DISCLAIMER: The Harry Potter series and all the characters associated with it are the property solely of J. K. Rowling, her agents and publishers. No infringement of any rights is intended from the creation of this story. Nor is any money being made from it.


Circles of Power

Part Eight - Page Of Staves

By Mad Martha

       

"It's no good," Ron muttered, sitting back with a groan and rubbing his forehead. "I can't get a damn thing on Malfoy he must have a misdirection spell on him or something."

A hand came over his shoulder with a small glass of smoking potion in it. A headache cure. Ron gulped it down gratefully.

"Misdirection spells only work so far against the Sight," Harry commented.

"Yeah, but I'd need something of Malfoy's to hold, to get past it "

A thick bundle of green and silver cloth landed on the table in front of Ron. He stared at it.

"What the hell is this?"

Harry sat down on the floor in front of the low table, grinning at him. "I had an idea while I was writing all that stuff down earlier. Do you remember the last Inter-House Quidditch match before we left Hogwarts? Where Malfoy and I were both team captains, and Gryffindor beat Slytherin?"

Ron stared at him, and slowly began to grin back. "And as outgoing captains, Dumbledore made you both shake hands and swap robes! I'd forgotten about that." He fingered the Slytherin Quidditch robes gingerly. "So these are Malfoy's why did you keep them?"

Harry shrugged. "I didn't, not consciously. They were stuffed at the bottom of my school trunk. Only they've been there a long time will you get enough sense of him from them?"

"Only one way to find out." Ron put the empty potion glass down, and picked up a handful of the fine wool and silk blend. His nose wrinkled. "Trust Malfoy to have fancy robes." He rubbed the cloth between his palms, ran his fingers down the neatly bound hems and then, much to Harry's amusement, buried his face in them.

"If I'd known you wanted to sniff them ...."

Ron ignored him. When his head reappeared, he had an odd, disconnected expression and his eyes were very far away. He reached out and took his crystal ball from its stand, and cupped it in his hands through the cloth.

This was something Harry had never totally accustomed himself to watching. Perhaps it was because they had been taught Divination by Sybill Trelawney, who was undoubtedly not a true Seer (and very probably was a melodramatic fraud into the bargain), but it was inexpressibly strange to see Ron of all people bent over a crystal ball or tarot spread and going off into a trance.

But despite how Harry felt about it, he had trained himself to sit still, keep his mind as blank as possible, and wait to see what happened. When Ron went off into a predictive trance he sometimes lost the ability to write down what he was seeing, in which case he needed someone there to do it for him.

This wasn't one of those occasions. After ten minutes or so, he sat up again with a sigh and pushed the bundle of robes off his lap. He put the crystal ball carefully back onto the stand, and rubbed his eyes again.

"Nothing?" Harry asked softly.

"A bit, but not much." Ron pulled a sheet of parchment towards him, and Harry found his quill for him. He scratched out a few lines and sat back.

"I saw him standing by a window, looking out. I don't know where he was, but the few furnishings I could see in the room behind him looked fancy, so it's a fair bet that it's Malfoy Manor. He looked worried very worried, almost frightened." Ron shook his head. "And that's it. He did nothing but stare out of the window, chewing his lip, the whole time I was looking at him."

"What about the window?"

That was Sirius's voice, making them both jump. He had entered the room so quietly that neither of them had heard or seen him

Ron considered the question. "It was big, almost full length," he offered. "Not quite long enough to be a patio door. I couldn't see anything out of it, but it was full daylight and it had a very strong sense of being now as in today."

Harry looked across at his godfather. "Do we go and get him?"

Sirius shook his head. "No. Not enough evidence. His father may have been convicted in absentia of being a Death Eater, but Draco and his mother have never yet been implicated. It's not a crime to be the child of a Death Eater."

"Pity," Ron muttered, without thinking.

"I doubt Bethany Bloom would agree with you," Sirius said dryly, and Ron flinched, flushing slightly. Sirius's tone gentled. "Are you feeling alright? Can you carry on, or do you want a break?"

"I'll keep going. If I stop now, I might not be able to start again later." All the same, Ron grimaced. The more he pushed himself, the more spectacular his migraine would be. "What do you want me to do now?"

"Have a look at Harry's notes on his dreams and see if you can do a reading on him." Sirius quietly took a seat on the other side of the room, where he would be less likely to disturb them. "By the way, Dumbledore's here. He'll be joining us shortly."

Ron nodded and looked at Harry. "Let's see your notes."

Harry handed them over. It was a fairly large sheaf of parchment, even given the size of his writing. But he had done this with Ron before and knew that the more detail he could give him, the more accurate Ron's interpretation would be.

Ron spent the next ten minutes poring over the notes, and asking questions. By the end of it, Harry was beginning to wonder if he had really dreamed some of the things he was saying or whether his over-active imagination was making them up although this too was a familiar feeling.

"This thing with the train," Ron said at one point, "are you sure it was the Hogwarts Express? Because if it was, it could just have been an echo of that incident last year."

Harry considered this. "I'm pretty sure it was the Hogwarts Express, because the seats looked right. But in any case, the first part is pure memory we really did have that conversation with Malfoy when we first met."

"Hm. Trains and travel usually indicate a journey, and not necessarily a physical journey."

"Yes, I know," Harry told him patiently. "I was sitting right next to you in class when we did dream interpretation."

Ron looked up at him and his blue eyes were twinkling with mischief. "Yeah, but were you listening?"

"Were you?"

"Must have been. Okay, this bit with Malfoy wearing black were you serious about him wearing it both times, or was it just because he looked so poetic in it?"

"I'm glad you find my dreams funny," Harry huffed.

"Aw, come on Harry!"

"Yes, he was definitely wearing black both times."

"Okay, that's interesting." Ron shuffled the papers until he found the reference to the scene Harry had dreamed in the chamber. "Especially since you and I are both wearing different primary colours in this one. Black may be You-Know-Who's non-colour of choice, but it also signifies the absorption of all vibrations. Black is the combination of all colours in the astral. I'm wearing blue, which is knowledge fair enough, because I'm a Seer. And you're wearing red, which is power. Knowledge, power and the absorption of everything. There's also significance in there being three of us. Malfoy the devil incarnate. You Voldemort's nemesis. And me, whatever I am."

"You're the thing that Voldemort seems to want at the moment," Harry reminded him, troubled, "so there's some significance in that."

Ron clearly didn't want to think about this too closely. "Let's do a tarot spread ...."

The door opened and Professor Dumbledore stepped quietly inside. He nodded to Sirius, and came over to stand by Harry.

"How is it going, gentlemen? Ron, how are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks, Professor." He smiled up at Dumbledore. "Although I'll be glad when we know what's going on. I'm getting a bit fed up of being a target."

His tone was far more light-hearted than Harry knew he was feeling, and he too looked up at Dumbledore, worried.

"Professor, do you have any idea what they want from Ron?"

"No," the elderly wizard said heavily, "but I feel sure it won't be long before we find out. Are these your notes on your dreams, Harry?"

"Yes, sir."

"May I take a look? Don't let me interrupt the two of you, it's important that we find out as much as we can." He took the sheaf of papers and went to sit beside Sirius at the edge of the room.

There was a wooden box at the end of the table, about the size of a book. Ron pulled it towards him and opened it, taking out a silk-wrapped parcel. Almost at once Harry began to feel twitchy, and Ron noticed.

"This really makes you nervous, doesn't it?" he said, raising a brow at him.

Harry found that his palms were damp and wiped his hands on his robes. "It's just ... strange seeing you do this."

Which wasn't exactly true. The truth was that it was the cards that made him nervous, although it had always been a bit odd seeing Ron do his Seer stuff.

The ability had begun to develop midway through their fifth year, although it hadn't reached anything like a peak until the end of the sixth year. By the time they sat their NEWTs Ron's success rate with everything from the crystal ball to casting rune stones had reached something like seventy percent, which was extraordinary for his age. But the cards had come into being the Christmas before that.

Up to that point, his success with tarot cards had been indifferent at best and Ron's frustration with it was mounting daily; largely because Professor Trelawney possibly out of jealousy of his very real gift nearly always set a tarot spread as part of their quarterly tests.

Then Hermione had found a book in the library that instructed a Seer on how to make his own tarot cards. It was a very demanding and time-consuming process.

At Christmas Ron had frightened the life out of his two friends by trying it.

It had taken him nearly a week to draw each of the seventy-two individual cards, a week of trances, fasting and sleep-deprivation. At one point Harry and Hermione had been so concerned about him that they'd gone to Dumbledore. The headmaster, however, felt that only Ron could be the judge in this particular area of skill.

At the end of the week, he'd broken the trance and crawled into bed, where he stayed for two solid days. And on the table in the common room he left a pack of tarot cards that no one in Gryffindor House wanted to touch.

Even now they made Harry shiver on the rare occasions he was called upon to touch them. Back then, when they were brand new and unused, they had crackled with power, the designs which Ron usually no artist had drawn on them moving and twisting. Now they merely whispered on a sub-conscious level, but Harry preferred not to look at them if he could avoid it.

It was no comfort at all that Professor Trelawney, when she had seen them, had not wanted to touch them either. In fact, she'd kicked up quite a fuss about Ron using them during his exams.

Ron unwrapped the cards from their protective silk covering now, and held them out to Harry on the palm of his hand. From the smile lurking in his eyes, it was clear that he knew how nervous they made his friend.

"You know how this works - shuffle them," he instructed, "and take your time, think about your dreams a bit."

"Do I have to?" Harry grumbled, but he took the pack and tried not to flinch when a tiny blue spark ran across his fingers like static.

"They're just tarot cards, Harry."

"They're not. They don't look anything like any other tarot cards I've seen." They were much bigger than ordinary cards too; Harry had a bit of a struggle shuffling them successfully.

Ron shrugged. "They work for me." He watched Harry shuffling the pack for a moment. "You know what I'd like to do?" he said suddenly. "I'd like to have a go at making another pack some time."

Harry paused and gave him an exasperated look. "Ron! You made yourself ill the last time "

"No pain, no gain. Besides, these are good but they're still a bit crude. I'm more experienced now; I think I could make some really good ones." He paused, then said more seriously, "Actually I'd like to have a go at making a partnership pack with you."

Harry nearly dropped the cards. "What?"

"It's something I've read about." Ron rubbed his nose reflectively. "Two Seers combine efforts and energies to make a double pack. It's supposed to be quite a powerful divination tool."

"I'm not a Seer."

"You do have some Sight, or you wouldn't dream true. Go on, Harry, it'd be fun to see what we could do together."

Harry squinted at his friend, wondering if Ron had any concept of how not fun merely watching his last attempt had been. The blue eyes fixed on him seemed serious.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I can think of better things for us to do when we get a free week than spend it in a trance," Harry told him.

Ron held out his hand for the cards and he handed them over, relieved. But there was a little smile on the red-head's face as he straightened the pack up.

"We'll just have to make sure it's a two week break, then, won't we?" he said softly.

"If you decide to try it," Dumbledore's voice said unexpectedly, "may I suggest you do so during August and come to me at Hogwarts. The conditions there are probably more conducive to such an experiment, and I would be most interested to see the results."

Ron grinned at Harry's expression, and began to lay the cards out on the table in a wide horseshoe shape.

"Okay, let's see what we've got here ...." He put the remainder of the pack in the centre of the spread and paused with his fingers hovering over the first card on the left. "You're going to meet a devastatingly handsome red-head," he intoned wickedly.

"What, another one?" Harry responded blandly. "It's probably your brother Bill."

"You're not busty enough for Bill's taste."

"You're just jealous."

"Ahem!" Sirius said warningly, making the two younger men grin at each other.

"You'll look a bit silly now, if that first card's the Lovers," Harry joked.

Ron flipped the card over and raised a brow. "Who says you don't have the Sight?"

It was the Lovers. Harry stared at it, dumbfounded.

"The most potent symbol of romantic partnerships. That's interesting not a common first card. Okay, tell me what the next card is."

"Probably the Falling Tower, knowing my luck," Harry grumbled and immediately wished he hadn't, for Ron looked most upset at the idea.

"Not next to this card, Harry, please ...." Ron flipped the second card over. The Chariot. He took a breath. "Okay. A journey, probably a difficult one, but necessary." The third card was the Page of Staves. "An emissary; a bearer of important news." He turned the next one over. "Two of Swords. Balance in forces."

For a moment Ron paused, his eyes running over the four cards revealed. His lips moved silently, and suddenly he shook his head. "Screw this." He turned the other cards over rapidly, one after another, and scanned them. "Shit. Son of a bitch!"

"What?" Harry demanded, peering at the spread upside down. Dumbledore and Sirius got up to come and look over his shoulder.

"Just once, Harry, I'd like to do a spread for you that doesn't have him in it." And Ron gestured to a card in the middle of the horseshoe.

The Devil.

"Voldemort. He always turns up in your spreads." Ron glared at the card angrily. Then his eyes flicked across the rest of them. "Well that's something " and he pointed to the Knight of Swords on the far side. "That's you, and although you're surrounded by malign influences as usual, you seem to be coming out of it smelling of roses. Penultimate card is the World, which signifies a satisfactory end to all efforts, and the end card is the Ten of Cups, signifying home and happiness. It's getting there that's the problem, and I'd like to know who the Page of Staves is, because he's bringing trouble with him."

"Is it a he?" Harry asked curiously.

"Yes. A definite male influence." Ron studied the cards again, tapping his fingers on the table anxiously. "He's got mixed intentions, and his problems will be our problems."

"Where are you in this, Ron?" Sirius asked quietly.

"I'm not here, unless you count the Lovers at the beginning." He glanced up, and found three pairs of eyes on him. "That doesn't mean much because it's nearly impossible for me to see myself anyway, except in connection with someone else. The Lovers is definitely me and Harry, and the position shows that even though I'm not here as a separate entity, I'm with Harry all the way through. But this spread specifically shows Harry's journey."

"So what is the overall picture?" Dumbledore asked composedly.

"Not an uncommon one for Harry, I'm afraid. It's the first half that's interesting. There's change coming, a journey of discovery for us as a partnership. Someone will be bringing information necessary to that change, but the person himself will have problems that can only be solved by working with us. The implication is that the information comes from an unusual, even dangerous, source. Then we segue into the usual territory Voldemort, destruction, war, struggle. If we can get past that if! then everything should settle back into cosy domesticity."

Ron looked up, looking a little embarrassed. "Sorry, that's a pretty unhelpful reading." He gathered up the cards. "Here, shuffle them again, Harry, and we'll see if we can get something more specific."

       

Eight spreads later and Ron was close to collapse. More specific layouts had emphasised the need for Harry and Ron both to work with the unknown Page of Staves, and the cards clearly showed a close partnership of some kind, a blending of forces.

Nobody wanted to voice it, but the fact that Draco Malfoy was prominent in Harry's dreams seemed to point rather obviously to the Page of Staves's identity.

Finally, it was Dumbledore who called a halt, firmly taking the pack of cards out of Ron's hands when he would have laid them out for a tenth time.

"You can't possibly do anyone any good by making yourself ill," he said, when the younger man protested, "and the last three or four spreads haven't shown us anything new. This is as much as you will get on this occasion."

"Take a headache potion and get some rest, Ron," Sirius said, equally forcefully. "Harry, take him home before he collapses, and make him get some sleep. If we find out anything more about that piece of spell-cloth, I'll drop by later and let you know."

Harry helped Ron put away his cards and crystal ball, and bundled up Malfoy's old Quidditch robes to take them home again. By the time they'd finished, Ron was swaying on his feet and Harry had to take his arm to steer him out of the door.

Hermione was waiting in their little shared office when they emerged, and she looked almost as drained and exhausted as Ron.

"Trying to neutralise that cloth was awful," she said, taking Ron's other arm and helping Harry to guide him out to the mirror-portal. "We still haven't made it completely safe. They might have been weak spells, but stitching them into the cloth really fixed them. And the cloth itself is just ugh. It has human hair woven into it."

"Someone went to a lot of effort over that," Harry said tiredly. Right now he couldn't care much about it, though. He just wanted to get Ron home and put him to bed.

"Yes, and we really need to find out whose hair was used. But that'll probably have to wait until Ron's feeling better."

Harry felt a flash of anger at her which he knew was unreasonable. It was logical to use Ron's skills for things like this, but that didn't mean he had to like it.

Ron himself was past caring about anything. He leaned against the wall when they reached the mirror, and from the look of things he was about ready to pass out.

"Perhaps we should give him some kind of painkiller now," Hermione said worriedly.

"If we do that, he really will pass out." Harry touched his arm. "Ron, can you hold up until we get home?"

Ron squinted at him painfully. "Yeah," he muttered, "but don't be surprised if I chuck up in the gutter on the way."

"Chucking up's fine. Just don't faint."

       

The house was quiet when Sirius arrived later that evening. He found Harry in the kitchen, having a compulsive cleaning binge something he only did in times of stress. It was a throwback to his days of living with the Dursleys; Harry could never be untidy.

"Where is everyone?"

Harry glanced up at him, pushing his hair off his face. He was hand-scrubbing a saucepan that probably didn't need it. "Spending the evening in the Leaky Cauldron, probably. Except for Hermione; she went to bed early."

Sirius pulled up a chair and sat down. "How's Ron?"

Harry's jaw clenched. "Still asleep. He was a wreck by the time we got him home." He rinsed the saucepan and put it on the draining-board; dried his hands, took his wand out of his pocket and pointed it at a squat little kettle, which obediently hopped onto the hob and started to heat.

"Tea?" he offered his godfather tersely.

Sirius sighed. "You know, Harry, Ron pushes himself far harder than any of us would ever ask him to. And it's not like he doesn't know the penalties."

"I know that." Harry stalked over to the fridge and took the milk out, slapping the bottle onto the counter top with more force than was necessary.

"He's a grown man. He has to make these decisions for himself, without people mollycoddling him including you."

"I know that too."

"So what's biting you?"

Harry took a moment or two to answer. He got the teapot out and tossed a couple of teabags into it, and assembled mugs and spoons before he said anything.

"I don't like the whole gift of the Sight," he said finally. "I don't like what it does to Ron, and I don't like the way people treat him because of it. I don't like the way he can be treated like a criminal one minute and the source of all wisdom the next."

Sirius stared at him. "Harry, I know the past week has been rough on you both, but I think that's a little unfair."

"Is it? Well, I'm not in a very fair mood right now." The kettle began to whistle; he picked it up and filled the teapot. "The fact is, Sirius, that he'll get up tomorrow feeling a bit better, only to go into work and have to do the same thing all over again."

"Which is what he signed up to do when he applied to become an Auror. Nobody ever said it was easy, Harry if you wanted that, you should have done what Oliver Wood asked and signed up to play professional Quidditch instead." Sirius watched his godson for a moment or two. "Are you sure it's not just that he has a gift that takes him directions you can't always follow?"

"Well, admittedly that doesn't help much."

Harry slopped some milk into the two mugs, aware of Sirius's raised brows. But he had recognised some time ago that part of him rather ignobly hated the Sight because it was something Ron could do that he couldn't. They'd had a conversation about it once (argument was too strong a word) and Ron had pointed out that Harry always seemed to be the one who had to face down their enemies and do battle "but do you think I like being the person who points you in their direction?" No, Harry didn't think that, but he still didn't like having to sit on the sidelines and watch as Ron deliberately hurt himself peering into the unknown.

"Perhaps you should make that partnership tarot deck he was talking about," Sirius suggested, watching him. "He's already getting a taste of what it's like to be you; maybe this way you'll find out what it's like to be him."

Harry grimaced as he poured the tea. "You only say that because you don't know what it involves."

"No, I only say that because I don't like seeing my favourite godson drive himself round the bend."

"I'm your only godson," Harry told him, grinning reluctantly. He handed him his tea.

"Same difference," Sirius said, smiling faintly.

Ron appeared in the doorway, barefoot in jeans and a ratty old t-shirt. His hair was standing on end and he looked very bleary-eyed.

"Tea?" he mumbled hopefully, looking at the pot.

Harry went to get a third mug, looking over his shoulder at his friend in concern. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I went ten rounds with a troll." Ron padded over to the table and sat down, acknowledging Sirius with raised brows. "Got any more on that cloth?"

"Actually, yes ." Sirius took a longer swallow of his tea. "Did Hermione tell you there's human hair woven into it?"

"I sort of remember hearing her say that."

"Well, no surprises - it's probably yours. It's red anyway."

Ron patted his hair down self-consciously. "How did they get that?"

The older wizard shrugged. "When they diverted you to Pontypridd? We don't know. There are some dark strands as well that might be Harry's, although how they got hold of a sample of his hair is anyone's guess."

Harry looked around in surprise. "Mine? So, what - this thing was supposed to watch Ron and me after all?"

"We don't know yet ."

A sudden alien sound cut into the conversation. Ron blinked and sat up, looking across at Harry.

"Was that - ?"

"The doorbell ." He put Ron's mug down in front of him, and glanced uneasily through the kitchen door, down the passageway to the front door. "That's weird - we almost never get people calling the Muggle way."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "You live in a Muggle street; how strange can it be? They're probably trying to sell something."

"Maybe. Or perhaps it's one of the neighbours."

Harry picked up his wand and tucked it into the back of his belt, before going down the passage. Despite his glib words, he seriously doubted it was a neighbour. He didn't think he'd seen any of them more than once or twice in the three years they had all been living here, and salesmen never called - the protection spells over the house ensured that Muggles generally ignored it.

The front door, so rarely used, was a heavy wooden thing with a coloured fanlight above. The catches were stiff with disuse. Harry wrestled the locks undone and pulled it open.

"Can I help - " His voice trailed to a halt.

It was a mild evening, but the figure before him was huddled up and shivering in his loose, short-sleeved shirt. But what really shocked Harry into silence were the crude runes daubed all over that white shirt in blood.

It was Draco Malfoy. And before Harry could open his mouth to express his astonishment or yell for Sirius and Ron, his old nemesis had passed out cold in a heap at his feet.

 

End Part 8/30

 

 

Thanks so much for continuing to read, everyone!

Becchan Ron and Hermione did have a brief fling before Harry and Ron got together. I'm sure that explains a lot *coughs coyly* I'm glad people liked the "What am I, your wife?" comment *grins*

Jadea - I tend to think that I write kitchen sink dramas. I'm not very good at writing heart-and-flowers romance or high drama; its the everyday stuff that interests me, the ways people interact in normal life. After all, life is pretty much "Did you buy the bread?" So that's how I end up describing things .... I'm glad it works for you.

Quoth the Raven I hadn't noticed until you mentioned it, but the bit with the cloth being a spy I was suddenly reminded of Toby the snuffling armchair in Telanu's "A Most Disquieting Tea" *big grin*

SparkySparkles - Glad you're enjoying it! And Voldemort's interest in Ron will be revealed in due course, don't worry.

Sally - More coupleness? I think we can do that. As to Harry being jealous about Ron and Hermione ... well, it's been three years and he knew about it at the time, so I don't think it's an issue anymore. But I don't want to say more than that at this time. You'll get a better insight into their relationship in upcoming chapters. I like character exploration too, though, so you'll get more of that, don't worry! Do I ever change chapters based on what reviewers say? Sorry, but no. As far as I'm concerned, "Circles Of Power" is finished. I know what I think happens to them afterwards (and by the time the story is posted, you'll know some of it too) and I know a little of what happened to them before it started. I have a couple of very short stories connected with that which I hope to post later.

Rainyday I'm glad you think they're in character, because to be honest I think one of the hardest things is imagining what they'll be like when they grow up. Of course, it's also one of the things that makes fanfiction so much fun *smile* Hermione seeing Ron naked ... that's not going to go away, is it? *grin* What can I say that won't reveal too much? Well ... I will say that I think Hermione is a very brave person because I don't think she and Ron found the incident very funny at the time. But Hermione is very often the strength of the trio. I like her very much as a character; I just wish I could write her better. She gets a low billing in this story, unfortunately.

Dragonette - It wasn't until I was well into the story that I realised how big a cliche the trio as Aurors is. Annoying, but by that time it was too late. As for slash, I have a mixed relationship with it myself, so I know where you're coming from. This story is more about Harry and Ron's relationship than slash per se, and there's nothing explicit in it.


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