Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 26 - Discussions
It was three hours before Harry could do more than sit staring at the wall. He had seen Sirius; it was all he had hoped for and so much worse as well. The guilt of falling for Voldemort's plan and causing his godfather's death had all but disappeared he had bonded with Draco: there had been far too many other things to deal with to think about the past. Yet seeing Sirius had brought it all back and he had been consumed by the need to atone, by the sense of being helpless to do anything, and then there was the fear. Harry had seen his godfather's dark side and he knew that Sirius Black was a passionate man, and he had found himself terrified that the man would hate him for being so weak in succumbing to Voldemort's scheme.
Even the memories Draco had shown him couldn't shake that fear, and it had settled in the pit of Harry's stomach, clawing away at his gut. It was like a pain that was eating away at him and nothing could kill it: in the end Draco had given up trying. When he had been able to move properly, Draco had picked them both off the floor and lead Harry to the bed. Harry had sat down on the edge and his soul mate had climbed on behind him, wrapping his arms around him lovingly. They had been sitting that way for nearly two and a half hours as the Hecatemus let the thoughts and emotions flow through him without hindrance. Draco had not interrupted once and Harry knew his soul mate was feeling everything as well.
"Hermione will have looked up that reference by now," Harry said eventually and found that his voice was steadier than he expected.
Draco had shared the whole time Harry had been unconscious with him and so he was aware of everything that had been said.
"We should go and see what she has found out," he continued slowly.
"That can wait until the morning," Draco told him quietly, "you need to sleep."
As usual Draco was thinking of Harry's health and he was sure that the Slytherin needed sleep as much as he did. There was shock and confusion in Draco as well as himself and Harry knew he was the cause, but he couldn't shield his lover from this, it was totally out of his control.
"I don't think I can sleep yet," he admitted, "and they'll be worried. We should go down."
For a few moments Draco did not release the grip he had on Harry, but eventually he drew back. With a sigh Harry stood up, ignoring the complaints from his stiff legs, and turned, offering his hand to his soul mate. For a few seconds Draco looked up at him, the pain in his grey eyes obvious even if Harry hadn't been able to feel it first hand. They had shared pain before, but this was raw and it was difficult for both of them: not for the first time Harry was indescribably grateful for his soul mate.
[I love you,] it seemed to be the only sentiment for what Harry felt at that moment and, as he reaffirmed it, the ache inside him dimmed a little.
When Draco reached out and took his hand the ache reduced a little more.
[I love you too,] his soul mate's voice sounded in his mind and the ache was suddenly bearable.
They walked down the stairs slowly without further comment, hand in hand, united against the universe. There were a few looks in their direction from the members of the house who had not been in the room, but Harry had the distinct impression none of the reasoning behind the incident had been revealed.
"Feeling better, Mate?" Ron asked as if he was asking about something purely routine. "You know you shouldn't scare Malfoy like that; how would we explain his heart attack to Snape?"
Once again Harry was reminded what good friends he had as Ron, Hermione and Neville all calmly deflected the scrutiny of the rest of the house by pretending that the Hecatemus had just had a break down of some kind. Since this was an event which happened from time to time it was no longer news to Gryffindor. However, Harry also could not help noticing the large, dusty tome sitting on Hermione's knee.
"We didn't tell anyone," Neville said a little nervously as the soul mates joined their three friends.
Typical Longbottom reaction to reassure his companions in the most direct way possible, if Harry hadn't been feeling quite so mentally battered he might have smiled.
"Thank you," he replied quietly, "I don't think I could deal with anyone else knowing."
A rather conflicted look passed across Hermione's features and Harry knew what she was thinking and couldn't blame her.
"Harry," she said rather hesitantly, "I think you should at least tell one of the staff. This could be important: it affected you badly."
The Hecatemus did not want to tell anyone, he would rather have dealt with this situation with only himself and Draco involved, but it was difficult not to see Hermione's point. The urge to shout her down and tell her to mind her own business reared suddenly into his mind, but Draco's calming presence prevented Harry from saying anything he would regret. He looked at his lover and took a deep breath before nodding.
"Dumbledore," he said after a moment, "we'll tell Dumbledore."
Hermione appeared incredibly relieved.
"But no one else," Harry went on with a pleading note in his voice, "please, not until we have it figured out."
The other three Gryffindors all looked at each other and then as one nodded firmly. For that Harry managed a small smile of gratitude.
"I found the reference," Hermione spoke again after a moment and handed Draco the book she was holding. "It's not much, but it proves that there may be a logical explanation for," she almost said Sirius, but visibly changed her mind and replaced it with, "what happened."
Harry did not bother to read over his lover's shoulder as Draco's eyes wandered down the page to where his friend indicated.
"We should get this to Hilde," Draco said after a few moments, "she may have more information."
The last thing Harry wanted was another person in on the whole incident, but his soul mate's tone was very firm and he did not have the strength to argue. It would probably be for the best even if the idea of each new person knowing did horrify Harry. He was not thinking straight and he knew it, so he acquiesced with a slight nod.
"We'll figure it out, Harry," Ron said with his usual optimism, "don't you worry."
Several cutting replies came to the Hecatemus' mind, but he squashed them and instead gave his friend a bland smile. This was not their fault and he would not take it out on them, but he couldn't help hoping that he and Draco could get away soon.
Harry sat down in the offered chair and Draco perched on the arm of the comfortable piece of furniture never letting contact with his soul mate drop. The real world was still vaguely dim in Harry's perspective as his mind worked on the evening's events and processed everything else rather automatically.
"Something has happened, has it not, Harry?" Dumbledore's calm tones broke through the young man's contemplations and he looked up into the headmaster's unusually serious, blue eyes.
Harry nodded silently and tried to come up with the right way to begin. Draco remained beside him, a quiet, constant source of strength, but did not move to speak in his place, knowing that he needed to be the one to do this.
"Sirius isn't as gone as we thought," Harry said eventually, his voice quiet, almost to the point of a whisper. "We saw him earlier."
Dumbledore's features remained calm, but there was a momentary flash of concern and confusion in the normally twinkling eyes. Harry did not have the mental energy to empathise.
"Would you care to explain your last statement, My Boy?" the headmaster asked as the silence drew out.
"He's still dead," Harry said, unable to keep the pain out of his voice, "but he can come back. He's not a ghost."
He knew there was more he could say, but he really didn't know how to say it. This was too big and his mind had not yet fully come to grips with it so that he could process it properly. Perhaps in the morning things would be a little clearer, but as it was, Harry could not deal with the situation. Draco rubbed the back of his lover's hand supportively and all Harry could do was watch as Dumbledore turned his attention to the Slytherin.
"It wasn't a hallucination," Draco told the headmaster evenly, "and I saw it as well, with my own eyes, not through Harry's. Sirius Black was in our room earlier this evening, I spoke to him."
Just for a moment Professor Dumbledore appeared shocked before his usual, 'I am omnipotent' expression was back in place.
"Where, may I ask, is Sirius now?" the headmaster asked in a remarkably calm tone.
"He can only stay for a certain amount of time," Harry explained quietly, needing to distract his thoughts from the circular pattern they had taken up. "He moved between here and the other side."
Dumbledore was contemplating his fingers, which were arched in front of him as he sat back in his chair. It was a pose Harry had seen before and usually meant the headmaster was deep in thought. It was a faint comfort to know that the situation affected Dumbledore so deeply.
"It was the veil," Harry found himself saying with sudden anger in his voice, "it is an abomination."
The heat of emotion that ran through the Hecatemus rather shocked him as days of recrimination converged in that one thought. His tone caused Professor Dumbledore to look at him once more and the headmaster's expression was very serious.
"If you can, Harry," the old wizard said evenly, "take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one to hold that opinion."
That reply managed to completely wipe away the anger that threatened to build in Harry and left him at a loss. He had not expected a simple agreement.
"I do not doubt you, My Boy," Dumbledore said resolutely. "I cannot claim to have been aware of the consequences of Sirius' means of departure from this life, but, now they have been revealed, certain theories to which I am privy are confirmed. Hecatemae have never been connected with the ideas of which I speak, but it is logical to assume an individual such as yourself would be sensitive to such changes in energy."
Harry really didn't know how to react to that.
"Which leaves us with many choices as to how to proceed," the headmaster continued in a slightly less serious tone. "There are those who would be heartened by this news."
That sent a wave of irrational panic through Harry as he realised exactly who Dumbledore was talking about. Draco's fingers entwined through his own and gripped firmly as a feeling of support and strength travelled through their bond.
"I do not think it would be wise to alert anyone of this development until we are certain of what it means," Draco said in a tone that begged no argument. "Alerting Professor Lupin or anyone else associated with Sirius could cause more pain than it would relieve."
Harry heard the unspoken 'and you'll do it over my dead body' which was at least some comfort. If Remus became involved in this Harry knew he would not be able to hold it together. There was only so much emotional stress he could take at one time and dealing with how the last of the Marauders would react to Sirius not being completely gone was something that filled him with dread. Maybe once they'd figured out what the hell was going on and how to cope with it he might be open to the idea.
Dumbledore did not argue; he nodded.
"As you wish," the headmaster said calmly. "Now I suggest we take some tea and then if it is not too much of a strain on either of you, I would request that you tell me as much about what occurred today as you feel able to."
Harry felt tired and emotionally drained as he sat back in his chair and watched Professor Dumbledore summon his normal teapot. He did not know how much more he could take that evening, and the pressure was beginning to give Draco a rather scary look around the eyes, but the headmaster had a right to know since they had brought the problem to him. The world would not come into sharp focus except at moments of alarm like when the headmaster had suggested others be brought in on the situation, and Harry let himself drift until he was handed a cup and saucer.
Hilde was already waiting for them on the Monday evening as they arrived for their weekly session. The normality of Sunday and their lessons throughout the day had helped Harry to return the subject of his godfather into proportion with the rest of his life, but he was by no means easy with the whole incident. He was very glad that only a few people knew the truth, because their sympathetic looks and reassuring smiles were hard enough to deal with. If the whole school had known, Harry was pretty sure he would have lost it.
As it was he was anxious about meeting with Hilde since he didn't know how she would have reacted to the message Draco had sent the Saturday evening. She gave Harry and Draco a smile as they came in, but it lacked some of her usual enthusiasm.
"Hello," the woman greeted warmly, "please have a seat."
"Good evening," Draco replied, politely.
"Hi," was all Harry could manage.
As usual there was butterbeer on the table, but neither of the soul mates felt like helping themselves and they sat down quietly side by side. Seeming to sense their mood Hilde looked somewhat apologetic.
"I'm sorry," she began openly, "I spent all of yesterday in the archives, but Primrose Bluebottle is one of the Hecatemae for whom we have very little information. I found the same reference you sent me and your source is completely accurate, it was not missing anything."
It was not the news Harry had been hoping for and he rubbed his temples trying to distract himself from the dejection he was feeling. Draco, who was handling the situation far better than he was, was not ready to give up, however.
"Was there anything that could help us at all?" Draco asked calmly while stroking Harry's finger's gently in a calming motion.
"There is no information about the particular situation you described," Hilde replied evenly. "I suspect it is not a common phenomenon. However, I took the liberty of investigating anything that caused a similar reaction in any of those before you, Harry. I believe we can help you to cope with the overwhelming nature of the experience so that should it happen again it will not cause an overload."
Harry grabbed hold of the news like a lifeline; it was the first good thing he could recall about the whole situation. At least if he could control how he reacted if Sirius returned he could talk to him. Passing out at his godfather's feet was not a useful response to the circumstances.
"How?" he asked, eager to focus on anything positive.
Draco had also sat forward in his chair and Harry could feel curiosity as strong as his own running through his lover. With a course of action to take neither felt as helpless as the last couple of days had left them.
"The first step is to help you recall the whole experience from your additional senses' point of view," Hilde said, the usual note of enthusiasm vaguely returning to her voice as she noted her companion's interest. "It's similar to Muggle hypnotism, but a little more complicated and will mostly be down to you, Draco. With the memories clear, the pair of you will then be able to examine the reasons for the overload and come up with a mental barrier similar to those Harry already uses."
It sounded a little vague to the Hecatemus, but then most things to do with his condition were; if there was one thing he had learned it was that there were no hard and fast rules.
"Detailed in the extreme as usual," Draco said, raising his eyebrows, but his tone was contemplative rather than scathing which meant he was already formulating a plan of action.
Hilde smiled at the comment; she was used to Draco's unique way of expressing himself by now.
"Please teach me," Harry said, for the first time since the incident, some semblance of his normal self in his voice.
This situation was by no means solved, but at least now the young wizard had hope that there could be some semblance of resolution.
End of Chapter 26
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