Chapter Eighty Eight – Everybody talks
Harry wasn't exactly sure of how he survived through the week, while in the very last class of Friday that happened to be Potions. He could count on his fingers the number of people who didn't believe he put his name on the Goblet. And the people who believed he had done it… Oh, well. Ron, apparently, was the first one in the line for inventing and believing rumors. Harry, very annoyed, could see from there Ron sit with Parvati and Lavander. They weren't talking, of course, since if they opened their mouths probably that would be ten points from Gryffindor, much to their dislike. Harry didn't care about their dislike, of course… Especially because even if Snape was being unfair, what were house points near the plans of the Order of the Phoenix? Dumbledore sure thought the same way.
But the newest rumor really hit Harry in the guts: apparently he was adding up the statistics of dark wizards from Slytherin, going together with Salazar himself ("Harry can talk to snakes too! How could we miss that?" Harry heard someone say) and with Snape, even though their relationship for the public eye was way beyond the sheer dislike. The popular belief was that he and Snape were competitors, for what, no one bothered to explain…
"This won't do, Potter." Snape muttered analyzing Harry purposefully spoilt potion. It was a game, and Harry was aware of it, but it was tiresome. Harry just wanted to disappear, by then. "Apparently you have forgot to read the instruction were you should turn off the fire when the potion turned orange. Does this look orange?"
Harry's potion was gray. "No, sir." Harry mumbled, feeling that very few people in the room were sorry for him. "It's not orange."
"Perhaps I should teach you how to read again." Snape sneered and turned on his heels to watch the other cauldrons. Hermione passed Harry a note, under the table of which they were working. Harry read:
Krum told me Snape said, in front of the Ministry, that you put your name on the Goblet… Can you please tell me what happened, because I'm mostly confused about all this. I thought we could trust him.
And then, in Lila's calligraphy: Me too. Excuse the expression, but what the hell is going on here? I thought we had an ally.
Harry tried to reply as discretely as he could. He knew Snape was seeing it, but merely ignoring. Though he didn't want everyone to know that Snape was ignoring something Harry was doing he was not supposed to.
It's not that hard to get, is it…?
Hermione frowned and then made a slightly surprised face. They couldn't talk there, but that was definitely a promise that would, and very soon. Lila read the note too, but unlike Hermione, she kept her cool façade. Harry knew what they were thinking: if Snape was thinking of joining Voldemort again, they would be in a very dangerous situation. There was a little detail that didn't match, however: Snape taught Harry Occlumency. And it was working, insofar. There was no way Snape had joined or was going to join Voldemort again, for good, even if they didn't know as much as Harry knew.
Though Harry was aware he must go on with playing his part. It was up to Hermione and Lila to believe him… Or not. If they didn't, better yet for him. Neville, who was working with them, was confused, too, for certain, because Snape himself tried to protect Neville from revealing his boggart, in the last term. Well, they would find out the truth, eventually, if they stopped to really think about it. Harry wasn't going to tell them anything, even though he prayed that they put the pieces together soon.
Be as it may, the class was interrupted by a knock on the door and the arrival of Cedric Diggory: "Excuse me, Professor Snape." he said politely. Snape merely ignored him, and he took it as a sign to continue. "There is the weighing of the wands, and all the champions must be there."
"Potter can finish his… I would dare to say, potion, later, then." Snape replied in a sneer. "Let us hope none of the tasks is about reading correctly the instructions."
Harry quickly put his things in his bag and left the classroom, not meeting his eyes with anyone. The situation was getting more awful than he thought. Especially now that he saw that Cedric was what Harry could never be: handsome, with grey eyes and tall. Harry was more on the short side, and his hair was never on the right place.
"So… We are playing against each other again." Cedric spoke, rubbing his hand on another nervously. "Seriously… How did you put your name on the goblet?"
"I didn't." Harry replied flatly. "Why I would want to be hated by nearly all the student population of Hogwarts, plus Durmstrang and Beauxbeatons?" he asked. "And all that only to join on a tournament where I have three years less of magical education than the other champions… Not to mention the high rates of death. Do you really think I did it?"
The logic of Harry's speech left Cedric mute for a moment. "But who doesn't want glory?" he questioned, with a half hearted laugh.
"And since when do I have any?" Harry questioned back in a controlled voice. "You know what they are talking about me. The next Dark Lord, isn't it? What if I win? What they are going to say? When do I get this glory everybody talks so much about?"
Cedric hesitated for a second. "I'm sorry that I said something I shouldn't." he apologized, though Harry wasn't sure if Cedric believed him. Probably not… The problem was that some people were intoxicated by the idea of being a hero to the point of being reckless. Harry couldn't make a sense out of it, and he tried. No glory in the world could make Harry happy at that point. And almost no one understood that.
And so they arrived in silence into a classroom. But no class was being taught there. There was Krum, Karkaroff, Fleur, Madam Maxime, and Dumbledore, along with Ollivanders, a photographer and a woman Harry recognized to be Rita Skeeter, the extravagant journalist from Daily Prophet. "What they are doing here?" Harry muttered to Cedric, referring to Skeeter and the photographer.
"We are going to take photos." Cedric muttered back. "For the Daily Prophet."
"That's just great." Harry observed to himself, looking around. Rita Skeeter, with her red heels, turned around and smiled to them, showing at least three teeth made of gold:
"Oh, look who's here." she said, grabbing her purse made of crocodile skin in a matching color with her robes and approaching them. "The two champions of Hogwarts… I think I can make it to the headlines!"
"You said the champions were only supposed to take photos, Rita." Dumbledore intervened in Harry's behalf, standing up from the desk he was sitting on. "The weighing of the wands shall happen with the champion present."
Rita laughed. "Harry can go last." she said, pulling Harry by the arm to a broom cupboard in a corner of the room. The boy didn't protest, because Dumbledore didn't do it as well. She gently pushed Harry inside the cupboard and entered after him, closing the door.
"I can't see anything." Harry observed, finally.
"Oh, my apologies." Rita spoke, and suddenly, three candles appeared on thin air, illuminating the tight cupboard. Rita walked past Harry, almost crushing him against the wall, and sat on a bucket turned over, while signalizing for him to sit at a wooden box. He did as he was told, and Rita opened her purse, grabbing the biggest and most colorful quill Harry ever saw in his entire life, and rested it against a pice of paper. "Let's just test the quill, to see if it's working."
The quill wrote in the paper: The fabulous Rita Skeeter, 43 years old…
"Scratch that." Rita demanded to the quill. "We are going to start now." she told Harry. "How do you feel being the only student in Hogwarts able to fool the already senile Headmaster?"
"Dumbledore isn't senile." Harry retorted. "And I didn't fool him."
It was possible to see the wrath in the otherwise loveable green eyes, as he spoke about the Headmaster. Would it be a sign of…
"I'm not angry." Harry said. "And especially not about Dumbledore!"
"Don't mind the quill." Rita replied. "Just truthfully answer my questions."
"But I'm not lying." Harry argued.
"I know, dear." Rita smiled. "And how do you feel about the uncovered truth of you being the next great Dark Lord…? Was that the reason why You-know-who tried to eliminate you at such a young age? How are you going to use the Triwizard Tournament to set your new era? Do you pretend to clean the blood of the wizardry community or you just want to reign above us all?"
"I don't want to do any of those things." Harry stated. "I didn't put my name into the goblet. I don't want to participate in the tournament. I don't want to reign above anyone."
The blank and calm tone while talking to our journalist, Rita Skeeter, just showed how cold and calculative he was. He didn't even stutter while telling so much lies – You-know-who is not match for this young and already powerful Dark Lord. Was the lack of parents that made him that way?
"Tell me, Harry, what about your parents? Do you miss them? Do you think they would be infuriated with you by trying to take over the Wizardry World?" Rita went on. "Would they ground you?"
"I…" Harry was about to say some pretty annoyed things – he was about to lose his patience when Dumbledore opened the door of the cupboard.
"I'm afraid the interview is over, Rita." he said. "I'm sure you will have more time to say how I am an useless Headmaster later." he continued with a warm smile on his face, of which Harry was sure it was fake. "Come along, Harry."
Talk about glory, Harry thought, while standing up. Having an interview on a cupboard about his reign of power certainly wasn't something he would classify as such… He started to understand a little better Snape's situation, however. All Harry wanted was to hide in a cave and never leave there. At least he had friends who he could talk with. Snape didn't… The only friend Snape mentioned was long dead.
Ron was very annoyed by the end of the Potions class. His potions spoilt, and since he was a Gryffindor, and not a Slytherin, many points were taken from his house. Sometimes he wished he was sorted in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, because Snape wasn't so hostile towards those houses… Ron, however, dreaded the idea of being sorted in Slytherin.
He was walking together with Lavander, Parvati and Padma, and while the girls chatted, he didn't say anything, only scowling and looking at his own feet.
"Ron." Lavender called his attention. "We are going to the library study a little. Do you want to come with us?"
Ron considered the idea for a moment. Hermione was probably going to be there, and, of course, Krum was going to be there as well. Ron regretted worshiping Krum at that point. But, if he went somewhere else, he would probably be alone – he wasn't on the mood of talking with Fred and George, who defended Harry and condemned Ron for being harsh not only with Harry but with Hermione as well.
"Fine." Ron sighed, to then return to his silence. The walk to the library would be silent if it depended on Ron, though the girls, walking in front of him, were engaged in a conversation which could last decades, for all he knew. Well… Rather the chatting than being alone.
They walked past the table where Hermione and Krum were indeed studying, Ron's scowl deepened even further. Hermione didn't even see him walked by – Ron guessed she was too absorbed with Krum to pay attention to anything else. Much to his dislike, Lavander chose a table nearby, within eye range. Ron sat and spread his material, but then Hermione just laughed at something Krum had said. Too much for Ron to handle. He mumbled an excuse and stood up to pick up a book in the most far away shelves he could think of.
Even if he didn't think much through the decision, it was very fortunate: Ron was actually having troubles with Transfiguration… And so he skimmed through the books of one shelf, trying to find an auxiliary book for his transfigurations spells. Normally, he wouldn't even bother to do it, but his life was going down the sink, the least he could have was decent grades. Then, he heard a snort: "They should be scared, though." a girl voice said, muttering, as if she didn't want to be heard.
Ron opened a space between two very thick and old books, silently, to see what was happening in the other side. Draco Malfoy was standing there, hands on his pockets, while Pansy Parkinson was looking through the titles, searching a book for herself.
"Fudge is blind." Malfoy shrugged also muttering. "Gladly." He went on sneering. "And so is the entire Ministry."
"I'm pretty sure the Death Eaters could make a feast under their nose and they wouldn't see it." Pansy observed calmly. "Fortunate, isn't it?" She picked up a big red book and turned to face Malfoy: "But, of course, there is no proof that…" she rolled her eyes. "You-know-who is back."
"There is a proof." Malfoy spoke.
"But no one is going to show that to the Ministry." Pansy retorted. "Not even Snape, it seems." They stood in a silence for a while. "Should we throw him a dark side welcoming party…? Fudge won't mind, anyway." She suggested. Ron wasn't sure if she was joking or not.
Malfoy sighed. "See you around, Pansy." he said, as if he was teasing her.
"See you around, Malfoy." Pansy teased back and left. Malfoy left soon after her. Ron returned to his table confused by what he heard, and what he saw… Without the book he was supposed to pick up. They seemed to be joking, but at the same time, coming from Malfoy and Parkinson sure it wasn't a joke. Ron knew Snape's behavior had changed with Harry…
As soon as Ron sat, he saw Lila going to the table Hermione and Krum were studying… Holding a big red book. Malfoy walked past a few moments later. Hermione sent him glares, while Lila hid herself behind the book and pretended she didn't see him.
P.S.: So… Yeah. I'm starting to like Malfoy. Because yes. I'm starting to like everyone, actually. Ron is the next on the list.
Loha: The Sirius bashing is a delicious icing, I love picking on him :D But it will come to an end, but… You know, slow and steadily because I need him not to be a douche eventually. And thanks for pointing out the mistake.
Phoenix1592: There's a saying in my country that says that even soft water can bring down the hardest of the rocks. Perhaps there's an accumulative effect of criticizing Sirius' behavior?
Luiz4200: Canon!Lupin had much more room for improvement if you stop to think about it. I think JK could have developed him way better… But if he did, Sirius would look bad in comparison and Merlin knows JK wants to protect her precious Marauders. Especially Sirius. If I recall correctly, she called him sexy in one interview. But I don't think developing Lupin would have a plot point in canon as it has in this AU, so I try not to think ill of JK for not doing it. Not that I succeed.