I didn’t even know she could do that!”

I smirked. “Of course. After all, I am a charming, adventurous, brilliant, yet completely normal Hogwarts student. What’s not to like?”

She gave me a goofy smile, staring at my face for altogether too long. I said, “You can leave now.”

Ginevra jumped a bit, cheeks reddened in embarrassment. “Okay. Dumbledore should be picking you up in twenty minutes.”

This was the first time I’d heard of such a thing. What was the old man trying to pull now?

“He isn’t trying to pull anything, I don’t think,” Ginevra said. “Apparently, he needs you to help him. Something about the Potions professorship.”

“He’s actually hiring me?” I did do pretty well on my OWLs.

Ginevra shook her head. “No, he specifically mentioned that you weren’t getting a teaching post. He said it like six times.”

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“July. I sent you an owl.”

“I probably would have been in Antarctica, at the time,” I muttered. “Did the owl ever come back?”

Dumbledore and I strolled into Slughorn’s home. It was torn apart, with spell gouges in the walls, burn marks on the ceiling, and a fair bit of blood by the door. A bit like the Gryffindor common room, come to think of it.

Slughorn was in the corner, pretending to be a chair. He used to do that all the time when I was in school. Apparently, he got in trouble for it. I can’t imagine why; everyone thought it was funny.

“Horace,” Dumbledore said. “I know it’s you. You haven’t changed the pattern on the upholstery in fifty years.”

Slughorn transformed back into himself, though he took up nearly as much space as the armchair had. “Ah, Albus. Good to see you, good to see you.”

“You as well,” he said. “And may I introduce young Harry Potter?”

Slughorn’s eyes lit up, and he grabbed my hand in both his. “Wonderful meeting you, Mr. Potter. I’ve heard you like Quidditch. I happen to be personally acquainted with a Puddlemere United Chaser. Perhaps you would like to meet him?”

“I may be interested, in the future. I’m very busy, you know.”

“Of course, of course,” he chuckled. “Defeating Dark Lords and all that. Now, if that will be all, I really must be going.”

Dumbledore looked around the ruined home. “I’m afraid I rarely have time for social visits lately. I’m here to offer you your old position. There’s no place safer than Hogwarts –”

“Tell that to the Perks girl,” I muttered.

“–and you’re clearly in hiding from Voldemort.”

Slughorn chortled. “Yes, well, you see…I’m actually not. I was hiding from you. An old acquaintance of mine mentioned in passing that you might be paying me this visit.”

Dumbledore heaved a heavy sigh, as if he actually felt bad about manipulating everyone around him. “I am terribly sorry to interrupt your retirement, but I’m afraid we’re desperate. If you don’t take the post, Harry Potter will. And he’s not allowed in the Potions room unsupervised.”

“To be fair,” I said, “no one died, and _I _was the one who reconstructed the floor.”

Slughorn frowned, shifting his great weight from foot to foot. “Won’t the Ministry give you someone, if no one else applies?”

“I think I would prefer Harry,” Dumbledore admitted. “Our last replacement was less than exemplary.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that. Umbridge was such a sweet, little Hufflepuff when I taught her. Never would have imagined she’d attack the Boy- Who-Lived. Of course, the Boy-Who-Lived wasn’t born then, so I suppose that’s a reasonable oversight.”

Slughorn chuckled to himself, ending in a nervous cough upon realizing that no one had joined him. “Surely there’s someone else who can take the post…”

Dumbledore sighed. “I fear that young people nowadays just don’t have the patience for potions. Hogwarts hasn’t graduated a Potions Master in over a decade.”

I rolled my eyes. “Can’t imagine why.”

Dumbledore set a hand on Slughorn’s shoulder. “Horace, do not force me to hire Harry Potter.”

“I’m looking forward to being the Head of Slytherin,” I said.

“That isn’t a requirement,” Dumbledore assured him. “Severus is still on staff.”

Huh. I assumed it was position-based. Why else would the Potions classroom be in the dungeons, even though it lacks a proper ventilation system and most of the fumes end up in the Slytherin common room?

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled with…Were those tears? “You are our last hope.”

It seemed that I would not be on staff for the coming school year.

Hermione Granger stormed into my train car.

“I did not mail you to Algeria!” she shouted.

Well, that was quite the hello. “Really? Then who did, Hermione?”

“I don’t know,” Hermione said.

“I’m certain that we’ve established your knowledge of everything.”

“Nobody knows everything, Harry.”

I raised an eyebrow, and, with a huff, Hermione said, “Fine. You’ve been brewing several volatile potions in an enclosed space without proper ventilation. Maybe they combined oddly. Or maybe you sent yourself there with accidental magic. Or maybe your Felix Felicis attempts are finally coming to fruition, leaving you with horrible luck. Or maybe the charms on your trunk broke and this whole thing is a dying dream!”

“That last one doesn’t seem very likely,” I said.

Hermione’s shoulders slumped, no doubt downtrodden by my criticism, and she buried her face in her hands. She trembled with laughter, finally gasping, “Honestly, Harry, you meet with Rita for an hour and somehow end up with two pages on how awful I am. How does that even happen?”

“It arose organically,” I said. Hermione’s growing evil is a topic of shared interest between myself and Skeeter, since I am the girl’s best friend and she is an ongoing victim.

Hermione shook her head, still giggling. “Right, fine. Apparently Skeeter has decided that slandering me is okay as long as it’s a direct quote. The other page is about your love life, by the way, and I don’t even think you have one of those.”

I settled back onto my seat. “After I defeated that dark lord in Albania, I might have been engaged to a nobleman’s daughter. Or he might have been yelling at me because that dark lord was one of the good ones. I’m not sure. I never learned the language.”

Ginevra walked in, flanked by Ron. “You probably shouldn’t go to that country for a while, just to be on the safe side.”

“I dunno about that. Is she a good-looking bird?” Ron asked. Hermione and Ginevra both leaned over to smack his arm, although Ginevra then apologized to her for the presumption.

Hermione smiled and asked, “How was your summer, Ginny?”

“Great! I think I’ve finally found the family Dark Magic!”

Ron gaped. “WHAT?!”

I beamed. “I always knew the Weasleys were hiding something.”

“Well, it isn’t the Weasley stuff, actually. I’m still working on that,” Ginevra demurred. “But I did find out the Prewett Dark Magic.”

When?” Ron asked.

“Mum and I were in the kitchen” – she smiled pityingly at her older brother – “You shouldn’t feel bad about it. I’m pretty sure it’s only passed on to daughters.”

“Ginevra, focus!” I snapped.

She nodded, and, cruelly drawing out her words, said, “It’s a love potion.”

“Oh.” I felt rather disappointed.

Ron seemed caught between relief that he hadn’t missed out on any great inheritance and misery that his family had once again failed to do anything impressive. “Well, is it any good?”

“I think so,” Ginevra said, “Mum dosed Dad when they were in school, and he’s still in love with her.”

“You do realize that we’re missing the Start-of-Term Feast, right?” I said. “I mean, I know that you love the library, but this is getting ridiculous. It’ll still be here in the morning.”

Hermione’s voice drifted out of the stacks. “Oh, hush.”

Finally, with a triumphant cry (which she hurriedly quieted), she emerged with an open book resting in her hands. “I’ve developed a theory for what’s going on with your dreams.”

“You mean outside of the fact that I’m a seer?” I asked, lounging against the bookcase.

Hermione set down her book with a thud. “I suspect that you have some sort of magical connection with Voldemort. Presumably, this is centered around your scar or the use of your blood during the Unum Corpus ritual –”

“The what?”

“The ritual Voldemort used to revive himself,” Hermione said. “I looked it up over the summer. It’s not Dark Magic.”

I frowned. “Wait, do you mean that it’s not that obscure, or that it’s not evil. Because I’m never sure if you’re using the correct definition or not nowadays –”

Hermione pursed her lips, snapping, “Harry. Not the time. Anyway, you clearly have some sort of magical bond. Well, either that or you’re soul mates. But, if that were the case, the distance and hostility almost certainly would have killed you both by now. Regardless, I’ve figured out how to deal with the situation…”

She flipped the book around and jabbed its title with her finger. “Occlumency.”

“I’m afraid that’s not going to work for me.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I’m just not any good at it. You’re supposed to clear your mind and stop having emotions. But I’m always thinking because I’m a genius, and I sometimes have these sudden and inexplicable flashes of rage.”

I’d tried to get Severus to train me with Occlumency, prior to my time as Harry Potter. I didn’t realize, then, how bad he was at teaching.

Hermione leaned against a bookcase, looking rather pale. “But I spent the whole summer learning the techniques. I’ve been preparing lesson plans…”

I shrugged. “You probably should have asked me first.”

She grabbed her wand from her pocket, shaking it at me. “You were in Algeria!”

“Well, not all the time. I was in Russia for a while. That isn’t particularly far, I don’t think.”

She shook her head. “You _should _learn Occlumency, though. It protects your mind from foreign intrusion, and these visions are bound to get worse with time.”

I chuckled. “I’ll be fine.”

Hermione glared into my eyes and, with a determined tilt of the chin, said, “Legilimens.”

A moment later, we were roused from our mental match when Hermione’s wand fell, with a clatter, to the floor. She grabbed her eyes, hissing in pain. I dove for her wand before following suit.

“For Merlin’s sake, Hermione, why did you do that?!” I shouted. Thankfully, Pince was downstairs, feasting with everyone else.

“I wanted to prove how serious the situation was,” she said. “What did you do, anyway?”

“Ah, yes. I neglected to mention that, while I’m ill-suited for Occlumency, I have the single-minded attitude, nosiness and disregard for others’ privacy that are essential to a Legilimens. Therefore, when someone uses Legilimency on me, I use Legilimency back on them, but harder.”

I waited for comprehension to dawn in her eyes, but they remained as dull as a Weasley’s. Sighing, I continued, “I am reading your mind, while you are reading me reading your mind. You’re technically reading your own mind, so you think you’re just thinking. Then, you try to read my mind. It all goes in a loop until you either notice the problem or are forced to break eye contact for some other reason.”

“Wait, was that what you guys were doing?” Ron asked. “I just thought you were having the most brilliant staring contest ever.”

Hermione sputtered, “R-Ron? When did you get here?”

The redhead contorted his face into something resembling thoughtfulness. “An hour ago, I guess?”

“We arrived at 10:24 if you want to be precise about it,” Ginevra said. “The Feast ended ages ago, so we borrowed the cloak from Harry’s trunk and went looking for you.”

Well, that explained our pained eyes. Hermione sighed. “Three hours and we still haven’t figured out how to stop your dreams.”

“Wait. Where did you get the idea that I wanted them to stop?”

Hermione held out her hand for her wand, which I reluctantly returned. “Well, I presumed you wouldn’t want to see whatever atrocities Voldemort gets up to in his spare time.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything that bad yet,” I said. “The Death Eaters spend most of their time squabbling about who gets the bed or who is Voldemort’s most loyal servant or who Nagini is allowed to eat. Besides, they give me all sorts of useful information.”

Hermione frowned. “But Voldemort could show you something specific, to trick you, and then you might act right into his hand.”

“Hermione, that’s deviously brilliant,” I said.

Hermione breathed a soft sigh, no doubt thrilled that her plan had gone over so well. “Then you understand why you need to protect your mind from –”

“We should do that!”

Lucius looked miserable in the old Black manor, tearing at his hair with his silver hand. Several House Elves were scuttling around him, lifting his robes so that they avoided the grimy floors and leaving a trail of polish and shine in their wake.

The blond muttered, “Disgusting. At least Hagrid’s wasn’t booby-trapped…”

Nagini had similarly chosen to escape the filth by hiding beneath my robes. She poked her head outside to announce, “I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten in days.”

Right, yes. This is why I’d never kept a pet when I was in school. I mean, I haven’t fed the Basilisk in…Actually, I don’t think I ever fed the Basilisk. I should do something about that when I conquer Wizarding Britain.

I stroked Nagini’s head, smiling fondly upon her. “Maybe, if you stop trying to devour Sirius every time he turns into a grim, he’ll feed you his House Elf.”

Kreacher was a wretched thing and unable to properly perform its housecleaning duties. Insane, too, if its insistence that Sirius Black was a blood traitor was anything to go by.

Of course, that might have been the result of its unfortunate former owner.

Sirius, Severus, and Hagrid approached us from another room. Those three were very close, presumably having bonded over their shared occupation as spies. When the deceased Madame Black’s portrait started screeching, the trio agreed to use their charm and cunning to explain our position.

Sirius grinned, giving a jaunty wave to our assembled group. Nagini tasted the air at his entrance but stilled at my stern look.

“The old bat’ll shut up for a while. We’ll be better off if you talk to her though” – Severus elbowed him in the ribs, and Sirius smoothly added – “My lord.”

“I can do that,” I said. “Have you discovered what got her so upset?”

Severus said, “Since Black was so deeply undercover, his mother was under the false impression that he was a blood traitor.”

I chuckled. “I see. How incredibly embarrassing for her. After all, you are my right hand man.”

“Yes,” Severus said in his usual, flat tone. “Madame Black now understands that and is very apologetic.”

Sirius gave a barking laugh. “We can still take down the wall if you’d like, m’lord. Air the place out.”

Severus sent a stinging hex at him, and Sirius – turning into a giant, black dog – tackled him to the floor. We watched, amused at their antics.

The two inner circle members had a rather tumultuous relationship. One moment, they were throwing curses and shouting obscenities. The next, they were whispering in each other’s ears and sneaking off to a private corner of Hagrid’s hut.

Young love: I would never understand it.

I wandered into the kitchen, Lucius trailing behind me like a proper minion. There, Trelawney was comfortably ensconced at a little table. She seemed happily oblivious to the dust powdering the air and settling in her teacup.

Lucius was evidently horrified.

“Have you had any new premonitions?” I asked the prophetess.

“It is difficult,” Trelawney whispered.

“We can always return to my manor,” Lucius said.

“So very difficult to see…”

He looked at me beseechingly. “My beautiful, clean manor.”

Trelawney’s head snapped up, and she peered at us through dust-caked glasses. “Have you prepared me a room, someplace where I might rest my third eye?”

“Of course,” I said. “You can have the whole third floor, if you like.”

Trelawney beamed, dropping the teacup in her excitement. “I have seen it…YES! This shall be a most fortunate place for us.”

“I’ve been thinking the same thing,” I said.

Trelawney said, “You have the Gift, I dare say, or are at least wise enough to understand a true prediction when you hear one.”

I gave her a thin, pleased smile. Of course, Nagini’s decision to emerge from my robes and curl around my neck at that moment lent a somewhat unsettling effect to the gesture.

I told the snake, “We’ll be staying here from now on.”

She squeezed my neck to demonstrate her displeasure. “I cannot hunt unicorns here.”

I winced, tugging her free to set her on the floor. “You’ve been killing unicorns?!”

“I would like to,” Nagini admitted, “but I haven’t found one yet.”

“Oh. That’s alright then.”

“And there were so many tasty creatures in the Forest…” she hissed wistfully.

I scowled down at her. “I’m not going to starve you.”

“Then this will be a good nest,” Nagini decided, slithering towards the drawing room. “It’s dark, and it smells like you.”

I heard a distant explosion, and the portrait began wailing again. With a nod towards Trelawney, I left to deal with Severus and Sirius’s latest lover’s spat.

Dumbledore had sent a summons, expecting me to walk right into his grasp. But I was not such a fool. I crept invisibly into Dumbledore’s office, wand ready, and surveyed the environment in a way that would make Moody proud. Then, I exclaimed, “What is wrong with your hand?!”

Dumbledore smiled and waved with his blackened, shriveled hand. “Ah, Harry. I had forgotten that you missed the Welcome Feast. I’m afraid that I’ve contracted an illness that has negatively affected my hand.”

“Dragon Pox? That’s really been going around lately,” I said.

“…Possibly,” Dumbledore said.

“You should get that checked out,” I said.

“I’ll certainly take that into advisement,” Dumbledore said, which is his way of saying that he’ll completely ignore it. “Don’t you have a class, at the moment?”

“It’s just Defense. Snape’ll fail me no matter what I do.”

For once, I could go into a year of schooling unconcerned about losing my future post. After all, I already knew that Snape was a horrible teacher.

“I wish you two would work through your differences,” Dumbledore said, “and I didn’t intend for you to skip class.”

If he had really meant that, he would have put it in the note. I asked, “Why did you want to see me, anyway? I haven’t done anything yet.”

“I hoped to show you a memory,” he said. “Do you know what a pensieve is?”

I stumbled out of the pensieve, Dumbledore serenely following. Fawkes, of course, was watching us.

Dumbledore asked, “Did you notice anything interesting about the Gaunts, Harry?”

I channeled my inner Ron. “No, not really. Except for the fact that they’re dirty, evil Slytherins.”

“You do have a very extreme view of Slytherins,” Dumbledore noted with a frown. “Perhaps you recognized that they, like Voldemort, are descendants of Slytherin?”

“Well, I guess. They seemed pretty awful, though. Probably a Squib line,” I muttered.

“Yes…I’m afraid that Merope –”

I blinked. “Who?”

“The girl in the grey dress.”

“Right,” I said.

“She was Voldemort’s mother.” Dumbledore peered into my eyes, waiting for a response.

“Wasn’t Voldemort an orphan?” – I paused for a moment – “I think he mentioned that during a monologue.”

“He still had parents, if only for a short time,” Dumbledore said. “Though his parents were not as brave and good as yours.”

I nodded. It occurred to me that I should probably find out the Potters’ first names before people realized that I didn’t know them. This resolution had long been hampered by how little I cared.

Dumbledore prattled on about my family history, though I found it difficult to feign interest. No matter what Dumbledore may have thought, I’d just turned seventy years old. I’d moved on.

Sure, I had some family issues in my youth, but I killed them and got over it.

We walked down the hall quickly, eager to be away from History of Magic. Fawkes, as usual, peered down at us from a protruding gargoyle that wasn’t there yesterday. We were well into the walk to our next class by the time Hermione had properly packed up her bag and latched it.

Ron turned to her. “Uh, ‘Mione, I know there isn’t really anything better to do during History of Magic, but why were you watching Malfoy the whole time?”

“He was watching us first,” Hermione said. “He has been all week. It’s suspicious.”

Ron shrugged. “I dunno. That sounds pretty normal for him.”

I said, “Between Malfoy and Fawkes, I assume I’m under surveillance at all times.”

“Well, yes, but he’s more persistent about it. Quieter, too. He hasn’t called me a Mudblood at all, lately.”

“And you’re starting to miss it?” I guessed.

Hermione glared at me. “No, I am not! It’s just odd. He goes missing for hours at a time.”

“How do _you _know that?” Ron asked. “We’ve only got a couple of classes with him.”

“Ginevra told me…and he hasn’t said anything about his father or his money all year!”

Hermione was flushed and breathing heavily, impassioned. Ron stared at her, red-faced from our short yet brisk walk.

I said, “He’s probably still shaken up from that thing with the twins last year.”

“Apparently, the Slytherin common room still smells like smoke,” Ron said.

Hermione hissed, “Malfoy is up to something.”

I shrugged. “I’m not too concerned, really.”

Hermione stormed off. It wasn’t a particularly effective exit, however, because she was still going in the same direction as us. Also, I sat next to her in our next class, which was starting in about three minutes.

I frowned. “I wonder if she wants to rekindle her romance with Malfoy…”

Ron whipped around. “WHAT?!”

“You didn’t know?” I asked. “Except, no, I suppose you wouldn’t. They kept it pretty quiet, after all.”

“Bloody hell, mate, what are you talking about?”

“Back in Fourth Year, Hermione and Malfoy dated for a while. Things got pretty intense, but then they realized that they were from two different worlds and could never be together…Draco was devastated.”

“Y-you’re taking the piss out of me, right?” Ron stuttered.

I shook my head gravely. “No, Ron. Even I can’t make this stuff up!”

Later that evening, we were lounging in the Gryffindor common room, doing homework, when Ron stumbled over with a giggling witch hanging off his arm.

“So Lavender and me are dating, now,” Ron said. “We’re really into each other.”

I tried my best to ignore the situation, while Ginevra was hurriedly taking notes. Hermione pursed her lips. “Really? How did you two get together?”

“Uh, I dunno. It happened pretty naturally, I guess. We have a lot in common, y’know.”

“I think he’s just so brave for facing his transformations every month,” Lavender cooed. “Aren’t you, Won-Won?”

Ron laughed nervously. “It’s not like I do that much, really. I’m just a guy…who turns into a werewolf sometimes.”

Lavender kissed him on the nose. “So humble, too!”

I said, “I, for one, am glad that Ron is finally being open about his werewolf status after so many years of hiding.”

“I’m not a…uh, hiding. Anymore.”

Lavender squeezed his arm, beaming.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Yes, I really admire your honesty.”

“…Thanks,” Ron said.

Lavender glanced at Hermione, whispered something in Ron’s ear, and burst into giggles. Ron mostly looked uncomfortable, though he happily accepted her offer to snog.

In an unrelated incident, Hermione started grumbling about something (presumably Malfoy) and snapped her quill in half.

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Love it! But the small errors in formatting are a tad distracting. I mean the empasized _words, instead of _emphasized words(meaning not properly surrounded by the markdown underscores, throughout the story, not only in this chapter) and the chapter title and extra chapter breaks at the begining. Would like to have that fixed somehow.