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Chapter Thirty-Six: Pink Butterfly

"What happened, Remus?"

"I was just coming back into the castles with my seventh years... one of the house-elves came running towards me, squeaking that Harry Potter had suddenly appeared covered in blood on the floor of the kitchens. They didn't see him come in at all. From what I heard, one moment the floor was clear, and the next, he was just suddenly there."

"Any theories?" Professor McGonagall crouched down next to Lupin on the floor, studying Harry's still face.

Lupin sighed a little. "It's hard to tell... but it sounds as though all the house elves have lost some of their memory, just before he appeared."

Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow at this. "Odd."

"Mmm, very," said Lupin, nodding. He gestured to the various cuts and bruises on Harry's face. "These weren't done by a spell, but by physical damage. It's... as odd as it sounds... I've got two ideas as to what might have happened." He frowned a little, then went on. "Either Harry came in by his own accord, placed memory charms on the house elves, then injured himself, so to the house elves, he would have just appeared out of nowhere. That, or somebody injured him, dragged him in here, memory-charmed the elves, and left."

"Most probably the second," said McGonagall, crisply. "But who? And why?"

Lupin shook his head. "I've got no idea... he hasn't woken up yet. Severus has gone to fetch some invigoration draft. Hopefully we'll be able to find out what happened to him."

McGonagall eyed Harry's right arm worriedly. "Nasty sprain there..."

"I think it could well be broken," Lupin sighed. "Right before his Quidditch match as well. It looks fairly simple though, with any luck, Poppy will be able to fix him up soon enough."

"He'll be devastated if he can't play in his Quidditch match," said McGonagall, frowning slightly. "What lesson was he supposed to be in when the accident happened?"

"Pure Arts," Lupin replied. "Alrister was doing raw love magic, he got covered in glitter and went to wash it off."

"Then what the devil was he doing near the kitchens?" said McGonagall.

Lupin shook his head again. "I don't know, Minerva... Blaise Zabini was out of lesson at the same time though. He came to find me and help remove the effects of raw magic gone wrong. He got back a long time before Harry was found though, he can't be connected. Whoever it was would have been nearby when the house elves found him - unless they used a stunning charm and a memory charm at exactly the same time. So the memory charm would have come into effect when the house elves awoke. But that's incredibly complicated to do, only taught in seventh year."

"Where were all the seventh years at the time?" asked McGonagall.

"I had half of them in the edges of the forest," said Lupin. "Filius was teaching the rest of them Charms."

The door opened, and Snape came in, holding a goblet in each clawed hand. One of them was smoking, and the other contained a very clear liquid like pure alcohol. "Invigoration draft," he said, sleekly, handing Lupin the steaming one. "And veritaserum. I thought it wise."

"I do not think Potter will lie," said McGonagall, coldly, ignoring the goblet he tried to pass her.

"Nor do I," said Snape, in a tone that convinced nobody. "But perhaps it would be a wise precaution."

After a moment, McGonagall took the veritaserum with a sigh and a frown, eyeing the amount Snape had brought. "This is a lot, Severus. Do you really not trust Potter to this extent?"

Snape smiled ever so slightly, his eyes glittering coldly. "Have you not considered the cirumstances, Minerva?" he said, silkily. "For several months now, the Risotta outbreak has been confusing every person in this school... and now that Potter turns up covered in blood on the floor of the kitchens, and the house elves have no memories of how he got there, doesn't it strike you as ever so slightly suspicious?"

"Are you suggesting that Harry Potter has been poisoning the food of people in this school?" said McGonagall, coldly, one eyebrow arching right up behind her spectacles.

"I said nothing of the sort," said Snape, smoothly. He watched Lupin blowing the smoke away from the goblet with a sneer on his face. "What are you doing?"

"You couldn't have made this any cooler, could you, Severus?" said Lupin. "It's almost still boiling."

Snape sighed, knelt down, and snatched the cup off Lupin with a scournful, "Pathetic...", before leaning down, opening Harry's mouth, and tilting the goblet carefully over his lips. The boy choked, coughing a little, but he didn't wake up, even when Snape had poured the whole lot down his throat.

"You did make it right, didn't you?" said Lupin, worriedly.

"Of course I did," Snape snarled. "The potion takes a few minutes to work." He picked up the veritaserum, but before he could tip it down Harry's throat, McGonagall stopped him.

"Severus," she said, warningly. "The boy does not need the full dosage."

"On the contrary," said Snape, softly, "I think it would do him some good." And he tilted the cup slowly, the clear liquid trickling gradually into Harry's mouth. Snape was the only one who knew that it was not entirely veritaserum at all. Seeing the extent of Harry's wounds, he'd added a few extra ingredients to help his body replace the blood he'd lost. Though Snape wasn't about to admit to McGonagall and especially Lupin that he was concerned about the boy.

When the last drop was gone, Snape put down the empty goblet, smiling in a satisfied way. Lupin looked worried at this, as did McGonagall. After a few moments, Harry gave an exhausted, quiet groan, and his eyes fluttered mechanically open. He felt as though he'd been beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat, but there was something else there, as though he was being controlled. It felt like he didn't have the strength to think for himself.

"Potter? Can you hear us?" said McGonagall's voice above him.

"Yes," he said, automatically, his eyes flickering a little.

"How are you feeling?" asked Lupin, in a concerned way.

Harry thought about this for a while, then said, quietly, "I'm injured." He frowned a little, a very dazed, spacey sort of expression. "Kitchens."

"Yes," said McGonagall. "You're in the kitchens. Can you tell us how you got here?"

"No," said Harry.

"No?" asked McGonagall, surprised by this answer.

Harry's eyes flickered automatically. "I cannot remember."

"What can you remember?" asked Lupin. "Can you tell us what happened after you left Pure Arts?"

Another flicker passed Harry's face, and his left eye twitched a little, his mouth starting to talk as though powered by something other than his own brain. "I did not leave Pure Arts. Draco asked Ron what he was thinking about. And now I am here." Another dazed frown, almost a dreamy expression, not unlike Luna Lovegood. "I was in Pure Arts, and then I was somewhere else. There was a tapestry I was walking through, and there were stairs. I was following somebody - I do not know who. They turned on a light, and I saw the stairs. It was somewhere I have never been. The Shelter of Slytherins. And I do not know anymore. Now I am here."

McGonagall blinked. "The Shelter of Slytherins? Potter, there is no such place."

"But he's under veritaserum," said Lupin, frowning in a confused way.

Snape was frowning too. "How the devil did he find the shelter?"

"What?" said McGonagall, rounding on him.

Snape was staring at Harry, frowning suspiciously. "It was an old stairwell that Lucius Malfoy adapted into a secondary Slytherin common room - unused for years. Sealed off, to my knowledge. It's impossible to just stumble across it - only somebody who knows it is there can see the entrance."

"Does Dumbledore know of this?" McGonagall blustered. "Nowhere in my records is there any evidence of some secret common room. Exactly when did Lucius Malfoy start this little arrangement? Why wasn't it reported?"

"The headmaster knows nothing of it," said Snape, simply. "Though it's hardly relevant to the current situation. Potter's memory has been wiped by whoever injured him and left him here. Only a Slytherin would know that staircase exists - it must have been a Slytherin he was following."

"Not necessarily," said McGonagall. "A Slytherin may have told this person how to find this... this "shelter". Anybody could have done this."

"Quidditch," said Harry, groggily, still lying on the floor.

"What was that, Potter?" said McGonagall.

"Quidditch," the dazed boy repeatedly. "I am supposed to be playing Quidditch in a few days... and yet I am injured... if I am injured, I cannot play Quidditch."

"Oh, we'll patch you up," said McGonagall, briskly. "There are more important things, Potter. Are you sure you don't know who it was?"

Harry's head flopped limply from side to side. "No. I do not know who."

McGonagall sighed. "Very well... Remus, take Potter down to the hospital wing. He'll need a few good healing charms at the very least. I daresay Mr Weasley and Miss Granger will want to be informed."

"And what of me?" said Snape, raising an eyebrow coolly.

"Go and alert the headmaster," said McGonagall, as she helped Lupin get Harry to his feet. "He'll need to be told."

Snape nodded, watching as McGonagall and Lupin half-dragged Harry out of the kitchens. When the door shut, leaving the Potions master alone in the kitchens, he said, quietly, even though there was nobody around, "Did you see who it was?"

"No," replied a voice from behind him, as a figure flickered into the visible spectrum. Peter was lounging against the wall nearby, toying with the toggles of his school robe. "I was in the greenhouses throwing exploding seed packets at the third years."

Snape sighed exasperatedly. "Damn Potter... the one time he needed you there."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Peter sneered. "Wasn't doing my job properly, was I?"

"I'm glad you've already realised that," said Snape, coldly, breezing to the door and pulling it open. "At least I don't have to waste my breath telling you." He left, slamming the door behind him.

Peter sneered after him, flickered away into invisibility, only pausing to overturn a pan of soup onto the floor before he disappeared away through one of the walls.

The next day, a Thursday, Harry was confined to bed in the hospital wing so that Madam Pomfrey could keep checking his arm. She'd mended the bone almost instantly when he came in, but because it had been broken for so long, there were still some cracks to heal over. When he'd asked her tentatively if he'd be able to play Quidditch, she'd sighed, tutted, and muttered something about dangerous sports before telling him rather begrudgingly that he would.

"You need your priorities right," she added, absent-mindedly pouring soup out of a jug into a bowl for him. "Health is far more important than Quidditch."

Draco's priorities, however, were similar to Harry's. He visited on the Thursday afternoon right after school, bursting into the room and gabbling, "Weasley said you've broken your arm and you can't play, tell me he's lying, tell me Potter, tell me!"

"Calm down!" he said, hurriedly, desperately hoping that Draco wasn't about to have a heart attack right there in the door. "Yes, I'm playing!"

Draco let out a sigh similar to somebody about to be burnt alive when it started raining. Harry half expected him to sink to his knees and sob with relief. "Don't you EVER do that to me again, Potter!"

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Harry, annoyed. "In case you haven't realised, I don't even know what I did! I've had my memory wiped, and I got beaten up! Somebody broke my arm!"

"Poor you," said Draco, sarcastically. "I wanted to STRANGLE Weasley when he came trotting up and casually announced you couldn't play! You're our Seeker! How dare you put me through such mental anguish, you selfish, rotten - " He struggled to find a word strong enough to describe how vile Harry's crime was. "You GRYFFINDOR!"

"Whoa, whoa," said a cool voice from behind Draco. "Don't get at him too much, Draco, he might actually listen to you."

Kainda strolled in through the door, smirking at the flustered-looking Draco, crossing idly to Harry's bed and sinking into the chair next to him. If there was one thing that could be said about Kainda, it was that she could be comfortable, or at least appear so, anywhere. Draco spluttered at her, and then said, frantically, "That's not the point! He should have at least told Weasley that - hang on... Potter, did you tell Weasley you weren't going to play?"

Harry frowned, shaking his head. "No... I told him I was going to play..."

Draco stood still for a moment, putting two-and-two together, and when he did, Harry could see the rage flare up in his eyes. "Damn Weasley!" he shouted. "He told me that on purpose! That's it! Where is he?"

Harry shrugged, chuckling. "Probably in the library with Hermione."

"Library," said Draco. "Right." He rolled up his sleeves, and hurried out of the door, muttering to himself about tearing Ron's head off and using it as a Quaffle.

Kainda sniggered. "Dear me, he's not even the captain and he's about to explode with stress. I dread to think what you're going to be like."

Harry smiled slightly, sitting back in the pillows and giving his arm a tentative stretch. "If I get like that, promise me you'll sedate me."

"I promise," she said, grinning. "So how are you anyway? Feel okay?"

"Confused," he admitted. "But okay, yeah. I'm really starting to not like losing big patches of my memory, you know... I might forget something important next time. Well, finding out who broke my arm was pretty important, I guess."

"Hey, don't worry about it," she said, sitting back, helping herself to one of the grapes off his bedside table. "You're healthy, aren't you? Still alive? Able to play? That makes it all fine by me." She smiled up at him, slouched in the chair, her hazel-coloured eyes glittering happily. "I also notice you've conveniently arranged this little accident on Our Day. I'm guessing that a long walk's out of the question?"

He chuckled. "Sorry about that, I'll be more considerate in the future. How selfish of me. And I'd love a long walk, I don't think that Madam Pomfrey would appreciate it though."

"She could come," said Kainda, grinning. "I'm sure she'd love to trail about the countryside after us."

"Oh yeah," said Harry. "She'd leap for joy, I'm sure."

They both laughed, and Kainda stole another grape. "Gosh, I'm hungry... you know what? I might injure myself purposely so I can eat hospital wing food. It's the only safe stuff in the castle anymore, huh?"

"I suppose so?" said Harry. He ladelled some of his watery soup out, splashing it back into the bowl with a half-grimace. "Well... between Ron's stale bread, and this stale soup, the choice of what to eat's kinda tricky really."

She smiled slightly, wriggling down in her chair and making herself comfortable as she glanced around the ward. There was something in her expression that told Harry there was something on her mind. He'd seen it a few times before. Kainda had mastered it so that she didn't look as though she was seeking attention, but just giving out a general sort of "I'm thinking" feeling.

"What's wrong?" asked Harry, rolling onto his side to face her.

She glanced up at him, and paused, looking a little awkward. "It's... you might not want to hear it."

He felt a horrible cold prickle inside his chest, the same thing he'd felt right before Cho told him it was over. His expression fell into serious, and he said, worriedly, "What is it? Tell me..."

Kainda thought for a moment, watching him, and then she said, quietly, "Some people are... suspicious."

"Of us?" said Harry, equally quiet.

"Well yeah, there's that," said Kainda. "But it's something else. I know that people think we like each other, I think that's kinda funny, but it's something else. Something more serious. About you."

Harry stared at her, his eyes widening. "What is it? What? I haven't done something to hurt you, have I?"

"No, no, of course not," she said. "It's nothing about us, Harry, don't worry." She smiled a little at the worried expression on his face. "It's about your accident... the circumstances have got out, obviously... I was in the owlery at dinner time, and there were some other students in there, and... well... people are suspicious about it all."

"What do you mean?" he said, frowning in a confused way.

"You were found in the kitchens," said Kainda, pointedly, raising her eyebrows. "Lying on the floor in the kitchens, covered in blood, when you were supposed to be in class and there was nobody else around. And you've "conveniently" lost your memory. That's not what I think," she added, quickly, seeing the look on his face. "I know you wouldn't do something like that, but a few people are saying..."

"They think it's me, don't they?" he said, quietly. "They think I started Gryffindor Risotta."

"Yeah," she said, biting her lip. "Sorry."

"What are you sorry for?" he said, smiling a little. "It's not your fault that some people are idiots... I'm not mad at you for just telling me."

She returned the smile, and it was the first time he'd really seen her look a little shy. "Just thought I'd mention it to you... I don't like to keep things from you..."

"I'm glad you don't," he replied, smiling. He paused for a moment, wondering whether or not he had the nerves to do it, and then carefully, tentatively, he reached out and just touched her cheek. "Have you dyed your hair?"

She smiled a little, running a hand through her soft brown locks. It really suited her when it was down around her shoulders so beautifully, wild and tomboyish and cool. "You're the only person who's noticed so far. All of us in my dormitory were trying dying charms last night... do you like it?"

He nodded, his fingers gently stroking her cheek, enjoying the way she blushed as he did, a soft, sugary hue that made him think of the pink swan Alrister created. "It's really pretty."

She smiled even more, her cheeks glowing. Kainda didn't normally blush at all, and he knew that she hated it when she did, as she thought it was girly and silly, but Harry thought it gave her just that little feminine twist. Now looking at Kainda, he realised how childish Cho was. She was still a little girl, pretty to look at, but couldn't control her emotions. And Kainda... Kainda didn't treat him like a trophy, or an emotional escape-route. "I love you," he murmured, before he realised what he was doing.

It was only Kainda's slightly surprised expression that made him realise what he'd done, and when he did, he felt a cold flush. Had he said that? Or had he imagined it? It had just slipped out, and Harry's thoughts were instantly a whirl on whether that was a good or bad thing. He stared into her soft brown eyes, and then, she did something that made him realise on the spot that it was the best thing he'd done all year. She smiled, and said, quietly, softly, "I love you too..."

From nowhere, he suddenly felt as though he wanted to jump up and sing and dance around. Maybe he could persuade Madam Pomfrey to let him just nip to the top of the astronomy tower and scream from the rooftops. Where was Ron? Hermione? Draco? He had to tell somebody, he wanted to grab somebody and dance in a circle and tell them in the most happy voice he could ever muster, "She loves me!"

His face split into a grin, and she grinned too. She moved forward, and gave him a quick little kiss. Harry managed to adjust the hand on the side of her face to keep her there for a few more moments, and when they finally split apart, both of them were smiling. "You taste of soup," she said, grinning.

"You taste of grapes. We make quite the couple, don't we?"

She laughed softly, and scraped her hair back off her face. "Mm, we do... and I've got to get going now, Harry..."

"Oh, why?" he said, disappointedly, giving her the best hopeful-expression he could manage.

"I've got an essay to do for Snapeykins," she said, half-smiling. "How to test for common poisons. Lucky me, huh? You get to lie here and eat grapes, and I've got to sum up six months of work on two rolls of parchment minimum."

"Okay..." he said, sadly. He held her hand gently for a moment as she stood up, and smoothed a tuft of hair into place.

"See you tomorrow? Will you be out of the hospital wing by then?"

He nodded. "I hope so."

"Bye then," she said, smiling, as she walked backwards away, their hands slipping apart.

"See you," he replied. He watched her go with a smile on his face, his heart suddenly batting about inside him like a butterfly on a summer's day. The moment she closed the door and walked out of sight, he couldn't help but grin, taking a grape from the bowl and eating it, feeling on top of the world. A Heliopath could burst in through the door and he wouldn't mind.

Just to test what would happen, he cupped his hands and stretched them out, watching between them and thinking to himself, imagining that moment, the look on her face, the tone of her voice. And he wasn't really surprised when a soft handful of shimmering pink flames flickered into his cupped hands, fluttering in the breeze of his breathing. He bit his lip, thinking, concentrating, and the flames morphed into a rather clumsy butterly. It was lopsided, and flew tilted to the right, but as he watched it flap out of his hands and flitter across the ward, trailing pink sparkles, he couldn't help but smile more happily than he'd ever smiled before.


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