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Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Hogwarts at Halloween was always my favorite time of the year. The leaves nearly glowed with their warm autumn hues, and I was a glutton for the crisp outdoor temperatures and occasional glimpses of the golden sun. The castle was usually decorated with pumpkins and candles, and spread of food was always outstanding.
During my seventh year, I had been looking forward to Halloween the entire month. When the day finally arrived, my best friends Nathan Longbottom and Curtis Draust and I planned to spend the day outside studying for N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration before donning our best robes and tucking in for Halloween dinner. It was only seven degrees centigrade that day, and I thought Nathan and Curtis might actually kill me. Once November hit, the temperatures would rapidly drop, and I was not quite prepared to give up the bountiful grounds of Hogwarts.
Lily was at Hogwarts by then, a fourth year Gryffindor who was showing brilliant aptitude for pretty much every subject. Her red hair hung straight down her back, more rich in color than any of the other Weasley cousins. She was willowy; all arms and legs that seemed to go on for miles. The tallest girl in her year, I spotted her easily that evening in the great hall. She was smiling and laughing with our cousin Louis. With a quick wave to me, she made her way to the other end of the table.. I was sitting next to Nathan and Curtis, our cheeks still rosy from our afternoon in the mild sunshine.
Professor McGonagall stood in the front of the school, her eyes slowly fading into the copious wrinkles decorating her aged face. She was aging, that was sure, but she still ruled the school with an iron fist, and I had come to respect her, especially after I learned the things she had done for my father during the war. Her smile was wide as she announced the beginning of dinner, and my mouth started watering immediately as the delicious meal magically appeared on the long tables.
“Tuck in, Gryffies, this is a good one,” I heard the head boy, Callum Davis say with glee as he chose a relatively large turkey leg.
I elbowed Nathan and laughed as I took healthy portions of every dish that would fit on my plate.
“I am starving,” Curtis announced , as though everyone else at the table was not feeling the same thing. I laughed and stuffed my face, so grateful for the warm meal in front of me.
From across the loud and boisterous room, I saw my brother, Albus, laughing beside his friends at their table. He was dressed in the traditional green and silver garb of Slytherin, and he’d let his dark hair grow out so that it hung limply against his pale neck. I didn’t interact with him much then, but I knew as a sixth year, he was doing well in his N.E.W.T. level classes and was interested in applying for an internship at the ministry that summer. Slytherins were known for being very close knit and for keeping largely to themselves. They had taken a huge hit following the war and their numbers continued to be low due to the desires of incoming first year students feeling the pressure under the weight of the sorting hat. Now their table was only three quarters full, but the students who were there seemed to make the most of their disadvantage in numbers.
“James, did you finish that essay for potions? I’ve only just started,” Lucy Chambers said between bites of parsnips.
“Luce, I really don’t want to talk about classes right now, this is my favorite night of the year. Don’t ruin it with your incessant mothering about school.” I offered her a small smile to atone for my biting response, and she rolled her eyes at me.
“Incessant mothering? Honestly sometimes I think you’d be better suited for Ravenclaw with that ridiculous vocabulary.” She smiled at me, her chestnut curls falling flatteringly around her heart shaped face. I pushed the appealing nature of her physical attributes aside and chose instead to focus on her tendency to be obnoxious.
“Come over here and say that to my face, Chambers. I’ll hex you to tomorrow.”
“I’d love to see you try.”
“Oh my God, stop with the flirting and eat your damn food,” Curtis complained, stuffing his face with a pumpkin muffin. I rolled my eyes and brought my attention back to the very important issue at hand—my dinner. I didn’t really like Lucy, but she had some redeemable qualities that made me tolerant of her at the best of times.
A loud pop issued from across the room suddenly, and my head shot up as the large doors to the great hall creaked open.
“Hissssssss,” came a chilling sound, which began to crescendo at an alarming speed. At first I thought it was part of the Halloween festivities, but Professor McGonagall’s sharp movements indicated otherwise. As a prefect, I stood and glanced sideways at the head boy, who was on his feet already, attempting to keep our fellow gryffindors calm.
Without warning, thick black smoke began to rise from the corners of the room, quickly obscuring any available vision. I could hear the panic rising as the students at our table began to cough due to the onyx clouds filling up the hall. Because of its acrid nature, I could tell that it was some sort of chemically altered black out powder that could be found at Uncle George’s shop.
“Hisssssss” came the sound again.
“SNAKE!” I heard a shriek from one of the hufflepuffs, and the hall erupted in absolute chaos. I could hear people scrambling for the exits, the hissing nearly deafening. All thoughts of my meal forgotten, I rounded up as many Gryffindors as I could at the instruction of Professor McGonagall, who had used a sonorous charm to amplify her voice.
“It’s a basilisk,” A nearby Ravenclaw theorized to her terrified friends. I knew this wasn’t true; I’d heard my father’s story of the Chamber of Secrets, but just the thought of it loose in the castle chilled me to the bone.
“This way,” I yelled to my group of Gryffindors. There were about twelve of them, between first and third year. I couldn’t actually see them, but we made a chain by holding hands, and I prayed that we would be able to get out in time. If I was correct about this being black out powder, then it would still be another minute or so before the vision would start to clear. My main objective was just keeping everyone safe.
I heard something that sounded vaguely like wings flapping, and I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. My eyes were watering, but I squinted through the darkness to no avail. Seconds later, I was sprawled out on the floor, my knee throbbing in pain. Whatever I had tripped over wasn’t a snake, but it hissed in my ear.
“Stay back!” I shrieked to my group.
“What in the actual fuck…” I trailed off. It was…it couldn’t be…
I pushed myself to standing and noticed some thin rays of light breaking through the all-consuming darkness. Glancing down, I saw it.
“A goose?!” I asked incredulously, as it honked in my ear and scampered off. Within seconds , it became clear. The entire great hall was full of geese, their full feathered wings flapping in distress as they hissed and honked their way to the front of the room, tainting all the food that had been made from us.
The room finally cleared up enough to provide a view of the scene. Panic was still running rampant throughout the younger students, but the older years were breathing a sigh of relief. There must have been four hundred geese, all of them hissing angrily. Several students were on the floor clutching ankles and knees, as they too had fallen victim to the prank gone horribly wrong. The only table that did not appear to be shaken in the least was the north end of the Slytherin table.
There, about fifteen Slytherins, including my younger brother, sat laughing hysterically at the craziness. They seemed completely unfazed by the events that had unfolded, and actually seemed to be mocking it. Of course. They thought it would be a hilarious prank to ruin Halloween dinner and unleash hell in the form of hissing geese.
I had never seen Professor McGonagall so angry. When it was completely said and done, three students had to have broken bones mended, one had a split lip, and the one poor girl sustained smoke damage in her lungs, made worse by the fact that a childhood magical illness resulted in a total lung capacity of 65%. She was in the hospital wing for a week.
Albus and his Slytherin cronies received a one week suspension from school without the possibility to make up the work missed, detention for the next three months, strongly worded letters sent home to their parents, and 1500 points subtracted from Slytherin- 100 for each student involved. Their rally for the house cup never recovered that year.
I had never seen my mother and father more upset about anything in my life. We had all heard stories of our Uncle George and his brother Uncle Fred and their pranking days, but they had never done anything as dastardly as this.
When I had my final day at Hogwarts and left to start training at the ministry in the auror department, I had never been so glad to get away from the quiet, smoldering embers of anger that had infected every interaction my family had. Little did I know it was only going to get worse.