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Storms and Shadows

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Harry Potter knew, when he stepped onto the train at Hogsmeade Station, that the ride back to London would be unpleasant. His best friends had been polar opposites since the Ministry disaster. While Hermione had essentially commanded him to spill all of his grief to her, Ron had alienated him and avoided Harry whenever he could. 

 

Not that Harry could blame either of them. He had been stupid to charge head first to save Sirius when Hermione had repeatedly advised him not to. Harry knew he shouldn’t have taken his friends with him. If Harry had gone alone, maybe he would have been dead before Sirius got there. Maybe Sirius would still be alive. But, of course, Harry Potter had to be the hero . He had to live up to his title of an impulsive Gryffindor and endanger everyone around him again . Because of Harry’s foolishness, Sirius had paid the price.

 

But this isn’t the time to get all emotional. 

 

Sirius wouldn’t want me to give in to my grief, Harry thought, I still have work to do.

 

With that thought, Harry plastered on a small smile he hoped looked casual, and boarded the train, his trunk rolling behind him. As Hedwig had already taken off towards Number 4 Privet Drive, Harry did not need to be overly careful with his trunk behind him. 

 

Harry didn’t want to drag his trunk through the whole train to find his friends, but he also didn’t want to claim an empty compartment and have Ron and Hermione search for him.

 

But would they even search for me? Harry wondered. He didn’t want to find out.

 

Harry decided, instead of sticking his head inside every closed compartment, he would listen for Hermione lecturing about rules or Ron’s laughter.

 

So, Harry kept his ears open, and started walking down the train.

 

Harry was surprised at how easy it was to hear inside the compartments if you wanted to listen. The train hadn’t even taken off yet and Harry already knew that Draco Malfoy’s father had been sent to Azkaban, Zacharias Smith was cheating on Hannah Abbott with some Ravenclaw fourth year, and Alicia Spinnet had punched Miles Bletchley in the face.

 

Harry was ready to give up hope and just sit in the next open compartment when he caught the animated laugh of Ginny. Harry couldn’t help the warmth that spread in his chest when he heard her snicker. 

 

Almost instinctively, Harry stopped and held his breath, not wanting to interrupt Ginny’s laugh. 

 

Hush , Ginny!” Harry heard Hermione scold, “Potter could walk in any second!”

 

Potter? Harry wasn’t sure what to make of that. He resolved to listen and wait. 

 

“I’m sorry, it’s just too easy!” Ginny chuckled.

 

Ron decided to chime in, “She’s not wrong, Hermione. Potter’s more gullible now than ever.” Ron’s voice, however, held no laughter in it.

 

What the hell are they talking about? Harry was puzzled, this did not sound like his best friend.

“Still, imagine how much work it would take to obliviate Potter if he found out-” Hermione cautioned, her voice dropping low, yet not decreasing in volume. 

 

“Relax, Hermione.” Ron interrupted. “If Potter somehow grows a brain and realizes what’s going on, Dumbledore could easily take him down and obliviate him.”

 

No, Dumbledore would never do that to me…

 

“No, Hermione’s right,” Ginny’s voice suddenly grew serious. “But, even if Dumbledore could easily ‘take down’ Potter, why hasn’t he already? Dumbledore says Potter is Dark, that he’ll be worse than You-Know-Who when he’s older. So, why wait until he is of age to kill him? Why bother with the Amortentia, the tests and trials every year? Why didn’t Dumbledore just finish the job himself when Potter was a baby?”

 

Dark? Kill me? Amortentia?  Harry’s froze in his place. A cold dread filled him as a shiver crawled its way up his spine. Harry was in a state of shock. He didn’t know whether to break in there and start firing curses or run away to India. What he wanted didn’t seem to matter, though, as he was so frightened and appalled his body couldn’t move from its place. He was, in a sense, a deer caught in headlights.

 

“You shouldn’t doubt Dumbledore like that, Ginny. It’s obviously part of the prophecy. Potter has to take down You-Know-Who first . As for the trials, that was simply a way for Dumbledore to push Potter firmly against You-Know-Who. It’s not like we can let Potter become a Death Eater.” Hermione voiced.

 

“But what does the prophecy say ? Dumbledore hasn’t told us anything about it. I bet Potter already knows it, so we should, too.” Ron protested. 

 

None of your bloody business, traitor. Harry’s earlier cold dread was slowly becoming replaced with a fiery rage.

 

“I agree… alright, we’ll casually ask Potter about it when he gets here. But don’t make it sound forced or suspicious!” Hermione commanded.

 

“Ugh, do we really need to baby him? I don’t think I can put up with Potter another two years…” Ginny drawled. 

 

The feeling is mutual, Ginny

 

“Just think of all his gold we’ll get once Dumbledore finishes Potter’s will! The Weasleys will be one of the richest families in Britain.” Ron declared. 

 

Harry couldn’t listen anymore. These people were not his friends. They were strangers. Strangers he had shared his life with for over five years. Strangers who knew his hopes and dreams, his greatest hits, his worst fears. Strangers who knew all of his secrets…

 

Not all of my secrets, Harry thought. They don’t know everything, I still have the prophecy for now… and I see who they are now.

 

Harry would love nothing more than to burst through the door and curse everything that moves. Or break down ad scream in the middle of the corridor. Or run away to India. But, Harry knew that none of these options would solve anything. 

 

Without them, what can I do now? They were everything to me, who do I have now? Harry was afraid to answer that question.

 

Luna and Neville came to mind, but for all he knew, they had hated him as well. If they weren’t in Dumbledore’s pockets, they would be traumatized by the fiasco at the Ministry.

 

He thought of Professor Lupin next, but the man had only ever been there for Harry when it was convenient.

 

He helped me with the dementors, but I didn’t even know that he was best friends with my father until Sirius escaped from Azkaban. Why? He had every opportunity to see me when I was young, why did I have to grow up thinking my parents were drunken deadbeats? Does he blame me for their deaths? For Sirius’?

 

Harry stopped that line of thought before it got away from him. If he couldn’t trust Ron, Ginny, or Hermione, he had to at least try to make amends with Luna and Neville. But first, Harry had to ensure that his former friends didn’t suspect him of knowing about their treachery. 

 

Steeling himself to look into the eyes of three traitors and not cursing them, Harry took a deep breath, put on a lazy smile, took a few steps back, and noisily made his way to the compartment. Harry couldn’t “catch them in the act” quite yet. He needed to know how deep this betrayal went.

 

Knocking on the door, Harry opened it, and forced himself to brighten up at the sight of his so-called friends. 

 

Hermione quickly morphed her face into one of sympathy and compassion. Ginny had straightened up and pushed her breasts out, batting her eyes in a way that she probably thought looked attractive. Ron took a bit longer to feign a warm smile, but Harry would have missed his pause if he wasn’t looking for it. Ron and Hermione were sitting next to each other, and Ginny was on the other seat immediately on his left, so Harry took the seat next to her by the window, across from Hermione, and packed away his trunk.

 

“Hey Harry, how are you?” Hermione asked in a kind voice. 

 

“Alright, I guess.” Harry shrugged, slouching onto the seat.

 

“Are you sure, Harry? We've all been worried about you, since, you know…” Ginny put her hand on his arm, leaning forward and making sure to put her breasts in plain view. 

 

Great way to flirt, Ginny, make me talk about my godfather’s death. Harry had thought he would be able to handle this, but his skin was itching and his chest was tightening. He could hear his blood pumping in his ears and it seems like the only thing that would help would be to scream or run or do something .

 

“I’m fine, thanks for asking, though.” Was all Harry could say. He hoped they would confuse his short reply for grief, though maybe it was grief. His friends were gone, and they were never coming back. Really, it’s just a different type of grief. 

 

“How about a game of Exploding Snap we can all play? I’ll go easy on you, and later we can get snacks from the trolley.” Ron suggested.

 

And I suppose I’ll be paying for you to stuff your face.  

 

“Sure, we can use my trunk as a table for it.” Harry brought down his trunk to the middle of the floor, facing on it side so it would reach to their knees. 

 

Ron pulled the old cards out of his pocket and started shuffling them. 

 

“Listen, mate, we need to talk about the Ministry disaster-” Ron started.

 

Hermione gave Ron an annoyed look that was gone so fast Harry could have imagined it. 

 

“What Ron means to say, Harry, is that we’re here for you. Whether you need an ear to talk about Sirius, or Vol- Voldemort, or the Prophecy, we’re not going anywhere. We’re here for you.” Hermione explained.

 

If Harry had been just boarded the train a few minutes later, he would have believed every word of it. But, things were different now.

 

“I don’t want to talk about anything.” Harry stated.

 

“Oh, Harry, you can’t keep this pain locked inside forever. You need to let yourself grieve for your godfather, or you’ll never move on. If not that, then at least tell us about the Prophecy. You can trust us. We’re your friends, we deserve to know…” Ginny tried to persuade him, putting her free hand over his heart. 

 

Ron looked like he would be sick, and it was all Harry could do not to conjure a bucket for the both of them.

 

You don’t deserve shit. Harry couldn’t take any more of this. He needed to get out of there.

 

“No! I said I didn’t want to talk about it, okay?... I need to get some air.” Harry announced, taking his trunk with him.

 

Harry knew it was a lame excuse, but he honestly couldn't stand another second of their company.

 

“Harry, wait-” He slammed the door over Hermione’s attempt to calm him. If he never saw the three of them again, it would be too soon.

 

He needed to get out of there, but he wasn’t stupid enough to sit by himself. There was strength in numbers, and many Slytherins seemed particularly angry that many of their mothers and fathers had been imprisoned.

 

Harry made his way down the train, still trying to keep silent, to where he thought Neville and Luna might be. He didn’t have to look long, as he quickly ran into Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle. 

 

It was not an uncommon occurrence for Malfoy to attempt to threat or attack Harry on the train to or from Hogwarts, and Harry was glad to get it out of the way while he was still angry and looking to let out his frustrations. 

 

Malfoy was, unsurprisingly, bitter about his father being thrown in Azkaban, and had been looking for an opportunity to get Harry alone. 

 

Harry wasn’t intimidated at all by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumbass, and knew that Malfoy, their ringleader, wasn’t much of a fight without them. 

 

As Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry and spat out his long winded rant and threats, Harry pondered how he would take out Crabbe and Goyle before dealing with Malfoy.

 

Though, to Harry’s surprise, he didn’t need to lift a finger as Neville, Luna, Susan Bones, Ernie Macmillan, and Justin Finch-Fletchley had appeared out of the compartments almost perfectly in sync and had all fired curses at the trio without hesitation. Watching them all work together fluidly made Harry’s chest swell with pride. 

 

With Crabbe, Goyle, and Malfoy, taken care of Harry gazed upon the people who had come to his aide. Sure, Harry wasn’t in any real danger, but for him, it was the thought that counted.

 

Seeing the courage and determination in Neville and Luna’s eyes completely erased all suspicion he had of the two. Harry instantly felt terrible for doubting the two truest friends he had. Neville was easily the most supportive and sincere person he had ever met. Luna was always genuine and truthful with Harry.

 

My life has become a very slippery slope… I can’t let myself fall down it, Harry resolved.

 

“Well, that’s one way to kick off summer,” Ernie Macmillan observed, startling Harry out of his thoughts.

 

Justin laughed,“Wish I could see Malfoy’s mother’s face when she sees her son,” 

 

Harry could imagine Narcissa Malfoy’s poised features, her nose turned up at the world, until her son comes into view and her perfect mask crumbles.

 

Harry chuckled along with the others, and struggled to smother the unnatural glee that surfaced at the thought. 

 

Justin and Ernie went back to their compartment after wishing everyone a good summer, and Neville, Luna, and surprisingly, Susan Bones, started back to their compartment. Harry didn’t know Susan was friends with Neville and Luna.

 

He should have known that. He should have been a better friend.

 

“Hey, er… do you guys mind if I sit with you? If not, it’s fine, I can-” Harry didn’t like the way his voice sounded. He was vulnerable.

 

“Of course you can, Harry.” Susan cut him off, to his relief. Harry did not want to go back to sitting with the traitors. 

 

Harry again sat on the left side of the compartment next to the window. Though, this time, Neville was sitting next to him, caring for his plant, Luna was across from him, staring at his forehead in deep concentration, and Susan was reading a muggle book called The Handmaid’s Tale

 

They sat in a comfortable silence for a while. Harry liked quiet. He didn’t get much in Gryffindor Tower, so this was a welcome change. It gave him time to think. If Harry got bored, he would silently challenge Luna to a staring contest, all of which ended with them trying and failing not to laugh, much to the confusion of the other two teenagers in the compartment. 

 

The silence broke when the trolley rolled by, them all paying for themselves. Neville had bought himself a few licorice wands, Luna purchased Sugar Quills and Chocolate Frogs, Susan favored Jelly Slugs and Cauldron Cakes, and Harry had also bought a couple Chocolate frogs along with Pumpkin Pasties.

 

Susan managed to trade a Cauldron Cake for one of Neville’s Licorice Wands after seeing him open them.

 

“Why not just buy it yourself, Susan?” Harry asked. 

 

“I didn’t know I wanted it until I saw it up close,” Susan said. 

 

Harry laughed. He wondered why he didn’t try to befriend Susan earlier. She was a bright person. 

 

“Harry, the wrackspurts are gone,” Luna finally spoke. She still hadn’t taken her eyes off his head. Usually, people staring at Harry would annoy him, but he knew it was just how Luna was. “You seem much happier without them.” Luna had at last moved her eyes away from his head.

 

“Yeah, I know. And I don’t think I’ll be letting them back in,” Harry said, knowing exactly what she meant.