Chapter Thirty-Nine: What Dobby Knows
Snape and Peter had spoken for half an hour or so, just soft, talking to him and offering sympathy, telling him what happened and how sorry they were over and over again. Even Snape sounded sympathetic - though this just hit home to Harry how close to death Kainda must be. Not one of their words seemed to sink in. All he could think was that she was dying, and he wanted to see her, even if she wasn't aware of his presence. He needed it. Just to say goodbye. Even though the thought brought a lump to his throat.
He knew that at some point during the half an hour of his guardians' comforting, he asked time and time again to see her. Time and time again, they fobbed him off, saying it wasn't wise, or there was no need, or to have another tissue or they'd move the serenity candles closer, nudge the beaker of potion into his hands again. He didn't want to hear it. After much pleading and excuses, he finally got the message through to them properly. Snape wasn't happy about the idea. Peter wasn't happy either, but he could see how much Harry wanted it. Ignoring Snape's warnings, Peter helped Harry out of bed, and the two of them made their way down the ward.
He knew instantly where she must be. The whole end section had been cornered off with screens. It was like a wall. Keeping them apart. A huge barrier. He would live, while she would die. So many horrible thoughts and cold worries were filling Harry's head. And it was the oddest things. As Peter eased back the screens and helped him stagger inside the cordoned off area, he was wondering who on earth he could cuddle anymore. Who's photo he would keep under his pillow. Who he would dream of in boring lessons.
She was there, in a bed at the far end of the ward. Madam Pomfrey was standing over her, constantly taking her temperature. Harry expected Madam Pomfrey to tell them to get out, but when she looked up, and saw Harry, she stood back, taking her notes and her clipboard. Everybody knows, Harry thought. They all know she's dying. They know about us.
Kainda was awake, but barely. Harry felt a lump in his throat as he saw how quiet she was, and how tired she looked. He'd never seen her looking so weary or pained. She was Kainda... she was happy, she was bright. She always smiled. She was one of the only things that made him smile anymore. And now, looking down at her as she laid in a hospital bed, her eyes half-closed, her skin the colour of milk, she was suddenly the thing that made him cry the most in the world.
"H-Harry?" she said, and with a twinge, he heard her cough. Blood spattered the blankets tucked around her neck. Madam Pomfrey moved forward and dabbed it off with a tissue. Kainda was helpless too, if she hadn't been ridiculed enough.
"Kainda..." He didn't even know how he could keep walking like this. Vaguely, staggering slightly, he made his way over to the chair at the side of her bed. Peter helped him down carefully, and once Harry was sat down, he went to stand next to Madam Pomfrey in the corner. Harry couldn't spare his guardian a thought. Kainda was the first and last thing on his mind.
He reached out, and feeling the tears in his eyes starting to roll down his face, he took her hand. She could hardly even grip back. Those fingers, once so strong and perfectly formed, gripping a Beater's bat and giving hell for leather on the Quidditch pitch... now so frail and weak. Harry realised with a fresh wave of pain and misery that he'd never see her play Quidditch again.
"Are... are you okay?" she said, her voice choked, and she gave another cough. More blood pattered over the white sheets.
"I love you," he said, and he didn't care who heard. He didn't want to waste time with small talk. He didn't want the last thing he ever said to her to be, "I'm fine".
The tears in her own eyes broke out, dripping slowly down the side of her pretty face. "I love you too," she whispered. He remembered the first time he'd had a good look at that face, at the Quidditch practice, all that time ago. When he'd looked at her and thought she was a bit of a tomboy. And then again, when they kissed on that night, and he'd thought she wasn't exactly ugly. And when they'd first said "I love you". She was pretty then.
And now she was the most beautiful and sad sight that Harry had ever seen. She wasn't even rivalled by the dead unicorn he'd seen in his first year, or the veela at the Quidditch world cup, or Alrister's wife, dead on the floor of their home, or Isabis in her wedding gown.
"H-Harry... I'm... I'm sorry..." she whispered, her voice strangled with tears.
"What for?" he replied. He gripped her hand gently. "You've never done anything wrong..."
"You n-need a new B-Beater..." she sobbed. "And - ... "
"No," he said, and he was crying openly now. He didn't care whether Peter saw, or Madam Pomfrey saw, and even if the whole school walked in with Blaise laughing at the front, he didn't care. He'd still cry. "I don't want a Beater. I want you. I need you."
There was a series of gentle knocks on the door, and a group of people came into the room. Madam Pomfrey slipped out of the screen, and Peter glanced out too. When he turned back, he said, quietly, "The healers from St Mungo's are here, Harry..."
"Healers?" he said, looking up, his eyes glossed with tears.
"Mmm... they're here to take Kainda to the hospital to see if there's anything they can do." Peter moved over to the bed, placing his hand on Harry's head. "There's a chance... they've got some of the best healers in the world at St Mungo's..."
"H-Harry..." Kainda was reached out for his face. Harry's attention on Peter broke instantly, and he leant forward to her hand. Her fingers curled gently around his collar, rubbing it, her eyes full of a heavy kind of curiosity. "Why...?"
Harry wrapped his fingers over her's gently, and said, in a soft voice, "It lets Professor Snape know if I'm in trouble... and Peter... Dumbledore's told them to look after me." Maybe Snape would tell him off for this, spreading the secret, but Snape didn't matter. "It stops me doing anything risky."
Kainda smiled a little, just a twitch of the corners of her lips, her eyes sparkling. "Keep yourself safe, H-Harry... never give up... st-stand by your friends..." She swallowed. "Remember me."
"I will," he said, softly, his fingers curling around her's. "Until the day I die."
The screen behind them parted, and a few of the St Mungo's healers came in, looking very quiet and sad. Madam Pomfrey followed them, hissing at them to be quiet. To Harry's surprise, Cornelius Fudge and Dumbledore could be seen outside in the ward, conversing in low mutters. Fudge was looking blustery. He always did.
Peter wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders, easing him to his feet, and whispering, "Come on Harry... she has to go."
He stood back in the shadows, just watching, unable to do anything else, as the healers carefully conjured stretchers and eased Kainda onto them. Harry saw the same wadding and bandages around her stomach as he had, but hers were stained with fresh, weeping blood.
As the healers carried her past, she reached out with her hand. He took it, and knowing this would most probably be the last time he ever touched her or saw her, the tears started to fall again.
And then her hand slipped away, and the sound of the healers' footsteps went down the ward. He heard the doors open, the healers stepped through, and then they closed. Silence fell on the ward. Peter's cold, watery arms wrapped around him in a tight hug. "It's okay to cry," said Peter, and the ghost was weeping already, shaking. It was nothing to how Harry felt. Tears seemed to have failed him, as though the sadness itself was just too great for the human body to deal with.
Somehow, he was lead back to his bed, and lifted back into it. Peter was still hugging him. Somebody was rubbing his hand, somebody had a hand on his head, and Harry felt as though he really should tell them all to go away, and leave him to cry, but for some reason, he wanted them there. He didn't want to be alone.
Snape was stood next to his bed, and he was the one with the single, sombre hand on his head. Peter was rubbing his back and his hand. Dumbledore was standing at the end of his bed, conversing with Cornelius Fudge, who looked very grave and grim indeed. Harry's numb mind only vaguely caught snatches of words such as, "Tragedy... terrible tragedy...", and from what he could hear, the Zabini family were all in shock. Rightfully. Harry closed his eyes, as the exhausted tears began to fall again.
"And the boy's chosen to remain at school?" Fudge murmured.
"He has," said Dumbledore, quietly. "He wishes to be with his friends, and I must agree that they will no doubt help him through this time better than anybody."
Blaise, Harry thought. How could he ever have suspected Blaise? He'd been almost sure it was the Slytherin, and now... he knew Blaise was malicious, a little disrespectful of other people, but nobody would kill their own sister. Or if they had by accident, they wouldn't stay quiet about it. Harry knew he couldn't have. He wondered vaguely as he laid completely still in his bed whether Blaise felt like him just now, as though a part of life itself had been stolen.
Luckily, both Dumbledore and Fudge left soon after that, Fudge saying something about the Prophet, and Dumbledore saying no. Harry didn't know when it was that he'd fallen asleep, but somehow, he did, and through hours and hours and hours of sleep, all he could see and fell was Kainda's hand slipping away from his, as they carried her away, and tore her out of his life.
Harry's life was changed from that moment on, for the next few days at least. His world had collapsed, from the huge open castle of Hogwarts, to just a few metres square around his bed, and he felt as though he never wanted to leave the space that had become his new home. Everyday, more and more cards of good will and comfort just appeared next to his bed, with sweets and presents, but Harry felt as though they didn't exist. They seemed a million miles away, even though they were just next to him, because they were sent from somebody who meant him to smile. And he didn't want to smile, never again.
Everytime when he opened one of the cards and read through the message, it was something long and hopeful about his injures getting better, sometimes even a joke, and then often squashed as a post-script would be, "Sorry about Kainda". This almost hurt him even more. It was like they thought him so selfish that he only felt about himself. Even though, deep down, he could tell that if they knew the real reason why he never wanted to open his eyes again, they'd just think him pathetic. It wasn't as though Kainda had known him all his life, they'd talked of children, a future.
It was only until Hermione's card came, and inside, she hadn't written a speech about how she hoped he would get better, or even as he had expected pages and pages of sentimental drivel about Kainda. All there was were four lines, in her neat handwriting.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person
An hour to appreciate them
A day to love them
But then an entire life to forget them
And even though Harry couldn't completely explain it, that one little verse made more sense to him than anything in the world ever had.
It was late, dark, cold and quiet as always. He never woke up any more unless all these four conditions were present. The moon shone down from the window behind his head, bathing every other bed in a soft, pearly glow, and apart from the waxy globules floating around in the beaker of potion next to his head, everything was still and quiet. He was quite thankful for this. It was better when things were quiet.
He reached out his hand, expecting Peter to hand him his glasses, but it didn't happen. He blinked in the darkness. Peter wasn't in his usual place next to Harry's bed, curled up in a chair and reading a book, or smoking out of the window when Madam Pomfrey wasn't looking. Maybe he was with Dumbledore or Voldemort. Harry picked up his glasses after fumbling around for a moment, put them on, and glanced around the darkened ward. At first, he thought he was alone as always, idly taking in the flickering serenity candles, before he realised with a start that there was somebody staring at him over the end of his bed. He jumped a foot in the air, nearly knocking one of the candles over, before he realised and gasped, "Dobby!"
The elf blinked at him over the bed rail, and Harry saw that there were huge tears in his tennis-ball sized eyes. "Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter, sir!" the elf said, cautiously, taking a few steps backwards. "Dobby did not wish to startle Harry Potter, sir..."
"It's alright," said Harry, rubbing his eyes. "Just... don't stand and leer at me from the end of my bed... bad memories..."
Dobby pattered over to stand next to Harry instead, not high enough to scramble up into the chair, and so he just stood, watching Harry with tears leaking down his face. Harry was about to ask what was wrong, but Dobby attended to that, with a sudden wail of, "Harry Potter nearly died! And... and it is Dobby's fault... all Dobby's fault... and Harry Potter's friend is dying! And - " He broke down into great gulping sobs, thrashing around and howling on the floor, apparently too upset for words.
Harry reached down, and grasped Dobby by the back of his jumper, pulling him upright onto his feet. "Dobby," he said, seriously. "It is not your fault, it's not the house elves' fault. Don't blame yourself. That's an order," he added, as Dobby reached out for one of the candlesticks.
Dobby tentatively withdrew his hand, his eyes still swimming with tears. "But... but..." He hiccuped, starting to shiver. "Harry Potter does not understand! Harry Potter... and... Dobby could have..."
Frowning, Harry pulled Dobby to sit on the bed, made sure there were no sharp objects within grasping distance, and then offered the sobbing elf a box of tissues. Dobby wailed and waved them away. Harry put them to one side again. "Come on Dobby... I'm okay... I'll be fine in a few weeks. You don't need to cry."
"Dobby should be fired!" Dobby howled, miserably.
"No, you shouldn't," said Harry. He took a tissue, and forcefully dried Dobby's streaming eyes. "The house elves and you aren't to blame at all for what happened to me and..." He still couldn't say her name. He didn't think he ever could. The universal term for Kainda throughout the entire school had now become just an awkward silence.
"But Dobby could have stopped what happened to Harry Potter! If Dobby had been brave... but Dobby was not..." The elf shook madly as Harry dried away more of his tears. "Dobby is rotten! Rotten, Harry Potter, sir!"
"What do you mean?" said Harry, frowning a little.
Dobby looked up at Harry from behind his long-fingered hands, his eyes wide and fearful, and for a moment, he simply sat and quivered. Then so quickly that Harry couldn't stop him, he grabbed one of the empty potions beakers and beat himself around the head with it, yelping at every crack. Harry snatched it off him, and held it at arm's length.
"Dobby!" he said, sternly.
Dobby gave a great gulping sob in reply.
"Tell me what it is," said Harry, putting down the jug, and grasping Dobby's wrists just in case.
Dobby closed his eyes, and for a few moments, did nothing but rock back and forth, getting his breath back and his strength to speak. And then, in a quiet, very strangled voice, he said, "Dobby knows, Harry Potter... Dobby knows who it was who hurt Harry Potter and his friend. And Dobby has been wanting to tell Harry Potter for so long, but he was scared, Harry Potter, and Dobby is so sorry..."
"You know who it is?" said Harry, feeling his insides squirming. "How? How did you find out?"
Dobby took a few more moments to compose himself, then went on, rocking back and forth still. "Dobby was cooking one night, Harry Potter... and he was making soup, and Dobby's soup needed more salt. So Dobby went to look in the cupboards, and when Dobby turned around, a boy was standing there, Harry Potter. He had a wand, Harry Potter, and Dobby was scared, so Dobby hid in the cupboard! And... Dobby saw what the boy did... everything he did... Dobby's house elf friends tried to stop him, Harry Potter, but he did not! He took a little bag from his pocket, Harry Potter, and he poured yellow powder into one of the bowls of soup. And then... he put a spell on Dobby's friends, and they all stayed very still, and then he left Harry Potter, and they all woke up! But they says they did not see him, Harry Potter. They does not remember. But Dobby does! And Dobby wishes he had told Harry Potter... because Harry Potter's friend is now very poorly! And Dobby could have stopped it!" He gave a great wail of remorse, trying to tug out of Harry's grasp, but Harry held him fast. The house elf slumped forward, his forehead resting on Harry's shoulder, as he just sobbed uncontrollably into Harry's shoulder.
"Dobby... what did the boy look like?" said Harry, seriously. "You have to tell me, Dobby, and we can find out who it was..."
"He... he is having dark hair, Harry Potter," said Dobby. "And brown eyes. And he is wearing a scarf like Harry Potter's, but his scarf is green, Sir, and he has a white wand. And he is short for a human, but big for Dobby."
Harry pieced together this description. A short Slytherin, with dark hair, and brown eyes, and a white wand. He'd seen a few people with white wands before, but the only Slytherin he'd seen with even a vaguely light wand was -
"No," said Harry, shaking his head. "It can't be, Dobby, you must have not seen him properly... that's Blaise... he was her brother, he wouldn't kill his own sister."
Dobby wailed again. "No, Harry Potter, Dobby saw him! Dobby saw him put the powder in the soup, and then he left, and Dobby saw him properly! Dobby is sure, Harry Potter, sir!"
"But why would Blaise kill his own sister?" said Harry, with wide eyes. "He wouldn't do something like that."
"Wouldn't he, Harry Potter?" said Dobby, and there was a desperate note in his voice. He stared into Harry's eyes, almost frantically. "Dobby is so sure... and... Dobby knows that Harry Potter's friend is not very well, Sir. Dobby has heard that she... she is dying, Harry Potter... and Dobby thought that if he could help Harry Potter, and tell Harry Potter who it was that hurt his friend, then Harry Potter would want to take revenge! Harry Potter would want to make sure that he does not hurt somebody again!"
Harry looked into Dobby's eyes, his mind strung in a deep conflict between what was reasonable, and what was right. He couldn't think of a single person that fitted Dobby's description, except Blaise, and yet... would Blaise kill his own sister? And if he had, surely he would have confessed? Wouldn't guilt have eaten him alive by now?
A vision suddenly came to Harry, of sitting out in the Quidditch stands, with Kainda hanging upside down before him, the softness of her on his lips. And then she drew back, and the conversation flitted forwards, until something she had said came to mind. Of how Blaise and the rest of her family were all Death Eaters, loyal to the Dark Lord, and she wasn't. From how she'd said it, Harry got the impression that Zabini Senior was very far in Voldemort's ranks. Was their loyalty strong enough so that if the daughter who didn't conform was killed, they wouldn't mind?
Another thought suddenly came to Harry's head. Blaise was staying at Hogwarts instead of going home to be with his family. Why? To stay with his friends? Unlikely. Blaise wasn't exactly the confiding sort, and none of Blaise's friends were even close to him. Blaise had bodyguards and arm candy, not friends. So why else would he stay?
His mind started to put the pieces together, and he said, quietly, "Dobby... are the students still eating the school food?"
Dobby shook his head. "No Sir. Professor Dumbledore and the rest of the teachers is conjuring things for the students to eat. But they is still drinking school water. It is safe, Harry Potter."
Harry's brain was going numb with a cold sort of dread. He shook his head. "No, Dobby... it's Blaise... he's going to do it again, he's going to poison the water supply. I just know it. Why else would he stay at Hogwarts? And if he can't poison the food, he'll get it in the water, and everybody drinks school water." He looked around, desperately. Madam Pomfrey was probably asleep for the night, and he could hardly even move about in bed, let alone walk... Snape's office was fairly close, but he couldn't drag himself the whole way. He looked at Dobby, wondering whether he could send the elf to fetch Snape, but no. Snape wouldn't get out of bed for a mere elf.
Suddenly realising just how he could get somebody to come and help him, he turned right around in his bed, wincing at the pain it caused him. Dobby was watching him as though he was mad, as he clawed at the wall above his bedpost, and said, desperately, "Peter! Peter, I need you! Please Peter, wherever you are... please, come quickly!"
"Harry Potter is talking to a wall, Sir," Dobby mumbled, warily, backing away slightly. "Walls is not having names or replying to questions, Harry Potter..."
A white shape suddenly whooshed into the room though, and Dobby gave a little scream, falling off the bed and toppling out of sight. Peeves, not Peter, was the spectre who grinned down at Harry from three metres off the ground. He was wearing his own clown jumpsuit again, with fluffy red ping-pong baubles, and that ludicrous propellor hat. "You rang, Sir?" he chimed, greasily.
Harry looked fearfully up at Peeves, frightened now. He was used to talking to Peter when he was troubled, not the grinning airborn menace who had made his life that bit more difficult for the best part of six years. "Uh - I need help."
Peeves cackled, bobbing up and down in mid-air. "Fetch you some water, shall I? Clean your socks? Change your sheets? Not had a scary dream again, have we?"
Harry knew now just how separate Peter and Peeves were. The ghost was quiet, almost sombre, very concerned and caring and brotherly. Peeves was definitely the evil side of Peter's alter-ego, just as an untamed werewolf was the evil side of Lupin.
"I know who's causing the Risotta," said Harry, worriedly, looking up at Peeves and begging him to understand. "And they're going to poison the water supply, I just know it. I need a teacher... bring Snape, please. I need Professor Snape."
"Sleeping," said Peeves, idly, still grinning down at Harry in almost a maniacal way. "Can't wake him."
"Please," Harry pleaded. "It might be tonight, Peeves... please..."
"No use," said Peeves. "Won't wake up, he won't. A waste of time. Spends every minute of his life asleep unless his little mistress is around. Oh, he's awake then. Sneaky Snape." He cackled.
It was no use. Peeves just wouldn't listen. Even as Harry watched, the poltergeist gave a last high, cold cackle, and swooped upwards, straight through the ceiling, gone in an instant. Dobby watched Harry worriedly from near his elbow. "What is Harry Potter going to do now?"
"Harry Potter," Harry said, stubbornly, as he turned on his side, grasping the bed post, and heaving himself to his feet. The pain was incredible, tearing at his stomach, and without Snape or Peter around to give that guardian-comfort, there was nothing to take his mind off the searing agony, except the thought that he had to tell somebody. "Is going to do something very very stupid, burst open his wounds, and drag himself... all the way..." He took a few tentative steps, swaying dangerously, and Dobby was straight there, pushing two hands into the small of his back to keep him upright. "...to Snape's office."
"Dobby does not think this is such a good idea, Harry Potter," Dobby said, worriedly. "Should Dobby go and bring Professor Snape?"
"He won't listen to you, Dobby," said Harry, groaning, stumbling his way along the walls, trying to ignore the stabbing pains in his stomach. "It's hard enough for me to wake him up, let alone for you to."
"Harry Potter will hurt himself," Dobby whined, following after him and grabbing the back of his pajamas to make him stop. "And Dobby does not first aid, Harry Potter!"
"I need to get to Snape," said Harry. He carefully edged sideways, almost at the doors now. "And I'm not going to stop, not for anybody! People could be in danger... what if Blaise has already poisoned the water? Or what if he's not going for the water? What if he's just going to go around and make people drink it! We have to tell somebody Dobby, and I'm not going to - "
The doors opened and Snape came into the room, fully dressed already, his billowing black robes giving him the air of a bat sweeping out into the night. To Harry's dismay, the doors flew round as he crashed through them, and one hit Dobby in the back. The little elf flew a meter through the air before hitting the wall and falling over with a loud yelp. Snape jumped and wheeled around. Harry stared back at him, leaning against the wall and red in the face, with Dobby going cross-eyed at his feet.
"Potter! Get back into bed this instant!"
"It's Blaise," Harry panted. "Blaise Zabini, Professor, he's causing the Risotta! It's with poison, he's been putting memory-charms on all the house elves!"
Snape gave a sigh, and murmured something about "delirious" and "hysterical", before sweeping over to Harry, taking him carefully by the arms and practically dragging him across the room. Harry was about to start protesting again and push Snape off, but something else did that for him. Dobby wriggled between Snape and Harry's legs and pushed the Potions master away. "Harry Potter is not delirious! Harry Potter is telling the truth, and you must listen to Harry Potter, because people is in danger!" When Snape didn't let go of Harry, and just pushed him back into bed, Dobby squeaked, "Dobby has seen a boy putting powder in the soup! Dobby has seen it with his own eyes! You must listen to Dobby and Harry Potter, or more people is going to die!"
Snape raised an eyebrow at the elf now staring up at him from around his shins. "Oh, and the only proof we have of this is your word?"
Dobby nodded frantically. "Dobby is telling the truth, sir... Dobby does not want more and more people to die..."
"Sir?" said Harry. "How did you know I needed you...? Normally you just... well... ignore me."
"That blasted poltergeist came swooping into my private chambers and flung my bed upside down," Snape said, waspishly. He glanced between the two of them, and with an annoyed sigh, he said, "Very well, Potter. We shall test this. And if your little informant is wrong, I shall have no qualms with dicing him up and turning him into house elf stew. Are we clear?"
Dobby trembled at that, but Harry nodded valiantly. He glanced over down the ward, and the bed that Kainda had last lied in, and he knew that he wanted to catch whoever it was more than anything he'd ever desired. Snape saw the glance, paused for a moment and then nodded. "Elf," he said. "Go to the Slytherin dormitory, and bring the prefects here immediately. On seconds thoughts, just bring Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. Do not tell him what is going on. And be quick about it."
Dobby scurried from the room, pattering out of the doors, and as he went, he was reciting, "Slytherin dormitory, Draco Malfoy, Dobby must not tell what is going on and be quick about it..."
Snape glanced at Harry, who held the Potions master's stare for a moment, and then Snape too swept out of the room, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts and his hopes.
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