Forging the Sword
Chapter Two: Sharp Edges


God, he was exhausted.

Discovering Hermione's clue, hearing of Ginny's kidnapping, the long hours waiting, the confrontation with Lockhart, the cave in, fighting the Basilisk, Riddle, Ginny.

And Ron.

Telling Ron had hurt. And left him feeling utterly helpless. He'd known his best friend for almost two years now, and he'd never seen him go that white. Not last year when he'd offered himself as a chess piece sacrifice; not even earlier this year facing Aragog.

At least he'd been able to say yes when Ron asked if her killer was dead too.

It was a cold comfort, but it was something solid to hang on to. And Ron desperately needed something solid as his world started to shake.

He'd gotten Ron and Lockhart to the Hospital Wing doors, hoping Hermione might be unpetrified and awake by now. Ron could steady himself with cold comfort, but he hoped she would be able to give him a warmer one.

If only I could have stayed… But no, he still had things he needed to do tonight. So fearing Pomfrey might attempt to stop him, might dose him with potions or forbid adults to ask him questions, he'd seen Ron and Lockhart through the doors, then turned to do what he had to.

Which brought him here.

He watched the stone gargoyle finish moving aside, and entered the small room below the headmaster's office. Someone of authority would be there who he could talk to, even if Dumbledore was banished. He only managed a few steps up the stairs when he heard raised voices and stopped dead. A man whose voice he didn't recognize, Professor McGonagall… and Molly Weasley.

No.

Wasn't there a limit, on how many times a person had to inform someone a family member was dead? And to be forced to tell someone who'd taken him into her heart, worried over him through letters, hand-knitted a sweater and given him his very first Christmas gift…

I'd rather be back fighting the Basilisk.

But Mrs. Weasley deserved to know. And Harry was the only one who could tell her.

Closing his eyes he gathered the shreds of his willpower. Repeating his vow - this must be done, and if no one else can, I must do it - he ascended the stairs.

When he got to the top he saw the rest of the people in the room. The male voice he'd been unable to identify was Lucius Malfoy, a cringing Dobby crouching at his boots. Mr. Weasley was there, one arm around Mrs. Weasley, both of them radiating worry and fear. Dumbledore – Harry had no idea when he'd come back, but he felt a rush of gratitude at his appearance – calmly presided over it all from behind his desk, face set in an unusually grave expression.

Harry's entrance brought silence to the room.

He avoided looking at the Weasleys and simply ignored Malfoy, remembering all too well the venomous confrontation at the beginning of the school year. A brief glance and nod was all he could manage to Professor McGonagall. Mainly, he kept his focus on Dumbledore's face as he limped across the space separating them. It took the clang of the bloodied, ruby encrusted sword dropping on the desk to break their stasis.

He met Dumbledore's eyes for only a moment, before looking at the ground. He- couldn't. He couldn't meet their eyes and say this. "Professor Dumbledore, I need to talk to you. Can you send Mr. Malfoy away?"

"Harry…" The headmaster's voice was concerned and warm and comforting, and he wanted to close his eyes and just… let it go. Hand it all over. Tell Dumbledore, then let him deal with telling everyone else… "Are you sure?" Harry nodded without looking up. "Very well. Lucius, I ask you to give us a moment of privacy, please."

"I think not." Malfoy's cold, drawling tones reminded Harry of Draco at his most insufferable. "I'm a governor of Hogwarts. Nothing concerning this school could possibly necessitate my absence. From Mr. Potter's appearance, something of moment has occurred. Speak your news, boy."

Harry glanced in helpless appeal at the headmaster, but Dumbledore made no further protest. Upset that an enemy of theirs would hear this at the same time they did, he turned to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, unsure how to begin. Finally, he just said the only thing he could think of: "I'm sorry… Ginny's dead. Voldemort killed her."

Mrs. Weasley gasped and sank into a chair, eyes disbelieving, silent. Mr. Weasley's lips pressed tight together, almost white, and the man swayed as if receiving a blow. Harry looked on helplessly. "I wish I could have saved her." Then, again: "I'm sorry..."

He bit back all the other things he wanted to say. I wish it had been me instead. I swear I tried my best to bring her back safe. I killed him, and it wasn't enough.

Please don't hate me.

"Harry," he turned his head at the sound of his name, to look at Dumbledore. "Sit down." A chair appeared near the wall, which Harry hesitantly sank into. "I know it will be difficult, but I must insist you tell me all that has happened."

He began his recital with only a few fits and starts, feeling dazed in a way that didn't at all muffle the pain. He started with discovering Lockhart packing and moved on to heading down to the Chamber with Ron, then to the near obliviation. He briefly recounted his battle with the Basilisk, ignoring the assessing and somewhat disbelieving glances between himself and the sword. But when he got to Voldemort, he faltered, throat tightening in a way that threatened to cut off his words.

He closed his eyes, then took a steadying breath and began again. "So. The Basilisk was dead, and Fawkes had healed me from its poison while Voldemort stood there gloating, but he still had my wand. While he was focused on me, Fawkes retrieved the diary, and he dropped it into my lap. I grabbed the snapped off Basilisk fang and stabbed the diary with it. Voldemort shrieked, then disappeared. But the link between him and Ginny meant that when he died, she did too. I- " His voice wavered a bit, and he took a somewhat shaky deep breath before continuing, "I checked on her. She wasn't breathing and she wouldn't respond and she was so cold. Then I got Ron and Lockhart, Fawkes flew us all out of the Chamber, and I took them to the hospital wing. Then I knew I still needed to report what happened, so I came here."

Exhausted by his story, he sank back into the chair, waiting.

The first response didn't come from the expected quarter. "Harry," Professor McGonagall started gently, "I know it was an awful experience. But you can't blame yourself for Ginny's death. It's far more likely that You-Know-Who just drained her to death, rather than that your actions echoed through him to her."

He closed his eyes, feeling weak and tempted. Tempted to just… agree. It would be so simple to just accept the story she provided. And it would make everything so much easier; it would make his relationship with all the Weasleys so much easier. Leaving him the tragic hero, come to slay the Dragon but too late to save the lady. Not the knight's fault, not when others had caused his delay. Not his fault at all.

For one, brief moment, he teetered on the brink.

Gryffindor.

Then shook his head, looking up. "No," his voice was low, but clearly audible. "I knew. He told me. Trying to make me stop. But," he took a shuddering breath, "but he was killing her, and she was dying as each second passed and he had my wand. If he was telling the truth, I still knew I couldn't destroy him before he was fully alive. And after he'd killed me, he would have killed Ginny anyway. So if he wasn't lying, then she'd be dead no matter what I did, but if he was… If he was, it was the only way to save her. So. I did it. Part of me still hoped that he was just being a Slytherin, but I did it." A choked sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sob, escaped. "And the Slytherin was telling the truth after all."

He tried to ignore the look of shock, the touch of disbelief and revulsion, in Professor McGonagall's eyes. He tried to ignore the outright horror and hint of betrayal in the Weasleys' eyes as well. Easier to block out, though disturbing in its own way, was the assessing speculation that broke through the carefully controlled neutrality Malfoy's gaze had contained so far. As if sensing his need to have something – anything – else to focus on, Fawkes flew to his lap. Harry carefully fixed his eyes and attention on petting the resplendent plumage, avoiding the rest of the room.

From beyond his bent head, he listened as Dumbledore spoke, "A grave story, Harry, and a tragic one, though through no fault of your own." Harry winced. "What I can't help but wonder, however, is how Miss Weasley acquired the diary in the first place. When we consider whose diary it was, I fear the answer may be of grave importance. I know you are grieving, Molly, Arthur, but I have to ask if you have any ideas."

The conversation continued haltingly and broken, as Mrs. Weasley tried to muffle tears at the thought that their laxed vigilance might have allowed harm to come to their daughter. Sensing the attention had shifted away from him, Harry raised his head slightly to observe the room.

He, too, wished to know how Ginny had gotten the diary.

Watching the others as the discussion continued, Dobby's strange behavior caught his eye. The house elf deliberately locked gazes with him, then slid his eyes to his master, then followed this by hitting himself hard on the head. Then kept repeating the entire cycle. Granted, Dobby had always been weird, but this was a further step into the bizarre. What on Earth is he-?

His eyes widened, remembering a seemingly harmless past action which suddenly acquired horrifying significance. He looked at Mr. Malfoy, then looked back at Dobby. The elf nodded vigorously, then hit himself again.

Anger curled through him, and in some ways it was a welcome relief. He stood abruptly, interrupting the discussion and Mr. Weasley's grief filled reply. "Mr. Malfoy knows where she got it, doesn't he?" He stared at the man. The grey eyes flickered briefly, and Harry knew he was right. Rage ticked higher in his blood. "You put the diary in Ginny's textbooks while we were buying school supplies at the beginning of the year." And then, softly, certainly, accusation as heavy as the weight of Hogwarts itself: "You killed her."

He was furious. The kind of fury he might have felt toward Riddle, if fear and horror and the need to act had not crushed all beneath it. The kind of fury he would have felt afterwards, if grief had left space for any other emotion. But now, now there was no one left to attack him, for they were dead. And there was no one left to save, for she was dead too. He'd slayed the Basilisk, who'd only been following a parselmouth's orders. He'd stabbed Riddle, and felt nothing but satisfaction for his death. But Mr. Malfoy had started this, was responsible for this, and right now he wanted nothing more than to see Malfoy bleed.

Papers began to shuffle slightly, as if an unseen hand passed over them. The faint flicker of light only distantly registered. When Dumbledore's ceramic candy dish cracked clean through, he didn't even twitch. And the gasps as, behind him, the sword he'd killed the Basilisk with rose slowly off the desk and turned to point towards Malfoy, were distant, important, mere sound without significance.

"You," he repeated, "killed Ginny."

And the sword shot towards Malfoy as though banished at him.

His lunge to the side came in time to save his skin, but not his cloak.

The man kept his balance, though, and had managed to both unfasten his cloak's throat clasp and draw his wand, so that when he whirled to face Harry it was pointed at him. "No one tries to kill me, Potter."

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley both had their wands out, and so did Professor McGonagall, though she appeared to be trying her best to restrain them. Harry was going for his own wand when Dumbledore thundered, "Enough!" and a shimmering white curtain appeared between Malfoy, and the rest of the room.

Broken from his single-minded fury, Harry blinked, then shifted his gaze to see the sword still pinning Malfoy's cloak, embedded halfway into the solid stone wall where Malfoy had been standing.

That had to have been him.

But how?

Somehow, shrinking a sweater or turning his teacher's hair blue just didn't seem to be on this magnitude. Although vanishing the glass at the zoo just might have been something close.

Too bad it doesn't seem to work on living things.

Then he thought about the likelihood that he would have vanished Dudley by now, and was forced to – reluctantly – revise.

"Dumbledore." Malfoy looked somewhat ruffled, but he retained the entitled arrogance that made Harry's hands curl into fists. "That boy attacked a governor of Hogwarts. I demand he be expelled at once."

The bottom of his stomach dropped out. No, he thought, he can't do that. But the curling uncertainty fluttering through him belied that thought. Can he? Panicked, he looked at Dumbledore.

But Dumbledore seemed utterly unconcerned.

"Come now, Lucius," the Headmaster began, speaking lightly, cajolingly. "I understand you are upset. But as a school governor, you know we've never held the mishaps of accidental magic against the children who perform them." His easy, nonchalant tone turned Harry's actions into a minor bit of accidental mischief, and reframed Malfoy's demand for expulsion into a hysterical overreaction. "It's not fair to punish a young witch or wizard for something they have no control over."

"A mishap?" Malfoy almost choked, voice rising in furious indignation. "Harry Potter tried to kill me!"

"Indeed." Despite everything, Harry almost laughed at that serene acknowledgment. Malfoy's haughty, indifferent mask was well and truly shattered. The man seemed squarely caught between impotent rage and utter disbelief. "But he used no wand, as we can attest. And I'm sure Harry didn't banish the sword on purpose, did you my boy?"

He glared at Malfoy, "Not knowingly…"

Ignoring the dark menace in his student's tone, Dumbledore smiled. "Very good." He clapped his hands together. "In that case, I'm afraid it must be ruled accidental magic. As an esteemed governor of our fine institution, you know all about the unavoidable difficulties young witches and wizards encounter while struggling to train their magic." Dumbledore peered at the man from over his half-moon glasses. "Though you may wish to avoid Harry in the future." It was said offhandedly, almost an afterthought. "His powers do seem somewhat volatile around you."

Harry had never before realized that the headmaster's slightly absent-minded, grandfatherly calmness could be used as a weapon. It was… unexpectedly awesome.

But Malfoy recouped his poise quickly. "Headmaster, if you'll not expel him for attempted murder, I'm afraid I'm forced to take this to the Ministry. He is clearly a danger to others." The man didn't even bother with faking a tone of civic concern. "We'll hear what they have to say about the matter."

Dumbledore's face remained calm. "That's a serious accusation, Lucius. One I don't believe you wish to pursue. Undoubtedly, a major inquisition would ask why Mr. Potter was so upset that he hurled a sword at you with accidental magic. And his story would have interesting consequences for your reputation."

Grey eyes narrowed. "You have no proof of any wrongdoing on my part."

The barest breath of silence, as everyone in the room absorbed those words. Still walled away from Malfoy by the headmaster's shimmering barrier of magic, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were holding their wands at ready, a killing rage in their eyes.

"If I had," the Headmaster said, every word precise, "you would no longer retain possession of your wand. Or your faculties."

Harry shivered, although he didn't know why. Dumbledore's voice had been even, and perfectly calm. But for a second-

It felt like a shadow passed in front of the sun.

Malfoy was pale.

Unruffled, Dumbledore continued. "Yet we don't need a conviction to topple your reputation, and I find myself almost hoping you pursue this. Now, leave." Harry couldn't think of anyone who would disobey a command in that tone of voice. Malfoy was no exception.

Wisely, from the look on Mr. Weasley's face, Dumbledore did not drop the shield between Malfoy and the rest of the room. As the man gave a tight nod and turned to leave the office, Dobby scurrying at his heels, Dumbledore spoke one last time, pausing him. "And Lucius? See that no more old school things of Voldemort's end up in the hands of Hogwarts students."

He issued no threats. He didn't need to.

Malfoy acknowledged the directive with only a curt glare, but its strength was diminished by the pallor that had yet to fade.

The sight of Dobby, however, reminded Harry of the debt he now owed the elf. Without Dobby's help, he might never have learned who was responsible for the diary.

But how to-?

His eyes turned to Malfoy's discarded cloak, still pinned to the wall by the length of Gryffindor's sword.

That… might work. A cloak's just another piece of clothing, right?

"Mr. Malfoy," he called, pausing the man at the doorway as he left. Harry moved to the wall as Malfoy turned to him. Taking a deep breath, he smoothly pulled the sword out, catching the cloak as it fell and deliberately hugging it tightly to his chest, against his soiled robes. Setting the sword down on a nearby chair, he turned, walking towards Malfoy. The silvery shield flickered down in front of him to let him pass, although a glance over his shoulder showed it re-established behind him. "I've something of yours," he said, then unceremoniously shoved the cloak into his nemesis' hands.

In addition to the tear from when the sword had sliced through, the heavy cloak had picked up large streaks of blood, ink, and muck from his own clothing, all beginning to dry and exhibit a truly repulsive odor. Malfoy's face curled in disgust, and he tossed the cloak to the ground.

Harry flicked his eyes toward the pile, held off the ground by the outline of a small body. He held his breath as Dobby's head emerged from under the cloak, the house elf looking up at his - former? - master. The Dobby met his eyes- and beamed.

"Someday," Malfoy snarled into his face, jerking his attention back to the pureblood, "you'll be alone, with no one to save you."

Harry met his gaze. And smirked. "Maybe by then you'll have a new house elf."

For a moment, Malfoy's face showed only blank confusion. "What-?" Then comprehension had his head snapping down. "Dobby!" he barked.

But Dobby shook his head, eyes wide, backing up slowly. "Dobby does not have to obey. Dobby does not have to follow. Master dropped his cloak, and Dobby caught it. Dobby is… free."

This was apparently too much, and seeing Harry outside Dumbledore's shield made him too tempting a target. Malfoy went for his wand again. But Dobby bounced forward with a war cry of "You shall not hurt Harry Potter!" and a bang filled the air as Malfoy was hurled back across the office threshold to hit the wall with a glancing strike, then tumble down the stairs.

Remembering the length of the climb to the headmaster's office, the grin of thanks Harry gave Dobby was more than a touch feral.

Then he took a deep breath and turned to Dumbledore, "Sir, if it's alright, I'd like to go to the hospital wing. You probably still need to tell Percy, George, and Fred about Ginny, but I want to be there for Ron. And I'd like to see if Hermione's been unpetrified."

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Harry. I think it would be wise. I've no doubt Madame Pomfrey wishes to check you over as well. You may inform your friends that none of you will be expected for classes tomorrow if you wish not to attend."

"Thank you, Professor." He slid one last, conflicted, glance towards the Weasleys, then, looking away, left the room. Malfoy was long gone by the time he hit the bottom, and he began his slow walk to the hospital wing.

Exhaustion weighed on him with every step he took, and his mind felt stuffed and foggy. Right now he was mostly just enduring the time between adrenaline spikes, and as the confrontation with Malfoy faded so did the remains of his energy. He hadn't absorbed the implications of everything that had happened yet; nothing felt like it had settled. But he did feel like he had made a decision, down in the chamber. One he didn't fully understand yet, but one well and truly chosen.

Yes, made a decision, and learned something – about his house, and about himself.

Slytherin, the Hat had almost put him in, and his similarity to Slytherin's heir Riddle himself had commented on. But he was beginning to think that this wasn't because he had "un-Gryffindor" qualities that fit only in Slytherin, but because the two houses – normally pictured as opposites – were in some fundamental ways quite similar.

Ravenclaws in battle, he had no doubt, would coolly plan the sacrifice of distant strangers to achieve an important objective, though that cold logic could collapse in the face of sacrificing family instead. Hufflepuffs would sacrifice no one, though it means they sacrifice an objective in its place.

Only Gryffindors and Slytherins were good at sacrificing those they loved.

But with one friend who had lost weeks to the hospital wing and who could so easily have lost her life instead, with another mourning a dead sister, with himself going into battles he barely survived, and making decisions he should not have to make, he dreaded what they might be called upon to sacrifice next.

And he decided: he would do much, to see that it did not happen.


Chapter End


Next Chapter:

Dumbledore had said that Voldemort was trying to resurrect when he went to steal the Philosopher's stone. And since Dumbledore had destroyed it – the philosopher's stone: immortality, unlimited wealth, the pinnacle of alchemical achievement – rather than see it fall into Voldemort's hands, that implied that Voldemort could come back.

A prospect that made him go cold.

He'd barely survived a disembodied spirit and the memory of a sixteen-year-old boy. He had few illusions about the outcome of a confrontation with Voldemort in his prime.