The Sugar Quill
Author: Mosylu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Benedictio Amicorum  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

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Just after the climax of GoF, Harry's friends ask Dumbledore for a spell that will protect him.

***

He dreamt.

He dreamt of rain, pummeling, hammering rain, the kind of rain that was a physical force in itself. Lightning clawed the sky, and thunder shook the ground beneath his feet. Wind slammed into him like a fist, sending him stumbling.

But the rain.

The rain was the worst, sleeking his hair to his skull, spotting his glasses so that the world turned wavery, and soaking through his clothes. He shivered convulsively, his teeth chattering against the cold that burrowed deep into his bones, freezing the marrow.

Just a few more steps--Lord, he hoped Filch wasn't around; he'd get expelled for sure--Ron reached for the door--

"Ron?"

He almost screamed, but that would have meant certain Filch. "Gark?!?" he said instead, a sort of strangled half-croak, half-question.

"Lumos," said a familiar voice, and he blinked owlishly in the sudden flare of light.

"Hermione? What are you doing down here?"

She stared at him. She must have been only a few feet behind him the entire way. "Visiting Harry," Hermione said. "I assume that's what you're doing?"

He stared back at her, then started to grin. "You've come under evil influences, Hermione Granger; look at you. Sneaking out of bed at night and wandering the corridors. Tsk tsk."

"Shhhh!" Hermione hissed, reaching for the door handle that Ron still clutched. "D'you want to get us expelled?"

"Now that sounds more like Hermione," he muttered.

The infirmary was fairly well deserted, Madam Pomfrey off in whatever mysterious place she whiled away the sleeping hours. A single light, however, burned at Harry's bedside.

He was on his stomach, his face turned towards them. He was sleeping, but not restfully. His face and shoulders were taut as harp strings, and occasionally he made a soft moaning sound. His glasses were sitting on the bedside table, beside the candle, and without them, he looked very, very vulnerable.

Seeing his best friend's unsettled sleep made Ron's stomach twist. He didn't know exactly what had gone on before Harry had tumbled to the grass with Cedric Diggory's body--Great Merlin, body--clutched to him. But whatever it was, it was eating at his soul.

Ron had been in here this afternoon, lugging his chess set with him. It usually took at least a few minutes to talk Harry into playing chess with him, since he was typically doomed from the moment he moved his first pawn. But Harry had said, "Yeah, okay," and played.

Badly. Worse then usual. As if his mind wasn't even on the chess pieces, who were bellowing advice at him until their little steel faces turned bright red. And when, three moves in, he'd lost, he hadn't even smiled.

Hermione said in a hushed voice, "This isn't fair."

Ron didn't have to ask what she meant. It wasn't fair that a boy of fourteen should have lines around his mouth and ghosts in his eyes and scars on his soul. It wasn't fair that a boy his, Ron's, own age should have to even once face You-Know-Who, the greatest incarnation of evil in centuries. It wasn't fair that Harry should have nothing and no one to depend on except his own shaky skills and the nebulous protection of a mother he'd never known.

But as Ron's mum often said, real life wasn't about fair.

Hermione was sitting at the end of his bed, her face pensive. "The thing is," she said. "The thing is, half the things that happen to him--"

"And everything happens to him," Ron said, staring at Harry's clenched fists.

"Yes, it does. Anyhow, half of it is just because he's so--so--"

"Harry," said Ron.

"That's it. That's it exactly. Because he's so Harry . There's no other way for him to be; he wouldn't even think of it. You remember the second task. I'll bet you he never even thought of not making sure everyone got out all right."

"Or with Pettigrew." Ron nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets. "He saved his life. How many people would do that?"

"It's just the way he is. He can't be anything but himself, and it makes it so hard sometimes." Hermione looked up at him. "It's so easy to love him, and so difficult at the same time--" Ron gave her a sharp look, and she threw her hands in the air and made a frustrated noise in the back of her throat. "Oh, lord, not like that. Why must everyone assume that when a girl loves a boy, it must be like that? I love him the way you love him. Because he's simply the best friend I ever had in my life. D'you know what it was like in grade school?"

Ron thought of the first two months of first year, when Hermione had been utterly friendless. The more studious and goody-goody she got, the more people avoided her, and he'd just lately realized that the more people pulled away, the more she'd tried to avert loneliness by being the perfect student. It would have been a vicious circle had the Halloween troll never happened. "I can guess," he said.

"You know what I'm talking about, then. And I'll bet you've never had a friend quite like him."

"No," Ron admitted. Before Hogwarts, and Harry, he'd always been envious of Fred and George, or Bill and Charlie. They'd had what he had not--someone so close, so attuned, that they could practically read each others' minds. In Harry, he'd found the brother he should have had. The twenty-four awful days of division between them at the beginning of the year had been the worst ones Ron had ever spent at Hogwarts.

"You know what Fred and George call him behind your backs? Ron's twin."

Ron gave a snort of laughter. "He's practically an honorary Weasley. He gets the sweater and everything. A pity about his hair, that's all. You saw my mum last night--I can remember her staying up all night like that once when the twins had Muggle measles and nobody knew the charm to avert it." He studied the scar on his friend's forehead. "'Cept this is worse then measles, I reckon," he said in a muffled voice.

Hermione sighed, rubbing her thumb across the base of her wand. "I just wish there were something we could do," she said. "Some charm--some spell. Something. I hate being this helpless."

"I would think less of you, Miss Granger, if you did not."

Hermione's head jerked up, and Ron's heart leapt into his throat. Dumbledore.

They were dead for sure.

Dumbledore's glasses winked in the candlelight, but the shadows concealed his expression. "Students are not supposed to be out at this time of night, I believe."

Ron swallowed his heart and stepped forward. "Please, sir, it was my fault--I--I just wanted to visit Harry--"

"So did I," Hermione said, standing up.

"Hermione," Ron hissed. He was trying to keep her in Hogwarts here, the least she could do was play along--

"We were worried," Hermione said. "We'll take whatever punishments you give us, sir--"

"I think these count as mitigating circumstances." Dumbledore came into the light, and Ron saw that he was smiling, very faintly. His entire body sagged with the weight of relief.

"Th-thank you," Hermione stumbled, and Ron nodded, too weak to say anything.

Dumbledore shrugged. "I know there is a great deal more nocturnal student activity in this castle then the rules strictly call for. Some professors would prefer me to be more severe about the whole business, but it's really half the fun of being a student, isn't it?"

Ron nodded before he thought, and Dumbledore's smile twitched wider for a moment. Then he sobered as he looked at Harry. "He isn't sleeping any better tonight?"

"No, sir."

"I don't see how he gets any rest," Hermione added.

Dumbledore sighed. "I believe Madam Pomfrey administered a mild Sleeping Potion tonight, when he didn't show signs of falling asleep. He has been through a great deal in the past few days."

Ron couldn't keep the words back. "Sir? What did happen?"

Dumbledore was silent for a moment, and then: "It's his story to tell, not mine. But I will say this--of all his many friends, he will need you two the most, when he recovers enough to be sent back to the dormitory. Your undemanding company and support will be the best thing for him."

"Yes, sir."

Hermione looked up. "Sir? Don't you know a charm--or a spell--or something?"

"For protection, you mean, Miss Granger?"

"Yes!" Hermione said eagerly. "Anything we could do--"

Ron was nodding. "Anything--" he echoed.

The Headmaster looked from one anxious face to the other for several silent moments. Harry, still restlessly asleep, made a muffled gasping sound in response to whatever dreams his mind was giving to him.

"Please, sir?" Hermione said.

"There is an--incantation," Dumbledore said slowly. "It's very pervasive. It will work as long as you love him the way you do now."

"How do you do it?" Ron asked, grabbing his wand. He hoped it wasn't too time-consuming, but even if it was, he'd do it. He just wanted Harry to be protected as soon as possible.

"Hold your wand out in front of you, pointing to the crown of his head."

"Both of us?" Hermione asked. "At once?"

"Yes--I think so."

They took up the positions, looking to Dumbledore for the next step.

"Now sweep your wand down his body to his toes, then up again, saying Benedictio Amicorum as you do so."

They followed instructions, chanting the Latin in solemn, clear voices. Ron was expecting--something, he didn't know what. A mist--sparks--something--but the only effects were chills down his spine from the echo of Hermione's and his own voices in the vault-ceilinged infirmary. Hadn't it worked?

But Dumbledore was nodding to himself. "Very good."

"Is that it, sir?" Ron ventured.

"Don't confuse simple with ineffective, Mr. Weasley."

"But nothing happened!" Hermione was examining her wand, her brows drawn together.

"Its effects are very subtle. But, as I said, quite pervasive."

"Who's that?"

The new voice made them all jump, but Dumbledore called out, "No need to fret, Madam Pomfrey. I assure you, your patient is quite safe."

Madam Pomfrey bustled into the circle of candlelight, her face screwing up when she spotted Ron and Hermione. "Good lord, you two--as if you hadn't seen enough of him during the day--shoo, now, back to your dormitory--"

Ron looked at Dumbledore, glimpsing Hermione out of the corner of his eye doing the same. The headmaster nodded at them. "In this, I bow to Madam Pomfrey," he said. "You may see more of Harry in the morning, when he is awake to enjoy your company."

Ron and Hermione looked at each other, sighed, and put their wands back in their pockets. With one last look at their friend, they headed for the door of the infirmary.

Madam Pomfrey watched them go, her arms crossed over her bosom. "A credit to my Sleeping Potion they didn't wake the poor boy," she muttered. "Traipsing about the castle at all hours of the night--and you, Professor! Practically encouraging them!"

"They were worried," Dumbledore said mildly. "A credit to them. As Miss Granger said, they love him very dearly."

Madam Pomfrey's eyes dropped to the boy in the bed, studying him with a professional eye. "He's sleeping better now," she said in surprise. "Well now. Was it that charm you gave them?"

"I gave them no charm, Madam Pomfrey."

She blinked at him. "Well of course you did. Benedictio Amicorum--I heard them say it over him. Can't say that I've ever heard of it before, but I've not studied as much as you, Professor--"

"That was a simple Latin phrase, which I allowed them to believe was a protective charm. Their love for him already gives him more protection then any piddling charm ever could. I felt, however, that the illusion of one might soothe their minds somewhat."

Madam Pomfrey looked doubtful. "Well. Yes. I suppose." She was silent, brushing Harry's disorderly hair away from his scarred forehead. "Was it just gibberish then?"

"Gibberish? No, indeed, Madam Pomfrey. The phrase translates to 'the blessing of friends'."

He dreamt.

He dreamt of rain, pummeling, hammering rain, the kind of rain that was a physical force in itself. Lightning clawed the sky, and thunder shook the ground beneath his feet. Wind slammed into him like a fist, sending him stumbling.

But the rain.

The rain couldn't reach him anymore. A thick, soft cloak had settled around him, covering him head to toe. The rain thundered down around him, but within his cloak he was warm and safe. Not a single drop of icy rain could seep through.

Shielded by his cloak, he lifted his head to wait out the storm.

 

 

 

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