Chapter 76 — Full Moon
Rodgers glared at Harry as he sneaked in and had to pull a seat from the back wall because Askunk had the fifth desk.
"Here's Potter. And he's setting a great example for our newest apprentice."
Harry released the desk to pull up his sleeve to reveal the sticky poultices and said, "Healer. St. Mungo's."
Rodgers stared at him. "It would be like you to have a good excuse."
Askunk was trying to suppress a smile as Harry pulled the desk up next to hers in the back.
Rodgers pointed at Askunk. "Don't take Harry's paltry attempts at the readings as an exemplar either."
At the end of training, Harry took his time putting his things away, distracted by thinking about yesterday's Australian visitor. He didn't even know her name.
Aaron was waiting by the door. "Shall we retire to a pub for a pint?"
"Errand," Harry said. "Come along?"
Aaron's face brightened. "I'd love to."
- 888 -
With Harry beside him, Aaron walked straight into the newspaper offices and into the lift. They found Ginny in a high ceilinged room with stacks of proofs around her.
"Hi," she said when Aaron rapped on the open door. Harry pulled the door closed as he entered, taking his time as the two of them had a quick kiss.
"Need a favor," Harry said to Ginny.
"What is it?"
"Need to talk to twins. For me." Harry glanced at Aaron. "About Ned's sister."
"Is this for an investigation?"
Harry didn't answer right away. Aaron stepped up to his shoulder and said in a secretive voice, "Yes. So, don't tell them who asked."
"Right. Right now?" Ginny studied the oversized sheet she held before tossing it on a pile. "Well, this can go in the morning edition. I don't like how it reads anyway. Too whingy."
She picked up a notebook, flipped through it, then discarded it for a new one out of a box under the desk. "They'll know who Ned is, I assume?"
"Yes," Harry said.
"Don't make any trouble until I get back. And if you see Beatrice, tell her I'm out on an interview."
They chatted about the Ministry until the floor began to vibrate, then wandered out to the railing at the end of the corridor to watch the press rumbling to life. The great machines chugged for several minutes before streams of parchments began sailing through the air, turning corners, flipping over, and finally floating themselves into crates below the floor. It was a mesmerizing view, like a waterfall, and too loud to talk.
Ginny had to tap Aaron on the shoulder to get his attention when she returned.
"So, you're in luck," she said as she closed the door to her office. "The sister spent the morning at the Wheezes."
She rocked back in her chair and propped her notebook on her knee. "Her name is Indigo Jarvis, she arrived early Monday, middle of the night, along with her brother, whom my brothers refused to say anything about. By the way, I told them this was for Wizard tourism background information that I wouldn't publish for months."
She flipped through the pages. "Jarvis is an Old Family. See . . . and I only know this from researching another article I wrote a few weeks ago . . . Australians don't have pure-bloods, they have old or original families, descendants of wizards and witches shipped there as prisoners two centuries ago who escaped and formed their own magical colony. According to George, who must have been scoping her out pretty good, she's from one of these families and is, well, not engaged, technically, because she's only seventeen, but as good as, to a man from another of these families by the name of Luke Pegus." Ginny paused to chew her quill. "She didn't know how long she was staying in the UK. She doesn't seem to have work, as she was asking the twins about that." She flipped through the pages again. "That's about it. Oh, she likes blackcurrant lollies, if you care."
She looked up at them. "That help?"
Harry nodded. "Thanks."
The door swung open without a knock and Beatrice came in. "I see we didn't run the piece on harmful beauty creams. Oh, Mr. Potter." She shook Aaron's hand as she passed him. "Are you giving us an interview finally?"
"Well, glad to hear it. I look forward to seeing it in the morning."
After the door closed, Aaron rolled a chair over for Harry and patted the cracked leather back of it invitingly. "Better get comfortable. I'll arrange for some libations."
Harry sat down.
"Thanks, Harry," Ginny said with a pained smile.
Harry picked his words with care. "I owe you. Go on."
She turned to a blank page in the notebook and put her quill to it. "I don't have an angle, so I'm just going to ask you enough questions so I can work one out. How is training?"
"Restart second year."
"I heard that. You're okay with that?" When Harry nodded, she said, "I wouldn't be. Dad let Askunk into the program, how is she?"
"We're hard. We'll know."
"Your speech is better."
Harry didn't want to explain about old magic and cocooning, so he said, "Been working on. It."
"Harry is healing from his trauma," she recited as she wrote, then pushed the pad back to examine it. "We should include mention of little Archie. How is the big brother business?"
Harry smiled. "It's good."
She smiled too. "Downside of being the youngest," she muttered.
"You could have your own," Aaron said as he came up with three foaming mugs in one hand.
Ginny ignored Aaron. She asked Harry, "Put a wand in his hand yet?"
"Do you approve of the Ministry's approach to cracking down on post-Quidditch magical partying?"
Harry thought his field work had gone well enough. "Yes."
"That's it? Just 'yes'?"
Aaron sat back, beer in hand, using one desk as a chair and another as a footstool. "Harry doesn't know what they're doing. Neither do I. They don't tell us anything." He reached out and flicked Ginny's hair with his finger. "You can have your own," he repeated.
She swatted at his hand then had to pick up her quill off the floor. "Quit sounding like my mother or I'll apply to the Aurors' program next year. If they let Askunk in, they have to let me in."
Aaron bared his teeth as he smiled. "Then I'd get to see more of you. There's a threat."
- 888 -
Friday morning after breakfast Harry pulled the chess set out, carried it to the drawing room, and commenced setting it up on a corner of Snape's desk while he worked.
"You want to play?"
Harry nodded as he went down the row of pawns to face them all the same way.
Snape dropped his quill into the holder. "I was hoping you would."
"You like to win?" Harry asked.
Snape smirked. "That and I think the game is good for you."
Snape made the first move, then sat back. "Take your time and think about the board, about the outcomes of each move based on my possible responses. You were trying to play by instinct last time and I'm afraid you are lacking in that, or simply lacking access to it. It's not clear which."
Harry stared at Snape's white pawn standing two squares ahead of its peers. He shook his head. "Too many possibles."
"Reduce them and choose."
Harry moved the pawn opposite Snape's the same amount.
"How was your run this morning?" Snape asked and Harry would have accused him of distracting him if it had been his turn. "I only ask because Sunday night is the full moon and I want to be certain you are ready."
Snape moved another pawn ahead one to protect the other.
"You aren't happy," Harry said.
"I would prefer you concentrate on yourself. You are enough of a challenge for you." Before Harry could reply, Snape quoted, "Yes, 'help people'; you said that." He almost added something, Harry assumed it would have been, "Your move," but instead he rocked back in his chair and fell silent.
After Harry moved a different pawn, without any real idea why one was better than another, but assuming he would learn soon enough, Snape said, "When are you going back to that meddling Healer? Perhaps I should accompany you."
"I'll handle him," Harry said, looking forward to it. It would be good for him too.
Snape exhaled. "If he refers us to the Wizard Family Council, I will poison him."
"Slow or fast?"
Snape's face relaxed. "I have not yet decided." He moved the knight out. "I'm pleased to see that plotting chess moves does not degrade your speech."
Harry lifted his head, not having noticed one way or the other.
"A good sign, Harry." Snape sat back again and waited.
- 888 -
Harry waited while Ron paused to straighten his collar. The door of the Zepher house was ajar and warm light cut through onto the porch.
"I look all right?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, 'course." Harry turned away before grinning at this.
Inside was a sea of young heads and the chattering was competing with the loud music from a carved statue of giant insects, each playing its own wing or a leg, or in the case of the drummer, beating on the carapace of a beetle. Surprised gazes lifted up to them as they waded in. Ron stopped to chat with Wereporridge about his opening his own vault at Gringott's and Harry went on through the crowd.
"We didn't think you'd come," said the girl standing beside Suze when Harry found her.
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"Hi, Harry," Suze said, turning. "Did you get some punch?"
Harry accepted the glass of fizzing liquid for something to hold. It was the full moon tonight and he couldn't risk any alcohol, let alone the concoction of mystery potions that could end up in a Slytherin party punchbowl.
"Thanks for coming. I think you're the only Gryffindor that did."
"Ron's here," Harry said, pointing.
"Oh. I didn't think to invite him."
Harry smiled. "That's all right. I did." Suze's friends were quieting and pressing in to listen.
Harry prepped and uttered his next words with great care. "Ready for seventh year?"
"I'm ready to be tall enough to be a Seventh-Year," Suze said, making a face.
Harry couldn't tell if she'd grown at all. "Doesn't matter."
"Easy for you to say." Her face turned from glum to bright. "The broom I won at DV-Day has been a dream. I used it in a Monday night fan match last week and I think the Quidditch teams scout there sometimes. We won four matches in a row before they took the Snitch out of the game." She laughed.
A new song started, one where all the bugs were singing at once. Harry gestured for them to retreat through the rear door of the room. Suze grabbed up a full glass of punch for herself and followed.
The doorway led to a back corridor and into the kitchen. Mr. Zepher was there, oven mitts on his hands, pulling pizzas from the oven. The oven was off, according to the dials, but heat radiated from it.
"Oh! Mr. Potter." He awkwardly slid the pan onto the counter, nearly letting the contents slide onto the floor.
"I told you I invited Harry, dad."
"Yes, you did. I remember." He smiled at Harry. "Like a slice? Only a little burned on the edges. My wife is playing speculation with the girls tonight," he added in explanation.
Harry accepted a piece.
Mr. Zepher shifted his stance, then shifted it again. He appeared to struggle for something to say. "You had an interview in the paper last week. Suzy made me cut it out for her."
"DAD," Suze said, eyes ablaze.
Mr. Zepher put his arms out to the side acting honestly surprised. "Mr. Potter is an excellent role model for overcoming adversity."
She rolled her eyes. "You're making it worse, dad."
"Well, I think he is." He spoke this with force, but then appeared flustered when he noticed that Harry was standing there, still.
Harry accepted a second piece of pizza.
"How is the punch bowl?" Mr. Zepher asked.
Suze stared into her full glass. "It needs refilling. Definitely."
He pushed open the door and stood looking out across the full room. "I think we're finally getting used to having so many Slytherins around."
When he was gone, Harry patted her on the shoulder. "It's all right."
She was flushing. "I can't wait to move out," she grumbled.
"That's not . . ." Harry groped for the next word. "Shouldn't . . ." He started to flush too, then realized it would dull her embarrassment to hear him struggling. "You have. Good parents. Too soon. Leave."
She considered him critically. Harry hoped she was also considering his words.
Her mouth twisted thoughtfully. "Your brain's still not right?"
"No," Harry admitted.
"You're still going to be an Auror?" She sounded concerned.
Something decisive clicked inside Harry and he felt uplifted. "Yes." Then before she could say anything, he asked, "You're still to be Seeker? Going to be a Seeker?"
Her lips relaxed into a smile. "Yeah." She dipped her head. "My parents have stopped threatening to send me to prep school in Saskatchewan every time I bring it up. That's a positive sign, right?"
- 888 -
Snape stood close beside Harry in the low light of Lupin's flat. Lupin stood near the window, watching the sky sink into a deeper grey.
"Where are they?" Snape asked.
Lupin shook his head, lit mostly by the streetlight outside the window. "Josephine said they were having trouble locating Philemon."
Snape took a seat in a nearby chair and sat back, relaxed. He seemed to know something Harry did not, as usual.
"What?" Harry asked him as the minutes ticked away.
Snape sat with his knuckles on his chin. "I did not say anything."
"You thinking. You are thinking. Something."
"I am always thinking something," Snape said, pleasantly. Harry's brow furrowed at this.
Josephine burst in after a quick rap on the door. "We can't find him. And I have to go. Now." She sounded harried.
Lupin said, "Harry could cure you. You're here."
She remained in the doorway. "I don't know," she said, stunned. She looked at Lupin, tilting her head increasingly to the side as she clutched the door jam like one would if one had claws. "I . . . I'm afraid I'll lose . . . my life, all my friends." She gave Lupin a strained smile. "I haven't thought about it enough, and I have to go." She Disapparated.
Lupin stepped over to close the door. "Well. I think that might be it for this evening."
Harry raised his head and looked at Snape, thinking of Indigo. "I won't be long gone." And he Disapparated.
Snape's words, "You promised . . ." followed Harry to Diagon Alley.
Dusk made the buildings darker than the sky. Harry jogged along to the Weasley Wizard Wheezes, but the lights were out and the door locked tight. He waited for a moment when the alley was clear and from the shelter of the entranceway, slipped into the staircase that led to the workrooms above the shop.
Harry's frantic knock on the workroom door was answered by one of the twins, who was clutching a dressing gown of plush red velvet about himself, the tie dragging on the floor.
"Sorry," Harry said, then glanced to the other end of the room where Oliver Wood was wrapping a blanket around his bare chest. "Um . . ."
"What's up?" the twin asked, leaning on the door handle and tilting his head.
"Indigo," Harry asked. "Where for full moon?"
"Ah, so you know her secret. And mine, as well," he gestured gallantly behind himself.
Harry smiled painfully, focused on getting to the girl before she transformed. "Um, all good."
"We sent her to the moors south of Rosedale Abbey since she doesn't have a usual, haunt, so to speak."
"Thanks," Harry said, stepping back to depart.
"Hey, Harry," Oliver said from across the room. He was sitting with his arms up on the couch back, blanket barely concealing him. "Is that Fred or George?" He gestured with his chin in their direction.
"Er," Harry said, considering the Weasley holding the door handle. His hair was tussled and he wore a smirk. "I don't know," Harry replied.
"Drat," Oliver said in an amused tone. "I can't tell either."
Harry felt a blush working its way up from his collar. "I to go. Have to."
"Sure you do," the twin said. "Be careful."
"I will." Harry stepped backward onto the landing of the darkened stairwell.
"Good seeing you, Harry."
Harry gave a little wave salute, and slipped away.
"How'd he do that?" the twin asked, sticking his head out the doorway, squinting down the narrow staircase.
"Work magic you mean?" Oliver asked.
"Well, magic I don't know," the twin complained. "That's irksome," he said, closing the door.
"Nice to know something irks you."
- 888 -
Harry arrived near Rosedale Abbey inside an archway of the old kilns. The clouds hung thickly over the hills, making Harry hope he had a little extra time. He waved out a quick Observer Charm and when it failed to sizzle, took a running leap outside, transforming as his toes left the ground. In the dimness his red wings appeared dark grey as he flapped away from the valley-nestled village. He sailed along a line of stone ruins, seeking anything unusual with his animal eyes. Rain formed a glowing purple smear at the horizon, matching the just opening heather.
Harry banked, swerving to follow along the broad slope rather than cross the valley. The rough ground was fast turning indistinct. By now the moon must have risen behind the clouds, but Harry was not in a position to pull out his watch and check.
A lighter smudge caught Harry's eye. He banked hard to the left, back toward the ruins. The earth had long gouges in it here, and he lost sight of whatever it was. Harry pulled up hard and landed beside the last ruin, an L-shaped wall. A bundle sat among the rocks at the base of the crumbling structure. It had the fresh smell of human on it. Harry released his Animagus form and turned the bundle. It was a pastel jumper wrapped around other clothes. Harry put it back and stood to look around.
A growl came out of the gloom, low and throaty. Harry pulled his wand and turned his back to the wall for the best defensive position, but he didn't see anything other than dark scrub and boulders. A sense of cursedness washed through him. The ruin was surrounded by a square of low grass that gave him a clear view of anything approaching. Harry stepped back until his hand touched the wall and shook a faint light out of his wand.
A light-colored streak slipped among the boulders, then reappeared on a patch of bare rock. The werewolf's fur was streaked tawny over smokey grey, long, like a show dog's might be. The low rumbling growl sounded again and teeth glinted. It stood with neck slung low between bulky shoulders, its posture marring its beauty. It sniffed the rock at its feet and growled again.
Harry wanted to say something to it, but no words would come out. His gaze refused to pull away from the creature's slitted eyes, which cast back the blue of his wand as sea green. The werewolf lowered its body into a crouch and snarled. Harry pushed away from the wall, trying to find reassuring words, trying to find any words.
"It's okay," he finally said.
The werewolf fell silent. It crouched on its belly with muscles taut, staring back.
The wind picked up, bringing with it the scent of rain. Harry worried Indigo's bundle of clothes would get wet. He slipped away to find a plastic Muggle shopping bag. This took more time than he expected, and by the time he returned, to a spot some distance from the ruin, the werewolf had disappeared again. A mist had begun to blanket the air, so he hurried over the uneven terrain, still sensing curse, but not as strongly as before, nor did the curse seem to be drawing closer as he went. Harry ran the Observer Charm and it faded silently, so he relaxed as he crossed into the square of grass, hurrying.
Harry was just gathering up the bundle of clothes and wondering idly if that charm worked for non-human observers when his curse sense spiked and pain shot through his wand arm as he raised it to wave out a barrier. He didn't finish the gesture before he was knocked flat. A dog-scented snarl filled Harry's right ear as he tried to roll clear, banging his limbs on the stony ground. His shoulder socket was jerked hard as the creature tossed its head with his arm trapped between curved rows of teeth.
Harry angled the wand he still clutched in his right hand and cast a weak Blasting Curse, unable, despite the pain and cursedness spiking his arm, to cast a strong one. The werewolf opened its jaws, barking at him and snapping at his freed arm. But Harry rolled clear and slipped away as the werewolf leapt at him, ghostlike in the near darkness.
Harry knelt in the grey underworld, bent double over his arm, which throbbed excruciatingly as well as sickened him. His aversion to the rancid poison in his arm made him long to cut his arm off, like it wasn't really his. But he didn't have to resort to that, or he hoped he didn't. He took his time to calm himself while pushing enough to keep the curse from spreading up his arm. This was easy, and his panic at the taintedness penetrating him faded.
Blood from the bite was soaking his left hand and wrist, but it was tainted radiance, so he let it flow freely. Creatures shuffled closer. Harry ignored them but they gathered closer, sniffing boldly. He Apparated for a new spot and inverted himself. Without thinking ahead, he had arrived on the slopes above Hogsmeade. It was misting here too and Harry wished he had a cloak as his damp clothes had become sticky and chilling.
The bite wound throbbed with each beat of his heart. The angry flare of the curse had eased but his arm still seethed with rancid energy. Harry had to clear the curse before he could heal the wound. He had promised Snape he wouldn't do this alone, but his pride sharply resisted seeking out his guardian in his current state. The thought made him bark out a small laugh. Below him, the lights of Hogsmeade warmed the surrounding turf and across the lake a handful of lights flickered in the windows of Hogwarts. He felt at home here.
Harry drew in a deep breath and pushed at the curse in one great effort. Like a veil pulling away, the rancidness faded, clinging only to the blood which had dripped onto the grass at his knees. Harry leaned away from the blood, struggling to his feet to get fully clear and to check that he was not getting reinfected.
The sickening sense faded as he stumbled backwards uphill. He Staunched the wounds now that they leaked only healthy blood and moved his wand to his left hand to cast a Lumos. His sleeve was punctured and darkened. He carefully pulled the fabric clear and shook the light out of his wand and in the darkness, cast a Healing Spell. Left handed and with poor vision, it left his flesh pockmarked and twisted, but the skin was closed and the muscles were only tender now, rather than agonizing.
Harry shook his head; he'd just had that arm healed. Since he should not use the Dark Plane to slip home in secret for a shirt, Harry slipped into Aaron's flat instead. Ginny was standing by the stereo, picking music with the little plastic buttons.
"Harry." She glanced at his bloodied sleeve and came over, leaving something full of mournful violins playing. "What happened?"
"It's okay," Harry said, laughing lightly. "Need shirt." He held out his healed but mottled arm to quell her concern.
"Aaron's fetching takeaway, but I doubt he'd mind giving you one." She headed for the bedroom. "You certain you're all right?"
"Yes. No interview," Harry called behind her. "No news."
She came back, brows raised. "Why? What happened?" she asked.
"Nothing. Stupid." He pointed at himself.
"And you think that's not newsworthy?"
She handed him a white shirt, like his own except with silver buttons. Harry held up the sleeve thinking it unfortunate he hadn't had this shirt on earlier. He changed and held out his own torn and bloodied shirt. "Burn?"
"You want me to burn that for you. Destroy evidence?"
"Not evidence," Harry said, still grinning sloppily. "Only stupid."
She tossed it in the hearth and waved a spell at it which made it ignite merrily.
Harry said, "Thanks. Gotta go."
"Just like that? You don't want to stay for a late dinner?"
She put her hands on her hips and tilted her head at him. "With good reason, it seems."
Harry snorted. "Maybe." He had not expected the werewolf would hurt him, somehow, for reasons that did not make sense in retrospect.
At home, Snape was in the main hall, pacing. Harry walked up to him sheepishly. "Too late," he said, referring to failing to catch her before she transformed. He wished his voice wasn't so tight.
Snape looked him over and Harry hurriedly Occluded his thoughts.
Snape said, "I'm going to assume you were planning on bringing her back with you for a cure."
"I hadn't planned," Harry said, being honest about that. "Anything."
Snape looked him over more before saying, "Remus wonders if you can cure someone immediately after moonset as well as immediately before moonrise. There is an old wizard in their group who they are afraid is too frail to withstand many more transformations so they have voted him next."
Harry, remembering how tainted Lupin had felt after the full moon as well as before it, nodded.
"Be ready at five in the morning, then. I will wake you if necessary."
At four thirty, Harry reached under his pillow to still the alarm he had placed there. He had slept dressed but he could not simply slip away from his room without putting Arcadius at risk. He went to his window, opened it and leapt from it, transforming in mid air. From the sheep field he slipped away to the ruin on the moor, wand at ready. The clothing bundle was gone. Harry transformed into his Animagus form and sniffed the ground. The whole area gave off a musky dog smell, but there was no sign of the werewolf. With the thick clouds, she must have changed back even as the moon was setting.
As Harry flapped back to his window, he found Snape leaning out of it. Snape helped him climb inside and shut the sash behind him.
"You have picked up an independent streak in rather a hurry," Snape said.
Harry said, "Make sure. Okay."
"And was she?"
Harry shrugged. "Gone."
"As should we be. We are leaving Candide and the baby off at her office on the way. She is happy to have him along until her officemates arrive for the day."
The elderly wizard was difficult to cure. The curse had become part of every fiber of him. Harry spent a long time pushing at each muscle and sinew and bone to purify it, fighting the clock and the curse growing too quiescent to get a hold of at all. But he succeeded finally and allowed Snape to Apparate them both home where Harry fell to his knees and simply sat there on his feet.
"Do you need a Healer?"
"No." Harry breathed in and out, in and out, waiting for his body to recover. "Go for run."
"You are going for a run?" Snape asked, sounding mocking.
"Yes," Harry said. He hated being this weak. "In a second. Soon." He bit his lip and willed his strength to return, knees complaining about the hard floor.
"Maybe I should accompany you."
Harry looked up. "You need," he said forcefully. "Ex'rcise."
Snape's brow lowered and he stalked to the drawing room.
"You do," Harry called after him.
- 888 -
At lunchtime Harry went to Diagon Alley and found the twins stocking shelves, sending hundreds of boxes into the air in a great rotating sphere to get them out of the way. Harry didn't know which twin he had met the night before and he felt another blush heating the skin under his collar as he approached them.
"Hey there, Harry," the first brother said, so equitably that Harry assumed it must not have been him.
"Something we can do for you?" the second asked.
"Looking for Indigo," Harry said.
"Ah," the first twin said, "Still on that quest, are you?"
"Yes," Harry answered quietly.
"Haven't seen her today. Her brother is stopping by for a . . . business meeting . . . this afternoon. If you can come from the Ministry directly, we can stall him here."
When Harry returned after training, the twins were tense, not their usual gregarious selves. The three of them stood around the checkout counter with pages of handwritten numbers, torn catalogs and an Australian naturalist journal open in a haphazard pile.
Ned was saying, "I know you won't dob me in, so if you want to offload this I can flick it on."
One of the twins said, "Hi there, Harry. You haven't met Ned."
Ned turned. His features were friendly, but Harry recognized the tenor of his hard gaze from his time in Durumulna.
"I hear you're asking about me sister."
The twins shifted away from Ned, taking up artificially easy-going postures.
"How is she?" Harry asked.
"She has the flu today. But why it matters to you I don't know."
Harry thought Ned sounded honest about the flu.
"You think you're a real top bloke, don't you?" Ned said. He was shorter than Harry but his posture indicated that didn't matter to him.
"Harry's a good friend of ours," one of the twins said, stepping closer so as to get partly between them.
"He could be the King of Sheba or the Savior of Wizardom, I don't give a bugger. I don't want him chatting up me sister. She's set up already and me old man would have me hide if I let anyone muscle in."
One of the twins said, "If Indigo has the flu she won't be leaving soon, right?"
Ned turned to him. "I won't be leaving her behind, if that's what you mean. I reckon I'll wait until she's better before making another run. You'll have to wait a mite for your order."
Ned came up to Harry. "I meant what I said." He shouldered his way past Harry to the door, glancing back with his hardened eyes before stepping into the sunlight. The chime played out an abbreviated dirge as the door swung closed.
One of the twins put his fingers to his cheek and rested his elbow on his arm. "So, you like her, eh?"
Quietly, Harry asked, "Does he know about her?"
"About her full moon activities? No. And she's in a right state about him finding out. We covered for her last night, said we sent her to a cousin's all night coven meeting."
Harry rubbed his right forearm.
"We heard a rumor, somewhere, that you were curing werewolves."
The door chime sounded and a group of young boys came in, stopped upon seeing Harry, then biting lips and keeping heads low, slunk to the back corner to talk in whispers.
"A month," Harry said. "She must wait. Give message."
The twin's face brightened. "We certainly will. We'll also be certain to let her know you were asking after her. Mate." He winked.
Harry stepped out of the shop, rubbing his arm again. Maybe he should visit the Healer before going home. He sent a silver message home and diverted to St. Mungo's.
Unlike last time when he got right in, Harry had to wait in the waiting room for over an hour. This wait was newly illuminating in his role as an Auror. Teens with botched styling spells that made hair grow in great waves out of their necks like Troll beards were one thing, but a small child with a sullen face and arms that were bound to his sides with tentacles or a wizard missing a nose and an ear raised Harry's concern. He wondered how many of the mis-used spells and badly mixed potions would be reported to the Ministry. He wondered how many were really accidents as explained to the Greeting Witch and how many malicious actions by family or acquaintances. Harry shuddered imagining what his childhood would have been like if his aunt and uncle had been magical. Or maybe if they had been, they wouldn't have been so angry to start with.
Harry was called up as he pondered whether wizards seemed happier than Muggles, overall.
"Thank goodness. Last patient and a straightforward one at that," Shankwell said when Harry stepped in. "Get up on the table."
Harry pulled up the sleeve on his right arm.
"We did that one."
Harry made a reluctant face. Shankwell matched it with a dismayed one as he glanced at the poorly healed new wound.
"What happened this time? Looks like a dog bite."
"Werewolf." And as he said this, Harry realized he badly needed to play more chess. Much more chess. The pieces on this board had been set up by him and he still put himself down in checkmate before the game even started. Something was still very much wrong with his brain.
Shankwell tapped himself on the cheek with his fist. He backed up to a cupboard and pulled out a long form on crinkly brown parchment. "You know, this I have to report."
"Not werewolf," Harry said, patting his chest. "I'm not."
"You know, they all say that until the next full moon." He bent to write.
Harry sighed, shoulder drooping. He made himself relax so the words would come out. "I cure werewolves. I cured arm before . . . infection." If he hadn't been so desperate, he would have been proud of that word.
Shankwell's Neverout Quill stopped moving but he didn't raise his head immediately. He dropped the pen on the sheet and pushed himself upright. He locked eyes with Harry. "You cure werewolves." It wasn't a question.
Harry nodded. It was his own fault he was admitting this. He could have avoided it. He could have risked Snape seeing the injury or even admitted to his guardian what had happened, although perhaps this revelation was better than that one.
"How many werewolves have you cured?"
"Three." Then thinking he needed to explain better, struggled through saying, "It's very hard. And only at full moon."
"Is this also something you can teach Versa?"
Harry sat straighter. "Maybe."
Shankwell started to move about the room. He went to the cabinet and took things out of it. He took up Harry's right arm and looked at it. "You're certain it was a werewolf? Well, it looks like it. Dogs only have six incisors and the middle two on a werewolf are much longer."
"It was," Harry stated emphatically.
Shankwell did the same test Snape had performed on Lupin, mixing a drop of wolfsbane with a drop of Harry's blood.
"Well, you don't have Lycanthropy," he said, putting the vial and bottle and cotton away with a distracted wave of his wand. He stared at Harry before saying, "Versa can't even stand to enter a ward with a Lycanthropy patient in it, so I don't think teaching her is going to work." He crumpled up the Werewolf Attack Report Form and binned it. "Maybe Hedgepeth has the stomach for werewolf work. I'll ask him."
This thought brightened Harry's mood. He could really use some help.
"Please don't tell. Else. Anyone."
Shankwell took up Harry's left arm and slid up his sleeve to have a look at it with his glowing glasses. "You mean it's possible for Harry Potter to be more mobbed than he is already?"
Shankwell collected together the things he needed to remove Harry's scarring. He lifted Harry's left arm to the light again before strapping it to a floating board. "I'm going to leave that scar on your right arm for now to remind you not to play with werewolves."
Harry huffed but didn't argue. He was tired of playing chess with this man.
"How's the head?" Shankwell asked as he worked.
Harry said, "Could be better."
Next: Chapter 77
Harry's head jerked awake when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Arcadius was asleep beside him, propped on pillows that someone must have put there. Snape said, "As much as I wish to see you healing, you need to do your readings. You must not fall farther behind." He slid Great Ghoul Expulsion Techniques out from under Harry's left hand and sat beside him to read aloud.
Long before the three chapters were up, Arcadius was taken away for a feeding and then put in his hanging basket. Harry felt cold and hollow without him. He rubbed his arms and resisted walking over to look at him. Maybe he needed to hold him less often.