Out of the Shadows
Chapter 13: Old friend
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.
The guy who had come from the secret passage behind the painting cheered, jumped from the ledge and caught Hermione up in a hug.
“Hermione, it’s been ages! I knew you’d make it- you’re too smart not to have,” he told her enthusiastically.
“Neville!” Hermione said letting go and taking a step back, “Oh, it’s great to see you, too. I’m so glad you’re alright!”
“Just wait ’til Luna and Ginny hear you’re okay- they’ll be over the moon,” he told her, still smiling. “Luna was taken, too – we were so worried- but a little house elf showed up with her about a week ago. She didn’t look so great at first, but she’s almost right back to normal, now,” he told Hermione happily.
“Dobby did it!” Hermione said, turning to Harry for the first time since the boy’s entrance.
Harry, who had been standing there awkwardly during their reunion, looked up, and offered a half-hearted smile.
Neville seemed to notice him for the first time since he had spotted Hermione, too.
“Oh,” he said, “Sorry. I’m Neville Longbottom.” He stuck out his hand, which caused Harry to freeze for a moment. Trusting strangers was certainly not something he had learned growing up. Glancing at Hermione, who gave him an encouraging nod, he tentatively took the guy’s hand in a firm grip.
“I’m Harry Potter.”
The reaction was immediate. Neville’s eyes widened and his eyes darted from Harry to Hermione and back again.
“No joke?” he asked.
“No, Neville,” Hermione answered, “this is really him.”
“Wow,” Neville said, still sounding a bit surprised, “well, it’s certainly unexpected, but, it’s nice to meet you, Harry.”
He smiled and Harry was glad that was all the fuss he made about his identity.
Neville certainly looked worse for wear- he was covered in cuts and bruises and his clothes were ripped in a few places. He had the general appearance of someone who had been living dangerously on the run for a more than a few days.
After another minute of talking, they followed Neville into the passage, still listening to him explain the current state of Hogwarts; things there definitely didn’t sound good. He also told them that the passage led to the Room of Requirement, which Hermione seemed to know about already. This didn’t surprise Harry, but since he had no idea what it was, Hermione gave him a quick description before Neville continued talking.
When they reached the end of the tunnel, there was another door. Neville turned to them, ready to push it open.
“Well, this is it,” he told them, still looking upbeat.
Light shown into the passageway as Neville exited. Hermione started to follow, but paused, noticing Harry’s reluctance. His heart was beating harder than usual and he felt fidgety, not knowing what was waiting on the other side of the door. The only thing he did know was that he was about to get his first glimpse of Hogwarts, the place where his parents had learned magic.
Hermione smiled at him and took his hand, pulling him forward with her. Just as he entered the room behind her, Hermione discreetly let go of his hand, staying close by his side.
The room was nothing like he had even seen before. It was a good size, with wooden walls and no windows, a few hammocks hanging, and three large banners on the walls, which Harry recognized as House crests from Hogwarts: A History. As he hopped off the low ledge where the tunnel let out, he heard a few people yell Hermione’s name. Seeing a little over half a dozen curious and excited faces looking at them, Harry felt nervous and uncomfortable. He had no idea what lay ahead in the corridors of Hogwarts, but he certainly hadn’t expected a welcoming party, if that’s what it was.
“Hermione is back!” Neville told them. “And you’ll never guess who she’s brought with her!”
All eyes turned to Harry, and he felt himself tense and heat up, glancing at Hermione immediately. Neville looked him in the eyes, and introduced to the small group:
Silence filled the room for several long seconds as they gaped at him before everyone started whispering at once. Harry felt like he was on display in a zoo, and wanted nothing more than to jump back through the portrait and forget the possibility of something useful being hidden at Hogwarts. Hermione, noticing his extreme discomfort, took his hand again and led him over to a girl in the small, excited crowd.
She had light blond hair and a sort of dreamy look on her face.
“Harry,” Hermione said, “this is Luna Lovegood.”
Luna looked at him closely, and Harry noticed that she was wearing odd earrings. More importantly, the others had stopped staring at him.
“Luna,” Hermione turned to address her friend, “this is Harry Potter.”
“But of course it is,” Luna answered kindly, “Dobby told me all about you when he rescued me. He said you and Hermione sent him to get me out of there.”
Harry, who had just been starting to relax somewhat, felt his face heat up again. What had Dobby said about him? Why had he even mentioned him?
“Err… it’s nice to meet you, Luna,” Harry told her.
“It is very nice to meet you, also.”
A girl and boy with red hair and freckles stepped toward them.
Hermione noticed this and introduced them as Ginny and Ron Weasley. Harry had to fight the urge to cringe at the name “Weasley”; he had heard it on several occasions at the Malfoys and what was said about them was never good. This meant he might just get along with them.
“Where is Professor McGonagall?” Hermione asked once they were acquainted and she had given them a very brief account of what had happened to her.
“Not sure,” Neville answered from beside Hermione. “We don’t get out exploring the castle much lately.”
“The four of us have been stuck here, since we know they are after us,” Ginny told them, “but a few others come and go, like Colin,” she nodded to a young-looking boy with an old-fashioned camera around his neck. He was openly gaping at Harry, with his hands gripping his camera, looking like he might faint.
“They give us news of what’s been going on in the castle, or hide out for an hour or two if someone is looking for them,” Ginny finished explaining.
Hermione looked uncertain without the prospect of seeking out McGonagall’s guidance.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” Ron asked.
“We were chased by dementors, and ended up here. But,” she glanced at Harry, trying to read on his face if he was okay with her revealing anything to them. “We do need to find something…” Hermione told the group.
“Well, what is it?” Ron’s tone was a bit impatient now.
“We… aren’t completely sure,” Hermione answered, looking embarrassed.
“Blimey, Hermione, how do you expect to find it, then?”
Seeing annoyance flare up in Hermione’s eyes at her brother’s comment, Ginny hastily stepped in.
“Ron, that isn’t helping.” She shot him a dirty look that clearly said to keep quiet if he didn’t have anything helpful to say.
“Do you have any idea at all what it might be?” Neville asked hopefully. He looked a bit doubtful, though.
“Maybe something of one of the founder’s… like an heirloom or something with the House crest on it,” Hermione suggested. “Just, keep an eye out, at least, and if you find something suspicious, be careful with it. Hide it somewhere safe and try to let us know, or tell us when we get back.”
“When you get back?” Ginny asked. “Where are you going?”
Again Hermione’s eyes sought Harry, who had remained a silent observer in their conversation.
“We are helping the Order; a sort of… secret mission,” she offered, hoping they would accept this as sufficient.
Their faces held varying degrees of curiosity, but none of them asked anything more.
Harry and Hermione set out to try to find McGonagall not long after, with him blinking his eyes furiously to try to stop the blue spots that kept popping into his vision. As they were leaving Colin seemed to have regained his ability to move and had rushed over to take a picture of a flustered Harry. Ron had hollered at him and took the picture, saying it could be dangerous if anyone caught sight of it and not trusting the younger boy not to show it off. Colin had sulked off, and the other four promised to keep an eye out for any magical items that might fit their description.
“So, do you know where we’re going?” Harry whispered to her as they ducked into an empty corridor to avoid crossing someone’s path. Under the cloak they had the advantage of invisibility, but it was more difficult navigating the castle, having to dodge people and keep quiet.
“I have an idea, but I’m not sure,” she admitted, as they peered down the next hall.
After a few close calls, they found the rightful Headmistress of Hogwarts. She had been surprised to see Hermione, but very glad to find her safe. The stunned expression she held once Harry had been introduced and the basics of their situation were explained looked out of place on such a wise face.
At Hermione’s request, the Professor taught them the spell for fighting off dementors after they caught up. Hermione mastered the basics of the spell without too much trouble, quickly producing a silvery mist, though she would need more practice to form that into a full Patronus. Harry, on the other hand, was having a difficult time. Professor McGonagall seemed to think it was the happy memory that was giving Harry trouble. He didn’t disagree.
McGonagall said that she would let them stay, and personally help to hide them, but it might be in their best interest to leave sooner rather than later if they were planning to. Before they left, however, the woman said she knew someone would want to see them.
Dobby appeared out of thin air, and greeted them with a deep bow.
“Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby said eagerly, “and his miss!”
Their faces reddened at Dobby’s comment, and the Professor gave them a strange look.
“Well, I have to be going,” Professor McGonagall told them. “You are certain the two of you can get out of the castle undetected?”
“Yes, Professor,” Hermione assured her.
“Then I wish you both good luck, with whatever it is you’re doing. And know that my door, while it may be difficult to reach, will always be open.”
Harry was surprised at the kindness and sincerity in her voice. From the impression he got, he suspected that students wouldn’t like getting on her bad side, and that she would have been stern but fair.
They thanked her and she left the room, her cloak swishing behind her.
“Dobby is glad to see you are still being alright, sir!”
“Thanks,” Harry answered.
“Dobby, you lived with the Malfoy family for years before Harry freed you, right?” Hermione asked gently.
“Oh, yes, miss,” Dobby told her, his large eras flopping comically as he nodded, “many years indeed.”
“Did you ever hear them talking about hiding anything really important- maybe some really dark magical object?” she kept her tone neutral, but Harry could tell from the excitement in her eyes that she was hopeful.
“Dobby heard many things there,” the elf told her after a few moments, “many things he did not want to hear.”
“There are things we need to find…” Hermione said cautiously, “they are very important. Do you know where the Death Eaters might’ve hidden anything?”
“Dobby remembers, but Dobby should not say. He should not- it is too dangerous,” he told her, looking anxious, twisting his hands together.
“Dobby, it will be a lot more dangerous for us if we can’t find them,” Hermione tried to reason.
“Dobby should not say,” he repeated, shaking his head with wide eyes.
“Dobby, please,” Harry stepped in, seeing that Hermione was having difficulty persuading the elf to reveal what he knew. “If you don’t tell us, we could all be in a lot of trouble… it has to do with defeating You-Know-Who.”
At this, the elf stopped shaking his head and stared at his friend nervously.
“If you know something- if there’s anything you can tell us- it might save our lives,” Harry continued.
Dobby paused for a few moments, looking between the two of them and sighed.
“Then Dobby must tell,” he concluded. “Dobby remembers, not long before he was freed,” he gave Harry a smile of appreciation before continuing, “hearing things about that horrible mad-woman keeping something safe.”
“She was telling Mister Malfoy about how she was his new favorite, sir. She was bragging about it. Saying because she got to hide something important for… You-Know-Who. He was asking what she is hiding, but she would not say. She just said it was an important artifact that showed the Dark Lord’s power over Hogwarts. Dobby thinks she does not know why it is important. Mister Malfoy seemed to be thinking so, too, because they argued about it, sir.”
“You mean Bellatrix, right?” Harry confirmed.
“Yes, sir,” Dobby nodded once, “the Horrible Mad-Woman.”
Despite the seriousness of the topic, Harry cracked a smile at this.
“So, Bellatrix is hiding-” Hermione stopped herself, having almost said ‘one of the Horcruxes’, “something?”
“It seems like it,” Harry agreed. “Bellatrix is off her rocker- absolutely mental- but she wouldn’t be bragging like that if she didn’t think she had something important. She teased Malfoy all the time about how he had fallen out of YouKnow-Who’s favor, but I don’t think she would have just made it up. Stretch the truth here or there, sure, but she usually doesn’t outright lie if she can’t back it up.”
“Hmm…” Hermione seemed to be contemplating this.
“Besides,” Harry added, “if she went ahead telling other Death Eaters she was hiding something, and they found out it was nonsense, she certainly wouldn’t look good, would she? I think she must really be hiding something for him. It’s got to be one of them.”
He turned to Dobby.
“You don’t have any idea where she might’ve hidden it, do you?”
“Dobby does not know, sir. She did not say.” As Harry’s face fell some, Dobby added, “But, she said she was the only one who could ever get to it.”
“Gringott’s,” she said with certainty. “It must be in her vault at Gringott’s. She’s the only one who could get to it- it’s one of the safest places there is, if not the safest.”
Harry wasn’t as sure, but what she said did make sense.
“Well then, if it is there, how do we get it?” Harry asked
“It would be nearly impossible,” Hermione answered quickly. “Gringott’s has only ever been broken into once. And even then nothing was stolen.”
“Well what choice do we have, if that’s where it’s hidden?”
“None, really- if she is hiding something dark and dangerous down there, I doubt she would take it out for any reason.” Hermione responded, still obviously thinking hard.
“Dobby does not think-” the elf feebly tried to protest in a shaky voice until Hermione cut him off in her excitement.
“Oh, of course! If we were going to break in, we could use polyjuice potion!” she told Harry eagerly. “It would still be incredibly tricky, mind you, but with that we might just have a chance.”
Harry noticed that Dobby was starting to look like he might have a fit with worry.
“Hermione, there is absolutely no way we could, or would, ever break into Gringott’s,” Harry looked directly into her eyes, flicking them toward Dobby, “right?”
“Oh… well no, of course not. That would be much too dangerous. I suppose I just got carried away- you know me,” she laughed at herself slightly, playing along. “Besides,” she said this part seriously, “I can’t imagine how we would get a bit of her to put in the potion.”
Harry made a disgusted face, but decided not to ask for now.
There was a somewhat awkward pause.
“Well,” Harry said finally with a dramatic sigh, “I guess we have no way of knowing if there’s even anything we need in Gringott’s. It could very well be life or death, but… if we don’t know, we don’t know. Not like we have any goblin friends hanging around we could ask.”
Hermione looked at him curiously until Dobby spoke.
“Well…” he said hesitantly, “Dobby does know of one goblin…”
“You do?” Hermione asked, clearly surprised.
“Where is he?” Harry’s question came quickly after Hermione’s, not allowing Dobby to address the first.
Dobby looked at Harry, his hands twisting in front of him again.
“There was a goblin locked up at the Malfoy place, sir. When you asked Dobby to go and rescue the others there, Dobby did. One of them was a goblin.”
“Where is he now?” Harry repeated gently, trying to be patient.
“He is where Dobby took him, sir,” Dobby said in a suddenly quieter voice. “He is at the Tonks’ house.”
“Really?” Hermione asked immediately.
“Oh, yes, Miss. The Tonks’ house is being used as a safe house by the Order now. There are others, but that is the first Dobby thought of.” After a moment, he added, “He is always thinking Mrs. Lupin is very funny, and he wasn’t sure if it was Mr. Lupin’s time of the month.”
Hermione’s lips quirked up noticeably, and she couldn’t help but laugh at the completely lost look on Harry’s face.
“Wait, Lupin? Do you mean Remus Lupin’s wife? And what do you mean his… oh,” Harry said, remembering what Sirius had told them about Lupin.
“Well, yes, Mr. Lupin’s wife…” Dobby looked unsure.
“Dobby, can you take us there?” Hermione asked.
“Why yes, Miss, Dobby could take you there. But it must be quick; Dobby is needing to get back to work now.”
“Please, if you could just take us quickly, we can leave right away,” Hermione told the little house elf.
“Yes, Miss! Anything for a friend of Harry Potter!” Dobby told them.
“You sure about this?” Harry asked. He didn’t like the idea of going to another “safe” house, owned by complete strangers. However, he supposed anyone with a place safe from Voldemort would be a stranger to him.
“Yes, if the Order is using it as a safe house, it should be one of the best places for us to go. And if-” Hermione stopped when Harry put up his hands in defeat, giving up without a fight.
“Alright, relax,” he smiled at her despite still looking uneasy, “if you say it’s a good idea, then it probably is.”
Hermione returned his smile, looking a little embarrassed.
“Let’s go then, Dobby,” Harry said.
They both took one of Dobby’s hands and within seconds, they left the school (apparently the anti-apparition wards here did not apply to house elves working and living at Hogwarts either).
The group reappeared outside, and Dobby led them to a house that wasn’t visible until they were nearly right in front of it. Walking closer to the cottage, they heard a loud bang from inside. Hermione ran to the door, whipping out her wand, and Harry followed close behind, drawing the wand Sirius had given him. Dobby hurried after them, whispering frantically about keeping quiet and danger.
Harry and Hermione flanked the doorway, waiting for Dobby to let them inside. The elf called out to the owners of the house quietly, and shortly after, they heard the front door unlock. Whatever magical protection there was on the entrance also vanished, for the time being. More crashing noises came from inside.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other seriously and nodded. Harry flung the door open and jumped in the doorway, his wand raised and ready. Hermione followed right after, standing at his side. Dobby was behind them, trying to calm them down while looking quite jittery himself.