Title: Reformation 03/05 (Corruption Sequence Pt 4)
Author: Beren >Pairing:</b> Harry/Draco
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings: This story is set post OOTP but went AU before HBP came out.
Summary: Harry is officially free, but that does not mean he is ready to return to his normal life and he is still very aware that he can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. He is also beginning to realise that his relationship with Draco is anything by simple.
Sequel to: Fourth in the Corruption Sequence after Pt1 Corruption | Pt2 Distortion | Pt 3 Alteration
Author's Notes: Thanks to Soph for the beta (don't know what I'd do without her :)).
My Fanfic Listings (LJ) | My Fanfic Listings (DreamW)
Links: Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5
Chapter 3 Plans Into Action
Being back in lessons was harder for Harry than even he had expected. It took a lot to keep himself under control and by the time evening came along he had found himself surprisingly tired. He was hungry for more than just food and he had been kind of glad, but also nervous about the fact it was Nev's turn to donate to the cause. Everyone was there like the time before and the atmosphere was actually friendlier than the previous meeting of all his friends; it seemed they were all relaxing around each other. Of course that only went a certain way to settle Harry's nerves.
When he withdrew his fangs from Nev's wrist, he was rather worried by his friend's expression; he couldn't tell what Nev was thinking at all. Nev had become his rock; the solid friend who wasn't always vocal and wasn't always there with good advice, but who could always be counted on for support, and he dreaded having done something that would unsteady that rock. After Hermione's dazed response, he had expected Nev to take a little while to gather himself, but Nev was just sitting there.
"Why do they never tell us this stuff in DADA?" Nev asked, suddenly exploding into motion and throwing his arms into the air in an expression of exasperation. "The Ministry needs beating for their PG rated curriculum."
For a moment there was stunned silence and then Draco was the first to laugh, followed quickly by Hermione and then Ron and Harry managed a smile while blushing madly.
"Longbottom," Draco said and slapped Nev on the shoulder, "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really beginning to like you."
The way Nev smiled at that had Harry feeling very warm inside; he had never thought he'd hear that either. A Longbottom and a Malfoy, friends: the world was probably about to grind to a halt or something.
"Talking of the Ministry and their fallibility," Hermione said, picking up the glass of butterbeer she had placed on the table earlier, "how is your plan coming along?"
"We're almost there," Harry said, happy to jump into a topic which didn't cause him hideous embarrassment; "Draco insists that we work out a few more dates before we can move forward though."
Draco made an agreeing noise to that and sat down on the sofa next to him as Nev moved to one of the other seats; Harry hadn't been the only one to notice Draco's reaction to him feeding off other people it seemed.
"If the Ministry choose to question us I want to make sure our story is airtight," Draco said simply. "The idiots will probably want a complete list of what we did and when, no matter how personal."
Hermione nodded, clearly showing her displeasure at the Ministry's idiocy.
"I agree," Harry quickly backed up his lover, "but I can't help wanting to get this all over with so you can have your wand back. I'll feel better when you can defend yourself."
He was very unhappy that Draco was having to rely on Crabbe and Goyle, especially when the two could not be with his lover all the time.
"There won't be any more trouble from the Gryffindors," Ron said in a very firm tone that had Harry looking at him.
"What ... you ..?" he asked, not actually sure what Ron might have done.
"We had a word," Hermione told him in a reassuring tone; "told them that you were trying to put everything behind you and the rest of us should set an example as well. Ron gave a lovely speech."
"I even called myself an idiot for that incident right at the beginning," Ron said, smiling sheepishly. "I think they got the message."
"And we'll keep an eye on them to make sure," Nev added resolutely.
Harry's heart almost burst with pride: he loved his friends, he really did.
"You're all the best," he said, feeling just a little bit emotional.
It was nice to have to deal with controlling a happy emotion for once.
"Awww," was Draco's comment on his reaction, for which he elbowed his lover in the side.
It made the others laugh, which stopped the moment becoming awkward, so he didn't really mind.
"I think Fudge needs to go," Nev said as they all began to relax again; "how is he still Minister?"
"Seconded," Hermione said with the certainty of one who knew idiocy when she saw it.
Given Hermione's usual attitude to authority, her resolution said a great deal.
"He is a constant in a world that has been changing so much," Draco said in a philosophical tone; "people need constants, even moronic ones."
"I've had enough of him," Harry said simply.
There were some things Harry could look at as part of a bigger picture, even if it wasn't the picture he had seen, but there were some things he couldn't; Peter Pettigrew was the final straw. He felt the nastier elements of his personality stirring just at the thought. Tearing Fudge limb from limb was a really good thought, even if it would be more trouble than it was worth.
"While I think what's going through your head might be more fun," Draco said smoothly and Harry realised what he was thinking appeared to be written all over his face, "there are undoubtedly more subtle methods to remove the moron from office."
"We could always give Harry an alibi," Ron offered helpfully.
That settled it; he was definitely being very obvious indeed, because he was being teased. It was a bit baffling that his violent urges had gone from something to be afraid of to a source of cannon fodder, but he refused to be repentant.
"But can you imagine how disappointed Dumbledore would be?" Hermione added innocently.
"Okay, okay," Harry said, holding his hands up in surrender; "I promise to try not to kill him, but he still needs to go."
Draco patted him fondly on the knee and smiled at him.
"I think we might be able to work that into the plan, given some more time," his lover told him and he could see the wheels whirring behind Draco's eyes already.
When he glanced around, Ron had his brow furrowed in thought, Hermione's eyes were narrowed a little and Nev looked like he had done in almost every Potions lesson of his life: Fudge didn't stand a chance.
For once life actually carried on quietly. The headmaster had information that dealing with Draco's prosecution was being delayed by Fudge for political reasons, but for once that played into their hands, because it gave them more time to finalise their plan of attack. Two days had passed without incident and Harry knew that should have warned him.
He had felt Draco's annoyance at something and then his lover's distress, but by the time he had summoned Dobby and sent him to Dumbledore it had been too late; Draco had been gone from the school. It had taken hours to find him, hours where Harry had basically been going insane. He remembered every minute like it was a lifetime, pacing up and down in front of the mirror where he could see into the Headmaster's study. When the news came back that Draco had been taken to a Ministry safe house, by none other than Caveo, Harry snapped.
"Professor Dumbledore," he said as the headmaster prepared to contact people to deal with what had happened, "I ... I don't think I can stay here alone."
He had point blank refused to let anyone come into his room in case he lost control while they were trying to find Draco.
"Of course, Harry," Dumbledore said in a very fatherly tone, "I quite understand. I will send word to your friends. Now don't you worry, My Boy, we will have this all sorted out very soon."
Harry's gut twisted; most of him did not believe that.
"Thank you," is what he said, holding everything inside as well as he could and then he shut off the mirror.
Draco was out there, his lover had been taken from him by force by a man he knew all but hated him; he could not leave this to others. Standing up, he walked to the door, smiling haltingly at Jeremy when the painting popped into his frame.
"Nervous," he said, wrapping his arms around himself and pretending to rock just a little.
Jeremy smiled at him in what he suspected was supposed to be a comforting manner and Harry waited. The moment the door opened he was though it. The enchantments tried to hold him back, but with the door open to let his friends in they could not hold him and he barged past them, changing form as soon as he was clear.
"Harry!" he heard Hermione call after him, but he wasn't really listening.
Draco was in distress and danger and Harry's only thoughts were about finding him. He ran along the upper corridor, straight towards the window at the end and he leapt, passing through it with the ease of air moving through the cracks. His whole mind was on Draco and, as soon as his feet touched ground with a thud, he was running towards the edge of the grounds. He might have been at the mercy of his instincts, but this time he was thinking more like a wizard as well. The time between then and now meant the aspects of his nature were more firmly integrated and he could use what he needed rather than only what his base urges told him to. He could move fast, very fast, and he reached the edge of Hogwart's protections sooner than any human could possibly have made it. The moment he felt the enchantments of the school stop prickling his skin he Apparated, vanishing with a pop, only to reappear outside Nackington Farm.
It looked like any other remote farmhouse in the Scottish countryside, but Harry felt Draco's presence intensify within him and he knew he was at the right place. Still in wolf form, the most efficient of all his shapes, he wasted no time, bounding up to the front door in a handful of strides. The enchantments on the house could not stop him, but he felt them react as soon as he entered and he knew they would have alerted anyone inside.
The first thing he smelt was blood and he sensed pain and he followed both. He knew that smell intimately, had tasted of it; he could smell Draco's blood and he snarled as he realised his lover was physically hurt. Someone was going to pay; that was for sure.
"Confess!" his sharp ears heard someone yell desperately as he moved closer.
Up the stairs, round a corner.
"I am not guilty," he heard Draco's pain-filled reply.
Caveo was trying to get a confession out of Draco; the whole thing became clear in Harry's mind and, if it was possible, he felt his fury rising even further.
"What?" he heard Draco's scared and startled question.
"Ava..." Harry heard the first syllable of the familiar spell and his mind whited out, instinct spurring him on.
He did not pass through the door he knew was between him and Draco, he flattened it as his need even overcame the powers of the creatures inside him and he landed on top of it just in time to see the green light from Caveo's wand hit Draco firmly in the chest. In slow motion he saw Draco's eyes go blank and dead and his ears heard his lover's heart simply stop beating and all he could hear after that was the rushing sound of the curse that he knew would never stop. He stood there, looking at Caveo as what was left of Harry Potter finally died. Somewhere at the back of his mind he realised Dumbledore had arrived downstairs, bringing the cavalry too late, and then he attacked. He did not care how, but Caveo had to die and he had to suffer and he let his dark nature rise.
Harry sat up, swallowing the scream lurking in his chest, staring around at his room and not really seeing it. The only thing he could see, the only thing that mattered was that Draco was lying beside him, opening sleepy, puzzled eyes to look up at him.
"Harry?" Draco asked, beginning to sense his distress.
He needed so much to assure himself that Draco was alive, that the events he had been living in his mind were not true, that all he could do was reach out and drag his lover close to him. Living, breathing, whole; those were the only things going through his mind and he clung to Draco refusing to let him go.
Harry put himself between Draco and the door and snarled at the people who were entering. Snape looked thoroughly unimpressed with the display and Dumbledore appeared slightly worried with his behaviour. At the level where he was not reacting on instinct, Harry could not blame either of them, but that was not the part of him in control at the moment. Coherent was not a way to describe his current state of mind and he could not control his instincts.
"Harry, My Boy, what is wrong?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
At the moment, in his mind, everyone was a possible threat and about all Harry managed to do in reply was stop himself growling at them. He had finally let Draco call for someone to come, but he couldn't say most of him liked it.
"Another premonition," Draco provided the information from the bed behind Harry. "It must have been worse than the first, because Harry hasn't let me off the bed since."
Snape took a further step into the room and Harry reacted instantly, moving in front of the potions master and snarling a second time.
"Is there danger to Draco, Mr Potter?" the head of Slytherin asked in what to most people would have sounded like a completely calm manner.
Harry could smell the man's fear, and hear the almost non-existent tremor in Snape's voice. The vision that had woken him that morning flashed behind his eyes again and all he could do was nod. The broken and bloody image of Draco chained to a chair would not go away, and he would do anything to protect his lover from that. The words of the killing curse on the lips of the desperate Auror responsible were ringing in his ears, and Dumbledore arriving seconds too late to stop his revenge tore his heart out. He was the only one who could protect Draco from this fate and he was not going to fail him.
"Mr Potter," Snape snapped pointedly, dragging his attention back, "focus on the present. Is there danger to, Mr Malfoy?"
Almost desperately Harry nodded. He could not explain; the words would not come, but he knew that someone else had to understand.
"Within the school?" Dumbledore added his own question.
Harry shook his head almost immediately; he knew without a doubt that what he was seeing was not Hogwarts, but he had no way to explain what had happened.
"Draco cannot leave school grounds," the headmaster pointed out reasonably, "and the enchantments on his person mean that he may only be taken away from Hogwarts by officials of the Ministry or myself. I have Madame Bones' assurance that no Aurors will venture onto school grounds without my permission."
It sounded so sensible, but Harry knew what he had seen, and the Banshee knew the truth. He needed to make them understand, but it was so hard. The words were stuck in his throat and he could not push them past the mental block. For the thousandth time he cursed the creature inside of him that gave him the ability to see the danger to his lover, but not to be able to explain it. One face was in his mind's eye; one terrified face that turned in panic to his prisoner as he heard rescue coming; one person who lifted his wand and cast Arvada Kedavra in a desperate attempt to protect what reputation he had left.
"C.." Harry tried desperately to communicate as he felt the Banshee wail building in him. "C..." he tried again.
He snarled when Snape moved again; he was so frustrated and angry with himself more than anything that his instincts would not let him go.
"Harry," Dumbledore said slowly and evenly, reaching out in a friendly gesture. "Try and calm down. No one will attempt to remove Mr Malfoy from your care until this matter is resolved, you have my word."
The headmaster's eyes were not twinkling now, and Harry found himself caught in their very serious depths. He saw only truth there; truth and a serenity Harry knew he would never be able to find.
"Let the anger go, Harry," Dumbledore spoke to him softly, with a gentle lilt that called him to trust. "I will see to it that Draco may remain here until this threat has been removed."
"C..." Harry tired yet again, knowing that the headmaster needed to know.
This was important.
"Ca..." he threw himself at the mental barricade with everything he had, feeling the wail build with every syllable. "Cav..."
It physically hurt as he tried to say the name, and the Banshee struggled against its human cage.
"Caveo," he forced through unwilling lips and fell to his knees with the effort.
The Banshee was coming, Harry could feel it, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"Severus," he heard Dumbledore's urgent tones, and he was not too far gone to feel Snape move to one side of him and the headmaster the other.
The words and magic of a silencing charm flowed over him from both sides as the two powerful wizards cast together, and with relieved gratitude Harry put his head back and keened into the veil of silence that surrounded him. The wail ripped from him in wave after wave of despair as the banshee mourned the loss it could feel coming even as the rest of him resolved to never let it happen. By the time he was finished his throat was raw and he was shaking, on his hands and knees. It was a feeling he had hoped to never have again.
Arms snaked round him from behind and pulled him up so that he was kneeling and leaning against the body at his back. Draco buried his face in the side of Harry's neck and kissed him, whispering words that Harry could not hear as they were still trapped in the veil of silence.
With Harry's vision they made a simple decision; they had to move up the timeframe on the plan to clear Draco. They held a meeting of all those who needed to know the truth and then Dumbledore called the Prophet; they sent their best reporter almost before the fire call was finished.
Rita Skeeter looked particularly nervous when Professor McGonagall escorted her into the room and Harry made sure he sat very still so as not to give the woman a heart attack. Even though she had written nice things about him in the Prophet it was clear to Harry that Rita knew that he was no where near as harmless as she had made out. Making her sweat for a while would have been fun, but this was important and he did not want to alienate her. Having had to escalate the plan the direct approach had seemed the best way to do it.
They had set the scene very carefully; Draco was sat next to him on the two seater sofa, just close enough to be too close for friends, but not be indecent in polite Wizarding society; Ron, Hermione and Neville were on the three-seater sofa next to them; Professor Dumbledore had one of his eccentric arm chairs and that left two other chairs, one for Rita and one for Professor McGonagall.
"Ah, my dear Miss Skeeter," Dumbledore said politely, standing up to greet the reporter, "how nice of you to come at such short notice."
"Always a pleasure for Harry," Rita replied as she sat down when offered a chair.
Tea was offered all round, but Harry sat very quietly and refused since, he was well aware he was being nervously observed. It was interesting to see what effect his appearance had on a single person who did not really know him and he wondered briefly if he could find a charm or something to tone it down. Rita did not seem to know whether to be afraid or aroused if the scents he could detect coming off her were anything to go by.
"We have some things that people need to know," he said eventually and it seemed to surprise the reporter as he took the initiative, "before the Ministry do something stupid. We thought that you being the Prophet's star reporter deserved the story and could take it to the people."
Rita smiled a somewhat predatory smile; playing the game Draco's way seemed to be working.
"Please go on," she said as she set up her quick quotes quill.
Harry did not fail to notice that it was not the same design as the one she had used during the tri-wizard tournament, and Professor McGonagall looked vaguely surprised on seeing it, so he assumed it was a different model. If it began to record outrageous things he would complain later.
"The first thing you have to know is that Draco and I are a couple," he said, watching the quill and to his surprise it wrote down every word exactly, "and we have been since the end of sixth year."
Rita had the decency to look surprised.
"That is interesting news," she said, sitting back in her seat and observing them in the most unsettling way.
Harry was not sure she believed them, and really he couldn't exactly blame her; it did sound like an excuse of some sort.
"How did you come together?" she asked.
"That's not important right now," Harry said and knew his mistake instantly as the woman's eyes narrowed slightly.
Now she definitely thought he was lying.
"My father's imprisonment in Azkaban lowered my family's status within the Dark Lord's ranks," Draco took over, reluctance in his voice as if he did not wish to reveal the details. "Some of the seventh years in my house felt this meant I should be taught a lesson. They had just started beating me up when someone under an invisibility cloak stopped them. When they were gone I found out it was Harry. He helped me to the hospital wing and after that we started tolerating each other. The old adage of opposites attract must be right, because we just ended up kissing one day and it went from there."
There had been an incident in sixth year when Draco had ended up in the hospital wing because of members of his own house, but Harry had had nothing to do with it. The two seventh years who had been too drunk to remember their own names would never be able to deny the story even if Rita ever managed to find out who they were. It was details like this that Harry and Draco had spent hours working out and by the look on her face Rita seemed to have bought it.
"Always the hero eh, Harry?" the woman said with a smile.
Harry did not have to fake the blush the rose to his cheeks; he really did not like being referred to as a hero all the time.
"I believe this is where I came in," Professor Dumbledore stepped into the awkward silence that followed, "the boys came to me just before the summer holidays. They were in something of a quandary since they knew Draco would be forced to take the Dark Mark after his seventeenth birthday and yet he refused to claim sanctuary for the sake of his mother. He believed she would be killed if he did not return."
"And how did you help them, Headmaster?" Rita asked, sounding for all the world like a real journalist rather than the gossip monger they had all come to know and distrust.
"This," it was Draco who spoke and held out his left arm.
Rita did not even attempt to hide her shock as she saw the snake without the skull. Her paper had clearly printed a picture of Draco Malfoy's Dark Mark only the day before, calling for an investigation.
"That's impossible," she said, clearly confused.
"Far from that, My Dear," Professor Dumbledore said in his usual fatherly tone, "merely somewhat difficult. I must admit it was a most interesting puzzle, but one I am glad to say we managed to solve. I placed that mark on young Mr Malfoy's arm the week before he returned home and at the time it resembled Tom's mark. It was hidden behind illusions designed to break and absorb Tom's power when he went to place a real mark on Mr Malfoy's arm, thus protecting him from Tom's evil and allowing him time to remove his mother from danger. Of course, to our disgrace we were unable to predict that Tom had other requirements of Mr Malfoy that he could not bring himself to fulfil."
It was obvious to Harry that Rita wanted the gritty details of the 'other requirements', but Dumbledore's tone clearly indicated that such questions would not be tolerated.
"That is ..." Rita said, looking at the mark closely and somewhat suspiciously.
"Not faked," Draco finished for her and gave her a sympathetic smile as if he understood her quandary. "There is no illusion now; you may cast Finite Incantatum if you wish."
If there was one thing that could be said for Rita Skeeter, other than the fact that she had a nose for a good story, it was that she took care in making sure she could backup what she wrote, even if her sources were suspect.
"You understand," she said and she actually almost sounded apologetic, "that in a case like this I should be sure."
"We want you to be," Harry said, although he had to sit on his instincts firmly when she pulled out a wand.
The spell only took a moment and when Draco's mark did not change, Rita appeared surprised and convinced.
"So you were never actually a Death Eater, Draco?" Harry squeezed Draco's hand as the woman's attention turned back to Draco's face rather than his arm.
"No," Draco replied without the slightest trace he was lying through his teeth. "I knew there would be no chance of escape until after I had taken the mark; as soon as I returned home I was watched constantly. We thought that once I had the mark I would be trusted enough so that I could get my mother away, but I was locked in my room the same night and I did not see the outside again until Harry sent my mother to get me. When Voldemort died the mark should have returned to what you can see now and when it didn't I thought it had gone wrong. After everything that had happened I didn't know what to do, so I just let everything happen. Then after a day or so it finally changed and I realised that I was being an idiot, so I came to Harry."
"We were going to bring the information up when Draco finally came to trial," Harry took over, not bothering to hide the protectiveness he felt towards his lover, "but we believe the Ministry will try and take him away from here and that..." the words became stuck in his throat.
He had known it would happen and it had the desired effect.
"Have you had another premonition, Harry?" Rita asked clearly understanding what was going on.
Harry nodded and let himself look relieved while trying to not overact. He was not about to try and tell her that what he had seen was an illegal kidnapping and murder, so he let her think what she would. Hopefully when the story broke there would be enough clamouring to mean that they could get this settled with very little fuss. Going against the Boy Who Lived in the current climate would be political suicide for anyone. In a way Harry hoped Fudge tried, but he was more concerned about Draco than the Minister's continuing employment.
"Is this why you really saved Draco, Harry?" this was the question that had bothered them the most, because it implied Harry had lied to the Wizengamot.
"No," he said slowly as if trying to remember, "I don't think so. I really wasn't thinking like that at the time. When Draco didn't come back for seventh year I thought he'd changed his mind and gone over to Voldemort's side. I'd stopped thinking of him as anything to me, because it hurt too much and after what happened I didn't think he'd ever want anything to do with me. It wasn't until after the mark changed that anything began to make sense again."
The little round of soul baring seemed to please Rita, although she did at least appear slightly sympathetic. When her attention turned towards his friends, Harry almost breathed a sigh of relief.
"And what, as Harry's friends, do you think of this?" the woman asked with all her usual tact.
"Harry told us the truth just before they went to Professor Dumbledore," Hermione said with a proficiency in lying Harry had had no idea she possessed. "It was a shock at first, but we'd have to have been blind not to see that something was going on by the way he was suddenly so happy."
It appeared Hermione knew how to tug on the ole heart strings like a pro.
"I didn't react too well," Ron said, sounding sheepish, "because me and Malfoy have been enemies for ages, but Hermione is right and Harry needed Malfoy, still does, so what kind of best mate would I be if I didn't support him?"
"But I hear there have been some altercations between you and Draco since he came back, Ron," Rita said far too sweetly.
Ron blushed as if embarrassed.
"Yeah, well I thought he'd ditched Harry and was back to being a git," Ron said and sent an apologetic look towards Draco; although the story was fabricated Ron's remorse about the incident was real. "I couldn't exactly tell everyone what was really going on, so the whole junior Death-Eater thing was all I had left."
Rita seemed to be buying the whole thing if her expression was anything to go by.
"We're Harry's friends," surprisingly it was Neville who spoke up very firmly, "and we'll support anything that makes him happy. He's done what he had to do and now its time to let him have his life. That includes Malfoy, which is why we called you, because the Ministry wants a Malfoy as an example because the one who did all the damage is already dead. Lucius was the evil bastard and he got what was coming to him; Draco's one of us and if the Ministry want to try and hurt him they have to go through us ... and you can quote me on that."
All of Harry's protective instinct sat up and cheered his friend's words; he had never been prouder to be a Gryffindor in his life.
The rest of Rita's questions were just clarifications and Harry answered where he could and gave her a glare when she stepped over the line, but it was mostly amicable. It was clear that the story had been accepted as true and Harry did not mind giving away a few personal details to sell it all the way. By the time she was finished they had her eating out of the palms of their hands.
"Well thank you for thinking of me," the woman said as she finally put her quill away, "I can guarantee that this will be on the front page of the late edition of the Prophet. The world will know the truth. If I send a photographer over as soon as I floo back would you mind allowing a picture of your arm, Draco?"
Hermione produced a small packet and handed it to Rita.
"We thought you might need these," she said with a slight smile at the woman's look of surprise; "there are a few shots of the new mark and a couple of Harry and Draco as well. One of our house mates is a good photographer."
"Thank you," Rita seemed genuinely pleased.
She was turning to go and Harry was about to let himself relax when she turned back with a thoughtful look on her face.
"Just one other thing, Harry," she said as if she had just remembered, "the world will want to know if you'll be attending the awards ceremony."
That caused him to frown; he had no idea what she was talking about.
"What awards?" he asked, not bothering to hide what he was truly feeling.
That seemed to stump the reporter for a moment.
"The Order of Merlin awards for services to the war," she said as if she thought it was obvious.
"Oh," Harry replied, not really sure it was anything to do with him, "I didn't know there was going to be a ceremony. They probably wouldn't want me there anyway; I might scare the people getting the awards. I haven't been invited."
Rita looked truly astounded, as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"Don't be ridiculous," she said and she sounded affronted, "they have to have invited you; they're awarding you the Order of Merlin first class. The list is being officially announced in the paper tomorrow morning and I know the invitations to the ceremony have already gone out."
Harry sat there without a clue as to what to say. He would have refused any invitation anyway, but he was sure he would have been told if he had had one. He looked to Professor Dumbledore to find out what was going on.
"Your mail has been quite considerable, my boy," the headmaster said looking him straight in the eye, "but rest assured we would have brought something this important to your notice the moment it arrived. There has been no invitation."
Then Dumbledore turned to Rita, a very serious look in his eye.
"My dear, would you care to join me for tea in my office?" the headmaster asked cordially. "I do not believe this is something we should burden the children with, but I would be most interested to know if there are any others on the list who have not received invitations."
The look Professor Dumbledore sent Harry as the headmaster lead Rita towards the door told him that the details would be forthcoming when they were known, so he did not comment on being excluded. There were some things it really was best to leave to the headmaster.
End of Ch 3
On to Ch 4