Chapter Five: That Voice in His Head
A few weeks later, Ginny entered the common room wearing an unusual bracelet.
"Hey, isn't that Dragon Fire Ficus?" Ron asked his sister.
"Yep," she replied, throwing herself down on the sofa by the fire. "Millicent gave it to me from her cutting of Neville's plant."
"You mean, Blaise's cutting," Harry said.
"No, I mean Millicent's. Blaise has given all the Slytherin girls cuttings. Her plant's growing really fast."
Neville, sitting with Hermione at one of the tables, looked up, his brow furrowing. "It's not supposed to grow that fast."
"Good for you then, Nev," Ginny told him, pulling a book from her pack and beginning to read.
"No wonder it's so warm down there," Neville mused.
"You look worried, Neville," Hermione said.
"Well, it's odd. I didn't do anything special to it to make it grow. I wonder if—hey, Harry, you talking to Zabini at all?"
"I guess I'll have to, then. She hasn't mentioned any problems in Herbology."
"Perhaps she doesn't consider the growth rate a problem," Hermione suggested.
Ron stared at Ginny's bracelet, watching the little flames lick her wrist. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"Great. Everyone's in a mood," the redhead grumbled.
The rift between Harry and Ron had translated into a grim atmosphere in the Gryffindor common room. Everyone kept out of the Seventh Years' separate ways, and no one mentioned the altercation in the changing rooms. As most of the other Seventh Years were too busy studying for their N.E.W.T.s to care, the fight had lasted much longer than it normally would have, but Hermione was tired of it.
"Right. This is ridiculous. You two should make up already."
"Leave it, Hermione," Ron said.
"Sure, he won't apologize, so there's no problem, is there?" Harry shot back.
"Don't start, you two," Ginny ordered.
Ron and Harry remained resolute in their silence.
"Well, I'm going to the library," Hermione said, shoving her books into her pack. "I'm sick to death of all the tension."
"Want me to come with?"
"No, Ron. I don't. In fact, I don't think you'll be coming any time soon," the witch said, striding off.
"Woah. Did Granger just make a sexual reference?" Dean asked, sounding genuinely astonished.
"Shut up, Thomas!"
"'Shut up, Thomas'," Dean mimicked Ron, which made the other boy's face redden so deeply that his freckles were lost in the flush of color.
Harry decided it would be a good time to leave, and, with Neville in tow, exited the room and walked toward the kitchens.
"So, Zabini's nice, isn't she?"
"What do you mean, 'nice'?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"Just what I said. I like her. She's good with plants—brilliant, apparently—and, you know, fetching. I was thinking that I might ask her for a butterbeer."
Shit. Great. Wonderful. Neville has a hell of a lot more in common with Blaise than I do. They're Herbology partners. And he doesn't seem to have any trouble talking to her.
"Would you mind if I—"
"It's not up to me, now is it?"
"I know you like her . . . ."
"Yeah, well, she doesn't like me, Neville. Do what you want."
"Right then, I will. Thanks, Harry."
They entered the kitchens to find Zacharias Smith, Susan Bones, and the Patils studying at a table laden with treats, house elves hovering around them.
"Oh, it is Harry Potter! Dobby is happy to see him!"
"Hi, Dobby," Harry said disconsolately, as Neville joined the others.
"Dobby would like to say things to Harry Potter alone."
"Yes, Harry Potter. Come with Dobby," the house elf said, tugging on Harry's sleeve and drawing him further into the kitchens.
"Harry Potter is wrong. Dobby knows that Harry Potter is liking Blaise Zabini and not being very successful in his wooing. House elves, we knows how to woo, and Dobby is wanting to help Harry Potter."
Biting back a rude comment about Dobby's 'help' of him in the past, Harry said, "Really, Dobby, that's nice—but I don't need any help, I promise you."
"Dobby hates to say it, but Harry Potter is wrong," the diminutive being said, his eyes wide and sincere. "Dobby thinks Harry Potter misunderstood about the faeries and the Christmas dinner. Dobby meant it to be romantic for a wizard and witch, but Harry Potter did not kiss Blaise Zabini. Dobby thinks that Harry Potter may be . . . ."
"What? What do you think I might be?"
The house elf sighed. "Stupid," he said, cringing.
Got it in one. "Look, I'm not . . . I'm not good with witches—with Blaise—and you should just forget about trying to help me."
The house elf floated up so that he could look into the boy's eyes, and reached out to pet his arm in a reassuring way. "Dobby understands that even great wizards is not being good at everything, Harry Potter, but Dobby must help, and help Harry Potter Dobby will," he said, before winking out of sight.
Oh, no. Oh, fuck, no, Harry thought, feeling his stomach drop to his knees. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse!
"Neville!" Parvati exclaimed. "What's wrong?"
Harry turned in time to see Neville clutch his stomach.
"It hurts. I feel . . . dizzy," he said, sliding to the floor.
"Dobby!" Harry yelled.
But the house elf did not appear.
A tiny hand tugged on Harry's arm. "Winky is knowing what Dobby is doing. Dobby says that Harry Potter has to go on a date with the Blaise, and then Dobby will make the Neville all better."
"What? But he can't do that!"
"Dobby is a bad house elf," Winky said, sniffing, "and he is doing many things he should not."
"But," Harry began to say, watching the others take Neville out of the kitchens, "but what if she says no?"
"Winky is thinking Dobby will not care, Harry Potter."
"Fuck." I've got to go to the dungeons. I can't bother Professor Dumbledore with this, can I?
He never made it there, however, because the heat from the Dragon Fire Ficuses was oppressive, and Snape was on the warpath.
"GET THESE OUT OF HERE!" he was thundering, as several Slytherin girls, none of them Blaise, rushed down the main dungeon corridor carrying the plants. "If I find out who is responsible for this menacing foliage, I will shred him or her alive!"
Harry hot-footed it back up to the upper floors. Once there, he decided it might be a good time to visit Hedwig, who had moved to a high perch in the rafters of the Owlery with Silvio.
"Hey there, you two. How's the family planning coming?"
Hedwig hooted proudly at him. Silvio spun his head. Harry sat down on the windowsill and worried.
After awhile, he noticed an unfamiliar auburn-feathered owl watching him curiously from a high perch, a large pot containing a Fire Ficus—a Dragon Fire Ficus—sitting next to it.
"You're very pretty. Who do you belong to?" One of the Slytherins, I'll bet.
The owl issued a short series of angry sounding hoots at him.
"Ah, you're a female owl. I should have known. I'll just shut up now, shall I?"
The bird ruffled out its feathers and flew down to the other side of the windowsill. And then it shimmered, stretched, and formed the shape of a curvaceous young woman with piles of shining hair.
"Hoot," she said, appearing pleased that she had so startled him.
"You're an Animagus!"
"Obviously," she replied, picking bits of bird fluff out of her hair. "It's certainly messy in here, isn't it?"
"Are you registered?"
"Are you mad?"
"When did you become an—"
"You aren't going to tell anyone about my plant, are you? Snape's furious."
"Yeah, I know. I was just down there. And of course I won't say anything—but are you sure it won't catch the Owlery on fire?"
"It won't. It's bespelled. I'm amazed at you, Potter. You're always walking up here just as I've changed. You really didn't know?"
"I really didn't know, and I wish you'd call me Harry," he said, seeing that she was wearing her uncle's torc. "Do you always wear that?"
Blaise's hand flew to her throat to caress the gold around it. "Yes, Harry, I do."
"By the torc?"
"No, by your being an Animagus. That must have taken some doing." She said my name. Maybe she isn't mad at me anymore. Perhaps she will go out with me. Poor Neville! She has to go out with me. "I'd love to be able to fly without a broom."
"It is fun. I've been, well, I've had a lot of time to practice, haven't I?"
Nice one, Potter. Now you've reminded her that you got her thrown off the Slytherin Reserves for awhile. "God, I'm sorry, Blaise. I didn't mean for my present to—"
"It's all right. Professor Snape made Malfoy take me back, didn't he? And I prefer wings to broomsticks, anyway. I also like your present, Harry," she said in a small voice.
He smiled. "You do? I suppose you must, seeing as how you've hidden it from Snape."
"My mother wouldn't send me mine from home."
"Oh. I'm sorry about that, too."
"You're sorry about a lot of things, aren't you?"
"Yeah. I shouldn't have done that to him. If it makes you feel any better, I'm not sure I actually meant to do it. I was just mad."
"That doesn't make me feel better. Harry, with that kind of power . . . you can't get mad. You'll really hurt someone, you know."
"Yeah, I know. I've been practicing to control it."
"Have you? Well, good. You won't tell? I think Professor Snape suspects, but he hasn't said anything."
I'll bet he isn't the only one, Harry thought, thinking about Dumbledore. "You did it to escape—from your family—if you had to, didn't you?"
"Yes. Uncle 'Carlo suggested it. It's too bad he didn't take his own advice about always having an escape plan," Blaise said, bitterness coloring her tone.
"Why do you trust me? I know that you don't like me, and—" The tears that welled up in the girl's eyes at his words stopped Harry's mouth. What did I say? he thought, reaching out a hand toward Blaise in concern.
She took it. "You think I don't like you?"
"Well, you haven't spoken to me in weeks. What am I supposed to think?"
"I . . . you scared me, Harry, when you did that to Malfoy. I thought it was dangerous to be around you."
"I would never hurt you, Blaise. Never," he said emphatically, lightly squeezing her hand. "I don't want to scare you. I'm sorry."
"Can you truly not help yourself?"
"My mouth, it's—"
"I didn't mean your mouth," the girl said, wiping her tears away with her free hand. "I meant your magic."
"Oh. Well, I usually do okay, and Professor Dumbledore's helping me get better at it."
"Helping you learn to kill, you mean."
Harry did not have an answer to the question.
Blaise sighed and retracted her hand. "Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, and then I remember what your life is like."
"My life. Yeah. It's been . . . interesting. But I can't really complain. I've got friends, people who . . . who love me, and I'm happy here. And . . . and I like you, Blaise," Harry said, his chest tight. Please don't mind me saying so.
"Do you?" she whispered, looking out at him from behind a thick lock of hair.
The Gryffindor reached out to smooth it back behind one of her ears, leaning forward without actually intending to do so, and found himself perilously close to the Slytherin's mouth.
Just hearing her voice was permission enough, the boy decided, and then all thought left him as the light delicious press of Blaise's lips met his own. When hers parted, it seemed wrong not to slide his tongue inside of her mouth and stroke hers, tentatively at first, and then with more exploratory zeal. He found the low murmur of approval humming from Blaise into him intoxicating, and soon his hands wound through her hair to pull her more deeply into their kiss.
The sweetness of it, the headiness, soon became more urgent as Harry's trousers tightened and his breath came faster, and there was a voice, perhaps his own, whispering to him: Take her. Use her. Consume her. "No!" he cried, pulling violently away from her.
Harry's voice sounded ragged and foreign to him as he ground out between clenched teeth, "You have to go. Now, Blaise. Please, just go."
"You liked it. I know you did. Why are you—your scar! Harry, what's wrong?"
"Get. Out. Go. Go now," he ordered, focusing on the pulsing pain in his forehead, and not the rapine images in his mind. "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" he shrieked, trying to channel his fear for Blaise and his rage at Voldemort into the open bond between himself and the Dark Lord toward that wizard.
Blaise did not go. Instead, she threw herself at Harry, seizing his hair and pulling his head toward hers, bruising their lips with the force of her kiss.
NO! Harry screamed in his mind. He could feel himself respond to Voldemort's tempting, and wanted nothing more than to rip into the girl who's body was pressing his into the stone.
Then do it, boy. Take her. She wants it. You can have her. You can have anything you want if only you'll take it!
A large hand clasped Harry's shoulder then and roughly jerked him away from Blaise toward the floor.
"Get out of here, Zabini. It isn't safe for you," Ron Weasley's strained voice said gruffly. "GO!"
"He's my friend, too!"
"Then be one and leave. Can't you see he's fighting something?"
Don't let the boy interfere! She'll get away! Stop her, Potter.
"GetoutofmyheadoutofitoutofitOUTOFIT!" he screamed, trying not to look at the images of Blaise that the Dark Lord was sending, trying not to want what he was being urged to do.
"It's Voldemort. I can't—"
"Get out of here, or I'll throw you out, Zabini!"
The clatter of shoes over the boards of the feather-strewn floor and his best friend's voice calling his name brought Harry back to himself.
"Harry? Harry, you okay, mate? Harry, you in there? You alone in there? Harry?" Ron asked, kneeling down before the other boy and peering anxiously into his face.
"Ron," he replied hoarsely, "did I hurt—"
"No, you didn't. You didn't hurt Blaise, Harry. She's gone."
"Shit. He wanted me to hurt her."
"Yeah," Harry said, sitting up and hanging his head so that Ron would not see the tears in his eyes. "Fuck."
"But you got rid of him, right? That's good, isn't it?"
"None of this is good! I only just kissed her, and Voldemort tried to make me hurt her!"
"But you didn't hurt her Harry. You stopped yourself. You stopped him."
"What if I can't do it again?"
"You'll be able to do it again, mate," Ron said with a certainty that Harry envied. "But I think we'd best get you to Professor Dumbledore. He should know about this."
"I . . . I can't. I can't tell him about this."
"You have to, Harry. You know that you do. If you don't . . . ."
"You'll tell him?" the boy asked, looking at Ron in disbelief.
"I'm sorry, but this isn't just about you. It's about Voldemort. And Blaise. And all of us. I'm sorry, Harry, but you know I'm right."
"Crap. I'm going to die—a virgin—and he's going to win."
"Don't say that!"
"Why the hell not?" Harry spat, jumping to his feet. "It's true! He gets into my head. He makes me . . . want to do things. Who knows how long he's been in there, spying, pushing me? It's about 'all of us', you said—it isn't about me. I don't have any con—"
The wet sound of Ron's fist striking Harry's mouth stopped the boy's ranting, and he fell backward and would have fallen if the taller boy had not have caught his arms to prevent it.
"Why'd you do that for?"
Ron folded his arms around Harry and pulled him into a fierce hug. It felt weird, weird but good, too, and Harry gave into it and issued a sigh that threatened to pull tears with it, but managed, with great effort, not to cry as he hugged his friend back.
"You um, you can cry if you want."
"No," Harry said, his voice thick.
"Good—I mean, sure, whatever," Ron replied, giving Harry a squeeze and then releasing him. "Sorry about that punch, mate, but I hate listening to your, 'My Life Sucks, Hear Me Whine' speech. I'm not saying that it doesn't, of course, but do you really have time to feel sorry for yourself just now?"
"That hurt, you prat," Harry replied, rubbing his mouth. "But . . . thanks, and sorry. I didn't know that I um, whined."
"I s'pose you've got plenty of reason to, really," Ron said, pulling his wand and healing Harry's face.
"You're welcome. Dumbledore?"
"You're pushy. What are you doing up here, anyway?"
"It's not like I'm kissing anyone, is it? Besides, I figured you'd be up here and wanted to patch things up. I don't like it when we fight."
"Neither do I. Did . . . did you threaten Blaise?"
"It seemed like the right thing to do at the time," Ron said sheepishly. "So, how was it?"
Harry flushed. "Um, good, you know, until . . . ."
"It's embarrassing," Harry protested.
"I'm sure it is," Ron said, crossing his arms.
Harry knew enough about his friend to know that there would be no point to argue further. "Right. Dumbledore."