Chapter Two – Pencil Scribblings

Every one of his dorm mates thought that Harry’s favorite book was his beat up Bible, that his Aunt had managed to rummage out of the attic when he was seven and give to him.  It had once belonged to his mother when she was a little girl, and he would sometimes sit in the common room or in bed and lovingly trace her prim and yet childlike handwriting that declared her name proudly on the inside cover: Lily Elizabeth Evans.  At the age of eight, he had added his own neatly under it—Harry James Potter—and on his twelfth birthday had carefully crossed it out again and wrote instead Harry James P. Evans

His favorite book, however, was a once pristine copy of Ulysses.  His confirmation teacher had given it to him when he was thirteen, saying that every traveler should have such a book and that he thought Harry was mature enough to one day grasp the meaning of the novel, and Harry had adored it ever since.  It was covered in pencil marks and the spine was broken in several places.  He never took it out, and he hid his most treasured possessions in it—a photograph of his parents, his folded up letter from Hogwarts, and now this marriage proposal along with the red ribbon.

No one ever touched it.  When Seamus first saw it, he had laughed openly and said that Harry was insane for even trying to read Joyce, but wished him the best of luck.

Ron had mumbled something about Muggle literature.

To be certain, Harry heavily warded his trunk and the book itself, thankful that his dorm mates were either in the shower or had already left for breakfast.

The owl still looked at him.

“You’re waiting for a reply, aren’t you?” he sighed.  “I need to translate it and then—figure things out,” he tried to explain.

The owl hooted understandingly.

Unfortunately, Ron and Granger were lying in wait for him, and he sighed audibly, looking about the half-filled common room.  He wasn’t certain how much time had passed since Winky had first summoned him, but when he glanced out the window, snow was falling and there was a definite brightness to the winter air.

Granger was looking at Ron peevishly, as if she knew that he were keeping a secret from her.

“Well?” Ron asked.

Seamus laughed from an armchair near the fire.  “That’s not going to work, Ron.  Ye know that.”

Ron’s ears went pink.  “I thought I’d give it a try.”

“Give what a try?” Granger asked, looking between the three boys.

They all ignored her.

“Ye all right, Harry?” Seamus asked.  “A surprise, I take it?  Do ye at least know of the person who last sent ye a letter?”

Harry’s eyes widened a bit when he realized Seamus had gotten around the question.  “Er—yeah.  I know of him.”

“English?” Seamus continued, falling into step.

“It’s in Latin,” Harry confided.  “Why’s it in Latin?”

Hermione fluffed her bushy hair angrily.  “Spells,” she lectured, assuming incorrectly, “are always in Latin.”

Usually, Harry wanted to correct.  The Point Me Spell was in English as well as the horrible ritual that brought Voldemort back.

“Letters,” Seamus snapped a bit at her, “usually aren’t.”  He turned back to Harry and started leading him out of the portrait hole.  “That’s customary.  Language of diplomacy.  You don’t have to learn it as most wizards were fluent up until the last few centuries, and even then they’re all right at translating because of spells.”

“Well, that’s how I’m spending my morning,” he griped, feeling as if the weight of the world were suddenly on his shoulders.  “It just—it makes no sense.”

“Of course it makes sense,” Ron muttered angrily. 


“Granger,” Seamus interrupted.  “Leave it.  Magic won’t let us speak about it in any way you can understand.  Just leave it.”

Harry sighed.  That would just peak her interest.

Granger.  He groaned, leaning his head in his hands.  Granger.  Krum had dated Granger during their fourth year, or at least Harry thought he had.  He had taken her to the Yule Ball.  Unless it was some elaborate plot, it just didn’t make sense.

“I’m living in the Twilight Zone,” he moaned.

Granger looked at him oddly, but didn’t comment, nattering away about homework before Christmas Hols.  Harry wondered if she would just ever stop.

“I’m a boy,” Harry stated quietly, now walking down a moving staircase with the three other Gryffindors.

“Yes,” Seamus agreed.  “Ye’re not Catholic.  They’re not going to excommunicate you.”

“We can’t be excommunicated,” Harry parroted back.  “We don’t have a pope.”

“I still don’t understand the problem.  It’s not like you’re going to say ‘no’—once the letter is sent, everything else is formality.”

Harry’s eyes widened.  “I thought I could say ‘no.’  What if the person was over a hundred?  Or wanted to kill me in my sleep?  Or really disgusting?  Or—I don’t know—an escaped convict?”

“What are you talking about?” Granger demanded impatiently.

Seamus’s jaw dropped.  “It’s not Sirius Black, is it?”

Ron was sniggering.

“What?” Harry asked, confused.  “No!”

“Thank the Lord.  That would be a reason to say ‘no.’  There are very few reasons, actually.  One or two at most.”

“No one refuses,” Ron said, his laughter finally subsiding.  “What makes you so special to refuse something like this?”

“I just—“ Harry began, lost for words and just so confused.  Viktor, his mind kept on repeating.  Viktor Krum.

A memory came back to him.  The screaming at the World Cup.  Warm hands guiding him to shelter.  Dark eyes looking into his before a kiss—

A warm arm draped over his shoulders.  “Ron, just leave it.  It’s a shock and he was raised by Muggles.  Let him get used to it and translate the demmed letter so that he knows what it says.”

Harry found himself ushered into the Great Hall and placed next to Seamus and far away from Ron and Granger.  Food was carefully put on his plate and then Dean was there on his other side and Ginny was sending him questioning looks while attempting to interrogate Ron along with Granger—unsuccessfully.

At least Ron couldn’t talk.

A glass of pumpkin juice was pushed into his hand and Harry found himself sipping at it and yet not tasting it.

He wasn’t certain how long he sat there, but at some point he rose from the table and found himself wending his way to the library.  It was almost empty as it was before noon on a Sunday, and he soon found the large Latin dictionary and set it up at a table in a secluded corner along with a Latin grammar.

He carefully took out a carefully copied transcript of the bulk of the letter that he’d written out in pencil.  Harry had naturally left off the names.  He didn’t need it to fall in the hands of anyone and let them know he was the one addressed and that Viktor-bleeding-Krum for some unfathomable reason wanted to marry him.

His stomach flipped briefly at the thought, but he pushed it away, not wanting to think about it.

The length of the proposal itself was relatively short, but Harry found that it took him hours to translate.  His fingers could barely grasp the pencil and the meanings of the simplest words eluded him.

Finally, he put the pencil down and stared at the paper before him.  The words were all in English, grammatically correct, and yet it all still remained a mystery to him—and there was still an owl waiting for a response.

How was he supposed to respond to something like this?

He carefully folded the piece of parchment and stuffed it back into his pocket, desperately not wanting to think about it.  Harry wished he could somehow ignore it—that all of his dorm mates didn’t know about the owl or the blasted red ribbon that now lay pressed within the chapter of Nausicaa.

He snorted.  How fitting.

Harry didn’t bother to put the dictionaries or grammar away; he was far too distracted.

Biting his lip, he slipped out into the corridor and found himself wandering.  He needed to ask someone for advice, a pureblood, he just didn’t know who he could trust.  Normally he might single out Neville but the longing in his eyes had hurt Harry as he wished he could give his friend the letter and then everything would be fine—they would each have what they wanted.

Would you? a small voice in his mind asked.  Would you really?

He pushed the traitorous thought away from his mind and shoved his hands into his pockets.  His fingers brushed up against the rumpled translation and he gasped as the edge cut the pad of his middle finger.  Gritting his teeth, he willed the sting away, wondering absently how much blood would get on his translation but unwilling to actually check.

It was better if he just pretended the piece of paper wasn’t in his pocket.  Denial could be healthy in small doses.  The problem with the wizarding world was that they were in denial about almost everything and had become stagnant and then developed strange rituals involving the wealthy elite and marriage between men.

The stones around him looked blank and unwelcoming and his footsteps echoed off the walls, taunting him.

He felt trapped, claustrophobic—and there was nothing he could do.

He found himself making his way toward the kitchens and decided to take a shortcut behind a tapestry that disturbed him more than anything (fairies and centaurs should not be engaged in romantic relationships, he had decided from a young age, or at least not in tapestries) when he stopped abruptly, his eyes widening at the sight before him.

“Er,” he began and then cleared his throat when the couple in front of him continued to snog. 

A part of him noted that he never knew this passageway was used for lovers’ trysts.  Most of his brain was trying to identify just who Ginny Weasley was snogging.

“Pardon,” he called out, trying to just get them to stop.  He really just wanted to get to the kitchen and to Winky, and they were decidedly in his way.

“Oh,” Ginny breathed as she pulled away and saw Harry there.  She blushed a deep crimson and looked down at her shoes. 

Harry, though, didn’t pay any mind.  Instead he looked at the boy, who had long black hair and deep brown eyes, his lips bruised red. 

He forced himself to look back into his eyes.  “Sorry, mate.  Just wanted to get through,” he found himself saying and then walked between them self-consciously.  “You’re in Ravenclaw, right?  Is Kevin around, do you know?”  He’d stop by there sometime that morning, he decided.

“Kevin?” The boy—Corner, Harry remembered—asked.

“Kevin Entwhistle. Fourth year, top of his class. I didn’t see him at breakfast.”

“Try the common room,” he suggested, and Harry nodded, before leaving the couple who were now staring at each other (Ginny rather accusingly) to whatever they were doing.

He hoped Ron didn’t find out about Ginny and Corner.  That could only go badly and then he’d have to hear about it—nonstop.  Sometimes, when he was particularly aggravated, he wished he let the hat sort him into Slytherin like it wanted to.  Then he would just have to remember that it was full of atheist purebloods and would be even worse than Gryffindor.  Sadly, it hadn’t really considered putting him in Ravenclaw, for whatever reason.  He wanted to sneak up to Dumbledore’s office and borrow the hat and ask it why.  Harry didn’t think he was particularly brave, unless bravery could be defined as keeping his head high in a world like this that shunned and belittled everything he believed in—triumph in adversity. 

Harry, however, did not fancy living the life of a potential martyr, even if his existence constantly resembled one except during the summers when he was back in Little Whinging.

That, though, also became a test in adversity as he hid all of his magic books in his trunk and only brought them out for homework.  His aunt, he knew, didn’t want to see them.  At least Uncle Vernon was out of the picture.  He had walked out when Harry was eight, claiming that Aunt Petunia was turning Dudley into a “nancy boy” by taking him to prayer services and encouraging him in the church choir. 

There had been a rather nasty divorce that ended with Aunt Petunia getting the house, full custody of Dudley, and Uncle Vernon having to hand over a large portion of his paycheck as well as pay for Dudley’s expensive education at Smeltings. 

Of course, there had been a slight loss of income but Aunt Petunia had gotten a job as a receptionist three mornings a week at the nearest plastic surgeon’s and found that she rather enjoyed it, especially as she now had all the gossip on the ladies of Little Whinging.  It also gave her something to do when he and Dudley were off at school during the year.

He finally found himself in front of the kitchen and tickled the pear in the painting that guarded it.  Nothing could find him there—he was safe, even if just for a little while.

“Evans!” Boot called out angrily as he entered the Ravenclaw common room.  “What have I told you about coming in here?”

“Not to,” Harry deadpanned, used to the familiar argument.  It really was too easy to get in.  All he had to do was answer a riddle, and the longest one had ever taken him was three minutes and that was when he was a second year and rather confused by the entire process.

“Damned Gryffindor,” Boot muttered to himself as he turned back to his game of gobstones.

They always seemed to have exactly the same conversation whenever Harry wandered in.  It had become a kind of ritual.  Once, though, Cho Chang had suggested that they just adopt him and curse all of his red and gold ties blue and bronze.

Harry had no objection to the thought, and tried to feel light-headed when Chang had smiled prettily at him.  Needless to say, it didn’t work very well.  It never really did.

“Kevin,” he greeted when he caught sight of his best friend.  He was a few inches shorter than Harry (though rather tall for his age) and had bright brown eyes, a freckled nose, and strawberry blonde hair that almost shone gold in the sunlight.  “I’ve got a problem.”

“Umbridge?” Kevin asked, looking up from his Bible.  The two had bonded when they discovered that they attended the same church in Whinging Proper and had been friends ever since.  Kevin, because he was a Muggle-born and his parents had threatened to withdraw him from Hogwarts, was permitted to attend a little parish ten miles away every two months, although Harry hadn’t been allowed the same courtesy.  Not even Aunt Petunia’s formal letter of complaint had moved the school governors or the headmaster, as Harry was not a Muggle-born and therefore wasn’t eligible for the service.  At least he had the Come and Go Room, however.

“No.  Worse, if you can believe it.”

He settled down into a soft armchair and Kevin looked up at him curiously.  “What can be worse than Umbridge?”  Kevin paused, a look of horror crossing his dark brown eyes.  “Has someone died?  Your aunt?”

He reached out and clutched Harry’s hand in sympathy and Harry laughed quietly.  “No, no one’s dead,” he assured Kevin, who immediately looked relieved.  “Er-what do you know of red ribbons?”

Kevin straightened immediately and sent Harry a piercing look and then cautiously held out his hand.

Harry slipped his translation into it, knowing that it was all the confirmation Kevin would need.

Unfolding it, Kevin gave Harry a piercing look.  “I heard a few seventh years talking about it a year or so ago.  I had never thought that I would actually know someone who would receive one.”

His eyes skated over the Latin and then to the English.  “You mistranslated the second sentence.  It should read, ‘My ardor although previously unspoken has proven the test of time,’ not ‘My love.’”

Harry fidgeted with his sleeve.  “Does that actually matter?”

“Perhaps.  He never uses the actual word ‘love.’”  His eyes flicked up to Harry.  “Do you know him?”

“Yes.  That’s what’s so startling, not that he’s a man and—“  He grasped for words desperately, wanting Kevin to understand, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to say it again, not after earlier that morning.

The sound of rustling paper caught his ears and the folded translation was pressed into his palm.  “Who else knows?” Kevin asked gently.

“Ron,” Harry spat. “Seamus, Neville, even Dean.  The owl came to my dorm room and, well—“

“Do they know who it’s from?”

Harry shook his head and slumped back into his chair.

“There’s something you’re not telling me,” Kevin guessed as he leaned forward.  “I’m not—Harry—“ he took a deep breath.  “We’ve known each other since we were children.  I sing with Dudley in the church choir.  I know—I know that your eyes linger on boys, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he assured Harry quietly.  “Not here.  Not always back in the Muggle world.”

Harry’s vulnerable gaze met Kevin’s head on.

“It might be a gift somehow from God,” Kevin continued.  “I know you don’t really want to be a wizard, don’t want to be in this society, but maybe, just maybe, wizards can give you the one thing you might never have found if you hadn’t come to Hogwarts in the first place.”

“But it’s wrong.”

“Society says it’s wrong generally,” Kevin corrected.  “There’s a subtle difference.  Look at it as a blessing, unless it’s someone dreadful.  It’s difficult to refuse these, I’ve heard, so just remain open to it at least intellectually while you figure it out.”

“Ardor,” Harry repeated.

“Ardor,” Kevin said with a grin.  “You inspire ardor, Harry.”  A thoughtful expression passed over his eyes.  “He did address it to you correctly, right?  If not, then you can throw it out immediately.”

Harry sighed.  “Hereweald Potterius Evanus,” he quoted.

Kevin laughed.  “I wondered how he would translate ‘Harry.’  It was smart to go with the Anglo-Saxon instead of possibly referring to you as ‘Hadrianus’ or something like that.  You could throw it out for that as well.”

“No, K—he was pretty careful.”  Harry found himself wanting to say ‘Krum,’ to tell Kevin who it was, but the word wouldn’t come out of his throat, trapped there and choking him.

“That would be the magic,” Kevin guessed.  “K, though.  Interesting.  You know him?”

Harry nodded, not wanting to admit it out loud.

“And something you know about him confuses you.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Harry confessed.  “He’s barely spoken three sentences to me and he dated someone I know—a girl.  And it’s been so long since I saw him and now—now this.  She’s going to kill me when she finds out, and she will.  Girls always do.”

“You’re going to break so many hearts when this comes out,” Kevin mused quietly, changing the subject just enough to put Harry at ease.  “Chang, Weasley, Brown.”

“Weasley?  She was snogging Corner what’s-his-name earlier this morning!”

Kevin ignored him.  “Granger—“

“Hermione?” Harry exclaimed, loudly enough so that several students turned to him with confusion on his face.  “What do you mean, ‘Granger’?”

“She fancies you,” Kevin responded.  “It’s obvious.  She only went with Krum to the Yule Ball to try and make you jealous, though from what I noticed it only made Weasley—the other one, the prat—jealous instead.”

“Granger,” Harry repeated, groaning.  “She’ll kill me for another reason then.”

There was a pause and then Harry heard an intake of breath.  “Krum.  Viktor Krum,” Kevin breathed out.  “Let me see the letter again.”

Harry looked up at him desperately.  “You can’t tell anyone,” he murmured.  “I’ve been in shock all morning.  I don’t even think I’ve eaten breakfast or lunch and I’m not even hungry.”

Kevin looked at him in sympathy and held out his hand.

Harry grudgingly passed back the wrinkled translation. 

“My God, what do they teach at Durmstrang?” he whistled low.  “There are allusions to Muggle literature, Christianity, and it’s flawless, and he’s what, nineteen?  Harry, you know what this means, right?”

Harry looked up at him, confused.

“You can run,” Kevin whispered.  “You can run from this war, from You-Know-Who, from Umbridge, Dumbledore,” he emphasized.  “He’s one of the elite.  He can take you and hide you and, if he really feels as much ardor and longing as he claims, he’ll respect your culture.”

There was a pause.

“Run, Harry,” Kevin continued, their eyes meeting.  “You deserve this.  Run and never come back.”

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