Chapter Five – Code Thestral

Please Note

Please note that this is chapter five of the alternate version of “Red Ribbon Redux.”

Harry knew it was morning, could feel the sun shine through the dark curtains of the mausoleum he was once again trapped in.  The room was silent except for his own labored and pained breaths.  Ron, he remembered, along with the others had wanted to stay up all night and wait to hear news of their father.  It made sense; Harry would have done the same if he still had a father—but all Harry had wanted to do was sleep and forget the pain in his swollen eyes and scar.

He groaned.  Now he knew it had been a mistake. 

His eyelashes fluttered, but the world remained black, his eyes sealed shut and puffy. 

A soft ribbon was still clasped in his left fist and he breathed, concentrating on the small length of silk, imagining the color, as he desperately tried to open his eyes.

He couldn’t.

Panic rose in him and clawed at his throat.  His eyes were throbbing, pained, and he couldn’t open them.  His mind reached back and grasped the memory of Dumbledore casting a Scourgify on him and he groaned pitifully.  He hadn’t had his glasses, had been dragged from his bed without them, blood streaming down his face, and the bastard had cast a bloody spell directly at his eyes.

“Winky,” he gasped, needing help, anything.  He didn’t know the time, where anyone was, who was still in the house apart from Kreacher who he wouldn’t trust his safety to.  He wouldn’t even try to get out of the room as Grimmauld Place had rickety stairs and trip steps in the hallway.  He’d be even more injured if he tried to make his way to the kitchen where he had left a sobbing Ginny, grim Ron, and silent twins.

A quiet pop greeted his ears, and he turned toward the sound.

“Master Harry!” Winky squeaked and he felt long fingers touch his cheeks carefully.  He could sense Winky’s tearful gaze on him, feel her large tears falling across his jaw.  “Whats is happening, my master?”

“Dumbledore,” he wheezed.  He couldn’t focus, couldn’t see, all that existed was blackness, pain, and more searing pain across his eyes.  At least the nausea had passed.  “Scourgify.”

“On Master’s eyes?” she whispered helplessly.  Her long, bony fingers skated across his right eyebrow and down to the puffy and swollen skin at the corner of the damage.  “Its is barbaric!”

The long fingers drifted away and then he felt his wand pressed in his free hand and the covers drawn away.

“We must goes to Mungo’s,” she whispered.  “Winky cans take Master and they wills take care of Master.”

“Mungo’s,” he murmured; perhaps it was an agreement.  He couldn’t tell.  He was too tired. 

“House elf magics is strong,” she continued, her fingers now clasped tightly and yet protectively around his wrist.  “We goes now.”

“Others,” Harry found himself whispering, a half memory of those who must still be awake below.

Winky sniffed.  “Others dids not help Master Harry.  Winky helps Master now.”

There was a tug at his wrist and he felt like he was sliding along a cloud, soft, comforting, and found himself wishing he could travel by house elf magic more often rather than by Floo or Portkeys.

He slammed to the floor and screams erupted all around him.  His head moved around painfully, unseeing, and he could hear people firing questions.  A human hand found his pulse point.  It was gentle yet clinical—they must be at the hospital.

“Name?” a strong voice asked.  Silence descended, but he could still sense hurried movement although it was now masked.

“Harry Evans,” Winky whispered.  “My master.”

He could sense brightness being shined on each of his eyes and yet still could only twitch away, squeezing his aching eyes shut even more than they were already sealed.

“What happened?”

“He says a scourgify was casted on his eyes.  Dumbledore dids it.”

A long, protracted silence fell for several moments.

“Albus Dumbledore.”


“He’s a student and he wasn’t released to the hospital even after that?”

Harry could hear Winky crying.

“Code Thestral!” the voice shouted.  “I want the Emergency Contact here now.”  Then Harry was being lifted and he was placed on a stretcher and someone was running alongside him as he was rushed through the halls, wind whipping over his pained eyes. 

He could hear voices all around him as a door was closed, and Winky was still holding his wrist and there were flashes of magic across his eyes and then, with a whispered word, the pain began to ebb away.

“Mr. Evans?” a second voice asked, a man this time.  “You need to tell me exactly what happened.”

A hand was probing his arms for injuries and then paused on his clenched fist, the red ribbon still clasped tightly.  “Mr. Evans,” the first voice said quietly.  “I need you to let go of the red ribbon.  There’s blood on your hand.”

He shook his head and pulled his fist protectively to his chest. 

“Mr. Evans,” she tried again.  “It will be safe here.”

“Winky is takings Master’s ribbon,” Winky soothed, her long, cool fingers playing across the back of his hand.  “Winky will keep it safe.”

“No,” Harry protested, afraid to give up this one constant throughout the pain, wanting it, needing it although he didn’t understand why.

“Mr. Evans,” the second healer tried.  “What if you give it to Winky and she ties it to your left wrist?  We can heal your hand and you will still have your red ribbon.”

There were murmurs around him.  “Oligarchy—the elite—first family” were being mumbled along with “law suit—international incident—security—“

He wasn’t certain how many people were in the room, healing him.

Carefully Harry unclasped his hand and then the ribbon was slowly withdrawn before it was carefully tied around his wrist after a long, agonizing moment of darkness.

He sighed when the ends of the ribbon brushed up against the back of his hand.

“Very pretties,” Winky murmured affectionately at him.  “He wills be most pleased to see it when he comes.”

Harry’s head shot up.  “He’s coming—to England?”

“Yes, Mr. Evans,” a soothing voice, darker, more hypnotic replied.  “It’s customary that once a red ribbon betrothal is declared, the receiver is automatically placed under the protection of the first family.  Either your betrothed or the head of his family should be here as soon as magically possible.  It might take a few more minutes, though, as we declared Code Thestral and the entire hospital has been locked down for your protection.”

Harry groaned, turning onto his side toward Winky.

“Mr. Evans,” the first healer said gently.  “We need to know exactly what happened.  What else was affected before we do anything else?”

“I had a nightmare,” he whispered into the quiet, dark room, his eyes aching although no longer ripping with pain.  “I have nightmares—foretellings.  I woke up screaming and my scar was bleeding.”

“Scar,” the first healer murmured and there were once again hands on his face, searching, until finally his fringe was brushed back.

There was a pause and then once again careful fingers were probing at it.  “The laceration looks like it has been recently reopened and is fresh,” the healer stated matter-of-factly.

“What happened once you woke up screaming and bleeding?” the second voice, which had been silent for several moments, asked gently.

“I—McGonagall was somehow there.  I’m not certain what happened but I was led away and she took me to the Headmaster’s office.  I was bleeding into my eyes and no one was doing anything for it.  They started interrogating me.  I told them I had a nightmare and they insisted I tell them what I saw.”

Quills began to scratch near him.

“I asked for a cloth or to go to the hospital wing and he cast the charm on my face—there had been blood in my eyes.  We then had an argument about the nature of my nightmare and I finally told them that my aunt and fi-fiancé would file a complaint.  He then sent me to my godfather’s and I woke up like this.”

“Your godfather’s name?” someone asked.

Harry paused.

“Negligence—child endangerment—the guardian should be ashamed of himself—Boy Who Lived—Elite—“

“And Umbridge?” the third voice asked.  “Where was she?”

“Asleep, I imagine,” Harry answered tiredly and held up the back of his hand.  “I don’t trust her with my well-being.”

There was another quiet gasp and then hands were stroking the scarred skin.  “Blood quill.”

Harry nodded.

A cool gel was now being spread across his eyes and over his scar carefully, and he felt himself being lifted and bandages wrapped around his eyes and forehead.

A door banged open somewhere close by and Harry stilled, listening.  “They’re coming,” he said desperately and then the door was open and silence reigned across the room, and all Harry could see was blackness.

The healer’s hands fell away from his bandaged forehead and then there was another presence, strong, silent.  A light touch ghosted across the ribbon at his wrist and he turned his face upward, knowing that Krum—Viktor—had arrived.

He turned back toward the healers.  “Can I sleep now?—It hurts.”

“In a moment,” someone assured him and strong hands were helping him back against the bed.  “We’ll give you dreamless sleep in a few minutes.”

There was the click of the door, as if someone were leaving briefly, perhaps to fetch the potion.

“When did this occur?  Do you know about what time?”

“Just before,” Harry licked his lips, his throat becoming dry, “just before Mr. Weasley was brought in to St. Mungo’s for multiple snake bites.”

Another flutter of papers and then an intake of breath. 

“About four in the morning,” someone murmured.

“His eyes,” Viktor whispered quietly, his voice hard and surly.  “Vill he be seeing again?  Vot is wrong?”

Harry fidgeted and the strong hand left his shoulder for an instant, then warm blankets were brought up around him.

“Yes, Mr. Krum,” the hypnotic voice answered.  “In a few days his eyes will be completely healed, and to answer your second question Headmaster Dumbledore cast a Scourgify on them last night.”

Viktor swore quietly in Bulgarian, at least that’s what Harry thought had happened, and then callused fingers were stroking the sides of his face lovingly, confusing Harry.  He was unused to such tender ministrations except from Winky, who rather fancied herself his nurse although he was almost an adult. 

“I vant my lawmen admitted to this hospital immediately,” he said commandingly, although Harry could still feel his eyes on him.  “I also vant someone from the Bulgarian Ministry here as—how you say—liaison.  Now.”

Something fell to the floor, reverberating through the room.

“Healer Puddlefoot!” someone admonished.

“Sorry,” a young voice answered, nervous.  “It’s just that, Mr. Potter’s—Mr. Evans, excuse me—his godfather is listed as Sirius Black.”

Tense silence stretched within the room, and Harry began shivering.

“Contact the Aurors,” someone whispered quietly and then there was rushing and the door was opening and closing again.

“Harry,” Viktor’s strong, deep voice commanded gently.  “I am needing names off everyvone that vill be trying to find you.”

“My aunt,” he whispered.  “I want my Aunt Petunia here.  Please.  She doesn’t much like wizards or magic, but—“

“Tell us how to find her,” Viktor whispered soothingly.

“Petunia Evans.  Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.”

“We’ll send a Muggle-born to bring her in,” the female voice assured him. 

Viktor’s hands were solid and warm against his cheeks, stroking them comfortingly. 

“Is it you?” Harry asked, his voice shaking despite himself.  “I can’t see anything.”

“Sleep, Hereweald Potterius Evanus,” Viktor assured him, the words rough with emotion.  “I am here.  You haff need to rest.  I vill be here vhen you avaken.”

Then dry lips brushed briefly against his in a half-kiss, before a Potion was coaxed down his throat and then finally—he slept.

The following few days were long and spent in complete darkness, with hushed conversations around him.  He awoke Thursday afternoon to hear his aunt having a clipped conversation with a healer, before she rushed over to him and brushed his messy hair away from his bandaged face.

“They’re praying for you at St. Timothy’s,” she assured him quietly, although Harry was certain Viktor could hear.  “I left out all the details, but they know you were attacked and in hospital.”

She touched the ribbon on his wrist.  “Lily told me of this once, how she read about it and how romantic it was.”  Her voice was strained, uncertain.  “Is it romantic, Harry?”

“I-“ he began, his voice constricting.  “It’s still too new.”

“Yes.  Of course.”

Viktor didn’t say anything on the exchange.

The healers were quiet and gentle with him, but it was always Viktor who reapplied the cool healing gel to his eyes and forehead and wrapping him in fresh linens.  Harry was surprised at the tenderness and found himself feeling awkward.  He didn’t know what to say, how to react, so he remained mostly silent except when asked a specific question.

Still, he felt Viktor’s rough and gentle hands stroking his knuckles or resting comfortingly on his cheek.  There was always some small contact between them, and the few times Viktor left, Harry found himself missing it and immediately reaching out until his hand was enveloped in a warm grasp.

“Vould you like to see Mr. Veasley?” Viktor asked calmly that evening.  Aunt Petunia had gone home hours before, promising to bring Dudley on Sunday after church if Harry weren’t home by then.  “The hospital is going out off the lockdown tomorrow morning.”

“We’re in lockdown?”

“Yes,” Viktor responded.  “Only emergency patients can enter.  No vone can leaf.”

Harry stared toward Viktor’s voice, trying to understand the subtleties in it.  “Oh,” was all he finally said.  “Yes, please.”

He’d met Mr. Weasley briefly the summer before his second year when he stayed at the Burrow and then again at Grimmauld Place when he had been housed there against his will.  A half dozen witches and wizards had arrived in the dead of night at Privet Drive, saying that he had to come with him and that everything was fine.  Harry had felt betrayed when he saw Remus Lupin was among the “guard.”  Later he had been told that the Order didn’t have enough resources to keep a watch over him at Privet Drive as it was now “unsafe” given Voldemort’s return.  Harry had tried to sneak out of the house several times, but without a wand had found it impossible, and spent most of the rest of the summer (except for meals) locked in his room, writing letters to his aunt, cousin, and Kevin.

Viktor helped him stand and placed a steadying hand at his elbow, but Harry found his legs too weak from stress to hold him.

A deep chuckle met his ears and then he was being lifted by strong arms and carried out of the small room.

“Ve do not vant you to hurt yourself,” Viktor murmured against his ear. 

“No,” Harry whispered and leaned into the embrace, his arms wrapped possessively around Viktor’s neck.  He could feel the red ribbon against his wrist, the ends fluttering as they moved down the hall and into a lift.  “Are people staring?”

Breath ghosted across his ear, making Harry shivered in Viktor’s grasp.  “At the ribbon, and at famous Quidditch player, I think, my luff.”

“Lovely,” Harry muttered.

“They seem to vonder who you are.”

Harry lifted up his head and his nose brushed against Viktor’s strong one, sending a shock through him.  “Well, that’s a blessing,” he breathed, trying to compose himself and feeling as if he failed as he shivered again at Viktor’s close proximity.  He looked away, wondering if Viktor would have kissed him again if he hadn’t.

The lift stopped and then Viktor was once again walking and Harry could hear the footsteps of others, the quieting chatter as they were noticed.  Viktor’s steps slowed and Harry became aware of a voice that echoed out into the hall, familiar, grating—Mrs. Weasley. 

“They’ve put the entire hospital on lockdown early this morning, around seven I think,” she was saying.  “The nurse said it was Code Thestral, but she wouldn’t say what that even means.  They’re not even letting the children through, but I saw a foreign delegation walk in just after and then what looked like law-wizards.  Imagine, Arthur.  Law-wizards and not children who want to see their father.  It’s absolutely shameful.  The children are Merlin knows where and they don’t even know if you’re alive or dead.”

“Yes, vell,” Viktor answered, stopping at what Harry assumed was the door.  “It is being international incident and the oligarchy are most upset, myself included.”

Harry felt himself blushing.  He hoped the bandages hid the fact.

There was a loud scrape of chairs and then complete silence and Viktor was slowly moving into the room and then set Harry down carefully into a chair.  Viktor’s warm hand landed on his shoulder, squeezing gently.  “He is vell, that I can see, and is avake.  There are bandages like yours on his neck and arms.”

Harry smiled tremulously and reached out, Viktor’s hands closing over his own and guiding them to the edge of the bed and Mr. Weasley’s hand.

“Hello,” he said quietly.  “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

There was a gasp behind him.  “Harry?” Mrs. Weasley asked.

Harry turned his head a fraction toward her before once again turning fully toward the bed to where he imagined Mr. Weasley was. 

Clammy fingers gripped his.  “It’s nice to see you, Harry.  I hadn’t heard you were here.”

“I came in this morning,” Harry whispered back.

“You should have been at school,” Mrs. Weasley admonished, bustling closer.  “I’m certain Madam Pomfrey—“

“This is international incident,” Viktor responded gruffly.  “Not school.”

“Well,” she muttered and Harry heard another chair being drawn.  Viktor still remained behind him.

“And Code Thestral?” she continued on. 

Harry drew his hands away from Mr. Weasley’s grip and leaned into Viktor, his eyes still searching for light despite the bandages and being met only by darkness. 

“That’s a very fine ribbon, Harry,” Mr. Weasley said, changing the topic effectively. 

A gentle slap was heard throughout the room.  “You shouldn’t say such things, Arthur.  Think of Ginny.”

Viktor stiffened behind him and Harry turned his face toward the steady warmth and a strong hand caressed his cheek, a silent claiming gesture.  A shiver ran down his spine and he lifted his chin, his closed and unseeing eyes searching for some sign.  He felt so confused, lost, and yet he wanted Viktor there, craved the touches, the unspoken affection, the certainty that he wasn’t wandering listlessly through his blindness.  A callused thumb ran along his bottom lip, startling Harry momentarily, before he relaxed into the gesture.

“How can you say that?” Mr. Weasley whispered into the quiet moment.  “Look at them.”

But to Harry there was no on else in the room—the hospital—the world.  He just felt the thumb caressing him, another half-kiss, assuring him he was longed for, that he was loved, that although they were strangers Viktor wanted his heart—and a small whisper in Harry’s mind admitted that he wanted to give it to him.  Carefully, Harry reached up with his hand, the strands of the red ribbon brushing against his arm, and curled his fingers around Viktor’s wrist, holding it there so the kiss would continue, gentle, hopeful, wistful.

A throat cleared and the movement stopped, the thumb pressing against the center of his lip.

“Does Dumbledore know you’re here?”

“I expect he does now,” Viktor responded coldly.  “If my sources are correct, he has been taken for questions.  I am sorry if this is inconvenience for you.  I haff been told there are suspicions he has harbored a Sirius Black.”

Harry stilled and swallowed, his unseeing gaze locked on Viktor’s voice.  “Really?”

“I am sorry,” he murmured and a kiss was placed gently on his nose.

“How?” The desperation in Mrs. Weasley’s voice was palpable.  “Why has he been taken in?”

“Child endangerment,” Viktor replied carefully, as if the words were still strange to him, “child neglect for sending Harry to his godfather after injury, and assault against a citizen off a first family off Bulgaria.  He should haff followed proper forms and had me sent for.”

“Do you know where the children are?” she asked after a long pause.

“Headquarters,” Harry replied, his voice scratchy.  “At least they were the middle of last night.”

He tugged on Viktor’s wrist. 

“I’m tired,” he murmured, not wanting to remain in the morose atmosphere of Mr. Weasley’s room any longer. 

Once again he felt himself lifted into Viktor’s arms and was carried away.

“Why?” he murmured against Viktor’s shoulder.  “Why did you say all that?”

“They need to know they haff no claim—and that I vill do anything to keep you safe,” was Viktor’s hushed reply.  “You are Krum now, off Bulgaria.”

“Harry,” he whispered.  “Harry Krum.”

It was done then.

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