“Are you all right?”
“What?” Harry says, not expecting that to be the first question.
Hughes gestures back to the door somewhat. “That was a lot of confusion. You’ve just had something pretty major happen to you. I know I’d be shaken up.” He makes a little heh sound and takes off his glasses, polishing them on his shirt; his face looks oddly naked without them, more worn. “Hell, I am shaken up. Damn alchemists.”
The last isn’t without affection, and Alphonse is smiling beside him, but the wear on Hughes’ face isn’t any less for it. He may have been laughing a lot every time some new squawk of enraged bewilderment came from Elric’s corner, but it occurs to Harry that it might not exactly have been… happy laughter. More the kind that comes out of Sirius sometimes.
Better to just get this over with. “What did you want?”
“We wanted to talk to you about what happened,” Alphonse says. “With the circle.”
“What happened?” Harry snaps, suddenly boiling over: with rage, with the exhaustion of repeating and repeating himself and nobody fucking listening , with this Alphonse’s temerity to ask anything of him after nearly stabbing Sirius in the back. “What happened is that nobody told me Voldemort can see in my head. This wouldn't happen if anyone told me anything -”
“They should have,” Hughes says tiredly. “Even if they couldn’t tell you Voldemort was spying through you without revealing to him that they knew, they should have told you something. You are not a child. Your life is at stake. You went looking for answers. And since you were not adequately informed, there were consequences.”
Harry’s stopped short, whatever he was going to say next knocked completely off the tracks. What Hughes just said sounds like he’s agreeing with Harry, but also not, which doesn’t make any bloody sense. He - doesn’t even sound angry, just starkly matter of fact, which is more unsettling than if he’d started shouting.
“Either way - you are a primary target of the enemy and we have already had to deal with an attempt on your life,” Hughes continues, still with that tired but direct look. “We don’t have the resources to babysit you. You need to be able to protect yourself, and that means you need to be armed and informed. It’s why we made curing you our first priority.”
Harry stares at him, realizing his mouth is open, and snaps it shut. That’s… true. The Unplottables have only been here a few days, and… practically right away, they’d started working on their chalk circle. The very next day, after the dementors came after him in Little Whinging. And they’d stopped Harry from being sent back to the Dursleys, when even Lupin seemed to think that was the best idea.
“If you hadn’t gone looking, just a few hours later we would’ve explained, and invited you to step into the circle yourself,” Alphonse says quietly, picking up where Hughes left off. “We needed to finish up testing the array, making sure that the procedure wouldn’t hurt you or have any unexpected side effects. Since you… sped up the timeline,” here his mouth quirks, friendly, half-smiling, “we just want to look you over again and make sure everything’s alright.”
Everything he’s saying… makes sense, but Harry can’t help the reflexive suspicion still curling in his gut. It’s like shoving and shoving at a locked door only to find that not only has it vanished, it never existed in the first place. Like opening the door to the chamber after the chesspieces, back in first year, trying to get to the philosopher’s stone, and finding that the troll had already been killed by someone else.
Because Quirrell and Voldemort had already gotten there before them. Like Mad-Eye - the Death Eater impostor, the younger Crouch, clearing obstacles out of Harry’s way in the Triwizard Maze.
But the Unplottables had proven that their circle really is a cursebreaker array, and Dumbledore and Bill Weasley had agreed. It’d destroyed whatever was in Kreacher’s locket. It’d done something to Harry - broken his bloody wand, but it had been connected to Voldemort, even if that connection had been what saved his life in that graveyard.
And it’s not always what he thinks, when something wrong is happening. When Harry’d had letters stop coming and become convinced his friends had abandoned him as a bad deal after all, it’d turned out Dobby was stealing them or Dumbledore was forbidding them from coming. His assuming the worst hadn’t come to pass.
But that was his friends. The last man who’d been as helpful as these Unplottables had turned out to be a Death Eater keeping the real Mad-Eye drugged in his trunk.
But if there is something wrong with him.
“Fine,” Harry says, trying not to think of cockroaches.
Alphonse nods, puts his sword-cane down by Hughes - Harry can’t help but track it - and goes to him. He’s is as calm and easy as he’d been before, chatting comfortably with Sirius as he’d drawn his marker down Harry’s temple, but now there’s something ever so slightly off in his manner, like a puppet show where the light changed for just a second but you can’t forget that you saw the strings.
Harry steels himself and lets Alphonse touch him. He’d almost think the crawling feeling is the lingering shock of what Alphonse had done - not just that he’d pulled a sword out of nowhere, but so fast, no hesitation whatsoever in his draw. No asking questions, no wondering if maybe Sirius wasn’t guilty: just the blade. And he’d been the one Unplottable to talk most with Sirius, to not call him convict, the one person wizard or otherwise who’d wanted Harry to live with Sirius instead of the bloody Dursleys. He’d seemed like he understood Sirius, understood Harry. And then he’d turned around and done - that.
But that feeling is the burning knot in Harry’s belly, a tangle of anger both confusing and perfectly clear. He knows Alphonse is a liar now; fine. It’s not like someone turning out to be a bastard is new. It’s not special. But this feeling is something else. This is the hairs on Harry’s arms trying to rise.
The problem is Alphonse isn’t doing anything wrong. He touches Harry’s wrists, his neck, checking his pupils and pulse, speaking calmly and amiably just like before, asking about Harry’s headaches, his vision; there’s nothing Harry can point to and say, this is the problem. “Any lingering pain from the extraction of the curse?” Alphonse asks as he pulls out his marker, gesturing that he’s going to draw on Harry again. “I’m not sure there’s a way for us to make it less, hm, abrupt, for future werewolf patients, but if the curse is apparently that invasive I’m not sure we’ll be able to do more than warn people of what to expect.”
“Well, I’m no werewolf,” Harry says dourly, about to tell them that shouldn’t Lupin be here also - when just like before comes the unmistakable sound of Elric’s rough voice raised in anger, coming up muffled from what sounds like the backyard.
Harry shoots to his feet, his first, freezing thought is they caught Hermione. But before he can do more than jerk towards the door the shouting is joined by a deeper, unfamiliar voice doing equal volume, and from what Harry can tell, it… sounds like they’re shouting at each other.
Hughes gives no more than a mildly interested glance towards the door, a somewhat rueful look passing briefly over his face. “They finally got around to it, huh?”
Alphonse rolls his eyes, a strangely mechanical motion. “Better they get it out of their systems now.”
“What happened?” Harry says, because even if it doesn’t sound like they caught Hermione, she’s still down there in the middle of whatever’s happening, and people don’t go having a row in public when things are going right. “What are they doing?”
Alphonse sighs prodigiously. “The general probably made one comment too many about my brother’s personal grooming habits.”
“Believe it or not, this is actually getting along pretty well, for alchemists,” Hughes says ruefully. “This happens every time they’re in the same postcode longer than twenty-four hours. Though it has been a while… If they do start to get rowdy you might have to go break it up.”
That’s to Alphonse, who nods and gives Harry an expectant look. “Let’s finish up so you can get back to your friends.”
He can’t possibly know about Hermione. He was here with Harry the whole time. It sounds ominous nonetheless, and Harry sits back down slowly. If nothing else, the longer he keeps Alphonse and Hughes here with him the more time it gives for Hermione to come back up unnoticed, avoiding people on the stairs.
Alphonse uncaps the marker, and this time he leans in to draw in the hollow of Harry’s throat. “I did want to ask you about how exactly you appeared in the backyard, by the way,” he says - idly, his attention on the ink, but the hair on Harry’s neck joins the hair on his arms. “The circle’s discharge was greater than we anticipated, which is why we’re leaving now. We’re not sure what caused it, but it may have been the interaction of your teleportation energies. You appeared so suddenly, and entered the transmutation field almost immediately… the energy signature didn’t match any teleportation we’ve seen so far.”
“Really?” That’s Hughes: Harry’s bracing for a more direct accusation, but he looks at most surprised. Intrigued, even: like Mr. Weasley presented with the concept of a hairdryer. “Are there different kinds of teleporting, then? Is that something most wizards can do?”
So they don’t know about the Cloak. But they know there’s something to know.
“I dunno,” Harry says, keeping his voice controlled. “I haven’t been Apparating long. I - heard Lupin. Screaming. And Sirius shouting. So I went to them.” He meets Alphonse’s yellow stare, unflinching. “It’s pretty hit or miss still, when I practice. But this time it worked. I was worried someone might’ve been hurting them, you see.”
They both just watch him for a long moment, Hughes’ brows slowly meeting, clearly thinking hard. “We should ask Director Bones about it,” he says, more or less to Alphonse. “If it’s something the Death Eaters can use to get the jump on us…” He sighs heavily. “We can’t afford to be ignorant. Especially now.”
Harry does feel a slight guilty twinge at that. If they’re all bracing for Death Eater assassins to slip in, and they don’t know about invisibility cloaks… but surely someone in the Order would tell them. Dumbledore knows about invisibility cloaks. On the other hand, the only person to have dealt directly with Death Eaters and Voldemort in any significant way in the past, oh, fifteen years is Harry.
Not that he’d seen the Death Eaters making much use of any. Hadn’t Dumbledore said invisibility cloaks were rare?
Alphonse shrugs. “I’m hoping that’s it, to tell the truth,” he says. “It feels like every time we turn there’s a new advantage magic has over us. If it turns out to be something we’re not prepared for… well. I hope not.”
“I hope so too,” Hughes says, more quietly, taking his glasses off to polish them again. “For all our sakes.”
“We’ll deal with it,” Alphonse says, meeting Harry’s eyes. His hands are calloused and cool on Harry’s throat. “One way or another.”
Harry doesn’t say anything as Alphonse continues with the marker. Hughes seems genuinely worried for the Order’s safety, but this close Harry can see how unnaturally still Alphonse’s expression is, how he hasn’t blinked in far too long. Harry hasn’t forgotten how easy and calm he’d sounded with his sword to Sirius’ spine. Hughes may be decent, but these Elrics are like the Veela he’d seen at the Cup: beautiful, golden, and something very wrong under the surface.
And this one is worse. Elric had gotten in Harry’s face when he’d taken their wands and trapped them in the floorboards, but this one is creepy. Elric had been honest about it, not trying to hide his anger and disdain; Alphonse smiled like a saint while holding a blade to Sirius’ back. Harry would be a bloody idiot to trust him.
And he’s pretty sure Bones has no idea he’s got an invisibility cloak. Dumbledore does, obviously, but the Unplottables aren’t likely to find out from him. It’s not like Dumbledore’s being any more forthcoming with them than with Harry, if that confrontation in the yard was anything to go by. If it comes to it, Dumbledore won’t tell them.
Probably. He’s pretty sure.
“One more thing,” Alphonse says, still drawing against Harry’s temple; he looks more distracted now, blanker, like he’s listening to something only he can hear.
“Yeah?” Harry says warily.
“Your wand,” Alphonse says, refocusing slightly on Harry and giving him yet another creepy little smile. “It was also connected to Voldemort, yes? We’ll likely need to take it downstairs and examine it, make sure it’s safe now. Just like with you.”
Harry’s hands tighten reflexively on the legs of his jeans, even though there’s no point: his wand’s broken, eaten up by that circle just like all the other cursed objects. He put it in his pocket on automatic, but even now he can feel it - or rather can’t: its customary slight warmth is absent, gone dead from the inside out. And even though Harry gets that it’s a good thing, probably, to cut out all the connections to Voldemort, especially since they’d been so much - worse, than he thought, but he still balks. In the graveyard, that connection had saved his life.
But it’s gone now. Even with the connection gone, if there was a chance of repairing his wand he’s sure Sirius and Lupin would’ve tried that first thing, or at least told him to hold tight until they could get to Ollivander’s for repair or something. And even then he’d seen Ron’s repaired wand - he’d had to get a new one, or rather a fresh hand me down, because it just wasn’t working right anymore. Harry knows he wouldn’t be able to cast a Patronus with that kind of wand. He’s going to have to get a new one no matter what.
But he still doesn't want to hand his wand over to Alphonse bloody Elric.
All this indecision streams by as Alphonse finishes writing on him, presses three fingers in a somewhat awkward configuration into random points around Harry’s temples, forehead and nose, and then without comment sits back to resume staring at him with that same polite smile. “Do you have it with you?” he asks. “We should be able to give it back once we’re done.”
Harry once again becomes acutely aware of Hermione, downstairs, outside, with Elric right there and audibly out to ruin someone’s day. Studying the wand might get them inside, not to mention off of investigating the Cloak. “Fine,” Harry says, not bothering not to sound resentful about it as he dig it out of his jeans.
“Thank you,” Alphonse says equably, taking it with both hands and looking it over.
“I’ll just go then,” Harry says tersely, making to stand.
“Yes, of course - oh - you may want to wash your face again,” Alphonse calls after him, but Harry’s already out the door.