Out of the Shadows
Chapter 8: The impossible journey
Writter: fall shadow
Summary: Harry has been raised to follow a path of darkness, but when he meets Hermione things start to change and he finds out everything he has been led to believe is a lie. Now, with a strengthened resolve, he must do whatever it takes to stop the one he once considered his master.
“Come in,” Harry answered to the light knock on his temporary bedroom door, not surprised to see that it was Hermione who quietly entered the room.
Harry sat up on his bed and swung his legs over the edge so that his feet were gently touching the floor.
“Hi,” Hermione greeted, coming to stand a little further into the room, biting her lip and folding her arms across her chest loosely.
“Hi,” Harry answered. “What’s on your mind?”
“I just thought maybe we could talk. My parents are both reading in their room- the books I gave them for Christmas- and Lupin said he had something to attend to.” She looked unsure, “And I thought you might like some company.”
Harry offered her a half-smile and slid off of his bed and onto to floor, gesturing for her to join him.
She returned his smile as sat down on the floor in front of him.
“First, thank you so much for the present. You really didn’t have to do that, and it’s so much better than what I gave you. I just didn’t-” Harry held up a hand to stop her, and for once, that was enough to make her pause.
“It’s alright,” he said simply. “And I know you think I saved you or something, but you are the one who apparated me out of there with you. If you hadn’t, well… it wouldn’t have been a fun time for me. And I’d still be there.”
Hermione nodded, understanding what he was trying to say, but not sure how to respond. They fell silent for a moment.
“Besides,” Harry added, “I should be the one thanking you. Today was great… I’ve never had a Christmas like this.”
Seeing that Hermione was going to question him about this, he quickly said the first thing that came to mind.
“So, you grew up as a muggle, not knowing about magic until you were eleven?” Harry asked, wanting to change the focus of the conversation away from himself.
“Yes, it was quite a shock for us when we found out. I had done some magic unintentionally before, but I think my parents usually tried to explain it logically or just act like it wasn’t that strange. Once, when I was pretty young, I scared my mom with a bit of accidental magic and she seemed genuinely frightened of me. I got really upset over it, and after that they never made a big deal about anything strange that happened.”
Harry wasn’t sure he could imagine what that would be like for a family who knew nothing of witches and wizards other than fairy tales and folklore to find out that their child could do magic. It was different for him; he was pretty sure now that his aunt and uncle had known what was going on, they had just tried to stomp the magic out of him.
“What was it like for you?” Hermione asked, “You said you lived with your aunt and uncle, right?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably, not sure what to say.
“Er, yeah… I lived with them after…” knowing she understood, he let it go without saying, “until I was ten.”
“Oh, yes, you said that before,” Hermione seemed to notice his hesitation in sharing, and asked questions more cautiously.
“Did you not like living there?”
“Hah, not exactly,” Harry answered, “But I think they might’ve liked me living there less.”
“Why would they have not liked you living there?” Hermione asked, clearly surprised.
“Er… they don’t really like anything… not normal. So to them, I was a flaw in their otherwise perfect household.”
Hermione looked troubled by his words.
“But really, it wasn’t so bad. It was much better than the Malfoys.” He gave her a bit of a smile to try to lighten the conversation.
“Plus, I learned how to cook, fix some things, clean, and do yard work- I’m pretty handy.”
Hermione still seemed upset, but he could tell that she was trying not to push him on the subject.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I can’t imagine what that would’ve been like.”
“It’s alright. Tell me more about when you were growing up,” Harry suggested.
And for a while, Harry listened interestedly, sometimes asking questions, as she told him more about her childhood. She explained how she spent a lot of time with her parents since she was an only child, and she mostly liked to read, watch movies, and play board games for fun. And she told him how she had been sad to leave muggle school since she had wanted to learn more there, but was so excited and nervous about Hogwarts.
“Tell me about Hogwarts,” Harry requested, having heard bits and pieces from Draco and knowing that his parents had gone there.
Hermione smiled at his obvious interest, and quickly got up, telling him that she would be right back. Without waiting for him to respond, she quickly left the room. Less than a minute later, she returned, carrying a book Harry thought he had seen her reading once or twice since they had been at Lupin’s.
“This is Hogwarts: A History,” she said, sitting down next to him this time, so he could see the book as well. “It’s a book all about Hogwarts- I read it before I first went there a few times so I would know what to expect.” She started searching through the table of contents.
“You read it a few times before you went?” Harry muttered under his breath, looking at the size of the book, but not really doubting what she said.
“What would you like to know?” she asked, showing him the table of contents.
The way she explained everything had Harry enthralled by the magical and wondrous school that was Hogwartsfilled with mystery, knowledge, all sorts of witches and wizards, secret passages, magical creatures, and four houses, each of which had Quidditch teams. She told him about everything: the professors, the classes, the groundskeeper, Hagrid, the Black Lake, the Forbidden Forest, and the new Headmistress, Professor McGonagall, who had been a sort of mentor and role model for Hermione for years.
Then she told him about how she had been so excited when she was picked as Head Girl for her seventh year.
Harry was really amused and entertained listening to her talk about herself and Hogwarts. He wasn’t used to conversations like this, and he had never seen her so animated and interested in what she was talking about.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if…” she trailed off, noticing the look on Harry’s face. “What?” she asked. “Why are you looking at me like that…? Am I talking too much?”
“No, no, you’re fine,” Harry assured her hurriedly. He smiled again, “It’s fun listening to you talk about Hogwarts- I almost feel like I’ve been there.”
Hermione looked uncertain at first, but then smiled and accepted his praise for her storytelling.
“Well, it’s getting late; we should probably get to sleep,” Hermione told him. She shifted away from his side, which neither of them had realized until then that she had gotten so close to, picked up her book, and stood.
Harry got up, too. He wanted to say something, but found that he wasn’t sure what, so he settled for standing there and waiting for her to speak.
“Thank you,” Hermione said.
Surprised, Harry responded, “You’re welcome,” without really knowing what she was thanking him for.
They said goodnight, and Hermione left to go to her room next door, while Harry flopped back onto his bed. For quite a while, Harry laid there and thought about everything Hermione had told him, about herself and Hogwarts- it was so much information, and he wanted to remember all of it. He could almost picture Hogwarts, an enormous stone-gray castle surrounded by grounds of green grass which led to a vast forest filled with monsters and creatures he had only read about, and a huge Quidditch pitch, decorated with the house colors on match days, a vast lake, and a road that led to Hogsmeade village.
He could also see a young Hermione, poring over volumes of books, trying to learn everything she could before leaving behind the world she knew and venturing off to a magical place full of strangers. The way she described her experiences, before and during Hogwarts, made him feel as though he understood what she had seen and had been thinking at the time, which was a foreign awareness for Harry; it wasn’t like he had much insight into the minds of the Dursleys or Death Eaters that he could actually make sense of or relate to. With Hermione, though, he could empathize with some of what she had told him, and he found it very curious and different.
Eventually, Harry fell asleep, his thoughts still on the girl who had saved his life as much as he had saved hers.
The next day was relatively uneventful, though Harry found his mind completely cluttered. It seemed to be split between remembering the conversation from the night before and wondering what it would be like if he had gone to Hogwarts or met Hermione sooner, and the things he had learned from Dumbledore’s memories. Thoughts of Horcruxes and the responsibility of saving the entire wizarding world kept creeping into his consciousness. As much as he wanted to avoid it and push it away and pretend it didn’t exist, he couldn’t for more than a few minutes at a time.
Harry was sitting in the living room with Quidditch Through the Ages, which he had been planning to read, having such problems. After reading about the Ballycastle Bats of Northern Ireland for the second time, whisperings of dark magic began to slither back into his thoughts. His scar started to hurt then, and he gave up on really concentrating on the book, barely taking in a thing as his eyes scanned the description of the Chudley Cannons further down the page.
Not long after, Hermione walked into the room, The Tales of Beedle the Bard in one hand. Harry glanced up at her when she came in, but then went back to reading the book she had given him, which was now no more than a pretense. Even looking through her own book, it didn’t take Hermione long to realize that Harry wasn’t really reading.
“Is something on your mind, Harry?” Hermione asked, looking up from her book.
“Oh, yeah, just… the things from Dumbledore’s memories,” Harry told her, deciding he might as well be honest.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Hermione tried not to seem too eager or interested, with minimal success.
Harry hesitated- did he really want to tell her everything in the memories Dumbledore left for him? Did he want to tell her about Voldemort and the Horcruxes… his destiny?
“Not really,” he answered finally. “It’s… personal.” He looked down, not meeting her eyes.
Hermione shifted, leaning closer to where Harry was sitting.
“Harry, it seems serious… you shouldn’t just keep something like that to yourself. Please, tell me. Let me help you figure it out.” When Harry didn’t respond, she added, “Trust me.”
Harry looked up and met her eyes, seeing concern in them.
“Tonight?” Harry asked quietly as Hermione’s mother walked in from the kitchen, carrying some sort of snack.
Hermione gave a slight nod, and Harry noticed that when she went back to her book, she didn’t seem nearly as focused as usual.
Hermione sat on the floor, leaning back against the side of Harry’s bed. She looked thoroughly shell-shocked. Harry could relate- he must’ve looked similar when he landed back in the chair after diving into Dumbledore’s memories. Silently hoping he made the right decision by telling her, Harry shifted a bit closer to her.
“Hermione?” he asked quietly.
“So… let me get this straight,” Hermione said, looking frazzled, “your mother’s love protected you from the Killing Curse and you survived with just that scar, your wand and Voldemort’s are brothers and may form some kind of link should they ever duel, there is a prophecy about you that basically says that you will either kill Voldemort or he will kill you, and Voldemort split his soul into seven pieces called Horcruxes in order to keep himself alive, which you now have to destroy if there is any hope for the wizarding world?”
Harry thought for a moment before agreeing, “That about sums it up, I guess.”
They fell silent, and Harry could tell Hermione was trying to connect and make sense of everything.
“So the prophecy was originally told to Dumbledore? And then Voldemort found out about it, and that was why he tried to kill you? How much of it does Voldemort know?” she asked Harry.
“I’m not sure… but I know he doesn’t know the whole thing.” Harry was looking down, and something was different about his tone.
“What is it?”
“I- nothing… it’s nothing,” Harry answered, still staring at the ground.
Hermione could tell there was more to it, but she decided to let it go; she didn’t want to push Harry to share too much and have him shut her out.
“Are you alright? How can he just drop all that on you at once?” Hermione asked indignantly, getting the subject back on the memories Dumbledore left for Harry. “It’s a wonder you aren’t an absolute wreck right now!” she stopped, clearly waiting for him to answer her previous question.
“I honestly don’t know…” Harry answered in a low voice.
“Oh, Harry, it’s going to be alright,” Hermione hastily tried to reassure him, laying her hand on his arm. “Whatever it is, we can sort it out.”
“We?” the word slipped out before Harry could stop it.
“Of course, I have been trying to help stop Voldemort for a while now, and I’m certainly not going to leave you to do this on your own!” Hermione told him forcefully.
Harry all but gaped at her- of the possible reactions he had anticipated, this was not one of them.
“Harry, think about it. Voldemort is trying to take over the entire wizarding world. If he regains power, it will be awful for everyone, especially muggle-borns and muggles. I knew there was a good chance I would be targeted, even more so once I started helping Dumbledore and the Order, but I didn’t want to just sit by and watch it happen; I had to do something.”
Harry just stared at her for a bit, astounded by the determination he saw in her eyes. A small smile crept onto his face.
“I can see why you’re in Gryffindor,” he told her truthfully.
She blushed, thrown off by his statement, before continuing.
“Harry, there’s no way you can do this all on your own. Let me help you. I can’t believe Dumbledore just left you this responsibility to save the world all by yourself!”
“Actually… Dumbledore said I should get help,” he hesitated, “but only if there was someone I completely trusted.” Quickly, Harry added, “I don’t think I trust anyone like that, but… well… you’re the closest I’ve got right now. And Dumbledore trusted you.” In a somewhat darker tone, he muttered, “Though I expect Dumbledore must’ve been at least halfway off his rocker, leaving the fate of the wizarding world on the shoulders of someone who hadn’t been seen in years.” Harry shook his head.
“Dumbledore didn’t always make sense, but he was definitely a smart man,” Hermione told him honestly. “He wouldn’t have left this task to you if he didn’t believe that you were still alive and could handle it.”
“Hah!” Harry fake laughed, “yeah, and all he leaves me to help with this nearly impossible task is a snitch, and a sword that I can’t even get!” Harry’s counter came out a bit harsher than he had intended.
“Of course,” Hermione exclaimed suddenly, “the things he left you must have something to do with finding and destroying the Horcruxes!” Harry was partially amazed that she was able to contain her outburst to a whisper. “He left you the sword- maybe that is a Horcrux, or can be used to destroy them! And the snitch… hmm… oh!” she exclaimed, suddenly, “Dumbledore’s note- did you catch it?”
“Err… yeah,” Harry told her, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably.
“And the second time you touched it, did anything happen?” she looked excited.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“The flesh memory- if you were the first one to catch it, then the next time it was touched by your hand, I thought something might have happened, since Dumbledore’s note mentioned flesh memories.”
“Well…” Harry hesitated and Hermione noticed how his face reddened.
“What is it, Harry?” she asked him in a curious tone.
“I think, the first time I caught it, I sort of… almost swallowed it,” Harry admitted.
“What?” Hermione asked incredulously.
“I was running after it, and it went into your room, and, well, I tripped over a stack of your books and yelled… and somehow it ended up in my mouth.” Harry looked at her with an embarrassed smile.
“Well then, did you, um, put it against your mouth again, after?” she asked him uncertainly.
“No,” Harry told her, “…should I?”
She nodded and he tried it, awkwardly touching his lips to the snitch, glancing at her as he did so. To his surprise, words appeared on it as inspected it afterward.
“‘I open at the close’?” Hermione read aloud. It was clear from her tone that she didn’t understand it, and Harry assured her that he didn’t either.
The words looked engraved into the snitch, but after about a minute, they faded and the snitch looked exactly as it had before.
“‘I open at the close.’ I don’t remember reading that phrase anywhere. The close… maybe I can find something in…” and she trailed off, speaking quietly to herself now.
All Harry could do was watch as she tried to figure things out and organize her thoughts.
“Hermione? Er, Hermione?” Harry asked, and eventually she looked back up to him.
“Sorry,” she apologized, focusing on him again. “So, what are you going to do?” she asked.
“Well… go try to find these Horcruxes, I guess,” Harry answered.
“Do you even know where to look or what you’re looking for?”
“Err… not exactly, but Dumbledore did have suggestions on what the remaining Horcruxes might be in his memories.” Harry looked hopeful that she would accept this, but to no avail.
“You can’t just go off and try to find something with no idea where to go!”
“Well what do you suggest, then?”
“Ugh, I don’t know! It’s not like he left me- wait, maybe there’s something useful in what he left me, too!”
“In a children’s book or a light collector…? I doubt it.” Harry told her.
She insisted on getting the book anyway, though, and after flipping through it with her for a while, Harry noticed something odd.
“Hey, what’s that?” Harry asked, pointed to a symbol in the book. “It looks like it was inked in.”
Hermione moved to inspect the book more closely.
“It does! I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before! I was so focused on finding some hidden meaning in the stories that I didn’t really pay attention to the pictures.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it anywhere,” Harry told her.
It was a triangle with a line dividing in down the middle, with a circle inscribed in the middle.
“Ohhh… I feel like I have seen it, but I don’t have any idea where!” Hermione groaned impatiently. “Maybe it’s in one of my other books,” she said as she got up and made to leave.
“Wait,” Harry caught her arm, standing up too, “let’s just sleep on it for tonight. We can talk about it again in the morning and try to figure it out tomorrow, okay?”
She hesitated, clearly wanting to skim through her whole library of books in search of the symbol right now even if it kept them up all night. But seeing how tired he looked, she relented.
Early the next morning, Harry was awoken by an excited Hermione. “I know where I’ve seen that symbol!” she told him as soon as she thought he was conscious enough to understand her. “My friend Luna Lovegood’s dad was wearing it on a chain as a necklace! I saw it when he came to pick her up for the holidays. He must know what the symbol means!”
“Brilliant,” Harry mumbled, ready to roll over and fall back to sleep, but Hermione was having none of that.
“Honestly, Harry, wake up. This is important; we might actually have an idea of where to go!”
Harry propped himself up on his elbow, completely facing her now.
“And where is that?” he asked, his voice considerably more awake now.
“To the Lovegood’s house.”