All the wrong choices (Ch 27 – The Sting)

Harry paced along the stretch of wall in the seventh-floor corridor, his mind asking for a place to stay. He wasn’t overly specific knowing that the room of requirement would throw something suitable together. After his third pace passed the blank section of wall, he heard the shifting stone scraping and groaning. He turned to see an average sized door appear in the stonework as if it had always been there. He took a deep breath before pushing the door open. He felt the warmth of the fire before his eyes adjusted to the lift within. He looked around and nodded with satisfaction as the room was almost identical to his old Gryffindor dorm room, but instead of having multiple beads, there was a double bed up against one wall. He noted after a few moments that the colour scheme was different also. Instead of the red and gold colour scheme, he was so used to, it was a deep gold with red and green highlights.

He sighed wistfully at the green and looked at the floor as he walked in dragging his heart with him. He’d just come back from dinner and felt sick, the food had been too much and too rich, the chatter too loud and the smiles, too forced. He felt drained from seeing Neville and Hannah, who seemed infinitely more excited over the prospect of him returning to school than he was. They had been so happy at the prospect of him taking up the new position much to the dismay of his new teacher, Professor Obrona, who seemed to have a similar temperament to Professor Snape. He felt the dread build in his chest as he smiled and nodded, painting the excited smile on his face, regardless of how conflicted he.

He noticed that there was a large sofa covered in pillows by the fire and he nodded to himself.  He did need to make a fire call soon to keep Ron and Hermione up to date. He should probably call the Weasley’s too to make sure that Teddy was alright. He sat down on the edge of the bed feeling his stomach groan and complain as he tried not to think of anything. He wasn’t sure whether he felt ill because of his stint out in the highlands or whether it was anxiety building up. He was actually going to attempt to teach. It had been something he had toyed about for at least a decade, something he had considered when he couldn’t cut it at the Auror academy. He took a deep and steadying breath as all the different ways he could mess things up flashed through his mind. He shook his head to distract himself and Draco’s face blotted it all out. The anger in his pale features when they’d found each other.  His stomach rolled over forcing him to the bathroom to throw up. He knew that Draco wasn’t going to change his mind. Not without some sort of proof, which Harry couldn’t provide. He rested his head on the toilet seat cursing the world. When he heard the whoosh of his fireplace.  He didn’t want to move for a moment.

“Harry?” Came the voice from the sitting room.

“Just a minute” Harry croaked back as he stood and swilled his mouth. He stood straight and looked at himself in the mirror. His tanned features were pale and tired. He shook himself as he turned and left the room. Ron’s face floated in the large fireplace, looking at him grimly.

“You alright mate?” Harry nodded. “You sure? You look like crap” Harry rolled his eyes and nodded again.

“You alright?” he asked hoping to stop the questions.

“Yeah, just wanted to drop you a quick call to let you know how the investigation is going. Hound has been taken in for questioning albeit, he’s not saying much” Ron smiled then “Not that he has to, thanks to your memory, He’s in trouble, it’s bloody brilliant!”

“Good,” Harry said with a sigh, it felt good to hear that it was being sorted.

“Parkinson wasn’t there when we apprehended Hound though. We’re planning a sting to catch her when she makes her next move”

“Really?  What kind?” Harry asked, Intrigue finally helping him forget the unease in his stomach.

“That’s the thing, I need to speak with Hermione first before I can give any details.”

“Why don’t you come through, I was going to call Hermione anyway,” Ron thought about it for the moment then nodded

“I’ve just got to grab a few things then I’ll be over.”

Harry nodded as the fire changed from the green to normal yellow. He sat there for a second before moving out of the way.  He stood and walked to the bed. He needed to go home and get some clothes before he went to sleep. He looked at the bed and it occurred to him in a sickening moment of realisation, that the bed was the same as Draco’s newly transfigured bed in his flat. He stepped away from it and turned back to the fire just as Ron stepped through.

“Blimey, you look even worse in person,” He said as he threw down the files he’d brought with him. “Did you manage to find him?” Harry nodded but he couldn’t talk. It felt like his throat had sealed up. “I take it, it didn’t get well?” Harry shook his head again and swallowed turning away from him. “Bloody hell mate, I’ve never seen you like this, even after Ginny. I didn’t realise you felt so strongly”

Harry snorted derisively. “Neither did I” He croaked out. The bile was rising up within him again. He ran out of the room and away from Ron’s steady blue gaze. For the second time, Harry found himself next to the toilet pan wishing for death. He could hear Ron moving about in the other room and closed his eyes. He felt angry at himself.  He had fought off Voldemort for Merlin’s sake, why was this affecting him so much? He rested his back against the wall as he wished away the pounding headache which was forming behind his eyes. He heard the bathroom door open and a hand press against his head.

“Bloody hell, Harry, you’re burning up!” He felt an arm grip him under his own. “Come on you, Come with me” Ron yanked him up from the floor. He tried to shake his head but was ignored. “Come on, we’re going to see Hermione.” He was pulled into the large fireplace and heard Ron call out their destination before being squished and pulled through the floo system.

Harry felt the floor under his hands as he was sick again.

“Harry!” Hermione cried as she rushed to his side.

“Sorry Mione” Harry replied croakily, sluggishly pulling out his wand to clean up the mess.

“Shush about that, Merlin, you look awful, come on, over to the sofa.” Harry didn’t try to argue, knowing there was no use. He heard mutterings as something cold was pushed to his lips.  He felt the cold liquid pool in his mouth. He swallowed and immediately felt a cool wave wash over him.

“What was that?” He heard Ron ask.

“A languorem draft” Hermione replied “Harry? How do you feel?”

Harry nodded with his eyes closed. As he waited for the nausea to subside.

“A sickness draft?”

“Yes Ron, a sickness draft” Harry could almost hear Hermione’s eyes rolling “Nice to know they teach you something at the academy” He heard Ron chuckle. Harry could feel the nausea leaving him and felt a wave of relief as he opened his eyes.

“Seriously, mate, you look awful!” He raised his eyebrows “Did he curse you or poison you or something?”

“No, I had to see Hannah earlier and get a Pepperup potion, as I couldn’t get warm.”

“How come?” Ron asked.

“You were out on the hills, weren’t you? Harry! You need to take care of yourself. What did Hannah say it was? Hyperthermia?”

“She didn’t say, just gave me a pepperup and told me to take it easy”

“Oh, Harry!” Hermione said, her eyes full of concern. “Are you feeling better?” Harry smiled and nodded.

“Thought I’d have to take you to St Mungo’s for a moment there, mate.”

“Glad you didn’t have to” Harry croaked “Sorry about the mess ‘Mione”

“Honestly, Harry it’s fine, you cleaned it already” Harry leant his head against the sofa and just breathed for a moment enjoying the lack of discomfort in his abdomen.

“You ask him!” He heard Ron say before he heard Hermione huff in annoyance.

“Ask me what?” he opened his eyes to see Hermione looking awkward.

“I wanted to know if you found him? What happened?” Harry paused for a moment before shaking his head. He’d known that they’d want to know but he couldn’t bring himself to tell them. He held his wand to his head and after a second it came away with the gossamer thread of his memory.

“I can’t talk about it, but I want you to know.” He said as he handed his wand to Hermione. She took it and disappeared into another room.

“Wonder where the kids are?” Ron asked curiously as he looked around “Usually you can hear them even when they’re not in sight.” Harry tried to smile and nodded.

He looked around the cottage and remembered the pale walls and the shell mosaics. The cottage was nice enough, but it didn’t bring back particularly good memories.

“They’re probably out with Bill and Fleur” He mumbled, his headache taking hold.

“True,” Ron nodded as he collapsed on the Sofa next to Harry. “Sorry” He muttered as he realised he’d jostled Harry.

“S’ok” was all he could say before Hermione came back in. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffed as she walked to Harry and flung her arms around him.

“Oh Harry, that was awful, no wonder you look terrible” She pulled away and looked at him. “What are you going to do” Harry shrugged, feeling his throat tighten again.

“I honestly have no idea, Neville suggested sending a Hogwarts owl as he wouldn’t recognise it and read the letter but who else would send him a letter?” Harry asked throwing his hands up to his head and massaging his temples.

“True,” Hermione said airily as she thought.

“You could always send the letter to Cosima,” Ron said offhandedly.

“What?” Hermione and Harry asked simultaneously.

“Sorry,” Ron said as he blushed and scratched his head. “I found out that Cosima Prewitt was sent after him when Rolf found out that something was amiss”

There was a brief silence as Hermione and Harry processed the information.

“No, that wouldn’t do any good, Harry can’t be writing a love letter to her, we don’t know whether she would tell him, and we know she’s been less than cordial to Malfoy since he started.”

“Couldn’t you send the daily prophets retraction to them by owl?” Ron asked again.

“Ron! Sometimes you come out with genius ideas” Hermione shouted happily as the leant forward and kissed him.  Harry couldn’t help but smile when he saw his wide and goofy grin.

“But didn’t Hound give orders to print something bad in there too?” Harry started to feel sick again. “What if it’s even worse than before?” Harry could feel his breathing increase. Was he really getting hysterical over a newspaper article? He covered his face with his hands for a moment as he tried to gather himself.

“Try not to worry about it, for now, we could always just send the article as a cutting until you can talk to him properly.” Suggested Ron.

“That is a good idea, Harry” Said Hermione

“Or” Started Ron, a wild look gleaming in his eyes

“What Ron?” Asked Hermione as she stood up. Ron stood too, getting animated. Harry watched them both.

“you could fight fire with fire,” He said his grin appearing again.

“What are you talking about?” Hermione asked, the confusion furrowing her brow.

“Remember in fifth year when the prophet was doing its utmost to discredit Harry and you brought in Skeeter to write an article for the Quibbler?”

Hermione’s eyes bulged as she waved her finger at him excitedly. “That would do it!”

“What?” Harry asked suspiciously

“Luna still writes for the Quibbler while she’s on maternity leave, doesn’t she?” Ron nodded knowingly and smiled his widest grin.

“What?” Harry asked again feeling like the stupid one in the room.

“That’s it, Harry!” Hermione shouted happily. “We need to get Luna to write an article on you and the fake news that the Prophet has been printing.  You could do a ‘bare all’ sort of interview, maybe even coming clean about your feelings for Malfoy.” She nodded excitedly “We then send the Quibbler issue to Malfoy and Cosima, and he would have no choice but to read it.”

Harry sat in silence for a moment as the scenario played out in his mind. He slowly nodded.

“I think that might work, plus I have an announcement to make.” Hermione and Ron stopped and looked at him, suspiciously. Harry couldn’t help smiling, feeling hopeful for the first time since seeing that newspaper. “I’m going back to school.”

The silence was so thick that you could hear a pin drop. He waited for a second before the silence was broken.

“What?” Ron asked, the confusion clear on his freckled face.

“School?” Hermione asked, looking less confused. “Are you finally going back to finish your N.E.W.T’s?”

“Yes,” He said slowly as he watched her face start to beam at him. “And no.” Her face paused mid-beam.

“Come on mate, its been a long day, just tell us”

“I’ve been asked to finish my N.E.W.T’s and then I’m going to be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor” He waited for the full realisation to hit them and then he couldn’t hear anything over the roar of congratulations. He ducked down and cringed against the noise, his head still thumping murderously again, but he couldn’t hold the smile from his face.

“Bloody Hell!” Ron said finally “Thanks, Brilliant” He flopped down next to him on the sofa again.

“Professor Harry Potter,” Hermione said with a smug grin “I’m proud of you Harry”

“I’m not professor yet, I’ve got to go back to Hogwarts and take my N.E.W.T’s and then pass the professors exams. Pomona is hoping I can take the first to third-year classes in a few months and then take over the entire role next year.”

“You’ve got so much work to do Harry,” Hermione said grimly before standing up and rushing out of the room.

“You’re in for it now,” Ron said with a grin. “I’ll bet you 5 sickles that she comes back with some massive books that she brought here for some light reading”

“I’m not taking up that bet” Harry almost laughed “It’s too likely”

“Too right, mate” They laughed together and for a moment Harry almost felt at ease again. The coiling of his gut and the throbbing in his head pushed to the back of his mind. It almost felt like being at school again already.

They heard Hermione before the saw her turn the corner into the room. As Ron predicted, she levitated one huge volume into the room and dropped it on the floor before them.

“I’ve got this book at home but Bill and Fleur won’t mind you borrowing it for a while. You’ll also need a copy of ‘confronting the faceless’ and some others, I’ve got them all at home. I’ll write you a list for Ron to get when he goes home” She put her hands on her hips for a moment looking thoughtful. “I bet you got rid of all your textbooks, didn’t you?”

“Well if you don’t remember I got rid of a lot of things when we went on the run” Harry bit back with a smile.

“True.”

“I’m surprised you’ve not told me I need a copy of ‘Hogwarts: a history’” Harry laughed. Hermione’s lips curled up at the edges but before she could fire back a reply Harry continued. “How is your revised version going?”

She smiled and scratched her head in embarrassment.

“Not very well, actually. When I decided to write it, I didn’t realise that work would be so all-consuming, and then I’ve got the four kids to look after”

“Four?” Ron shouted confused. “Hermione? Did you hit your head?” Hermione smirked and shook her head.

“I was including you in that number, idiot” She smiled and waited for him to follow.

“But we’ve only got Rose and Hugo-” He stopped as if someone had hit him with the body bind curse.

Harry felt the adrenaline run through his veins at her news.

“Hermione?” He raised his eyebrow as a question. Hermione grinned and nodded in reply. Harry launched up off the sofa and encircled her in his arms.

“That’s great news ‘Mione! When are you due?”

“July” She smiled as she hugged him back.

“Ron, get up here and hug your wife!” Harry shouted with a laugh.

Ron looked devastated. Harry felt the bottom of his stomach fall away.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’ll have to rethink it all.” Ron stood up and started to pace.

“Ron?” Hermione sounded worried now. “Rethink what?”

“It’s the sting” He replied after a while.

“What sting?” Hermione asked, looking between them.  Harry shrugged as they both looked at Ron again.

“I’ve got to go back to the office.” He announced suddenly.

“What?” Harry and Hermione said in unison. Ron looked at them as if seeing them for the first time.  He rushed across the room to Hermione’s and squeezed her tightly and placed a kiss on her head.

“I am happy for us, love. Just there are some very important things that I need to sort out. I’ll be back soon, I’m going to keep you safe” He placed his hand on her belly and nodded as if agreeing on something to himself.

“Okay…” She said unconvinced. “I want a proper reaction from you when you come back”

He smiled slightly as he went to release her.

“I’ll try” He kissed her as he pulled away towards the fire “Love you”

“Love you too,” She said as he grabbed the floo powder and disappeared through the flames.

Harry watched as Hermione stared after him, worrying at her bottom lip.

 

“Come here,” Harry said gently as he guided her to the sofa. She followed him without putting up any resistance and they both fell down together, Hermione cuddled up in his arms. “He’s just stressed out, He’ll be happier about it when this whole thing is over.”

 

“I know, I just expected a little bit more of a reaction. And what is this sting he’s talking about?” She looked at him and Harry could see the tears starting in her eyes.

 

“Well I know that Hound is in custody, but Parkinson is still unaccounted for, whatever the sting is, it’s a plan to catch her.  The way Ron reacted, I can only imagine that it involves you in some way.”

 

“What? Why?”

 

“Because of how he reacted when he found out you’re having a baby”

 

“Oh” she replied causing Harry to laugh softly.

 

“Are you suffering from baby brain already?” He asked as he poked her arm.

 

“Shut it” She laughed back.

 

“Speaking of children, where are the other two?”

 

“Out with Bill and Fleur, there’s a little Muggle seaside town not far from here,” Harry nodded in understanding.

 

They fell into a comfortable silence as they both leaned on each other. Harrys mind wandered as his nerves began to rile up again. “Harry?” Hermione asked after a while.

 

“Mmm?” Harry replied quietly.

 

“Do you love him?”

 

Harry took a deep breath and he weighted everything up in his mind.

“I think I do, I know it’s only been a week, but we were so happy.” He paused before he spoke again. “Don’t tell Ron or Ginny, but it was never like that with her.”

 

“I won’t tell,” she said as she turned to him. “And it hasn’t really just been a week has it? It was through six years of school too.”

 

“What do you mean?” Hermione pulled away reluctantly and turned to him.

 

“I think that if you’d taken his hand in first year, and become friends, I think things may have gone a lot differently through school.” She giggled slightly “You were just a tiny bit obsessed with him”

 

“Shut it” He replied with a small smile. The smile didn’t last as his mind wandered back to his issues.

 

“He hates me ‘Mione”

 

“No, he doesn’t, He’s just hurting”

 

“You saw the anger in his face, he hates me. It must be love because it hurts so much”

 

“Oh Harry,” She said as she placed her hand on his face. “He’ll come around. Why don’t we owl Luna now and get something organised for tomorrow?” He nodded, not trusting his voice as they both got up from the sofa.

Accio Next Chapter

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