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Chapter 2: The Stranger
DISCLAIMER: I'm not J.K. and these aren't my characters, places, etc., yadda yadda yadda. . .
When the nervous group came to the first corner, Harry, who was in the lead, stopped and turned to face the rest of the group.
“If any of you want to go back,” he said, “it’s still not too late.” No one said anything, but the way the group were all shuddering and glancing around nervously at each other gave Harry the distinct impression that most of them would give anything to return to warmth and relative safety of the Common Room, but as nobody spoke up, Harry continued.
“I know it’s only a short way to McGonagall’s office, but I think that as a precaution, we should all have a buddy.” There were a few quiet murmurs of assent as the group all paired up. Harry was a bit hurt that Ron seemed not to have spared any thought for Harry before grabbing Hermione’s hand and slipping a protective arm around her waist. He also noticed Ron rolling his eyes and was very grateful for the small slap Hermione gave Ron’s arm by way of rebuke. What’s got his knickers in a knot? Harry thought to himself, as Neville rushed to his side. His clumsy friend brought Harry’s mind sharply back to the situation at hand via accidentally treading on his foot.
“Ouch!” he hissed, as a throbbing pain made his left foot feel as though it were the size of a watermelon.
“Sorry Harry!” Neville paused, watching Harry massaging his foot. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Harry answered, trying to force a reassuring smile, “Don’t worry about it Nev-”
“Great!” Ron interrupted with a mock-cheery voice, clapping his hands together. “Now we’ve all established that Harry’s okay, d’you think we could get a move on? Personally, I’m not too keen on milling around in the corridors at night with a vampire running loose in the school.” Ron’s breathing was slightly heavier now, and his ears had gone beet red.
“Ronald,” Hermione scolded him, “really! We’ve all got quite enough to be getting on with already without you adding to everyone’s nerves!”
Ron opened his mouth to retort, thought better of it, and closed it again. Harry couldn’t figure out what Ron’s problem was. But enough about Ron, a stern voice said in Harry’s head. Harry knew it wouldn’t do any good to dwell on Ron’s big-headedness now, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling of absolute contempt his best friend was giving him.
“Ron does have a point you know,” said Parvati, speaking up for the first time, “We should get going.”
Harry nodded in agreement and turned back around to keep walking when Hermione grabbed his arm. “Harry, maybe we should check around the corners first. You know, like I did in our second year when the basilisk was loose.”
“Yeah, I suppose that would be a good idea.” Hermione had already taken a small, round, gold-framed mirror from the pocket of her pink bathrobe. As she handed it to Harry, he noticed something about the back of the mirror that almost made him drop it in surprise. Along the rim of the frame, Harry could just make out the miniscule initials that had been carved there, worn as they were from the many years the mirror must have seen. Harry managed to conceal his surprise. He didn’t want to get everyone worked up about the mirror just now. There were far more important matters at hand.
After checking around the corner with the mirror, Harry assured the rest of the group that there was nothing in the adjacent corridor and, very hesitantly, handed the mirror back to Hermione. She seemed to have noticed something odd about the way Harry was acting, because she gave Harry a very confused look. “Later,” he mouthed to her as discreetly as he could. She gave the tiniest of nods, and Harry knew that she would not let him “forget” to explain.
Harry led the way around the corner, disappearing just in time to miss the foot that had swept from under Ron’s robes through the air to where he had been standing only a second before.
They were moving much slower than Harry would have liked, but there wasn’t much he could do to get the others moving faster. The pain in his foot had subsided, and he could now feel Neville trembling next to him, hanging on to the sleeve of his bathrobe. All eight of the Gryffindors had their wands out, all pointing in various directions. Dean and Seamus had turned around and were now walking backwards, so as to prevent any surprise attacks.
They went on like this for some time, always stopping at the corners so Harry could check to see if anyone – or anything – was around the other side. After the third corner had been cleared, Harry made to give the mirror back to Hermione, but she wouldn’t have it.
“Oh, just hold on to it for now,” she said resignedly. "It just doesn’t make sense to keep passing it back and forth like that.” Harry nodded his thanks to her and dropped the mirror into his pocket. He disappeared around the corner, missing yet another of Ron’s kicks. What he didn’t miss, but also didn’t want to think about at the moment, was the hesitant tone in Hermione’s voice as she told Harry to keep the mirror. Harry couldn’t make heads or tails of why she had the mirror in the first place, and her reluctance in giving it to Harry made it all the more suspicious. The mirror, however, was driven out of Harry’s mind by movement ahead of them in the corridor.
The others had seen it, too. Something had definitely moved in the shadows up ahead. Harry motioned for the others to retreat back around the corner. He wished now, more than ever, that he had thought to bring his father’s old Invisibility Cloak with him. Whatever had moved was still now, and remained hidden from view, but Harry continued to feel its presence. All of a sudden, the thing moved again, and to Harry’s dismay, set off down the corridor towards Harry. The figure, as Harry could now see by the moonlight that was illuminating through the windows in the corridor, was tall and slender, hidden under a dark cloak. It was gliding gracefully, yet menacingly, towards Harry, gathering speed with every foot it overtook. Out of fear, and without stopping to consider, Harry raised his wand and yelled, “Expelliarmus!”
The figure was thrown backwards, and Harry heard a dull thud as it collided with the wall and slid to the floor. The rest of the group came running back around the corner and skidded to a halt behind Harry. “Lumos,” Harry whispered, illuminating the tip of his wand like a Muggle flashlight, and heard everyone behind him follow suit. They crept forward towards the figure that was now slumped on the floor, apparently unconscious. As they got nearer to it, the figure stirred, making Lavender and Parvati shriek, and prompting Hermione’s infamous full-body bind.
“Petrificus Totalus,” she said hurriedly, making the figure’s body straighten and freeze.
“Nice thinking, Hermione,” Neville said with a small shudder, obviously recalling the occasion in their first year when he had been the unfortunate victm of the very same hex his bushy-haired friend had just peformed.
“Thanks,” she breathed, panting, not taking her eyes off of the board-stiff figure that was lying at their feet.
A/N: Since you have already taken so much time out of your day to read this, please spare an extra half a minute to tell me if it was any good! Reviews make my day and I am quick to respond to all of them!!!!