The Lewis House 11
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The Lewis House 11



"Just thinking I could use a drink, that's all," Knight replied, bending down to rub her kneecaps, then shaking out her legs one at a time. "Or maybe five. Does he work tonight?"

"Yeah," Harry answered, remembering for the first time all day that Ron had mentioned he'd be going to the pub tonight, after visiting Hermione's parents at St. Mungo's. He felt slightly guilty for not having thought about Hermione earlier, and realized it would probably be a good idea to meet up with his friends at the Snout's Fair before heading home. "Stagsden's not far," he told Knight. "We can stop by the pub for a few minutes."

"Just a few minutes?" Knight stopped pulling off her Quidditch gloves and raised an eyebrow at him. "Who are you in a hurry to get home to?"

Harry's face burnt so hot that he thought he might disintegrate. "I - well," he mumbled. "You know. I just want to get home and take a shower." For some reason, those words made him blush even harder.

Knight was grinning. "Yeah. I know," she said wickedly. "Look, let me grab my bag and then you can give me the address of the pub, okay? You don't have to sit there with me if you've got places to be."

"I don't..." Harry started, but didn't finish. The truth was, he really did want to get back to Lupin Lodge.

"Thought so," Knight said, smiling as though she'd read his thoughts. "Be right back."

Harry picked the Firebolt out of the muck and trudged over to the bench where he'd left his own things, wondering if maybe Ginny would be at the pub, as well. He unclasped his muddied Quidditch robes and shoved them in his knapsack, then tried to shake some of the mud out of his hair. After getting a considerable amount of it on Firoza, who looked like she wasn't too happy about the situation, he apologized and stopped trying.

"Ready?" Knight came jogging up with her bag slung over her shoulder. "I'm dying for a butterbeer, and I wouldn't say no to a shot of Liquid Curse, either, after the day I've just had."

"Athletes don't drink."

Harry felt his stomach clench. He turned to see Oliver standing off to Knight's left, carrying his own knapsack and wand. He was glowering at both of them.

Knight stiffened. "I think I'm off the clock," she said evenly, meeting Oliver's glare. "Personal life and all that."

Harry sucked in a low breath. He wasn't sure Oliver knew what it meant to have a personal life apart from Quidditch, and he didn't think that Knight was earning herself any points by saying that she did.

"Er - we were just going to say hello to Ron Weasley, Oliver," he attempted. "It's not a holiday, or anything, it's just that Ron works there. You should come. Last night, George stopped by - he told me to say hello to you, by the way."

Oliver shifted his glare to Harry. "Tell him hello, from me," he said shortly. "And you'll both be here at five-thirty tomorrow." He Disapparated before either of them could protest.

"Ruddy man," Knight seethed, the moment Oliver was gone from sight. "I love Quidditch. Can't he see I love it? I'm out there, breaking my stupid neck, and damn this!"

Harry looked around worriedly. A couple of the other players were starting to listen. "Look, let's just go," he muttered.

"I've been playing since I was a first year," Knight continued, pacing back and forth as if she hadn't heard Harry at all. "A first year! Do you know how rare that was, at my school?"

Harry thought he probably did.

"And I've played bloody, bollocking professional Quidditch for two years," she continued. "Granted, I was reserve for the Bats and I never got to play, but still!"

"Right," said Harry quickly. "But can we - can we go, or something?"

Knight was standing right next to him, still muttering, but she managed to stop for a moment. "We can go, all right," she said testily. "Give me that address, would you?"

"Sure," Harry said, "but you really shouldn't Disapparate while you're so worked up. You could get splinched." Harry grimaced at his own words. He sounded like Professor McGonagall. It was frightening, the way Hermione had rubbed off on him over the years.

Knight sighed. "I know," she muttered, and pulled her wand. "I'm fine. Just... never mind. I'm fine." She took a deep breath. "May I please have the address?" she asked, in a tone of forced calm.

Harry smiled slightly. "Yeah." He opened his knapsack. "I don't know it by heart, I just know how to get there. Hold on, I have a map." He rifled through his bag, digging underneath his robes to find the old, faded parchment map of Britain that Remus had given him to use for Apparition purposes, until he was more comfortable with exact locations.

He had just got his fingers to it when he heard a high-pitched shriek from halfway down the field - and then another. One by one, it seemed that every player on the pitch was beginning to scream.



Harry froze without withdrawing the map. A sick sort of horror rose up in him. There was now a flood of screams, all of them mingling together in fright. It was an old sound, a familiar sound, a sound he'd heard a hundred times - and Harry knew that when he looked toward it, he'd see the Dark Mark hanging in the sky.

Echoes of the war began to play themselves back to him with vicious intensity, one after another. He heard not only the screams of the present, but ones from the past as well... from the war... from the very beginning... The sound of his mother's frightened pleading, which he hadn't heard in months, seemed as clear to him now as if her death had happened yesterday.

"Bloody hell," Knight whispered, her voice shaking. "I've never seen - Harry, turn - turn around - I don't -"

Harry's body went cold with dread at the obvious fear in her voice, and for one sickening moment he knew he would pass out on the spot. But before that could happen, he summoned his strength and whipped around, steeling his mind for battle with a Death Eater. He dropped his knapsack and Firebolt, pulled his wand, and gasped.

Not ten feet away there stood a Dementor.

Of course, he thought blindly, as the rotting stench of the Dementor threatened to make him ill. Of course... The cold in his body - the echoes of his mother - all of it became clear to him at once and before he'd even thought about it Harry heard himself cry, "Expecto Patronum!" The silver stag on which he had come to depend shot full-force from the end of Harry's wand, driving the Dementor toward the edge of the pitch.

Clearly taken by surprise by the force of the spell, the Dementor seemed keen to find another place to go - it drifted rapidly off toward the forested area beyond the Quidditch field. But Harry knew he couldn't let it disappear. The Dementors weren't obeying anybody - this one must somehow have slipped past Moody and his over-tired crew. Or perhaps it had never been corralled in the first place. If left unattended, Harry was well aware that it would only roam until it found someone unprotected to attack, and then it would administer the Kiss.

Knowing no other way to deal with the situation, Harry snatched up his bag, mounted his broom and shot after the Dementor, his wand in hand. He heard shouts behind him; Knight and Marty and the others were calling him back, but there was nothing else for it. He was going to have to drive this thing all the way back to Azkaban. It wouldn't go back of its own accord, that was certain - and it had to go back. That was also certain. Harry only hoped it hadn't met up already with any unsuspecting wizards and left them.... He shuddered. He couldn't bear to think of what had happened to that boy's mother, at the beginning of the summer.

"Expecto Patronum!" The Dementor fled before him. But it wasn't a victory, to Harry. The glow he'd found on the Quidditch field during the past few weeks - that wonderful sense of a return to something friendly and familiar - was wiped out of him. Getting this Dementor to Azkaban was going to take two full days, at least. He was going to have to drive it up the bloody coast through unpopulated areas, cast Memory Charms if anybody saw him, use up his energy on Patronus Charms and take no sleep...

It was just like the war.

"Expecto Patronum!" He drove the Dementor further into the wooded area, due north, and thought grimly to himself that it was a damned good thing he'd brought the map with him. He was going to need it for the next two days

Chapter Eleven

Confrontations and Confidences

After spending two days in the company of the Dementor, Harry’s brain was very nearly numb. Though at first he had been able to summon up the positive energy necessary to create his Patronus, over the last several hours it had taken an incredible effort to produce each one. He had exhausted his joyful thoughts and felt nothing but his own physical and mental fatigue, so much so that he couldn’t even register the relief of arriving at his destination. Here, finally, was the departure point of the Azkaban prison rafts. Where a Muggle would have seen a rotting dock and rusted gates, Harry saw a hut-like guard’s station and the silhouettes of two wizards conferring at the water’s edge. They were pointing to something that seemed to be in flight, far off across the water.

Harry drew a deep breath and gathered the last reserves of his happiness. He concentrated on the moment last Christmas when he and Hermione had found Ron, still alive. He was almost there.

"Expecto Patronum!"

The men at the water’s edge looked up sharply, and, through a haze of exhaustion, Harry saw Mad-Eye Moody raise his wand. In moments, Moody had taken the Dementor off of Harry’s hands - Harry watched, barely able to stay on his broom, as Moody drove the creature squarely into the center of a prison raft.

"Keep him out there for me, lad," he barked to the young, redheaded wizard beside him. Dimly, Harry recognized Charlie Weasley, who raised his wand at once and waded into the Atlantic to hold the Dementor at bay.

Now it was done. Relieved of his burden, Harry landed at once, though the instant he let down his guard, he felt the full effects of the Dementor wash over him. He stood on shaking legs, barely able to keep hold of the Firebolt. Moody made straight for him.

"What happened?"

Harry merely shook his head, not feeling capable of coherent speech.

"Come on," Moody prodded gruffly after a moment. "Got to know, Harry. Find the Dementor wandering, did you?"

Harry nodded, and made himself summarize. "It came onto the... Cannons Quidditch pitch. At the tryouts. Two days ago."

Moody surveyed Harry carefully. "Took it on yourself to bring it up here?" Harry didn’t answer. After a moment, Moody nodded. "No choice, was there? Others weren’t keen on taking an ugly responsibility." He gave a sigh of disgust and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "You did the only thing. Now get in that guard station and lie down."

"I have to get back to...Stagsden."

"On what steam, boy? Can’t Apparate long distances in your condition." Moody gave a growling chuckle and turned Harry around by his shoulder. "Hell, you look like you’d be splinched just going across the street."

Numbly, Harry allowed the old Auror to steer him into the guard station, where he very gratefully sank onto a cot and leaned forward on his knees, shivering. Moody provided him with water and a huge slab of chocolate – "Get your strength up" – and, after extracting a promise from Harry that he wouldn’t try Disapparating until he’d had a real rest, Moody went back to the business of returning the escaped Dementor to Azkaban.

Left alone, Harry exhaled and tried to straighten up. Automatically he reached for the chocolate. He didn’t want it, but his body demanded it – he felt as though he had been soaked in a tank of ice water. Two days alone with a Dementor had chilled him to his bones and chocolate was the only way to get warm again. He bit into it, feeling sick to his stomach at the mouthful of sweetness, though he also took some measure of relief from the immediate heat that was restored to his blood. His veins seemed to thaw and his heart to start beating. Feeling as if he were made entirely of rubber, Harry collapsed down on his side. His eyes blurred and fell shut.

But what the chocolate had done for his body, nothing could do for his mind. The instant his eyes closed, he began to see images – pictures – on the insides of his eyelids. He choked and dug his face into the pillow, trying to blot them out. It didn’t work at all – Harry’s thoughts were as dark and nightmarish as his memories could make them – the Dementor’s presence had plunged him into a world where it was beyond painful to exist, and the pictures reeled ceaselessly through his brain. His mother’s frantic pleas... Cedric Diggory’s final request... Dumbledore, asking to die.... Hermione’s sobs, when she had received word of the attack on her parents... his own fear-maddened state when he had received the news of Ron’s abduction... then came the sickening flash of green light that had taken Hagrid’s life, followed by the hellish news of Percy Weasley’s murder – and Ginny, stepping between his own body and Lucius Malfoy’s curse, screaming for her father...

His brain recoiled from so much guilt and horror. Harry moaned and rolled up against the cold wall, as if it offered some escape. He pressed his forehead against it, wanting only to shut out the images, shut out the thoughts.

Almost at once, the strength of his exhaustion overtook the tumult in his mind. Fatigue dragged him headlong into a welcome blackness. Mercifully, as the sound of ocean waves crashing beyond the door drowned out the screaming in his head, Harry went unconscious.

*

He woke in darkness, but someone had a light – beside him, in the chair, someone was reading a letter by the beam of a wand. Harry couldn’t see who it was. He sat up at once, disoriented, feeling urgently for his glasses.

"Here."

Harry felt the glasses being stuck into his hand. Hurriedly he fixed them to his nose, and the first clear sight that met him was Charlie Weasley, a massive, crooked grin stretched across his freckled face as he lighted the lamps in the guard station.

Somehow, the sight cheered Harry.

"Hey, Charlie," he croaked. "Wh’time is it?"

"Nine. You’ve slept about twelve hours. Reckon you deserved it, doing what you did." Charlie’s face went a bit more serious. "You okay?"

Harry shrugged, and changed the subject. "I thought you lived in London now, with Bill."

"I do. But there’s sort of a test being done. We’re seeing what we can do with dragons, against the Dementors."

"Dragons?" Harry repeated, swinging his legs off the cot and shaking the fog from his head. He needed to get back to Stagsden. Nobody knew where he was.

"Yeah," Charlie answered earnestly, "I think they might be very effective - well, it was really my assistant’s idea, but I agree. They’ve got a lot of natural energy, dragons. It could be the sort of thing that makes this twenty-four hour Patronus business obsolete."

Harry nodded, not really listening. "Hey, Charlie – did anybody tell Sirius or anyone that I was here?"

Charlie shook his head. "Couldn’t get to anyone from here. Moody’s out dealing with everything on the island and Sirius hasn’t been up here since the move to Culparrat – he’s either in Wales or London, I expect. There’s no fireplace in this hut for contact, and I was told not to Disapparate and leave you by yourself under any circumstances."

Harry tried to hide his irritation. He wished that Charlie had woken him and sent him home earlier. The last thing he wanted to deal with now was a house full of worry.

Charlie seemed to read his mind. "I’d’ve woken you, Harry. But Mum drilled into all our heads last summer that we’re not to disturb you if you’re sleeping." He grinned again. "She says you’re too restless and you need quiet."

Harry felt himself flush. "Glad everyone knows my personal sleeping habits," he muttered, quite embarrassed to hear this description of himself from one of the older Weasley boys.

But Charlie was unaffected. He clipped Harry on the arm. "Come off it, you know Mum treats you just like us. We none of us have any secrets."

Harry flushed again, embarrassed this time by the implied affection in Charlie’s remark. Though being considered one of them wasn’t unpleasant, being teased as if by an older brother was still unfamiliar territory for Harry. He ducked his head and pointed to Charlie’s letter, changing the subject for the second time. "Who’s that from?"

It was Charlie’s turn to turn a bit pink. "Oh, it’s not from anyone," he returned too casually, shoving the parchment into one of the myriad pockets of his broad dragon keeper’s vest. "You know. Stuff for work. You’d – er – better get back to Stagsden before they go crazy trying to figure out where you are."

Harry watched Charlie fidget, and was tempted to remind him that none of them had any secrets. But he didn’t feel quite up to a laugh, and Charlie was right. It was high time he was home.

He thanked Charlie briefly for sitting with him, asked him to say goodbye to Moody, then grabbed up his Firebolt and Disapparated. He hoped both that he wasn’t too tired to pull off the long trip without hurting himself, and that no one at Lupin Lodge had got too upset, in his absence.

His first hope was realized the moment he opened his eyes and found himself standing safely in the middle of the cozy, firelit front room of Remus’s house.

His second hope was dashed a moment later.

"Harry – oh, my goodness –"

It was Hermione's cry, and she leapt from her chair by the fire to run across the room and flutter anxiously in front of him.

"Oh, Harry, what happened? At first, when you didn’t come home, we thought something with Malfoy – Ron nearly went over there – and then Sirius went to find Oliver but we still didn't know where you were, because Oliver didn’t – and then a woman went to the pub to find Ron and tell him about the Dementor, and Goldie directed her to our house and she came and told us what you did and oh – don't ever do that!" Hermione threw her arms around him and squeezed.

Harry endured it for a moment, then ducked out of her grasp. "I’m okay," he said flatly. It wasn’t a lie. He was, technically, unhurt.

"Harry! What happened to you? One of the players came over and said you'd chased a Dementor into the woods – " Ron was at his side in a flash, Hermione's cry having summoned him more effectively than magic. He peered at Harry with equal anxiety. "What went on? You okay? Sit down or something. Want anything?"

Harry let himself be bustled into a chair by the two of them, and tried not to get irritated. He knew that they still weren't over the war. When people had disappeared for two days during the war, the likelihood had been that they wouldn't be found alive.

"I'm okay," he repeated, "I'm okay. I just want to go to bed –"

He stopped in mid-sentence. Sirius was standing in front of him, and Harry had never seen his godfather’s face so furious, not even when he had first confronted Wormtail in the Shrieking Shack, after his escape from Azkaban.

"What the hell were you thinking." It was a demand.

Harry found himself at a loss. He hadn’t been thinking. There hadn’t been time for thinking; there had been nothing in his head except stopping the Dementor. Sirius should have known that; Sirius had been in the war. "I was at the Cannons tryout and a Dementor wandered onto the field, so somebody had to make sure it got driven back up to Azkaban and I figured..."

"You figured you wouldn't have anybody alert us. You figured you'd just disappear for two days and let us all wonder."

Harry felt anger rising up in him. Sirius was being unfair. "Look, it's not like I just ran off on some kind of holiday. There was something that needed to be done and –"

"Don't you ever – ever – go off like that again without telling someone. What do you think you are on about, Harry?" Sirius shook his head, his pale blue eyes darker than ever. "All that girl could tell me was that you'd gone after a Dementor. Is that true? You spent the last two days alone with a Dementor?"

Harry clenched his jaw. He'd known this wasn't going to go over well. "Had to," he muttered, thinking that after all he'd just done, he was in no damned mood to be yelled at for it. "What did you want me to do? Drive it over here and say hello, first? I just did the first thing I thought of! I went north!"

"There is always a way to let us know where you are!"

"Like what?" Harry challenged coldly. "You tell me what you would’ve done! You went up to Azkaban to deal with the Dementors yourself, and you’re the last person who should get near them!"

"I am an adult –"

"And what am I?!"

"You’re barely eighteen."

Harry gripped the arms of the chair, unable to find words for his anger. Finally, he managed, "If you don’t know by now that I’m not a child, then I can’t talk to you."

Sirius didn’t answer. His demeanor had suddenly shifted away from fury. He continued to look at Harry, but he wasn’t glaring now – his eyes were haunted.

"Hello, Harry." The calm greeting came from behind Sirius, and Harry’s head snapped toward it. Remus was in the hallway, looking gravely at him. "It's very good to see you," he said quietly. "I'm glad you're safe. Do you need anything?"

Harry nodded and stood up, ignoring the sounds of worry from Ron and Hermione, on either side of him. "I need to go to bed," he said shortly. He brushed past Sirius and toward the stairs, wanting to get out of the room and escape the anxiety in it. His godfather's eyes clouded as they followed him, but Harry ignored that, too.

"Don't worry about the Quidditch tryouts," Ron called after him. "Oliver knows what's happened, we talked to him already."

Harry spun around in horror, at the mention of tryouts. He’d forgotten, once the Dementor had taken control of his thoughts, that there was such a thing as Quidditch. Disappointment coursed through him. He had missed two days of training, and had probably been removed from the running. Oliver would never let him come back.

But Sirius gestured vaguely toward the stairs, nodding his agreement with Ron. "It’s nothing to worry about. Go on up and rest, Harry, I'll contact Oliver. He just wants to know where you are. I'm sure you'll be back on the pitch by tomorrow if that's what you want."

It was on the tip of Harry's tongue to protest. He didn’t want Sirius doing anything for him, just now. He was an adult, and it was his own responsibility to deal with his problems. Yet he was still so bone-tired that he just couldn't bring himself to argue anymore. And when Sirius repeated that he'd take care of things, a voice buried deep at the back of Harry's mind told him to go ahead and let Sirius do it. This was, after all, the sort of thing his father would be doing for him, if his father were alive. That was the point of a godfather.

Harry felt his eyes water and he turned away quickly, climbing up the stairs before he could start to think about his father, fearing that it might send his mind spiraling back into the sequence of nightmares he'd been living in for two days. He dragged his feet heavily upstairs to the second floor corridor, staving off all thoughts of his parents and of the war.

But he didn't have to fight his thoughts for very long. As he made his way toward his room, Harry's mind turned in a direction he hadn’t expected. He stepped away from his own door and walked slowly back to the door of the girls' room, instead. Ginny was the only occupant of the house that hadn't greeted him upon his return. He remembered how much he’d been looking forward to getting home from practice and telling her all about it. He wondered if she’d worried for him, at all, while he’d been gone.

Harry stopped outside her door and hesitated, not sure why his feet had led him here, or what he was about to do. He lifted his hand – perhaps to knock – but before he could choose a course of action, the door opened.

Ginny stood there, staring at him, her dressing gown not even tied. The room behind her was a wreck of open books and what looked like scattered potion ingredients and ruined parchment. Ginny’s own appearance was as disheveled as the room; her eyes were swollen, her face was pale, and her bright hair fell down in tangles. A crumpled tissue stuck out of her white-knuckled fist. She looked like she'd caught a very nasty flu, and though Harry knew why she was so upset, he preferred to believe that the flu was the problem.

"Are you sick?" he asked her quickly.

Her eyes did not leave his. "No," she said deliberately, not bothering to hide the tears in her voice.

Harry suddenly felt the weight of his own disappearance. The gravity of it hadn't struck him, when Sirius had given him an angry lecture, but it struck him now. He should have let somebody know where he was going, regardless of the circumstances. He should have found a way.

"I didn't mean to worry anyone," he heard himself say. "I didn't think –"

"People still get terrified that you're not coming back," Ginny interrupted sharply, her voice thick. She stared at him fiercely for another moment, then reached out her hand and touched his shoulder, as if testing to make sure that he really existed. A barely audible cry escaped her when her fingers came into contact with his robes. She dropped her hand, stepped close to him, and silently buried her face in his neck.

Harry stood, stunned. He felt her hands on his waist. Felt her body fit softly against his. She took a deep breath, which pushed against his chest, and then she exhaled shakily on his skin.

"You’re here," she managed.

It was as though he’d been electrocuted. Harry felt the hair rise up all over his body at the shock of being touched like this, by her. He shivered violently, then slumped against Ginny, forgetting everything, allowing her to hold him up.


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