Chapter Eight: The Use of Knowledge
It had not bothered Charlie that his girlfriend had once been a boy, for the simple fact that she clearly was not male when he had begun to date her. Even Severus Snape had noticed that fact. It also had not impressed him much that he had deflowered Ree; frankly, the girl had caught him by surprise so many times in their love-making by her unabashed enthusiasm and creative prolixity that they had taken to calling him Snitch.
"You'd better catch me quickly before I tell all my friends about your . . . talents," Charlie had teased Ree more than once.
She had immediately sought out yet another of his weaknesses, and he had surrendered to her.
From what Ron had written in his letter, though, Charlie was not sure if Ree would want him to touch her now. His brother had been vague, but it seemed clear that Malfoy had seriously mistreated Ree in some way, some sexual way. Charlie was worried because his girlfriend had made it clear long ago that her relationship with Draco Malfoy was not a subject for discussion. He had accepted this stipulation at the time because he was not, by nature, a possessive man, and because a life-debt between two wizards was not something with which to interfere.
Perhaps I'll have to rethink my approach to such matters.
"I WILL KILL HIM! I WILL KILL BOTH OF THEM!" Severus was screaming at the top of his lungs in Albus' office.
The headmaster was not present, but he had asked his Potions master, Sirius, and Remus to return to the school and wait there for him after the meeting, though the latter two men had not yet finished their own argument in the Gryffindor Common Room. As there were no students present in their old house because of the holidays, it had seemed like a good place to go to talk about Ree's situation--especially as Poppy had flatly refused to allow them into the Infirmary to speak to Blaise. That young man had been asked to report there by Dumbledore, who felt that the boy looked very badly off indeed. Alastor, Neville, and Viktor had remained at the novitiate.
"Sit down and shut up, Severus!" Minerva ordered, returning to the room. She was holding a piece of crisp parchment in her hand. "You'll wake the ghosts! You cannot interfere in the dealings between two wizards to conclude a life-debt, and well you know it."
"You do not know, Minerva--"
"Of course I know, Severus," she told him, handing him the letter.
"Dear Professor McGonagall,
"I've thought about it, and I think you're wrong. Giving Draco what he needs might be enough to save him. I've got to try. I don't know what else to do.
"I can't bear the thought of actually killing him, but if he doesn't stop fixating on me, he'll find a way to force my hand. Besides, I do owe him my life. If loving him will give him even a piece of his own back, what right do I have to refuse him?
"Please try to understand.
Severus dropped the letter and rushed through various rooms to Albus and Minerva's bathroom. His violent retching reverberated throughout the suite.
Minerva looked up at the drawn face of Remus Lupin, who had just entered the room, and who was trailed by a shiny black dog. The dog whimpered and sunk to the floor. Lupin bent to retrieve the letter, read it, crossed to the fire, and threw it in.
"With your permission, of course," he said, turning to Minerva.
After leaving Dumbledore, Harry had left a message for Neville and Blaise with Rosmerta and traveled all night by broom to avoid being tracked on the Floo Network. She now stood before the matriarch of one of the oldest lines of pure wizard blood remaining in the world.
"I have something to offer you."
"What could that possibly be?" asked a seemingly apathetic Zoroastrid Zabini.
"Your dearest friend," the young woman stated, tossing a cold, white rune to the lady.
Tagliaferro caught it before it was halfway to his mistress and examined it before placing it on a silver tray that materialized into the air before her.
The lady of the house took up the rune and spun it in her fingers. "Sowelu. Wholeness."
"Are you implying that Narcissa has been . . . diminished in some way?"
"You will have noticed that Mrs. Malfoy has changed since her husband's death."
"That is not unusual."
"No," Harry said, waiting for the other woman to admit to what she already knew.
"Indeed, Narcissa has been bearing up well following dear Lucius' murder."
"It must be a great comfort for you to know that one of her dearly departed's friends continues to keep Mrs. Malfoy . . . company."
Zoroastrid wrinkled her nose in derision. Thinking about Gregory Goyle's fat hands on Cissa's body was more than she could bear. "Enough. What do you need from me in order to restore her?"
"The Grimoire Nigromantia."
Tagliaferro threw back his head and laughed deeply. "There's a little light bedtime reading."
"Be good enough to retrieve that volume," Mrs. Zabini asked the vampire without taking her eyes off her guest. "Will you require anything else?"
"Only the merry widow, madam," Harry said with feigned nonchalance.
Zoroastrid poured a cup of tea and handed it to Ree, who did not insult her hostess by obtrusively verifying whether or not the blend was innocuous, though the older woman was certain the girl must have done so.
Brava! she thought. It certainly is a shame about the blood running through your veins, witchling. You'd breed powerful babies for our line, but for that one defect.
But for the extant weakness of your bloodline, I might have considered it, Harry thought.
The afternoon after Ree's "resignation" from the Order and her disappearance from Hogsmeade, Charlie found her in the over-grown garden behind the house at Godric's Hollow. She was wearing a black turtleneck and pants and the dragon-hide boots he had made for her as a graduation gift. Her short sword, which had been Professor Snape's gift to her, was propped in its ornate scabbard against the dilapidated wicker love seat in which she sat. From experience, Charlie knew better than to touch it.
"That's a weighty tome," he said casually, sitting down next to her.
Harry closed the book. "Charlie," she acknowledged him diffidently.
He reached a hand out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "Don't let's be shy, love."
The book slid off her lap as she slid against Charlie's broad chest and buried her face into it.
"There now, Charlie's here to save you."
Harry pulled away and burst into brittle laughter. "You're here to save me?"
Charlie bristled inwardly, but kept his temper. "I'm here for you."
"I'm sorry, Snitch. I didn't mean to--"
"It doesn't matter. And don't be sorry. I don't need you to be."
"What do you need?"
"How about a cuppa and a coze and then a candle to light us to sleep at the nearest inn? We can't very well sleep here, can we?"
"I'm actually half-thinking of sprucing this place up."
"I've got to live somewhere."
"Ron owled me about what happened. Want to talk about it?"
Harry did not want to lie to Charlie, but she knew she couldn't discuss her plans with him. "We have before. Why go into it again? I'm tired of waiting for people to act. I'm tired of people dying because we don't. We know what we ought to be doing, and if they won't, then--"
"It's not like you to hide."
Harry bit back an angry retort. "No," she finally agreed.
"Ree, I know you've discharged your life-debt to Draco, and I'm glad because you shouldn't feel fettered by anything or anyone--no one should--but it isn't freedom to run away from your life."
Harry did not respond. Oh, Snitch, please.
"Is that what you're doing?"
"Would it be okay if I didn't tell you what I was doing?"
"Do you know?"
Not completely. No. "Yes."
Harry allowed herself to relax against her boyfriend. I don't deserve you. "You smell really appalling, you know."
He laughed. "Let's get a room with a tub, then," he suggested, cursing himself as he felt his girlfriend stiffen. "I'll bathe, and you can get comfortable in the bed. . . . I won't--I wouldn't--"
Harry thought about the letters she had written earlier in the day. It had seemed too short, but now it seemed rather appropriate. "I know, Charlie." And I hope you'll forgive me for what I have to do.
Blaise sat in Harry's chair by Severus' fire. His former head of house had requested his presence yesterday, but the young Auror had not felt up to seeing him when the man's post-prandial summons had arrived in the infirmary the previous evening. He sipped his afternoon tea warily, hoping that the Potions master had not slipped him anything, such as Veritaserum.
Severus glared at Zabini, wishing he had a right to demand answers of the boy. He knew he did not; Harry's brief letter to Minerva had demonstrated that the young woman had gone to Draco of her own volition, but perhaps Blaise would not be clear on that point.
"I wish to know what occurred."
"That's really none of your business, professor."
Damn. "I could make it my business, Apprentice Zabini."
"Do your worst, Snape. I will not betray Harry's confidence--or Draco's."
Severus had Blaise knocked over his chair and on the floor behind it before his guest's saucer shattered against the stones of the hearth. He pinned the boy to the floor with surprising strength and howled, "DON'T SPEAK TO ME OF BETRAYAL, YOU COVETOUS BASTARD! TELL ME WHAT YOU DID TO HER!"
Blaise knocked his head against Snape's as hard as he could and attempted to effect his release from the other man's grip by struggling. It did no good. He felt a menacing hiss vibrate against his neck.
"Do that again, and I'll rip your throat out.
Blaise felt the teeth. How could I have missed that? "Thank you for the lesson."
Severus had released the boy and was standing on the other side of the sitting room before Blaise realized he was free. When no further attack was forthcoming, he stood up slowly and withdrew his wand.
"That will not be necessary."
"So you say. . . . Give me your word that you will not attack me again."
"I will not attack you again tonight, Mr. Zabini."
Blaise smiled. "How very like a vampire to be so specific."
"I am not a vampire."
"Those were fangs I just felt when you weren't happy to see me . . . Sir."
"Spare me your cleverness, but if I have aroused your interest, then perhaps we can trade information."
It was a long time before Blaise made his way back to the infirmary again.
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