Screams and Whispers

Sequel to As It Began; Harry begins his second year of Hogwarts with Snape as his guardian. When strange things begin to happen to Hogwarts students, some his closest friends, Harry must find a way to stop it before the damage becomes irreversible.

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9. Chapter 9

    Harry reluctantly walked down to the Potions Master’s office when he was summoned later that night. He was glad to get out of the common room that was buzzing with gossip, though he did not relish a conversation with his guardian at the moment. Harry was in need of gentle words rather than the abrupt and to the point conversations that Severus was inclined to partake in. 

    The door to the office was open and Harry entered without knocking. Severus was hunched over a thin book. He looked up and gestured for Harry to sit. With a flick of his wand the door swung closed. 

    “Harry,” Severus began. “Are you alright?”

    Harry’s brows knitted together. He had not been expecting that; he was ready for an accusation. “Yeah, I guess so.”

    Severus nodded. “Will you tell me what happened?”

    Harry nodded. “I left here and wandered around the halls because I didn’t want to go to dinner. I stumbled upon that, and you know the rest. Why did you lie about when I left?”

    Severus leaned back. “Am I correct in assuming you do not want undue suspicion?”

    Harry nodded. “But how do you know I didn’t do it?”

    Severus’s brows furrowed. “Well I think it would be fairly obvious. Is there a chunk of time that you do not remember? Did you find blood on your hands with no indication of how it got there? Do you have an ineradicable hatred for Mrs. Norris?”
    “No,” Harry replied in reference to all of the questions. 

    “Then I truly do not believe you did this.”

    Harry’s chest unclenched and breathing became easier at this assertion. “Then who did?”

    Severus gazed at Harry. “That is what we must worry about. Assuming that house elf is right, whoever is behind this will be after you.”

    Harry did not feel as concerned as he rightfully should have. Perhaps it was because of his guardian’s secure presence or the sanctuary that he considered Hogwarts. Either way, he felt that he could get through this. If others supported him.

    “This really doesn’t look good for me, does it?”

    “Unfortunately it does not,” Snape confirmed. Severus unfolded his hands and let them lay flat across the desk. “As abhorrent as this idea may seem at the moment, I suggest you never be alone.”

    Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Severus cut him off.

    “It is not that I think you incapable of defending yourself, but it would be good for you to have an alibi,” Severus explained.

    “An alibi?” Harry parroted.

    “Yes. If you have someone to vouch for you during the next attack, perhaps people will begin to take your side,” Severus told him.

    “So you think there will be another attack?” Harry asked.

    “Unfortunately, I think that it will not stop at just one more. Therefore, we must take necessary precautions.”

    “What is the Chamber of Secrets?” Harry finally asked. 

    Severus sighed. “It is a legend, or myth, if you will, of a secret chamber harboring some sort of monster. It is said that Salazar Slytherin created it and put the monster inside to purge the school of muggle-borns at his will.”

    Harry’s eyes widened, thinking of Hermione. “Why haven’t they killed the monster?”
    “For no other reason than they cannot find it. After the last attack many  years ago, the castle was thoroughly searched and nothing found.”

    “This has happened before?” Harry said, both hope and horror dawning on him. “How did they stop it?”

    “I do not know,” Severus answered honestly. “I assume they caught the culprit.”

    Harry chewed his lip. That information didn’t help.

    “If I find out from the other teachers, I will tell you, Harry.”

    Harry nodded.

    “On a lighter note, have you made the Quidditch team?” Severus said in an obvious attempt to change the subject.

    “We won’t know for another couple of days,” Harry replied, glad to bury the previous discussion. “I hope they get training right away; now that Nott’s father bought all of the Slytherins new brooms, we will have to make sure we beat them.”
    Severus smirked. “The Nimbus 2001 is the best I hear. I do hope that does not give Gryffindor the disadvantage...”

    Harry scowled. “At least the Gryffindors got in because of their talent.”

    Severus’s eyebrow twitched. “So you say. The match will be exciting to say the least.”

    Harry agreed.

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

    “Is it alright if I owl Flourish and Blotts?” Harry asked Severus after a few minutes of meaningless conversation.

    “Of course,” Severus agreed. “What is it you need?”
    “I wanted to get a book for Hermione. Her birthday is only a few days away,” Harry replied.

    “Cutting it a little close?” Severus asked with mock disappointment. He unexpectedly made a connection that prompted him to ask, “Harry, was your birthday not in July?”

    “Yeah?” Harry responded, seeming confused at the random question.

    Severus was mildly troubled. “Why did you not mention it? I would have allowed you to invite a few friends over.”
    Harry shrugged indifferently. “It didn’t seem important,” Harry frowned. “It is kinda ironic because I always really looked forward to my birthdays. This year though, I was just happy with the way things were. I didn’t need to celebrate.”
    Severus studied the twelve year old in front of him. “And you do not feel lacking in that you did not receive any gifts?”
    Harry laughed. “Of course not! I never got any at the Dursleys’ which means, er, I never got any.”

    Severus shook his head. “You have led a hard life, Harry. But you seem reluctant to let go. One day, I hope, you will.”

    Harry looked caught off guard by those profound words. He sat silent for a moment, before coming back to himself and bidding Severus goodnight. The door shut quietly behind him.

    Severus put his head in his hands. He remembered how Lily never forgot a birthday. She would show up with a gift, sometimes surprising the recipient if they themselves forgot it was their birthday. He lifted his head and gazed at a small crystalline bottle adorned with tiny blue gems. It was his first gift from Lily; a decorative perfume bottle of her grandmother’s. She had removed the spritzer and found an appropriate sized cork, thus turning it into a functioning potion bottle. Now, however, it did not hold a potion. Inside were several lily petals, charmed to remain fresh forever. It had been Severus’s way of asserting that Lily lived on and would continue to do so for as long as he did. As long as Harry did. And he had forgotten Lily’s only son’s birthday. After filling it out so many times on the adoption forms, how could he forget? He was a substandard guardian. Severus stood straight and decided that he ought to try and remedy that.

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    Somehow, Harry found that the rumors did not get worse after the most recent incident, but rather stayed the same. This went a long way towards coping with the suspicion and Harry felt lighter during the next few days. He did as he was advised and kept at least one friend, or witness, on hand. At last it was Saturday and the Quidditch  postings were up in the common room. Harry and Ron hurried back from dinner for a look.

    No one surrounded the message board as they approached, which seemed to detract from the amount of excitement and trepidation that seemed appropriate to Harry. He quickly scanned the names and found his own next to the position of Seeker. He shot Ron a grin. Next, he read over the others on his team more carefully, Katie, Alicia and Angelina were still Chasers and the Twins remained as Beaters. Wood, of course, held his position as captain and Keeper. The last name on the list caused a rush of excitement to run through Harry. Draco was named as the reserve, though it did not say for what position. 

    Harry glanced around the room, looking for Draco to congratulate him. When he found him, he approached and gave him a friendly pat on the back.

    “Congrats, Draco,” Harry said.

    “Same to you, Harry!” He replied excitedly.

    “What position are you reserve for?” Harry asked curiously.

    Draco gave a sly grin. “All of them. Wood said that I was good at them all so I could fill in for anyone.”

    “That’s great Draco!” Harry said earnestly. “Though you better not go all Slytherin on us and try to knock someone off.”

    Draco scoffed. “Yeah, okay. First practice is tomorrow, right?”

    “Yep.”

    “Great, see you later, Harry.”

    “Where are you going?” Harry asked.

    Draco responded, “Hermione is going to help me with my Charms paper in the library.”

    Harry shrugged. “Okay, see you.” He turned to Ron. “How about some chess?”
    

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    Ron and Hermione agreed to accompany Harry and Draco down to the Quidditch pitch to watch their practice. In terms of the weather, it was a pleasant day; the sun was shining and a gentle breeze ruffled Draco’s robes as he walked. In terms of the people, it was not quite as pleasant. The four were walking along in a comfortable silence when a cruel voice carried towards them.    

    “Hey! Mudblood!”

    Draco whipped around. The others turned as well, but were slower in doing so. It was obvious that they did not know what the name meant. Draco did. He stepped in front of Hermione protectively.

    “Don’t call her that,” he said in a low voice.

    Nott stepped up to meet him. “What’cha gonna do about it, Malfoy? I’m sure your father would love to hear how you were standing up for Potter’s mudbloo-”

    Draco punched him in the mouth and blood sprayed onto the grass. 

    “I’m sure he would,” Draco snapped.

    Ron looked him up and down appraisingly.

    “Nice arm, Draco,” he said.

    “Thanks,” Draco muttered. “Let’s go.” 

    They left Nott clutching the side of his mouth and glaring daggers at them. Crabbe and Goyle were standing dumbfounded as usual. 

    “The chamber has been opened! You mudbloods will be next!” Nott called derisively.

    The Gryffindors ignored him. After they were out of earshot, Hermione spoke up.

    “What is a mudblood?” she asked.

    Draco sighed. “It is a foul name for someone born to muggle parents. Some families who come from a line of wizards think they’re better than everyone else.” Draco hesitated and hung his head. “I used to.”

    Hermione touched his arm lightly. “It’s okay, you don’t now. Thank you for standing up for me. That was very brave.”

    Draco merely nodded and walked in a brooding silence until they reached the pitch.

 

-[]-

 

    Harry lapped the pitch in the first Quidditch practice of the season. It felt so good to be on his precious broom once again, peeling his eyes for the snitch. They had split into mini teams and were having a scrimmage. Harry’s team was composed of Fred, Angelina and Alicia as Keeper. The other team had Wood, George and Katie with Draco as Seeker. Harry wanted to win. Badly. Harry saw Draco swoop low as if he had seen the snitch. Harry dove to follow. On his way to Draco’s position, Harry was caught off guard by a Bludger that whizzed past his ear. He had not even seen it coming and glanced over at Fred, wondering why he hadn’t stopped it. As he was watching, he saw Fred’s shocked face as he hit the Bludger directly at Harry. Harry used the sloth-grip roll maneuver to avoid it, then straightened. 

    “Fred!” Harry shouted. “Watch it!”

    “Sorry, Harry! My bat is moving on its own! I can’t stop it!” He cried frantically. “Watch out!” 

    Another Bludger came from George and Harry was forced to dive to avoid getting hit. Thoughts of the snitch forgotten, the game became centered around avoiding the dangerous balls that repeatedly came hurtling his way. Harry pulled up before he hit the ground and the Bludger smashed into the grass, tearing up the soil. It bounced back into action and Harry sped away only to be forced to avoid another honing in from his right. Harry spiraled on his broom and avoided it, only to be hit in the ribs with the one that had rebounded off the ground. His grip on the broom loosened as Harry fell. The world went black.

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    Bright lights and muttering greeted Harry as he cracked open tired eyes. 

    “He’s awake!” Someone announced in a poorly concealed whisper. 

    Harry tried to sit up and gasped at the pain in his side. He slumped back down. Glasses were placed into his hand and faces became clear.

    “Heya, Harry,” Fred said from his left side. “Sorry about that, mate. There was nothing I could do.”

    “Yeah, really sorry, Harry,” George seconded from beside his brother.

    “It’s alright,” Harry said, though the stabbing pain in his side disagreed. Hermione, Ron and Draco sat on the other side of the bed, peering at him with concern.

    “How long have I been here?” Harry asked.

    “‘bout four hours,” Ron supplied. “The whole team was here but they left for dinner a little while ago.” 

    Harry looked at his friends. “Well how come you aren’t at dinner? I’m fine.”

    “No you’re not Harry,” Hermione admonished. “When you’re settled, then we will eat.”

    Harry gave her a weak smile. “Thanks. So what’d I miss?”
    The twins shared a glanced. “Snape throwing a fit,” George said.

    “Really?” Harry asked, sorry that he missed it.

    Draco nodded. “After you, er, blacked out, we didn’t know who to call, so we got Snape. He was furious because Quidditch practices are supposed to be supervised and this one wasn’t. And the bats were cursed, that made him pretty angry too, of course.”

    “Why wasn’t it supervised?” Harry asked. In truth, he did not even notice the lapse.

    “Lockhart was supposed to watch but he never showed up,” Fred said with disgust. “Thanks to him, Snape wants Gryffindor penalized.”

    “You have to talk him out of that, Harry!” George said urgently.

    “I will, don’t worry,” Harry promised. “What happened to the bats?”

    Draco rolled his eyes. “Lockhart has them. Curse-breaking expert and all.”

    “Right,” Harry said sarcastically. “You didn’t curse them, did you Draco?” Harry asked jokingly. “Trying to take my spot?”

    Draco’s face turned serious. “I wouldn’t do that, Harry.”

    “I know, Draco,” Harry said, a little uncomfortable. “I was just joking. But really guys, you can go. I’ll be fine.”

    Ron shrugged. “Alright. I’m all for some dinner. Someone needs to tells Snape he is awake.”

    No one volunteered. Harry guessed that the recent episode didn’t help Snape’s image. 

    “I nominate Draco,” Fred said.

    Draco rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine.”

    “See you, Harry.”

    “Bye, Harry!”

    “Feel better!” 

    The chorus of goodbyes echoed off the walls of the hospital wing as they exited. Harry closed his eyes, wondering when Snape would come. He hoped that he would have an explanation for this.

 

    Severus never came.

 

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

    It was late, sometime in the middle of the night, when Harry awoke. The pain in his ribs had considerably lessened, so Harry assumed that was not what had awoken him. His heart pounded in the darkness as he listened intently, dearly hoping that he would not hear another vicious voice of unknown origin. Instead, he heard footsteps. Light flooded into the room as the door opened. Harry squinted, partially so that his eyes could adjust to the light but also so he would appear, from a distance, to be sleeping. He saw a small figure being hovered into the wing by a man he assumed to be Dumbledore. Another figure bearing the resemblance of McGonagall shut the door and the light was extinguished.

    “What are we going to do, Albus?” she asked quietly. “When can Severus have the potion ready?”

    Harry could hear the frown in Dumbledore’s voice. “I do not know. I sent him a message but he did not arrive at the scene where we found young Collin.  I am sure there was a good reason; Severus does not generally disappoint.”

    Harry frowned in the darkness. 

    “Come, Minerva. We do not want to disturb Harry,” Dumbledore said quietly. “We can talk outside.”

    Harry clamped his eyes shut in case they glanced his way. He heard footsteps then the squeak of the door and all was quiet. 

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