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Fantastic Staff and Where to Find Them by Dumbledores Army

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Format: Short story collection
Chapters: 57
Word Count: 168,224
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme,

Genres: General
Characters: OtherCanon
Pairings:

First Published: 08/29/2006
Last Chapter: 10/08/2006
Last Updated: 12/23/2007

Summary:
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Hogwarts wouldn't be anywhere without its staff ... and neither would HPFF. Thanks so much to all of you - we hope you appreciate this little gift. =)


Chapter 1: Welcome Aboard
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Welcome aboard the Hogwarts Express! I don’t believe we’ve ever had the pleasure of making acquaintance, so let me introduce myself. My name is Lawrence Wellington and I am the conductor of this grand train that takes you to and from Hogwarts each year. Through the years, I have been carefully observing each and every one of you, watching you grow and change, mature and develop your powers. I have never been more proud of any group of students, and I would like to share some memories, very special memories, with you that have never been told before.

My story begins at over a millennia ago, when four very eager and very gifted wizards founded the illustrious Hogwarts castle. Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Salazar Slytherin each gave something special to this school; a little piece of themselves.

Behind the battle of wills and testimonies of time, the underlying theme that the founders wished to recognize was unity. And with unity came a landmine of decisions. Decisions were not something the founders saw eye to eye on all the time. However, while Godric and Salazar had their differences, Rowena and Helga had kept the ideals of the educational system in tact. Over time, the four founders had proven that with the unity of their distinct backgrounds, Hogwarts could become a goldmine of knowledge, learning and power. No matter what tales of abandonment and hostility have been told, the founders remain a part of history, well past their dying days.

Speaking of dying, you know that with each house, there is a ghost attributed to it? Yes, well, we shall explore into their lives and deaths as well. Each were eager to give the stories that most people were often too afraid to ask.

The Bloody Baron is the official ghost of Slytherin's house. He's known to take to towers, letting his booming voice echo off of the walls. And though not many know what killed him, there is a story to tell that is historically plausible. The Grey Lady is perhaps one of the smartest students to graduate from Hogwarts. She was named the official ghost for Ravenclaw. She watches over her students and is rumored to have a special student to follow each year. Sir Nicolas De Mimsy Porpington, a ghost who braved an axe to the neck multiple times, is officially named as the spirit of Gryffindor. We shall share stories of his fabled life, and the love that resided in it. And finally, the loyal Fat Friar. He serves as the humble ghost of Hufflepuff. Not much is known about how a Wizarding man had become a friar, but there is speculation that will point us in the right direction. Separately from the houses dwells a spirit of sorts. Peeves the Poltergeist, whom some call the devil inside the walls, has such a hidden tale, that it had taken me years to find those who have best searched his past. In laughs and horrors, he is the prankster of the school.

Not much is known of their lives. I, however, have an inside scoop for you, provided by those who researched them the best. Through fables and follies I shall show you what is known, what is guessed and what is presumed of your favorite and most frightening inhabitants of Hogwarts.

Thrilling tales do not lie only with the ghosts that haunt the castle. A many number of stories have been spun about the great leaders of Hogwarts. The Headmasters and Headmistresses throughout the years have all had amazing and enchanting stories to tell. Being on such good terms with the staff, as I am, leaves me with the ability to find those who are most knowledgeable about the Heads. My skills with charm are very advanced and I have convinced them to bring you more fascinating tales of the journeys of the Hogwarts leaders.

Probably the most noted female Headmistress was none other than Dilys Derwent. Not only was she known for her tender care of Hogwarts' most prestigious position, but also for the charitable donations of time and funds to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Her portrait hangs on the wall merrily next to another well-known Headmaster, Phineas Nigellus-Black.

Phineas was most known for his ability to keep himself distanced with any of his students within Hogwarts. Though, there is a tale from a reliable source that says Phineas had his reasons for watching from the sidelines. Hung on the infamous Headmaster wall, lye both Fortesque and Everard, whose tales have been lost in time at the hands of generations that have come and gone.

While very little is known about Everard's short time as Headmaster, one can tell an awful lot by looking deeper at his portrait in the Headmaster's office. Within his frame is a story that is harvested by very few people, but should be taught to everyone who walks through the doors of the castle. Fortesque is a harder one to gain knowledge about. His time as Headmaster was short lived, but at the same time a stunning adventure had taken place. An adventure deeming him worthy of the title that was bestowed upon him.

More recently was the reign of Armando Dippet. Though he notably held office while He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a student, there is more than meets the eye with this humble and adored Headmaster. Serving the magical school immediately after Dippet was the man who was called by most, the only Wizard that You-Know-Who feared, Albus Dumbledore. His recent demise has only fueled the fire that burns within the walls of Hogwarts, each teacher now determined to prove the former Headmaster's name - the man who had once rid the world of the Darkest Wizard of the age.

Newly appointed Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, succeeds her former Headmaster and confidante. With a background in firm and fair discipline, mixed wonderfully with a profession as Transfiguration instructor, there is no doubt in any Wizard's mind that Hogwarts will remain a grand place in her ruling. Minerva's strong background in teaching will be a hard suit to follow. But, her fellow colleagues are more than up to the task.

You were not foolish enough to think that the Headmasters and mistresses could support a school all by themselves, were you? No, its staff has supported each Headmaster marvelously. Each had a different life before Hogwarts- from fame and fortune to poverty and disregard. No two stories are the same, and yet they all came to Hogwarts, blended together, and formed the best staff around for a millennia of learning.

Directly supporting the Heads through time have been the carefully selected professors. Though their subjects and education varied, each felt a calling to the school and served it to the best of their ability.

Charms professor, Filius Flitwick, has held his post for one of the longest period of times of any of the present staff. He has had his adventures, of which you'll hear more of later. But it contrasts the best with those subjects that have been filled multiple times over the years. Hogwarts has had its slew of Potions Masters, including Horace Slughorn who, after a long leave of absence, came back to teach on behalf of Severus Snape. Severus Snape, Hogwarts own double agent, served the school as Potions Master before finally getting his wish to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.

The Defense Against the Dark Arts class what a hard position to fill due to the curse that was rumored to be placed on those who took the post. Just after the retiring professor Merrythought left, a disastrous curse was placed; rumor has it, by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Brave enough to enter the service of Hogwarts, under such title, was Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, who was best known as the mad ex-Auror whom was held hostage by Barty Crouch, Jr. It was thus that he never got the chance to actually teach a class, instead stayed locked up in a chest.

Not all the stories of the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts are bad, though. Both Dolores Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart left the post of their own doing. It is said that Dolores was setting herself up for doom once she entered the position and was driven out by three of Hogwarts own heroes. Gilderoy, much the same, with his dazzling smile and charm, ended up in the incurable ward in St. Mungo's after turning his wand on himself and obliviating all of his memories.

Sad are the stories of innocence turned awry, like those of Remus Lupin and Quirenius Quirrel. While Quirrel turned to the dark for the power and infamy, Remus Lupin had no choice. His werewolf instincts were directly linked to his past friends and, in a fight to save lives, he had single handedly doomed himself to be evicted from Hogwarts. This was his decision, unlike Quirrel who perished at the hand of another.

There are those who have attempted to tell the future of the school and those who tell fortunes within it. Professor Sybill Trelawney, though seemingly mental, has had her share of divine epiphanies. And, a new addition founded by the late Headmaster Dumbledore, is Firenze, a centaur from the Forbidden Forest. Along side of them in a divinatory atmosphere is Professor Vector, who teaches Arithmancy.

Closely related to them as well is Professor Sinistra, teaching Astronomy. While she spends most of her classes outdoors showing the students the positions of the stars, she is not the only one. A good number of Hogwarts Professors teach outside the restrictive walls of the castle. Pamona Sprout, the Herbology professor and head of Hufflepuff, takes the students into the greenhouse and shows them all she knows about magical plants and herbs.

Near the greenhouses you will find a menagerie of outdoor creatures, which inhabit the dark forest on the grounds. Taking care of these creatures and those who dwell on the land is Rubeus Hagrid, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts, once the position of the man known as Ogg. And, very recently, he has taken over for Professor Kettleburn as the Care of Magical Creatures instructor. Because of the rough nature of the job, or missions that are a mystery to most everyone, Hagrid leaves the position in the hands of Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank. This jolly woman has covered Hagrid's position a number of times and without a doubt knows her magical creatures.

Also outside, on the Quidditch Pitch, Rolanda Hooch holds her classes for flying. Not only does she instruct the students how to fly, but she is also the referee for the Hogwarts Quidditch season. Because of the reckless nature of Quidditch, Madam Hooch has spent countless days in the hospital wing, filling in the nurse, Poppy Pomfrey, on the goings-on with the fallen players. Poppy has done an excellent job in keeping the staff and students at their best. There was one teacher in which she missed: Professor Binns, History of Magic Professor.

While she takes care of the people within the school, there are others in positions to take care of the school itself. Past and present caretakers, Pringle and Filch, have all done a splendid job with the upkeep. Each had their own reasons to concierge a monstrous school, and none of them care for the belittled respect they receive from the students. Hopefully their stories will aid them in getting the glory they deserve.

And if those tales were simply not enough to satisfy the knowledge that you crave to quench, there is more. While the staff try their hardest to keep all toes inside the line at every minute of the day, 'tis not always possible. Each year there are chosen ones who, with the help of their Head Boy and Girl, try to keep the school in line to the best of their abilities. To get the feel for their jobs well done, we'll explore what each Prefect and Head Boy and Girl have accomplished, suffered and thrived in.

Most Head Boys and Girls have gone on to much bigger and better things. There are a few who get lost along the way, pointed in the wrong direction by either outside forces or internal battles. A prime example is Tom Riddle, or as very few know him, Lord Voldemort. At school he had everything, charm, knowledge and skill. But soon after, he went down in history as the Darkest of all Wizards.

One horrible experience though, was not enough to scare some from the position. Lost by the hand of the mentioned Head were both Lily Evans and James Potter, the man and woman who spawned the boy who has been called to rid the world of the darkest wizard. While they were mostly known for their work against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, there is so much more to their lives. The stories within will explain how they fell in love and triumphed when life couldn't possibly get any worse.

It seems that families have a knack for falling in line with one another, getting the position of Head Boy or Prefect. The Weasley family, thus far, has procured three of the positions. Bill Weasley was their first Head Boy, followed by Percy Weasley who now works for the Ministry. Ronald Weasley, the youngest son has achieved the spot of Prefect in just the last couple of years.

A lot of the time, those who are ept to make Prefect are a close bunch, chummy with one another through their length of school. Ron Weasley, for example was close with one Hermione Granger. Hermione has been known to be the brightest witch of her age. From a source, revealed later on, I have gained knowledge that the two are involved romantically.

And they are not the only two to have been said to be more involved than a platonic relationship. Ernie Macmillian and Hannah Abbott were also known to be close knitted. Their stories of love and loss have been passed down from the recent generation and will be told to you today.

Above-mentioned Percy Weasley was involved with a Ravenclaw Prefect named Penelope Clearwater. It is said that they have remained together, but some sources indicate otherwise. What really happened with these two, you ask? You'll just have to keep listening to find out!

Nothing can be more dramatic than losing a classmate at such a young age. Thus was the story of Cedric Diggory. It was from his death, however, that a very special group was found. Dumbledore's Army, which started off as a silly idea by a lost and angered girl, sprouted new wings as it took off and enveloped more of the students and offered them a chance to fight for their future. Members included Prefects such as Padma Patil and Terry Boot. Neither were so keen to join, sources tell me, but both flourished under the hand of their leader.

Some Prefects, as it was with the Heads, chose a more destructive path. Family legacy and out-aged tradition lured Draco Malfoy into the clutches of the frightening Dark Lord. His whereabouts are still unknown, but there are theories floating around everywhere. One source tells us that his girlfriend, Pansy Parkinson is hiding him. Though, she has denied such a claim. Where is it that he has gone and what is he doing? One can only guess. But, Pansy offers different answers than most have given. She sticks by his side, even as I tell you their tales and even indulges in the passion behind their relationship.

I have barely scratched the surface on each and every one of these individuals. So now is where we leave the present and venture into the past, where lives and times collide to form the foundation of the greatest of all Wizarding schools. Join me on an adventure that will show you exactly where you come from and why you are here. Sit and hear the tales of the Fantastic Staff and Where to Find Them.


A/N -The staff of WPSS would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people who made this great idea possible; JaxGranger, Scarhead, and PropMaster - for helping with the validation process; All of the members of WPSS - the contributors of the stories, graphics and beta reading you will find within this fiction. And, while the staff had a large hand in planning and organizing to keep this secret, we would also like to thank those of you who knew what we were doing and kept it a secret from the staff.

WPSSers -Kick back and relax. It's been a fun six months - now it's time to shine!


Chapter 2: The Bloody Baron
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By: Dobby101 and Jessi_Rose
Title: How the Blood Came to Be
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence)
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Arithmancy_Wiz
For the Staff: Thanks to PropMaster, Scarhead, and JaxGranger for keeping it a secret and validating the chapters! And to MadameSnape and Jay for allowing us to validate them the way we did! This story wouldn't be here without any of you!

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A/N: This is an AU fiction.

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Ring around the Rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down."



The Bloody Baron hovered in the dungeons next to Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington. It was his half Death Day Party, and of course, Nick was the only one to show. There were always ghosts around at his regular Death Day, but the half ones seemed to be a bit of a joke throughout the community- among ghosts and people alike.

"Why don't you just leave?" the Baron said in a very hoarse voice, motioning towards the door. "Nobody else is going to show up. I don't understand why you came anyway."

"Well, I always come to any party I'm invited to," Nick said. "It gets dreadfully lonely being a ghost, and I think you should know that, considering you're one too."

Nick turned to go, but halfway into the wall, he turned around and came back. "Actually, if you don't mind my asking and since you would be dreadfully lonely down here, can I ask you a very personal question?"

"Why, yes, if you really need to know." The Baron waited for his response.

"How did you get covered in blood? So many students have asked me over the years and I am really getting tired of telling them the same thing each time. But, of course, I don't have to tell them if you don't want me to," Nick said the Baron apprehensively.

The Baron's face broke into a wide smile. "I've always wanted somebody to ask that, but they all seemed too scared to do so. It all dates back to the Medieval Ages, when the knights were becoming stronger."

~*~


My breath was slowly shrinking into nothing as I ran along. The knights were coming to destroy him and I had no way of tracking how far they were behind me. But I had to stop somewhere, and the closest place was a small village nearby which was infected with the Death disease. So far, my town hadn't had the sickness near us, but it was spreading quickly. The people knew it would be upon us soon.

I wasn't sure why the knights were coming after me. Some motioned that our town had witchcraft going on among us, which was entirely true, but we denied it. I could've just blasted all of those ruddy knights away, but I had lost my wand about a week ago and it was nowhere to be found.

So I had no choice but to run. The next village infected with the Death disease was coming up, and it was the only place I could go safely. It was common knowledge that the knights wouldn’t dare enter a place with such an illness.

I could see the houses coming up and I ran a little faster. In the streets, there were people walking around, coughing, panting, and losing energy quickly. I tried not to touch anybody or anything as I moved through the streets. There was a small house in the distance that looked clean and I figured it was the only place I could stay.

I tripped on the step and came crashing down on the dirt below me, knocking my head hard against the door. I'm not sure how long I blacked out for, but when I woke up I was surrounded by peasants that I had never seen before in my life. Each wore a look of terror upon his or her face, which led me to believe that my chasers were not far behind. And though they may not enter the village, they had their ways of extracting me from it.

A mother, a young, frumpy woman with prematurely graying hair, composed herself and took a shaky step toward me. A little girl, about five years old, followed in her mum's footsteps, jumping from foot to foot as if she wanted to pounce on me. Then, a little boy, one whom held a look of disgust, stepped up behind his mother.

Before I had a chance to inquire as to their blatant and rude staring, I noticed that I was lying upon a solid wood bed, with tattered covers tucked around my body. I was at a loss of what to say, until I heard a hoarse coughing from the back of the shack-like room. The disease was closer than I thought.

I jumped up and out of my bed, swaying a little bit from my lack of posture, and searched through my jacket for my wand, then remembering that I had lost it, my hands dropped to my side. I stood defenseless in front of many strangers.

"Who are you?" the little boy spat. "Nobody with half a brain comes into this village."

"My name is James," I muttered. There was no need to tell them my surname. They could have been in contact with the knights.

"Well, my name is Elizabeth, this is Ethel and Salazar, my daughter and son. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." The woman stuck out her hand and I grabbed it and let it go in one fast motion. Ethel, her daughter, imitated her mother, but I just ignored her. The less contact the better.

There was an awkward silence that gave me a chance to look around the room. The outside of the house could mislead somebody into thinking there was just one bedroom contained within, instead of a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms with two cots in each.

"What are you doing here?" Salazar spat again, breaking the quiet. "Don't you know the Disease is here?"

"Yes, I do, but the knights are after me," I said absentmindedly, but immediately knew my mistake. Oops.

"The knights?" Elizabeth asked in fear. "You can stay here then."

That wasn't the type of treatment I thought I would get. But I would take any hospitality right now. "Thank you so very much. I will of course not be any burden to you."

Salazar huffed and left out the back door without another word. I looked after him, wondering what was wrong.

"I'm very sorry about him. He doesn't exactly fit in with everybody."

I knew exactly what she meant. When I was a kid, I lived in a village just like this one with all the normal children. I would always make things happen that I couldn't explain, until the day somebody came along and whisked me away to the Wizarding village. I never looked back after that day. I never regretted it.

So I followed Salazar outside, into a green backyard. He was sitting with his back facing me, playing with some sort of stick. As I got closer, I saw a snake too and I recognized that stick. It was oak, about eight inches in length.

"That's my wand!" I said pointing to it, and Salazar looked up with disgust. "How did it get here?"

"It's your what?" he asked, now holding my wand within his fingertips, twirling it ominously.

"My wand! Please give it back. I need it!"

Salazar turned towards the snake and whispered to it. Why in the world would he be talking to a snake? That was only for the evil witches and wizards. Not for a Muggle.

"Are you.talking to that snake?" I asked incredulously.

"So what if I am? How did you get a wand? Nagini says that only the Evils from far away have these and they use them for bad things." Salazar stood up and walked right over to me with the most confidence I had ever seen in such a young boy. "You of all people shouldn't have one of these."

"If you give it back, I'll show you how to use it," I said slowly, with nervousness dripping through my voice. I shouldn't be doing this; only selected wizards can learn magic. But this boy was different. He was a Parselmouth.

Salazar seemed to consider this for a moment. His dark grey eyes showed confusion and eagerness. He stared at the wand in his hand. "Only if you show me how to use it."

I nodded, and he handed it over. I snatched it away from him and joy spread throughout my body. I had my wand back, finally.

"Now show me how to use it!" Salazar demanded.

I looked up and it was getting dark, so I taught him Lumos. And I was amazed when he got it down on the second try.

This continued for the next two weeks, me teaching Salazar how to use my wand. He picked up spells that even skilled wizards had a hard time mastering and, eventually, he carved himself a wand. Twelve inches, ash, snake fang. I'm still not sure how he managed it, but I'm guessing it had something to do with his Parsel abilities.

It dawned on me one day that my troubles with the inquisition might be over. That was until that fateful night when a man by the name of Richard III, the last King from the House of York, found my whereabouts. His men, who had been searching for me for nearly a month, alerted the new king at once and he made his way personally to finish me off. You see, Richard was trying to locate me after accidentally discovering my Wizarding abilities. When I refused to serve him, he declared that I should be decapitated.

Upon his arrival into the village of Dadlington Field, Richard was confused to see two men carrying wooden weapons, dueling in a friendly engagement. He immediately pulled on his horse's reins and stepped down onto the ground in front of us. I coughed wickedly while I quickly stowed my wand away into a pocket. Salazar, who was quick-witted, understood and did the same. We both stood up straight and looked onward towards Richard. I was praying he wouldn't recognize with my new wardrobe and freshly shaven face.

But my luck didn't continue. He noticed my body figure and knew immediately that it was me. Salazar stood by my side proudly and didn't seem intimidated by the man that was quickly swooping over to us.

"Sir Baron! Finally, I have caught up to you. This is your last chance. Be of service to me now or you will meet your unfortunate fate."

I sucked in a great deal of air before speaking. "My mind has not changed since the last time you sent your knights to summon me. Whatever the fate, I will not serve you."

"Then, surely the young man standing next to you will join my side?" Richard turned towards Salazar, giving him a piercing stare that could almost decide an answer.

Salazar fought it. I knew him enough to not fall down to somebody else's decisions. "No."

"Well, then, knights, kill him," Richard ordered, but his finger was not pointing towards me, instead the flesh was stretched out towards Salazar.

The knights flashed down with swords drawn high up into the air so that they gleamed against the morning sun. And before I knew what I was doing, I was standing in front of Salazar, taking the blow into my heart. I slipped away faster than I hoped into a neutral state. I was neither dead nor alive. Here I had to choose whether I would continue to stay upon the earth as the living dead, or go beyond into the heavens above.

With both my uninhabited body and Salazar in view, I grew frightened. What would happen to the child now that I was dead? Richard III stared at him with a terrifying gleam in his eyes; he would not spare the boy. My choice, a simple one at best, was to protect the defenseless, barely magical wizard that stood in the face of death. So I quickly did what I had to do and chose the life of a living dead person and got back down to Earth.

As soon as I was back, I didn't even have time to marvel at my new transparent body because Richard was towering over a crouched Salazar. I glided over as fast as I could and moved my body over Richard so he would sense the icy feeling on his body(flesh?). As soon as he saw me floating in front of him, his eyes widened and his face paled considerably. He stumbled backwards, hopped onto his horse and rode away without saying another word.

Right when he was out of sight, I turned back to Salazar and grinned. He was staring at me incredulously.

"You, I just saw you die, and now you're back as a ghost!" Salazar was in shock.

"Yes, it's something a wizard gets to choose when he dies and I just couldn't let you down, you needed me," I said to him. "You know, you are very talented, do you want to come back to the Wizarding community with me? I understand if you don't want to, but you do have very rare powers."

I stared at him expectantly. His eyes lit up and he smiled. He stepped forward bravely and took his wand out of his pocket. He did some motions with it, and in the air in front of me was a message.

"I would love to."


Chapter 3: Godric Gryffindor
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By: PropMaster
Chapter Graphic: PropMaster
Beta Read By: Arithmancy_Wiz and delta
Title: Young Godric
Rating/Warning: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: Simply, for Jay.

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“And at that very moment, what do you think happened? A fearsome roar was heard over the hill, and our poor Will, all a-tremble with fright, turns about on that dark path . . . the very path he had been warned by the wise old witch not to travel upon. And who should he see a coming down to him? Eh? Do you know, Hilda? How about you there, little Margery?” The youth who spoke was not much more than a handful of years out of childhood himself, perhaps six and ten, and he looked from face to face, suppressing a smile at the eager, tense little ones spread before him. A gust of wind swept through the stand of birch and hawthorn they were seated beneath, and the leaves whispered together as if conjecturing upon the answer as well.

He was a handsome youth, fair of hair and eye, and well-formed for one not yet a man, the body beginning to lose the gaunt, leggy appearance of late childhood. His shoulders pressed the seams of the linen shirt worn under the homespun tunic, and the points were straining against his chausses as he crossed his legs, slouching comfortably on the large rock next to the trees.

The dozen or so children assembled before him were a ragamuffin lot with their handed-down clothing and their tousled hair. A braver lass who had only recently left her toddlerhood behind spoke tentatively. “Godric . . . were it Jimmy Squarefoot?”

Godric smiled at her and gently chided, “Now, now, Gemma, you know as well as I that ol’ Jimmy Squarefoot is nothing to be scared of! Sure an’ he’s got the great head that looks akin to a boar and those big feet are a bit startlin’, but he’s harmless as a new-born lamb. Come on, then, who’s to take another guess?”

Their braver companion had broken the wall of silence, and the piping voices threw out a bevy of fabled creatures.

“‘Twas Urisk?”

“How ‘bouts that Ogre?”

“A Banshee!!”

More guesses, and more rejections followed. Godric let them go on for some time, for he delighted in their active imaginations and admired their tenacity. At last, he raised his hands for silence, holding them aloft for a dramatic moment, then let them fall to his knees with a slap. The children jumped, then giggled nervously.

“Our Will, that naughty, silly man who refused to listen to any good advice, had found himself on the gloomy road with none other than . . . Jack-In-Irons!” A collective gasp. “And well you may be shocked, my good lords and ladies! Jack-In-Irons is a ter-r-rible giant, tall and hairy, with chains wound all about the neck and middle, rattlin’ away as he walks. Chink, chink! He carries a mighty spiked club as big around as a tree, and tied to the chains are the heads of the unfortunate people who have crossed his path!”

“What did Will do?” squeaked a round-eyed boy with dirty smudges on his cheeks and the sticky remains of a feast-day confection forgotten in his fist.

“I’ll tell you, young Robby, son of Coenred,” Godric said jovially, then paused. “. . . At next week’s Rest Day.”

A chorus of sighs and no few complaints rippled across the gathered children. But they were an obedient lot, and as one, arose to return to the village. Godric hefted the youngest, little Anna de Swale who had just learnt to walk, up onto his shoulders and strode after the others, adjusting his pace to theirs.

But before they had moved more than beyond the grove, a scream split through the quiet late afternoon peace. Godric and the children froze.

The scream sounded, again and again.

In one swift movement, Godric swept his young charge off his shoulders and into the startled arms of one of the older girls. He whipped about, oriented on the sound and charged after it. “GO! . . . Back to the village! Get HELP!” he threw over his shoulder.

His boots pounded on the earth and velvety grass made soft by unusually heavy spring rains. Stands of heather and cotton grass twitched at his passing, the flowered heads bobbing and weaving, but he paid them no mind. His arms pumped forward and back, urging his body after the terrified voice.

Leaping over a tall stand of bulrush, Godric’s feet slipped downward over a patch of flattened deer sedge, right to the muddy edge of a large, black pool. He slid to his knees, momentarily winded, chest heaving, eyes darting about the sight before him.

The water, normally brackish and choked with duckweed and covered with green scum, was all astir, caused by a great churning coming from the centre. A small boy, not past his eighth birthing day was clutching desperately to a half-submerged gnarled tree limb, his hair plastered to his head with water and stringy moss, his hands white on the slippery rotted wood. He struggled for purchase on the branch, but was being slowly pulled away from it by a creature half submerged in the foul water.

Jenny Greenteeth, thought Godric grimly. She was a water-hag, a river faerie, in appearance like an old woman with sickly greenish-grey skin, hair like black stringy kelp and teeth sharp and vibrant green. The water boiled between her and the boy, and one frantic kick by the lad revealed she had a tight hold on one of his ankles with her bony fingers, and she was pulling him down into the murk.

The scream sounded again but it did not come from the lad, and a glance to the left showed a young girl perhaps the same age as the boy, standing at the water’s edge, her fists to her mouth and eyes fixed on the struggle in the pool. In an instant, Godric gained his footing and flew to her side, grabbing her about the middle and yanking her from the edge.

Kiena! Away from the water, girl!” He lifted her onto the higher embankment as if she weighed no more than a bundle of rags. “Stay here!”

Godric took two large steps into the water, sinking in the soft muddy bottom up to his thighs, and he reached into his tunic and the secret inner pocket within. But even in his haste he paused, acutely aware of the watching child behind him. With the smallest of movements and shielding the girl from view, he slipped the wand into his sleeve, clutching the end around his hand. He stepped further and now the water reached his belly. With his free hand, he slapped the surface of the pool.

Jenny! Hey, JENNY!” He slapped the water again.

The creature whirled and became still, but from the continuing struggles of the lad, she kept a steely hand on her prize. Seeing the older youth, the water hag hissed, her teeth flashing dully in the waning sunlight. An assortment of snails and leeches mottled her skin and her free hand swept ripples slowly back and forth restlessly, as if contemplating taking on the larger prey.

“Minesssss!” she snarled.

Godric slapped the water again, hard, and Jenny’s eyes flickered for a moment, following the movement his hand created. Ahhh, he thought, I’ve got you. He took another step, but now to the side, to the creature’s back. She was forced to crane her head to keep him in view, muscles rippling on her neck.

There was a sound behind him and further up the shore. Several gasps and cries informed him that not all the children had returned to town. Unfortunate, but he couldn’t let it distract him. All his attention was on the water. He took another step to the side.

“Aye, Jenny,” he said, his voice low. “Let’s have no trouble here. Let the lad go, now there’s a good girl.” He meanwhile shuffled his feet slightly on the pond’s bottom, seeking a more solid footing should it become necessary to attack. “Too many folk here, Jenny. Look about. Too many.” He knew Jenny Greenteeth, like many solitary predators, hated and feared crowds, preferring to hunt alone. A gathering of men-folk usually meant bright torches and sharp angry weapons.

Her slit eyes flickered once more, taking in the others on the bank and she hissed again. “The brat is mines. Minesss! Disturbsss my peace. Rocks he throws in my waterssss!”

Godric shuffled sideways once more, finding a firmer patch of bottom-ground, and then inched closer to Jenny’s back. She lowered herself further in the water defensively, the pool’s surface reaching to a level just below her mouth. She gazed sullenly up at him as she sank lower, and the boy gave a wet gasp as he was pulled lower into the dark depths.

“I’m afraid I can not let you do that,” murmured Godric, and with an explosive thrust of his legs, he dove straight for the water hag, flinging his arms forward. Three things occurred almost simultaneously: his hand pushed the wand from its hiding place in his sleeve and pointed it directly at Jenny; he shouted “Opprimo!”; and a bolt of red light shot from the wand. It impacted almost immediately with the centre of Jenny’s forehead. Then his body hit the water, his ears filling with the rush of bubbly sound, and with powerful strokes he was within a handspan of the evil faerie and the boy.

An instant before he could reach out, the now-stiffened Jenny slid beneath the water, dragging the exhausted boy with her.

With a powerful kick of his legs, Godric was there and sucking in a quick breath, and he dove beneath the surface. The noise of splashing and the cries of the other children were instantly silenced, replaced by the muffled eerie whoosh of the dark water. Opening his eyes, he could see nothing but a dull green glow, and he struck out long sweeping motions with his arms. He felt a soft limb almost immediately and yanked on it, kicking his legs to the surface.

As he broke free, the breath exploding from him in a spray, he hauled the child up in front of him, supporting his head. The boy coughed and sputtered, fighting wildly, beating Godric’s strong forearm weakly with his fists.

“Shhh, lad, it’s all right. Safe . . . you’re safe now.” Godric’s voice reached him, and the boy stopped his struggles, blinking up at him, eyes white and rolling. For a moment, the boy stilled, water dripping from his open mouth, and then he burst into tears.

In moments, Godric was at the bank and up out of the water, scooping the boy up in his arms and carrying him through the reeds to the other children awaiting in a tight knot on the embankment. As he laid the boy on the ground, Godric shook his head to clear the water dripping in his eyes, sending droplets spraying outward. He glanced at the white faces around him, and he saw what he hoped he would not.

The shock. The fear. All directed not at the horror in the water, but at him.

No longer needing to hide the wand they’d all witnessed, Godric sighed heavily, and carefully slid it back into his tunic, and stood. With an intake of breath, the children took a step back, away from him.

“What are you?” said Robby, eyes round in terror.

---

The sound of frantic scratching whispered across the small room, as Godric, now dry and clean, hastily scribbled a note on a torn piece of parchment. He worked feverishly, sweat standing out on his upper lip, and his hand trembled. Finishing, he blew on the paper momentarily to dry the ink, then folded it into a clumsy wad. He hastened to the window, throwing open the shutter, thanking the fates that this view opened to the woods and not the centre of the village. It was night now, the insects well into their nocturnal song. A dark form fluttered immediately to him, and he shoved the small paper into the beak of the grey owl. Not a moment too soon, too, for the latch to the door rattled and the bird took off on silent wings.

The door swung open with a bang and two men stepped in. Turning from the window, Godric had already schooled his features into a pleasant expression. “Alric, Coenred, well met. How can I help you this . . .”

“You need to come with us,” said the larger man, his eyes twitching uncomfortably, not able to meet those of the younger man. He was powerfully built, with a dirty leather apron and stained hands, the mark of a smithy.

The other man was not so polite. He, too, was tall with a thick neck and bald pate, a paunch hanging over his belt, and he lunged forward grabbing Godric by the elbow. “The Council would hear from your own lips what devilry occurred by the river. If t’were up to me . . .”

“But it isn’t up to you, now is it, Alric?” snapped Coenred. “The Council . . . they do the deciding. Godric, if you will . . .?” He stood aside the door.

Godric, his heartbeat suddenly loud in his ears, exited the small dwelling that had been his home these few weeks since arriving in the village. It had been a comfortable domicile, and he idly wondered if he would ever see it again.

The largest building in town was the Gathering Hall. A small crowd gathered before it, mostly women and children, and they hastily stepped aside as he approached. But one plump woman in a careworn dress and kerchief flung herself before him, half on her knees and grabbed his hand, kissing it over and over.

“Godric! Oh, Godric . . . thank you! A thousand times thank you! My son, my Sebbi . . . if it ‘adn’t been for you . . .” she couldn’t finish, weeping openly, laying his hand along her cheek. Embarrassed, Godric reached down to her and brought her to her feet.

“Mistress Gelly, please! No tears, all’s well . . . Sebbi’s all right, then?”

“Oh yes, he’s fine, I thankee,” she sniffled, wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron, then she straightened suddenly, standing erect and looking him in the eye. “And I’ll not see yeh accused of anythin’ you’ve done in defence of . . .”

“Anna!” barked Alric. “Now’s not the time, nor the place! Boy . . . inside!”

With a last squeeze on his hands, Anna let go, and Godric stepped over the heavy lintel of the Gathering Hall.

He should have been prepared for the press of bodies within by the dearth of such on the street, but as it was he paused, momentarily startled that so many people had crowded into the tiny Hall. A heavy smell of woodsmoke, wool, and tobacco hung in the air, giving the few braziers set about the room for light a misty halo. Rough-hewn benches lined the walls, people squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder upon them, the remainder shuffling on their feet beside and behind. All conversation ceased and every head turned as he stopped before them.

A shove from behind sent Godric stumbling to the centre, but the youth regained himself, noticing with some small relief that some of those gathered sent smiles of encouragement to him, as well as scowls for the roughness of Alric. Perhaps all was not lost.

Rapping a cane loudly on the table before him, a crooked backed old man with white hair and a sour expression barked out in a reedy, nasal voice, “All Ye! All Ye! This Council is ta order!” The few murmurs that had sprung up following Godric’s entrance were silenced. Godric turned to the head table behind which the man sat, observing him and the others a-seated there.

There were four in total, he noted, and all were known to him. There was the one who had just spoken, Old Geoffrey he was called, and despite his dour face, he was an amiable enough fellow. Godric had fixed a hole in his roof only two days past. Redwald Hunter and Mistress Hunter were next, and it was their daughter, Kiena, who’d been screaming by the pool. Redwald’s face was stony, but his wife smiled and winked at Godric. It was a well-known joke in the village who held the purse-strings in that family. Lastly was Big Oswald the Tanner, his bad eye casting slightly to the right and his hands permanently stained a reddish brown from his profession folded quietly before him on the table.

“A serious matter has been brought before us, young Godric,” began Redwald, his voice vibrant and solemn. “We know what occurred today at the river . . . aye, we know it all . . . the witnesses were many, the accusations – profound. How do you plead?”

Godric took a breath, knowing every word was of utmost importance. “Plead? Kind sirs, gentle ladies, I know of nothing to plead to. What crime has occurred? I pulled Sebbi from the foul clutches of Jenny Greenteeth, it’s true, but where’s the crime in that?” He spread his hands wide, innocent, and a few murmurs followed his speech in support.

“Tis true!”

“No harm!”

“Helped him, ‘e did!”

“No!” shouted Alric, jumping to his feet. He was surrounded by several ready men of the same age, many of them with crossed arms and dark faces turning an ugly eye on the handsome youth standing alone. “He’s unnatural, unclean! My Robert said he saw fire shoot from his hand and tha’s no lie!” He took a step into the room’s centre, pivoting about, gauging his audience. “You know what that is, don’t you? Demon power . . . magick! This lad whom we’ve taken into our village, embraced as one of our own . . . he be nothing more than a witch!” A chorus of agreement rumbled through the room, but Old Geoffrey thwacked his cane to the table again in irritation.

“Shut yer gob, Alric. We knows yer feelin’s. You aren’t on the Council, are yeh? Yeh let us abat our business, an’ you keep ta yers!” He nodded at the quiet, and glanced back at Redwald.

“As I was saying, the township stands before you, ready to hear an explanation should you have one,” said Redwald, his eyes blinking slowly.

Godric squared his shoulders. Very well, then, he thought, we are at the meat of it. Too much time has passed already. You are Gryffin’s son; you can do this. He spoke then, his voice clear and strong.

“You all know me. You know I came here two fortnights past, asking nothing more than bed and board in exchange for a good day’s labour. That I’ve given and more.” Many nodded. “I’ve chopped your wood, hunted, repaired the thatch, milled the grain, and even entertained you a time or two with my travels.” Murmurs again – yes, young Godric was well-known in folklore and story-telling.

Godric took a step forward and pivoted about slowly, trying to meet every eye in the room. “What you do not know is that I came to you with a purpose. My father sent me. He is a great man, a learned man, a noble in his part of the country, and it is his duty as it was his father’s before him to seek out isolated communities like this one, those places who have lost their way, their heritage, their magick. YES!” he shouted against the sudden rising yells of the crowd. “I AM a magick user, but so are you all!

The response was calamitous, the people rising from the benches, yelling, raising their fists in protest. Old Geoffrey returned to pounding his cane, to no avail. But a further commotion from the back of the room interrupted the tumult.

Pushing through the crowd was a remarkable sight. Four youths shuffled forward in unison, a chair balanced between them. Seated within was an old woman, her form bent and slanted to one side of the high-backed chair as if the weight of her own body was too much for her withered frame. She was heavily wrapped in robes and shawls, even over her head and face. Once near the centre, a thump from a swaddled hand on the wooden arm and the chair was set carefully upon the dirt floor. The young men stepped deferentially aside.

Her entrance to the Council was electric. The room stilled instantly and even Alric and his mob pulled back, their eyes wide. Godric noted this with some satisfaction. So, old woman, he thought to himself, I’ve drawn you out at long last.

A dry cackle emanated from the robes, followed by a voice strong yet not belying the age of its bearer. “Yes . . . you have, young Godric, son of Gryffin.”

Godric was startled. He hadn’t expected this! He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted again. Alric had stepped forward. “Ancient One, we have caught a witch, this man, plying his way with our children . . .”

“Rubbish!” the old lady snapped. “You are an ignorant fool, Alric. You know not of what you speak. A witch is a woman; THIS is a wizard.” She dismissed Alric with a wave of her muffled hand, and then turned her cowled head to him. He could not make out her face against the dark cloth and the shadow it created. “Tell me, young wizard, do you know the penalty for wizardry in this part of the land? Do you know it’s the gibbet or the pyre for any who dares admit to having magick?”

Godric performed a small bow, no more than a tilting of the head, but his deference to her was clear. “Do I have the pleasure of addressing Mistress Merewen at long last?” From almost the moment he’d stepped foot in the village, he had heard tell of the Ancient One Merewen, the town’s eldest member and its founder. She was reported to be wise in nearly everything, and Godric had tried to see her repeatedly. She never came out of her hut but kept a carefully controlled audience, all entirely at her leisure. No one saw her without permission.

She chuckled. “Yes, young sir, you now have my undivided attention. Would you care to explain your last remarkable statement?”

“Or would you?” Godric replied. The rest of the room and its occupants were no longer in his awareness -- it was only he and the lady. “Can you tell me why an entire community of magickal folk have denied themselves, have suppressed their natural gifts to the point of out-right fear and loathing of such abilities? Can you explain why even the children believe such talent is a thing to be terrified of, rather than nurtured for its innate power and beauty? Can you tell me that, Mistress Merewen?”

Beauty?!” the old lady suddenly hissed. “Call this beautiful, do you?” She ripped aside the cowl over her head, and Godric recoiled in momentary horror. The nearly bare head scalded of any remnants of hair, the red and white patches of skin and scarring, the distorted features -- all spoke of horrific trauma in the woman’s past. She shook off the wrapping over her hands, revealing scarred stumps where her fingers had been, the hands curled into stiffened claws. She spoke again out of a mouth twisted and disfigured. “THIS is what your beautiful magick has wrought!”

She paused letting the impact sink in. The room was silent. No one dared speak.

“I was born in a village far to the south, one peopled by those of magick, aye, wizards and witches. Whole families. We dwelt there for generations -- peaceful, undisturbed and un-disturbing. I was a girl not three and ten when they came, the hordes with their lances and cavalries and . . . and burning torches. Over a thousand strong.” The distorted eyelids closed, remembering. “We could see them crossing, spilling over the hills, surrounding us on three sides, the other being a dense forest impenetrable by so large a force. All who were able in their magickal skill stayed to defend the town, but because I had yet to come into my full power, I was sent into the forest with the children.”

“The fighting went on for a day and a night. We could hear it rolling through the trees like a distant summer storm that never moved on. Then the noise stopped, and that’s when the fires began. The smoke drifted through the trees where we hid, putrid, stinking smoke. Aye, we could hear the screams then. It was then that I, half crazed with terror and guilt, left the children to the oldest, a boy three years my junior -- that be Old Geoffrey there -- and I returned to the village, determined to help defend my family and my people. I had no chance . . . none.”

It was as if the entire room and those in it held their breath. Godric, nausea twisting at his stomach, sank to his knees before her, one hand held slightly up as if to ward off what she would say next.

“Do you know what it is to burn, young master Godric? Burn alive? Do you know what it is to see your parents, your brothers, your neighbours . . . tied at the stake or swinging in the evening breeze, all dead and dying? That is what your beautiful magick has done for us, wizard.” Merewen clumsily shuffled her hands again, to flip the dangling cloth back over the ravaged old wounds. A woman from the crowd, face pale and solemn, moved forward and rearranged the robes so that the old lady’s face was once again shadowed.

By now Godric’s head was bowed. He raised his eyes slowly to gaze imploringly at her, tears glistening on his cheeks.

“But . . . could they do nothing to defend themselves? Wards . . . impenetrable spells . . .”

“We were few, and they were many,” said Merewen tiredly. “Even the strongest of us couldn’t hold off a thousand determined killers. We were isolated, cut-off. We had not the skill, the knowledge . . . we didn’t need it because we were a peaceful community, welcoming everyone. We’d only learned what we needed to, not the fancy spells and incantations of the High Court. We didn’t know . . . we had no idea such cruelty could exist in the world.” She sighed. “I don’t know how -- perhaps the wood was green or the soldiers too tired or drunk to build the fire properly, or the officers in charge too eager to move on but I awoke to the terrified faces of the other children who had ventured out of the forest. They found me still alive and did their best to heal me.”

She looked down again at the muffled hands. “They didn’t have the way or the knowing. Our only healer was dead. We moved north, the children and I, to more sparsely populated lands and vowed never again to use that which had brought the devil upon us and that which had taken our families from us.”

Godric dropped his head again. This was worse, far worse than anything he or his father had imagined. When Gryffin, Prime Wizard, second class, Warder of the Southern Demesne, had sent his only son out upon his man-making journey, he’d given him few details of the destination, saying only that it was a ‘lost community needing to be brought back to the light of the magickal world’. Godric had been told nothing else, but he knew that was part of his initiation, to figure things out for himself. His father had only revealed the province to him from a letter . . .

Letter . . .

Godric’s head snapped up, his eyes wide, the breath suddenly quick in his chest. He met the calm, knowing eyes of Merewen gazing steadily back at him.

“It was you who sent the letter to my father,” his voice low, almost a whisper. Many in the crowd leaned in, trying to catch the words. “That letter . . . it asked for someone to come, someone to bring word . . .”

“. . . Of the magickal world, yes, to the good people, the decent people here who’d feared it for two generations and on into a third.”

“It was you,” he said again flatly, rising to his feet and looking down at her. Her eyes followed him upward, unblinking. “You SENT for me!

“Actually, t’was I did th’ writing.” Old Geoffrey stepped forward, shuffling with the aid of his cane. “Her hands . . . well, I did th’ writing,” he said again. His white beard twitched with his mouth and he took his place beside Merewen.

“I pressed the parchment.” An old woman, too, stepped forward and Godric struggled for the name. Avina? Yes, Avina Dodd, widow of Hugh and surprisingly, mother to Alric. Alric himself looked sick, his eyes shocked and round. Several others stepped forward as well, all elders and Godric realized this must be the remnants of that band of traumatized, heart-sick children that had carried Merewen out of the destroyed village.

“But why, mother?” Alric pleaded, his voice broken. “Why call for this . . .this . . .”

“The children, Alric, the children,” his mother said to him. “Little Hilla, Claricia, Robert, even tiny Oeric . . . it’s for them that we do this. Do you know that last winter while I tended to your hearth, Claricia caused a bowl of nutmeats to float over to her where she lay sick abed? I looked up and there they were, floating across the room as if they were a piece of dandelion fluff on a summer breeze. They reached her and she’d no more idea how they’d got there than I.”

“But why . . . why didn’t she tell . . .?” Alric began, but his mother’s sharp voice interrupted.

Why? Your words, my son, your very own words . . . witches are evil! How many times have I heard you use those angry words, and how bitter was my realization that I . . . I your mother . . . had put them there!

“We all did, Avina,” said Merewen quietly. She turned her eyes again to Godric. “I don’t know if one young as you can understand this, Godric, but when a person gets on in their years, they begin to see the world differently. We no longer look to what is ahead, but gaze back at what we’ve left behind. And we cared not for what we saw. This village, this community we have built grows in size but not in mind. We stagnate, fester till you see here . . .” She gestured at Alric and his men. “. . . You see what we’ve created, however unconsciously. All because of our fear.”

“We want our children, our grandchildren to learn of their past,” said Avina. “Learn from our past. We want the hatred to stop.”

“We had a traveller a-passing through in late winter,” spoke Merewen. “A wizard on a journey about the countryside, he said, a far-wanderer, not caring about the destination but the journey. He’d only made himself known to Geoffrey there, and he spoke of a great and good man, the Warder Gryffin, known for his call to unite the scattered magickal communities.” She looked pointedly at Godric, her scarred mouth twitching into its first signs of a smile. “I’d not an idea that he’d send his own son to us.”

Godric had to smile back, shaking his head ruefully. “But I kept trying to see you,” he said, “why’d you keep turning me away?”

“I’d only realized today who you were,” Merewen snorted. “Look at you! I thought the great Tor of Gryffin had sent his court page as a mockery. I’ll admit I was mightily put out and stayed in my hut out of spite. It was only after hearing of your good works about town that I began to take notice, and think that we may have someone to work with.” She smiled up at him, “Someone to work with indeed.”

“We have this magick, mother?” Alric wondered aloud. “And it’s not evil, but . . .”

“A good thing, yes,” finished his mother. “And you must learn it, Alric. For the sake of your children, and your children’s children.”

“Can you do this?” Merewen said directly to Godric. “Can you bring this community back to the magick that is their birthright? Can you teach us, Godric?”

Godric, standing tall before them, looked slowly over the crowd of young and old, and he smiled.

- - -

Honoured Father, I write most joyfully to inform that the tutors I bid you send have arrived safely and are happily installed with their charges. The children naturally learn quicker than those older, much to the chagrin of the parents, who learn at a much slower pace. The important lesson in humility seems to be doing some of the oldsters a modicum of good.

The war wizards have departed these two days past, and the shields and wards they placed remain intact. You might also be interested to know we have a budding healer on our hands. Young Kiena, daughter to Councilman Redwald has repaired a broken arm and two cracked ribs from a mishap during levitation lessons, and appears to take her vocation with extraordinary seriousness for one so young.

It has come time for me to part, and I journey on the morrow knowing the work here is well on its way. It makes me sad to leave, but I hope whatever I find over the next hill or over the far river will give me as much satisfaction as what I’ve done here.

Oh, and if it please you, inform Mother that I see her deft hand all over the sending of the Defensive tutor, Giles, who has spoken to me on a number of occasions on the superior qualities of his niece who is, as he repeatedly pointed out, is of marriageable age. Ah, yes, Mother, I see your machinations and you know my thoughts against settling at the present time. Especially to an unknown young woman named Helga, no matter her inestimable virtues!

Expect me back home at the Autumn Faire, and I shall expect to find a roaring fire in the main library and a good mulled wine to share with you while I regale you with tales of my travels.

I remain in duty and love,

Your son,
Godric.


The End




Chapter 4: Rowena Ravenclaw
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By: Wiccan
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and marauderin around
Title: One Child at a Time
Rating/Warning: 15+ (sensitive topic/theme/issue)
For the Staff: Two years ago, this newbie writer stumbled upon your site.
I was amazed at the level of support and encouragement that you all
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You are wonderful people. Thank you.

-----

A/N: This story is not necessarily my reflections on any given religion. If Hogwarts was established over 1000 years ago, The Dark Ages (500-1000 AD) is when the founders would be living. I chose circa 970 AD as it was near the end of the worst of those times. This is an historically accurate reflection of the world and reality that Rowena would have faced. Being an intelligent (canon), educated (assumed) witch, I allowed Rowena to tell me how she felt about the situation.

Pope Sylvester II (999-1003) was real and considered the greatest intellectual of his time. He worked to weed out corruption within the church, invented the pendulum clock and introduced Arabic numerals to Europe, among many other great achievements. And yes, he was commonly known as ‘Gerbert the Wizard’.

-----


She gazed out the rare glazed window to focus upon the bent and stooped backs of the peasants. They seemed to sparkle in the sunlight from the gold and bronze dust of the fields. She mused for a while on that deceptive image. Sadly she knew they would be just as dirty tomorrow…no, even more so. They would not bathe today. Perhaps once a year if they were so inclined, and could disguise it as an accidental fall in a stream. By summer, when most weddings occurred, the bride would carry a bouquet of flowers so the stench of her unwashed parts would not be so noticeable. The Church had done this.

Being a logical person, she truly did not understand the Christian teachings that to bathe was to revel in the delights of the flesh and therefore a sin in their eyes. Did they not baptise with immersion to wash away sins? She knew that most women nowadays were born, grew to the ripe old age of thirteen or less, married and gave birth…as often as once a year…and died, never having washed themselves. She was astounded that the filth they lived in did not kill more of them at an even earlier age. The priests and monks were some of the worst offenders. Most were especially rank and it was extremely difficult to remain in their presence without a handkerchief doused in attar-of-roses pressed under ones’ nose. At least they practiced what they preached, although she had read all the ancient books and had never seen where Jesus or his apostles decreed that people remain filthy. It even seemed that foot washing was to be commended when entering someone’s home and often performed on a guest as a sign of devotion. Doesn’t the whole body deserve the same dignity?

Less than four hundred years ago the Roman Empire had held sway and the custom of daily bathing complete with banquet and socialization was the norm. People valued cleanliness and some of the more fortunate or wealthy of the lot had indoor plumbing. Small aqueducts and terra cotta pipes swooshed fresh clean water under the homes to whisk away the daily wastes from a household full of fine foods and wines that sought release. She liked that idea, as she was not overly fond of the public toilets that were so popular back then. With a small smile and a slight shake of her head she tried to visualize rows of people with their togas pooled around them merrily gossiping or chatting about politics while defecating.

The Romans were quite civilized in most other matters. Even her own home, a castle in truth, retained the evidence of this much better and more pristine time. The hypocaust still functioned perfectly. The stone castle floors were warm to walk upon barefoot even in the deepest and most bitter winter and the bathroom was overly warm and steamy. The Roman Empire had truly pandered to their physical delights. Well, perhaps too much so; hence their downfall.

Where the Romans truly excelled, in her opinion, was they way they treated females. Women were granted almost all the same rights as men. They could own property, run businesses if they so desired, inherit and leave their own estates to whomever they wished. The fathers of the Catholic Church had relegated them to mere chattel and she chafed under the restrictions she was forced to endure and stealthily circumvent. Here they were…almost at the Millennium, or the End of Days as the Christians called it, and mankind seemed, in many respects, far less civilized than in olden days.

Less than five hundred years ago King Arthur had created a brief but enlightened society with the highest ideals and a shining image of Knighthood. Only four or five hundred years separated those bright worlds from the dusty, dirty midden that she now looked upon. Surely, something could be done to change this.

Her fixation on hygiene was merely because it was the most visible manifestation of the low point their part of the world had reached. If only the people were more educated, if only they knew the things she had learned of the great achievements of the past, they would want that kind of life for themselves. If they knew there could be a better world, as lived in some places just beyond their borders, would they not aspire to drag themselves up from the filth? Even now, in the East, many cities were clean, beautiful and their populace educated and urbane.

Born noble, she had received an education and could read in several languages. Many of the priests today and most of the monks could read and write but they would teach only those sworn to the Church. This precious knowledge had to be kept restricted for their own use as educated people tended to question authority and draw their own conclusions. Reading and learning to think logically is what set her apart from most of her limited world.

Sadly, the poor people could not or would not use magic to make their lives more tolerable. This, to her, was the most horrific change the Church had wrought. Did they not recognize the magic written throughout their own bible? The purging of witchcraft was so violent that mothers would even slay their own children if they showed signs of magic. Magic was ruthlessly weeded out or hidden with such care that it seemed to have evaporated altogether. Even she could not use magic openly in her own home lest one of the many servants find her out and turn her over to a howling mob. True, she could not actually be burned at the stake, but she would have to disappear. That did not suit her plans at all.

A school. A school is what was needed. A place where she could impart what she had learned of the glories and mistakes of the past. A place to open oppressed minds to the magnificent potential they truly possessed. A place where magic could be nurtured and taught openly so it did not vanish altogether. She might not be able to change her world overnight, but she could change one child at a time, and that child could influence others. Slowly but surely, her world would change and she vowed that she would help plant the seeds.

Given her antipathy toward the Church, she saw it as the perfect irony that a young French priest was the one to help her further her plans.

Gerbert had made great strides toward making her realize that it was not the Christian religion, per se, that was the problem. It was mostly the machinations of the powerful and the power-hungry within the Church that needed changing. She thoroughly enjoyed their sometimes heated, but always informative arguments about theology. She would never accept a male-centric religion that had no Goddess, but Gerbert was a Catholic through and through and most things he said made a lot of sense. Although she could not accept his religion, he did show her that the basic premise was not so very different than her own. “Do unto others.” She hadn’t seen much of this coming from his church, but it gave her great hope for the future that there were priests such as he.

A highly educated man, he had many friends with an intellectual bent. He had introduced her to a small cadre of forward thinking people and three of them had quickly become her very close friends. Salazar, Godric and Helga had much in common with her and they decided to team up to make their shared dreams a reality. Each brought different personalities, talents and assets to the plans of a school.

Since their land was dominated by the Catholic Church at that time, they discretely questioned Gerbert on what would be needed to make their school acceptable to the multitudes. He had told them that, at the very least, the Christian Holy Days of Christmas and Easter must be observed. The four friends discussed this at length and decided that those holidays would be acknowledged, if not actually practiced. School would be recessed so the students could go home for these special times…however they wished to worship. Since these celebrations coincided with both Pagan and Christian intent or timing, Rowena had no problem allowing this. Salazar, who took no exception to religious diversity, however, continued to argue that they only allow pureblood children under their tutelage.

Rowena repeatedly, methodically and logically shot down all of his arguments. They must accept all the children they could find who showed signs of magic and a willingness to learn. Did he not see that there were far too few children that would meet his criteria? Were they not already educated to a higher level than most? Besides, was not their goal to help preserve and advance magic and tutor the uneducated? He reluctantly agreed and turned with enthusiasm toward the topic of how the school should be built. He wanted a good, solid stone edifice without the Roman fripperies that Rowena was suggesting. Knowing how to pick her battles and having won on the issue of students, she gracefully gave up her plans for a hypocaust. Her next battle was for indoor plumbing.



****************




It was the first day of the Millennium and the world had not ended. Rowena sat at the head table of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and gazed fondly at the tables full of bright, eager students. With a deep sense of satisfaction she thought about the past thirty years and the thousands of students who had come and gone; each and every one of them the better for having been here. What she and her friends had accomplished surpassed her wildest dreams.

The children were scattering and changing the world for wizard and non-wizard alike. Like a small brush fire started in the heart of Hogwarts, the flames of knowledge were spreading, fanned by the enthusiasm and talents of the alumni. Here and there, crops were growing faster and taller with the wisdom of Herbology. Others seeing this improvement asked for and were given what knowledge could be safely imparted. Health care was slowly improving as lessons in Potions drifted down to the non-magic folk as instructions for simples and teas. One or two wizards in a village were often enough to make the difference between mere existence and a prosperous community with a few well placed and discrete spells or charms. Arabic numerals from Arithmancy were spreading far and wide making counting and accounting easier to learn. And magic? It was blossoming.

The children they had trained were powerful, healthy, happy and…clean. With a private smirk she thought about the fact that more and more people, indeed, whole families were accidentally falling in streams and only muddied themselves when they knew the Monks were due for a visit.

Feeling proud of their vast accomplishments, she toasted her fellow founders and thought gratefully about how they had first come together. Although her personal dislike of the Church had not abated much over the years, she had to give an ironic chuckle as she proposed a second toast, this one to the new Pope in Rome. Raising her goblet high, she said, “Here’s to Gerbert the Wizard.”




Finis





Chapter 5: Helga Hufflepuff
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By: PaMuggles
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Arithmancy_Wiz
Title: Helga Hufflepuff and the Prophet's Warning
Rating/Warning: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: Thanks so much, HPFF Staff for all your hard work
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Had the inhabitants of eleventh century England been looking for a woman to base a new fertility goddess on, Helga Hufflepuff would have been the ideal choice. She seemed to be almost constantly pregnant, bemoaned her friends and family. Though mostly because they all knew that they were required to send gifts upon every birth, which seemed to occur almost every summer. At any given time Helga could have one at the breast, another on her hip and a pair or two lingering about her legs, making it almost impossible to walk about the hectic Hufflepuff house.

Her productivity had left Helga with quite a larger frame. Having started out with a formidable stature in the first place her subsequent and numerous pregnancies (two of which gave her twins) had thickened her torso, along with giving her no shortage of pounds. Though she was not what one would typically think of as "fat," her robust and stout body was easily stronger than that of many men. "Certainly no man could carry four screaming children at one time," she would joke often, usually sending her locks of red curls in all directions.

Helga was a very merry woman, as was her husband Henry. In fact, merriment seemed all but a requirement in their modest house just south of Hogsmeade. The home was in no way large enough to accommodate her brood, and if Muggles happened to pass it by, they would see only a large shoe. Ironically enough, this led to the proliferation of rhymes and songs which Muggle children happily sung for centuries to come, never knowing that they were singing about perhaps one of the greatest witches of all time.

Helga had never been very comfortable with her power. She knew she was perhaps more talented than most, but she didn't want to do anything more than simply enjoy life with her husband and family. She never had any interest in politics or power in the newly floundering Ministry of Magic. She always avoided fights and hated more than anything to say an ill word about another human being. She had enough to do with her family and keeping up wither her massive sprawling acres of gardens.

Helga was remarkable with plants both magical and otherwise. Everything she seemed to touch grew and flourished. Had she not been, it's likely that she could never have fed her overpopulating family. The only "work" she did outside her home was delivering babies for the magical community of Britain. After all, who else would any of them trust besides Helga as their midwife? She was proud to be looked up to in this way. Her days were busy, so why on Earth did people always want her to do more?

There was a never ending stream of people asking advice on child-rearing, and witches all throughout Europe traveled to see her should any trouble conceiving occur. Everything from the wilting plant to the sickly child, everybody seemed to think that she could solve every problem. Certainly, she was able to resolve the majority of these but there was never nearly enough time for her to deal with her own children, let alone those of others. To make matters worse, her family was always pushing her to do more. It wasn't enough for them that she was respected, happy and content. If others were proud of her, why couldn't they be too?

"You shouldn't let it bother you," her husband reminded her often, but it did. Her father was an international dueling champion, her brother newly elected to the Wizengamot court, and her sister was well on her way in a career in finance. She had quite a way with goblins. Her mother was no meager witch either and her whole family was comprised of one accomplished witch and wizard after another. While the rest of the magical world was able to recognize that Helga was more than happy and busy enough to be left alone, her family was not. Over and over again they pushed her. Sometimes they were polite, prodding gently, at other times they could be downright hurtful. It was no wonder that she agreed to share in Godric's crazy endeavor. He, of course, was not condescending or rude. He didn't insinuate that a daughter of the great Hufflepuff line should do more than wipe the noses of babes.

It had been a strange but understandable decision of Helga’s husband Henry to take her last name, rather than the other way around. The Hufflepuff line was a long and great heritage and Henry's mother had been Muggle-born. While this didn't bother them in any way, he feared that someday it might come to hurt their children's futures if it were known that he was only Half-blood. There were always movements every now and then to attempt to expel witches and wizards with any Muggle ancestry. The tides were turning, and both of them could tell that there soon would be another upsurge of "pure-blood" pride. Besides, as obnoxious as they were, Henry adored Helga's family. He liked their history and even went so far as to adopt Helga's father's favorite form: a badger animagus. At family gatherings it was every bit as common to see Henry and Ignatius together frolicking about the garden as having a conversation between father and son-in-law.

If only her family wasn't so pushy--and some, while not most, did hold with the beliefs that pure-blood wizards were the only ones that really mattered--they would be almost bearable. Helga's dear friend Godric always hated such nonsense. They talked about these things often. Godric was a regular guest at Helga and Henry's home and enjoyed spending time with their family. He was very good with children, never nonplused by the shouting or tantrums common to having seven children under ten in one house. It was as dinner's end came one night that he finally managed the nerve to ask Helga to help him. She was fastening the nightdress of Anna, one the eldest children at twelve, who was in turn fastening the robes of one of the littler ones in front of her.

"Helga, may I ask a terribly large favor of you?" asked Godric.

Anna smiled broadly; she had seen the question coming even if her mother hadn't.

"You know you can ask me anything, Godric," she said, never taking her eyes off the children in front of her.

"True, but this is no meager task. I hate to impose upon you, but I can think of none other whose help I could desire," he said.

Helga smiled at him. Godric was a lean man starting to go gray with quite a long beard already. He was tall and very strong, though she always thought it a bit presumptuous of him to insist on carrying that huge sword of his everywhere. She could guess where he was going with this.

Helga ushered her children off to bed, and Henry went with them to give his wife and Godric some privacy. "What can I do for you, Godric?" she asked him.

"Not for me, but for all of wizard-kind. You know my project?" he inquired.

"Building a barn is a project, Godric. What you're doing is monumental," she chided.

He laughed. "True, it may be a bit odd, but I know I am doing the right thing."

"But why such a big school? One that could hold a hundred or so is large enough."

"Not to host all the magical children of England, Helga. I want to provide every aspiring witch or wizard the opportunity to learn."

"I understand your intentions, Godric. But after all, parents still do teach their children, there are apprenticeships and smaller schools," she pointed out.

"None in England, Helga. I want to build one here," he insisted.

"I know you do, Godric, and you will. I might think it's a crazy idea, but I'm sure that as stubborn as you are you'll be able to do it," she said.

"Not if I have to do it alone," he said.

"But you're not alone. Salazar is helping, isn't he?" she asked, not able to hide her distaste for Slytherin from her voice.

"Yes, Salazar is helping. Though I believe 'financing' would be the more accurate term. He's never been over-fond of hard work. I need someone who's not afraid of getting their hands dirty, and, as this is to be a school, is rather good with youngsters and teaching. I can't think of any other I can ask who could do the job you could. No one has your patience or poise, let alone talent."

Helga blushed at the praise, hiding her face momentarily. "What about Rowena?" she asked.

"I fully plan to ask Mrs. Ravenclaw, but I wanted to ask you first. Rowena is a scholar, Salazar an aristocrat, I'm not entirely sure what I am, but you are a mother. A nurturing leader that would be the perfect person to found a school. The four of us will be an ideal group. Just think of what we could accomplish, Helga. A home and house of learning for every magical student who needs it."

"You'll be taking all children, right?" she asked, Godric knowing exactly what she meant.

"All who want to come. I would never allow a student to be turned away because of lineage," he responded.

"I know you would allow Muggle-born students but Slytherin's views are quite common, even if they are not the most enlightened," she said.

Godric knew that Helga didn't like Salazar. He didn't know the real reasons behind it, but Helga would never share that with him. She did not speak ill of others, even if they deserved it.

"What is you answer, Helga? I need your help. Will you join us?" he asked imploringly.

Helga sighed. She was so very tired. The baby hadn't been letting her sleep too much lately and it was starting to catch up to her. "What about my children?" she asked. "I can't leave them here to go off building schools, you know?"

Godric's eyes glinted. He could tell she was starting to agree. "As it happens, I have been planning a rather large building that is attached to the greenhouses. It would be more than large enough to accommodate your eight little ones, along with yourself and Henry, of course."

"I have eleven children, Merlin help me," she pointed out.

"Yes, but Anna and the twins Richard and Roland are all old enough to be enrolled in the school and sleep in the dormitories. And we have already procured a large number of house-elves, any of which would be able to help with the children."

Helga smiled looking around at her not quite clean home. She would love to have the help of a few dozen house-elves.

"I'll think about, Godric," she said. "This is a huge decision and it effects everyone in my family. I must discuss it with Henry before I dislocate him and the children from our home."

"Naturally." Gryffindor rose from his chair. "Think it over and take your time. We've still months of building ahead of us, but Salazar and I hope to have to first students enrolled and in classes this coming Autumn."

"You'll have your answer well before then, Godric. Goodnight, my friend," she said, shaking his hand.

"Goodnight, Helga."

It turned out, as nights go, to be a rather good one indeed. Helga and Henry spoke late into the night, laying in bed as she nursed her babe. It did take a while for Helga to be able to speak about her greatest qualm about Godric's proposition: What should she do about Slytherin? She had never trusted him, and there were things she knew that no one should know about their colleagues. How could she put behind her misgivings for Salazar and work side by side with him when just being near him sent icy shivers throughout her body?

"You shouldn't let that stop you, dear. It was nothing more than words," Henry told her.

"But disturbing words, Henry," she said, stroking the tiny new hairs on her youngest boy's head.

"Words, Helga. Nothing more. You shouldn't let superstition bother you," he said. "This is a great opportunity. You could shape the world now and to come."

"I'd prefer to just shape my family," she said.

"You will, but you will also do other things," he said.

"You're sure you want me to do this, Henry? You'll have to do a great deal more work with the children. We'll have to find a nurse-maid, a nanny, I'll have very little time for them and that's not the kind of mother I am."

"Oh, you'll still have tons of time for the children, dear. Not every witch stays at home, you know. Besides, the kids want this too."

"Have you been discussing it with them?" she demanded.

"Yes, and they think it's exciting. We all think you should do this. We're all behind you," he said supportingly.

"But Slytherin?" she tried.

"You know, dear. Not everybody believed your grandmother's rantings. How do we know what she said was true?"

"Every prophecy she ever made came true," she said.

"And if I looked out at a black clouded sky and made a prophecy that rain was due, I'll bet I'd be right, too. How do you even know exactly what she said?"

"The record, remember," she explained, instantly thinking about the lovely little glass sphere her father kept in his house.

"All I am saying is that you shouldn't let something that may or may not be real prejudice you against him," Henry continued.

"There are other things too, dear," she said.

"Yes, but the fact that he's a foul-tempered arrogant snob isn't why you dislike him. You believe the crazed gibberish of an old woman who may not have been right in the head."

"You shouldn't speak so ill of people!"

"Just because you don't like to say unpleasant things even if they are true doesn't mean that I must as well. Salazar is a nasty man. If you don't want to work with him, that should be why, not a willy nilly prophecy."

The couple was silent for a while. Baby William was asleep and Helga could tell that she would soon be as well. Why did that prophecy bother her so much? There were plenty of people in her family that didn't believe in her grandmother's omens. Helga simply could not put it away from her mind.

"You still think I should do this?" she asked her husband, both of them half asleep.

"Yes I do," he replied.

"All right, then. We'll do it."

It was early the next day when Helga sent an owl to Godric. He responded immediately by arriving in a thoroughly ecstatic mood with celebratory gifts for the whole family. The children were very excited to hear about their mother deciding to join the massive endeavor. Though they were even more ecstatic that they'd be going to a proper school once the fall came. Had they known that they were going to a half started building site with a still leaky roof, they might not have been so keen to move.

In its earliest stages Hogwarts castle was not so pleasant a space. Since she had so many little ones, Godric and the crews worked very quickly to complete the buildings in which they were to live. Rowena joined them early in the summer and the four founders set to work erecting the massive structure. Even with elves, crews of every wizard builder in England and more than a few Trolls to carry the heavy loads of rocks and timber, the building was slow. As Helga and the children were getting settled, only the dungeons and under-levels of the castle had been completed. Salazar spent all his time in these, already setting up his studies and dormitories for his selected students. The rest of them spent their days tapping heads in time to the endless droning of hammers and chisels and otherwise constant noise of the building process.

Since all the work was going into making the building habitable, Henry spent his time creating the greenhouses. He turned out to be very good with glass and immediately set to creating the massive panes and leaded creations that would eventually adorn both the greenhouses and every outer wall of Hogwarts. The children were having a wonderful time about the place and seemed to be little bothered by the lack of comforts. The hectic environment made the one they had come from seem almost common place. Anna helped with the little ones while both parents were working on the construction. Roland and Richard were both rather good little helpers and followed the builders constantly like little lost puppies.

As summer ended, the Great Hall and lower levels of the castle were completed. Like most buildings of the age, the castle was in full use well before the final construction was done. Students eagerly moved in, though only Slytherin's selected ones had a completed dormitory in which to stay. Helga did not like the process of selecting the students. Everyone knew how and why Salazar would be making his selections, Rowena was interested in finding scholars much like she herself was, Godric always valued bravery above all others, but what identifying quality could Helga say she was looking for? Certainly she did find students who she knew she wanted in her house, but she could never exactly put her finger on what it was that she saw in them. The only thing she could ever come up with was that they tended to be the most hard-working, and seeing as the school was still a "work in progress," this was very helpful.

At night the Great Hall would be separated and girls would sleep on one side, with boys on the other. If they hadn't completed more levels before winter set in, Helga was sure that half of the students would have gone home rather than sleep on a cold floor anymore. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were the next to have their dormitories completed but poor Godric, whose students were to live with him in the towers, had to wait till the end of the year before the final levels of Hogwarts would be finished.

As the relative completion of the building came to a close, the founders were finally able to put forth all their efforts into teaching. Helga was quite surprised to see what a good teacher she turned out to be and that the students, unlike her own children, listened to her and followed her directions with a great deal of respect for her authority. Helga was easily one of the favorite teachers. There were indeed more instructors than the four founders themselves, there being far too many subjects for just the four of them to teach, though only Helga would occasionally conduct a lesson with a little one in her arms or on her shoulders. The students found this more amusing than distracting and just as the magical community at large always came to her for advice, the same quickly became true for the student population.

The classes grew in intensity as the worries of erecting a roof over their heads disappeared. This meant, of course, that Helga had to begin working more closely with Salazar. She tried not to judge him, or give too much credence to her grandmother's prophecy, but every time she got near him she couldn't help but hear those long lost words.

" . . . and the ultimate evil shall come forth . . .

Helga told herself over and over again to forget about it, listen to what her husband said and not superstition but she could not.

" . . . Darkness shall greet the coming of the second millennium. Beware of that which comes from the loins of Slytherin. The Snake Lord shall bring nothing but evil and misery. Beware . . ."

Again and again she found herself trying not to think of those terrible words. It didn't even matter that the prophecy itself said that this evil wouldn’t appear for nearly a thousand years, the words repeatedly filled her heart with terror. Even in those rare moments she found herself thinking positively about Salazar he always had a way of rubbing her that made Helga believe every ill word her Gran had said.

As the New Year dawned, a great party was held for Yuletide. All of Helga's family came and some of them, to her horror, spent a great deal of time with Slytherin. Why her family had to be so difficult Helga would never know.

"I'm so glad that Helga has finally done something noteworthy," her brother was commenting.

"We thought she'd never do anything but have children. Thank Merlin Godric finally talked some sense into her," her mother said. "Now she's actually doing something.

Helga just gritted her teeth and ignored it.

"Oh come know, Calpernia. You cannot deny her the accomplishment of single handedly repopulating the wizarding world with pure-bloods. That in and of itself is an immense achievement," said Slytherin icily, in one statement both mocking and complimenting her.

Helga bit her tongue till it nearly bled trying not to say all the ill words she wanted to speak to Salazar. "Well, my dear professor Slytherin, we can't all raise pet snakes in the dungeons. Someone has to have children, or there would be no students."

"Quite true, which is why I am so pleased to announce that the lovely Lucretia Perti will be doing me the great honor of becoming my wife."

The room nearby erupted in applause as Salazar guided out the beautiful olive-toned woman. Slender Lucretia had a huge mane of flowing brown hair and remarkably green eyes, though Helga knew full well that Slytherin had chosen her not for her looks. The Perti family in Rome was cousins of the Slytherins, who always were fond of marrying not nearly distant enough relations. She was also a well-known Parseltongue. Helga's heart grew more and more tight as she listened to all the exuberant words of congratulation. She made her own and fled the gathering, saying that she needed to return to the children before they went to sleep. As she left, she found herself wanting to run, and before she knew it she was actively keeping her feet from taking off with or without her consent. Her heart was pounding, despite the fact that reason told her remain calm. One thing had given Helga hope that the prophecy would never come true: the fact that Salazar hadn't yet married. At forty-two, he was quite advanced to not be wed for the time, though Helga knew he could easily have fathered a child anyway. She reached their home by the greenhouses and slammed the door shut, rattling the windowpanes Henry had worked so hard to create.

Breath, calm down, she told herself. It was only a marriage. They might be childless, after all. Helga was shaking as Henry arrived, rushing from the party himself.

"What has got you so upset?" he asked her.

"Didn't you hear? Syltherin is getting married," she said.

Henry laughed in a frustrated and half-hearted way. "Don't tell me you're on that darn prophecy again?"

"Yes I am! You know what it says. 'The ultimate evil . . . all may perish at the hands of Syltherin's heir,' how can I ignore that?" she demanded.

"You are forgetting perhaps that it also says this may happen in a thousand years?" he responded.

"In a thousand or a dozen, it doesn't matter. I have to do something," she said.

"What on Earth can you do?" he said, a little worried.

Helga didn't answer. A dozen ideas had come to her, each more horrible than the first. If only she had more courage perhaps she'd have been able to do it. After all, a Barrenness Potion wouldn't be too hard to slip Lucretia. She could put it into a drink, and even if she had to take some herself with her, she'd had more than enough children. Even as she thought these things, Helga's mind recoiled at the thought. It was too horrible to do to anyone, even if she thought it was for the greater good. Besides, he'd probably just go find another wife.

"You're right. There is nothing I can do," she said fatally, slumping into a chair.

Henry knelt down in front of her, taking her hand. "Please don't let this silliness trouble you so much, dear." She tried to avoid her husband's gaze but couldn't. He reached up a hand and stroked her face, his fingers gently touching her curly hair. "It makes you miserable. I just want you to be happy."

Helga smiled at her husband. "I am happy, dear. I don't know why I can't ignore this. It just nags at me, that's all."

"I know it does. But it's Christmas. Just forget it for tonight." Henry kissed his wife soundly, and for a while they remembered how much love they had felt as their own marriage started and grew.




Salazar's wedding was scheduled for late in the spring. For a while the school was in full bloom celebrating the impending nuptials, but the mood around the school seemed to turn foul as the weather turned fair. Salazar spent an increasing amount of time arguing with Godric and when he wasn't teaching, he secluded himself for hours in the under-belly of the school. Gryffindor tried not to let others know of their arguments, but it rapidly became more and more apparent that there was a growing problem. Slytherin had begun refusing to take meals with the other teachers and was in an increasingly foul temper with the students, though only some of them.

Rumor had it that he was sending almost all of the Muggle-born students to detention, giving failing marks or just in general being horrible to them. Helga, being the one teacher that the students came to before the others, heard about the problems before most of the school. As things escalated, Helga knew she had to address the problem. Her own inclination was always to give things time, let them have the opportunity to work themselves out before meddling and maybe making a mess of things. Whatever benefit of the doubt she could give him, this she could not ignore.

Helga knocked on Godric's office. She was somewhat winded after climbing the steps past the great Griffin statue to his tower office. She was noticing that lately she had been feeling a great deal more tired. "Godric, I need to speak to you," she said.

Gryffindor opened the door. He looked haggard, as though he hadn't slept in many nights. "Certainly, Helga. What can I do for you?" he asked merrily, though he looked to be in a state.

Helga followed him into the office and sat across from his desk, his massive sword hanging on the wall above Godric's head. She looked into her friend's eyes and could tell that she was aware of only the smallest part of the problem. It terrified her to think of what more there could be.

"It's Salazar. I think he's been being very cruel to some of the students lately. I am starting to worry." Godric said nothing, so she went on. "We all know that he hates Muggles and Muggle-born wizards, but I thought he agreed to teach everyone. His behavior now is leading me to believe that this is untrue."

"He did promise to teach everyone, but I am beginning to think that he never had any intention of honoring that promise. He spoke with me earlier this evening. He now refuses to teach any student who is not a pure-blood. He is threatening to leave the school if we don't agree, and take all of his students with him," said Godric gravely.

"How can he do that after everything we've done?" she asked. "What about the students? One of us could easily teach them potions but what a message to send to them."

"No, that is not acceptable. But I am afraid that we are forced with having to choose how to divide the school, or it may not flourish," Godric declared.

"Oh, that's nonsense. Of course it will 'flourish.' I didn't uproot my family for this to let anything risk Hogwarts failing," she said.

"But without a quarter of the students, and no Potions Master?" asked Godric. "Besides, I fear that I have known only one side of my friend all these years. Salazar has said things in my presence recently that give me great pause about allowing him to teach anyone."

Helga said nothing. All she could think of were the words in the prophecy. "You know, I have reasons too why I am loath to trust Slytherin, but the first thing we must look to is our students. You think it unwise to have him continue teaching?"

"I regret that I do," Godric responded.

"Then he must be asked to leave. I think it would be best if we all did it. We'll need Rowena, too. Will she agree you think?" Helga asked.

Godric looked gratefully at her. Endlessly practical Helga knew exactly what to do. He was so right in asking her to found the school with him.

"Rowena will agree, you are correct. She would never allow all Muggle-born students to be expelled."

"Then we must do it together, and soon. If we are careful, it can simply look as though Salazar is leaving to get married and spend time alone with his new bride. If he doesn't return, no one need know what his true intentions were," she said.

"Then that is how it shall be," said Godric.




Gryffindor was the one who told Salazar. The four founders met for the last time together on the eve of the spring solstice. They all knew that it was likely to be an unpleasant event, but no one was prepared for exactly where the night headed.

"How dare you tell me to leave! You filthy son of a half-blood!" Salazar roared at Godric, his long blonde hair flying as he yelled.

"I am not telling you, we are all asking you to leave behind your feelings, or depart from this school. The choice is yours. No one wants you to leave, Salazar, but we can't have this division. Either we teach everyone, or we teach no one," Gryffindor said firmly.

"I built this school!" he yelled, spitting as he did so. "It's mine. No one can take it away from me!"

Helga was growing angry, an emotion totally uncommon to her. "We all did, not you alone. And I thought it was the students’, not ours."

"This school was not built for the glory of edifying ourselves, Salazar," said Rowena, who too was loosing her patience and temper.

"These are out terms, Salazar. Please accept them calmly. We all want you to stay," implored Godric.

"To teach Muddbloods and filth! No!" he spat.

"Then that is your choice, my friend," said Gryffindor.

"One day, Godric, you mark my words! One day I, or my heir, will make this school fit for the royal blood that deserves to claim it!" he screamed.

Helga's heart felt as though it stopped beating. Every inch of her body was turning to ice. She heard his words and how they mingled with those fateful others.

"Just what do you mean by that?" demanded Godric.

"That this school will be inherited by pure-bloods, even if every Mudblood has to be purged from the school in order for it to happen!"

Helga drew her wand before any other in the room had a second to digest the threat. She knew what he meant. "Not if I am here to stop it!" she said, her wand pointed directly in his face.

Salazar laughed in her face. "Like you, the little mother could stop me?" he said.

"The most dangerous creature of all is the mother protecting her young and you mark my words, I will protect each and every child in these halls even unto the death!" she shouted.

In one moment he, and Helga herself for that matter, saw the woman that Godric among many others saw: an immensely powerful witch, capable of doing just about any magic that could be conceived. The aura of power around her grew and it was as though she were a bolt of lightning readying itself to strike. She then knew that if necessary she could reduce this man or any other that threatened the lives and well being of her loved ones or students to mere dust. Slytherin saw that Helga was truly one of the four greatest wizards of the age.

"And she will not be alone," said Rowena, she too with a wand pointed at Slytherin's breast.

For himself Godric had taken down his sword and held it pointed at his once dear friend. "Please, leave peacefully. If you threaten any of the students, I will close the school so that they will all be safe."

Slytherin looked from the two wands to the sword all pointed in his direction. "Fine! Have it your way. I'll leave, but you cannot stop fate!" He spat on the floor and that was the last the three remaining founders ever saw of him.

No one told the school of how Slytherin departed. Thankfully everyone thought that he had left to marry Lucretia. Though there were rumors, only the remaining three knew the evil that had been in his heart. For some time Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw gave a great deal of thought to closing Hogwarts just one short year after its inception. The majority of Salazar's students had stayed behind and the three didn't know if they should just join the other houses and eliminate Slytherin house entirely.

"No," Rowena said. "If nothing else, he did help start this school. If for that alone he should be honored."

"But how will we divide the future students?" asked Helga.

In response, Godric held out a strange but plain wizard's hat. "Rowena and I had planned to use this after one or more of us passes into the great unknown, but since he cannot choose his students himself anymore, I think perhaps none of us should. Salazar and I have both placed out desires and valued traits we seek of our students into this hat. It will find those we would select and place them for us."

"Agreed," said Rowena, pleased that he was using what she once thought of as one of her oddest ideas.

Helga nodded her accord, removed her wand and had a pleasantly long but silent conversation with the hat. It was hard trying to tell it what traits she valued most in people. In the end, she thought the hat would likely to a better job at selecting the students than any of them really could have. Godric then followed her, leaving his words of guidance to the Sorting Hat, and it was done.

"But what of the students' safety, Godric?" asked Rowena. "Perhaps we should close the school for a while. We don't know if Salazar may do something rash."

"No, we either keep it open permanently or close it thus as well," said Godric.

"Then it stays open," Helga decided. She knew, as the prophecy said, that it must remain.

. . . and the only one who can destroy Syltherin's evil heir shall rise from ashes and rubble. Only with the strength of all the walls of Hogwarts can he conquer the Snake Lord, and so hold the hope of all man and wizardkind."

Helga took some comfort in knowing those last words of the prophecy, though the rest of it gave no one any reason to hope. She was grateful as summer began and the students went home for holiday. She and her family returned to their Hogsmeade. For a brief moment her life was peaceful again.

A week into the summer break she began to feel unwell, though not out of sickness. She hadn't been able to eat in days and as she heard the nearby children singing about "the woman in the shoe" she knew-- there was another addition coming.

The End



Chapter 6: Salazar Slytherin
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Salazar Slytherin pushed open the door, walking up to the sinks. He looked into the mirror, smiling at his reflection as he combed his hair with his fingers.

He pulled out his wand, aiming it at the tap that had never worked. “Imperium.” The tap glowed a nasty, snakelike green. Salazar smiled to himself and said “open up,” in the language that he was known for, that so few were able to speak. As the tap glowed white instead of green, Salazar thought about how useful it was to be a Parselmouth. Only he or his true heir would be able to use the password. It was brilliant. Once the faucet was normal, he hissed menacingly again. “Open up.”

This time the faucet glowed white and started to spin. The tap started to descend, along with the bowl and the pedestal of the sink. A man-sized pipe was now visible. It had been Salazar’s idea to build a large underground chamber.

“If we build a pipe large enough for a man to slip into, leading to a chamber, we could keep all of our beloved students out of harm’s way if danger were to…present itself,” Salazar explained.

“I don’t think that is necessary,” Godric replied. “Why would we need to hide the students? There is no danger with the four of us around. Hogwarts is a fortress and already well protected, as you know. When we are gone they will be safe enough within its walls.”

“I still think that...”

“Leave it, I don’t think we need one, the students are safe. There is no danger that can penetrate what we have now.”


Salazar had built the chamber anyway. He had built the chamber out of anger and spite, with no particular purpose in mind. Now it was the perfect place. Now there was a way. Salazar heard someone in the corridor; someone small. Probably a student, he thought. Salazar turned from the sink just in time to hear it clunk back into place and see the door begin to open. With the turn of his heel he disappeared from view.

___


“Where have you been?” His teeth were gritted, his plate clean.

“What’s it to you, Godric?” Salazar asked smoothly, smiling at his beloved table of students as he took his seat at the table in front of the Great Hall.

“I told you to be here at the start of breakfast,” Godric replied. “I told you that we needed to discuss your treatment of the students.”

“And what, may I ask gives you power over me?” Salazar demanded, stabbing a potato with his fork. Who does he think he is, my superior?

“Not power over you, just an even balance on the same level as you. When we built this school we agreed to treat all of the students equally.”

No,” Salazar corrected. “Rowena, Helga, and you agreed to treat all of the students equally. I have never been inclined to lower myself that way. I knew from the start that letting those Mudbloods in was a disastrous idea.” And I was right, he added silently.

Godric’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Regardless of your standing on bloodlines Salazar, Muggle born children are part of this school. I expect you to treat them as such.” Godric managed to keep his voice at a calm whisper, not wanting the students to catch on to their argument. If the two blew it out of proportion again, the students might panic, and Rowena would come running to reprimand the two of them.

"You EXPECT?" Salazar roared as he shot out of his chair. Who is he to expect anything from me? he thought as he glared at his colleague, his anger and power rippling through the air around him. The students noticed this and quickly gathered their things, scurrying out of the Great Hall like mice.

“Yes, Salazar. You knew our standards of acceptance and you chose to stay. We do not force you to take any students into your house that do not wish to be in your house. Now please calm down.”

“CALM DOWN?!” Salazar roared as he stood, his voice raised and his hand on the hilt of his sword. Why does he think he can instruct me like a common Mudblood student of his? I won’t stand for this! Salazar thought, his outrage now flooding his face.

“Salazar.”

The forced calm tone of Godric’s voice was all it took to set Salazar off. He drew his sword.

Gritting his teeth, Godric stood up and drew his sword as well. He was thankful that there were hardly any students left in the Great Hall; most had taken their toast elsewhere. “I don’t want to use this, but if you force me to…” Godric was shaking as he tried to control his own anger. He knew there was no way to stop this. Another fight was going to happen, all because his old friend, who he had known for most of his life, was small-minded.

“Force you to?” Salazar spat, taking aim and swinging his sword. Godric blocked it, the clanging of metal echoing through the hall as their blades met. “You know bloody well that I…am…right.” Salazar and Godric were in a full fledged sword fight now. They ignored the screams of Helga and Rowena, concentrating on keeping their lives.

“You? Right?” Salazar panted, drawing breath quickly after every word with each swing of the deadly blade. Their swords met again and again as they moved around the room. “You…have never been…right. You are…a disgrace. To this…school…and…to wizards…everywhere.”

I…am…a…disgrace? What…about…all…of…those…Mudbloods…mucking…up…society? What…about…everything…we…stand…for?” I can’t believe he still thinks those who have dirty blood at the same level as us. We’re far more powerful, we have far more magic in our blood. Those mudbloods don’t deserve equal treatment. They’re scum. Salazar thought as he fought to gain the upper hand, both physically and mentally.

We stand for?” Godric Gryffindor laughed, even though he wasn’t amused. Their swords met again and this time Godric grabbed Salazar’s wrist, holding their swords together before thrusting him away. Godric held his sword out, keeping Salazar at bay while he talked. “I don’t stand for anything you stand for. You are a coward. Too afraid that there might be a Muggle-born who is better than you. Who has more courage to fight the raging battle that we are in; courage to stand up against witch and wizard oppression. You are afraid that the muggle borns are going to take the world by storm, and you’re going to be left here in the dust, pure blood and all. You want to stay in your safe little bubble. But you would be safe in what? Blood. That’s all that you have. All that you have is “untarnished” blood. Have you ever stopped to think that there is more to a person than their bloodline? You said yourself that some of the muggle born are better at magic than some of your pure blood students.” Salazar let out a roar as he lunged at him in a spurt of anger. He was no longer willing to listen, only wanting to fight.

Salazar slashed at his former friend, barely noticing the screams of the other Hogwarts founders. Godric fought hard, but not out of anger. He fought to protect the school and the students.

“Get out of the way!” Godric yelled at Rowena, Helga, and one of their visiting friends. He led the sword fight to a small room off to the side of the Great Hall. It didn’t take long before Salazar was backed into a corner. “Drop your sword.”

Salazar realized that he was like a snake pinned by a lion with no hope of victory. He spat as he threw his sword to the ground the blade clattering on the stone.

“I will not let you endanger my students again,” Godric said. “I don’t care about their house or their bloodline…”

“Serves the mudbloods right if they are in danger. The filth.”

“No. Regardless of bloodline, of family, our students’ safety is the top priority. I will not fight you about this again, Salazar. If you can’t treat all of the students here with equality, regardless of their background, you are free to leave.”

“Fine. Are we done here? I have Pureblood students to teach.”

Godric pursed his lips as he regarded his colleague silently for a few seconds. Salazar held his gaze, his eyes narrowed until Godric finally spoke. “Yes, we’re done. I suppose you should go teach them, I don’t know how much longer you’ll be teaching here.”

“What?”

“Did I stumble over my words?”

Salazar glared at Godric for a moment longer before he pushed past him, storming out of the Great Hall, straight past rows of students who were lined up against the corridor wall. They had learned that their Professor Slytherin had slight anger issues and was likely to lash out at any and all who stood in his way.

___


An hour later, Salazar had calmed down and locked the door to the girls’ bathroom on the second floor. He smiled to himself, as he called out loudly.

“Elf!”

He hated messing with lowly creatures, but it was the only way to get the task done quickly. The head house elf appeared at his side, bowing. At least these creatures knew their place on the chain. “What I am about to tell you is secret. I forbid you to ever tell anyone except the other house-elves. Especially,” he paused, taking a deep breath as revenge flooded his thoughts, “the other masters.”

“Yes sir,” the elf said, bowing deeply.

“Good. Now, come with me.” Salazar walked up to the sink, easily summoning his darkest powers and saying in Parseltongue, “Open up.” The sink began to descend through the floor again, and the pipe was revealed. Salazar muttered, “Scourgify,” and the pipe was clean. Salazar climbed in and lay down inside, closing his eyes as he slid down the pipe. He could hear the small elf just behind him. When he hit bottom he saw several large rats scuttle away. His expression twisted into one of distaste as he pulled himself quickly to his feet and dusted himself off.

Salazar started walking. He knew that the stone passage went on for miles under the school, the grounds, and then the small village. He knew that the three houses and couple bars of Hogsmeade village would not dig down, so he didn’t have to worry about the chamber being accidentally discovered.

“Now,” said Salazar, turning to the elf. “You will need to secretly open the quarries used when building the school. I want several carvings of snakes. Two for this,” he pointed at the door as they walked through it, “and one for each of these pillars.” Salazar pointed out several of the pillars that were holding the ceiling up. Salazar knew this meant they were under the black lake. Especially since a puddle was forming near the edge of a protuberance of rock in the wall. “And this,” Salazar said, looking up, “is going to be a giant statue of me. Think you can handle that, Elf?”

“Yes sir,” the elf assured him, bowing again as Salazar rubbed his hands together from the cold. “We can, sir.”

“Okay. This is how it is going to work. The snakes must be carved by the time school lets out. Carve them between meals, at night; whenever you toe rags aren’t working. Then, during the summer, I will let some of you in to install them and carve the statue of me. Can you do that, Elf? Can you keep that a secret? Or should I just do away with you?”

“Oh no sir, I’m ready sir. I will do it sir. I will not tell anyone sir.”

“Good. I will get jewels for the eyes and I need you to get me a chicken’s egg and a toad by tomorrow. I expect you in my office after lunch. Fail and I will have my extra clothes waiting.”

“No sir, please no sir. I will not let you down!” The elf looked like it was in pain. “I promise sir! Not the clothes!”

“Good. Now go.” Salazar watched the elf scurry away, smiling to himself and turning on the spot.

___



“Can I help you, sir?” The shopkeeper emerged from the dust, brushing himself off and looking into Salazar Slytherin’s shadowed face.

“Show me your precious jewels.”

The shopkeeper was taken back by the abrupt coldness of his customer’s voice, but he started to walk towards the back of the shop.

“This way sir,” he replied, gesturing for Salazar to follow him. “They are just behind the curtain.” The shopkeeper led Slytherin into a small room. Salazar was vaguely surprised; he had thought that the curtain was simply covering an ugly wall. The room was full of glass cases. There was dust layering each pane of glass, but Salazar could just see through enough to make out a gold and black ring on a blue velvet pillow.

The shopkeeper muttered a charm and all of the cases were instantly cleaned. Gleaming stones of every shape and color sparkled at Salazar. He wandered past the cases of jewels, stopping every now and then to look at one.

“And this?” Salazar asked, pointing at the ring he had seen earlier.

“Sir, you won’t want that. It’s merely a ring. A black onyx ring set in gold. It is poorly made,” he said as he led Salazar over to a case of more beautiful rings that did not glow as the onyx one did. “Wouldn’t you want a ring more like this one? With your own coat of arms, rather than the Peverell family one?” The shopkeeper bit his lip.

“No,” said Salazar Slytherin simply. “I wish to purchase this ring. How much for it?” The shopkeeper gave him the price. There was something in the set jaw and the manner of Slytherin that made him uncomfortable. Something that was slightly odd. Salazar seemed to have some sort of connection to this ring, and the shopkeeper knew that it would be no use to argue.

“Sir may I ask why you…”

“No. We are not here to discuss the nature of this ring or why I am purchasing it. As for the rest of my purchase, I am looking for some fine jewels. Unless I should go somewhere else…?”

“No sir, we have a very fine selection. What about these emeralds? They are excellent in quality and texture; a bargain for a man such as yourself!”

“I shall take them. The large ones here,” he said, pointing at two large emeralds jewels at the back of the case, “and also, make these rubies into a set of silver rings.”

“Yes sir,” said the shopkeeper, gladly handling the money and packaging the precious jewels, “anything else, sir?”

“No that is all.” Salazar took his change and his packages, wearing the black-stoned ring on his left hand, and walked out of the shop without another word. The shopkeeper wondered for the rest of his life why the great Salazar Slytherin, co-founder of Hogwarts, was buying such large emeralds and setting them in nothing. No gold, no silver, not even bronze. Even stranger, was the ring he had bought. The shopkeeper didn’t realize it would be passed to his descendants for years to come.

__________________________________________________



Salazar finished his potatoes and walked calmly to his office. When he arrived he found the elf from the day before standing straight upright with packages in both hands.

“Good,” Salazar said as he took the egg and toad from the elf. “Here are the emeralds for the eyes of the snakes on the door. Don’t break them.” Salazar walked away, leaving the elf in slight confusion, great expensive jewels in hand.

___


“Open Up,” Salazar hissed. He slid down the pipe and walked briskly to a pipe that was secluded and off to the side.

Salazar placed the egg down in a few leaves that he had brought from outside. He knew that once the basilisk hatched there would only be just over a month before its amber eyes opened to kill. By that time, it would be late August.

Salazar snapped out of his reverie when he reached the end of the smaller pipe, glancing back just in time to see the toad hop away and a small miniature serpent poke its head out of the shell.

___



Salazar had avoided Godric since their sword fight, but he knew that Godric was taking a holiday just after the students left, so he decided to stay civil for the students’ last day.

The four founders stood side by side at the gates of the school as the carriages slowly took their pupils away. All four waved merrily, smiling at the students and one another falsely.

As soon as the last carriage was out of sight, Godric turned to Salazar. “It would be best, for yourself and the students,” he said tightly, “if you left before term starts in September.” Godric left Salazar no time to fight. He turned with his last words and disappeared with a pop to go on a holiday. Salazar crossed his arms over his chest and turned his cold eyes on Rowena and Helga. They had the nerve to look uncomfortable, unable to fully meet his gaze. Salazar sniffed, rolling his eyes and turning his gaze back to the school he had helped to build. They left him quickly, making their way back through the gates. Finally out of my way, he thought as he watched them go. Now I can work in peace. He knew they too would be leaving for the holiday by the end of the week. If they want me gone, I’m gone. But not before I’ve finished my work.

“Elf!” Salazar called as he walked through the empty castle. The elf who had given him the egg and the toad appeared at his side. “Gather your carvings, your tools, and my crew. Today is the day.” The elf nodded and immediately disappeared.

By the time Salazar arrived in the bathroom, fifty to sixty elves and several stone carvings were assembled, ready to enter the chamber.

“Open up,” Salazar hissed in Parselmouth. The slide-like pipe opened and all of the elves, along with their carvings, quietly made their way down the slide.

The snakes on the door were installed. The two were intertwined and glowed oddly; the emeralds were still freshly cut. The elves put snake carvings, all with places to put a jewel if Salazar desired, onto the pillars. Elves were already wetting and cutting the protuberance of stone into the shape of feet. Salazar could see that the fifty to sixty elves would be done with the statue that afternoon, so he left for lunch.

Halfway through lunch Rowena turned cautiously toward Salazar, abandoning her meal. “Salazar, I think you aught to consider Godric’s proposal,” she suggested softly.

“Proposal?” he replied incredulously. “He’s kicking me out of my own school!” Salazar threw down his fork with his words, angry that Rowena could propose such a thing.

“He’s not kicking you out, but…”

“He’s kicking me out and you know it,” he spat back. When she didn’t respond he shot up from the table. “You want me to leave too! Admit it; you want me out of this place!” Rowena opened her mouth but Salazar didn’t wait to hear what she had to say. He stormed out of the Great Hall and straight to the bathroom, seething. Within seconds he was in the chamber where the elves had been working non-stop all day. They were all exhausted, but the statue was finished.

Salazar double checked all of the snakes and his own personal statue carefully to make sure that the elves were no longer needed. He stood before them all, ready to order them not to say anything. They all looked at him expectantly, waiting for their next order.

“I will soon be leaving this castle, but I order you, even when I am gone, to never say anything about this chamber or the work you’ve done in it. Understood?” The elves all nodded, bowing lowly before they left the chamber under his orders.

____



Several weeks passed, but Salazar hadn’t left. Perhaps a small part of him wanted to try to salvage his position, or maybe he merely wished to make things hard for Godric until the last possible moment. A week before school was to start the three other founders returned to Hogwarts. Godric Gryffindor wasted no time in sending letters to all of the students—including, much to Salazar’s disgust, the Muggle-born.

“I told you that this school needs to rid itself of Mudbloods,” Salazar said as Godric addressed the envelopes. “We are wasting our time on those unworthy of magical learning.”

“And I told you that if you want an only pureblood school you need to start one somewhere else. I told you that you were no longer welcome in this place. Hogwarts School is for all who wish to learn magic, not for those you would select. If you are not going to accept that, then get out of my way. These letters are late and the students will be returning in two days.”

“Fine,” Salazar said, “but you should know that one way or another, now or sometime along the road, this school will be cleansed of dirty blood.” Salazar strode out of the room and went to his office.

Salazar packed all of his things, sending some by magic to lodgings he had already procured, but leaving two bags to carry out. After his office, study, and room were cleaned out, Salazar went to bed, knowing that he had a trying day ahead.


___



Salazar ate breakfast alone, not wanting to speak to Godric. After breakfast he wrote a letter to each of the three other Hogwarts founders. He wrote letters to Rowena and Helga, explaining why he was leaving and thanking them for their understanding. He told Rowena that she was the smartest witch of her age. .They were formalities really, since everyone already knew why he was leaving. The letter to Godric took a significantly longer time. After several drafts and crossings-out, Salazar ended up with a very short letter.

Godric,

We have been friends for a very long time. It is my sad duty to inform you that I will be leaving the school, as you have already informed me. I hate to follow your orders, but I can not stand and watch the undeserving gain magical knowledge. I cannot stay here any longer and watch those with dirty blood enter the school that I helped to create. I am afraid that the rift between us is growing too great, and I don’t want my students to have to watch us fight and me eventually kill you, because you know that I would. Please divide the pure students of my house between Rowena and Helga. Their learning should not suffer merely because you drove me out of my own school. When my true heir returns to Hogwarts, the Chamber of Secrets will be opened, unleashing a horror unknown to even you, and Hogwarts will finally be cleansed of mudbloods. There will be nothing you can do to stop it.

Wishing you the best of luck with a word of warning,

Salazar Slytherin


____



Salazar awoke before dawn, picked up his bags, and walked to the girl’s bathroom where the chamber was hidden, hissing for it to open one last time. After sliding down the pipe, Salazar walked to the door with the intertwined snakes. “Imperium,” he said, pointing at the door. As soon as it glowed green, he hissed, “Open” in Parselmouth. It glowed white and then back to its original color. “Open,” Salazar hissed again and the door slid open. Salazar walked through the chamber, past the columns with the snakes. He took one last look at his statue and walked out of the chamber. The door and pipe closed behind him, sealing the chamber. Salazar pointed at the broken faucet, and a small snake was engraved on it.

As Salazar walked back through all of the school halls, he seethed with rage again, thinking of how he had been kicked out of his own school. Stopping in the Great Hall just long enough to leave the letters to his former friends in their breakfast places, Salazar walked out of the school, shutting the door behind him and walking to the gate. He turned around. One last time, Salazar looked upon the Hogwarts castle. Instead of feeling pride, as he had the first time he had looked at it, Salazar felt only anger and resentment. Without another look he turned around, and kept walking towards the carriage that would take him to his new home in Bulgaria. “You win for now, Godric,” he said to himself, his breath rising in the chilly September air. “I followed your orders. I’m gone. But you just wait, my heir will return and I will win in the end. Even if I leave before term starts. Even if I am gone by September.”

Chapter 7: The Grey Lady
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Good evening.

Croeso cynnes i chi . . . a warm welcome to you.

Oh . . . dear child! Shh . . .please don’t be startled. Why, you’ve seen ghosts before, surely? At the Feast earlier this evening, remember?

Yes, I was there . . . I was one of the many spirits flitting about the Great Hall. We ‘flit about’ quite well, don’t you think? It was I, hovering just to your left when you were Sorted into Ravenclaw . . . and . . . yes, that was me, the ghost lady.

Yes, you’re right, I did wake you. I do apologize, but I thought you and I should have a little chat. May I sit on your bed? Bless you . . . yes, that’s much more comfortable. Of course, comfort to a ghost is a rather relative thing. So is sitting for that matter. What? No, don’t worry about the others, they can’t hear me if I choose it. They shall not invade on our privacy, for this little talk is just between you and I.

Let me extend my congratulations. You’ve entered a noble House, steeped in the finest traditions of learning, scholarship and intelligence. You should be proud! You’ve met your Prefects and your Head of House, Professor Flitwick? I’m sure you will find him an accomplished and kind advisor.

You’re settling in well, are you? Ahhh, most excellent . . . really well done! I can see you are an intelligent, capable child, and I think you and I shall get along famously here at Hogwarts.

I? Why, I am The Grey Lady, the official ghost of Ravenclaw House. I like to visit this Tower late on the first few nights of each school term, to make sure that all is as it should be. New students may have a difficult time adjusting to their new surroundings, and I, well . . . a dweud y gwir, I like to help ease their way.

I also have a special reason . . . a personal mission, if you will. You see, I search every new child coming into Ravenclaw, looking for that special little something, that spark that may set them apart from the others. I like to single out these students, you see . . . single them out for special devotion and care. I become their mentor, their private teacher, counselor and confidante. It’s my little way of contributing to the success of this institution.

This year, I have chosen you.

You seem surprised! How did I choose you? Oh, there are a thousand and one clues to look for, if one cares to take the time. And of course a ghost has all the time in the world . . . and beyond it, for that matter. For instance, I noted the heavy satchel dragging upon your shoulder as you entered the grounds. You refused to leave it with the rest of your baggage, unlike the other students. You even took it to the Feast with you. Books, I’m assuming? Yes, I thought so. And you tried to engage your fellow students in conversation about . . . what was it? . . . yes, a comparison of Flordisi’s theorems of magical origination with Lotrangle’s. You met with a fair amount of blank stares and stony silence, didn’t you?

Well, my dear, you are learning one of the harder lessons of the gifted. Not everyone cares to help slack our thirst for knowledge. We are rare folk, you and I, so I’d like to help you on your way here at school, and make your time here a pleasant one. You will learn wonders here, oh yes, things your imagination dared not dream of. Of course there will be the mundane to muddle through, but that exercise in itself is a valuable learning tool as well.

Name?! Why I. . . well, my goodness! No one has asked that question of me for . . . let’s see . . . nearly a hundred and twenty-five years, at least! Oh no, you mistake me -- I am not offended. Far from it! I am just surprised, and for a seven-hundred year old ghost to be surprised is no small thing!

In life, I was Eirian ferch Brynmore Llwyd. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Why do you think I’m known at The Grey Lady -- much easier to pronounce. That’s the Welsh for you, long on names and even longer on tales.

My tale? Oh no, you really don’t want to know all of . . . really?! You do? Let me see, it was so long ago; even a ghost’s memory fades a bit over time. But first, settle in . . . there, that’s cosy, isn’t it?

I was born in the year1386 at my Father’s estate, just outside the village of Morabry in western Cymru; that’s Wales to you, dear. Not familiar with this part of Wales are you? Morabry lies close to the Afon Tywi, the River Towy. I’m sorry, but you’ll find I tend to slip from time to time into my native cymraeg -- the welsh, especially when I am reminiscing. It annoys the ruffles off Sir Nicholas, the Gryffindor spirit. ‘Lady Eerie,’ says he, ‘I don’t know why you must revert to that dreadful tongue!’

Have you never been to west Wales? Ah, Cymru -- hen wlad fy'n nhadau, Land of my Fathers! You’re missing a sight, then: the gentle green hills and valleys, the wooded gorges, and the tangy smell of the sea near the cliffs and sands. That’s where our house stood, on the limestone crag over-looking the great docks. It was a tortuous climb up from the beaches; it was no wonder that the only ones living there were magical folk, for how else could you get there but by broom or Apparation?

Of course, by ‘house’, I really mean it was a small castle. Only the Muggle peasants and the low-born actually had ‘houses’ then. Nothing so grand as Hogwarts mind you, but it was fine by the day’s standards. Grandfather Llwyd ap Talfryn moved the family there, to the site of a long-decayed Roman-Wizard settlement, and it was he who orchestrated the teams of builder wizards in constructing the castle. Cracks used to appear regularly in the walls from the settling ruins (I think he skimped a bit on the stabilisation spells), but he just patched things up on his own -- never let anyone help. That’s one of my earliest memories of him; stalking about the stone walls well into his ninth decade, his wand at the ready, muttering “Reparo!” under his breath.

Oops -- you are quite right. I’ve gone and floated to the ceiling, haven’t I? Happens sometimes when I lose my concentration. There . . . back onto the bed. Now, where was I . . .?

Father was Brynmore ap Llwyd, a great warrior wizard in his own day. He was a general in the Great Goblin Wars of 1370, you know, quite a renowned hero. He returned from battle a titled and rich man, married a young witch fabled for her comeliness as well as her quick wit, and settled upon his father’s estate, which was his due as the eldest son. There he spent his days hawking hippogriffs (he raised a prize herd) and drinking mead. He was no drunkard, mind you; just . . . merry. He died three years before I did, in an unfortunate accident separating two broody female hippogriffs.

My Mother, Morwenna ferch Arvel ap Talfryn, was daughter to Grandfather’s cousin, and as I said before, a legendary beauty. She had little patience for that however; if a visiting bard or poet began to wax poetic about her ‘celestial azure eyes’ or the ‘willowy grace’ of her figure, she used to sniff and say, “How tiresome,” before abruptly leaving the room. No, her passion was learning and knowledge of almost any kind, and she used to drink it as my Father devoured his kegs. Mother would send to the far kingdoms and invite scholars and learned wizards and witches to her side to discuss any number of topics. I believe it was at her knee that I began my life-long love of learning and the written word.

Interesting, really. For it was, after all, my love of books that killed me.

As I was saying, I considered myself lucky. My Mother taught me to read early, in an era when young girls were pushed to learn embroidery spells before learning their letters. She had amassed a great library at our home, and it was there I spent the majority of my childhood. I’ve often wondered what happened to that library after we all died.

My two brothers, of course, took after our Father, and since they were older than I by several years, they were off and away to the Wars almost before I could remember them. Cefin was the eldest; he fell to an especially nasty curse accidentally hurled by one of his own men at the Battle on Magical Rock in 1402. Aled succumbed to the Black Death, as did my sister Meinir, and both of their young families the following year.

And here we come to the personal tragic part of my story, my own death. Oh no, I don’t mind speaking of it -- you’ll find we ghosts are strangely rather fond of speaking of our own demise. ‘Tis owing to our morbid sense of humour, I suspect.

You’ve heard of the Black Death, I suppose -- the Bubonic Plague the Muggle scientists now call it. It swept through great portions of Europe throughout the fourteenth century and beyond, killing nearly a third of all people, Muggle and wizard alike. No one knew how The Great Mortality was spread in those days, though there were many theories. Some thought t’was brought about by evil demons roaming the land, casting the spell of Pestilence upon any they met. Some thought it came from dreams sent by the Devil during sleep, and still others believed it the wrath of God.

Whatever it was, whatever the cause, it took my Mother in autumn of 1404. One moment she was walking about, overseeing the work of the house-elves at their tapestries (our tapestries were known across the breadth of Cymru and beyond; some survive to this day and hang in the halls of the Ministry for Magic), and the next she succumbed to a host of dreadful fevers and spasms throughout her body, and by the next morning she was dead. Within an hour of her death, the house-elves began to fall where they stood, one by one, like tiny little saplings in a spring storm. We had a number of servants, and they ran off or Apparated away within days of Mother’s death for fear of the Plague The hippogriffs flew off and, I’m assuming, became feral.

So there I was, a fortnight later, completely alone and rattling away in the empty ancestral Talfryn Castle, exactly like the spirit I was to become.

Sad? Well, yes, I have some memory of being sad -- I’m sure I was, given all that had happened. You should understand, my dear, that a ghost rarely experiences or even remembers the strong emotions of their past life. They are detached things, no longer a part of me, like a faded dream.

Anyway, some weeks before The Great Mortality reared its diseased head on our shores, I was expecting the arrival of a parcel, a very special book that I had obtained through a purchasing agent located in the North Country. Through a series of Mother’s connections (and no small amount of Father’s gold) I had arranged for The Black Book of Muraurum . . . yes! My! You are a clever child! I see that you know that this is the book containing the early history of none other than Merlin himself.

As I was saying, the Black Book of Muraurum was purchased from a Muggle shopkeeper, who insisted on sending the book by his own bonded journeyman. Very tedious, I know, but you must remember the time: the Plague was loose about the land, lawlessness abounded and highwaymen were everywhere. An anonymous scrap of parchment left at the front gate informed me that the journeyman had reached Morabry.

I don’t know if you can imagine my excitement. Have you ever wanted something so bad, it occupied your every waking hour? I think the thought of that book was all that was keeping me sane during that wretched time, all that I had to look to the future for. But something else kept me from leaping upon my broom and sailing down to the village.

Fear.

The great docks near Morabry were an important embarkation arena because they were on the ferry routes across the Tywi and Taf to Pembrokeshire and hence to Ireland. Pilgrims passed this way to St Davids, and important holy place for the Muggle faithful. I remember taking walks as a child with Grandfather along the craggy heights above the port, peering down as the ships disgorged their flocks of white clad pilgrims, occasionally dotted with the brown home-spun robes of the religieuse escorting them. “You stay away from the likes of them, Eirian,” warned Grandfather, “our kind and them -- we don’t mix.” Rumours already abounded in the village about us, of the clan of witches living in the castle on the rocks, and the religieuse who passed the cliff base would wave the talismans about their necks in our direction and avert their eyes. Grandfather told me what these pious people did to other Muggles suspected of being witches, and it gave me nightmares several nights hence.

I can see by the trepidation in your eyes, young one, that you have guessed what happened next. Yes, I did overcome my fear, and venture down to the village to retrieve my book, and yes, I did encounter a crowd of angry, frightened Muggles, driven quite mad with their grief and fear of the Plague. As most people do in times of great turmoil and peril, they looked about for the most convenient scapegoat to blame for the Black Death that swept their numbers, and then I strolled down the main road. I was surrounded before I knew it and overcome.

How, you ask, did a group of ordinary Muggles overcome a true witch? I would like to say that I fought bravely, standing my ground to the last, spinning spells and curses about like a fierce gale. But to be brutally honest, it was a well-aimed brick contacting with my skull that brought the encounter to its unfortunate end.

I woke later, groggy and disorientated on a damp, stone floor. A gruff voice said, “You will remain here, witch, until we decide what to do with you.” I looked up and beheld a scraggly group of Muggles at the door, a single flickering torch illuminating them from behind so that I was unable to perceive their faces. “And here . . . take your Devil’s Book. It’ll do you no good here!” And one man flung out his arm and an object flew at me, landing with a slap by my hand. There was a rumbling of laughter and growls, the slam of a heavy door, and the men were gone.

Fortunately, they left the torch behind them, stuck in the bracket on the wall outside of the cell, for indeed, that was what I was in. Unfortunately, I recognised where I was. This was a cell in the dungeons below my own home, Talfryn Castle. And of course, being the dungeon created by a wizard and expected to hold only wizarding folk, it was warded with charms and spells to imprison those with magical abilities.

In other words, I was stuck.

I don’t know what happened to the rabble who placed me there, for I never saw them again. I perished some days later, of thirst and hunger, the precious book I had risked my life for clutched to my breast. The true irony? I was only able to read a few pages; the torch sputtered out within an hour of my imprisonment.

Biti ynte neu dyna bite. What a pity!

You now know the true nature of my existence, such as it was. I do not haunt the halls of Hogwarts merely because it is my old school. My haunting is because of that book, The Black Book of Muraurum. Wherever it goes, I follow. It was my last great obsession in life, and because of it, I was consigned to oblivion.

After passing through a number of hands, the Book was acquired by Headmistress Dilys Derwent and brought here to Hogwarts and along with it came the incorporeal me, The Grey Lady. Seems the Headmistress was installing ghosts to the four houses and I was the last to arrive, right after The Fat Friar. Of course, I took an immediate and dim view of The Friar, given my previous unlucky encounter with other religieuse, but he’s such a jolly good fellow, no one can remain aloof from him for long.

So I became part of the fabled ghosts of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of my installation into Ravenclaw House, I am most pleased. With its traditions of learning, scholarship and intelligence I find a comfortable niche. In fact, I often fit into a comfortable niche, right beside the fireplace, should you ever have need of me. It has been a good afterlife, I must say. The other spirits here are a varied and colourful lot, and our community is both dreadful (in the best sense of the word) and stimulating. The Bloody Baron’s manners are atrocious, of course; I don’t know how many times I’ve been run-through with that pig-sticker of his. Peeves’s little tricks (I’m sure you will encounter him soon) can be a tad tiresome, but even he has his endearing moments.

I also enjoy a pleasing and mentally challenging relationship with some of the living staff, and I can often be found in either the Library or in the classrooms, so do give a wave as you pass by. It’s very pleasing to a ghost to be acknowledged by the living. I suppose it all comes down to respect, doesn’t it, my dear? The professors demand it of the students, and we see no reason why the dead shouldn’t share the regard enjoyed by the staff. Remember, a ghost never retires. We contribute to and maintain the ideals of this great institution, and will continue to do so for eternity.

And now I see your eyes growing heavy, child, so I think our conversation must conclude for the night. There will be plenty of time later for more questions; after all, a spirit has nothing but time!

So settle in, little one, and rest safe in the knowledge that while most of Hogwarts sleeps, there will be one looking after you who never slumbers.

Good night . . . Noswaith dda.


Chapter 8: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington
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By: PureBlood Muggle
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Nicalyse
Title: Neither Hither Nor Thither
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: This is dedicated to all the fantastic Staff at HPFF.
The world wouldn't be the same without this wonderful fanfiction
archive and forums. Thank you for all your hard work!

And thank you to Infairi for making this wonderful chapter graphic
for me, as well as a big thank you to my two betas Jessi_Rose and
Nicalyse!

-----


It was uncharacteristically warm for late October. The sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky. Leaves on the trees were starting to change colour from luscious green to vibrant oranges and yellows and a myriad shades of reds and browns. Chestnuts started falling off the majestic trees that stood tall and proud in the local park.

The local park, where my life took an unexpected turn on this fateful, beautiful day in 1492.

In those days it was difficult to be a wizard. Not that the magic itself was more demanding, no. All over the country we were feared for our magical powers were deemed unholy and devilish; sometimes, it was claimed that we were the devil himself in many a disguise. In the widespread fear of wizards and witches, we were hunted down by Muggles, like one would hunt down a rabid dog. Once found guilty of witchcraft or wizardry, the cruellest of ways were found to dispose of us. Whenever one of us got caught, we luckily were able to use our magic to forgo that dreadful fate on most occasions. Many a Muggle, however, died needlessly, burnt at the stake, mistaken for a witch or wizard.

And we just looked on. We did not dare interfere. More and more did we remove ourselves from the Muggle world; we stopped offering our help with everyday tasks as well as medical advice. What good would it do to heal a Muggle only for him to point at you in fear, shouting, “He’s a wizard!” They did not understand us, as we did not understand them.

Of course, Muggles hunting us and trying to kill us only fuelled the old pureblood families’ belief that Muggle Hunting should be legal. This was, however, frowned upon since the great Merlin himself set up the Order of Merlin, an organisation established to ensure no magic would be used on unsuspecting Muggles. By and large, those rules set by the Order were, publicly at least, obeyed. None of the noblest of wizards and witches would risk their good name to be tainted by openly going against the greatest wizard who ever graced our earth. Still, many a Muggle met a fateful, unsuspecting end, no doubt by the hand of one wizard or another. Business was booming for assassins, who could be bought for their sworn secrecy and their clean work.

It has to be said that at the time, strictly speaking, there was no actual law prohibiting the use of magic in front of Muggles. Although the amount of magical people displaying their abilities decreased significantly out of fear of executions by such horrible methods, even magic could not save you from.

I should know. It happened to me.

As I already pointed out, that fateful day in question was uncharacteristically warm and beautiful for that time of year. After a long day, and although I was tired from the day’s activities, I looked forward to a stroll through our local park; today, more so than on any other day. I was going to see her again.

My sweet Lorelei. She was beautiful, at least to me she was the most beautiful woman on earth. Her skin was pale and as delicate as the finest Chinese porcelain, her hair had the colour of golden honey, her eyes the depth of the deepest sapphire blue ocean and her lips were the colour of the ripest cherries. Whenever she smiled at me, the whole world lit up and all my worries dissipated into a feeling of content. Nothing bad could happen to me as long as I had her heart. She was my life, my everything. And on that glorious day, on the thirtieth day of October 1492, I was going to muster up all my Gryffindor courage and ask for her hand in marriage.

I had everything planned out for us. A small ceremony with only the closest of our friends. The priest had accepted my modest donation and agreed to oversee the proceedings the next day, for I did not want to wait any longer to call my sweet Lorelei my wife. The best dress maker in town sat, expecting her to call in the evening so that her gown may be ready by morning. The goldsmith, a very talented Goblin, sat, waiting for my sign to finish the rings.

Oh, how mocking it seemed that my last full day on earth as a living, breathing human being was so beautiful.

I had arrived at the park at the exact time we agreed upon; the nineteenth hour. Before long, my eyes spotted her strolling towards me, radiating perfection. When she reached me, I greeted her with a bow and took her hand in mine, blowing a chaste kiss on it before offering my arm for her to take. And so we strolled among the trees for a few precious minutes. Neither of us spoke for we were comfortable just being in each other’s company.

To the objective observer I may have looked calm on the outside. On the inside, however, turmoil raged through me. I questioned, once again, how I deserved the love of such a beautiful and loving woman.

We passed a vendor who sold hot roasted sweet chestnuts and I purchased a portion for us to share. Lorelei and I halted under a particularly large chestnut tree and seated ourselves on the cast iron bench at the foot of its trunk. For a while, we sat in complete silence, bar a few murmurs of “Thank you” and “You are welcome” as I passed her one more of the delicious chestnut fruits.

I studied her features and it did not escape me that she looked nervous. Or did I only imagine such thing due to my own nervous state of mind? Again, I thought about the best way of proposing to her. And then, there was the other problem. Lorelei was a Muggle and I was a pureblood wizard. It was certainly not unheard of; Muggles and Wizards joined in marriage.

It was, however, a secret I had yet to share with her. As far as she was concerned, I too was as normal a Muggle as herself.

And right there, under that majestic tree, on that cast iron bench, it suddenly seemed perfect. The right time to do what my heart told me to do. I summoned all my courage and cleared my throat while she placed her delicate lips around yet another maroon. She raised her eyes to meet mine with a curious expression reflecting in them. She was so beautiful.

“My sweet Lorelei, I have…”

I was interrupted by a sound of pain escaping her mouth. The sweet chestnut she had bitten into seconds earlier had broken one of her front teeth. I immediately dropped the rest of the delicacies and gently put a finger under her chin to turn her to me so I could take a better look at the damage. Watery tears shimmered in her sapphire blue eyes as she reluctantly opened her mouth for me to inspect.

It had been a long day. From early morning I had prepared all arrangements for our wedding for I was sure I had her heart in the same way she had mine. I was tired, but more so I was nervous; nervous about revealing the full truth about myself. With a flick of my wand I could restore her striking smile. It was time to tell her.

“I can fix your tooth,” I spoke softly, reassuringly.

“How?” The tears that moments ago threatened to escape her eyes now cascaded down her flawless, flushed cheeks. I looked into her eyes only to find despair and sorrow; but I also found something else. Trust and love. She trusted me and she loved me. So I whispered quickly, before my courage left me again.

“Magic.”

I reached into the inside of my cloak, where I stored my wand in a specially sown pocket, and drew it out for her to see. Her look changed to one of surprise and… fear?

“No!” She exclaimed, “No, you can’t be…”

“Sh, my love, it will be alright, I can fix your tooth.” I cupped her face with my right hand while keeping my wand in my other. “Just a quick wave of my wand and you smile will shine as bright as the sun again.” I knew the spell well, for I had used it on many a small Muggle child on the streets. Muggle children, you see, have no fear of magic. Children have no preconceptions, no prejudice. They still see and notice what adults ignore, until they are robbed of their innocence and slowly moulded into a proper member of Muggle society.

Densaugeo Restituo Dentis

That was all I had to say, while carefully aiming at the right tooth. Alas, fate had a different idea.

Densaugeo tsk-choo,” a sneeze overcame me without warning. And, to my horror it did so in the middle of the incantation. The tooth did not re-grow and repair but a tusk sprouted from her mouth, grown down to the tip of her chin. Lorelei let out a terrible, terrible shriek and from all over the park, passers by ran over to see what had caused her outburst.

She had her hands firmly clasped over her mouth in a frantic try to conceal the damage I had done. I was in shock; all my mind could concentrate upon was the thought that I had hurt her. Desperately, I tried to think of the spell to counter it. Just then, when I raised my wand arm again to try and undo what I had accidentally done, our eyes locked. Never had I seen such fright in them. I was caught so very much by surprise to see the fear so openly in her face that I dropped my wand like a piece of hot coal and jumped up off the bench. I sputtered, stuttered that I could mend it, that I meant her no harm.

But she didn’t listen. Didn’t want to listen.

She cried horrible tears of anguish at her state and it tore me apart. I wanted nothing more than to restore her to her former beauty. I bent my knee to kneel in front of her and a deafening sound reached my ears.

Crack

I prayed to Merlin and even the Muggle God that it wasn’t true, but when I lowered my gaze to the grounds my eyes found my wand. Cleanly snapped in two by my own knee. I had no time to lament the loss of my wand, or to even contemplate how to fix my sweet Lorelei’s tooth without it, for the shouts became louder and louder drowning out all thought.

“He’s a wizard! He magicked her!”
“I saw it with me own eyes! He’s the devil!”
“Seize him!”
“Run for your lives!”


Desperately, I tried to think of a way out. Wandless magic was never one of my best talents and disapparating away would be suicidal without my wand and in the state I was in, I would surely splinch myself. The main reason I stayed however, if not the only reason, was my Lorelei. I loved her and I wanted to take her pain away and make her see that she was still in love with me.

I pleaded with her, even when strong hands dragged me away. I shouted for her, declared my love for her and insisted I could truly restore her beauty. But she only buried her face deeper in her hands and refused to even acknowledge me. I could see the sobs racking her body and it pained me that I had caused it and was now powerless to change it.

They took me away and locked me into a small cell, like a common criminal. In their eyes, I was. I pleaded with the Muggles, told them I could put her right. But they did not believe me, nor did they stay to listen to my cries.

All night I cried sitting on the cold stone floor of my mouldy cell. In one corner a heap of straw lay piled up, infested with rats. The only light source that filtered into the place came from a small slit high up near the ceiling. For want of a better word, that was probably a window. Water dripped down de side walls and from parts of the ceiling; many an infestation of small bugs crawled across the floor.

I cried. I truly cried. Not for myself but for my love. I never knew a broken heart could be so painful. Here, where no one could see me I gave in to tears.

As dawn neared I knew my time would be short if found guilty by the Muggles. I had to think of a plan for my trial. Of course, I would have to deny any magical ability.

But it never came. The trial.

I was found guilty without one and swiftly sentenced to death by means of the axe. Again I pledged my innocence but without success.

The Muggle priest entered my small confine and asked if I wished to confess. I knew then that my end had come and all hope of a pardon left my heart. I did confess then. I confessed my love to Lorelei and made a promise to never leave her and always watch over her. Then, the priest blessed me and told me it was time to go. Head held high, I followed the priest out into the dark corridor where I was immediately shackled by two fierce looking guards.

I was led outside and the bright morning sunshine near blinded me. A fairly large crowd had already gathered in the street to watch the spectacle, parting for us like water does for a passing boat as we made our way through. When we arrived in the middle of the town square and the last of the gathered people made space for us, I saw it; the huge block of wood, placed carefully in the middle of a raised platform. Next to it stood the executioner who would have the grim task to rid me of my head.

Should I try to run?

No. After all, I was a Gryffindor. And Gryffindors never ran away from their fate. As we arrived at the block I stood tall and overheard the executioner talk with a man who looked like the guard in charge.

“So you did not sharpen the axe?”

“Aye, Sir. Coudn’ fin’ the stone ta do so.”

“Will it still work?”

“Aye. Bu’ it migh’ take a couple more blows than normal.”

“Do your best.”

“Aye, Sir.”

A couple more blows?

This did not sound right. Oh what an end I was going to receive!

All the while my eyes scanned the crowd. I found friends and family and for a brief moment of time my heart leapt in hopes they would rescue me. Then, I noticed the looks of utter disgust on their faces. My heart sank again, lower than ever. How could I have hoped? For they despised me for betraying my family once before when I was sorted into Gryffindor house and not Slytherin like my brothers. Now, I had been caught courting a Muggle woman. In their eyes I have disgraced my whole family.

I tore my eyes away and they found… her. My Lorelei. Before I could study her expression though, I was made to kneel and place my head on the block.

That’s when it left me. My Gryffindor courage, my bravery. I turned into a gibbering wreck, sobbing and declaring, once again, my innocence.

Strange, how everything around me blurred. As I took my last few breaths on this earth the noise from the crowd chanting to the executioner drowned out any coherent thoughts. The noise was so loud, it felt deathly quiet. Then, I noticed it really was quiet. The crowd held their breaths, eagerly awaiting the blow to sever my head cleanly off my body. I closed my eyes, feeling salty tears running down my unshaven face. I resisted the urge to wipe them away. The silence was broken only by the executioner’s mordant words.

“This may sting a bit.”

A collective gasp from the crowd and a swoosh from the axe and my neck and my head felt so sore! But no difference it made. It did not behead me, just gave me a pain unimaginably sharp. Definitely sharper than the axe. And, oh those mordant words once again!

“Won’t be too long.”

Again and again he hacked at my neck, causing pain beyond belief. My last conscious breath I took thinking of Lorelei. No, I couldn’t leave her! I needed to see her again. Oh but my eyes refused to open and my lungs wouldn’t fill with air. I couldn’t die! I was not ready.

Then, I stood, looking upon myself. A bloody mess I was. My head had not fallen off the block and the executioner raised his axe once again. The chief guard however, stopped him.

“It is enough. It is done, he is dead. Forty-five blows are quite alright. Your deed is done, you may leave.”

“Aye, Sir, thank you, Sir.”

Forty-five times?! I stood there in shock of hearing that news. Those were a lot of blows, but why did my head not fall off? I crept closer, aghast at the thought of me dead and noticed my head was still attached. Barely, but clearly. Then I remembered why I was still there.

It had worked!

I looked down myself and noticed that I shimmered and one could see through me. So it was true. I was not dead. Well, I was, but I had not crossed to the other side. I was now a ghost. An imprint of myself. I smiled. I could still be with Lorelei!

Lorelei!

I raised my eyes and scanned the slowly dispersing crowd. Where was she? Did she leave to mourn over my death? I searched and searched and at last I found her, slowly walking away in her long, flowing white dress. She looked like an angel to me. I wanted to get closer to her but found too many people in my way. Then, the strangest thing happened. A Muggle walked through me. It felt weird. Although, I didn’t really feel anything. It was more a case of me somehow knowing what it would feel like if I could still feel anything physical at all.

The Muggle must have felt something though as he shivered noticeably and quickly blessed himself. He mustn’t have seen me. And if he could walk through me… I smiled. Within seconds I was by my Lorelei’s side.

”Lorelei! My sweet Lorelei!”

I called out to her, but she ignored me, or did she not hear me? I called her name again, but still no reaction. I reached out to touch her arm but my hand went straight through her and she shivered and quickly blessed herself. I could not touch her. Was it possible she could not hear me?

I followed her home and watched her sit in her front room and cry hot tears from her beautiful eyes. She loved me as much as I loved her, I knew that now. She grieved for me and it pained me to see her that way. She told me of the witch that righted her teeth. She told me of her regret for not being able to help me out of fear of being burnt at the stake herself. However, I could not make contact with her, could not answer her. So I just sat in the same room as her and stayed with her until her sobs quietened and she fell into an uneasy sleep right there in her chair.

While she slept I floated outside and tried a few things to confirm my theories. After a few hours I found that cats and dogs could either see me or sense my proximity for they would bark at me or hiss at me. Some of the children I encountered could see me. Most of them very small and, to my horror, punished by their parents for telling lies when they tried to tell their mother or father that I was there.

*** ***


Many years had passed since I became a ghost and took up residence in Lorelei’s house. I stayed with her for two years. It comforted me to be near her. And for almost two years all was well. She had grieved for me and talked to me when she was alone. She told me of her days, that she missed me and wished she would have reacted differently. But she could not hear my responses, could not hear my declarations of love for her. And then, one day in July 1494, she stopped. She stopped talking to me. Stopped crying every now and then when the pain overwhelmed her. On my second death day, the last day of October 1494, she spoke to me again, for the very last time. She told me of her love for me, told me of her broken heart and told me of him. He made her laugh. I would like him if only I were able to meet him. He would take care of her.

I did not believe my ears. I followed her outside and followed her to our little park. She strolled gracefully, looking beautiful as ever and then she stopped. Stopped under our Chestnut tree. That’s where she said those final words to me, whispered into the autumn wind.

“Goodbye Nicholas, my love.”

She took a shaking breath and straightened her back. Purposefully, yet still gracefully, she walked away, into the waiting arms of him. He offered her his arm and she took it, smiling. A surge of rage coursed through me. How could she do this to me? I swore my love to her for all eternity and here she left me, left me after only two years!

Oh, how bitter I was then. I floated around, feeling most depressed. I could not bear seeing her with him. A few days I spent floating around without purpose or aim. I even wished myself dead, how ironic. Where now could I find happiness ever again?

Still, I went from one place to the next, finding it harder and harder to stay in one location for too long. One day, in spring of 1495, I found my way back to a castle high up in the Scottish Highlands on the shore of a great loch. Fond memories flooded me and I floated across the water as fast as I possibly could. A feeling I had not felt in what seemed like forever engulfed me.

I was home. At a place full of happy memories where I could forever grieve my lost love and at the same time in a place where I could be heard and seen. For witches and wizards were able to see me, hear me, speak with me. And I remembered now, from my school days, that other ghosts were resident already. I distinctly remember The Bloody Baron. He was scary when I was a lad. I wondered if he still was now that I too was a ghost?

Out of habit, I floated to the large oak front doors of the castle and tried to push them open only to go straight through. I shook my head. Of course, I was a ghost now. Loud noises of animated chatting came from the Great Hall and I went in as fast as I could. It was full of children, from small first years to seventh years. I was so excited that I bobbed up and down, laughing.

Shrieks brought me back to my… senses. Children were staring at me and I quickly arranged my head back onto my shoulders. How embarrassing. If I still could, I probably would have coloured cheeks now. My head, which still was attached by the tiniest of skin, had fallen to the side while I bobbed up and down. Straightening out my ruff to hide my botched execution I made my way to the staff table at the other end of the Great Hall to introduce myself.


And now, 500 years later, in 1995 I am still here. Sometimes, I remember my sweet Lorelei. But the pain is too big to do so and I try to move on and help the students instead. In times like these most students seek help in dealing with the loss of a loved one. They believe I can help them. Because I died. I am being asked the same question over and over again. What happens when one dies? It is hard to answer as I did not cross over. I stayed in nowhere land in between the land of the dead and the living. Just once, I wished they would ask me about Arithmancy. I was good at Arithmancy when I was a student myself.

Alas, I was now only known as the resident ghost of the noble Gryffindor House. They even gave me a nickname. Nearly Headless Nick they call me. I know they don’t mean anything bad by it. Yet it pains me that this tiny piece of skin would be a burden I would carry for the rest of my time here on earth. For an eternity, for that was how long I would still be here.

Time has no meaning to me anymore for only when time itself will cease to exist, so will I. Until then, I will be in between the worlds of the living and the dead - neither hither nor thither.

Fin.


Chapter 9: The Fat Friar
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By: loony86
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Beta Read By: Nicalyse and Jessi_Rose
Title: The Course of My Life
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I have doughnuts and cookies for the staff!!
Take as much as you like, I’ve put a refilling spell on the plates.
Lots of hugs to my great betas nicalyse and jessi_rose, and
to sauerkraut_poet for yet another beautiful chapter graphic.

-----


It was the first day of another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I loved first days at school all my life, and even though I’m not alive anymore, I still love them.

First years seem like a species of their own. Small children with big eyes, trying to take in the whole of Hogwarts as they are being walked into the Great Hall for the welcoming feast.

I always greet them and say how happy I am to see new young faces at Hogwarts. Many of them have never seen a ghost before, and I think I’m more suitable for a first contact than, say, the Bloody Baron. Not that I don’t respect the Baron, but he can be quite intimidating.

I also often express my hopes that the new first years will be Hufflepuffs. That doesn’t have anything to do with house pride. It’s just my experience that more Hufflepuffs are what this school needs. Ravenclaws are fine as well. If there were too many of them and no Gryffindors, they might become arrogant eventually, but right now that’s not the case.

Gryffindors and Slytherins – the fabric of my nightmares. Always fighting each other, never working together. They are carrying the quarrels of the world into our school. A school should be a place where life is still harmonic. The students will get to know harsh reality soon enough.

I still remember my first day in Hogwarts, hundreds of years ago.

I came from a Muggle family, so naturally I had no idea what awaited me, nor did I know anything about the houses and other customs at Hogwarts.

I stepped into the Entrance Hall as an anxious and somewhat lost little boy. One of the professors led us into the Great Hall, and that was another frightening experience. All those faces looking at us! So expectant and curious! I felt very much alone without the friends I had in my Muggle life and without my family.

When I had received my Hogwarts letter, I had dreamt about being a great wizard. My life had been changed very much by this letter, all plans about possible careers were suddenly meaningless. My father had wanted me to take over his workshop – he was a basket maker. But now, an entire new world lay before me for me to live in. A world where I could be more than a fat little boy who was being bullied by everyone.

The Sorting ceremony began and the Sorting Hat described all the houses and their qualities. I remember how much I wanted to be a Gryffindor or at least a Ravenclaw. Slytherin seemed to be an evil house through and through. I didn’t like what the Hat said about it, and I didn’t like the Slytherin students I saw in the Great Hall. And Hufflepuff – well, they were boring. That’s what I thought back then. Nothing special. Hufflepuff seemed to be the place for those poor children who didn’t have any real qualities.

I tried to convince the Hat that I had to be a Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. Now, we all know what happened: The Sorting Hat shouted “Hufflepuff!” almost the instant I put it on my head. The other Hufflepuffs cheered as I took a seat at their table.

Being sorted into Hufflepuff felt like failing, like waking up from all those big dreams I had. When I got to bed that night, I cried for what seemed like hours before I could find sleep. I didn’t understand back then that being loyal and friendly was worth so much more than all the courage, wit, or cunning in the world. It took some time to learn that.

As my second year started, I looked at things a little differently. I had found many new friends in Hufflepuff and I had experienced how much we supported one another. For the other houses, we were the nice losers, so there was literally nothing to be lost for us. We could only gain. And so, with no suppressing expectations to live up to, we worked hard and honestly. When one of us had trouble with things we had to learn, we all helped him or her.

I know what you all think. It sounds like the perfect world. Of course it wasn’t. We had quarrels and disagreements, and we were certainly not always the best of friends. Those details are not anything to dwell on. Because I died quite young, and am older than any living soul you know, I am allowed to paint a rosy picture of the past.

My time as a Hufflepuff student was, all in all, pleasant , not only in my memory, but also in reality.

And then, seven years after my first day at wizarding school, mother Hogwarts released me into the world.

Hogwarts may have remained unchanged in its essential parts. But for the rest of my story, one must consider that my life took place in the late Middle Ages.

I couldn’t risk that anyone might notice I’m a wizard, or else I’d have the Inquisition at my heels. Not that I feared the witch burning – we had learned flame-freezing charms in our first year for precisely that reason.

But once accused of witchcraft, you would be watched closely by Muggle authorities for a long time. Therefore we all had to try and avoid mixing with Muggles at all unless they were very close family members or friends.

There was no real Minstry for Magic like today, but a Magical Council, which had been founded for similar reasons. After school I applied for a job in the Section for Anti-Muggle Security. It would be my task to help and keep our world secret.

I got the job without problems, and after some training I started working. I soon became a specialist for teaching wizards how to keep out of trouble with Muggles. Being Muggle-born myself, I could tell them how Muggles dressed, which items they used in daily life, and so on.

You may think that was an easy task in an age with no modern Muggle technology but, it was definitely not easy. Understanding Muggle life was easy enough for most of us, almost too easy. Many felt that it was not hard to keep up the Statute of Secrecy, and decided to make it a little harder.

People actually started testing how far they could go, how oddly they could behave, before Muggles noticed anything. It was really ridiculous to see grown-up wizards run around in a Muggle town in their cloaks and waving their wands. You must understand that the Council didn’t have nearly as much power as the Ministry does.

Of course there were also a few dark wizards who just didn’t care about secrecy – if a Muggle saw them perform magic, they’d simply kill that Muggle.

Now, why am I telling you all this? Because surely you have asked yourself how and why a wizard can become a friar.

My fellow wizards and witches were driving me insane. Literally. You may laugh about that, but just imagine it for a moment. The Dark Ages really were dark for most of us. It was not easy to deal with the Muggles’ bigotry and all their prejudices. So we all tried to find some fun – and too many found a thrill in hazarding our secrecy. My job was a busy one, and the people I dealt with all thought I was a spoilsport.

I would love to give you one special event and tell you what it was that drove me mad – or at least nearly mad. But I can’t, and that’s the point. It was all the small things, the wizards who just wanted a little fun and excitement and then came boring me to stop them.

They bewitched Muggle horse carriages to fly. They used trip jinxes on Muggles just to see them fall into the dirt of the streets. They flooded small rivers with the Aguamenti charm. They cursed dogs to run in circles.

I’ve never been good at dealing with stress, and that job just wasn’t the right one.

Why didn’t I change my job? Well, any job in the wizarding world would put me into the same problem – join the so-called fun or be the boring outsider.

I didn’t want to be a Muggle with a normal Muggle job either, for fear of meeting wizards in the streets and being laughed at. Yes, I was slowly developing a paranoia. The only logical choice was to become a Muggle friar. I could hide from the rest of the world, from my paranoia. On top of that, I have to admit that I even like their religion, I think it makes perfect sense and does not say that all wizards are evil, although many people believed it did.

During the years I spent in the monastery I took a lot of time to think and put myself under some kind of auto-therapy. Slowly I learned to look at the wizarding world in a sober way again, and I even made a few friends outside my Muggle life. All in all, I was finally finding some inner peace.

I died of old age and bad health, but I didn’t want to die. It wasn’t that I was afraid of death or of dying. But I felt that Hogwarts should not change to the worse, and Hogwarts needed a kind soul. Even if that soul was dead. So I returned, and now I’m Hufflepuff’s resident ghost.

Every year, my greatest pleasure is watching the first years. I have seen many of them turn to the dark side, or fail in life. But I have also seen many grow up to be good men and women to be anything but jolly. ”Cheers!”

THE END




Chapter 10: Dilys Derwent
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By: slytheringinny
Chapter Graphic: PropMaster
Beta Read By: Nicalyse and Bellas blanky
Title: Potions and Prefects
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: You staffers are really a miracle! Thanks to you guys and gals creating HPFF I would have absolutely no outlet for my anger and frustration. I'm not sure I would have continued to love HP as I do now. What can I say, there's not enough words to describe how great you are!?

-----


Dilys Derwent
Healer from: 1722 - 1741
Headmistress from: 1741-1768


Students flapped about at her heels, racing towards the grand oak doors to catch a carriage. It was her last year as a Headmistress at Hogwarts, then, alas, she would retire. Her days spent at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had been limited due to the time spent alone with her family, which was none-to-often. "Headmistress for 27 productive years..." she muttered to herself with a smile, watching her students flock to the doors for the last time. She gripped her mahogany walking-staff tightly in her hands and her silver eyes followed a first year child with his robes buttoned up one too high. She laughed. That was clumsy Edwin McGregor, a student who could never get things right without trying many times.

McGregor...she thought vaguely. That name was the reason she had quit healing and come to Hogwarts. Healing was a hard career to pursue, and trying not to get attached to her patients was one thing Dilys Derwent couldn't bear to do. She was a famous healer before she had ever set foot in Hogwarts as an adult. Healing Sir Henry McGregor earned her the famous status, Sir Henry being the chief of the Auror squad at the time. But that was when she learned not to get attached, and that's why that job was never rightfully hers...controlling a school was more her orderly thing to do. She and McGregor didn’t work on a regular basis anyway…he hardly understood a word she had said to him in the time he was present, even though his cheeky smile made her insides flop.

~1741, March the Third~

"I've got to go check on Sir Henry, Melinda, I can't be busied with a girl who stuck her head in a biting teapot. Send her to the Spell-Defects Ward and I'll be with her after I'm done," Dilys said absentmindedly. Sir Henry McGregor checked in to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries two weeks ago after suffering a particularly brutal Cruciatus Curse. Dilys Derwent was one of the youngest healers out of training at St. Mungo’s. She was constantly on the move trying desperately to improve her skills amongst her better peers, and she hoped dearly that this would be her big break.


Rushing down the halls, Dilys gripped her wand eagerly, ready for Sir Henry's treatment for the day. She wasn’t put on many “healing missions” not after the last fiasco; senior staff were constantly afraid of her inability to separate herself from her patient, her inability to put her emotions aside. That’s why she had vowed not to get involved with Sir Henry, this was her chance to prove she could handle herself. Unfortunately it had only taken a few visits before Dilys broke her vow, the truth was she was in love, with a patient. Something that wasn’t to be done.

She knocked cautiously on 2202A's door. "Sir Henry? Can I come in?" she asked hesitantly.

A sigh and grunt resounded from inside. "Come in if you must then," his weary voice whispered. He knew that 10:08 was his treatment time, and if he were ever to get better he'd have to go through it. That was one reason that Dilys’ heart thumped in her chest every time she entered his room. Whether he knew it or not at this point in his career, he could always be strong in the worse of situations. No wonder he’s a top auror…she had thought many times with a gentle smile.

Dilys swung the door open. Surprisingly, she saw that Henry wasn't shaking. Normally, he'd be shaking from the previous night's dream, horrifying dreams of him under the curse once more. Had the dreams finally stopped? Would that mean he would comprehend what Dilys was saying to him, that she loved him? "Good morning, I see you've improved quite greatly, Henry." Her silver, flashy eyes welled up with small tears when she saw him weakly smile.

"Really? Did I...never would have noticed...." If he was back to his cheeky comments, then he certainly was alright. "Does that mean I can leave and go back to my fiancé?"

Dilys froze at the foot of his bed. "F-Fiancé? Y-You have a fiancé?" She nearly dropped his parchment records she was holding. She had been tending to him for nearly two to three weeks and he had never once said he had a fiancé. And she let herself love him unconditionally.

Henry nodded. "Yes I do, most wonderful woman in the world. And I thank you for healing me so I am able to lay off Auror duties and go see her again," he flashed her a brilliant smile, the same one Dilys fell in love with. And she wouldn't love anymore. 'Fiancé...' she thought...'I was stupid...'
~


A tear escaped her eyes once more as she watched a sixth year prefect try and help the young boy re-do his robes up again. That boy was the product of Sir Henry and his fiancé. That was the consequence she was left with, watching their happy son grow up in her school, knowing that Henry was never rightfully hers. She wondered if Henry remembered her at all. Sighing, she stepped out onto the cobblestone steps, watching students push themselves into carriages for the ride down to the train.

She knew every student by name. There was young Samantha Burgins, the girl who she nominated Head Girl for next year, and soon would become a great Unspeakable. Then, over there was Nicholas Alexander, the boy who was afraid of everything, but thanks to her would become a fantastic flyer. She had helped hundreds of students on their way to becoming the greatest witches and wizards this world had ever seen and hopefully the Headmaster or Headmistress after her would do the same.

"A celebrated Head," declared the Transfiguration teacher, Professor Victor Longhorn. "That's what you'll be Dilys, and you know it." Dilys flushed brilliantly.

"No! You think so?" Dilys exclaimed, sitting at her high seat in the Great Hall. Longhorn nodded. "Really...what did I do to deserve that title?"

Longhorn snorted in laughter. "Like you don't remember how you helped Allisa Hugdens overcome her fear of animals! She's working with Dragons now thanks to you! You're a miracle worker, Dilys Derwent, yes you are. Go ask Sir McGregor, you healed him after all." Victor took a bite of his pancakes that morning and smiled after swallowing.


Dilys liked dwelling on that moment. Her times as a Headmistress had been most eventful. In her first year as "controller" of Hogwarts, she had been welcomed onto the remaining staff with open arms. Who said famous status didn't have it's perks? thought Dilys as she walked down the pavement to wave goodbye. She had helped many students in her first year, and sympathized with the eleven-year olds, exclaiming with a laugh, "Hey! I'm a first year too, so you don't need to feel alone!" And every time it had her new students beaming fondly before rushing off to join their little get-ups of friends.

Along the way, she had reduced to tears over the death of a student, tripped over a tripping jinx set off by the Miculiber twins in the Charms corridor on the fifth floor, earning her a permanent limp, and had successfully seen through almost three centuries of students. She was fond of this school, and would eventually regret leaving it behind, moving on to other things in life like seeing her grandchildren. Although she didn't have the man of her dreams that she once wished for, in fact the man she had fallen in love with for real, had died years ago after her giving birth to two wonderful children.

Yes, Dilys smiled, her years had been eventful, fruitful, and prosperous, and they were at their close. Dilys looked down at her journal sitting upon her lap and grinned as she wrote her final lines down.

And as I leave my home for 27 years for the final time, I look back on the Healing days and the "Headmistress"ing days to realize that the wait and patience was worth it. Seeing all those children grow up and become fine people made me realize what I was missing out on: My own grandchildren. Being my old age, I guess I might want to live life the fullest until I finally croak, and this is the way destiny lead me, to potions and prefects.


Chapter 11: Everard
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Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Arithmancy_Wiz
Title: Memorable
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thank you so much to the wonderful Jessi_rose and
the amazing arithmancy_wiz for beta reading! All credit for the gorgeous
graphic goes to Infairi. I'd also like to say how grateful I am for being
included in this project and I've had a wonderful time doing it. I hope
the staff enjoy this piece and they're worth every minute of hard work
that's been put into this whole project, from all the other authors as well.
Happy reading!

-----


Everard traced his finger reverently over the painting’s rough surface, outlining the edges of the face on its canvas. He dropped his finger to the gilded frame, exploring all the patterns and shapes absentmindedly.

“Is it to your liking, Headmaster?” the man who had painted it spoke from behind Everard’s back.

“It’s perfect, thank you,” Everard answered vaguely, without turning around. The artist accepted the high praise, having been a student of the man as recently as two years ago and knowing that the new Headmaster was difficult to please, and never enthusiastic even when he was.

“I’m glad you like it, sir,” he said sincerely.

“You may leave now,” replied the Headmaster. If he sounded a little rude, the artist didn’t react, being used to the man’s rather dry ways. He bowed and made his goodbyes before departing the room, his payment tucked in a drawstring bag under his arm. Everard was left alone with his new painting.

“You’ve got a long life ahead of you,” he murmured to its textured surface. Then, turning, he looked up at the paintings that already adorned the walls of his office. Some of the subjects in the paintings were female, some were male. Some were scarred, some were whole. All were elderly, and all had an alert glint in their eyes, even though every one of them had been dead for many a year. Except for one. His gaze travelled over slowly to rest on it.

“You’re going to be a fine Headmaster, Mr. Everard,” Dilys Derwent’s portrait smiled at him. She had died just a few weeks ago, and Everard instated as the new Headmaster just yesterday. He smiled sadly at her painted face, all that was left of the best teacher he had never known and a woman who had been like a mother to him.

“Thank you,” he said softly. Dilys had been a wonderful woman and her portrait now hung in both the Headteacher’s Office, as was her right as a previous Headmistress, and in St Mungo’s Hospital, where she had made a huge impact before her time at Hogwarts. If it were not for her, Everard doubted very much he would be here now, setting up the office with his own possessions and looking at a portrait with his own face on it. The painting in question was currently lifeless and would remain so until the moment of his death, after which it would hang on the wall with the other portraits, as befitted a Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Ernest Everard had shown his first signs of magic at the age of four, when he had levitated a spoon whilst crying because he disliked his dinner. His mother had scolded him for trying to throw a spoon at her, and then hugged him. That was one of his very last dim memories of her, one of her whispering in his ear that he was going to be a great wizard. Ever since then, it had been his only ambition to make his mother proud of him like she was that day. To be the great wizard she had predicted he would be. To have his name sound across the whole of the wizarding nation. Most of all, to be memorable.

Now, he hoped, he had succeeded. But it had been difficult. The eleven-year-old Everard had arrived at Hogwarts, motherless and poor. He hadn’t stood out in any way from the rest of his fellow students, and that didn’t suit him well at all. He hadn’t really thought about how he was going to become great before; the little boy who had heard his mother’s words had still been at the impressionable age where they really meant something. He had gone over them so often after her death that he had almost forgotten he would have to work to become famous, taking it for granted that she had been right.

Everard was many things, but stupid was not one of them. He had seen instantly that he was no better than anyone else, whatever he had been led to believe. And he told no one of his desire to become well known. He had been sorted into Slytherin upon arrival, an apt house for one such as him, who knew that he would have to be cunning to get what he wanted from life. And then, Dilys Derwent had become a part of his life. Not as his Head of House, but as his Potions Professor – later Headmistress - and more importantly, a friend.

Teachers and students rarely interacted outside of lessons and detentions, and Everard’s relationship with Professor Derwent had been similar. But for every significant event during his life at Hogwarts and after, there was a matching memory of a conversation with her, advising or congratulating him. What about him had interested her, Everard often wondered. He was certainly nothing special in outward appearances, rather average in fact. His magical skills were a little above average, but he wasn’t overly talented. No, he mused. It was something more that had drawn Dilys Derwent to the young Everard.

Ambition. It was something Everard had a lot of. And ambition was the reason he thought Dilys had been interested in his progress. No one gets anywhere without ambition. He liked to think she had seen it in him. Certainly, he would never have gotten the status of Prefect, then Head Boy, if he had not been determined. He had made himself well known to his Head of House, and the other Heads, he had always adhered to the rules – at least, he had never broken them where he might get caught – and he had generally been a well-behaved pupil. He suspected that even then Professor Derwent had put in a good word for him.

But there is always a reason for ambition. Everard’s only desire was to be memorable. His father had been a great wizard, but had been killed in a duel gone awry. Now his name was all but forgotten, and his memory simply a wisp upon the wind. He was a dim recollection to some, but his name meant nothing to others. Everard did not want that. He wanted people to remember him. He wanted to do something great, achieve wonderful things, all so that his name would never be forgotten. It was not as selfish as it sounded. He feared simply lying in a grave someday, his name and deeds buried with him. It made life seem pointless, as if everything you did was worthless because no one would remember you anyway. His father had risked his life several times over, and now even Everard rarely heard his name mentioned.

Now was his chance. The Head of Hogwarts was a highly respected position, and if he never made the history books any other way, at least his portrait would still hang in that very office for hundreds of years to come, able to talk and communicate with those who came after his reign. He didn’t want his life to be wasted, and now this painting would ensure that no one would forget him. He wanted nothing more.

When a Headteacher passed on or left the position, a new one was chosen either by their predecessor or the Governors. Immediately upon assuming their new post, an artist was commissioned to paint a portrait of them, with a special touch added in so that all the paintings held some spark of their subject’s personality and knowledge. This way, other Headteachers could call upon them in later years for advice and information. Until then, his portrait was like any Muggle painting; still and lifeless.

Everard lifted his portrait and propped it against the wall. It would be stored somewhere safe until the time came when it would be needed. For now, the most recent addition to the office wall was the late Dilys Derwent. He looked up at her almost unknowingly, as his thoughts turned to her. She looked down at him now just as she had done in life and he felt comforted. She was exactly the same as she had been when alive; sharp but kind, intelligent and fair. It was beyond reassuring to see the proof that he would live on beyond his demise. The other Heads had not been well known to him, so he hadn’t been able to tell how accurate the portraits were until now.

“It’s time, Mr. Everard,” Dilys told him kindly, her painted face morphing into a smile. He looked up and nodded. It was time to make his first speech to the school.

~ ~ ~ ~

“It is a sad time for all of us, yet I must ask we go about our business as always,” Everard started. He was not one for long, meaningful speeches. “I am honoured to fill the space left by the passing on of Dilys Derwent, a great lady who I’m sure will be remembered fondly by all. Her portrait hangs both here and at St Mungo’s Hospital, so her memory will live on in you and your children for years to come. To Dilys.” He ended abruptly, raising his glass in a toast. The students followed suit. The Hall was decorated with black drapes, and even the sky that was its ceiling was stormy looking. Hogwarts was mourning the death of its Headteacher.

The meal was quieter than usual, Everard noted later on. Students were chattering as always, but they were more subdued and there was far less giggling. He supposed the sombre feeling of the building itself – if a building could have feelings – had affected the mood of the students. He felt ashamed to admit it, but he liked the idea of being commemorated like this on the event of his own death. When the students began to leave, he got up and began to cross the Hall himself. He had lots to organise in his new office. But before he could exit, he was waylaid.

“Professor Everard, sir?” a voice sounded at his elbow. It was a third year Ravenclaw boy, looking earnestly up at him. “I’m glad they named you Headmaster, sir.” He said nothing further, just got up and left. Everard halted, slightly touched. It was a good start to his career as Headmaster.

Before he had come to work at Hogwarts, Everard had been a Ministry worker, fairly high up and well respected in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He had started out in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, but with his ambition, he hadn’t remained in the dusty office for long. He had done several note worthy things and had earned himself a portrait on Level Two of the Ministry, but it hadn’t been enough. Being Headmaster of the only British wizarding school was enough. Having a portrait in that school, placed in possibly the most important room, was enough. Having a guarantee that even the most prestigious witches and wizards would still remember him in hundreds of years was enough.

He took a last look around the Hall – his Hall – and then left through the huge doors. He would have plenty of time over the coming years to stare, but right now, he had an office to break in.

~ ~ ~ ~

Over thirty years later, Ernest Everard lay on his deathbed, his pale face calm and his forehead free of lines for the first time in a decade or more. His successor stood by his side, silent as the grave. She did not cry or even show emotion, but he had been a good man and would be sorely missed.

“Where would you like it?” someone asked from behind her. She took a breath and turned around.

“Hello, Professor.” Everard’s elderly face smiled at her from between gilded frames. His portrait had aged as the years passed, and now resembled the body on the bed so much that she could almost believe it had just been painted. It had been hidden for all the years he had been Headmaster, but now its time had come to join the other paintings on the wall.

“Good evening, Headmaster,” she answered him, a little tremble in her voice. It was unnerving to know this man lay dead behind her, yet she was communicating with him just as she had done before his death.

“Nay, Headmaster no longer,” he said, winking at her. She blinked in surprise; he had rarely been this light-hearted in life. Perhaps death was not to be feared as much as it was.

“Headmistress?” the man who held the painting interrupted. She held up a hand.

“Just a moment, please.” He nodded, and she turned back to Everard. “ Once a Headmaster of Hogwarts, always a Headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor. I would have thought you knew that.”

“Remember me,” he said, this time seriously.

“You will be remembered,” she replied. He looked at her for a moment, his eyes as intelligent as they had always been when he was alive. She marvelled at how exactly the portrait had copied the late Everard; she never would have imagined he would have such a fitting memorial.

“I’d like to be placed next to Dilys, please,” Everard said quietly. His successor nodded, gesturing to the man to move him into place next to the silver haired witch.

“One more thing, Headmistress,” The man said after he’d straightened Everard’s portrait. She gave him a questioning look and he moved to the door in answer, opening it slightly to reveal a covered frame behind it. She knew instantly what it was.

“Leave it here, please,” she said, her voice perfectly level.

He caught onto the unspoken request and picked up his things to leave. “I hope it’s to your liking, Headmistress,” he said politely, and then exited the room. She was alone.

She crossed to her canvas, lifting off the sheet covering it without ceremony. Her own face stared back at her, still and cold, but still unquestionably her.

“A wonderful likeness, if I may say,” One of the other paintings on the wall murmured, and she had to agree. She traced her features with one slender finger, admiring the skills that had created it. She was vaguely aware of all the past Headteachers looking down on her, but the portrait held all her attention. Some day it would join those already hanging on the wall, and then the cycle would begin all over again with a new Headmaster and a new painting, ensuring they would always be remembered.

Everard was dead, and nothing could change that. But he would never be forgotten.



Chapter 12: Phineas Nigellus Black
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By: Aisu Hoshino
Chapter Graphic: Elena78
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Arithmancy_Wiz
Title: Reflections of a Black Headmaster
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild Language)
For the Staff: I would like to thank the staff of HPFF for keeping the
site up and running well whilst still having the patience to not smack
us all upside the head. I'd especially like to thank them for keeping order
while not being untouchable. On many forums/sites I've visited, the
staff feels/felt untouchable to me, almost like there not really normal
people, but these strict and scary scowling Snape-like people (okay,
maybe that's an exaggeration), or they are very lax/lenient when it comes
to rules to the point that civility isn't always kept. I like that the staff
of HPFF aren't comepletely stuffy and untouchable (and are mostly
authors themselves) but still do a great job at keeping things going.
This fic and my participation in this project is my attempt at thanks to
all of you. Notice attempt. If it didn't manage to be good enough to qualify
as a good thanks, then I apologize and will try to think of something else
for you. I do hope this is good enough, though, because I do feel it is one
of my better works, and I must say it would be a blow if it turns out to
be crap. I hope ya'll enjoy, and keep up the good work

-----


Phineas Nigellus Black splashed muddy water all over his boots as he stepped in one of the many puddles that were splattered across the ground. Not that they weren’t already wet and muddy, mind you. Rain was coming down hard on this dreary September night, as it had been for quite a while. A streak of lightning flashed dangerously in the sky, and the roar of thunder soon followed it.

What a way to make my grand entrance, he thought sourly as he slowly walked towards the doors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

On the other hand, he said to himself, this could command even more respect from his students. Barging in fashionably late and muddy with thunder clapping and lightning flashing in the background could give him an impressive look.

With this thought in mind, he marched toward the castle with new enthusiasm. It was important to him to have the utmost respect (and in some cases, even fear) from his students, now even more so than ever. This year, he was not entering Hogwarts as their Potions teacher and Head of Slytherin, but as their Headmaster. He was the Head Honcho, the Ruler of the Realm of Hogwarts; he was the King.

Granted, it wasn’t really a royal position, but it sounded good and he might as well have been royalty It was a known fact that the Ki – Head of Hogwarts had more influence over people than the Minister of Magic himself, and he was a Black, one of the most known and noble pureblood families, and he also had the blood of the Nigellus line flowing through him (as well as his name) thanks to his mother.

Oh, how Phoebe Nigellus Black would be proud of her son now! She had always held high hopes for him, always told him he would do great things and make his family proud, and would make certain that the Nigellus name would be as remembered as Black and Malfoy, even if it had no one left to carry it on for a last name.

He didn’t want to remind himself that he wouldn’t have even kept teaching at this school so many years and wouldn’t have accepted the Headmaster position if it weren’t for the fact that his wife Ursula always badgered him about it.

But of course the face of Ursula saying he couldn’t quit because he loved being at the school and teaching too much invaded his mind and angered him.

How foolish his wife could be sometimes! What did he care about teaching a bunch of snot-nosed brats things that they were too stubborn and arrogant to learn? Yes, he respected the school for its history, all the magical secrets that still hadn’t been fully discovered, and its reputation as the best magical school of all time, but he didn’t actually like being there and teaching!

No, his true reason for retuning time and time again to Hogwarts had nothing to do with Ursula or the naive assumptions she made about his love of teaching.The thing that always brought him back to this place was all of the power it gave. If you were a teacher (or Headmaster), in a sense you controlled the life of every student that entered into the castle walls. If you were a student, and one of the few actually willing to learn, you would discover how to use your magical gifts properly, and then you could gain power.

Ursula was being downright ridiculous in suggesting or even thinking that he had any emotional attachment to the school or its students! Honestly, sometimes he wished divorce was a more respectable thing to do!

Then again, the school had given him his first sense of authority. In his fifth year he was made prefect, and oh what a good year it was! He had gotten so much respect, and he had met Ursula. And that was only one year in his seven years of memories at Hogwarts.

As he approached the doors, he stopped as he remembered the first time he entered the Great Hall…

He had been so ecstatic the entire day of September 1, 1859. He was going to Hogwarts – he would be sorted into the noble and often misunderstood house of Slytherin (or at the very least, Ravenclaw), he would make his family proud, and he would be the best student the school had seen in many years. He had to be. He was the heir of Black, and if we wasn’t great then it would break his family’s heart…especially since his elder brother Sirius died.

Sirius. Phineas wondered for a moment how he would have done at Hogwarts. Phineas was only six when Sirius died. He couldn’t remember very much about his older brother, but he remembered that they were close and remembered looking up to him. He was talented for so young, from what Phineas could recall, and he could remember his parents being much happier people when he was alive.

Feeling his eyes water at the memories, Phineas diverted his attention to the memory of bragging to the other students on the train about his family’s accomplishments at Hogwarts. However, when he actually arrived at the castle, ecstasy turned to nervousness and then to downright fear faster than he could say “Salazar”.

Upon seeing the castle, his breath was taken away. It was so big! It was even more wonderful-looking than he could have ever imagined!

And also more intimidating.

As he looked upon the old castle, he thought of all its mysteries and the moving staircases he had heard so much about from his mother (for some reason, his father didn’t like to talk about his school days). At first, the thought of such things left him awe-struck at the Founders’ intelligence. But then he got to thinking…What if he took the wrong staircase? What if he wound up in one of the forgotten rooms of Hogwarts and was never seen or heard from again?

And even if he didn’t get lost, what if he wasn’t as successful at Hogwarts as he first thought? What if he disappointed his family, or worse – got disowned? What if he didn’t get sorted into Slytherin? Sure, Ravenclaw was good, but it wouldn’t be the same. For all he knew, he might not even end up a Ravenclaw. What if he was sorted into Hufflepuff?

And then there was the fact that this was to be his home all year except for a few short weeks in winter and over the summer holiday. He had no family here. As much as he hated to admit it, it was scary knowing that he’d spend so much time away from them. It would be three years before Elladora would be here with him, and even longer before Isla would make her way to Hogwarts. Oh, why couldn’t Isla have been born before Elladora? She was so much more tolerable…

All of these worries, plus some, were in his mind as he walked into Hogwarts castle. He barely heard the teacher who had called all of the first years together to tell them of the different houses and get them all lined up. He was shaken out of his trance momentarily when the Sorting Hat began its song, but that didn’t last very long.

He wasn’t sure of whether or not it was a good or bad thing that he was fourth in line – it meant that he could be sorted into Slytherin soon…or that he’d be doomed soon.

While “Abbot, Henry” was being sorted, he took a glance around the Hall. He took particular notice of the Slytherin table. Oh, how he hoped to be sitting with them for the rest of his time at Hogwarts!

After what felt like an eternity (but in fact was less than ten minutes), the moment finally came when he heard “Black, Phineas” called.

“That’s ‘Black, Phineas Nigellus,” he corrected without even thinking. He quickly clamped his hand over his mouth when he realized what he had done. He hadn’t even made it to the Sorting stool and he had already corrected a professor.

He felt the room grow quiet around him – no one ever corrected Professor Griffiths. He knew that the other purebloods at the Slytherin table had to either be inwardly laughing at his foolish outburst or thinking him unworthy of being a Slytherin.

Professor Griffiths looked at him with stony eyes, knowing that Phineas was practically trembling in fear. Finally, he said, “Fine…Black, Phineas Nigellus.”

Phineas lingered for a moment, looking at the professor and wondering if that was really all. The professor’s expression had not changed a centimeter since he’d made the correction in Phineas’s name. Relieved, Phineas proceeded to the stool and placed the worn hat on his head.

Hmm…you definitely have what it takes to be a Slytherin like the rest of your family, but it obviously takes courage to do what you just did, so Gryffindor could fit too…

Phineas found it slightly odd, even for him, to hear the voice of a hat speaking to him, but he shook it off. “Slytherin,” he told the hat mentally, “it has to be Slytherin.”

“Are you quite sure?” the hat asked him. “Slytherin will aid you on your quest for greatness, yes, but just as many great wizards have been produced from Gryffindor. And in Gryffindor, you wouldn’t have so many standards to live up to. You could try your wings and be praised for what you’ve done more so than what your ancestors have accomplished.”

Phineas thought for a moment about his parents and those in his family tree. They were so good at everything, and so many knew it. It might be nice to be known more because of himself than because of the “Nigellus Black” in his name.

But then he remembered how his history was something that shaped him and something he was a part of. It wasn’t something he needed to run from; it was something to make greater.

“I’m sure,” he replied, and within a matter of seconds he found himself at a table full of clapping Slytherins.

~*~


Phineas now had to smile at the memory. Far from being the ruin of him at Hogwarts, the incident at his sorting made him the talk of the school for a while, especially since very few people liked Professor Griffiths.

Phineas burst open the doors to the castle, completely waving off the memory. Now was the time to prove that he was worthy of a good welcome and of praise.

Just as he imagined, every head turned towards him and remained focused on him as he made his way to his seat. He walked straight and tall with a scowl on his face, or at least until he noticed one of the Gryffindor Prefects, Elijah Potter, not paying attention to him at all, but trying to get the attention of a blonde-haired girl sitting across from him with a slightly aggravated look on her face, though she was paying attention to Phineas. Or at least trying to, despite the fact he was tying her hair into a knot with his wand.

And these are the types of students I have in charge of others this year, he thought. This is who my predecessor has chosen as Prefect - a boy who shows little respect for authority and tries to distract other students?

Just as he was working up his anger at the student, his conscience reminded him that Eli was normally a good student (at least for a Gryffindor) and that love could cause one to lose focus on what’s important. Ursula was proof of that.

He smiled inwardly as he thought of their first meeting.

It was in his fifth year, when he was still new to being a prefect. Unfortunately, he hadn’t gotten the respect from other students he had expected. Everyone had come to think of him as someone who was all talk and no action, despite what had taken place at his sorting. And one day, Phineas had had enough.

He kept his eyes open all day for the first sign of disobedience from any student, and it was when patrolling the corridors after curfew that he found it.

He saw his housemate Alec Rookwood talking to a girl he didn’t know. Just as he was about to get on to her for being up after hours (Rookwood was a bit too important to the Slytherin Quidditch team to be bothered with such things as curfews), the girl slapped Rookwood.

For a moment, Phineas was shocked at the red mark left on Rookwood’s face and the yelling she was giving him. He was rarely used to seeing women act like this, with the exception of his sister Elladora, who would yell at anything that spent more than five minutes with her. His shock quickly turned to happiness - not because he had anything against Rookwood, but because this gave him an even more perfect opportunity to prove he was a Prefect of action.

Phineas cleared his throat to get her attention, but she kept her focus on Rookwood, who gave Phineas a “Help me!” look.

Phineas tapped her on the shoulder and she swirled around “What!?”

Phineas froze for a moment, partly in fear, and partly because of her face, which was covered in purple spots. He looked at Rookwood quizzically for a moment, and Rookwood mouthed “later”. He then turned his attention back to the girl, who was impatiently tapping her foot.

Despite her violet, polka-dotted face and angry expression, he still couldn’t help but think she was one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen. Later that night he tried to pinpoint exactly what it was about her that made him feel that way but realized that there wasn’t really anything spectacular about her physically. Her looks were nice enough, but nothing special. And yet for some reason, at that moment, something told him that she was prettier than Ramona Skeeter, with her beautiful and flowing hair, or the Veela that was in seventh year. Something about this girl defied logic and left him unable to take his eyes off her.

Well?” she asked impatiently.

“Uh, yes, um…” he began as he tried to shift his gaze from her and get his focus back on power. He straightened his face and tried to sound serious. “Who are you, and what are you doing up past curfew?”

“Ursula Flint,” she answered curtly. “And I’m currently exacting out revenge for this.” She pointed towards her face.

“If you wish to ‘exact revenge’ for something, I suggest you tell your Head of House at a more appropriate hour,” Phineas said with a touch of roughness in his voice.

Ursula rolled her eyes. “All that old goat’s going to do is tell your Head, and he’s not going to do anything to his precious Keeper.”

“Are you implying that Professor Askew is biased towards those with good athletic ability?” Phineas questioned.

“No,” Ursula answered flatly. “I’m saying that Slytherins are biased towards their own housemates. Never mind the fact that my blood is purer than Rookwood’s could ever hope to be and that Slytherin has had its share of half-breeds in it. You Slytherins always side with each other. I don’t have a chance in this battle because I’m a female Hufflepuff.”

Phineas stood there for a moment, trying to decide how to react to everything she was saying. On the one hand he was very angry at her attack on his house. And yet there wasn’t much he could say because he knew she was right.

And of course, this just made him angrier at her, whilst at the same time it made him all the more intrigued by her. She was a girl who spoke her mind. She was a proud pureblood in a house full of blood traitors and weak wannabes.

“How about this,” he began after thinking a few minutes. “I won’t tell any teacher about this and will help you with your…make-up problem…if you forget your vendetta against Slytherins and spend this weekend’s Hogsmeade visit with me.”

If Phineas hadn’t completely forgotten about Rookwood’s presence, he might have noticed his housemate’s jaw-dropped expression. Instead, he was focused on Ursula’s incredulous one.

“I…beg your pardon,” Ursula said finally. “You come over here, sticking your nose in my business, apparently ignoring everything I’ve said, and then expect me to waste my time on a date with you?”

Phineas faltered for a minute. Why weren’t girls as easy to handle as society said they should be? “I have not been ignoring you,” he said in his own defense.

“Well, I must be deaf then. I didn’t here you say one word about my opinion on Slytherins except that I have a ‘vendetta’ against them, you haven’t tried to change my opinion by treating Rookwood as you have me, and you haven’t done anything else to give me a good reason for actually considering your proposal.”

Phineas turned his attention to Rookwood, who looked a bit annoyed and betrayed. “Alec, you shouldn’t be up past hours, and it was wrong of you to give our noble house a bad name by messing up Ursula’s face like this. I’ll talk to Professor Askew about punishing you, or at least getting house points taken. Fifteen sounds good.”

Rookwood looked enraged, but Phineas ignored him. He then looked at the surprised Ursula again. “And your attacks on our house are completely hypocritical. Yes, we stick together, but I don’t think any of the houses here don’t have pride. Besides, how many Slytherins do you know personally?”

“How many Hufflepuffs do you know personally?” Ursula countered.

“Well, I hope to get to know one this weekend,” Phineas said smoothly.

Ursula smiled, causing something inside Phineas to leap. “We’ll see,” she answered before walking off.

Phineas watched her go and smirked. He was definitely getting better at the girl thing. Then again, there wasn’t much he wasn’t good at.

Rookwood cleared his throat to get Phineas’s attention. “What?” he questioned, annoyed at being brought out of his daydream.

“You just said you were going to get me punished for a date with a bloody Hufflepuff with no respect or proper manners,” the angry Rookwood declared. “Have you completely lost it? What kind of future could you possibly have with her? She’ll never respect you, and no matter how pure her blood is, she’s still not Slytherin. Hell, Phin, she attacked our entire house, and all you did - you, a Prefect - was ask her out!”

Phineas frowned. Rookwood was right. She wasn’t the type of girl a Slytherin Black should take interest in. He should be dating a proper, soft-spoken Slytherin who his family and friends approved of; not some Hufflepuff who couldn’t keep her opinions to herself.

And yet he didn’t care. All he could think of was Saturday.

~*~


Phineas shook his head a bit as he reached his seat. Despite Ursula being a Hufflepuff, bossy, loud, and stubborn, he had to admit he loved her, even though he loathed saying that word.

After tightening his facial expression to regain the harsh look he’d worked on, he glanced at all of the students in the Great Hall, who were all awaiting his speech.

For quite possibly the first time in his career, he actually studied their faces – and not just the ones he considered the best. He noticed how some were looking impatient, some admiring, some bored, some joyous, and some sad.

There was one of the latter sitting at the Gryffindor table with brown and blue, somewhat hollow, eyes. He couldn’t have been more than a first year, but he looked so incredibly lonesome and completely in his own world.

Something about this child reminded him of a student he had during his first year of teaching…

~*~


It had been a very aggravating year for Phineas Nigellus Black. Teaching, much like being a prefect, was nothing like he expected. Half of the students had no desire to learn. Half of those had potential, but were to hard-headed and had no respect for authority. And half of what was left were suck-ups who would have difficulty making it in the real world, but those students didn’t bother Phineas much. At least they were better than the majority of the other students.

It was the middle of October and, after having a potion he was working on explode in his face thanks to some wannabe-clever student, he decided that he was going to make an example of a student (never mind the fact that every time he attempted this, he never ended up with the desired result).

Tristan Doobledesh made the perfect target.

Tristan was a second-year Slytherin who had no friends that Phineas knew of (not that he paid much attention to the cliques of his students), partly because he refused to reveal his parentage (many assumed pureblood, but some of them said he must be half-blood, and then there were a few who suspected he was Muggle-born), and partly because he just flat-out didn’t socialize. Then again, who would want to socialize with people who were always speculating about others?

He had made fairly good grades all year, but he never seemed to pay attention in class. He always had a hollow look in his eyes, as if he simply tuned out any noise he heard.

In a sense, Tristan was merely a shadow. He looked like any normal person and he was there, but he merely went day-to-day, going with the flow, but never really taking part in anything.

It was during class, while he had his normal spaced-out expression on his face, when Phineas decided to prove that he didn’t pay attention, and possibly that he was a cheater (how else could he make good grades?).

“Doobledesh!” Phineas hollered to get the boy’s attention, but the boy continued just randomly doodling on his parchment. “Doobledesh!” Phineas repeated, frustrated at the lack of attention.

A few kids chuckled at Tristan’s lack of focus, and the noise apparently made him look up to see what was going on. He glanced around a minute until he met Phineas’s slightly angered gaze.

“S-sir?” the intimidated Tristan inquired. Teachers had rarely given him any attention before, much less make him the focus of the class.

“Can you tell me the ingredients in the Draught of the Living Death?”

“Uh…” Tristan let out, as if not understanding the question.

“Perhaps,” Phineas began chastising, “if you had been paying attention like a good student would have–”

Something about what Phineas was saying caused Tristan to snap. In an angered tone, he interrupted Phineas, “The ingredients in Draught of the Living Dead are asphodel in an infusion of wormwood, valerian roots, and sopophorus beans. Not that it matters; you were telling us about memory potions. The only reason I know the ingredients is because I, like any good student should, read my textbooks!”

The slight mocking in his voice in the last sentence infuriated Phineas. How dare this probable half-breed and possible Mudblood juvenile, hard-headed student humiliate him and use his own words against him!

Phineas was just about to lay into the boy, but it was time for lunch. “Doobledesh! I want you in my office after school today!”

Tristan just stalked off with the other students to lunch, not seeming to care about what Phineas was saying.

Before it was time for his meeting with Phineas, he talked to Ursula via the Floo-network. He ranted off the entire event to her, expecting sympathy. She did think that the audacity of Doobledesh was worthy of punishment, but she also thought that Phineas had been ridiculous and unfair.

One thing Phineas always hated about his wife was her honesty. No wonder Hufflepuffs had such a bad reputation. How could a house that contained so much bluntness get anywhere?

By the time Tristan arrived in his office, Phineas had cooled down a bit, or at least shifted his anger towards his wife rather than the scrawny student. He also felt a bit guilty, thanks to a few of Ursula’s words.

“Sit down, Doobledesh,” Phineas ordered in a firm voice that meant business, but which was not particularly harsh.

“Do you have anything to say about your behavior towards me today?”

Tristan shifted nervously in his chair for a minute. Phineas could tell from the look in the boy’s eyes that he was silently chastising himself for getting into this situation.

Well?” Phineas said impatiently.

“I…” Tristan began, unsure of quite what to say. “I apologize for…my attitude.”

“What about it?”

“I should have shown more respect, Professor,” Tristan admitted. “And you’re right. I don’t pay the best attention in class. I try to, honest! It’s just I already know most of what you say from reading, and my mind always wanders to possible new ideas for potions and to mother and to the stupid kids here who – ”

Sensing that Doobledesh was going on a bloody babbling rant, he shushed the student.

“Slow down here. Reading in advance is no excuse – did you say new potion ideas?” Phineas asked, startled.

Tristan beamed in excitement. “Yes! Mother and I experiment quite a bit when I’m home! We always try to come up with new potion combinations and such. One time we mixed–”

“Who is your mother?” Phineas asked curiously.

“Natalia Doobledesh, though she was a Birdwell before she married.”

Natalia Birdwell…Phineas remembered her. Tall girl. Show-off, but a loner. Dropped out in seventh year.

“I know her. What about your father?”

“Roger Doobledesh. He’s…a Muggle.”

Ah, that solved the blood debate. So the rumors of Natalia running off to be with a Muggle were true.

And her son, an under-aged half-breed was experimenting in potions with her.

Fascinated, Phineas continued to question Tristan, asking him many questions ranging from potions to personal experiences. And, against his stubbornness, he even noticed a few similarities between his own childhood and that of Doobledesh’s.

To this day, he kept contact with Tristan, and considered him one of the very, very few exceptions among the half-bloods.

~*~


Phineas wondered if the student was anything at all like Doobledesh.

And then he remembered Ursula’s words. Perhaps she was right. Maybe he did care about the students, even if it was just a tad.

Smiling at the many Hogwarts students and staff awaiting his speech, he took one last look at the students - his students.

Phineas re-hardened his expression before speaking. “Welcome students, to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – the greatest Wizarding school in the world. And, as your new Headmaster, I am going to ensure that it keeps this reputation.

“For those of you who remember me as Potions Master, you know that I am serious about the art of magic and the learning of it. I am also serious when I say that I intend to keep the reputation of Hogwarts as it has been, and it is my intention to make it even better. You can cooperate and help me in this goal, or you can go against it and suffer the consequences. Just remember – this school is bigger than any one of you.

“If you really want to learn magic, then you must respect your teachers and the rules of this school. I guarantee you won’t regret it – what you learn here is something that you’ll carry with you all of your life and will pass it on to your children, who will hopefully pass it on to their’s. Muggles outnumber us in this world and some even hate the idea of us. Many think that Magic is dead, but I think we prove that it’s not. And through the respect of tradition and great skill that I have gained throughout my years, I intend to make sure that through each one of you that is willing, magic prevails and grows stronger…”

Phineas continued on in his speech, lost in its words and the feelings it gave him, as well as the memories of the many people who had gotten him to where he was – his family, teachers, contemporaries, and even the occasional student.

Even though he wanted to take credit for every accomplishment, he had to admit that he would be nothing without the support, encouragement, and (often unwanted) lessons they taught.



Chapter 13: Fortescue
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Beta Read By: slytheringinny and Infairi
Title: The Tangled Webs We Weave
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence, substance use/abuse)
For the Staff: Thank you, HPFF staff for all the hard work. I am
honored to be a part of this project and of your fantastic web site!
A thousand thanks from the Muggles in Pa!

-----


Try as he might, Gideon Fortescue could find no solution to his terrible predicament. The headmaster's office, his home of many years, lay in shambles with papers thrown everywhere. He hadn't been able to work in weeks. After all these years it had come back to haunt him. How now, so long after, had his one terrible mistake been learned? Even as his whole world went flying apart, he had no idea how it had happened. In reality the situation was quite simple: he was being bribed.

The man had come late in the night. Fortescue was well known to the proprietors at the Hogsmede tavern and was well into his third tankard of ale when he was approached. At first he thought the man was a simple soul searching for someone to offer him a free drink, which he would have gladly given him, but he was all together different. The man, whom to this day Gideon couldn't be certain of the identity, sat down at his table.

"Are you all right man, good man? Can I get you something?" asked Fortescue.

The man smiled a cold, unkind smile that did little to soften his harsh features. "Indeed you can, kind sir," he responded, passing Gideon a note.

On it read a simple, yet terrifying message: I know, and I can prove it. Petrified, Fortescue asked him upstairs to speak privately. There the man had demanded money, an erroneous amount that Gideon could never provide in order for his silence. Not even if he could get his hands on the Hogwarts vaults could he pay the man, but what choice did he have? He had to find a way. Gideon agreed, not knowing how he would get the money, and the man gave him a time and a place for him to deliver it.

The date was looming nearer, and Fortescue had no idea of what to do. His nerves had left him in a progressively ill state of health. Poor professor Dippet spent night and day brewing potion after potion trying to help his headmaster and friend, but nothing could help him now. Fifteen years later and now the world was going to learn of his terrible deed. He would die in Azkaban, alone and ashamed. No doubt he deserved it. Why he had ever agreed to do such a stupid and terrible thing he never knew.

It had been so foolish. If he had only waited he would have gotten what he wanted without any need of acting rashly. He never knew that power completely didn't suit him in the slightest. Sure there was prestige and comfort, if not wealth, but there was also a great deal of something Fortescue always preferred to avoid: work.

He was by nature, a rather lazy man; always more interested in the pleasures and creature comforts of life than hours spent in toil. It was what made him such an accomplished in the art of Transfiguration. Why work so hard to make something or earn the money to buy it, if you can just learn how to create it out of thin air? True it was hard, but in the end well worth the effort of never having to work to acquire what he needed. More than that, he didn't particularly care about anything. Not that he was cruel or ignorant; he simply felt that nothing was really worth getting himself all worked up about. Everything in life found a way of working itself out without his having to lift a finger, so why worry? There was never anything wrong with the world while he had his feet up, a freshly rolled cigar in hand and a box of chocolates happily digesting in his belly.

Though he did eventually become bored as a young man lazing about his mother's house, conjuring whatever he needed. So when the chance to move on was made, he did the only logical thing -- he took it. The offer of the Transfiguration post at Hogwarts was made not for his hard-working nature, or for his talents which were in reality considerable, but simply because Headmaster Phineas Black wanted to fill the halls of Hogwarts with as many Syltherin faculty members as possible.

Gideon was not a bad teacher, just not the most attentive of ones. He barely read the essays over which his students slaved, and never once was any of his paperwork in order. He relied terribly upon the prefects to help grade student's work, otherwise nothing would ever get done. Though most of the time he graded solely on performance, terrifying poor students constantly with his frequent pop quizzes. Lazy and fear-provoking a teacher he was, he was still fair. If a student asked, he would usually let them attempt again when they failed a test. More because he detested hearing them whine than out of charity. There would usually be enacted a favor or two for each of these events and as a result, Fortescue always had a larger pile of gifts than the other professors at Christmas and the cleanest office, never having to lift a finger for himself.

Black of course knew of his Transfigurations professor's ill habits, but he really did not care. Gideon got the job done and in his tenth year at Hogwarts, the Herbology professor retired, and Fortescue was made head of Syltherin House. Fortescue had known all along that Black would eventually offer him the post of headmaster, not wanting anyone but a Syltherin to occupy the spot, but had always planned to turn it down. He was happy enough where he was and didn't want the extra work required that the head of the school would have to do. He didn't need anything more. That is, until he met her.

Geraldina Gaunt was not a particularly attractive woman, yet there were many compelling qualities to her. Her wide set brown eyes were deep and seductive and her body was round and lush, just as he preferred. True, she had been a cousin by marriage, but to most purebloods this didn't even count in the slightest. Pure-bred families were very closely related anyway. Geraldina's uncle had been his mother's second husband. Gideon had never liked the man; he was rude and controlling but never mistreated his mother. They were both in their sixties when married and while he found it odd, Gideon wouldn't begrudge his mother the opportunity for companionship. That, however, meant that his family would by aligning itself with the notoriously unstable Gaunts.

From the start of the marriage, the Gaunt family had tried to use the union to their favor. The Fortescue name was one of the oldest and dearest in the magical world. Tracing their ancestry back to the Norman France conquest of England in 1066 and long before that in France. They still had many relatives in Normandy today, though they had very little contact with their French cousins. All of the Gaunts came in turn, asking for favors of his new "step father," all of whom he turned down, except for Geraldina.

Whatever power she held over people Gideon didn't know, but she had a way of making people do the things she wanted them to do. She had been married once before, a young wizard from the Crouch family, who died shortly after the birth of their son Marvolo, an awful and cruel little boy. The marriage no doubt had to have been a terrible failure because young Crouch left all his inheritance to his brother, completely skipping his wife and son. There were a great number of family jokes about Mr. Crouch's sudden and untimely death, all of which involved his wife and a large bottle of poison.

Amidst all these rumors, Gideon still found himself strangely drawn to this woman. He didn't know that all of her actions were for the sole purpose of placing her son in the favorable position of being the stepson of the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Sure there had been promises made to him, secret urgings whispered, heads on pillows in the dark of night, but in the end, it had all been for her son. She had claimed love, and need, all the while telling him what a great and powerful wizard he was. Surely he was above the simple post of Transfiguration professor.

Gideon listened to the flattery, taking in all the puffed up words meant to inspire him to greatness. True, he was better than the others that could be chosen to fill Black's soon to be vacant seat at Hogwarts. He was, after all, the only pureblood from whom to choose. Fortescue didn't have quite the same prejudices as his family. Sure he believed those of pure magical lineage were better than those without, but he didn't deny that a muggle-born or half-blood could have talents or skills. Both things that he truly hated wasting, as that usually meant that he would have to do the work that could otherwise have been done by others.

So, her words in his head, he decided that perhaps he should accept the post when Black retires. The only problem was, Phineas had just announced that he planned to delay his departure of Hogwarts, to the overwhelming disappointment of the students and staff. Well Gideon could wait, what were a couple of more years? But Geraldina could not.

"What do you mean he's changed his mind!" she shrieked at him.

Gideon was not sure why she was reacting so. What's the matter with waiting a few years? "Well, he says he feels fine, so why retire just now? He's pleased that I agreed to succeed him, but wants some more time."

"He can't!" she yelled. "You'll just have to change his mind," she ordered.

"How can I do that? It's his decision. A few years won't matter. It'll give us time to get married anyway. We won't have much time to ourselves once I'm Headmaster," said Gideon.

Geraldina turned her cold brown eyes on him. "That is not going to happen," she announced. "I am going to marry the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and I'm not going to wait for that senile power hungry monster to decide when he's going to step aside. We'll just have to make up his mind for him."

Gideon wasn't sure why, but her words worried him terribly. She sat down in her chair, tapping her finger to her chin in thought.

"It'll have to be done carefully, nothing anyone would notice. A lessening of the health, perhaps an incapacitation to finally make up his mind," she half spoke to herself. "The poison will have to be brewed carefully to avoid rousing any suspicion."

"Poison!" he gasped. "I am not going to poison anyone!"

"Oh yes you are, and you're going to do it exactly as I say."

To this day, Fortescue didn't even know why or how he agreed to do something so stupid. Many times he thought perhaps she had Imperiused him, but the thought that he had been controlled so easily did little to raise his spirits. He knew what he had done was as much his fault as hers. He did just as Geraldina ordered, giving Black larger and larger amounts of an untraceable poison. Sometimes, Gideon even managed to convince himself that he was doing something good for him. After all, everyone should retire eventually. What's the point of waiting till one was too old and feeble to enjoy it? So, he did as he was told, dolling out the poison. Eventually, Phineas became too ill to work anymore and hastened his retirement, leaving Fortescue to accomplish his goals and dreams for the school.

Gideon was just settling into the Headmaster's office when he got word. Phineas Nigellus Black, no doubt still weak from months worth of poisoning, had died this morning, falling down the steps at the Black manor and breaking his neck. Gideon couldn't imagine ever feeling as terrible as he did in that moment. The two were far from friends but now he had killed the man. What was going to happen now? Surely questions were going to be asked, and what would happen if they came to him? Would he be able to keep his silence. Guilt ridden, his conscious screaming, Gideon went to Geraldina.

He expressed his guilt and fear to her, and all she did was laugh. "Question? Who's going to question? Trust me, no one cares when a terrible man dies, they hardly care when a good one does. No one will be bothered at all by the old fool finally chucking it! He's had it coming for years!" she laughed.

Gideon was enraged. "He didn't deserve this! He was just supposed to get too weak to work, not die! It's our fault! Don't you care?" he demanded her.

"Of course not. The imbecile had it coming! That and worse, if I could put a knife to his still heart I'd do it!" she said, then went into a tumult of laughter, imitating an old man falling down the steps.

Fortescue couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had no idea she had been so cruel. It was more than the fact that she didn't care about the death, she thought it was funny. Funny? She had had him kill a man and she was laughing, amused by the end of a life. If this was how she truly felt then what would happen to Gideon when she was done with him?

Almost in answer to his unvoiced question, Geraldina began to lay out her plans for him. She had had everything thought out for years. She knew exactly what she wanted done to the School and she was going to have him do it, in as ruthless a way as possible if necessary. First she wanted all Half-Blood professors removed, a great deal of them to be replaced by members of her own family. Then, they would move on to the students. Sure, that would take a while. The board of governors wouldn't permit them to dismiss students based on their family heritage. It would have to be done slowly; An expulsion here, a dismissal there. Before long life would be so miserable for any muddbloods at Hogwarts that hosts of them would just leave. And if that didn't work, well, there were always other options, she laughed.

Fortescue didn't know what to do. He realized all at once that he made a terrible mistake, and he had to fix it. Gideon wasn't sure of the exact moment he acted, all of a sudden he was there, wand in hand, and Geraldina could no longer hurt anyone. Well, that was not entirely true, she would just have a far more difficult time of it. Gideon, being the excellent transfigurationist that he was, turned her into a Yorkshire terrier. He knew how to make a transfiguration permanent and decided that he had no better option. He gave the pup to the school's care of magical creatures professor with specific instructions for the animal to be spayed. Thankfully, her unpopularity with the world in general and her family in particular meant that no one ever came looking for Geraldina. She had been a tyrant to everyone, and no one felt any loss of her presence.

He thought the whole would be over then. Gideon saw to it that her son was placed with his Gaunt relatives, and never gave it a second thought until that man approached him. Somehow, he knew it was Marvolo, though the thought gave him no comfort whatsoever. The son was every bit as cruel and manipulative as the mother. He knew there was no way he could ever come up with the money to pay for his silence. He was ruined, and no matter how hard he thought about it, Gideon Fortescue could find only one solution to the situation. Well, it would simply have to do.




The funeral was small but respectable. Most of the students attended, feigning grief or shock. Everyone had known that Headmaster Fortescue had been ill for a while, and his death had not been all together unexpected. What they didn't know, was that he was sitting in the back row of the hall, quietly listening to the tearfully delivered eulogy by his friend Dippet. He had been the right choice to succeed him. As Headmaster, Fortescue never really accomplished anything, that was too much work, but he did have ideas for the school if not the fortitude to see those ideas through. Dippet could do it, of that he was sure.

Gideon was moved by his friend's grief as he sat hidden under an invisibility cloak, watching the procession of students walking to the forbidden forest. Another reason for choosing Dippet was that Fortescue knew he would honor his extremely eccentric request for his final arrangements without question. His will had been explicit and his instructions to have his remains transfigured into his favorite fruit and buried whole and all in the forest were done to the letter. They just didn't know that they were burying a plain and simple apple. Gideon's favorite and most loyal house elf had seen to it that the apple and the will found their way to Dippet. Tockey claimed to have performed the charm, and trusting and kind Dippet took it, weeping, and announced to the school that their headmaster was dead.

Fortescue and Tockey trudged away from the scene. He had known that he would have to take the elf with him. It was no bother. Gideon was rather fond of all house elves in general. Who could think ill of creatures whose sole desire was to work so wizards didn't have to? Gideon took one last fond look at Hogwarts. He was sad to leave it, along with all his possessions. At least the Gaunts couldn't get to them or him now. He sighed and left Hogwarts behind forever, more than a little sad.

Gideon didn't like traveling, too tiresome, but he would have to be stuck with it for a while. A few weeks later, he and Tockey reached their destination. The house was small, and not in terribly good condition., but nothing that a few good spells couldn't fix. It was warm and lovely, sand coated beaches stretched on for miles around him. Gideon knew he was going to like Corsica. There was wine and good food a plenty, not to mention a nation full of like minded souls. Who knew that France would be so wonderful? An entire country of people, who just like him, hated to work. He would be happy there indeed.

The End

Chapter 14: Tom Riddle
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By: Infairi
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Beta Read By: Arithmancy_Wiz and Jessi_Rose
Title: From Rhyme to Riddle
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I know you've heard it from all of us, but we really owe you a lot of thanks for the smooth operation and running of the site. We all love each and every one of you.

-----


“ . . . from rhyme to riddle, it had begun. It started in the fen with the greatest Wizard of the age, though the work was to be continued by the descendant . . .”

The quill wrote incessantly, with flourishing swoops in the little leather diary. His perfectly innocent eyes surveying the script, paused to look up, noticing instantly that he was being watched. He tilted his head in such a way as to convey the simple inquiry, “Yes?” The young first year looked away. They always do. Was he really that frightening? He tried not to let his irascibility get the better of him, and he turned back to the diary which lay open on his lap. The quill snapped back to life, continuing with the eloquent words he poured into it.

The fire crackled in the dim lighting of the Slytherin common room. Most students had already wandered off to bed at this late hour, but Tom still had to attend to his Prefect duties before he did the same. The responsibility of the Prefect was merely to patrol the dark halls and corridors in shifts. Since Tom was a fifth year, he had the earliest shift, which meant that he would soon have to be attending to that. It seemed rather superfluous to have such a job, especially with such finite restrictions, and the sixteen staff members doing nothing; but with power comes limitations . . . or so the adage went.

*


The break of dawn came as early as one should expect. Tom, already clothed in his black robes, already wearing his emerald and silver tie, Prefect badge already shining on his chest, sat perched on the edge of a seat in the library, quill in hand. The diary was nearly full as it was, but soon it would need no more to last an eternity, or however long parchment could withhold. The wet ink disappeared almost like vapor before Tom's very eyes, enchanting even himself. The time and energy he had poured into it was startling. He could spend three hours in one evening simply writing, and that was saying something, what with Prefect duties, homework, and least of all, classes to devour his days.

“My, my, you're up early, dear!” the old bat that worked in the library screeched down Tom's back. He shuddered, but put on a thick smile.

“Just doing my homework,” he replied. “But I do suppose I should be off to breakfast about now. A fine lady like you shouldn't be lowering herself in bothering with people like me. Really, it's flattering, but I'll understand should you ever feel compelled not to say hello.” He left the room quickly, leaving the librarian nearly dumbfounded.

Tom descended the many staircases with haste, putting a great distance between him and the old hag. Today was the day that his many hours of writing and planning would finally be put into action. It all seemed so beautiful in his mind. Ah, victim number one.

“Hello, Tom,” Olive Hornby said as cheerfully as she dared in the presence of other Slytherins.

“Good morning, Olive,” he replied with a slight smile.

He's in a good mood today! Olive thought to herself.

She followed him to the table which already had heaps of lavish food atop the golden platters. Tom picked a particularly ripe looking plum off one of them and took a bite before continuing in their conversation. He let his eyes graze over Olive and put on a smothering expression so she would think he thought her pretty. She batted her long eyelashes.

“Did you finish your Potions essay?” Tom asked her, trying to seem offhand, as if he was too captivated by her beauty.

“Yes . . . In fact, I was wondering if you would have a look at it?” She blinked through the pasty dust she so often referred to as makeup. It was truly disgusting to look at.

“Sure thing. Ah, would you look at that!” Tom said, doing anything to get off the subject. “Looks like little Myrtle got herself some new glasses. I daresay, they certainly aren't any better than the last ones.” Olive seemed disappointed at first that he'd changed the subject, but of course, Myrtle was a good subject. It was so comical just to look at her; she never failed to make for an interesting conversation. Olive walked over to where Myrtle had just tripped over her robes, and held out her hand to help up the pathetic little thing.

Myrtle looked up, confused. Even students in her own house ostracized her, so it made no sense why Olive Hornby would help her up. Olive smiled widely, and Myrtle knew she should have run for it, but she was glued to the spot.

“Nice glasses, Myrtle. Where'd you find them; the junk yard? They're three inches thick, can you even see through them? Wait, your little demonstration answers that question.” She would have gone on, but the over sensitive girl ran towards the Entrance Hall, tears streaming down her face.

Tom was worried about this one aspect of his scheme. It seemed to be the only part of it that was out of his hands. But alas, it had turned out far better than even he could have imagined. Olive stood in the middle of the Great Hall, smirking, while several other students just laughed. Tom hurried off to the next part of his ingenious plan.

“Myrtle!” Tom called. She was sitting in a corner down a corridor, between the wall and a suit of armor, and one of the portraits was consoling her. She pried her fingers apart just enough to see who it was.

“Whatdoyouwan?” she managed to say.

“Olive doesn't know what she's talking about. It was very rude of her to say the things that she did.”

“Why do you care? Aren't you one of her friends? I just want to be alone,” she wailed.

“Tell you what. There's a bathroom just down the hall that's out of order – I'm sure no one else would be in there if you wanted to be alone,” Tom said as gently as he could, excitement coursing through him. He could hardly contain himself. Everything was working out beautifully! He could almost hear the hissing in the walls; apparently he was not the only one waiting patiently for the plan to be carried through.

*


Tom's gentle footfalls echoed loudly in the deep dungeon. Every now and then there was a dull crunch as a bone snapped under his feet. Usually that of an unfortunate rat. He walked as fast as he dared, and it really wasn't that fast. His eyes were near bulging point at the mere concept of such a place as he was in. Round the corner he went, and his eyes fell upon the most beautiful site. There, towering above all else, was a statue of the greatest wizard. He looked rather like a monkey, but none of that mattered. The man was a genius. He created this place, and it was because of him that Tom even existed. Because of him all that was good in the world could be remembered. All because of Salazar Slytherin.

Tom felt something pass over him. Not a real thing, but more of a feeling. He almost couldn't comprehend the greatness of the moment. He could feel the blood coursing through his veins. He almost felt like melting, yet there was a more dominant part of him that felt . . . admirable. Courageous. Memorable. He knew he was capable of great things in life, but it was in that moment that he knew what those things would be. Everything seemed to slide into place in his mind. It all fit.

“Come to me, your master . . . Return to your destiny; fulfill what you must . . .” he uttered, eyes closed. They shot back open as the grinding of stone met his ears. The magnificent statue was opening its mouth! The dark abyss within was stirring. An ancient horror was uncoiling from the mouth. A low, hideous hiss resounded from the stone walls in either direction, creating the eeriest of atmospheres.

Tom knew immediately what it was. The Basilisk was known only too well for its deathly stare, which would take the life of any onlooker. Yet when the beast's head emerged from the depths, Tom had no choice but to look it straight in the ruby-red eye. Ah, of course, the great Salazar Slytherin was far too clever to let something like that cause conflict. After all, being the heir, there must be an armistice of sorts. The red eyes glimmered in the dim light of Tom's wand. He recognized within the monster the familiar thirst for blood that he had seen so many times before, reflecting back at him in the mirror.

*


Tom crept into the girls' bathroom after Myrtle. He’d allowed her plenty of time to erase all signs of that crying fit she'd had. He whispered in Serpent Tongue for the Basilisk to come forth, and so it did. To this day, he wasn't sure whether his last words to Myrtle were in Parseltongue or not.

“From flesh to spirit,
none shall forget,
that moment, so sudden,
when they lapsed into silhouette.

The end draws near.
You draw your last breath.
I'll give you a hint:
The answer to the Riddle is Death.”



Chapter 15: Armando Dippet
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By: Sauerkraut_Poet
Chapter Graphic: Nephele de Tourmalin
Beta Read By: PhoenixStorm and Wiccan
Title:The Burden of Power
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: As this is the first fic I wrote for this collection, I'd like
to thank the WPSS admin for giving me the chance to participate in
this project, and explore new characters I wouldn't have written about
otherwise. I'd also like to thank my betas, Wiccan and PhoenixStorm
(who was particularly invaluable in making Hagrid sound like well...
Hagrid), and to give an extremely special thanks to nephele de tourmalin
for her amazing artwork, which I know it must have taken hours to draw.

Finally, I'd like to thank the staff for all they've done for us, particularly the following: Noblevyne, for being my first reviewer and one of my first friends on the site. Llew, for always being so supportive of my writing, no matter how crazy it is. Violet, for all your help and support, particularly with graphics. Also a big thanks to validators Scarhead and PhoenixStorm for being such wonderful and supportive friends. I hope you
all enjoy reading this one-shot. =)

-----


Power. The word haunted him in a way he’d never thought it would.

Armando Dippet had never expected to become a powerful wizard. He was a true Hufflepuff by nature: loyal, always looking for the good in others, and, above all, humble. As much as he valued these qualities in himself, he also expected them of others. Nothing irked him more than a student or junior professor who talked back to their superiors.

Knowing his place had got Dippet far in life. There were plenty of others far more brilliant, gifted, and courageous than he. However, their pride had been their downfall. They had expected too much from life, always trying to force their ideas, which they assumed to be infallible, upon others. Unfortunately, their superiors had only seen this as a threat to their power. Thus, they snubbed talent in favour of a man who was content to carry out their orders without question.

Sometimes, Dippet felt a little guilty, knowing full well that there were many others who could have made better use of the power with which he had been endowed. But who was he to question the decisions of his superiors? Therefore, he had accepted promotion after promotion unblinkingly, letting others decide the course of his life for him, and trying his best to live up to the expectations of those around him.

Dippet sighed, reflecting upon his first position of power. Everyone had expected Martin Gallagher to be chosen as prefect. Resourceful and diplomatic, he had always been looked up to by others in his year. However, his ancestry spoke against him. It had not occurred to Dippet, or the other boys in his dorm, that having Muggle farmers as parents would automatically disqualify someone from becoming a prefect. But the new headmaster, Phineas Nigellus Black, had endeavored to make his prejudices crystal clear to the student population. While the Board of Governors held enough power to prevent him from prohibiting the enrollment of Muggle-born students, they had no control over the appointment of student officials.

Thus, it was Dippet, not Gallagher, who became the new Hufflepuff Prefect in the third year of Phineas Nigellus’ reign. As true Hufflepuffs and true friends, Dippet’s year-mates, including Gallagher, congratulated him on his accomplishment, never once suggesting that he was not the prime choice for the position, although he himself knew it to be true. Nevertheless, he worked hard to fulfill his responsibilities, performing his duties sufficiently, if not stunningly.

While Dippet realised that much of his progress was due to luck, he also believed in fate, at least to the extent that everything happened for a reason. At the time, he had yet to discover a single clue as to the identity of those reasons, but he convinced himself that all would be revealed in due time. He was a happy-go-lucky sort of soul, and realised wisely that it would not do him well to dwell too much on the problems his fortune had created for others.

When it came time to choose Head students two years later, Headmaster Black employed similarly questionable methods of selection. Certain members of the Hogwarts Board of Governors, notably the extremely rich and influential Mathias Potter of Gryffindor, had expressed concern at the fact that Headmaster Black had unfailingly appointed exclusively Slytherin Head students over the course of his reign. Fearing a deduction in his salary, Phineas Nigellus had grudgingly agreed to Potter’s proposition that for the remainder of his headmastership, the Head Boy and Head Girl in any given year could not belong to the same House.

Normally, he would have selected a Slytherin Head Boy, delegating the seemingly less important post of Head Girl to the Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff prefect of the time. Only under pain of death would he even consider nominating a Gryffindor. However, as the female Slytherin prefect in Dippet’s year, Callanthria Uruqhart, just happened to be betrothed to the headmaster’s second cousin once removed, he felt obliged to grant her the honour of Head Girl-ship, selecting Dippet as the boy most likely to let Uruqhart boss him around.

Uruqhart and Dippet made a better team than anyone would have expected. What Dippet lacked in brains, he made up for in warmth. While the younger students had formerly viewed the Head students as objects of terror, Dippet made it clear that such fear was not necessary. He was always available to help students find classrooms, take them to the hospital wing, or help them with anything else they needed. The children adored him, and he soon became the most popular Head Boy Hogwarts had seen in years. As Phineas Nigellus had predicted, Dippet accepted and helped to carry out all of Uruqhart’s plans without argument, but it was Dippet the students respected and looked up to.

Although Headmaster Black resented Dippet’s popularity, it was not lost on other members of the faculty. The Slytherin Head of House and Deputy Headmaster, Gideon Fortescue, proved much more open-minded than his superior. To Fortescue, the colours of one’s scarf did not matter nearly as much as the respect their name commanded. Not wanting to arouse the headmaster’s wrath, he approached Dippet quietly, encouraging him to consider the profession of teaching due to his obvious affinity with youngsters.

Flattered by Fortescue’s attention, Dippet agreed upon this career choice almost immediately. He’d been struggling to think of a job he felt he could succeed at, and Fortescue provided the confidence which he would never have been able to come up with himself.

Of course, it would have been impossible even for someone as respected as Dippet to find a job at a prestigious school such as Hogwarts immediately upon graduation. However, in those days, many upper-class pureblood families preferred to hire a private tutor for their children, to prevent them from coming into contact with those of Muggle ancestry. With a letter of recommendation from an esteemed intellectual such as Fortescue, finding a job proved surprisingly easy.

Eternally grateful to Fortescue for helping him secure employment, Dippet wrote to him regularly, telling of his successful pupils, and occasionally asking for advice. This proved immensely fortuitous, as it was Fortescue who took up the position of Headmaster upon the retirement of Phineas Nigellus Black. When the elderly Potions Master, Marciabella Winthrop, retired, Fortescue did not even bother to place an advertisement in the Daily Prophet. Knowing that Potions had been the one subject at which Dippet had excelled, he contacted him immediately, offering him the position.

Although Dippet had grown quite fond of his pupils, and the families for whom he was working could afford to give him a considerably higher salary, he felt that he could not refuse a request from the man to whom he owed his success. Besides, it seemed much more pleasant to commit himself to a subject which he enjoyed and felt comfortable with, rather than struggling to keep his knowledge of subjects such as Transfiguration and Defence above the questions of his pupils. So he packed his bags and returned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Dippet’s first few years as Potions Master were happy ones. Many of his pupils were bright and talented, and even those without a natural inclination to the subject did well under his tutelage; he went out of his way to provide extra help and tutoring sessions outside of classes. Fortescue, observant as always, made note of Dippet’s devotion to his job, amply rewarding him by appointing him Head of Hufflepuff House in his third year as Professor.

After Dippet had been at Hogwarts for almost ten years, however, Fortescue’s health began to deteriorate. Overwhelmed with concern, Dippet spent many long evenings brewing potion after potion to help alleviate the many symptoms of disease. Unfortunately, his skill only extended so far; while able to brew any existing potion flawlessly, Dippet lacked the creativity necessary to invent potions specific to his own purposes.

Still, Fortescue was touched by Dippet’s concern. The old man began to confide in his former pupil, telling him of his hopes and dreams for the school after his death. It did not even occur to Dippet, humble soul that he was, that Fortescue might be sharing these thoughts with him for a reason. When Fortescue announced his decision for Dippet to succeed him as Headmaster, he was perhaps more shocked than the rest of the faculty combined.

However, to Fortescue, the decision had proven easy. The Ravenclaw Head of House, Galadrion Tofty, had always been out of the question. While devoted to his students, he tended to put idealism before reality, therefore rendering him incapable of making such practical decisions as headmasters must often do. Mercuria Longbottom, Head of Gryffindor, made it clear that she planned to retire within the coming three years.

To an outsider, the charming and talented Saranadia Nott of Slytherin might have seemed the perfect candidate for Headmistress. But no one knows Slytherins like a Slytherin. Looking through her suave and gracious exterior, Fortescue saw clearly that once he had left, she would ignore his goals, deciding instead on whatever course of action seemed most likely to bring her fame and popularity. It was, after all, the way he had dealt with Phineas Nigellus Black, and he expected any self-respecting Slytherin to do the same.

Fortescue, however, was cleverer than Black, and less blinded by prejudice. He knew that Black had not appointed him Headmaster out of appreciation for his abilities; rather, he had nominated him to spite the other houses. But Fortescue was even more selfish; he planned to entrust the care of Hogwarts to someone who he knew would carry out his plans without question, even after his death. He needed someone loyal, and who was more loyal than a Hufflepuff? So he chose Dippet, disregarding the fact that he wasn’t the brightest of the bunch. After all, when would Dippet really need to think, with Fortescue’s plans laid out before him? It wasn’t as if a situation would arise in which thinking was necessary, was it?

Now, cradling his head in his hands, Dippet wondered how Fortescue had ever thought him capable of such an important position. For, in the last month, a disaster greater than anyone could have imagined had enveloped the school. As much as Dippet hated to believe it, he finally brought himself to admit that the Chamber of Secrets, once thought to be a legend, had now been opened.

Unfortunately, figuring out the nature of the problem had not brought Dippet any closer to solving it. Of all the inhabitants of Hogwarts Castle, who could possibly be the heir of Salazar Slytherin? Tedious research determined that the last of his line had been the Gaunts, none of whom had attended Hogwarts for over two hundred years. Dippet assumed the family had died out. In light of recent events, however, it had become obvious that this was not the case. As much as the socially conservative Dippet hated to think of it, he eventually came to the conclusion that one of the Gaunts must have fathered a child out of wedlock; there was no other possible explanation.

With no family name to trace, the uncovering of Slytherin’s Heir proved more difficult than ever. It could be any of the students, really, and Dippet couldn’t help but wonder how in Merlin’s name he was expected to catch the culprit when he didn’t even have the slightest idea where the Chamber was located. To his knowledge, no one had ever opened it before in the course of the school’s history.

Worse yet, Dippet remained unaware of the identity of the monster within the chamber. He knew it was deadly; students had been showing up Petrified all over the school for weeks. While that could be cured, however, nothing could reverse the tragedy that had fallen upon the school that morning.

Myrtle Morgan. Third year, Ravenclaw. Not the brightest of her house, but exceptionally talented at History of Magic. A sweet girl, if somewhat prone to depression. Perhaps that was why she had chosen to become a ghost.

While the girl had left behind a spectre, it had provided him with barely more information than her dead body. She screamed and wailed incessantly, and the only thing Dippet finally managed to get out of her was that her attacker had the voice of a boy. Still, it eliminated half the possible suspects.

However, Dippet knew that if he didn’t find the culprit soon, the Board of Governors would close the school. He was already under pressure from countless parents, some of whom had sent considerably nasty Howlers his way, to take some sort of action, and even some of the staff had begun to criticise him. Professor Nott had wasted no time in making it clear that if she were Headmistress, such a situation would never have arisen in the first place. Others were not so vocal about the issue, but their demeanor clearly reflected their distress. Only Professor Dumbledore had made a true effort to help him find a solution.

In a way, the school’s closure would achieve Slytherin’s aims, for only those whose parents possessed enough money to hire a private tutor for their children would get an education. Thinking of the many talented students attending Hogwarts on scholarship, including young Miss Morgan, Dippet vowed to do everything in his power to prevent such a disaster from happening.

His mind strayed instantly to Tom Riddle. The boy had sent him a letter last week, asking permission to stay at Hogwarts over the summer holidays. Dippet sympathised wholly with his situation; he could not imagine the pain of leaving the warm, encouraging, and intellectual atmosphere of Hogwarts to return a drab, gloomy orphanage, with no other witches or wizards to converse with. Yet, in light of the current circumstances, Dippet could do nothing to help Riddle.

The fact that he was powerless to help the students bothered Dippet more than anything. Truly, he was a failure as Headmaster. He should have refused Fortescue’s offer, or at least retired earlier, leaving the management of the school in more capable hands.

An urgent knock on the door brought Dippet out of his miserable thoughts.

“Come in,” he called croakily.

Immediately, the door burst open, revealing a very frazzled-looking Riddle.

Dippet rose from his chair, making his way hastily over to where the boy was standing.

“What’s the matter, Tom? You look as if you’ve just run into a flock of Dementors!”

“It-it’s worse, sir,” Riddle stuttered, gasping for breath. “I’ve seen it. The monster, I mean. The one that’s been attacking people.”

Dippet placed a trembling hand on Riddle’s shoulder.

“I need you to tell me everything you know about this, Tom. We are all in grave danger, particularly those of Muggle ancestry like yourself.”

Riddle grimaced as if in pain, nodding silently before he spoke.

“I was returning to my common room when I heard a noise coming from a broom cupboard. I assumed it was just a couple of students snogging, and went to go tell them off… b-but… what I found in there…” his voice trailed off into silence.

“Go on,” Dippet prompted encouragingly.

Riddle paused for a moment, preparing himself. Looking straight into Dippet’s eyes, he proclaimed, “It was Rubeus Hagrid, sir. He had the monster with him. He was talking to it, telling it what to do. It was enormous; spider-like and the size of an elephant. All I could do was run.”

Dippet sank into a chair, mouth agape.

“Hagrid?” he echoed in disbelief. “I never would have expected… only a third year… and in Gryffindor House, of all things…” He brought his head up to meet Riddle’s gaze. “Are you absolutely sure about this, Tom?”

“That’s what I saw, Professor.”

Dippet sighed, shaking his head. “I just don’t understand… ‘Heir of Slytherin’ written on the wall in blood, two weeks ago, and now a Gryffindor turns up with the monster…”

Riddle waited a while before speaking. “If I might suggest something, sir…” he began uneasily.

Dippet nodded distractedly.

“Well, it’s just… of course, I don’t really know anything about this… but wasn’t the Chamber of Secrets thought to be a myth of sorts until recently, sir?”

“Yes, you are correct. It came as quite a shock to all of us to realise it actually existed.”

“But, Professor,” Riddle persisted, “couldn’t it be possible that the Chamber really is a myth, after all? That perhaps Hagrid thought to put the blame on the Slytherins by announcing that the monster belonged to them?”

Dippet considered this for a moment. “Perhaps you are right, Tom. Thank you for confiding in me. May I ask you one more favour before you leave?”

“Certainly, Professor.”

“Find Professor Dumbledore and tell him I must speak to him immediately. Then you may return to your dormitory.”

“As you wish, sir.”

“Thank you, Tom. Good night.”

“Good night, Professor.”

It seemed to Dippet as if Riddle had barely left when Dumbledore walked in.

“You wished to see me, Headmaster?” he inquired.

“Albus. Do sit down. I have just received some very important information which I would like to share with you.”

Dumbledore lowered himself into the proffered chair, an uncharacteristically grim expression on his face.

“It seems as if the person responsible for these attacks has finally been identified,” Dippet continued.

“The Heir of Slytherin has been found, then?” Dumbledore asked.

“Well, that’s the odd bit. It turns out that it really wasn’t a Slytherin, after all, but one of your house: a Gryffindor.”

“A Gryffindor, controlling Slytherin’s monster?” Dumbledore repeated sceptically.

“We do not have definite proof that the monster in question has any connection with Slytherin. The message may have been an attempt to frame someone. However, we do have an eyewitness who claims to have seen the monster, accompanied by Rubeus Hagrid, earlier this evening.”

“Hagrid?” Dumbledore exclaimed, jumping to his feet. “It cannot be. He -”

“Calm yourself, Albus,” Dippet reprimanded sternly. “He shall receive a fair trial, of course.”

“And you are prepared to take the word of another student on this? Without having seen the monster yourself?”

Dippet considered this for a moment.

“Albus,” he sighed, “you know as well as I do that this has gone too far. Any clue with which we are provided is a valuable thing indeed, and must be given due consideration. It is too serious a matter to be ignored. Besides, the witness is one of our most trusted prefects. He would not come to me unless he felt the evidence was duly incriminating.”

Dumbledore looked as if he were about to argue, but thought better of it.

“I see,” he said tersely.

Dippet put his head in his hands.

“Please, Albus,” he whispered. “Do not make this any harder for me than it already is. I need you to go fetch the boy now, and bring him here for questioning. I know it is late, but we cannot risk leaving the matter till morning. There are too many lives at stake.”

“You do not wish to inform the other faculty first?” Dumbledore sounded surprised.

“I wish to speak to the boy himself before taking any other action. If it is clear that he had no part in this, I do not want to create unnecessary chaos by starting rumours. It would not be fair to young Hagrid.”

Dumbledore nodded, looking considerably more satisfied.

“Very well then. I shall fetch Rubeus.” With a slight bow, he turned to leave.

When Rubeus Hagrid appeared at the Headmaster’s Office, however, he was accompanied not by his Head of House, Albus Dumbledore, but by the Hogwarts caretaker, Apollyon Pringle.

“Found ‘im wand’rin’ outside after hours,” Apollyon stated gruffly. “Couldn’t find Dumbledore, so I brought ‘im here. I’ll leave it to you now.”

“Thank you, Apollyon,” Dippet acknowledged. “You may go.”

After Apollyon had shut the door, Dippet turned towards his charge.

“Rubeus,” he said gravely, “do sit down. I am afraid that I have something rather serious to discuss with you.”

“Wha’s tha’, Headmaster, sir?” Hagrid asked timidly.

“Earlier tonight, a student came to me in great fear. He claims to have seen you in company with the monster responsible for Miss Morgan’s death.”

“It wasn’ Aragog!” the boy exclaimed vehemently. “He never!”

“Aragog?” Dippet cut in sharply. “Who and what is Aragog?”

Hagrid seemed to realise that he had said too much. Unable to meet Dippet’s eyes, he stared forlornly at the carpet.

“Jus’ a pet o’ mine,” he finally said. “He was on’y a baby. Never woulda hurt no one. He couldn’ta done; I kept him locked in his cupboard. Anyway, he’s gone now. He got scared, an’ ran in ter the forest.”

“So, you admit to bringing a potentially dangerous animal into the school, then?”

“Aragog wasn’ dangerous! He mighta looked a bit scary ter some people, but he never woulda hurt no one.”

Dippet sighed in frustration, finally coming to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to get much more out of the boy.

“Very well then, Hagrid. You may return to your room for the time being. I will think over the matter and discuss it with you again tomorrow.”

Shaking, Hagrid got up from his chair.

“G’night, Headmaster,” he said.

“Good night, Rubeus.”

Tiredly, Dippet began to rearrange the papers on his desk. No matter how exhausted he was, he never allowed himself to retire for the day until he had set his things in order. He had almost finished when a sharp knock sounded upon the door.

“Come in,” he groaned, looking up. “Oh, it’s you, Albus. Well, have a seat.”

“I found Rubeus in his dormitory,” Dumbledore began, “but he told me he had already spoken with you.”

“Yes; Apollyon brought him in around half an hour ago.”

“And?”

“The evidence weighs heavily against him, Albus. He admitted to having brought a somewhat dangerous animal into the castle, as a pet. As much as I hate to do it, I will most likely have to expel him from the school.”

“Expel him?” Dumbledore repeated incredulously. “Surely he has done nothing to merit such a severe punishment. The boy has a heart of gold, which is shown by his affinity with animals. Treating generally unlovable creatures with kindness should not be a cause for punishment. There is no proof that the animal harmed anyone, and Hagrid most certainly did not instruct it to do so.”

“Albus, I don’t doubt that the boy had no intention of harming anyone! But, regardless, he confesses to have brought an unusual animal into the school illegally; one dangerous enough to warrant being locked in a cupboard. Whether or not it was responsible for Miss Morgan’s death, we may never know. However, the fact that he owned and cared for it at all is, in itself, a most grievous offence, and he must be duly punished.”

“Is that your final decision, then? You will expel Hagrid?”

It was then that realisation struck Dippet. Everything was in his power. Hagrid’s entire future was at his mercy; just one word would change the course of the boy’s entire life.

Yet, Dippet reminded himself, Rubeus Hagrid was not the only student for whom he took responsibility. Four hundred other students inhabited Hogwarts Castle, and the burden of their lives lay upon his shoulders as well. Was the sacrifice of one child’s future necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of four hundred others? Dippet did not know.

Unfortunately, however, he had to know, for if he did not, then who did? The full weight of his power and authority sank upon him as it never had before. He wondered briefly if Fortescue had ever found himself in that situation; passing judgement with an outward confidence unrelated to what he felt. But Fortescue did not matter now, for it was he, Armando Dippet, who had to decide, and no one could do it for him.

“I’m sorry, Albus,” he finally said, looking up wearily. “Hagrid will have to be expelled. There is no other solution.”

In the years to come, Dippet would often think back on this instance, watching Hagrid trudging along behind Ogg and wondering if he had condemned the boy to an unjust fate. Yet, at the time, what other choice could he have made? How could he have managed to keep the school open, and the parents and teachers satisfied, without finding the culprit?

Dumbledore would have tried, Dippet reminded himself. He would not have sacrificed the boy’s future willingly. Dippet did not entirely understand Dumbledore, but there was something about the man which commanded respect, even from his superiors. Something which had led Dippet to believe that perhaps, it might be best to leave Hogwarts in his care, when he finally took leave of the school. Perhaps he would better handle the burden of power.



Chapter 16: Ogg
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By: sauerkraut_poet
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: Rebekka and Wiccan
Title: Apprentices
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: I know Ogg's a character most people don't even think about, but I enjoyed writing him more than perhaps any other character. So I hope that all of you, especially those staff members who sometimes feel annoyed at the general population of HPFF, will enjoy reading about him.

For those of you who are canon sticklers, I have to apologize for
one detail in this fic. On the Black Family Tree which was released earlier this year, Phineas Nigellus' sister Elladora does not have a husband or children. I had originally written the scene in the fic which involves Phineas' relatives using his son Cygnus' family instead, but had to change it when I realized that they were in the wrong generation, and wouldn't be old enough at the time the story takes place. Hopefully you will all forgive me and just enjoy the story. =)

I have now changed this chapter back to the original version using Cygnus' family, because I felt it fit better to use the existing characters on the tree than to make up new OC's just for the sake of the dates on the tree, which are in some cases a little questionable anyway. If you are attatched to the dates on the Black Family Tree, please forgive me for ignoring them.

Thanks to both Wiccan and Rebekka for betaing this story for me. Your advice worked wonders here, and I couldn't have done it without either of you. And of course, another big thanks to the staff for all your hard work. I've singled out specific staff I'd like to thank in the previous chapter, but I'd like to note that this particular graphic was greatly inspired by Violet's artwork and her wonderful chapter graphic tutorial. Thanks so much for all your help, as always!

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Apprentices. Bloody useless gits. Don’t know why they’re forcing me to take one. I never had anyone teaching me anything. How’d they expect me to start teaching now?

It’s all Dumbledore’s doing, I know it. Him with his sickeningly cheerful smile. Probably thinks he’s doing me a favor, getting a young lad to help ‘carry my load.’ Well, he’s not. I may be getting old, but I’m not weak. Dippet knows that. Dippet trusts me. Well, maybe not anymore – he must’ve approved the apprenticeship, after all.

Useless – all of them. Can’t they see I’m better off alone? Bloody humans never caused me anything but misery. Spent my whole life trying to escape from them. I remember full well. Not that I want to. I’ve tried so hard to forget, it’s almost as if the memory belongs to someone else now.

After his guardian’s death, the young man knows that he can not remain where he is. Yet, he has no desire to re-enter human society. He has pushed all memories of such a life out of his mind. So he takes his pet thestral, Arimbi, and sets off through the forest.

For a while they survive on berries, fish, and small mammals, but as the weather grows colder, he knows that they will have to find shelter before winter sets in. All through the autumn, he takes animals which Arimbi has hunted and sells them at the village market. The money is just enough to guarantee him a stable to sleep in and one meal a day each for him and Arimbi until spring.

The next year, hunting is good, and the young man makes enough to afford two meals a day during the winter. His new life is hard, but he is happy enough. In the spring, however, Arimbi finds a mate, and soon there are a number of thestral chicks to look after. Much of the hunt must go to them, and there is less time to spend at market. Yet, somehow, they survive.

As the chicks mature, they learn to hunt for themselves, and eventually for their younger brothers and sisters. However, as Arimbi’s brood grows, they become restless. The forest is not big enough for all of them. The young man knows that he must find another place for his herd.

He could simply sell them; he knows that thestrals fetch a high price. Arimbi was actually given to his late guardian in payment of a debt. Yet, his hatred of humans prevents him from doing so. He will not subject his beloved animals to enslavement at the hands of such a foul race.

Although he himself is human, he has ignored the fact for so long that he has almost forgotten it. He does not define himself in terms of species; he simply exists. Yet, this does not stop him from categorizing and stereotyping others. He does not do so consciously; it is just the only way he knows how to think.

As the man, now in his early twenties, sits pondering this by a stream, he fails to notice a lone figure creeping through the forest. Only at the sound of enraged squawks does he realize that something dreadful has happened. Following the noise, he discovers Arimbi’s youngest daughter, Salta, immobilized by a man who is now levitating her through the forest.

“Stop right there!” the young man cries. “What do you think you’re doing?”

The older man, known to the world as Mercurius Lovegood, turns around in surprise.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes. “I didn’t realize it belonged to you.”

“She belongs to no one,” growls the young man. “She is my friend and companion, and dwells with me of her own accord.”

Mercurius Lovegood blinks in confusion. Like most humans, he sees animals as lesser beings to be controlled. He cannot understand why his fellow man speaks of the thestral as an equal. Yet, he senses the young man’s physical strength, and hurries to release the animal before incurring his wrath further.

Once freed, Salta rushes to the young man’s side, burying her mane in his shoulder.

“The thestrals like you,” Mercurius observes. As he watches them, a plan forms in his mind.

“I breed and sell thestrals,” he begins, somewhat tentatively. The young man shows no sign of having heard him.

“Now that my business has expanded, I’ve been looking for a good trainer. I’d pay good money for someone to look after my thestrals and keep them in good shape. What do you say?”

“I’m not leaving them,” the young man responds gruffly, “and I’m certainly not going to move. I enjoy my solitude. I’ve a good reason for staying away from humans this long. No sum of money’s making me go back.”

“You wouldn’t have to come out of isolation,” Mercurius persists. “I can have a cottage built for you next to the pasture, far away from human habitation. You would only have to see the thestrals. Please? They may grow ill without an experienced caretaker.”

The young man pauses, thinking. As much as he hates humans, he can not bear to think of the poor thestrals suffering from maltreatment by men who care little for their well-being.

“What about these thestrals here?” he inquires. “I’m not going without them, but there’s no way I’m letting you sell them either.”

Mercurius sighs. He can think of only one way out of this mess. “They may come with you and live with my animals. A small amount will be deducted from your salary to pay for their food. I will make it clear to my customers that they are not for sale.”

After another hour or so of persuasion, the young man agrees. Luckily, his new job turns out better than he expected. He no longer has to worry about having enough food, or finding shelter in the winter. The thestrals are happy under his care, and he enjoys their company. Arimbi’s older children are able to find mates.

As much as the young man dreaded returning to ‘civilization,’ he now finds himself less in contact with humans than he was previously, when necessity required him to sell fish and meat at market. Now, he only sees men perhaps twice a year – whenever one comes to inquire about the purchase of a thestral.

True, he is completely dependent on Mercurius Lovegood’s good fortune and generosity, a thought which bothers him to great extent. As is his wont with unpleasant truths, he shoves it from his mind. It is better to be content than to dwell on the inconveniences of necessity.

The man enjoys this life of peace and prosperity for approximately fifteen years. Then, one day, strange men appear at his door. Mercurius Lovegood has died. They are going to sell the thestrals. He will have to find a new job.

The man argues with them. Twelve of the thestrals are his, not Lovegood’s. They demand paperwork. He does not understand. Why must he have a piece of parchment in order to take the thestrals with him? He can barely remember how to read, let alone write. So they accuse him of trying to steal valuable property from his late master. “Filthy Squibs,” they say. “Can’t trust them one minute.” They tell him that he should be grateful they haven’t thrown him in Azkaban. Nasty place, that is.

In the end, it is Lovegood’s housekeeper that saves him from a lifetime of poverty, and rescues half of his friends. Although he has never seen nor spoken to her, she is the only human alive that knows the truth behind his claim to the thestrals. Yet, she herself is a Squib, and knows better than to argue with the authorities. That will just get her into trouble as well as the man she seeks to protect. Long years have taught her to be practical, so she does the most sensible thing she can think of – she contacts her brother.

Herculeha Dippet is luckier than most Squibs, and certainly far luckier than the thestrals’ caretaker. She has not been disowned by her family. Indeed, she is especially close to her younger brother, Armando, who conveniently happens to be Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Somehow, Herculeha convinces her brother to not only buy six of the thestrals, but to employ a certain caretaker for them as well. At first, Armando does not wish to do so, but relents when she insists that the man will be able to care for all the animals in the vicinity. The new Care of Magical Creatures professor has expressed a desire to incorporate a greater amount of hands-on experience into her classes, and Dippet could use a gamekeeper to look after them.

The man does not wish to go to Hogwarts. Each and every student serves as a reminder of what he once yearned for, but never achieved. But he does not yearn for it anymore. He has learned to perceive humans as despicable beings. In this too, the students’ presence angers him. There are too many of them, always there. Even in his hut on the edge of the forest, he misses his former solitude. Yet, he accepts the job because it is his only choice.


I’m happy with my job now, though. Got used to the noise. Students mostly just ignore me. I ignore them, best I can. Never go near the castle if I can help it. Only been there three times, when Dippet wanted to see me in his office.

Most of the time, I’m outside. Love the forest. Students are too scared to go near it. Spoiled brats. I don’t have any of their magic powers, but I’m not afraid. What’s there to be afraid of? I like the animals, they like me. Simple as that.

In the evenings, I return to my hut. It’s not much of a place, but it’s all I need. Don’t really use it other than to eat and sleep in anyway. I cook my own meals – can’t stand the fancy rubbish they serve in that dining hall. Too rich.

I know the students laugh and joke about it. But what do I care? What do they know about me, anyway? Bloody humans. They’ve had everything handed to them on a silver platter, haven’t they? Nice homes, nice parents, learning how to do fancy stuff with their wands. Never occurred to them that some people have to fight to survive.

It’s their loss, anyway. Doubt they’d last more than a few days in an old forest with no food, no shelter, no magic. Someone takes their wand, they don’t know how to live anymore. Can’t take care of themselves. They think they’re all powerful with all their fancy spells, but I’m the one with real power. It’s me who lived in that forest for years, with no possessions apart from the clothes on my back and my hunting knife. None of them have the power to do that.

It’s not as if anyone appreciates it, though. Don’t even realize the truth. Wouldn’t care if they did. No point in telling them. Don’t want to talk to them anyway. Don’t want to see them. Why can’t they just leave me alone? Why force me to endure their company?

Bloody apprentices. Invading my solitude. Contaminating my hut with their bloody human-ness. Why can’t they send him off somewhere else? Why dump him on me? There’s a reason I’ve kept to myself. Why can’t they see that? Why can’t they let me be?

What can I do, though? Can’t quit the job now. Nowhere to go. Don’t want to leave the animals; I need them and they need me. They’re all I’ve got in this bloody world. Always have been.

Wish I could be with them now. Instead, I’m sitting on the grass in front of my hut, thinking. Not what I’d like to be doing, but I don’t have a choice now, do I? Got to wait for Dumbledore to bring the ruddy useless creature here for ‘instruction’. Don’t know why Dippet couldn’t have done it. Not important enough for him, I suppose. You’d think ruining my life would be of some importance, wouldn’t you? Guess that shows how much he thinks of me. Not that I think much of him either. He’s a human, after all.

That’s them coming now. Blimey, the boy’s big. Dippet better be giving him somewhere else to sleep – don’t think he’d fit in the hut even if I wanted him there. Which I don’t. They better not be expecting me to cook for him, either. It’s enough work feeding myself without the addition of that mountain of a boy.

“Ogg! How wonderful to see you. I trust you are keeping well?”

Stupid Dumbledore. Why bother with the pleasantries? They just waste time. Maybe if I glare at him enough, he’ll get the point. Doubt it, though. He never has. He’s still waiting for me to say something. Well, I won’t oblige. Got nothing to say to him.

“Well, I shall take that as a yes, then.”

Bloody git. Still smiling, is he? At least the boy looks properly depressed. Maybe he’ll leave me be.

“As you might have guessed, this is your new apprentice, Rubeus Hagrid. Hagrid, I trust you know Ogg, Hogwarts Gamekeeper?”

“Y-yes, sir.”

Boy seems to be fighting back tears. Pretty weak for such a big lump. I’ve never cried. Not since I became Ogg, anyway.

The boy cannot help but scream as he opens his eyes to reveal what looks like a hideously deformed face looming over him, illuminated only by candlelight. Vaguely he is aware of a blanket covering his body, but that does not interest him nearly as much as his surroundings. He lies in one corner of a cavern of dark, dank stone, with not a window in sight. He can make out the outline of a rickety table and two chairs in the dim light, but nothing more.

His first instinct is to wonder whether or not he’s awake, and if he is, how he came to be in this strange and frightening place. As his alertness increases, he begins to recall memories of the previous night: running, always running. He had given no thought to his destination. All he knew was that he needed to get as far away as he could, as fast as possible.

Now, he wonders how he has ended up in this cave. He does not remember much about his surroundings as he ran; just that he ran into the wilderness, as far away from the city and his former home as possible.

“W-where am I,” he finally asks through chattering teeth. They shake more from anxiety than cold. Because he cannot help himself, the boy adds, “and what are you?”

“My name is Menuk. I’m a goblin. This is my cave.”

“A g-goblin?” The boy’s eyes widen in fear.

“Ungrateful wretch, aren’t you?” Menuk replies bitterly. “I bring you in out of the cold, give you shelter, and this is how you thank me? Humans – I should have known you’d be just like the rest.”

“No – wait!” the boy exclaims. “Please – I’m sorry, I really am – please don’t make me leave.”

“And why not? Clearly you don’t want to stay with an old goblin like me.”

“I-I’m not like the rest. Please believe me. I’ve been shunned by the rest of them, all because I can’t do magic. I can’t go back there. I need somewhere to hide.”

“Well, you’re not staying here free. You’ll have to work for your keep. I’m not rich, you know. Barely make enough to feed myself as it is.”

The boy swallows nervously. He is not used to work; in the past he has had a house-elf to do everything for him. Now, however, he does not have a choice.

“That’s fine. I can work.”

“Good. We’ll start the day after tomorrow then; you could use some time to rest up a bit. Looked bloody battered when I found you.”

“W-where did you find me?” the boy asks tentatively.

“Near the hedges by the edge of the valley. Scratches and bruises all over. Nothing too serious, though. Looked like you’d collapsed from exhaustion.”

“Well, thank you again…sir.”

“It’s Menuk. No reason to call me ‘sir’ around here.”

“Right. Thanks, Menuk.”

“Welcome. What am I supposed to call you, anyway?”

“Er…” the boy falls into silence. He has been forbidden under pain of death to speak his former name, yet he has no other.

“I don’t have a name,” he finally replies.

“Well, then pick one!” Menuk exclaims impatiently. “Boy your size has to be called something.”

The boy thinks for a minute. How can he possibly decide on a name for himself? What names does he even know, besides those of his former family?

“Can you pick a name for me?” he eventually begs. “I really can’t.”

Pausing for a few minutes, Menuk looks the boy over carefully.

“Ogg,” he finally declares.

The boy looks at him in puzzlement. “Ogg is a name for a giant,” he argues, “not a Squib like me.”

“No matter,” says Menuk. “To us goblins, you are a giant. And it is with us your future lies.”


It’s one of my few fond memories; the beginning of my hatred for humans. And I still hate them, to this day. Goblins are much less discriminatory. Much easier to communicate with as well. Often you don’t even need words. Humans are clueless when it comes to facial expressions.

Maybe I’m getting better at glaring, though. Dumbledore actually left without me having to say a word. Still need some practice, though. I guess I can practice on the apprentice – show him who’s in charge. About the only thing he’s good for. Besides, he looks like he could use a little intimidation.

“Sir?”

Bloody git. Can’t he learn to keep quiet? Well, the glaring doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect on him.

“No one calls me sir. Bloody demeaning term – makes me feel human. It’s Ogg, you hear me?”

The boy looks confused. Maybe I’ve finally scared him.

“R-right. Well, Professor Dumbledore said that you was goin’ ter show me aroun’ the forest and stuff.”

“Did he? Well, that’s news, it is. Don’t know why he’d want me to do that. It’s not as if you’ll be needing to go in there much.”

“Er… won’ I? Aren’ I going ter be yer apprentice or summat?”

“Look, I never wanted any apprentices! Don’t even know what an apprentice does. Why couldn’t you have just gone home to your parents?”

Bloody hell! Now the lad’s starting to cry in earnest. Pathetic. Well, I guess I’ll have to say something. Boy won’t shut up otherwise.

“What’re you crying for? I just asked a simple question!”

“I-I’m sorry… it’s just… when yeh said parents… it made me miss him, that’s all.”

“Who?”

“My dad. Great man. Died a year ago. Glad he wasn’ around ter see me get expelled, though…”

Now he’s started a fresh wave of tears. Won’t he ever stop? I can’t stand people crying. Bloody irritating, it is.

“So what about your mother? Why can’t she look after you? Is she dead too?”

“N-no… dunno where she is. No one knows, really. Dad said she went back ter live with the rest of them.”

Darn it. I’m starting to get curious.

“Rest of who?”

He’s starting to look around nervously for some reason. Now he’s leaning towards me, like he wants to whisper something. Why can’t he just bloody well say it?

“The g-giants, sir.”

The fact that he called me sir again doesn’t even register. Giants? So the boy isn’t fully human. Well, that’s a nice change. Maybe he won’t be so bad after all. Sure, he’s been crying, but I suppose I cried more than I’d care to remember, before I began my life as Ogg.

A boy of eleven years sits on an ornately carved bench, gazing pleadingly out the window. His parents have started to worry. It is already the seventh of August and no letter has come. Cassiopea’s letter came on the first; so did Pollux’s. Why not his? Has it taken longer than usual to compile the book lists, as there are two new teachers? Has the owl died in mid-flight? The boy does not know. He just wants the owl to come.

All his life, he has dreamed of going to Hogwarts. He will sit at the Slytherin table with his brother and sister and learn Potions from his grandfather, Phineas. In his spare time, he will join his housemates in their favorite pastime of taunting Mudbloods and blood traitors. In his fifth year, he will become a prefect, and in his final year, Head Boy. Then he will get a nice job at the Ministry like Father. But none of this will happen if his letter does not come.

Three days later, an envelope bearing the Hogwarts crest finally arrives. However, it is addressed not to him, but to his father.

Cygnus –
Do not bother me with such mundane enquiries. The reason Marius did not receive a letter should be obvious. The boy is a Squib, and you shall deal with him accordingly. Any sane parents would have done so ages ago. I expected better from my son.
– Phineas Nigellus Black.

Scowling, Cygnus thrusts the letter in his son’s face. Rising from his seat in the drawing room, he declares, “As of now, Marius Black ceases to exist. Pollux is my only son.”

Cygnus then points his wand at the family tapestry. The boy, once Marius, watches in silence as his name disappears with a single blast, leaving only a small round burn mark in his memory. His younger sister, Dorea, begins to cry.

Suddenly, an elderly house-elf throws herself at Cygnus’ feet, begging, “Please, Master, please let Murli go with him! Murli cannot bear to think of Young Master out there all alone with no one to help him!”

“Silence!” Cygnus commands, looking at the elf with disgust. “This boy is no longer your master. As far as you are concerned, he is dead!”

The house-elf cannot help herself; she breaks down, sobbing.

“You want to go with him that much?” Cygnus roars. “Fine, then!”

With a single blast of his wand, Murli’s head is severed from her body. The room falls into silence as all four children stare blankly at the corpse.

“Yarrol,” Cygnus calls, summoning another house-elf, “take Murli’s body and dispose of it. Her head I will mount upon the wall to serve as a reminder to the rest of you of what happens when my servants disobey me.”

The boy, once Marius, shakes in fear as Cygnus turns his eyes towards him.

“Go,” he says, “and do not come to this house again, lest you wish to meet the same fate as that pitiful creature. Neither shall you tell anyone of your former identity; if you once speak the name of Marius Black, I shall seek you out and kill you.”

The boy does not stay to listen any longer. Immediately he turns and flees, not once pausing to think of where he is going and how he will get there. It does not matter. All he knows is that he must get as far away from the house as possible.


The giant’s finally stopped crying now. Strange, that I actually wanted to comfort him. Suppose it all started when he said he wasn’t all human.

Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d gone east rather than west that day. Would someone have taken me in besides Menuk? What if it had been a human? A Muggle human, at that. Would I be sitting in a comfy chair in a cramped office building, staring at one of those strange Muggle ‘konputar’ gadgets and making lots of money?

Doesn’t matter, anyway. This is what’s real. Two outcasts, alone in this world with naught but animals to turn to. And perhaps each other. The young giant deserves my friendship. He needs a new father, someone to look up to, and he’ll never find anyone better than me. Bloody humans are good for nothing. As Menuk cared for me, so I’ll care for Hagrid. Who knows? Perhaps an apprentice will do me good in my old age.



Chapter 17: Galatea Merrythought
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By: Mrs Insane One
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Beta Read By: Bellas blanky and Jessi_Rose
Title: A Matter of Age
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the staff: I would like to dedicate this story to the staff and
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Professor Merrythought stood poised on one side of the dueling platform that had been erected in the middle of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Her long black hair, streaked through with grey, was swept into its customary bun. Her eyes were wide and alert as she focused entirely on the nervous sixth year twitching at the opposite end of the stage. She could practically smell the fear rolling off him in waves, the glistening sheen of sweat upon his brow a silent testimony of how scared the student was.

“Relax, Mr. Carter, you need to keep your wits about you,” Professor Merrythought instructed the boy. “A sweaty hand can’t hold a steady wand.”

“Yes’m, Professor Merrythought,” Derek Carter responded automatically as he took a moment to wipe the sweat from his hands and drag the sleeve of his robe across his brow. “I’m ready now, ma’am.”

Merrythought’s only reply was to fire two jinxes at the boy in rapid succession. The first one he barely managed to block and the second one missed only by a hair’s breadth as he dropped to the floor and rolled to his left. He was just raising his wand to shoot a hex of his own at her when he was hit with the full body bind. The whole duel lasted less then a minute and the other children gazed up at their aged teacher in shock.

“Finite Incantatum,” Merrythought rasped, slightly winded by the short exercise.

Derek dropped his wand and let his head fall to the floor as he let out a loud groan. Professor Merrythought walked over to him and helped him to his feet before handing him a small square of Honeydukes’ chocolate. He gave a mumbled thanks and quickly left the stage as the professor began speaking to the class.

“Can anyone tell me what Mr. Carter did wrong? No? Let me tell you then,” Merrythought lectured as she stood on the edge of the stage facing the students. “Mr. Carter underestimated his opponent and he left himself open to an attack. In a civilized duel, there are rules that must be followed and customs must be observed by the participants. This class is not about rules and customs. This class is about teaching you how to survive out in a world filled with death and deceit.” Professor Merrythought paused here to let her words sink in before she continued. “There are evil wizards walking the streets of our world, Grindelwald has attracted a huge following of witches and wizards that will kill without a second thought.”

Many students paled at the mention of the dark wizard that terrorized the wizarding world. Chairs could be heard scarping against the stone floor as the young witches and wizards shifted uncomfortably in their seats while Merrythought gazed sternly down at them.

“You must be on your toes at all times! Never – and I mean never – give your opponent an advantage over you. The minute you do, you are as good as dead in a duel. You must remain conscious and aware of your enemy’s position at all times, use your surroundings to the best possible advantage, and keep your thoughts to yourself. Remember, a wizard or witch bent on defeating you will try to distract you by talking to you. They will tell you lies, taunt you, and trick you into making a mistake. It will be hard, but you must ignore them, don’t play into their hands.” Merrythought stated firmly. “Now, that said, who will be my next volunteer?”

The students all shifted in their seats once more and averted their eyes, several even dared cast a sideways glance at Derek whose head was firmly nestled between his legs – clearly he hadn’t yet fully recovered from his short duel with the professor. One brave girl dared to lift her hand a few inches before it was grabbed by her two friends that were sitting next to her. A short whispered argument ensued as they desperately tried to talk her out of volunteering.

“Ah, Miss Meadows, step up on the stage,” Merrythought encouraged when she caught sight of the near silent struggle between the trio of girls.

Dorcas Meadows eagerly complied despite the horrified looks of her companions. Once she’d scrambled up onto the stage she wasted no time in bringing her wand up to the ready position.

Merrythought smiled encouragingly at her and lifted her wand up as well; she was just leaning forward to bow slightly when Miss Meadows shot a stunner at the elderly professor. Only Merrythought’s quick reflexes and dueling instinct prevented her from being hit by the sizzling red light as it bounced of her hastily charmed shield of air. Adrenaline rushed through her veins as she jumped forward and sent two quick jinxes back and the presumptuous student.

Spells flew violently around the room as the two of them danced gracefully across the length and breadth of the stage. Their feet rarely resting in one place for more then a second as they dodged, ducked and dove out of the way of each other’s spells. They heard and saw nothing but each other and the multicolored glare of numerous hexes bouncing off the walls.

The other students had quickly scattered after two unlucky boys had been hit by a stray spell early in the duel. They could be seen huddled behind tables, under desks, and tucked behind bookshelves as they cheered loudly at the fast paced exhibit of teacher and student.

Several minutes into the staged match, Merrythought felt her strength flagging at an alarming rate - her face dripping with sweat as she gasped lightly for breath while her heart raced faster and faster. She refused to back off from the challenge though, and pushed harder. Her charms and curses began flying slightly off mark, most of them bouncing harmlessly off Dorcas’s charmed shields as others fell shy of their intended target.

Two seconds before the duel ended, Merrythought knew she’d lost when she tripped over the hem of her robe and fell heavily on her right side – spraining her wand-wrist. She tried feebly to block the final spell, but her reflexes had slowed drastically and the last thing she saw as the red light of the stunner engulfed her, was the shocked expression on Miss Meadows’ face.

When she was revived, mere seconds after she’d been hit with the stunner, she opened her eyes to find a ring of worried students hovering over her as she lay on the stage. Merrythought waved away their concerned questions as she climbed shakily to her feet and ordered them to return to their seats. Once the stage was cleared, she spotted a pale and nervous Dorcas Meadows still rooted to the spot where she’d thrown her last spell from.

“You may take your seat, Miss Meadows,” Merrythought prompted when the girl showed no signs of budging.

“Professor, I... I...” Dorcas began.

“If you are thinking of apologizing, for a duel well fought, I will begin deducting points.”

“I’m not... I didn’t mean...” Dorcas stammered.

“Child, you are the first person in nearly fifty years of teaching, to best me at my own game. You have the makings of being one of the greatest witches of our time. Do not apologize for having skill and quick head on your shoulders. You should be proud of yourself,” Merrythought rebuked gently. “Now, be seated.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“The rest of you should take note of Miss Meadows’ gumption. She wasted no time on pretty words or fancy displays, but dove right into the fray wholeheartedly. She displayed a well balanced center of gravity throughout the duel and her spells were well timed. I expect each of you to write a two foot essay about dueling techniques to be handed in at our next meeting. Class dismissed.”

Dorcas was swarmed by her fellow classmates as the sixteen year olds gathered up their belongings and headed towards the door. Merrythought could hear the excited whispers of gushed compliments as she frowned down at her wand a few feet from where she’d fallen at the end of the duel. She waited until the last students had filed out before walking wearily over to her wand and scooping it up from the floor.

“I never thought the day would come when I was too old to duel.” Merrythought mused aloud as she glared at her wand.

“I wish I could have been there to witness the grand event that has the entire student body in an uproar.” A voice called out from behind Merrythought.

“I should have known you’d be the first to come mock me in my defeat, Albus,” Merrythought snapped moodily back as she turned to look at her fellow colleague over her shoulder.

“No, not to mock you Galatea,” Albus countered as he joined her on the stage. “But to witness the rise of a young witch who will one day surpass her teacher.”

“How do you do it Albus? How have you managed to escape the same trap that has ensnared the rest of us? You’ve aged so little in the past thirty years, while I am old and wrinkled. One would think I was your senior instead of it being the other way around.” Galatea demanded as she allowed Dumbledore to escort her from the dueling stage. Dumbledore didn’t answer, his face unreadable as they walked arm in arm towards her office.

Galatea let her thoughts wander as the silence lengthened and by the time she’d Floo’d to the Hospital Ward to have her wrist looked at; she’d made up her mind. A deep sadness swept through her at that moment and a single tear trickled down her face as she faced the cold hard truth. She was old. She had tried to hide that truth behind her wand for several years and though she’d fooled herself and others for some time, she could no longer deny that the years had taken their toll.

Her wrist was healed by the resident Healer with two flicks of her wand and Galatea returned to her office with a small jar of healing salve that she’s been instructed to rub into her wrist twice daily for the next two weeks. Dropping the small bottle on her desk she sank into her chair and stared up at the pictures that lined the walls of her office. There were hundreds of smiling students waving down at her, their faces full of excitement as they left Hogwarts for the last time.

Forty-nine rows of gay faces representing forty-nine classes of seventh year students that she had taught in her years at Hogwarts. A sigh escaped Merrythought’s lips as she pulled her gaze away from the happy faces and pulled out a single roll of parchment from her desk. She reached for her favorite quill and lifted the lid from the ink well before dipping the tip of the feather in the dark liquid.

A scratching sound filled the room as she gracefully drew the quill across the paper, her long elegant strokes filling the paper with her flowing script. Tears filled her eyes once more as she signed her name at the bottom of the letter and magically dried the ink before rolling the parchment tightly and applying the sealing wax. She hesitated for a heartbeat, her heart torn between wishes and truth before quickly pressing her ring into the cooling wax.

Climbing to her feet once more, she lifted the sealed letter and reluctantly left the sanctuary of her office to find Headmaster Dippit. She was nearly to the stone gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster’s office when she ran into Ogg, Hogwarts’ Groundskeeper. They walked side by side in gloomy silence, both of them content to leave the other to their thoughts.

It wasn’t until Galatea gave the gargoyle the password that Ogg spoke up gruffly as he pointed to the scroll that Merrythought held in tightly clasped hands. “That what I think it is?”

“Yes,” Galatea replied tersely.

“Sad business,” Ogg stated in his rough voice as he started walking away from the depressed Defense Professor.

“Indeed,” Merrythought whispered as she stepped passed the gargoyle and climbed the stairs that led to Dippit’s Office. “Indeed it is.”

“Galatea, what a pleasant surprise!” Headmaster Dippit exclaimed as she stepped inside the room. “What brings you up here in between classes my dear?”

“I’ve come to deliver my letter of resignation,” Merrythought announced calmly.



Chapter 18: Binns
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Beta Read By: PhoenixStorm and Jessi_Rose
Title: My Real Life Story
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: Wow...so much to say, so little space.

To all of you: Kudos to everybody! You have created an excellent
site that has helped me expand my learning abilities and have fun
with the HPFF family at the same time. I never thought I could have
become the decent writer I am today. There has never been a
time here that I ever thought of giving up on everything. I really
appreciate everything you have done for everybody, and that's why
this story is here. THANKS TO ALL THE STAFFERS AND JAY! You have
made my time here worthwhile! And I hope you enjoy the story!
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Darkness becoming more pronounced and closeness drawing in are the signs of getting nearer to the dungeons – the place I am heading right now. And as I float I think about my seemingly boring life.

I watch my students of 1996 walk out of the classroom everyday with extreme pride in them. They may not know it, but everything I say and do in that classroom is going to benefit them greatly someday. Especially the ones who can actually stay awake. Well, mostly the ones that stay awake will benefit more. How, I ask myself, will they benefit from sitting in a stifling classroom, listening to a ghost such as myself drone on and on about some goblin war? I answer this question daily, and the answer is simple enough. By learning about the terrible things that happened in the past, they can prevent them from occurring in the future.

Today is my fifty-third Death Day party and it’s being celebrated down here, where nobody can hear our commotion. I don’t like my Death Day parties at all. The only reason other ghosts ever come is to catch up with old friends who are still walking among the living, like me. Only twice has anybody ever remembered to bring me a present, and that was fifty-one years ago. I know they all think that I’m just a boring old History teacher, like the ones they had back in Muggle primary school, if they can remember that long ago. They think all I did when I was alive was teach, and that I only came back after dying of old age to continue teaching students. Well, none of that last sentence is true. Not even the part about dying of old age. Now that I have a few hours to go of this blasted party, I think I’ll just sit down and tell you about my interesting and fulfilling life…


~*~


It was in November of 1942 and I was walking down one of the staircases, heading to my classroom to get something very important. Among the staff, I was probably the least respected because I had the smallest classroom – except Divination of course – and the most boring subject, but I guess that was actually my fault. I could’ve told Dippet I didn’t want it, but the day he asked me, it was more like he was pleading than asking. I should’ve asked him for the job as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which he also had a problem filling, but he already said there was somebody else in mind for that position. So, I got the job of teaching History of Magic, the class with nothing to teach except boring old goblin wars and other things of the past. Since then, my objective of my class has changed. I now respect it fully.

Now that I was in the room I wanted to be in, I hurriedly began searching for something. I turned books over, had my papers scattered across the floor, and my desk drawers ripped out of their safe dwellings before I actually found what I was looking for. I gripped what would be the most important valuable in winning the war with Grindelwald in my overgrown hands, but I wasn’t about to go out and defeat him myself. No, I couldn’t accomplish such a battle. I was taking this to the Transfiguration teacher, the greatest man in Hogwarts, who had already discovered eight uses of dragon blood. He could defeat Grindelwald. If he couldn’t, no one could.

As I hurried back out of my room, I checked my watch. The staff meeting would begin in less than ten minutes. I had to give this thing to Dumbledore before somebody else was around to watch, but it wasn’t going to be easy to get through the massive crowd of students who were just leaving the Great Hall from dinner. I was all the way down on the first floor and the staff room was on the fifth. Sometimes I just wished I could Apparate, but, alas, there wasn‘t enough room to do the three D‘s. I tried to get through the massive flood of students like a guppy fish trying to swim through a massive school of palominos. It just wasn’t possible without bumping into at least one of them. And that’s just what happened when I was at the top of the first set of stairs. I crashed into a seventh-year who looked like the very stern Head Girl, Minerva McGonagall, but I wasn’t positive since I was in such a hurry. I just mumbled a quick “sorry” and hurried back up the stairs towards my destination.

My luck wasn’t with me that day at all – as soon as I got up to the same floor the staff room was on, I ran into none other than the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lautter, the one person on staff I didn’t get along with. I tried to stare directly past him as I ran towards the staff room door, but he just had to know why I was in such a hurry, so he stuck out his foot and I fell directly onto the floor with a loud thud.

He stuck out his hand as if to help me up, but pulled it back at the last moment to scratch his disgusting beard just as I was about to grab it, resulting in me falling back onto the cold ground. What a childish thing to do, especially by a teacher! So I ended up picking myself up off the floor without his help.

Wiping my robes off, I looked down at him as he was about two feet shorter than I was. He looked back up smugly and opened his mouth to speak, but I beat him to it.

“If you don’t mind, I was hoping to have some time alone with Professor Dumbledore before the meeting, but thanks to you, I no longer can. So, now I‘m just going to sit in the staff room and wait for the rest of the faculty to join me,” I said, and walked swiftly away.

To my own surprise, he didn’t follow me, but I didn’t look back to see what could’ve been so interesting to pull his attention away from my somewhat rude remark. Instead, I opened the door to the staff room and closed it tightly shut behind me. The other teachers looked at me only briefly before turning back around and continuing their off topic conversations before the real meeting started. Expecting that kind of attention, I casually took my seat next to Professor Sinistra and stared blankly off across the table where Dumbledore sat talking kindly to the new Muggle Studies teacher.

Just as I was about to open my mouth and request to see Dumbledore alone after the meeting, the staff room door opened again and Lautter came in, eyeing me suspiciously, followed by the Headmaster, Armando Dippet. They both sat down at the head of the table. While Dippet got his notes in order, Lautter gave me a look that said I know you’re up to something. Thoughts started spinning in my head at once. Could he know about the secret I wanted to tell Dumbledore? Had he found out about object I needed to show Dumbledore?

But before I could delve deeper into these topics, Armando started his meeting, talking about the consistency of students leaving Hogwarts during the school day through apparition, and wanting to do something about it. As the other teachers gave their input on the subject, I leaned back in my chair and carefully watched Lautter’s moves and listened closely to everything he had to say, trying to figure out what he knew about me that made him act so suspiciously.

Yet, no such motive came from my co-worker, and by the end of the meeting, he was back to his regular, over-ruling self. That is, until he whispered something in Dippet’s ear as everybody else left the room, and they stayed back together to talk about something. I tried to slow down my actions as I gathered myself to leave the room, but they shooed me out and slammed the door behind me.

Outside, I turned back around and stuck an ear to the door to listen, but no sound was coming through. Either they were whispering so quietly that I couldn’t hear them, or Lautter had cast a Silencing Charm over the room. Either way, I had no way of figuring out what they were talking about.

“Why don’t you just open up the door?” A wise voice said from behind me, causing me to knock my head on the wall next to me.

“Professor Dumbledore!” I exclaimed like a small first-year, still scared to be in this powerful man’s presence.

“If you can’t open the door, I can help, you know,” Dumbledore said. “I know a couple of spells that could unlock that in a second.”

“No, no I don’t need help in opening the door,” I explained. “I’m just trying to hear what’s going on inside, but blasted Lautter put a charm on the room.”

“Ah, so I wasn’t the only one who saw Professor Lautter politely ask Headmaster Dippet to stay behind after our meeting. I thought he just wanted to show him something so I came back for my quill.”

A sudden light popped on in my head, reminding me of the unique something I had to show Dumbledore. I reached into my pocket, but only felt the soft fabric inside. Frantically, I checked the other side, but only felt the same thing. I looked back up at Dumbledore with fear in my eyes. I had lost the secret to winning the war.

“What has happened my friend? Did you lose your quill, too? I probably have another in there,” Dumbledore asked.

“Albus, you have to listen to me,” I said desperately, knowing I now had his full attention. “The thing I lost is way more important than a stupid quill. I lost the most important thing in winning the war with Grindelwald.”

“Oh my, where did you last see it? What is it? Can I help find it?”

“It’s just a small piece of parchment with one single paragraph on it. Please, you have to help me find it,” I pleaded.

Dumbledore didn’t need asking twice. He asked where I had last had it, and I gave him the approximate place. As soon as I was done speaking, he turned and went off to my classroom, the spot I was sure I had had it. But I, instead, went back down the stairs, towards the Great Hall, thinking I had dropped it when I had run into Minerva. Little did I know that I was dead wrong.

As soon as I got to the Entrance Hall, I knew I had come to the wrong place. From where I stood on the steps, I could see out to every corner of the room, and everything was clear. Nothing was in this room except for me, or I would have known it. So, I turned back up the stairs and headed to my classroom, thinking that was the only other place I would have left it.

But as soon as I reached my classroom, Dumbledore was closing the door behind him, coming towards me. His hands were out with nothing in them, so I knew he hadn’t found it. I sighed dramatically and continued to walk fast-paced towards him.

“Nothing,” he declared.

“Thanks for looking anyway, Albus,” I said. “I’ll search by myself for now. You can go back to your classroom.”

“Are you sure? I could still-”

“No no, go on ahead,” I said, depressed. “I’ll locate it myself.”

He didn’t ask again. Instead, he bid me goodnight and went back up to the Transfiguration classroom. As soon as I saw his robe disappear behind the corner, I turned around and headed back up to the staff room, sure that was the only other place I could’ve left it.

When I reached the room, I tore apart everything. The chairs were turned over, papers forgotten after the meeting were out of their neat piles, and the books from the shelf were strewn over the floor. I had looked everywhere and there was no hint, sign, or clue as to where the parchment was.

I fell back into the only standing chair, defeated. The writing on the parchment was so complicated that I hadn’t been able to understand it, let alone repeat it out loud. Any chance at winning the war was now lost. All because of my lousy memory.

All of a sudden, the door behind me opened and closed with a slam and I heard it lock ominously. Footsteps came from behind me, and I saw a small figure in the shadows stepping out of the shadows and in front of me. It was only then that I realized who it was. Professor Lautter was about to interrogate me.

“Silencio!” Lautter shot a blue light out of his wand and I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing emerged. I was now trapped, and unable to yell for help if needed.

“I know what you planned to do,” Lautter accused. “I found this piece of parchment on the ground with words I was not able to decipher on it. I only found the words’ definitions by asking Armando Dippet, who, by the way, is out hurrying around to turn you into the ministry.”

I tried to get out of my chair, but I was permanently set. I couldn’t move at all, not even to reach for my wand.

“You were trying to kill Grindelwald! I can’t have that happen, now can I? Now that one of his most loyal followers has finally gotten into this school we have the perfect connection to win. Taking over the school should be easy, without you here to ruin it. So I have been given permission by Grindelwald himself to hereby execute your existence tonight. At this very moment.” Before I could do anything, a bright green light was coming my way, and I fell limp in my chair. Darkness blurred my vision, and thoughts of the past hundred years flashed as though in a slideshow before my eyes: getting my Hogwarts letter, graduating, becoming a school teacher, and now this. The life was being taken out of me.

I wasn’t ready for what came next. I was in front of two beautiful oak doors outlined in gold with diamonds glimmering along them - one had a bright white light streaming through the cracks and the other just seemed like an ordinary door leading to an ordinary place. Above the doors was an hourglass that looked like it had just turned over, dropping its sand one by one, limiting time slowly down to none.

I knew where I was, and what I was supposed to do. I weighed the two options in front of me: I could return to the wizarding world as a ghost and give Dumbledore the information he needed to win, but have to stay there forever or I could go through the more appealing door and go up to heaven, meet with old friends, and have a nice afterlife. It was a terrible decision to make and I wasn’t ready for it. Each had its pros and cons and they evened out, but I had only a quarter of the hour glass left to decide which path I was going to take. I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t make my decision in time, but I didn’t want to stick around to find out, so I took a deep breath and opened the ordinary door, stepping through apprehensively.

The feeling of transforming into a ghost was like no other I had ever felt before. A frosty trickle was going through my body from the head down, removing my bones, and making my body almost erase completely, but a faint outline was still visible to the human eye.

As abruptly as it started, the morphing stopped. I was now a permanent ghost for the rest of the time in the world. But I couldn’t think about it too long: I had a job to do.

~*~


The rest of the story is simple – as you may have guessed from reading various Wizarding history books. I eventually found Dumbledore and the parchment, which Lautter had hidden in his top desk drawer. As soon as it was found, we had a meeting with Dippet, but he refused to cooperate only until the Ministry was involved, and Lautter was taken to Azkaban for a life‘s sentence. I got the History of Magic position for the rest of everybody’s life, and the story was put out that I fell asleep in the Staff Room and just got up as a ghost.

Since then, many things have changed. Grindelwald is gone, Minerva, the student I ran into so many years ago, is now the Transfiguration teacher and Headmistress, and Dumbledore died only a few months ago.

Yet, I am still here, sitting at my Death Day party, hoping it will be over soon, but knowing I would have another one in a year’s time.

But a year’s time isn’t so long for somebody who lives with death forever.



Chapter 19: Apollyon Pringle
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By: Seamusfan1
Chapter Graphic: Seamusfan1
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and Bellas blanky
Title: Scarred for Life
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: You are all absolutely amazing! Thanks again for your dedication!

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I heaved a sigh. Biting my tongue, I dipped my rag into the bucket of cleaning solution. I closed my eyes, opening the door to the toilets slowly. Running forward, I started to wash the mirror. One quick peek to find one dirty spot. I aimed my rag at the spot and scrubbed again. I took a deep breath, opened my eyes just enough, and was satisfied. I straightened up, opened my eyes completely, and cowered away.

It was an ugly sight. It was the reason I was here. It was why I had placed myself into the occupation of shame. Once a great wizard, I had prided myself in my looks and magical abilities. That was until…it happened.

An angry duel, a curse gone wrong. But since when did a curse ever go right? It was the time when there were few Aurors, because there were few Dark wizards. It was a happier time, a safer time. After the defeat of Grindelwald, and before the rise of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Before the War. Before the madness.

It was a dark wizard adoringly named Putus-Malum by his followers. He was the wizard that all wizards feared. Putus-Malum; the name, in Latin, meaning 'pure evil' and that's what we knew him as. Pure evil. Before He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he was the top of the Dark Pyramid. He and his followers would have become more powerful, had it not been for me and my crew.

I was the head of the team. There were two crews in the Auror office, one chasing after Putus-Malum, and one going after all other dark wizards. I had been an Auror for several years, ever since I had left Hogwarts. When Putus-Malum rose up, I was next in line. I had two superiors above me, both killed by Putus-Malum. I had taken the post, sad for my fallen comrades, but ready to win the fight.

About the time that we were hot on Putus-Malum's tail, I had begun to reach out to women. I was lonely. The Daily Prophet, a new newspaper that was attempting to flourish, had offered an owl dating-service. It was supposed to be like having a pen pal; completely safe. I sent my name into the newspaper and was immediately owled a list of women and their bios. I looked them over, and after a few hours, decided to owl a woman named Anabelle. I still remember the first letter I wrote to her; simple, and laced with desperate desire to have a woman to love.

Anabelle.

My name is Apollyon Pringle, and I understand you are interested in the owl dating service. Would you like to correspond with me for awhile? I am an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, and I would very much like to hear about you.

With Hope,

Apollyon Pringle.


Once she got the note, we immediately became friends. When her beautiful tawny owl came to my window at work, I stopped what I was doing so that I could read her note, and from her notes, I could tell she was doing the same. Her parchment always smelled of lavender, and I imagined that as her perfume. It was a great experience, writing letters with her, because I felt like I was seeing straight to her soul.

After several months of correspondence, I knew that I was in love. Everything about what she wrote and said was beautiful. I knew I had to meet her in person, and ask her to marry me. I know that sounds quick, but I had never felt the same way about anyone, and I didn't want my chance to slip away. So, I set up a time, and a place. Dinner, at a quiet little café in Diagon Alley. We would meet on the steps of Gringotts the Wizarding bank and I would take her out. We arranged a date and time. I was on cloud nine; I started planning the wedding. The flowers would be lavender, because her parchment smelled of it, I assumed she smelled of it, and stalks of it were sent occasionally with a more sensitive letter. As I wrote the arrangements of our date on my calendar, one of the other Aurors came running.

"We've found him! We've found him!” He shouted. “He's at the site where they're building the stadium for the World Cup! The workers are watching him, but pretending not to see him, so that he doesn't get away!" My coat was on, my floo powder in hand.

"Let's go!" I yelled, thrusting powder into the giant fireplace big enough for all ten of us at once. Immediately, all other nine of the Aurors were by my side. Some had followed the shouting, some had been in the office with me.

"Quidditch World Cup!" we all yelled at once. As we spun past fireplaces, I thought about what he might be doing. Hundreds of wizards were expected to turn up at the World Cup. Perhaps he was tinkering with the structure of the stadium so it would collapse and kill all of the people at once? Whipping out my wand, I strode out of the fireplace. Immediately, streams of light flew from nowhere.

Nine streams of light flew around me, striking each and every one of my comrades. All were drawn into a duel, follower against Auror. I heard the distant 'pop's of apparating people. I was glad that I didn’t have to tell the workers to get out of the way.

"It's just me and you now." I jumped as I heard a low raspy voice behind me. Instantly, I knew that it was Putus-Malum. "Don't worry," he continued. "I won't kill you right away. After all, I want you to see your dear little friends die before you do. If it makes you feel better, we can duel before you die." He went silent. I knew that he was using nonverbal spells, luckily something I was good at.

Streaks of light flashed between us for what seemed like hours. That day, I used every counter-curse that I had ever learned. I even used some that I had made up. Smoke draped the air so quickly that one could only see when a curse was fired. Like an explosion, Putus-Malum and I were in the middle of it all. Light and screams flashed around us.

I heard a few bodies hit the ground, but I didn't want to know if they were good or evil, dead or alive. At that point in time, all that mattered was defeating the darkest wizard of the time. That was when it happened. My best friend, Andrew, hit the ground. I saw it from the corner of my eye. Immediately, my shield charm diminished. I turned to see if he was alive or not. I had known him since the first day at Hogwarts, we had met on the train. Since then, we had done everything together, been inseparable. Was it possible that I would now have to do something alone?

A curse was fired. It hit me in the temple, and I felt my skin start to melt. The now liquid skin streamed down my cheek, burning and melting all in its path. It was more pain than anyone could imagine. All I could think of was finishing what I started before I fainted or died. "Avada Kedavra!" I yelled, and after watching his limp body collide with the ground, I stopped hanging on. I let go.

Death was a beautiful place. Anabelle stood in a field of fresh lavender, it's sweet smell blanketed me in calmness and comfort. She had on a lavender colored dress, and a crown of lavender lay on her head. Just as I imagined, she was beautiful. I looked down into the pocket of my robes where I saw parchment letters and lavender. All of the letters from Anabelle, all of the months of post lay in my pocket. I cold read the last words of the latest letter. In beautiful script of hers,

I can't wait to meet you. I think I love you.

My face was throbbing, but there was no more hot skin. I reached up, weakly. There were a few lines down the side of my face. And then, because I fell, there were lines across my face as well, four thick, ugly lines. It was as if someone had taken four fingers and dragged them across my face. I could barely see the lavender in my pocket, from Anabelle's last letter, through the white haze that was the aftermath of a giant duel.

"Apollyon, Apollyon! Are you alright?" It was Andrew. So he was safe. "I'm going to take you to St. Mungo's. All of the followers have been captured, and Putus-Malum is dead. No need to worry.”

Andrew took me to the hospital, where I was cared for quickly. After the doctors did all that they could for my scarred tissue, Andrew gestured at my face.

"What happened?" He asked.

"You fell, and I had to see if you were alright. He cursed me. I was in so much pain that I wasn't thinking straight. I just wanted to kill him. And I guess I did." That's when the door flew open. It hit the wall with such force that there is a dent there still today. It was the Minister for Magic.

"You're fired. You were not supposed to kill him." He yelled with such anger in his voice, I started to speak but he cut me off. "I don't care if it was on purpose or not! That's it, you're done! Pack up! You're through!"

I packed up my things. The Daily Prophet that day said that Putus-Malum was gone, he had been killed, but accidentally. My name was not listed as the killer, or in the list of Aurors that had been involved. The Ministry just wanted me to disappear.

The day after I was out of the Ministry forever, I went to Diagon Alley, ring in pocket, bouquet in hand, hoping that she would see past the fact that I had no job, and no face. I had gone to every florist, Muggle and wizard alike, to find the best and purest lavender for her bouquet. Somehow I knew that lavender was our flower. All of the letters, all of the real lavender. I spent so much time that morning fussing about the bouquet. I suppose I wanted the flowers to draw her attention away from my face, but how wrong I was. I walked towards Gringotts Bank. That was when I saw her. She was wearing black dress robes with lavender colored trim, just as she had written she would. She was absolutely beautiful. I took a deep breath, stepping in front of her.

"Excuse me, Anabelle?" Shock quickly covered her face.

“Can I help you?” She asked in a disapproving tone before a look of comprehension came over her. "You're Apollyon?"

"You're disappointed."

She nodded. "Your face. It's so, ugly and scarred."

"That happened in the fight with Putus-Malum the other day."

She winced. "You weren't there. I checked the list that was in the paper. Your name wasn't among the brave fighters."

I looked down, sadly. "That's because I am the one that killed him. I am the one who fired the last curse he ever saw. It's unforgivable, but I lost my mind in pain."

"Well, then I am through with you." She tugged a few lavender flowers from her beautiful curly hair. "My father was a brave Auror who died in the line of battle. He never killed anyone, not one. He should have been an example to you, but you ignored it. I can't date someone who ignores my father's nobility."

As I tried in vain to explain, she talked over me. "And besides, I can't be with someone who is ugly. I do have a reputation to keep up." She took one last piece of lavender from her hair, one last look at my face, sniffed, and walked away. Her last words to me were; "I've always loved lavender, and after you commented on it, I thought you were the one. But I guess I was wrong."

As cliché as it sounds, I dropped the bouquet, and all of the lavender flowers fell to the ground, breaking apart and flying all over. I sat down in the midst of them, right there on the steps of Gringotts Bank, staring at the ring in my hands. I hadn't even gotten the chance to ask her. I learned that day that letters, no matter how many, never show the true soul of a person. The world continued around me as I sat there, for hours. When I was done, I stood and Apparated to the village of Hogsmeade.

I walked to the gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My mind was made up. I had to hide. Hide my scarred face, and reputation. That day, I told the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore that I had been fired and the woman I thought I loved had dumped me for my nasty physical appearance. I told him that I needed to hide in the smallest possible job in the wizarding world. Students, professors, and the occasional parent would see the scarring, but they would get over it. Then children might even learn from my mistakes. Learn not to kill. Learn never to love. Perhaps the children would learn from me as I took care of their castle in shame.

And still today, I clean the school, too afraid of what people might say if I reappeared into society. It has never leaked what I have done, or whether I quit or was fired. I have heard some speculation that I was killed valiantly by Putus-Malum, but I have also heard that I went into hiding, too scared to face him for real. As for me, I would take the former. No one really knows. The students have never heard of me, and Albus Dumbledore is the only man besides myself who knows the whole story.

Today is the hardest day of my job. I clean all of the castle's mirrors once a week, always on Monday, during lessons or mealtimes. I can't bear to let the students watch me cower away from my own reflection. I clean the mirrors with my eyes closed, or looking the other way.

I feel like a coward, but every time I see my own ugly reflection, every time I see the scars, I am reminded. Reminded how I broke the Auror's code. Reminded how, in pain, I was irrational and killed a man. No matter how evil he was, I shouldn't have killed him. I am also reminded of how a woman could never love me. No one could ever love someone as ugly as I am. No woman could ever see past the scars. And so I clean the Hogwarts castle, in shame. In shame, for killing a man, and in shame for going unloved. I wait in hiding, because in more than one way, I have been scarred for life.





Chapter 20: Lily Evans
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Title: Undecided
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Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
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It was quiet. But there was a ringing in the ears, a ringing and a ringing and then gone.

Not sure whether in pain or not, undecided as to how she felt, she stood. Or was she sitting? What was standing? She looked down. Were her legs supposed to bend like that?

Even if nothing else was certain, it was clear that it was cold. Her body radiated a certain warmth, but it did little to keep her from shivering violently. Wait. Was she shivering? She watched her hands tremble and decided that she was.

Wet. If she knew one thing, it was the fact that she was wet. Though the atmosphere around her was cold, her body was warm; however, the warm feeling was rapidly leaving. The only logical conclusion she could draw from that was that the warmth of her body was evaporating the liquid from her skin, quickly lowering her body temperature. She knew that she was wet just as she knew the founder of her house had facial hair, but she could not feel the dampness and could therefore not verify it. It was the same with Godric Gryffindor - true, she had seen pictures of him, but she had never actually met him to see that, indeed, he had facial hair. But why would there be enough liquid in any one place for her to be wet (if she was, as she assumed, in some sort of indoor setting)?

Depending on the substance, it had to be between a certain set of arranged temperatures to be a liquid. These had to, of course, pair up with temperatures that she could survive at, so it was most likely a common mixture such as HCl. Wait. That would be Hydrochloric Acid. So, H2O. Yes, water.

How did she know about mixtures and chemistry? Why did she know about chemistry in the first place? It was basic chemistry, granted, and she was not getting into anything like precipitants and valence electrons and catalysts, though that was not difficult chemistry, either.

Putting thoughts of Muggle learning out of her mind, she grasped around in a desperate attempt for a new point of concentration. Nothing came up. Something in the distance, somewhere far away, she did not know nor wonder how far, smelled faintly of a piece of fresh parchment. Why would something smell like that? It was not quite as if it had been written on - no, that would be more like ink than this. It was untainted.

There seemed to, in addition to this peculiar smell, be the sound of tapping. It was stronger than the smell, but not by much. She vaguely thought that if the tapping was going to go on much longer without growing louder, she would very much like it to cease. It went on indefinitely.

All was still. Everything around her moved but everything touching her remained frozen in time and space. She imagined that if she were to look down on the scene from above, she would see a small ring that was stationary, while all around it would be a vast sea of movement. She did not like that movement singled her out to ignore, though she admittedly did not particularly feel like moving.

Was this what pain felt like? She could not remember. If it was, she didn't mind it so much. If she considered the fact that pain only affected her physical being, then her mind was much more free to explore other thoughts than the one of whatever this sensation—possibly pain— was.

The atmosphere felt considerably heavier than it ever had before, but she could not measure it against before because, obviously, it was not as it was before. So it could easily have been the same or lighter than before. How does one measure the weight of the atmosphere, anyway? She did not think it would be worth it to ponder over the subject for a lengthy amount of time.

Time in itself was not a matter of concern. She had no idea how much time she had to think about the weight of the atmosphere, nor did she know how much time she had spent sitting (or was it standing?) wherever she was. What she did know was that time had been off recently (though 'recently' could mean any number of things). She did not wish to choose a unit with which to measure time for fear that it would be inappropriate for whatever amount of time she wished to measure. It was simple logic, for a simple girl.

What kind of a girl was truly simple? She was an average girl, yes, and could have easily been eight or eighty-eight – and yet, her mind followed a direct path leading to every conclusion that she made. She was unique. But she was not very unique; to be “unique” was to be one of a kind, so to be “very unique” would be even more one of a kind – but one cannot define “one of a kind.” How can one be more than another?

The fact of the matter was not that she was eight, nor was it that she was eighty-eight, but somewhere between the two extremes. So how was she simple? Was human life not, in itself, complex? But here it was forgotten that to be a girl, she must have been a human. She was a complex being, to be sure, but among similar beings she was considered simple. She had been called unique, she had been called simple. Never, in all the time she had spent trying to figure out which she was, had she been called normal.

Yet in all this, she could fairly say that she knew what she loved as well as what she hated. It just so happened that, at least for the present, she could not remember which was which.

If she hated something, it would logically follow that she did not love it. And yet ... how could one thing, one idea, be both hated and loved? She did not understand it; but then, she could not very well understand anything around her. What was around her? She could not make out any discernible objects which would identify her setting. Possibly the most important question: why did it smell like parchment?

Her mind, like a blank slate, began to slowly put down the first thing that came to mind. Where it was putting it down, she could not be sure, but she knew that it was just as it should be. Upon glancing down, she realized that her hand was moving on its own accord – and so was everything else around her. Was it so light that it appeared dark? Or was it so dark that it appeared light? Was everything still, or was everything in constant motion? (If she were to go by the Kinetic Molecular Theory, she would say that all matter was in constant motion; however, she somehow doubted if it were true in this particular situation.)

The faint parchment smell was no longer untainted. Why? Though her mind attempted to put two and two together, the four were not sticking very well. Tape was not strong enough for ideas quite as obscure as this; it was more suited towards weaker connections. She needed some sort of mind-glue. Yes. That would work nicely.

She let out a short laugh which seemed to last much longer than the amount of time that her mouth had been open for. Or was it much shorter? Did it have a sound at all? She could not determine which it was, though she had a sneaking suspicion that it did not have a sound. What was sound? It was not the action which caused sound for, quite simply, that was only an action which caused it (and was therefore a necessary part of it), but was not the sound itself.

It was like asking the following question: If a tree falls over in the woods when no one is around to hear it, does it make any sound? Except, of course, this was a laugh, and she was around. Was she though? What was around, and how could she be one? This made little to no sense at the same time as making perfect sense. How could this be? There was an explanation, but she could not explain it to anyone but herself.

And her hand was still moving, free of her own thought control. What was it doing? It was blurry, like a thought she insisted on blocking. Was she blocking it out? The thought was ridiculous, especially since the curiosity about what it was doing was now close to driving her mad. Was she mad? What was mad? It was not enraged, that was a different kind of mad. Or was it?

She felt like she was merely going in circles. What was the point of a new thought? Did it not introduce conflict? Why would anyone want conflict? Certainly not she. Was she trying to hold onto some truth that was no longer truth? What caused the circles? How could she be sure that it was a circle that she was going in, as opposed to a many-sided shape? She fairly concluded that she could not.

Was this all that there was? She recalled distant, vague memories of something more than this, this questioning process. She did not wish to be Socrates, she wished to be herself – whoever she really was.

She let out another barking laugh, and this time she was quite sure that she had no way of verifying that it was, indeed, coming out of her throat. Was it someone else's laugh? It reminded her of someone, but she had no idea if this someone was herself or not. Perhaps the laugh did not even occur.

It was odd, the whole thing, when she thought about it. While one of her legs was clearly bent in the correct direction and the other was bent in the same direction as the first, she still could not tell if the second was right. She knew that it must be – why would it not? Why would it be incorrectly bent if she could feel no pain nor physical difference between the two? But it was too simple to just say that it was right.

It was then, with this precise thought in the front of her mind, that she realized exactly which way her legs were supposed to be bent. Upon looking down once more, she was startled with such clarity that she was forced to snap her eyes shut and slowly peak them open. There lay her leg, bent properly, and there her hand moving rapidly. She had no more questions, but all of the answers were now tucked away in her mind, and it was a mere case of finding them at the appropriate moment.She felt as if the entirety of the time she had spent questioning and pondering in circles (however long that had been), she had been blind to her surroundings, while all the while her other senses had been fully aware.

She had tears in her eyes, but these were more tears of shock and joy than of sadness. She suddenly recalled that her father had been something of a chemist, though she was not sure why this happened to be the one idea prominent in her mind. This was not pain; this was the feeling of the weight of the world being pulled off of her shoulders. Her surroundings, as she viewed them before, had been mostly imaginary. She was in a real place with real objects, lightness, darkness and even a few people.

She knew what she loved. She knew what she hated. They just happened to be the same thing in this case. In her hand rested a quill which was furiously scribbling across a previously blank scroll of parchment. What she was writing was irrelevant; somewhere in the recesses of her mind she knew what she was trying to say and how to say it. It was difficult, but it was the only way to go about things.

It was laughably simple, but, as is the case with any person, she found it humbling. It also felt extremely right, which made her wonder if it was wrong. But just as she thought this, she stopped herself. No more questioning. It was time for answers.



James,
Thank you for your kind words; I truly appreciate your method of expressing your condolences (it would have been a waste of time to talk to me in person while I was in the state of emotions which I was in before now). Would you terribly mind spending the next Hogsmeade visit with me? I promise not to bite (or yell at) you. It would be nice to have someone to talk to about this right now.

Sincerely
Yours,
Lily



Chapter 21: James Potter
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By: Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: PaMuggles and Bellas blanky
Title: With Stars in Their Eyes
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (mild language)
For the Staff: I always feel such pressure in Author’s Notes to be profound, but I’m feeling at the moment that a simple, hearty ‘Thank You Staffers’ really is the most appropriate. So thanks…for spending your precious free time locked in the queue…for keeping us up for days on end with nearly unsolvable riddles…for responding to unintelligible e-mail sent to you at four in the morning…for answering the same question for the billionth time (what do you mean I have a formatting problem!?)…and most of all, thank you for encouraging and inspiring us to do what we love—create, write and share. You all are wonderful.

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He leaned heavily against the parapet that ran along the outer edge of the Astronomy Tower. Resting against the cool stone, James stared out over the darkened grounds below. He really enjoyed coming up here, especially at night. It was rarely ever this peaceful outside during the day. Once spring arrived and the last of the snow finally melted away, he and his fellow students spent as much time as possible spread out on the lawns studying, or else wading in the shallows of the Great Lake. As vast as the grounds were, it was still hard to find a quiet spot. The high-pitched squeals of girls as they were tickled and teased by the giant squid; the boisterous commands of Quidditch captains calling out to their players to ‘ride higher’ or ‘dodge faster’; and even the occasional shouts of a Professor reprimanding a particularly troublesome pupil were hard to escape. Of course, James usually was that troublesome pupil, but still, it was nice to escape up here for a little peace and quiet every now and again.

The truth was he really ought not to be up here. Except for during class time, the Tower was off limits to students, particularly after hours, but tonight James just didn’t care. Since becoming Head Boy, James had abandoned a lot of his mischievous ways. Well, alright—perhaps not a lot, but he did try to be a bit more mindful of the rules. Even Lily had said he was a great deal more chary these days when it came to outright disobedience, and Sirius begrudgingly agreed, though he was quick to add with a wink and a smile that he didn’t necessarily think such changes constituted an improvement

But on this warm summer night—rules be damned, James thought to himself, grinning slightly as he watched the lights down in Hagrid’s windows flicker before the hut fell into darkness. After all, this was his last night as a student. Soon there would be no more rules to break. Tomorrow they would all pack up their trunks and brooms and board the Hogwarts Express for the last time. There would be no more trips to Hogsmeade, no more nights in the Shrieking Shack, and most importantly, no more chasing after Lily Evans. Of course there wasn’t a need to chase her any more, James thought as he reached into the left pocket of his jeans and rubbed the tiny velvet box that he resolutely decided to keep on his person at all times. He would ask her soon—but not yet. Perhaps in the Fall. Autumn was Lily’s favorite season, and James loved the way the leaves changed to match her beautiful auburn hair.

God, when did I become such a romantic schmuck, James wondered as he gave his forehead a mental slap. To be honest, he didn’t really know, but he also didn’t really care. If this was being a fool in love, he thought, then a fool I be!

He sighed as he leaned his elbows against the low wall. As happy as he was with Lily, it was hard for James not to feel a bit sad as his time at Hogwarts drew to an end. It was funny how attached one could get to a place. It was just a building after all—but what a building it was. Where else on the planet could a person find a hundred house-elves ready at a moment’s notice to supply those with a sweet tooth enough chocolate éclairs and apple tarts to make themselves sick upon, or else encounter a maze of moving staircases while trying to outrun a dungbomb-wielding poltergeist? James wondered if he would ever have occasion to return to Hogwarts. Maybe to attend his own kid’s graduation, like his parents had done for him early that day. James couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the thought. The idea of a James Jr. running around the castle—now that was a scary thought! Though he had to admit, the idea did have its appeal. It would be fun— teaching the next generation of miscreants about the secrets of Hogwarts, recounting the adventures he had with Sirius, Peter and Remus. In fact, now that he thought on it, having a family with Lily—would she have him—was just about the only idea for his future that actually made any sense at all. Sure there were other things that were important; times were changing and difficult decisions lie ahead, but when it came down to it, nothing else seemed as important as family.

Letting his imagination wander away from him, James wondered if his children would look more like himself or like Lily. Well, as long as they didn’t end up with a bunch of miniature Petunias, James supposed it didn’t really matter. Though he did sincerely hope that these hypothetical munchkins of his inherited Lily’s eyes. His eyes were alright, but hers…

A loud bang sounded behind him and James spun round just in time to see Peter peek out from behind the heavy tower door.

“Peter, what are you—” James started.

“We’ve been lookin’ all over for ya, James,” Peter interrupted before quickly ducking back inside. James heard him yell from behind the door, “Oy, he’s up here. I found him!”

The shout was quickly followed by the sound of heavy footsteps clambering up the steep tower stairs, and James heard a very familiar voice call out, “Hey, Wormtail, why don’t you shout that just a bit louder. Pretty sure they couldn’t hear you down in the dungeons.”

Peter reappeared, flustered but grinning broadly, followed immediately by Sirius and Remus.

“See, told you I found him,” Peter said, shutting the door behind Remus.

“Must have been that great rat sense of smell,” Sirius replied sarcastically.

Peter grinned hopefully at him. “You really think so?”

For a moment, Sirius looked as if he might like to give Peter a friendly knock upside the head, but instead he ignored the question and turned to James.

“What are you hiding from up here?” Sirius flashed him a look of mock concern. “Not us, I hope.”

“Hide from you lot?” James said, smiling. “As if I could. And I’m not hiding, just…stargazing.”

Sirius scoffed. “Stargazing?”

“Well, it is the Astronomy Tower, isn’t it?” Remus said, stepping up beside James and looking up into the night sky.

James noticed his friend’s eyes shift automatically toward the moon, which was thankfully just entering its second phase.

“Don’t mind the company, do you?” Remus asked, still staring upward.

“Not at all.”

“You know you’re missing one hell of a party, don’t you?” Sirius asked as he leaned carelessly over one of the sunken ledges of the crenellated wall. “And it was just getting good when Moony over here insisted we leave and come find you. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. Said it just wasn’t a party without you.”

“Oh, did he?” James asked, knowing full well that it was Sirius who had insisted to the others that they find him and drag him back to the common room.

“Yep,” Sirius said. “If it were me, I’d have left you in peace, but you know Remus. Once he sets his mind on something…”

Remus cast James an exasperated glance.

“So,” Peter said, he too now staring up into space, “see anything interesting up there?”

“Sirius,” James replied simply.

Sirius turned toward James, “What?”

“No,” James laughed. “Not you, Sirius. That Sirius.” He pointed up toward a particularly bright star just off to their left. “Your namesake.”

“Oh, that,” Sirius said unimpressed. “Yes, thank you mum and dad. And what a wonderful tradition, naming your children after bloody constellations. Honestly.”

His tone was genial, but James knew him well enough to detect the hint of bitterness that always crept into Sirius’s voice during those rare occasions when he mentioned his family.

“That’s right,” said Peter, “I forgot about that. So, if Sirius has got that star up there, and Moony has the moon…”

“I don’t have the moon, Peter,” Remus interrupted.

“Yea, well, you’re named after it—sort of—right? So what about me? Which one am I?”

The three glared at Peter.

“Which are you…what?” Sirius asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“If I were a star, which one would I be?” Peter replied as if this was the only obvious conclusion.

“Wormtail, you’d be a black hole,” James said, thumping Peter on the back.

Sirius and Remus laughed, but Peter persisted, “No, come on, seriously. Which one would I be?”

They all glanced upward again.

“How about that one right there?” Sirius pointed to a star just to the right of and slightly above the one with which he shared his name.

“Why that one?” Peter asked, squinting as he concentrated intently on the faintly glowing mass.

“Because that’s the one they say the Dog Star chases across the night sky. So…you best watch your back, Peter. One of these days I might just catch you.” Sirius grabbed on to his shoulders and shook him gently.

“Hey!” Peter cried out, ducking out from under Sirius’s arms. “That’s not funny!”

“I’m only messing with you.”

Peter shrugged, clearly not finding the joke funny. “What about you, James? Which star do you want?”

“Don’t need a star,” James replied.

“Why’s that?”

“Cause he’s in love, Peter,” Sirius said, walking over and grabbing James’s arms, trying unsuccessfully to get James to waltz with him. “Can’t you see the stars dancing in his eyes?”

James pushed Sirius away, laughing as he watched his best friend flail about, two-stepping himself around the tower.

“I think you’re right, Padfoot,” Remus said, wrapping an arm around James. “This one’s got it bad. He’s a lost cause.”

“True, true,” Sirius sighed once he had danced himself back toward the group. “I only hope he doesn’t forget about us.”

James reached for Sirius’s chin. “Forget this ugly mug? I wish!”

“Come off it,” Sirius said as he knocked away James’s arm.

“It’ll be weird,” Peter muttered quietly. The others stopped fooling around and turned toward their friend. “I mean…not seeing each other everyday. It’ll be odd, you know?”

“Yes, it will be,” replied Remus, “but it’s not as if we won’t still see quite a lot of each other.”

“Yea, like this summer, at Sirius’s place. And at the Quidditch finals,” said James, trying not to sound bothered by the prospect that, after seven years together, he would no longer be seeing his best mates everyday.

“True…and on holidays and birthdays,” added Sirius.

“And other special occasions.” Remus elbowed James gently in the ribs, careful to not let the others see the gesture.

James instinctively felt in his pocket for the small box. He hadn’t told his friends about it yet, wanting to hold on to the secret for just a bit longer, but Remus always seemed to have an instinct about things left unsaid. He just smiled at James, who smiled back.

“Gentlemen,” Sirius said loudly, reaching his arms out around his friends, “the end is upon us. And I must say, it has been one interesting ride.”

“Here, here!” they replied enthusiastically.

“And whatever may come,” Sirius continued, “let it never be said that the Marauders didn’t know how to have a good time.”

They stood in silence for a moment, all four of them gazing up once more into the heavens.

“Well, boys,” Sirius said as he took a few steps back, “there’s still a lot of unopened butterbeers hidden behind that portrait in the common room and not many hours left to get through them. What do you say we get out of here and go celebrate like real men?” The others nodded in agreement. “Come on, Peter, we might still have enough time to find you a girl.”

“Really?” Peter said, his moment of reverence clearly passed.

“Yea, we’ll just ask around and see who doesn’t mind snogging a boy with cheese breath.” Sirius laughed as he pulled open the tower door and pushed the smallest of the companions inside.

Remus strolled after them, pausing when he reached the door. “Coming?” he asked, looking at James, who hadn’t yet moved.

“Yea, in a minute.”

Remus nodded and disappeared out of sight.

James turned back towards the grounds, running his fingers through his untidy dark hair. What a ride indeed, he thought. And who could say what would happen next? Things were hard to predict these days. What with…everything. But at least he had his friends—and Lily. With a sigh he turned toward the door. And as he made his way back to the common room, the sounds of cheering Gryffindors growing ever louder, he wondered how long it would be before his own child walked through those great double doors and started what he hoped would some of the best years of their life.



Chapter 22: Vector
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By: Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: slytheringinny and Jessi_Rose
Title: In A Day's Work
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: A special thanks to slytheringinny and jessi_rose for the beta work and sauerkraut_poet for the lovely graphic. And what can I stay to the staff other then that I am sure you have had a day or two around here that has left you in the perfect state for an extended stay at St Mungo’s, or at least in desperate need of a beverage from the Hog’s Head. I do hope, however, when those days arise, you can at least take comfort in knowing your hard work and dedication never goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Thanks to each and everyone of you for all you add to this site. It’s amazing and immeasurable.

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Septima Vector crept noiselessly down the dark third-floor corridor. She felt like a misbehaving student, sneaking around empty hallways and trying not to be caught out of bed. But Septima had good reason to keep quiet. She was taking great pains to avoid running into Peeves. The last thing she needed was for that horrid poltergeist to turn up and start making a ruckus, which might just be loud enough to rouse the sleeping occupants of the castle. At the moment, she preferred not to have to answer questions about why she was up and roaming the halls at four in the morning. No, she definitely preferred to keep to herself the fact that she was much too nervous to sleep.

Peering around a corner and finding the adjacent corridor just as empty as the last, Septima proceeded towards the Arithmancy classroom, located on the ground floor of the east tower. Her hands shook slightly as they grasped tightly to the mound of old number charts stacked high in her arms. She hadn’t been this nervous in quite a long time. Breaking curses for Gringotts may sound like a thrilling career, but Septima had spent much of the last eight years of her life hunched over musty books and tattered pieces of parchment. Up until yesterday, she had been nothing but excited about starting her new job as a Hogwarts professor. She had sent owls to all of her family, explaining how thrilled she was to have the rare opportunity to return to the school less than a decade after her own graduation.

She had been beyond shocked to return home from Gringotts one evening two weeks ago to find Professor Dumbledore sitting on her front stoop. Getting right to the point, as he so often did, the Headmaster had explained how he found himself in a difficult predicament—four weeks into the new term and suddenly one Arithmancy professor short. Apparently after sixty-one years—and four weeks—as a professor, and at the ripe old age of one hundred and six, Professor Barble had felt called to venture out into the world once again, leaving his post without warning to join Britain’s only all-senior wizarding water polo team. Septima accepted the Headmaster’s offer at once, glad like old Professor Barble to try her hand at something new. It had not been until yesterday, as she sat in the carriage that had picked her up at Hogsmeade Station, that her nerves began to get the better of her. As she bounced along in the empty carriage, the immense castle growing ever closer, her hands began to twitch, and she had not been able to calm them since.

She had not seen anyone since she arrived, except Professor McGonagall, who had greeted her in the Entrance Hall in order to help her with her luggage. It was then, as the two women walked the halls, directing the great assortment of trunks and boxes that floated in front of them, that Professor McGonagall had urged Septima to take care to avoid Peeves during the next few weeks, as he had a nasty habit of torturing new teachers. And now, several hours—and not a wink of sleep later, Septima found herself trying hard to follow the advice of her former Transfiguration Professor.

Septima had forgotten how long it took to get around the castle, and she was quite relieved when she finally reached the classroom…her classroom. The thought that what lie on the other side of that door was to be her new home sent a fresh wave of butterflies through her already knotted stomach. Taking a deep breath, Septima pulled out the key that had been left for her in her room last night and unlocked the door.

It was just as she remembered it. Eight years had done nothing to change the room where she had spent some of her most enjoyable hours at Hogwarts. Pictures of complicated number graphs still lined the walls. Three rows of desks, each with exactly seven seats, sat facing the front of the classroom, where her very own desk was perched, still covered in what Septima could only assume were Barble’s old notes.

She walked slowly up and down each row, her free hand gliding gentle over several of the old wooden desks as she went. She paused a few times, remembering where some of her former classmates had sat. Third seat from the front, in the row closest to the windows; that had been hers. Her best friend during all her years at Hogwarts, Maribelle Hoskins, had always sat on her right. Two desks in front of Maribelle, the front and center-most seat; that had belonged to Michael Wiccam. Oh, how she had fancied him. Just the memory of his twinkling blue eyes and goofy half smile was enough to bring a small giggle to her lips, which she tried unsuccessfully to repress.

After several more indulgent minutes of fond recollection, Septima finally sat down behind her desk. Gathering up the pieces of parchment littering the desk top, she placed them all in one of the empty draws on her right, deciding that she would see if she could make heads or dragon tails of them this evening. For now she wanted to stay focused on what she had planed today for her very first lessons. It had been difficult to decide what to teach, not knowing where Professor Barble had left off. She finally decided on handing out a riddle of sorts, which was sure to keep the students busy for a few days while she figured out where each of the classes stood.

Rummaging through the charts she had carried in, Septima went over her lessons in her head, deciding on the order of things and trying to figure out how much time she would have between each of her three lessons. After nearly an hour of fiddling and note-making, Septima began to feel her eyes growing heavy, the night’s complete lack of sleep suddenly catching up with her. Glancing at her watch and seeing that she still had a good two hours before her first class, she decided she would close her burning eyes for just a few minutes. And within seconds of resting her head upon her folded arms, Septima had drifted off to sleep.

Crash.

Septima was instantly jarred awake, her fogged brain telling her body she was under attack. She sprang from her chair, knocking it over, and was immediately hit by stinging cold…water? What kind of enemy comes at you with water? But…No. She wasn’t under attack. The window! The window closest to her desk had blown open and the storm raging outside was now making its way into her classroom.

She tried to reach the window, but she found the short distance nearly impossible to traverse. The stone floor was already drenched in rain, making its surface slick as ice. The charts from her desk and the posters off the wall had been swept up by the fierce wind and flew ceaselessly around her. She reached out trying to grab the window, hoping to push it shut, when—Wham!

In an instant she was on her back, her feet having completely slipped out from under her. Trying unsuccessfully to stand up, Septima crawled back to her desk, her mind now awake enough to remember her wand. She searched desperately for it before remembering she had put it in the drawer with Professor Barble’s papers. With a hard yank, the drawer flew open, the parchment inside caught in an updraft and, like her number charts, were soon airborne. Finally, her wand now in hand, Septima turned and faced the window.

“Colloportus!” she yelled, and the window slammed shut with a squelch.

Breathing hard, Septima lowered her wand. As she brushed wet hair out of her eyes, she noticed the floor around her was covered in scraps of what was to have been her first week of lessons. Sighing, she turned around, wondering if her day could have gotten off to any worse of a start. And there, behind her, all crowded into the doorway, eyes wide and mouths hanging open, was Septima’s first group of morning students.

Years later, Septima would not be able to recall how she managed to get through that first class. From the looks on her students’ faces as they crawled around on the floor looking for bits and pieces of their first assignment, she was sure she must have looked a dreadful mess. Her fears were confirmed tenfold when she finally managed to sneak into a bathroom during lunch. One look at herself and she was surprised she hadn’t literally sent her pupils fleeing in fright. With a few quick blow-drying spells, she managed to bring her appearance down from terrifying to startling before she was forced to return to her classroom for her next two lessons.

Though she faired better with her afternoon classes, Septima still felt on the verge of tears by the end of the day. She was hungry, the back of her robes were still damp, and her bottom was quite soar from her morning tumble. It was too early yet for dinner to be set out in the Great Hall, and besides, she wasn’t sure she could face the rest of the school right now. Perhaps, she thought, there is food in the staff room. As a student, she had always imaged that the staff room would be full of tasty treats waiting for professors who needed a moment away from their students.

Her mind made up, she headed toward the staff room, presently surprised to encounter very few other people along the way. As she reached the door and pushed it open, Septima found, to her dismay, that she was once again standing in front of a room full of people who were all gazing at her, jaws hung open. Inside, gathered around a small table, sat Professors Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape. Oh, bother. And she had so hoped for a few moments alone.

It was not that Septima did not like her fellow professors, but it was just awkward, the thought of sitting around talking with the people who had been her teachers what seemed like only a few short years ago. Well, except for Professor Snape, who had been a year ahead of her in school, but who she recalled was quite unpleasant. They had never spoken while in school, and Septima wasn’t anxious to change the situation now. But it was too late. She had already entered and there was no way of turning around now without being completely rude.

For a moment the three seated teachers continued to stare at her unabashed. Septima suddenly felt her face growing hot, tears once again welling up behind her eyes.

“How was your first—” Professor Flitwick began, but before he could finish, Septima, to her own horror, burst into tears.

Sobbing uncontrollably, words started flowing out of Septima’s mouth as freely as her tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Awful,” she cried. “Couldn’t sleep…there so early…rest my eyes, just a moment. Crash! Water…backside…scary hair…”

“There, there,” said Professor McGonagall in what she presumably thought was a kindly voice. “Come, sit.” Leaning over, she pulled a chair up next to her from an adjacent table.

Septima obeyed, but what she really wanted to do was run up to her room, pack all her belongings and be on the next train back to London. She tried desperately to stop the tears, wiping furiously at her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. When she finally managed to control herself, she heard the unmistakable sound of stifled laughter coming from the people around her. How could this be? She had just been driven to fits and now she was being laughed at.

“Looks like we’ve got another member, Minerva,” said Professor Flitwick between snorts.

“I believe you are right,” replied McGonagall, an uncharacteristic chortle escaping her lips.

Looking up, Septima saw that even Severus appeared to be smirking, though it was difficult to distinguish from his normal snare.

Seeing that Septima looked on the verge of tears again, Professor McGonagall, no longer laughing but a smile still playing on her face, spoke up.

“Ms. Vector, we are not laughing at you. Understand, you are not the only one in this room who had a less than perfect first day as a new teacher.”

“That’s right,” squeaked Flitwick. “Other than the Headmaster, I can’t recall a single staff member here at Hogwarts who got off to a good start.”

“Really?” asked Septima hopefully.

“Oh, yes!” Professor Flitwick replied. “I myself fell off my chair three times during my first lesson.”

Septima smiled at her former Head of House kindly, but she wasn’t entirely comforted as she remembered that excitable Professor Flitwick had a great habit of falling off his chair at least once a week.

“I too had a slight misadventure my first day here,” said Professor McGonagall. “Hoping to make a good impression upon my students, I decided to transfigure myself into a cat and back at the start of class. Well, unbeknownst to me, one of the students in the front row was highly allergic to cats, and I had to end class early to take her to the Hospital Wing.”

This time it was Septima’s turn to let out a giggle. “And what about you, Professor Snape?” she asked, perhaps a little too eager to find out what kind of trouble he had encountered.

“Ah, yes,” said McGonagall. “Severus doesn’t much like that story retold too often, but let’s just say that for his first two weeks, Professor Snape’s hair was a shade that would make any true Slytherin proud.

Septima could not help but smile at the thought of the sour-faced man stalking about the castle with green hair. Even the menacing grimace on his face was not enough to suppress her grin.

Feeling a bit better, knowing now that she was not alone in her misfortunes, Septima allowed the three teachers to persuade her to join them in the Great Hall for dinner on the condition she could first change into some completely dry robes. And as she hurried off to her room, she thought to herself that perhaps things had not been as horrible as they first seemed. While it was true she had been forced to teach her first class in a bit of a dreadful state, at least she could take comfort in the fact that her hair, while a bit unkempt perhaps, at least had not been green. And it was this pleasant notion that kept her smiling all the way to the Great Hall.


Chapter 23: Rolanda Hooch
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By: Jessi_Rose
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: Arithmancy_Wiz and Nicalyse
Title: One True Love
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Jay and Kay, without your guidance, attention, and dedication to the best Harry Potter fan fiction site ever, the aspiring authors of the fan fiction world would be lost. Thank you so much for everything you have done, are doing and, hopefully, will continue to do! Cheers!

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I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms


They were in a ten-year long losing streak. The Falmouth Falcons had not so much as made it to the opening games of the Quidditch Regional Championships. I joined the team in the middle of that time, around nineteen hundred and sixty five, as captain and Chaser. There was very little animosity for my joining as the captain, mainly because there were very few around who wanted to take the post of leading a losing team. When a Wizenscout came to me after a well played game against Kent and asked me to take up the head position of the Falcons, I could think of no better way to spend my years- picking a team up from the gutters.

I began on the team, watching and observing all of the players. There was no doubt that they had skill. But they lacked in the most important area: teamwork. The Beaters would bat the Bludgers at the opposing team's Seeker, rather than the Chasers. The Keeper was constantly trying to guard one hoop at a time, not paying attention to where the Chasers were headed. And the Seeker, bless his heart, was stationed too close to the center of the match. He never stretched his wings and spread himself along the field.

The chances of us winning any competition were dismal. If I were to pull this team from the trenches, there would be a lot of grueling hard work and enormous sacrifices. If we were to win, we would have to form an alliance that none other could match. I definitely had my work cut out for me.

If I can see it,
Then I can do it
If I just believe it,
There’s nothing to it


For four years we worked like House-elves in a pureblood manor. Our goal was to read each other’s moves before we made them. I constantly told the players that we were not going to focus on the Cup until we were able to synchronize our movements. We started from scratch, basic flying lessons. And then, I taught them some things that most wizards overlook when it comes to Quidditch: forming friendships.

We practiced every day, for hours at a time. When we would finally come down from our brooms, I would take everyone out to the local pub and order a round of pumpkin juice, allowing them to sit around the table and get to know each other. We shared fond memories, and eventually, as the years passed, we learned of heartaches and trials. Most of us even came so close as to spend holidays with each other, when family wasn't an option. It was this new bond of friendship that created a barrier that any other team could not hope to pass through. We were ready. Our year was coming.

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door



Nineteen seventy was the year of the Falcons. Not only had we won the Regional Class A Championship, we were on our way to play in the Quidditch World Cup to be hosted by Germany. Our competition, the Holyhead Harpies, had a great year as well, but they were no match for our Seeker and Keeper. Training rigorously everyday had caused us to gain an unprecedented amount of knowledge in areas that were highly overlooked in day-to-day Quidditch matches.

Most teams focused only on their Seeker, working them up and making sure their eyes were keen to the tiniest movements. Other teams focused on their Keeper’s ability to multi-task their defenses, guarding all three hoops in one go round. My team, the team I had captained for five years, paid special attention to the work of everyone. In the years we spent focusing on our training and techniques, all of our players had learned the key points of their teammates' positions.

My first priority became the Chasers. I was able to create plays for us that bolstered every aspect of the team. By paying special attention to maneuvering our way through our own Beaters while still keeping them close by, we were able to keep the Quaffle in our possession for longer periods of time, thus enabling us to score more often and keep in the lead.

My Keeper and Seeker began working together to form a strategy among themselves. Because the Keeper had to keep his eye on the Quaffle at all times, he was little help to the Seeker. However, the Seeker, who had to keep his eyes peeled on the entire lot, could signal to the Keeper if there was any change in the game that could easily go unnoticed.

The Falmouth Falcons had become a threat in the world of Quidditch. We had qualities one rarely finds in sports, which is why we had gotten so far that year. Aside from wanting the Cup, training for the Cup and playing dirty for the Cup, we had taken to bonding for the Cup. Signals and slight movements became priceless to our formation. Our Chasers were able to scratch their noses to signal that they would fly higher, or split around the opposite team. Our Beaters had a remarkable talent for positioning themselves in the center of the action, keeping the Bludgers zooming back and forth between them, and knocking off other players in the interim.

It seemed that we were going to win the Cup that year. The only thing keeping us from that golden Cup was the final team to beat: The Holyhead Harpies. They were fighting for their third straight Quidditch World Cup. I had my doubts, but I also knew that we had a good, solid chance. We just had to believe.

See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me.


The whistle was blown and the referee released the snitch. In my mind time slowed, allowing me to take a glance at my team, their position and the challenger's formation as well. I sped my Shooting Star down the length of the pitch, pulling myself ahead of the Harpie's Beaters, awaiting my fellow Chasers' throws. The wind was whipping through my dark hair, which was cut short to support the aerodynamics of the broom. I had grown use to cold air in my eyes; however, I could still feel the dryness of the wind trying to compromise my sight. One hand reached off of the broom and grabbed the Quaffle that was thrown toward me. I tucked it in my arms as if it were an infant.

My goal was in sight. Very quickly, I took a survey of the Harpie's Keeper. He was a younger man, by the name of Frederik Schlemp. He had neither the experience nor the determination that I had. My arm swung back ceremoniously, the Quaffle played on my finger tips for a brief moment before it went zooming through the first of the golden hoops, scoring the first goal of the match.

Our Seeker signaled to me that the Snitch had not been viewed on the pitch by either of the teams. I could sense that from the last hour of the match that my fellow Chasers were beginning to tire, having flown the stretch of the pitch several hundred times. We owned the Quaffle, and had only let in one goal, compared to the fifteen that we had scored. Still, I knew the Harpies could catch up. They had brilliant synchronization in their Chasers. We were just better formed.

At an hour and a half into the match, one of our Beaters had taken a nasty blow to the arm, causing him to sit out the rest of the match. Things were looking dismal, indeed. With one of our own missing from the match, each of us had to work harder to pick up the slack. My team was tired, and losing the inspiration to win. It was then that I remembered the tedious practices. They had not let me down then, and I would not let them down now. I held up my hand for the referee to see, signaling a time out.

My team came to me, on the ground, and we huddled together, a look of worry on each of their faces. We were now only up by three goals, missing a player and losing our spirit. If the Harpies found the snitch, we would lose.

If I can see it,
Then I can do it
If I just believe it,
There’s nothing to it


There was nothing I could do about our Beater; he was out of the game. We would have to work with what we had, and what I had was knowledge of the game. Most of all, I had a larger love of Quidditch that was more than just competing. To me, it was about freedom, the freedom my Shooting Star could bring. It was as good of time as any to express this to my team, to show them that there was more to Quidditch than just winning a match and a golden prize. There is being free, being one with the sky. It was time to pull out the big wands, and teach them about humility.

Our goal now would not be to win the match, but to have a spiritual epiphany during the match. That way, no one would ever be able to deny our style. Not one person in those stands would be able to say we had no spirit left.

I brought my head down, looking at the ground, searching for the right inspirational words for my team. And then they hit me like a ton of bludgers.

'Cause I believe in me
If I can see it,
Then I can do it
If I just believe it,
There’s nothing to it


When I spoke, it was meticulous and calculating. However, the look on my face, I hope, was one of ease and peace. "We are down, but we are not out. Regardless of whether we win this Cup or not, we are each going to leave this match with something more than we came here with."

They each furrowed their brows, but let me continue without interruption. "Why do you enjoy playing Quidditch? Is it for the feeling of victory? Or is it for the feeling of the broom guiding you through the air?"

A round of answers came, and it seemed the winner was the latter. I pressed on. "We've been practicing our ability to move on a broom. It was lesson number one. We're going to revert back to that lesson out on the pitch. Focus, not on the balls or the goals, but instead find yourself learning to fly again."

"Rolanda," a burly voice spoke. "We know how to fly."

"You know how to fly while playing Quidditch for a team. But do you truly know what it is to fly? Forget about a prize, forget about the Cup, and forget about fame. Fly for you - fly to feel free. Learn to love the very act that got you to this tournament today. Let me see you soar. I want to see you caress the clouds and float above the ground. Forget about diving for a ball. Dive for the sensations you get when you pull up from the ground."

They were looking at me as if I was crazy. Of course I knew they were here to win a match! If they would just realize that by freeing themselves of the burden of malicious competing, they could win an even better game.

"Time!" the referee called out. I gave one last hard look at my team and signaled for them to zoom off and play their World Cup. I looked over at the beater that was sitting out. Right now, was he more upset about not being able to play, or not being able to fly? In this game, it all came down to flying. My guess is that he wanted his broom. And his broom he was going to get.

"Get out there and fly, Ramidon. It's about flight and personal victories today."

If I just spread my wings
I can fly
I can fly
I can fly, hey
If I just spread my wings
I can fly
Fly


I look back on that day and feel the most pride I have ever felt in my life. Not only had my team taken in what I said, and actually listened and obeyed, we had won the Quidditch World Cup. When our Seeker caught the Snitch, leaving the score at four-hundred seventy to two-hundred ten, all of us flew to the ground, completely elated. When my fingers grasped around the cold metal of the Cup, it was then that I knew that I would never find anything more satisfying than being on a broomstick. We won by basic principles rather than strategy and competitiveness.

That was my last year playing Quidditch. I wanted to end my career on a high note. I had already done what needed to be done with the Falcons, and they had each grown under my watchful eye.

I’ve since found a new way to express my love of the wide open air. I keep my old Quidditch follies about me as I referee matches for the aspiring kids at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But even better, I am the official flying instructor for First Years. From me, they learn more than the basic art of flying. The students learn what it is to be free.



The lyrics used in this story are from the song "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. Yes, I know how cheesy this sounds. But, nothing less than the best for the staff.

Chapter 24: Sinistra
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By: loony86
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: PrincessPotter and Arithmancy_Wiz
Title: Sun and Shadows
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Like all the other chapters, this one-shot is dedicated to the wonderful staff at HPFF and fanfictioncentral! Thank you all for the enormous amount of time and work you put into the site! And a big bunch of flowers each goes to my wonderful betas PrincessPotter and arithmancy_wiz, and to sauerkraut_poet for her beautiful graphic.

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Aurora Sinistra was excited. This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance for an astronomer. She was going to see a total eclipse of the sun; one of the most powerful signs in magic you could witness! It was even going to be visible right here over Great Britain. Not only was she going to be able to see something so spectacular, she was going to be able to use all of her instruments without having to lug them all the way to some far off country.

As the date of the eclipse drew nearer, more and more witches and wizards from all over the world began to arrive in Hogsmeade. They were mostly astronomers like herself, or self-proclaimed Seers. There were groups of other people too; families with excited children, young couples looking for a romantic holiday...

I’ve never seen Hogsmeade this packed with people, not even when Hogwarts is having Hogsmeade weekends, Aurora thought as she strolled down the main street of the small village. Must be great for the shop owners.

Aurora did some shopping herself, buying a few rolls of parchment and a new quill, but the main reason for her visit to Hogsmeade was that she simply enjoyed large, happy crowds.

Aurora was a very logical woman, almost to the point of being cold at times, and not someone who needed the company of many people. But she loved swimming along in the middle of a crowd, not exactly part of it, but not a mere observer, either. It reminded her of Astronomy in many ways. She watched stars and planets, galaxies and moons, comets and shooting stars, all from a distance; never getting close. Yet all those objects were parts of her life. They influenced her life.

We live on one planet of probably billions, Aurora thought with a smile. Nothing special, really.

The day of the eclipse dawned bright, warm and cloudless. Late in the morning, Aurora finished setting up her instruments and took her first look at the sun through a blackened glass. It was stunningly beautiful. The moon already covered about half of the sun, making it look a little like a half-moon usually did.

It astonished her that the sun still had enough power to give off as much light and warmth as usual. Aurora knew of course that the sun normally cast so much light that human eyes filtered most of it out, but it was still amazing to see that the world could live with half the light it was used to and not even notice.

The whole school ate lunch earlier than usual so that anyone who was interested could watch the eclipse. Because of its importance, Aurora had actually required all students taking Astronomy to watch it and write a summary of the experience.

Around noon the light finally grew dimmer and the temperature began to drop. Many people were shivering, although it was hard to be certain if it was because of the sinking temperatures or the old superstitions about total eclipses foreshadowing the end of the world.

Animals were getting nervous, some actually hysterical. Aurora watched a group of birds erupt out of the forbidden forest, startled by the sudden nightfall. She supposed that Hagrid was having quite a time calming the creatures that lived on the school grounds. She drew her attention away from the forest and back to the sky. The moon was covering almost the entire sun now, leaving just a slice of light on the left side.

Then, and quite suddenly, the moon moved directly in front of the sun. She could see the corona. It was an uneven circle of dim light, flickering and glowing around the edge of the sun. It was so much fainter than the sun itself that it could only be seen during a total eclipse, and Aurora’s heart leapt into her throat at the sight of it.

Aurora knew that all over Europe, Seers would now hastily be making drawings of the exact shape of the corona, to be interpreted later. Seers believed that drawing the corona provided inspiration, but Aurora trusted that her instruments would do the job just fine without her. For now she was content to concentrate on the mere sight, revelling in the experience. Her other work could wait for this.

It was now significantly colder than before, and it was finally dark. Not quite as dark as a full-moon night but almost. It really is amazing how much we depend on the sun, Aurora thought, wrapping her cloak around herself for warmth as she stared at the sky.

After only a few minutes, and as fast as it had appeared, the corona vanished from sight again as the moon moved on and allowed a small section of the sun to shine again. In just a few hours it would again be as bright and warm as before, and the watching crowds would quickly lose interest.

Not far from her, students and teachers began talking about what they had seen as they gathered their things, but Aurora stayed frozen. When the corona had dived away into invisibility again, she had looked away from the sun and now found herself staring at a shadow. At least she thought it was a shadow; she really didn’t know what else to call it. It was slightly transparent, but nonetheless, the darkest shade of black she had ever seen. Its outline was oddly blurred, and it seemed to change its shape all the time. Aurora blinked, but the shadow remained where it was. Stubbornly, she blinked again, and when she opened her eyes this time, the thing, whatever it had been, was gone.

She glanced around quickly to see if anyone else had seen anything, but no one seemed to be looking in her direction. She shook her insides firmly, telling herself that it had been nothing.

A mere shadow. They occur when it’s dark, did you know?, said a sarcastic voice inside her head.

But it was not a normal shadow, she argued with herself. It was moving on its own. And it was scary, said another voice, one she rarely heard speaking so firmly. She tried to shake off the uneasiness.

It was just natural to be a little scared by a total eclipse. Despite all of our knowledge, humans still have strong instincts. Even you, Aurora, she told herself. What good would instincts be if they didn’t warn you when it gets dark all of a sudden in the middle of the day?

Aurora was running down a dark path somewhere in the countryside, trees bending menacingly over her. She ran as fast as she could, but she still seemed to be so slow. She had to speed up – don’t turn around – faster –

Something was following her. She didn’t know what it was, but it was dark…darker than a starless night, and shapeless. It wanted to harm her. She didn’t know why, but it was hostile. It got closer – ever closer – she couldn’t run any faster – it would get her –

Aurora awoke with a start in her bed, bathed in sweat. The room was dimly lit by the first rays of the morning sun filtering through the curtains.

It’s fine, she thought, just a night-

Her thoughts stopped right in the middle of “nightmare.” She saw it again; a shapeless shadow in the corner of her eye. Her head snapped around to look closer but there was nothing.

No, she firmly told herself as she threw off her covers with shaking hands. I’m imagining it. It just takes me some time to fully wake up.

Rather late in the morning, Aurora went down to the Great Hall to have breakfast. Having her lessons at night was one of the best things about teaching Astronomy. She had to do other work as well, of course, like correcting homework and preparing her lessons, but it was entirely up to her how to plan her day. She could sleep late, have breakfast when everyone else was already at work, and still have time to do her school work without being rushed.

After breakfast she took a pile of homework her sixth years had handed in, a quill and some ink, and headed down to the lake. She was going to read and mark the essays there since it was such a beautiful day. Working at night sometimes left her with a strong longing for sunlight, and she didn’t feel like spending her free time inside the cold, gloomy castle.

About one hour and six essays later, Aurora decided to take a little break and lay back on the warm grass. She was just lazily blinking up at the sun when she thought she heard a small noise behind her. When she tilted her head back to look, she saw nothing there. She decided that it must have been an animal and shifted back again only to hear the noise once more. A few seconds later she saw a blurred movement to her left.

Aurora took her wand out of her pocket and sat up.

“Hello?” she called warily as she pulled herself to her feet. “Is anyone there?”

No-one answered, but she could have sworn she heard footsteps behind her. Whirling around, she caught a glimpse of something dark moving, but she couldn’t tell what it was.

Still wary and with her wand at the ready, she quickly gathered her essays and writing equipment. Sitting alone between the great lake and the forbidden forest had suddenly lost all of its attraction. Looking around every few seconds, she headed back to the castle, not putting her wand away until she had reached the entrance hall.

When Aurora got to her room, she stopped dead on the threshold. There was the shadow again, hovering in mid-air next to her desk. It looked the same as it had the day of the eclipse.

Aurora dropped her papers and brought her hands to her eyes, rubbing furiously. When she opened her eyes again, the thing, whatever it was, had disappeared once more.

Aurora gathered up her dropped papers and slowly proceeded into the room, poking the air in front of her with her wand just to be sure there was nothing there. She cautiously put her working things on the desk and left quickly, this time heading for the library.

On her way down the corridor she saw the shadow again. But it was not the only oddity she encountered. She could have sworn Mrs Norris passed her twice heading in the same direction. When she turned a corner, she saw a truly ugly ghost that she was sure she had never met before in the castle. This list of curious sightings continued to grow until she finally forbade herself to look at all the things that were not supposed to be there, instead staring at her shoes as she walked.

Oh, Merlin, no. I’m going insane, she thought as she walked. I’m already having hallucinations. Going mad was something Aurora was very much afraid of. Even the slight weirdness of her fellow Professor, Sybill Trelawney, always made her feel grateful that she was perfectly normal.

Just when Aurora thought her day couldn’t possibly get any worse, Sybill appeared around the corner, practically running Aurora down in her haste.

“Aurora, dear, what is the matter?” Sybill asked with true, yet exaggerated concern in her voice. “Your aura is so dark...and...Merlin...”

Sybill’s voice trailed away dramatically, and Aurora asked a little annoyed, “Merlin what?”

“Your aura is pulsing in a most unhealthy way, my dear! Are you in any trouble? Has anything happened?”

“No!” Aurora snapped, taking a step back as Sybill’s perfumed shawls came too close to her nose. “It’s nothing. I’ve got a lot of work to do, so would you leave me alone now?”

Aurora stormed away angrily. Sybill watched her go with a furrowed brow, confused by her erratic behaviour.

I can’t tell anyone about this, Aurora decided as she hurried down the hall. Especially not Sybill. A nagging voice in the back of her head tried to remind her that insanity doesn’t go away just because the one who suffers from it doesn’t tell others about it. She tried to ignore that particular voice.

When Aurora got to the library she selected some books on mental illnesses. She also found a few that dealt with poltergeists and other strange phenomena, hoping that what she saw and heard might have a rational explanation.

Back in her room, she put the books on her desk and set to work. A little annoyed, she pushed a large roll of parchment aside that had no business being there.

Why did I put it here anyway?

She couldn’t remember putting it on her desk but she didn’t have time to think about that; she had reading to do.

None of the books gave Aurora any satisfying information, and she soon began to panic when her hallucinations didn’t stop. On the contrary, they seemed to be getting worse. She actually began to see people and things, hear voices and noises all over the place. As though that wasn’t enough, things started appearing in places around her room where she definitely didn’t put them. One morning she found her wand in a bunch of dried flowers. Another day her desk had definitely moved several inches to the right.

Aurora still refused to talk about the strange occurrences with anybody, telling herself that there must be a logical explanation. She assured herself that she was just a little overworked and there was nothing else to it.

A week after the total eclipse, Aurora woke up from yet another night of nightmares.

A week? she thought as she pulled herself out of bed. It seems like ages!

As Aurora crossed the room, she stumbled over a thick, leather-bound book that was right in front of her bed. More out of a habit of being very tidy than anything else, she picked it up. It was called “Forgotten Creatures and Phenomena.”

Now that’s interesting, Aurora thought. She didn’t remember checking this one out of the library and knew she hadn’t read it yet. Crossing the room, she settled into her armchair to examine the book more closely. Aurora had never heard of most of the things that were being described and depicted in it, and under any other circumstance she would have very much enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. Today, however, she flipped through quickly, looking for something that might help her “situation.”

As she turned another page, she paused as her heart began to pound. She stared down at a drawing of something that looked very much like the shadow she had seen so many times over the last week. Sitting up a little straighter with excitement, she read the text:

The Ugandan Umbra

The name is composed of “Uganda,” where this creature was first sighted several thousand years ago, and “Umbra,” Latin for “shadow.” It is a very ancient creature and research wizards are not yet sure if it is to be called a creature at all. Ugandan Umbrae are bound to the fabric of time and space itself, therefore unable to be born, live or die. Umbrae are usually invisible and undetectable. However, there are two proven circumstances under which Ugandan Umbrae can manifest in our world (but don’t always do so):

1. When a white cat looks straight into a flash of lightning that an Umbra has “seen” as well. (It is still a point of discussion if “seen” is an appropriate word to use in the context of Umbrae.)
2. When a human (Wizard or Muggle) and an Umbra simultaneously observe a total eclipse of the sun or moon.

Other events are also said to draw Umbrae into the world, but the above are the only two that have been documented.

In the normal world, Ugandan Umbrae appear to be curse-bound to haunt whichever person or cat caused their entrance into the world. They can behave like poltergeists or cause hallucinations of various kinds. Sometimes Umbrae have been known to cause nightmares and memory gaps. They can talk in the tongue of whichever human they haunt. While causing little or no physical harm to their victims, Ugandan Umbrae can drive a person insane and are therefore very dangerous.

The total number of Umbrae is growing constantly smaller since a way to ban them from our world has been found. It is said that they transform into another form of life in which they can dwell outside this world forever. How this process works is as yet unknown. Some research wizards claim that Umbrae have even shown the desire to be transformed by putting the necessary pieces of information in a place where their victim will find them. Of course this only works if their victim is a witch or wizard, since an incantation is required for transformation to be achieved.

The incantation is said to be “Umbra Commutatur Luce.” It must be performed three times in quick succession while the Umbra is present in some form.


When she finished reading the article, Aurora felt like laughing out aloud with relief. She wasn’t going insane after all, and she could so easily end it! All she had to do was wait right here for this “Ugandan Umbra” to arrive.

What kind of names people make up! she thought as she glanced at the page again to make sure she had it correct. When the Umbra arrived she would set it free or destroy it, depending on whether the information in this book was correct. She didn’t care very much which, as long as it went away.

She didn’t have to wait long. Aurora had barely had the time to memorize the incantation when she had another hallucination. This one looked like the black shadow again. She stood up quickly, pulling out her wand. She said the incantation so fast she almost stumbled over the words.

“Umbra Commutatur Luce, Umbra Commutatur Luce, Umbra Commutatur Luce!”

The Umbra turned into a sparkling cloud of light and said in a soft, wind-like, oddly hissing voice, “Thhhank youuu...”

A few seconds later, a slight smell of ozone was all that remained of the shadow.

And they actually told me Astronomy was the least dangerous subject to teach, Aurora thought as she sank into her armchair with a sigh of deepest relief.

THE END



Chapter 25: Bill Weasley
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By: PureBlood Muggle:
Chapter Graphic: nephele de tourmalin
Beta Read By: Jessi_Rose and rainbow92
Title: The Final Task
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild Language, Mild Violence, Substance Use/Abuse, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature)
For the Staff: A big THANK YOU to all staff here at HPFF. This site is truly inspiring. The updates are all fabulous and the site is better than ever before! Thank you!!

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A/N: Special thanks to BlondeHufflepuff22 who wrote the Sorting Hat Song and to rainbow92 and Jessi_Rose who both are wonderful Betas!! And another special Thank You to Nephele De Tourmalin for the fabulous drawing of Bill Weasley - you are a fantastic artist and I am honoured that you drew that for me!!

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I nod politely, bid good-night, step through the heavy oak door and descend the, currently downward moving, spiral staircase, entering the deserted hallway. As I step out of the passage that leads to Professor Dumbledore, the stone gargoyle behind me leaps back into its place, guarding the entrance to the headmaster’s office.

Slowly, I make my way back to Gryffindor tower while his words play over in my mind.
“Make it a good one, Bill. I know you can do it. Make it memorable and above all, enjoy the experience.”

My last official assignment as Head Boy – writing the Graduation Speech. The Head Girl, a very pretty Ravenclaw by the name of Gwyneth Lloyd, has to organise the farewell party. At least she has the prefects to help her, I think dryly.

The walk back to Gryffindor Tower seems to be strangely short as it sinks in that I just had my last official Head Boy meeting with Professor Dumbledore. My years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are coming to an end. I find myself making excuses to slow down, take a detour, and even stop at a window to take in the castle grounds. It is still bright outside; summer has finally started to move in, pushing what has been an unusually bleak, cold and rainy spring aside.

Looking out onto the grounds, I begin to wonder what to write for my speech. Should I write about our future? Maybe not; Divination was never my best subject. I could write about ‘my Hogwarts’; yes, that feels right. If in doubt, write about something you know. But maybe I’d bore everyone to death with that? Sighing, I start to walk again and can find no further excuses to delay going back to the Gryffindor Common room.

The Fat Lady looks at me with a knowing smile. “Password, my dear?” she inquires importantly. I give it to her, also smiling, thinking of the many times I had been asked that question over the years. I can’t help but wonder how many students she has seen come and go in her time, here at the entrance to our house.

I look around the common room and find an empty seat at the far end, near the windows. Sitting down, I grin as I conjure up some fresh parchment and then pull a quill and an ink bottle out of my bag. All these years of Transfiguration do seem worth it, now. Conjuring items is definitely a neat thing to be able to do; I must remember to thank Professor McGonagall.

Poised with my freshly inked quill, I sit waiting for inspiration to hit me.

“Make it memorable,” he said; but no fancy words that would have impact of fitting magnitude spring to mind. How to start…

Dear Students,

Nah, too plain… Fellow Graduates,… nope, definitely not! I think I’ll worry about that later. Maybe if I just get the actual speech started… I put my quill down and close my eyes, rubbing my palms over my forehead, willing witty words of wisdom to come to me. Instead, I remember the first of September, 1982…

The scarlet steam engine of the Hogwarts Express screeched to a halt at Hogsmeade Station. I followed the other students off the train and was met by loud calls of “Firs’ years this way!”

Turning my head to see who it was, I saw the biggest man I’d ever seen. He introduced himself as Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. As he ushered us into four-person boats, the giant lake that was surrounded by cascading mountains came into view. It was late and darkness was already falling as the boats made their way across the water.

I was both nervous and happy at the same time, talking animatedly with Frank Moran, who turned out to be from a wizard family in Ireland, and twin girls by the names of Valerie and Melanie Smith; both coming from an English family, their mother a Muggle, their father a wizard. Valerie and Melanie were in the middle of quizzing me about my own twin brothers, Fred and George, when a sudden hush fell across the lake and everyone around me stopped talking. The vast castle had come into view.

Never before had I seen such a beautiful, magical place. Long shadows encased the castle and its grounds, while at the same time it seemed to glow from the inside as candlelight and torches illuminated the rooms within. Words eluded me; I couldn’t describe the feeling that was brewing inside of me when I first laid eyes on this enchanted place. ‘WOW’ didn’t even start to cover it. I knew then that this picture would forever be engraved in my memory.

All too soon we arrived at the other side and disembarked the small boats. Following Hagrid into the castle, whispers erupted; speculations of what to expect. I knew I was going to be sorted into one of four houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. My parents had told me that much. They did not, however, tell me exactly ‘how’ this was going to happen.

The game keeper left us with a stern looking middle-aged witch who introduced herself as Professor Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House. She explained how we were to line up and follow her into the Great Hall, where the sorting was to take place in front of the entire school. I was glad to see everyone else was just as nervous as I.

Five minutes later, we stood assembled in front of the staff table, facing the four long house tables, each of which was decorated in its own colours; red and gold for Gryffindor, green and silver for Slytherin, blue and bronze for Ravenclaw and yellow and black for Hufflepuff. Professor McGonagall placed a small, three-legged stool in front of us and put an old, worn hat, with a rip in the brim, on top of it. I wondered how an old, worn hat and a chair could possibly have a part in our sorting. I didn’t have to wonder long, though, as the hat suddenly burst into song.

“Rejoice, be glad, and cast away
All your worries and fears
For the Dark Lord is now gone from us
It is an end to the dark years.

The light has come, yet at a price
This warring between former friends
Has cost us all many lives
But here, the battle may not end.

Though I am old and beaten down,
I am as wise as I am patched
For I've been here since the beginning
My knowledge cannot be matched.

See can I, and see quite far
Past the eyes of men.
Into the souls of those brought before me
This year I shall do so again.

For now be glad, for you are safe
From torment, fear, and pain
But in coming years it will be you
Who shall have to bear the strain.

But onward now to happy times
To the sorting we now shall start
come have a seat here on my stool,
Let me perform my art!

I exist simply to sort
And place you into your rightful place
Let me look inside your mind
Let's see what lies in that eager space.

If you are kind, true, and faithful
And vow to always be true
Into the House of Hufflepuff
That is where I shall place you.

Bravery, nerves, and lots of guts
Are the qualities I seek
For those of the House of Gryffindor
Is not the place for the meek.

Those who read and love to learn
Shall always earn their keep
For in the house of Ravenclaw I shall place those
Who long for knowledge which they can reap.

Finally I leave the last House
For those of cunning and of daring
In Slytherin you'll make true friends
No matter how you're faring

So come my friends,
And have a seat here, on my stool
And allow me to have a look
I'll tell you where you ought to be in this fine, established school.”

As soon as the song finished, Professor McGonagall explained how we each were to be called, sit on the stool, put the hat on our head and that the hat would then decide on which House we would be in for our 7 years here at Hogwarts. With a curt smile, she reminded us that our Houses would be like our family. She then proceeded to call out our names, one by one, in alphabetical order.

My parents told me they would not mind which house I was sorted into and that they’d love and support me in any case. However, I knew they both were in Gryffindor themselves and that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Finally, it was my turn; everyone else had been sorted. Anxiously, I walked over and sat on the little three-legged stool and put the Sorting Hat on, wondering how on earth a hat could tell one house from the other.

“Ah yes, many a first year wondered the same thing…,” a voice spoke in my head. “You have a very curious mind, logical thought is evident in you and Ravenclaw would be just the house… if it were not for the bravery I sense in you, along with a strong sense of loyalty.” The hat went quiet for a few seconds while I simply held my breath. Then, making up its mind, it shouted loudly for everyone to hear: “GRYFFINDOR!”

I grinned from ear to ear as I placed the hat back on the stool and walked off to the Gryffindor table, only barely aware of the applause I was receiving for being sorted into their House. This was it… I walked over to the Gryffindor table, towards a new part of my life that would make this red and gold House, this castle my home away from home for the next seven years.


I smile at that particular memory. Opening my eyes, I notice that I am almost alone in the common room by now and that my parchment for the speech is still blank. Sighing, I run a hand through my long hair, triggering another fond memory.

It was a Monday morning in May, 1983. Second year was drawing to a close ad our minds were with the hot sunshine outside, rather than with the Potions lesson we were currently in.

The class was merged with Ravenclaw and we were divided into pairs to work on the Hair Raising Potion. I worked with Valerie Smith; she and her twin sister both also were sorted into Gryffindor and we had become good friends during our first year.
While working on our potion, we quietly discussed the last Quidditch match of the season which had taken place on Saturday. Ravenclaw had beaten, no, slaughtered Hufflepuff with 920 points to 190 - the most spectacular game this year; however, the point difference meant that Slytherin had just barely won the cup by a 10 point margin with Ravenclaw. Of course, there was disappointment throughout that House and nowhere else was it felt more than during this Potions lesson with Professor Snape, who was Head of Slytherin House. He let the Ravenclaws hear and feel the loss at every possible opportunity.

Unfortunately for my mother, and much to the amusement of my classmates, Valerie and I paid more attention to our match discussion than our potion. Somehow we managed to mix up some ingredients and added them in the wrong order. Our potion did not turn red as it was supposed to, but instead took on a bright lilac colour.

Professor Snape, being the intolerable bully that he was, took great pleasure in punishing us for it after inspecting our potion and taking 5 points each from Gryffindor for our carelessness. As if that wasn’t enough, he declared that I would have to try out the potion at the end of the lesson so I would learn to pay attention next time. I prayed to Merlin that he’d either forget by then (which I knew was unlikely) or that he’d at least not make me do it if there was a chance of me actually dying.

As the end of the lesson approached, Professor Snape made me stand up in front of the entire class and handed me a small vial which he had filled with our abysmal potion. He sneered at me, obviously looking forward to what was going to happen. With his large nose protruding through his long curtain of greasy black hair and his sneer, he reminded me somehow of a vulture who had just found a juicy, fat, dying animal for a Sunday feast. I was his prey and he was going to enjoy the show.

While holding the vial in my hand, I didn’t feel very brave at all, but I refused to let anyone, especially that vulture Snape, see through my façade. I forced what was hopefully a cocky grin on my face and uncorked the little glass bottle.

Just as I was about to drink it, Professor Snape called out to stop me. Grinning broadly, thinking he had changed his mind, I turned to look at him. I wanted to be able to fully appreciate having won this war of wills. Unfortunately, this was not going to happen, as he merely declared that not everyone was paying proper attention and that he wouldn’t want to deprive anyone from such a spectacle.

My heart sank but still I kept up my mask of bravery. Staring into his black eyes, I held up the open vial for everyone to see, shouted “Bottoms up!” and drank its contents in one go. I scrunched my eyes closed, clutching the vial. I could hear gasps coming from my classmates. A horrific taste spread itself through my mouth. It was as if something furry had crawled in, curled up and died – there simply was no other way to describe that awful assault on my taste buds. Slowly the concoction made its way down into my stomach, leaving a trail of icy burning in its way. I drew a breath and forced my eyes open.

I expected something to happen. What exactly I had expected, I do not know, but something – anything at all. But there I stood, William Arthur Weasley, same as ever, except for the rotten taste in my mouth and probably even worse smelling breath.

I was just about to say to Professor Snape that the potion obviously was useless and that I was sorry there was no big show for everyone, when my hair started growing uncontrollably. My usually short hair soon had grown past my waist, my eyebrows had grown so long they obscured my face, and I suddenly had a beard that easily put Professor Dumbledore’s to shame.

I parted the hair so I could see and found the whole class staring at me, most of them unable to contain grins, others giggling and a few individuals laughed right out loud. I locked eyes with Valerie and she, too, didn’t manage to stifle a laugh. She winked at me and clapped her hands enthusiastically, which caused a round of applause to erupt.

“Silence!” Professor Snape hissed loudly, looking absolutely livid. If he had a malicious sneer before – now he looked very capable of murder. He obviously didn’t expect anyone, least of all me, to enjoy this punishment. I could tell he was beyond angry and about to punish me even more when the bell signalled the end of the lesson, saving us all.

Valerie, Melanie and I went up to the Hospital Wing, hoping that Madame Pomfrey would have an antidote. Valerie had asked Professor Snape for one, but he had refused to give it to her, instead claiming there was none and striding off briskly, black robes billowing behind him.

By the time we arrived at the Hospital Wing, my hair dragged over the ground, still growing at alarming speed. Madame Pomfrey nearly had a fit upon hearing that Professor Snape had made me drink an unsafe potion. Much to my dismay, however, she confirmed that there was nothing to be done except wait it out. She allowed me to stay so I didn’t have to attend classes in the state I was in.

Bored, I actually used the time to do homework and it was not until half past ten at night that the hair stopped growing. Madame Pomfrey was going to cut it off with some well placed charms; however, I convinced her to keep my locks long enough so I could wear them in a pony tail. Somehow I liked it, and it gave me the opportunity to have the last laugh by presenting myself with long hair in the next Potions lesson.

Needless to say my mother had several litters of kittens over my appearance upon picking me up at the end of term. After a long argument which lasted all the way home, she reluctantly agreed, for the time being, to let me keep my long hair. When she was out of earshot I quietly thanked Dad, knowing that he had played a big role in her decision; although he never said a word throughout the argument. The magic between my parents was and still is the ability to communicate without words.


Oh yes, my long hair. My mother hoped it was just a phase, but even now, five years later, I still have my pony tail. Her view about my appearance has not changed and, at every opportunity, she tries to get near me with a few hair cutting charms. As much as I love my mother, she really annoys the heck out of me doing it. Still, I know she only means well.

Now I am the only one left in the common room. Reminiscing in these old memories doesn’t help writing the speech, but I just cannot concentrate on it. I never wrote a speech before and, for just a second, I contemplate copying last year’s speech; editing a few minor details. Then I see Professor Dumbledore’s disappointed face and scrap the idea instantly. I get up and walk over to the window, looking out onto the grounds once more. It is dark now and I can just about make out a few tiny specks of light across on the other side of the lake – Hogsmeade. I smile as memories flood me. Oh yes, Hogsmeade weekends were some of the best I had over the last few years. I remember how excited I was on the very first one, back in third year…

It was the fifth of November 1983, the Saturday after Halloween and the first Hogsmeade visit of the school year. For my friends and I, it was our first ever visit, not having been allowed to go before third year.

Valerie, Melanie, Frank and I met up very early in the Gryffindor Common room. We wanted to beat the rush at breakfast and be off to Hogsmeade. Just as we were about to leave through the portrait hole, however, my younger brother Charlie called out to me to wait up for him.

Charlie had started his first year in September and was, much to his and my delight, sorted into Gryffindor. He had quickly made friends; however, I felt responsible for him, being his older brother, and whenever I could I would try and spend time with him. Truth be told, I missed him; before I started Hogwarts we were practically glued together, spending all our time with one another. Now, even though I had made new friends, I still treasured the closeness we shared.

Charlie ran over to us and declared that he would come down to breakfast with us. We didn’t mind him joining us, so together we made our way down the long staircases, carefully avoiding the one trick step that would get us stuck. The whole castle seemed to buzz with excitement; a few portraits called out greetings to us and wished us a good day as we passed.

At breakfast, Charlie requested all sorts of sweets to be brought back for him and he told me he wouldn’t mind something interesting from Zonko’s Joke Shop. Zonko’s and Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe, we had been told, were the most popular shops among the Hogwarts students. I promised Charlie to bring him a few things and then made my way out of the castle, together with Frank, Valerie and Melanie.

It was a slow moving queue to get past the caretaker, Argus Filch. Filch was doing checks on permission forms before allowing us to leave the castle grounds. Every now and then he would make up excuses as to why we shouldn’t be allowed out and how he missed the good old days with proper education, which included proper punishments for pranksters and promoted strict discipline which, in his eyes, we were all lacking. More than once, Professor McGonagall had to step in and remind him to simply check the permission forms.

Finally, we were on our way. We were wrapped up in warm clothes, with our red and gold Gryffindor scarves tied around our necks, keeping our hands in our pockets. It was a lovely and bright, but crisp and cold day; the sun shone merrily, only betrayed by the icy wind that froze our faces as we walked. Little clouds formed in front of our mouths as we breathed and talked. It took us a good half an hour of walking before we finally reached Hogsmeade.

Our first stop was Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe, which indeed proved to be extremely popular. Every display stand had an array of fantastic sweets, surrounded by large crowds of Hogwarts students who enjoyed examining, trying and buying the different delicacies. We fought our way around, and forty-five minutes and one Galleon, nine Sickles and five Knuts later, we left the shop, smiling happily as we congratulated each other for such great purchases. Between us, we bought sugar quills, liquorice wands, the ever so popular Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, everlasting lollipops and – Melanie’s personal favourite – Mint Monsters (they bite back if you’re not careful!).

Next, we made our way to Zonko’s Joke Shop. It was so crowded that the queue came out the front door and every single space inside seemed to be occupied by students. We decided to come back later and go straight for the Butterbeer instead. Well, almost straight, as the girls got us to take a small detour to Scrivenshaft’s to buy new quills.

We noticed that there was a pub just a few doors down, on a road just off the main street. Feeling rather cold, we quickly walked towards it. The closer we got, however, the more we slowed down. This side street was less crowded and the pub did not look as inviting as we had pictured it. There hung a sign over the entrance with a severed wild boar’s head and we could not see in; the windows were too grimy to allow it. We hesitated for a few moments, looking at each other. Finally, Frank made a move to enter. I went after him, closely followed by the twins.

The door creaked open and a musky smell that reminded me of a rather dirty stable greeted us. There was a small bar at the opposite side of this small room and behind it was an old wizard with a long beard, polishing a rather grimy looking glass.
We quickly went to the first table we found and sat down. Looking around more closely now, we noticed that this pub only consisted of this one, small, dingy room and that it didn’t have many patrons. Only two other customers were present; one of which sat at the bar, the other at the table next to us. The latter shot nervous glances at the door every two seconds and in between had sips of his drink.

Frank and Melanie went to get Butterbeers at the bar while Valerie and I waited at the table. In order to carry four bottles and glasses, two were needed and for some reason both Frank and I did not want to leave the girls alone in here. Not that anything would have happened, it was just an eerie feeling we had. Maybe it was our ‘Inner Eye’, as Professor Trelawney would say.

They had just come back with our Butterbeer bottles, minus the glasses, explaining in a whisper that they looked dirtier than even the windows, when two little creatures entered the pub. It was hard not to stare at them. I had only seen them the odd time when I went shopping in Diagon Alley with my parents and we needed to get money from our vault at the wizarding bank Gringotts. Goblins - little, highly intelligent creatures with pointy ears and beady eyes who run the bank and are definitely not to be messed with.

The man at the table next to ours dropped his glass and we held our breath, anxiously. A small part of me wanted to leave the pub; however, the bigger part started eavesdropping, together with my friends. Really, we couldn’t help it. I mean, they did sit at the table next to us…

“Well, well, well,” snarled the first goblin. “Who have we here?”

“If it isn’t Norman,” the second goblin added in a would-be cheerful tone, had it not been for his glaring eyes.

The man spoke up. “Now, now, gentlemen,” he slurred his words a little, “why don’t we sit down and have a quiet drink?”

The goblins did not make an effort to sit down, but kept standing, glaring at their sitting associate. The first goblin was the one to break the short, uncomfortable silence, speaking, once again, in a would-be cheerful tone, “But of course, we will sit and drink with you, right after you have given us the money owed to us. So, just hand it over and we shall have a good time.”

We saw the man pale a little.

“Well, you see, here’s the thing…” he fidgeted with his now empty glass, “I don’t exactly have the money on me right this minute, you see.”

The second goblin cracked his long fingers, which made us cringe slightly. Both goblins looked over to the bar tender, who had stopped polishing the glasses, and stared at them in a manner that suggested he would not appreciate a fight to start in his establishment. Cracking his fingers once more, the goblin turned to leave, his acquaintance following closely behind. Just before they exited the pub, however, one of the goblins turned back.

“Just remember, this coming Friday is payday. Let’s call it your deadline,” he paused slightly. “You know, the guard-dragons at the bank really do prefer fresh meat.”

With that both goblins left and we dared to breathe again. We finished our Butterbeers as fast as we could, without any conversation, and then exited the pub swiftly. Once outside, we walked back up to the main street before starting to talk about what had happened in the Hog’s Head. Frank was quick to point out that goblins were not to be messed with and we all agreed. That was the day I promised myself never to have to deal with goblins, other than getting money out of my vault at Gringott’s should I ever open an account with them.


A small, quiet laugh escapes my lips… if anyone would have told me back then that at 17 I would apply for a job at Gringott’s… at least I applied to be a Curse Breaker’s apprentice and not for a desk job. Still, my friends mock me about it.

I rub my hands over my face tiredly and then rub my neck. It is now well past midnight and still I cannot find any words to put down on paper, nor do I feel like I could fall asleep right now. I walk over to one of the squishy red armchairs in front of the slowly dying fire and sit down, staring into the orange glowing embers.

Embers… Amber… I doubt I will ever forget her…

Amber Nolan. She was, in my opinion, a very pretty Hufflepuff. We both were in fourth year when I first noticed her in Defence Against the Dark Arts. For some reason I just couldn’t take my eyes off her wonderful honey coloured hair. No matter how bad the light was, her hair seemed to have this beautiful glow to it.

At first, I tried to sneak little glances, whenever I could, unnoticed by my friends and especially her. Then, on a Wednesday afternoon in late October, while I was once again dreamily looking at her hair instead of reading the passage in my text book, she turned around, flashed me a smile and just as quickly turned away again, her cheeks a dark crimson colour. It happened so fast, I didn’t react at all, I just sat there, dumbfounded by what had just happened. Frank pulled me back to earth, whispering in my ear.

“See, she noticed you. You should talk to her.” I looked at him incredulously.

“What are you talking about?” I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment. Frank winked at me and nodded towards Amber, a knowing smile on his lips.

From then on, Frank, Valerie and Melanie all pushed me to go and talk to her, saying she obviously liked me. I gave up pretending I wasn’t interested in her. This did nothing to ease the constant teasing I had to endure though. My friends kept telling me that I should have been sorted into a different house as I was obviously lacking the famous Gryffindor courage. As Melanie put it so nicely, “What’s the worst that could happen, Bill? Is it that she might say ‘no’ to a date? At least then you can stop wondering.”

Yeah, sounded really easy when she put it that way. Except that I didn’t know if I could have handled a ‘no’ from her. And to ask her out on a date… a lot easier said than done. I only saw her once a week during our DADA class and a couple of times during meal times in the Great Hall. I still kept glancing at her whenever I was sure she didn’t look. A couple of times our eyes met, both of us blushing furiously and quickly turning away. Maybe my friends were right? But how should I ask her out? Whenever I saw her she was surrounded by her friends and I sure as hell was not going to make a fool of myself in front of them. It was bad enough that I had to do so in front of her, if I was ever going to ask her, that is.

The weeks passed and still I did nothing. Frank kept telling me that if I didn’t ask her out soon, someone else might and that really made me uneasy. I didn’t need any added pressure. I still couldn’t comprehend what was so difficult. I mean, it’s not that I never talked to a girl before. Melanie and Valerie were two of my best friends and I never had a problem with them. But then, I never thought of them in any other way than my best friends either. I couldn’t picture myself kissing either of them; although both were attractive, it just felt wrong to even think about it. They were like sisters to me.

Amber, yes, more than once did I think about her that way. And it made me even more nervous. I was afraid that somehow she could tell I thought about kissing her.

Then, in the last week before Christmas break, I accidentally ran into her. Literally. I had been outside at the Quidditch pitch with Frank and Charlie and was on my way back up to Gryffindor Tower. The three of us were laughing and joking around and Frank was trying to grab my broomstick off me. I made a run for it, turned a corner and WHAM – ran right into Amber. We both fell to the ground, her school books flying in every direction. At first I didn’t even notice who I had run into. I began to apologise while I got up and then held my hand out to help the person I had run into. Amber took it and mumbled a quiet, “It’s okay.”

“Really, I… I’m sorry, Amber,” I stuttered and helped her to pick up her books. She took them off me and my stomach made a strange back flip when her hands briefly touched mine. She gave me a small smile and then turned and went on her way. I kicked myself mentally for not saying anything else to her. I turned to go up to the Common Room only to find Frank and Charlie smirking at me. I rolled my eyes and we all went upstairs.

The day we went home for Christmas break came, and I had not talked to Amber since our little run-in a few days earlier. Frank impatiently tapped his foot, watching me finish packing my trunk. He was going to spend Christmas at my house this year, as his parents were away, visiting relations in the US. I finally finished and put on my cloak. We were ready to go and I was looking forward to seeing my family again, especially my little sister Ginny. Call me crazy, but she’s my favourite sibling.

Frank and I waited for the twins in the Entrance Hall. When Val and Mel finally arrived, we were hard pushed to get a carriage to bring us to Hogsmeade station. Most were already full and some had already departed. I was just about to get on one when Melanie, who was already inside, realised she had left her backpack in the Great Hall. I offered to get it for her and went back inside.

For the second time in a week, I ran into someone while in a hurry. And for the second time, this someone was Amber Nolan. This time, we collided in the door of the Great Hall.

“I…I’m so sorry, Amber, I… sorry,” I stuttered, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks.

“It’s okay… really, Bill,” she answered, also blushing.

“Good,” I said and awkward silence crept over us for a few seconds.

“I… eh, I guess I better go,” she started, however she was not moving away.

“Sure…” I, too, turned to go.

We found neither of us could move and much to our embarrassment impatient fellow students were stuck on either side of us, either trying to enter or exit the Great Hall. I didn’t know what to do and by the look on Amber’s face, she didn’t either. Then, one really impatient sixth year called out to us. “Look up.” We both did and we paled, before blushing a wonderfully crimson colour.

Mistletoe. Of course. Charmed mistletoe. We would have to kiss in order to be able to walk away - and in front of all these students. My friends were surely worried by now that I wouldn’t make it back in time to get to the train. At least that is what I told myself as I swallowed hard and leaned forward to give her a kiss on her cheek. She, however, turned her head slightly and caught my lips with hers. It was a brief, chaste kiss accompanied by catcalls and wolf whistling from around us. Embarrassing as it was, it was better than I had imagined, never mind a lot more public, too. Thank you to whoever had put the mistletoe right there where it was. And, thank you, Melanie for forgetting your backpack.

Amber followed me into the Great Hall where I retrieved Melanie’s bag and I – still on a high from that brief kiss – boldly took her hand in mine. She walked me back to the carriage waiting for me and made me promise to write to her during break. I promised and she gave me another small kiss before saying good-bye and waving after us.


My first kiss. Yes, it was brief and innocent and forced by mistletoe, but it was nice. Sadly, that day was the last time I saw Amber. Her parents both worked for the Ministry of Magic and her father had been transferred to America. They moved over there that Christmas break. We wrote to each other regularly and still send the odd owl sometimes.

O.W.L.s – yeah, they were a bunch of laughs, they were! My fifth year certainly was one to be remembered…

Fifth year was very different from any of the ones before. Mum was so excited. I had been made Prefect and by the way Mum talked, this meant I would become the next Minister for Magic. I didn’t have the heart to tell her then that that definitely would not be my choice career; I was proud of my badge, though even though I did not feel any different than I had done the previous year when I didn’t have it.

Of course, there were responsibilities that came with the badge - the meetings, the rounds after curfew, looking after the smaller students… and the power that also came with it – namely being able to take off or award House Points. At first, for a very brief moment, my mind screamed to take points off those pesky Slytherins for having taken the bloody Quidditch Cup yet again the previous year. But even that moment ended and each time I thought of deducting points as a good way to get revenge, I felt so guilty that I simply couldn’t do it and I seriously questioned if I shouldn’t have been sorted into that just and loyal Hufflepuff House instead of Gryffindor.

Charlie tried to play the ‘Family Card’ a few times, but even so I had to take points off him once for hexing the Keeper from the Slytherin Quidditch team. I had to laugh at the hex, but what was I to do? My bloody guilty conscience just couldn’t let me oversee that one, especially not with that many witnesses.

Not only were the prefect duties added to the stress, this year was also the year we took our O.W.L.’s – the Ordinary Wizarding Level Examinations. Every class had become more difficult and the amounts of homework never ceased to amaze me. I mean, we were all wizards and witches but what did they think we could achieve in a week? There was more than plain magic needed to keep up with all that.

Luckily, learning did come easy for me - at least compared to some of my friends. Frank was constantly on edge in the weeks running up to the exams, the same with Melanie. Even Valerie, who was normally the calmest and most collected girl I knew, regularly lost her temper with anyone who only as much as looked at her while she sat hunched over her revision notes.

It was a tense time for everyone, but finally – FINALLY – the last of the exams were over and the whole of the castle seemed to breathe again. We were, at last, able to enjoy ourselves and the warm weather that was tempting us outside.

In the evening after the last of our exams, a party was organised in our common room. Actually, we Prefects had organised it. We reasoned that there would be a party in any case and if there was one, we might as well enjoy it and have all the provisions at hand without having to sneak up any from the kitchens illegally. We had even gotten Professor McGonagall’s consent for our party as long as we made sure that first and second years didn’t get any butterbeer, or worse, and the party finished at midnight.

And what a party that was! We had put some excellent charms in place so that we didn’t have to worry about any noise levels waking up other parts of the castle. The WWN’s (Wizard’s Wireless Network) volume was turned up quite high and a few old hits from the Hobgoblins were playing, amongst other bands.

The house elves happily supplied us with, and made sure we had enough, food and drink at all times. A fun night was had by everyone, including myself. That is, until I had the unpleasant task – together with my prefect colleagues – to break it up and get everyone into bed.

Most went willingly without having to threaten any House Point deductions or warnings to get Professor McGonagall. Only very few resisted and, of course, my little brother Charlie was one of them. I sighed inwardly and tried to appeal to him, but to no avail.

Himself, Frank, Valerie, Melanie, two sixth years called Ethan and Nicola, a couple of seventh years whose names I didn’t know and another third year named Jake, who was Charlie’s best friend, had all just started a game of Truth or Dare and were most unwilling to give it up so soon.

“Oh, come on Bill! Just sit down and play with us. It’ll be fun and no harm done,” Charlie insisted. Yeah right, I thought to myself. ‘No harm done’. I shook my head. If he played like he used to do at home, there’d be more harm done in five minutes than an army of giants could ever cause in a full twenty-four hour period.

“No, Charlie – and everyone else – you’ve gotta stop and take this up tomorrow for all I care. But this party is now officially over.” I looked around for support but my fellow prefects had abandoned me for some reason or another. They probably thought I’d be able to handle this seeing as my friends and my brother made up half of the people sitting there.

“Come on, you spoil sport,” Frank piped up, “play with us and show us some of your Gryffindor courage, or are you too scared to play? Hey, I dare you, Bill, to play with us.” He grinned smugly. He knew he had me, I was too proud to turn that dare down. So I accepted the dare and sat down, feeling utterly defeated and guilty. I added a few conditions (only one truth and one dare per person before the game stops) and the others miraculously agreed; and so we begun.

Nearly half an hour had passed and we now knew that Ethan truly fancied Nicola and that Charlie fancied some Ravenclaw girl in his year who insisted to be called by her surname, because she loathed her first name – how weird. I was kissed by Nicola – which resulted in Ethan giving me death glares- and also by Valerie and Melanie. All good, considering I didn’t like any of the three in that way. Poor Frank was dared into having pink hair for a week and the two seventh years were dared into a dance routine that would have to be performed at breakfast in the Great Hall the next morning.

All in all, it was a pleasant enough game and I wondered why I had resisted so much to play it. That’s what I thought until it was Ethan’s turn to dare me. He obviously had not forgiven me for letting Nicola kiss me. As if that was my fault that Charlie dared her to kiss me! But he was out for revenge and he was going to get it.

“So, Bill, what’s it gonna be - truth or dare?” Ethan asked. Without hesitation, I answered him.

“Dare.”

“Right, so… I dare you to get one ear pierced and sport an earring for at least a week.”

Silence greeted that dare. Nicola was the first to react to him, asking him to take it back, telling him that that was not how this game was played. I bristled up at her comments. I didn’t need protection – especially not from a girl, thank you very much – and so I accepted the dare, sealing my fate and that of my right ear.

In the end, it was Nicola who pierced my ear. It turned out she had done it for a bunch of girls during her time here at Hogwarts and she was quick when she did it. I expected it to hurt more than it actually did and so I was surprised when she announced that it was all done. She handed me a mirror and I winced when I saw the little stud in my ear. It looked girly. No, I couldn’t go around looking like this! So, after some debate, one of the seventh years transfigured the stud into a fang and presto, I had an earring that I could let myself be seen with.

Charlie couldn’t believe I actually went through with it, reminding me how our Mum would most likely react when she was going to pick us up at King’s Cross Station. And boy was he right. I think if Dad wouldn’t have been there with her, she’d have hexed my right ear off me the minute she saw the fang earring.


I smile to myself, absentmindedly playing with said earring with my left hand. I will really miss this place, this castle. Somewhere in the distance, a clock chimes two a.m. Is it really this late already? I sigh as I shift into a more comfortable position in this old, tattered, squishy red armchair. The fire is nearly out now and I lazily pull my wand out and point it at the hearth. A grin spreads over my face as I silently set the fire ablaze again…

Oh yes, silently. No words used. I just love doing non-verbal magic. That comes in very handy at times. Like in sixth year…

My second brother, Percy, had started school that year; also in Gryffindor. He is very different from Charlie. Very different from me also. Don’t get me wrong, I really like him, I mean, he’s my brother, right? But he’s also a big spoil sport. Whenever we did something fun, he was the one to run to Mum, ratting us out. Mind you, he didn’t do that too often, he knew what was good for him; ever since the twins, Fred and George, had a say in it, anyway. He may not have respected them much, but he was clever enough to see when to stop, if only to save his own arse.

Still, he’s my brother. And I just about had enough of those pesky Slytherins opening their mouth one too many times.

Frank and I sat in the Great Hall, peacefully enjoying our lunch when a group of them walked past us. Percy sat with two fellow first years, only a couple of seats down from Frank and myself. Not many people were there yet; it was Saturday and many students went to lunch late or took something in passing to eat outside on the grounds or up in their Common Rooms.

Normally, I liked to let my brothers fight their own battles, but Percy – well, he really had to suffer in his first few weeks. And I felt like I had to do something. Being a Prefect, of course I could have deducted Points, which I did, but it didn’t ever have the desired effect and also didn’t make me hugely popular for deducting them whenever my own brother was involved.

So, I decided on a new tactic. Non-verbal magic. We had started this during our DADA classes this year and I found I had a knack for these. Ever since then, I have been, ehm, ‘helping things along’ a little, silently. Like for example, yesterday during Transfiguration when Melissa Martinez, a Ravenclaw with the most beautiful dark, chocolate coloured hair, dropped her quill. I silently picked it up and floated it back onto her desk, complete with a cocky grin that just spread itself across my face. She looked around at me with her heart-stopping smile and mouthed a thank you. I could have sworn she blushed, but she turned to face Professor McGonagall again and our moment, if that was one, was over.

The group of Slytherins had stopped at our table, right behind my brother, and taken their wands out. I eyed them warily, not drawing attention to myself. Quietly, I slipped my wand out of my pocket and held it loosely in my hand, hidden under the table. If the five boys had been more attentive than evil, they would have seen me sitting there. Lucky for me, they weren’t.

“Hey, Weasley,” one of them shouted. “Got your glasses fixed?” He laughed as a second boy pointed his wand at Percy and started saying a hex. I cut him off, silently, with a well placed Jelly-Finger Curse. Priceless; he actually started screaming for his mother while dropping his wand and watching his fingers wobble around like a water filled rubber glove. He stared at Percy, then at his hands and then ran off out of the Great Hall, presumably to see Madam Pomfrey in the Hospital Wing. He didn’t even care about his wand, which still lay discarded on the grey stone floor.

I pretended not to notice and continued to eat my shepherds pie, only barely hiding my smirk. Frank was shaking with silent laughter, trying not to snort out his pumpkin juice all over the table.

“How did you do that?” the first boy asked Percy who just shrugged and glared at him, not dignifying him with an answer. Not getting the response he wanted, he pointed his wand at my younger brother and opened his mouth, no doubt trying to curse him with some spell or another. Before he had time to do so, though, I pointed my own wand at him from under the table and hit him with another well placed, silent incantation: Tarantallegra. Quite a show he made of himself, dancing the lunch away, his Slytherin green robes billowing around him while his legs danced to a beat nobody could hear. His cronies jumped aside as he wildly kicked out his legs. By now not only Frank and I but also other students from various Houses shook with laughter.

Finite Incantatem,” Professor McGonagall spoke loudly and firmly, pointing her wand at the boy and giving every student in the immediate vicinity one of her tight-lipped, stern looks.

“Professor, he did it!” The Boy-Who-Danced pointed at Percy with an accusing finger. Professor McGonagall observed Percy for a moment. She then looked back at the Slytherin boy.

“All of you, to my office. Now.” She pointed at Percy and his friends and the group of Slytherin boys. “This nonsense will stop once and for all.” She ushered the boys out of the Great Hall and into the direction of the Marble Staircase.

I heard later, from Percy, that the Slytherin boys got one night’s detention each for framing him for the hexes and jinxes and that Percy and his friends got five Points deducted and a stern talking to about provoking the hostility. He and I still don’t quite know what he did to deserve that as he didn’t provoke anybody, but my guess is that Professor McGonagall had to say something in order not to sound too biased. She would never admit to that though, even if it was the truth.


Yes, non-verbal magic is a blessing. Apart from great fun, it brought me a very confident subject in the N.E.W.T.’s, plus I charmed myself right into Melissa’s heart. It took me a while to make her see that I really am interested in her. I guess I have kissed one too many girls to be taken too seriously. She, however, has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that I cannot quite place, that makes her so different from any other girl; for one, she did not run after me like all the rest. I wish she was here with me now, but she’s asleep, like I should be. Actually, I should be writing a speech. The Speech.

I sigh again, rubbing my hands over my face in a desperate attempt to keep myself awake. It’s no use, I can feel myself being lulled into sweet sleep.

*****


I am a nervous wreck. Why am I so nervous? It’s not that I have never spoken in front of an audience before. But this is different. It’s our Graduation Day and I have to give The Speech. I run my fingers through my hair once again as I make my way up to the podium and try my best to look at ease in my new robes. Mum and Dad gave them to me as a graduation present. New dress robes in a dark black. I know, I know, black is hardly a light colour, but these robes seem to be darker than just ‘black’, it’s hard to explain, like they swallow any light source. Melissa says I look dead sexy in them and I have to grin despite myself. She doesn’t look so bad herself today, in her turquoise dress robes. They set her dark, chocolate coloured hair off beautifully and I have to deliberately tear my eyes off her in order to walk up here.

I finally reach the podium and turn to face the crowd. A sea of faces greets me and applause erupts. I hold up a hand in order to shush everyone. I don’t think I deserve quite a reception as this - and for good reason. I haven’t got a speech prepared. And I am about to give it now. The Speech. The one that I don’t have.

I take out my wand and point it at my throat, muttering Sonorus.

“Hello,” I say, thinking how lame was that?, but I get another cheer from everybody down there. I smile nervously and let my eyes wander across the faces.
“Well, here we are,” I let out a nervous laugh, hoping I won’t make a complete fool of myself up here and suddenly, I know exactly what to say. “About two weeks ago, Professor Dumbledore called me into his office. And for once, it was not to give me detention.” I get a few laughs for this and I grin at my Mum who sits in the front row with Dad. She shakes her head at my comment, pure joy in her features.

“He asked me to write The Speech. Well, here I am, and for once, I am unprepared.” Gasps all around, but I smile. “I wracked my brains for these last fourteen days, didn’t even sleep the first night after I got the assignment. I wanted to make it good, memorable, witty. Nothing of that sort sprang to mind. So, instead of a few feet of parchment with a well organised speech, I want to tell you how truly happy I am that I had the opportunity to be here, at Hogwarts, being taught by these great people.” I gesture around to my right and left where all the teachers have taken a seat and applause erupts from the students, honouring our mentors. “And for finding the best of friends I could have ever hoped for.” I wave at Frank, Melanie and Valerie who sit together with their families and then smile and wave at Melissa, my girlfriend of now 7 months.

“And while I’m up here,” I begin to grin, “may I just say a special ‘Thank You’ to Professor Snape, who has kindly helped me find my own personal hair style.” Wolf whistling and cat calls come from some students. Professor Snape gives me The Look and a rather small sneer - must be holding back while he’s in front of everyone. I see Professor Dumbledore chuckle, his blue eyes twinkling merrily over his half-moon spectacles.

I clear my throat and silence spreads out once more.

“I would also, and I am sure I speak for everybody here today, like to give a special ‘Thank You’ to Professor Dumbledore, who is a great mentor to me, to us all.” More clapping. I raise a hand to silence the crowd and begin to thank every teacher in turn, even Professor Snape who this time looks genuinely shocked. Now, it feels right to say good-bye. I pause slightly after my short thank you’s and take a moment to let my eyes wander.

“I don’t know about all of you, but I am sad that my days at Hogwarts are now over. I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on this castle; I can honestly say that was one of the best days of my life so far. The good memories outweigh the sad ones a hundredfold and I can’t express enough gratitude towards all the teachers and staff here at Hogwarts. Seven years ago, I, along with every student present here today, started an adventure. The adventure is ending today, only to open up a myriad of possibilities for new adventures in the future. I say, let the future begin!”

I shout the last sentence and throw my pointy black hat with the Gryffindor coloured hem in the air. Everyone follows suit and soon hats of all four house colours float through the air, being magically kept up, mixing, twirling, soaring into all directions. Applause sounds through the Great Hall where we are all seated and shouts and cheers erupt.

I seek out my parents, briefly pausing when I catch Melissa’s eyes. She smiles at me and blows me a kiss, which brings another stupid grin to my face. I think I’m in love. I finally find my parents in the sea of people. They rise from their seats and my mother is reduced to tears in my Dad’s arms and it makes me happy because I know she sheds tears of joy. I briefly wonder if she’ll do the same for my five brothers and my little sister Ginny, too, in the future. Silly thought, of course she will! A grin spreads across my face and I point my wand at my throat again,

Finite Incantatem.






Chapter 26: Kettleburn
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By: sauerkraut_poet
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: loony86 and Wiccan
Title: Gormlath
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence, mention of alcohol use)
For the Staff: Thanks again to all the staff for your hard work! All of you are wonderful and amazing, and have created such a wonderful community here on HPFF. This particular chapter was inspired by three staffers in particular whom I'd like to acknowledge.

It didn't seem right to present a gift to the staff without at least one chapter in second person for BitterEpiphany. She does so much work on both this site and TDA, it's incredible. So I decided to give it a shot. Hopefully I haven't screwed it up too badly...

This isn't the first story I've written as a present for staff members - I also ended up writing a Charlie Weasley fanfic for Cor_Leonis as part of the prefects' project. If it weren't for her inspiring me to think about Charlie's character, particularly his fascination with dragons, this story wouldn't exist.

Also in connection with the Prefect's project, one of our wonderful validators, PhoenixStorm, took it upon herself to try second person, and succeeded brilliantly. If she hadn't done that, I don't think I'd have been brave enough to try. I'd also like to thank her for being one of my best reviewers, even now when she has the endless queue to manage.

Finally, thanks to everyone at WPSS for all your hard work on this project. This story was very last-minute, and I owe a lot to both Wiccan and loony86 for betaing it on extremely short notice. Thanks again to both of you!!!

-----


“Professor… I was wondering… do you have a few minutes? I’d like to ask you about something.”

Blearily you look up from re-packaging the meat left over from the day’s lesson, wiping your grimy, bloody hand on your robes. Taking in the messy red hair and freckled face before you, you have a feeling it’s going to be a long afternoon. Charlie Weasley is easily your best student… but he does tend to get a little overenthusiastic at times. And today’s subject – caring for and feeding thestrals – is fairly low on your wish list of things for the students to get enthusiastic about. You teach it because the students need to be informed of these creatures, not because you love them.

“I suppose,” you reply grudgingly. “Just don’t make it too long this time.”

“Are you sure, Professor?” he persists, sensing your uneasiness. “I can come back another time if you’d like.”

“No; best get it over with.”

He stares at you for a moment, and belatedly you realize that you’ve made it sound like talking to him is a burden.

“I’m sorry, Charlie,” you explain, “it’s just been a long day. I’m happy to talk to you, really.”

“Er… well, okay then.”

Hoisting yourself up from the ground, you gesture with your left and only hand towards your office – a small room built against the southern wall of the castle. Following Charlie inside, you prop the door open with a small stone. It gets stuffy in there, particularly during spring.

As you seat yourself behind the desk, you ask, “So, what would you like to know about thestrals?”

Charlie fidgets uncomfortably. “Well, it’s not really about thestrals, sir,” he finally says.

Pleasantly surprised, you let out an inaudible sigh of relief.

“What can I help you with, then?”

“Well, you see, yesterday I had my career consultation with Professor McGonagall, and I told her I’ve been interested in working with dragons for a while now. She mentioned that you knew quite a bit about the profession, sir, and told me to ask you more about it before making up my mind.”

Not this. Not today. It can’t be. Of all the things he could possibly ask…

“Don’t do it.” The words spill out of your mouth before you can stop them, or even give them any thought.

Charlie stares at you blankly for a moment, before spluttering, “b-but… why?

It’s hard to phrase delicately a subject you feel so passionately about, but you try nonetheless.

“There are some magical creatures which need to be cared for,” you begin, “which is why, of course, I teach this class. However… dragons are not among these creatures. They are intelligent and free-spirited. To tame them, to subject them to human domination… that’s just cruel. It ruins them. Particularly the way the profession’s run nowadays. It’s just… wrong. I know; I’ve seen it happen.”

The two of you sit in silence for a few minutes, Charlie with a thoughtful expression on his face. Finally he voices the question you’ve been waiting for:

“What happened, then, sir?”

For a moment you wonder if this is really the best idea, sharing your deepest, darkest secrets with a fifteen-year-old you don’t know all that well. You haven’t even told any of the other faculty, besides Dumbledore of course. It’s impossible to keep anything from the old man.

As the years passed, it seemed silly to bring up something which had happened so long ago, yet which had been too painful to talk about at the time. So you continue to keep to yourself, exchanging pleasantries with your colleagues but never allowing yourself to become close friends with any of them lest they inquire about your previous profession. But now you are presented with a fresh opportunity to tell someone – an eager young mind in need of guidance - and somehow, it feels right. So you begin your story.

“When I was a student, I was a bit like you, Charlie, but somewhat more reckless. I was always getting into trouble for doing silly dangerous things… sneaking into the Forbidden Forest, climbing the astronomy tower… you name it, really. Nothing could ever be exciting enough for me. So when it came time to choose a career, dragon taming seemed like the perfect option. To take these enormous, vicious beasts, and somehow prove that I was superior – that I could control them – well, the idea appealed to me.

They paired me with a young Fireball named Gormlath. His mother had been killed by poachers when he was just two months old – they took what parts of her they could sell and left the rest to rot. He must have remembered the event quite vividly, because he wouldn’t let a human within ten yards of him without trying to set them on fire.

Working with Gormlath was quite discouraging for me at first. All the other new trainers seemed to be making progress; after about four months their dragons feared them enough to sit complacently while being fed. Gormlath, on the other hand, had gotten even more ferocious. I started to worry that they’d fire me if something didn’t happen soon. The trouble was, I had no clue how to make it happen. The tougher I was with him, the worse he’d get.

I hate to admit it, but I almost gave up. The whole situation was just so frustrating, I wasn’t sure I could take it much longer. I used to be able to go to the pub with the other dragon tamers after work, laughing and talking and drinking. Now I couldn’t do much more than sit in a corner and sulk. That’s what I ended up doing most nights, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

There was a retired dragon tamer in the area named Harfax who’d often join us, telling tales of his former exploits while we listened in awe. One night he sought me out… I won’t bore you with the details, but he gave me the most valuable advice I’ve ever received.”

“What did he say, sir?” Charlie persists eagerly. “I’d like to hear it.”

It’s surprising that you still remember the events of that evening, slumped in the corner over a bottle of firewhiskey. You didn’t even notice Harfax sitting beside you, his arm over your shoulders in a brotherly sort of hug, until he’d called your name for the fifth time.

“Kettleburn!” he’d exclaimed, shaking you by the shoulders in an attempt to pull you out of your dreary stupor, “pull yourself together, man! Sure, you’ve got a tough beast to deal with, but moping around in bars isn’t going to help.”

“It’s impossible,” you’d moaned, pulling away from his grasp. “It’s been five months, and Gormlath’s only gotten worse. I’ve tried everything in the book, honestly!”

Harfax stared at you for a moment. “Let me ask you something,” he’d finally said. “If you came across an escaped murderer and a penniless beggar girl, would you treat them the same?”

“Well, no… of course not…” you’d replied, perplexed.

“Dragons are the same,” he’d stated definitively. “Each one’s different. All those books, trying to tell you there’s one set method of dealing with them – all rubbish. You’ve got to analyze the situation first, and cater to the dragon’s needs. It sounds to me like most of your colleagues have been dealing with them using brute force. That’s something that’s usually not necessary or advisable – I’ve only ever used it in extreme cases, and even then with deepest regret.”

“But Gormlath is an extreme case,” you’d whined.

“Perhaps,” he had mused, frowning for a moment. “But not in the same way. Tell me, do you have any siblings? Younger ones?”

You’d frozen speechless for a moment, taken aback at the abrupt change of subject.

“Two,” you’d finally answered. “A brother and a sister. I’m the oldest.”

“And did they ever fight? With you or with each other?”

“Well, yes, of course. But what does this have to do with -”

“When they fought, they probably didn’t give up easily, did they?”

“N-no, but…”

“Children are often stubborn. Gormlath is a child too. He’s not even two years old, for Merlin’s sake! He’s also been through a lot – he’s scarred emotionally. He doesn’t have a family to care for him – something every child needs. If you deal with him using brute force, he’s just going to react badly. His natural instinct is to hurt you back. And he’s got enough enemies already – he doesn’t need another one. What he needs is a brother.”

Your jaw had dropped as you stared at Harfax, speechless. Why was this man, who often boasted of his own triumphs over particularly ferocious dragons, now telling you to embrace the beast, and view it as an equal? It seemed to go against everything both of you stood for – against the whole profession of dragon taming.

“Just think about it,” he’d said, standing up and walking away without a backward glance before you’d had a chance to reply.


“Did you take his advice, then?” Charlie inquires, eyes wide.

“Almost immediately. It still didn’t make much sense to me, but at that point I was willing to try anything, no matter how crazy it seemed. Ideas that I would’ve scoffed at only a month before suddenly seemed worth a try. I was desperate, really. The next morning, I arrived at the enclosure with only my wand and some gifts of food.”

“Did it work?”

“Well, it was pretty slow going at first. You’ve got to remember that I’d spent the past few months basically turning him against me. It took over a year before he finally trusted me completely. But in the end, he came to be so comfortable around me that everyone was amazed. They even gave me some sort of special award… I can’t even remember what it was now, though.”

Charlie looks at you in puzzlement. “So, if they gave you this award and everything… sorry for asking, but… why are you here now, sir?”

You sigh, mentally preparing yourself for the hardest part of your tale. Talking about the shortcomings of your youth is one thing – it almost feels as if that life belonged to another person somehow. But talking about the pain others inflicted on your adult self – the pain which still gnaws away at your heart on gloomy days – that’s another thing altogether.

“As I mentioned, everyone was very impressed with my work concerning Gormlath. So they assigned me to more difficult tasks – capturing those dragons they had deemed a threat to humanity and bringing them back to the enclosure. It was the kind of thing I’d always dreamed of doing, but somehow it had lost all of its excitement. In befriending Gormlath, I’d abandoned the notion that I was somehow superior to him, and with that, the desire to prove myself superior. Now it was just a job – something which had to be done.

When I set out on my first mission, no one could have predicted the effect it would have on Gormlath. He stopped eating, and wouldn’t let anyone near him… in some cases, he even grew violent. After a couple weeks it got so bad that they had to call me back. Somehow, we worked out a plan where Gormlath could accompany me on these trips.

“And the authorities approved it?” Charlie exclaims, amazed.

“It wasn’t easy to get their approval, of course. But after they’d seen photos of how bad he’d gotten during my absence, and how tame he acted when I was around… well, they didn’t have much choice if they wanted to keep me employed, did they?

In any case,” you continue, “Gormlath turned out to be a great help when it came to convincing young untamed dragons that it was safe to come with me. We worked together for six years, and it seemed as if life couldn’t be more perfect. I used his example to convince the other dragon tamers of the value of kindness as opposed to brute force. Most of them started treating their dragons better, and the profession as a whole improved tremendously.

By this time, word of my exploits had gotten to various countries, so we did a fair bit of traveling, particularly around the continent. One day, I got an owl from Malaysia. There was a particularly fierce young female who had been attacking villages on a regular basis. None of their Ministry’s experts had been able to handle her, and they wanted to know if I’d give it a try. Never one to turn down a challenge, I said yes.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. None at all. To cut a long story short, I almost lost my life. I would have, if it hadn’t been for Gormlath. He carried my bloody, unconscious form all the way back to England. I’ve never seen such devotion in an animal. He was precious.”

Your voice trails off for a moment as you remember the creature who cared for you far more than any of your human ‘friends.’

“Where is he now, then?” Charlie inquires tentatively. “Gormlath, I mean.”

“Dead,” you reply, not even bothering to hide the bitterness in your voice. “They killed him. With the killing curse – Avada Kedavra. When they saw him flying back with the bloody, mangled version of myself, one arm completely torn off, they assumed he had attacked me. I was unconscious at the time, so I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t even find out what had happened until I was released from St. Mungo’s a month later.

By that time, the profession had turned itself around. Strict new laws were in place regarding the relationship between dragons and their tamers. Apparently tamers weren’t safe anymore unless their dragons were terrified of them. In any case, there was no way I could go back into the profession.”

Charlie nods silently in agreement, his mouth half-open in horror. “But… didn’t you try to fix things? To tell them what really happened?”

You laugh bitterly. “Believe me, I wanted to. If it hadn’t been for my sister immobilizing me until I calmed down, I would have. And I’d be in Azkaban right now, with a life sentence. Faced with Gormlath’s killer, I wouldn’t have been able to control myself. I’d probably have killed him.

In a sense I’m grateful to her, for thinking of my future, but this life has come at a heavy price. It’s not easy to ignore what’s going on in the dragon world, even if most everyone’s forgotten about me by now. When my sister sent in a letter of resignation on my behalf, everyone assumed I was too scared and traumatized to go back. No one looked down on me for it – if they’d almost died, they’d have done the same.

Most of them don’t even know where I am now. Dumbledore’s done a good job of hiding me. I didn’t want to deal with their ‘sympathy cards’ and all that, and he understood. He’s a great man, Dumbledore – often tried campaigning for dragon rights at the Wizengamot, but it’s nearly impossible to even get the issue on the floor nowadays.”

You cast a glance at Charlie, now staring gloomily at the floor.

“Well, there you have it,” you conclude, reaching to tidy some papers on your desk, “the history of dragon taming in a nutshell. I hope it’ll have some impact on your career decision.”

Charlie looks at you thoughtfully for a moment. “It’s definitely influenced my career decision, Professor,” he begins hesitantly, “but perhaps not in the way you’ve anticipated, I think. Now that I’ve learned of the injustices within the dragon taming industry, I want to do everything I can to set things right again.”

“It’s too late,” you reply automatically. “No one will listen.”

“But I’ve got to at least try, haven’t I?” Charlie exclaims vehemently. “Sir?”

“Well, if you’re that set on it, there isn’t much I can do to stop you. Not that I’d want to stop you – I’d wish you the best of luck, of course. I just don’t want you wasting your life trying to do the impossible.”

“It’s not impossible,” Charlie persists. “I’m sure there are others like me out there who’d be willing to help.”

“All right, then,” you reply grudgingly. Sighing in resignation, you open your desk and pull out a small, yellowing piece of parchment, upon which is scrawled the address of a man you haven’t spoken to in years:

Harfax
Wizarding Retirement Colony
T-1204 Bucharest
Romania


“Get in touch with him,” you say, handing the parchment to Charlie. “He should be able to help you.”


Chapter 27: Quirinus Quirrel
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By: loony86
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and arithmancy_wiz
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove
Title: Ridiculous Ideas About Good and Evil
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: A giant box of cookies goes to the staff of HPFF and fictioncentral for their love for the two sites and the forums.

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A/N: Credit for the title goes to JKR herself. The line can be found in PS/SS p.211 (Bloomsbury). Lots of thanks go to my amazing betas jessi_rose and arithmancy_wiz, and to harrystrulove for the great graphic.

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Albania; I’d been wanting to do that for a very long time. I’d wanted to get away and see the world. To see different places, new people, new creatures. To discover old secrets, find long lost cities that seemed to exist only in legends… Yes, that was the fabric my dreams were made of.

I am a teacher, and teachers live off books. That’s a fact. And it’s a boring life. I had everything I might ask for right here at Hogwarts, a good job, friends – but I wanted to see more.

I applied for the job as Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher because my old teaching post, International Wizarding Law and Government, got boring eventually. Besides, the Dark Arts had always been absolutely fascinating for me. Dark and light, evil wizardry and possible defences against it – it all fitted my picture of this world. Teaching students how to defend themselves looked like the most noble thing a teacher could do. But, before I’d take up the new position, I wanted to take a year off. See real dark creatures, not just pictures in books.

I decided to go to Albania. Vampires, werewolves – they were all assembled there. I could study their habits, their daily life, understand what separated them from humans. I would also see loads of other evil creatures of all kinds. There was no better place to choose for my studies.

Dumbledore was so nice as to let me go for a year. I suspect that he, too, thought my teaching could only improve by that. Not that it had been particularly bad before.

I took a normal Portkey for wizard tourists to Tirana. From there I wanted to go backpacking in the forests. That’s the best way to see the landscape and the creatures properly. Besides, I had had enough of the unhealthy hurry of modern life. I remember reading books and seeing pictures of the back trails of Albania; the plush grass, and Amazon-like trees, glistening with dew from the morning mist. There were pools of water, fresh for the drinking. And to think, the evilest of creatures nested there.

This is what I can remember about the start of my journey. Oh, how naïve I was! But, well, that’s how I felt. I wanted to see evil creatures. Evil… As though the world was divided up into good and evil… I know now that it is not. It was never about the extremities. No, it was about greater things. But back then, I still had those stupid ideas.

I don’t know what I saw of Albania and what I did for the next few months, at least not in detail. My Memory becomes clear again when it reaches the events a few hours before I was rescued.

I was high up in the mountains, and quite content with myself. I had met a real vampire the previous night and earned the thanks of the townspeople by killing him artfully. I felt great. I could cope with anything, anyone. Of course I didn’t wish any real threat to come up; I didn’t want my fellow wizards and witches to be in any kind of danger. No, I was a noble person. Good. Yes, I was on the right side and I knew precisely which creatures, and people, were not. My world was neatly arranged, and all lines were clear. Wonderful. Sunshine.

I’m sorry for going a bit overboard here, but I can only look upon my former self with deep irony. It’s the only way not to fall into yet deeper disgust. Good! Evil! Ha!

Anyway, I was going to tell you my story. I went along a mountain road through the forest. It was a quite romantic landscape, and back then I oh-so enjoyed it. I heard something in the undergrowth. And I remembered that people had warned me that this place was not quite… safe. Haunted, they had said. Inhabited by an evil creature.

I edged forward into the dark woods, trying to make out something in the twilight. I had my wand out and I was walking very cautiously. All of a sudden I heard a faint voice inside my head, weak and high-pitched, yet somehow still powerful.

“I can help you.”

Never. How could he? (Or was it an “it” after all?) Besides, why should I need any help?

“Because your priorities are wrong.”

What rubbish! They were not. It was ridiculous anyway to talk to this… voice. Whatever it was.

“You know me.”

No, I didn’t.

“Yes, you do. I am the Dark Lord.”

Ah! Now that was funny. Lord Voldemort, eh? He died long ago! Nah, how could this thing be him? Ridiculous!

“It’s true. You know it’s true. I want to help you.”

Oh, the Dark Lord had joined some charity club? How touching!

Our dialogue went on like that for some time. The Dark Lord was very patient with me, tried to explain, while I reacted with dripping sarcasm. Because I thought I was so perfect.

I would give you the talk in full length, just so that you can see how true everything the Dark Lord said was; so you could be convinced of his ways, too. But I won’t. For two reasons: First, I feel very much ashamed for reacting like I did. Second, because I don’t remember every detail.

That’s weird; I know that every little bit he said was so true, so simple and pure, yet I can’t quote him on anything he said after the little opening you just read.

All I know is that he saved me. From myself. From the world. From my ridiculous ideas about good and evil.

I only realize now what a fool I was to put my trust in such moronic qualities as the absolute good. As perfection. Perfection is only something the weak seek out. I learned to associate with the strong; the ones who would not settle for such an idiotic state. Ones who would reach beyond perfect and caress immortality.

We talked for endless time. At least that’s how it seemed to me. And I began to understand. Why being a pureblood was better than being a Mudblood. Why the wizarding world needed the guidance of a man like Voldemort. Why the Minister or Dumbledore could never be sufficiently good leaders.

On top of all that, I also learned how great it is to have power. Not just for power’s sake, of course. The Dark Lord is not a madman, nor am I. No. But power makes everything so much easier. Power can cave in even the most confident and muscular of men. It can diminish the thoughts of the intelligent, waver loyalty and undermine the most cunning. Power knows not of bravery, either. Power is an element of longevity – power is life.

After this day that changed my life, I was never alone again. The Dark Lord gave me orders, and gave my life sense. A deeper and clearer sense than it had ever had before.

But I failed him. Alas, I failed him many times. I always thought I knew everything, thought I was very clever. But compared to him, I just wasn’t worthy.

And yet, whenever I had failed him, I could always come back to him. He said he needed me. I was important. Really important, I mean. Not just “Oh, he taught my children, he was an important part of their lives.” No – important for a cause that really mattered. That could change the world.

We both knew that the Dark Lord could only truly return if he had a body again. And it would be even better if he could gain immortality, because what would we do without him?

And so we plotted, thought of this and that. Looked for options. And at last the Dark Lord found what he needed: He had to get the Philosopher’s Stone! A brilliant idea.

But what followed was very embarrassing for me. I was the only follower the Dark Lord had at that time, so it was my task to find the stone. And… oh my goodness, I feel so ashamed, I don’t want to think of it… I failed.

Yes, I failed the one person who would make the world a great place again. I couldn’t steal the stone from the unworthy hands it was in.

That was the time when my relationship to the Dark Lord got… closer. He had to possess my body in order to accomplish the task that had been mine. It is not entirely pleasant to be possessed by another person. And it’s very difficult to be the host for such a great and brilliant mind. It almost drove me insane. The ticks were nothing compared to the constant stutter he forced me to learn.

Everything I took in with my senses was analysed by two brains now: Mine and the Dark Lord’s. What was the worst of all? Potter. Definitely. As a teacher, a good guy, I had to be delighted to have him as a student. As the Dark Lord’s servant, I despised him. Luckily the Dark Lord helped me keep up my mask.

And then there was Snape, of course. On the one hand, he was the perfect distraction. As long as he was around, I seemed at least twice as harmless as normally. On the other hand, he knew I wanted to steal the stone. He didn’t have any proof, so he couldn’t run to Dumbledore. But he gave me a hard time and watched my every move. I couldn’t tell him about the Dark Lord’s return because my Master had ordered me not to let him know. I can’t say if Snape was still loyal to our side. Maybe he was. Maybe not.

At the end of the year, we still didn’t have the stone, but we knew how and when to get it. You all know the story. Down there in the chamber with the Mirror of Erised, it all went wrong. Potter found me before I found the stone. My Master was forced from my body.

I won’t live for a long time now. I can feel I’m dying. I’m sure, sadly sure that my Lord didn’t get the stone. Potter will be praised all over the wizarding world because he stopped him once more.

But that’s foolery. Can’t you see it? Listen to me! Please! I don’t have much time. It’s wrong. Can’t you see that? Lord Voldemort was the solution, and now… he’ll have to go into hiding again, because I failed! Oh, endless grief. I wasn’t worthy of carrying his soul. A better wizard should have found him and served him, and we would have had a chance. A chance to save the world. A chance to make wizardkind acknowledge the power of the Dark Lord.

Goodbye, world. How simple and pleasant you were when I still had those ridiculous ideas about good and evil. I am sure that my Master will show you grandeur you have never known. And then you will know that power is what separates the best from the worst.

THE END




Chapter 28: Ronald Weasley
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By: Jessi_Rose
Beta read by: PrincessPotter
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Title: Being the Hero
Rating/Warnings:12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thank you to Chelsea for the graphic and to PrincessPotter for beta reading!! To the staff, old and new: If me writing Ron in a good light doesn't tell you all how much I appreciate you, then nothing will. *hugs*

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Ron sized up the chessboard, intent on making the best assignments to the pieces as possible. He mounted his enlarged chess piece, the knight, after appointing Harry and Hermione to their respective places. White always moved first, an advantage to him because he would be able to see the strategy of the opposing side.

As the game progressed, he could see already that there would be a sacrifice on someone's part. He wouldn't let it be Hermione - she was a girl - and he knew that Harry was the one who had to keep going, who had to retrieve the stone before He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It would come down to sacrificing himself. He, Ron Weasley, the most ineffective of seven siblings, would get to prove himself worthy of being the friend of Harry Potter.

He watched the next move carefully; the queen had moved three spaces before him, challenging him to try and take her. He knew the knight's movements; he knew Hermione was in a position to take the queen. But Harry wouldn't be able to get to the king.

“Knight to D12,” Ron said sternly.

As he moved closer to the Rook, his mind began wondering back to a time that was simpler; the days that Harry Potter had gotten to be the Boy-Who-Lived. It was those times when Harry seemed lucky to have so much attention, attention Ron had craved and never been sated.



"Ronnie!"

Urgh, Ron groaned into his pillow. In a few more years he wouldn't have to listen to his sister's constant whining for him. It’s my day to sleep in! No de-gnoming the garden, no de-twigging the brooms… and he didn’t even have to worry about Fred and George because they had gone back to school last week. Yet he should have known Ginny would ruin it.

"Ronnie!" She shouted again. "Are you awake?" Ginny was standing next to his bed, shouting unrelentingly into his ear. When he didn’t answer, she ripped the comforter from his body.

Ron groaned and sat up in bed. He had lines across his cheek from the way he had been sleeping on his pillow, his red hair was tousled wildly and his eyes had sleep crust still caked in the corners. "I'm up, Ginny. Whadduwan'?"

Ginny climbed on Ron's bed and sat in front of him on her knees. Tilting her head to the side, she watched her brother yawn loudly. She giggled when she heard his jaw pop from how wide he had opened his mouth.

"Will you play a game with me today?" she asked him innocently.

"I don't feel like playing," he grumbled, trying to blow her off. "I want to practice on my broom today."

"If you play my game, I'll tell you how to unlock
Bill's broom," she promised in a singsong voice.

"How do you,” he began before shaking his head. “I don't want to know.”

She bounced on her knees in front of him until he caved, just like she knew he would.

“Yeah, okay,” he acquiesced after a second. “What do you want to play?"

"Harry Potter!"

Ginny launched off his bed and ran from the room before Ron could answer. Before he knew it, she was back in his room with a crayon and a toy wand.

"Here," she offered brightly as she approached him with the crayon.

"What are you doing?" Ron asked as she reached for his face. "Hey! That hurts!"

She had started coloring a red lightening bold on his forehead and Ron winced as it dug into his skin. Her tongue stuck out of her mouth as she rubbed the crayon harder onto Ron's skull, trying to make the fake bolt look real. When she was satisfied, she shoved the wand into his hand.

"Okay,
I'm the damsel. You have to save me from You-Know-Ooh," she ordered.

"It's 'Who', not 'Ooh'," Ron corrected with a roll of his eyes. Pfft - little sisters.

"Fine! Just save me, okay?"

She ran from his room to a hiding spot in the living room; behind the rocker that their mum still had from when they were babies. When Ron hadn't found her in five minutes she yelled at the top of her lungs. "Ronnie!"

"Merlin, Ginny! I'm coming. Stop being so bloody annoying," he muttered as he stomped into the room.

"Don't use that word, Ronald!" Ginny shouted at him from her hiding spot. Quickly getting back into character, Ginny cried dramatically, "Harry, save me! You-Know-Ooh is coming!"

Ron smiled. He hadn't cared much for Harry Potter until he saw Ginny's adoration of him and how often she would want to hear stories of what happened to him. As the stories continued to be told, Ron had gained more insight into the hero who had saved the Wizarding world. It was then that he set a goal for himself - to make himself known to the world, just like Harry Potter did.

"I'm going to get you, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!" Ron yelled, jabbing his wand at an invisible Voldemort. "This will teach you to steal away my loved ones!"

Ginny giggled as she watched her brother play Harry Potter. His face contorted as he kept poking his wand over and over at nothing. When he finally stopped, she jumped out of her hiding place.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Potter," Ginny gushed. She threw her arms around him. "Thank you for saving me!"

Ron chuckled before pushing her away. He wiped at the crayon on his forehead and handed the wand back to Ginny. "Can we get Bill's broom now?"

"Will you let me ride with you?"

"Can't you leave me alone for ten minutes?" Ron asked, exasperated.

"No," she answered simply. "Besides, until I have a real Harry Potter, I'm stuck looking up to you."

Ron rolled his eyes on the outside, but beamed on the inside. At least someone thought he was worth something. He pinched at his sisters sides and tickled her all the way out to the broom shed, where she skillfully picked the lock on Bill's broom. That day flying was the day when he vowed to always watch out for his baby sister because no matter how annoying she could be, she was the one person who made him feel like he was more than just another Weasley.



Ron sat on the edge of one of the infirmary beds, looking sadly at his friend lying unconscious in the next bed. He was praying to Merlin that Harry would wake up soon. He would never forgive himself if he died. They had grown so close this past year and there was still so much bonding to be done.



It hadn't been too long ago that he idolized Harry Potter for being popular among all of the world. But after meeting him, after watching what Harry had gone through all year, he realized that it was nothing more than a horrible experience for him - no parents, no friends, no decent lifestyle. Ron started feeling that he had been selfish all these years to assume that Harry loved or benefited from the glory of being the Boy-Who-Lived. Ron had always assumed he welcomed the fame.

To have survived even what the most powerful wizards had not. If it had meant he could be rich and famous, he would have embraced it... But he never would have truly known the meaning of the word hero had he never met Harry Potter.

This year, chasing after the Philosopher's Stone, had proven to Ron that it didn't take the whole world to know your name to be happy. It was merely the effect of having people around you who cared deeply for you, who would give anything to make your world a better place; even if that meant their life. Ron learned that in the end of it all, being famous and being a hero were on opposite ends of the spectrum.


Chapter 29: Gilderoy Lockhart
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By: rainbow92
Beta read by: canadianstar and Dobby101
Chapter Graphic: Mrs Insane One
Title: Charming Memories
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Firstly, thank you so much to the staff for everything you do. You all work tirelessly to make this site the wonderful, friendly place it is, and we all owe you so much for bringing us this wonderful place where we've all made many friends and have great memories; I know I have! And, of course, thanks to your help and tips, we've become far better writers. I hope you like this story, and all of the other stories in this compilation; you're all such wonderful people, you deserve it. Next, I have to thank three wonderful people who helped with this story. First to candaianstar and Dobby101; my two fantabulous beta's, who both did an excellent job; I can't thank you enough, you're both excellent. And to the wonderful MrsInsaneOne, who made my gorgeous graphic; thank you so much, Jenn! And last of all (I am so sorry about the length of this) thanks Dobby101 and Elf_Ears13, the geniuses behind this project, and everyone else who took part in it; I was honoured to be part of such a great group of writers.


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On the morning of his first day of teaching at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Gilderoy Lockhart awoke early. He sat up sleepily, patting his hair curlers to make sure they were still in position, and reached for his pocket watch. The fancy watch was gold and engraved with his initials. He checked it every morning when he woke up, to ensure he’d gotten his eight hours sleep. Eight hours sleep was a vital factor in his charming looks. He’d even devoted a paragraph to it in his autobiography, Magical Me.

He climbed out of bed and pulled on his dark red dressing gown. Red was a good colour on him. But then, most colours looked good on him. He was, after all, Gilderoy Lockhart.

Crossing the room to his mirror, he smiled charmingly at his reflection.

“No wonder you won the Most Charming Smile award five times,” he murmured to himself. He removed his hairnet and curlers, carefully inspecting his hair to ensure it was perfectly curled and styled.

He selected a pair of bright lilac robes for his first day of teaching. He slipped into them carefully, admiring the affect they had on him. All of his robes were, of course, specially made for him. He smiled at his reflection once more, taking in his own appearance.

His attention was suddenly diverted as he saw, reflected in the mirror, several owls arrive at the window. His smile widened as he crossed the room to collect his stack of fan mail.

“Ahh, yes, Gladys Gudgeon…” he murmured, eyeing the top letter. Classes quite forgotten, he grabbed a stack of signed photographs of himself from the shelf that was piled with them, and sat at his desk, whipping out his peacock feather quill. He was quite prepared to spend the next few hours reading the complimentary fan mail.

A sudden rap on the door distracted him. He looked up crankily as the door swung open, and a tall, austere-looking woman swept in.

“Gilderoy, what . . . what on earth are you doing?” spluttered Professor McGonagall. “Classes began five minutes ago.”

Gilderoy stared at her.

“Classes? Oh, yes, of course! I was right on my way!” he exclaimed smoothly.

She pursed her lips. “I would suggest you make your way there quickly, Gilderoy,” she said coolly. He nodded, grinning at her. He grabbed a pile of the photographs, stuffing them in his pocket; he had no doubt his classes would want free handouts. Sending one last, wistful look at his fan mail, he swept from the room, headed for his first class.

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“Good morning!” he called impressively, sweeping into the room. His first class was Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff third years . . . or was it fourth years?

“I am your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart.” He broke into a knowing smile. “But of course, you already knew that. Me. Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, five times winner of the Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award, and, of course, Order of Merlin, Third Class, which I received for those brave achievements recorded in the stack of books that sits on all of your desks!”

He chuckled. “But we won’t talk about that. Let it never be said that I boast of my achievements.”

The class was staring at him, expressions of disbelief on their faces. Gilderoy smiled to himself. Awestruck, the poor things.

He grabbed a stack of the 54-question tests he had written out for all of his classes and handed them out.

“Erm…Professor?” spoke up one boy, eyeing the papers dubiously. “What are these?”

“Just a few questions to check how thoroughly you’ve read the books,” replied Gilderoy brightly. “You have thirty minutes. Your time starts . . . now!

As their heads bent over the parchment, Gilderoy sat down, smiling to himself. He was reasonably sure that most students should get high marks; after all, his books were extremely interesting. They would have been glued to them.

While he was waiting, Gilderoy reached into his desk drawer and pulled out one of his most treasured possessions, one of the things he took everywhere with him. He beamed down at his grinning photograph, smiling handsomely up at him from the cover of Witch Weekly. The headline read Gilderoy Lockhart Wins Best Smile Award!

It was from the first time he had won it. He flipped reminiscently through the pages, stopping at the feature article on him, which included an interview. Smiling dreamily, he remembered learning about the first time he had won it. He had known he certainly had more chance than any of the other competitors (that wizard from Manchester had pointy teeth, for Merlin’s sake!) but it had still been wonderful.

Golden rays of early morning sunlight filtered through the tidy bedroom. They first lit upon the walls and table. The walls were bare, but the table featured a single photo of a handsome young man, smiling cockily.

The last thing the rays washed across was a sleeping man, the same one from the photograph. His covers were pulled to his chin, and his serene expression only contributed to the tranquil mood of the room.

That tranquil mood was suddenly disrupted by a loud, high pitched squawk emitting from a large barn owl that had just arrived at the window.

The occupant of the bed, roused from his sleep, jumped and sat up straight, yanking the covers up with him. Breathing rather hard, he gazed around the room, wide eyed, searching for the source of the sound. He quickly calmed down when he spotted the owl, even giving a nervous chuckle as he walked to the window. Letting the owl in, he noticed the Witch Weekly insignia stamped on the letter. Rather excited, he slit the letter open and read it quickly.

Dear Mr. Lockhart,

Although the race was close, we are pleased to inform you that you are the winner of the ‘Witch Weekly’s Best Smile Award.’ Congratulations, Mr Lockhart!

As winner of Witch Weekly’s major competition, we will have a feature on you in our next article, as well as a special interview. The interviewer should be coming by later today.

Congratulations on your achievement,

Yours,

The Editor of Witch Weekly


Beaming in delight, he set the letter down. Only one thing in the letter annoyed him, and that was the line ‘the race was close’ . . . although, undoubtedly they had to say that out of manners. Of course, he would have won by a landslide.

Another part of the letter suddenly clicked. The interviewer would be coming by later . . . today?

He immediately jumped into action - there was so much to do! Get changed into more appropriate clothing, he had those new custom designed magenta robes, and he still had his hair curlers in, not to mention his hairnet . . . no mind, his hair would just be extra curly. And then there was. . .


“Er . . . Professor?” a girl’s voice interrupted him tentatively. He looked up crankily, but quickly rearranged his features into a charming grin anyway. Still . . . he didn’t like be interrupted like that.

“Yes, Miss . . . er . . .” he trailed off, not having any idea what the girl’s name was. She sighed.

“Chang, Professor. I think we’ve all finished.”

He glanced around, and saw that all of the students had put their quills down and seemed to be waiting for him to do something.

“Oh! Er, of course,” he said quickly. “I’ll just collect them then, shall I?”

He collected the papers quickly, and flicked through them, checking the answers. His eyes caught on individual questions and answers, and he often tutted softly as he read the answers. Some of them were truly horrendous.

34. What brand of hair products does Gilderoy Lockhart recommend for shining hair?

Oh goodness. A few had said they didn’t know. A couple had left it blank. And one . . . one had said he used Easy Shine! Good grief, he wouldn’t use that rubbish to wash his dog. And he had stated clearly in Holidays With Hags that the hags in question would probably be vastly more accepted in society if they used Shining Glory. Of course, the brand he dreamed of producing someday would outstrip even that.

42. What particular technique did Gilderoy Lockhart use to dispose of the final troll?

A wistful smile spread over his face. Now that move, it had been brilliant. He hadn’t been able to believe that that elderly witch had actually pulled it off, and he had even almost mastered it himself - it was all in the wrist, she had told him before he Obliviated her.

The smile disappeared abruptly as he read the answers. Oh dear. He could understand why students didn’t enjoy reading their school textbooks, but his books were hardly the average textbook, after all.

“I think some of you need to read the books a little more thoroughly,” he said with a reproving chuckle. The class remained silent, and Gilderoy, still flicking through tests, was oblivious to the exasperated looks the class exchanged.

“In fact,” he murmured, his frown deepening as he read the tests more thoroughly, “I think you need to read them full stop.”

Actually, he didn’t mind so much that the students hadn’t really read them. It was, after all, their loss; and it certainly made his job easier.

He flicked his wand at the board and a list of questions, all relating to Break With A Banshee, instantly appeared. He smiled secretly to himself. He had been practicing the instant writing spell for several weeks now; good to see it had paid off.

There was a sigh and a slight murmur as people pulled out fresh parchment and inked up their quills. Gilderoy ran a surreptitious eye over the quills they all were using. None was as impressive as his own flamboyant, peacock feather quill.

Of course, this realisation that they weren’t entirely sure on the information the books presented was quite useful, in its way. Each lesson, he could take them through one of his other six books, and he knew that they would find them more than intriguing once they actually read them.

He sat behind his desk again, and rested his chin in his hand. He glanced idly around the classroom, and his eyes fell on the window. He suddenly noticed, with interest, that the way the sun was reflecting off it made it so he could see his reflection. He smiled suavely at himself, admiring the image presented to him. He hadn’t had time to check his mirror one last time before he left this morning, nor had he been able to grab his pocket mirror. He was pleased to see his hair was perfect as ever.

Entranced by the reflection, he sunk back into memories, remembering that first interview . . .

A sudden, sharp rap at the door sent Gilderoy into a flap. He had one last, quick look around the living room where he planned to have the interview; handsome pictures set at discreet yet visible angles; clear signs of his wealth; copies of Witch Weekly in clear view. And copies of his two books, ‘Break With A Banshee’ and ‘Gadding With Ghouls’ stacked seemingly casually on a coffee table.

Satisfied with the aesthetics of the room, he took one last glance in the mirror and walked to the door. He opened it and saw two people there; a young, rather excited looking woman clutching a briefcase and a tall, bored looking man around Gilderoy’s own age holding a wizard camera.

“Hello!” Gilderoy beamed. “Welcome! Do come in.”

He stood aside and let the pair enter.

“My names Frances Mayers,” the woman began eagerly, “and this is my partner, Abraham Fawcett. I’ll be doing the interview and he’ll be doing the pictures.”

“Hi,” muttered Abraham vaguely.

“Spectacular to meet you, Frances, Abraham!” beamed Gilderoy. “Come this way, I was thinking perhaps the lounge room would be best.”

The trio walked into the lounge room, Abraham trailing behind Frances and Gilderoy.

“Oh, Mr. Lockhart, this room is beautiful!” breathed Frances in delight, looking around at the expensive furnishings.

“Why, thank you, Frances. And please, none of this Mr. Lockhart business. It’s Gilderoy,” he replied smoothly.

“I have similar lounges in my house, Frannie,” spoke up Abraham. Genuinely pleased, Gilderoy turned around.

“Is that so? I wonder, where did you get yours from? The price of these was absolutely frightful, authentic goblin made fabric, from Egypt . . .”

Abraham stared at him.

“I got it on sale from Dervish and Banges.”

“Abraham, stop it with the stupid comments,” said Frances sharply. Abraham opened his mouth to reply, thought the better of it, and moved to stand sullenly in the corner.

“I’ll just stand here and take photos throughout the interview,” he told Gilderoy. “Won’t even know I’m here.”

“Good,” muttered Frances. Then the smile returned to her face. “I’ll sit here, shall I . . . and you sit there . . . excellent.”

Gilderoy sat down, and waited for her first question.

“Now, Gilderoy,” she began. “Our readers are extremely interested in your heroic endeavors. Can you tell us anything about your defeat of the Bandon Banshee?”

Gilderoy flashed a brilliant grin at the camera before he began to speak. It was important, after all, to look good in pictures. Now, to remember all the information in the books. And what that witch had told him, though, in all fairness, while she had been telling him everything he had mostly been gazing in disgust at her hare lip.

“Er . . . well, I was in the, ah, region . . . and I bumped into an old friend of mine,” he began, recounting the information from the books. “And h-she presented me with an awful story, about this . . . this awful banshee terrorizing the village.”

“I thought you were actually in the village when you were told about the banshee?” spoke up Abraham suspiciously.

“Abraham, shush!” snapped Frances, glaring at him and giving Gilderoy an apologetic grin.

“Er, yes, that’s what I meant,” said Gilderoy quickly, cursing himself. He really should have skimmed through the books.

“Don’t worry about him. What happened next?” beamed Frances.

“Well, the first thing I had to do was find the creature, of course,” explained Gilderoy, getting back into the swing of things. He beamed as he noticed a camera flash from the corner before continuing. “And sure enough, I soon found her, using extensive spell work. I’d explain further but . . .” he laughed cockily, “don’t want to confuse the readers, do we?”

Frances giggled, and they both ignored the exasperated sigh from the corner.

“And then . . . I flicked my wand like this,” he continued, demonstrating, “and it hit her, but it didn’t defy her, only slowed her down . . . so I pounced!”

Frances gasped in excitement, but Abraham sighed again.

“Bet I could do that,” he muttered almost inaudibly. Frances and Gilderoy both ignored him again.

Gilderoy, remembering how the events had happened quite clearly now, babbled on excitedly and boastfully for some time, explaining in detail how he had ended the banshee and defeated the ghouls. Abraham kept it with the scathing, muttered remarks and the other pair, quite wrapped up in their own world, ignored him.

Right at the end of the interview, as he had been escorting them out, Frances had hesitated.

“Er . . . Gilderoy . . .”

“Yes, Frances?” he enquired.

“I was wondering if I . . . if I could have a signed photograph?”

Gilderoy was surprised for a second, but recovered quickly.

“Oh, yes, of course! I’ll go find one . . .”

“No, you don’t have to worry!”

“Oh, it’s no bother,” beamed Gilderoy, and he bustled away upstairs. He searched his room and finally found a spare photograph in a drawer. Whipping out a peacock feather quill, he quickly scribbled a message on it.

“Really should carry some of these around,” he murmured vaguely. Rushing back downstairs, he found the other two embroiled in a heated conversation.

“Bet he never even did half of it!”

“Don’t be so ridiculous, Abraham, of course he did . . . and he’s so handsome!”

“I’m not too bad looking,” grumbled Abraham. At that moment, Gilderoy entered, and handed Frances the photograph. She thanked him profusely, they said goodbye, and she and Abraham left. Snatches of conversation floated back.

“- never wanted a signed photograph from me - “

“You’re not famous, Abraham . . .”


“Professor . . . ? Professor!”

Gilderoy looked up to see the same girl, this time standing at his desk.

“Did you want a signed photograph, Miss Chang?” he asked vaguely, still half lost in memories. It had been since that day that he had started carrying around stacks of them everywhere he went.

“No, I -”

“Here you are, Miss Chang, now have you finished the test?” he asked brightly, pushing a photograph into her hand.

“Yes! But, sir, the bell’s gone.”

He looked around in surprise, and sure enough, the class was all packed up and clearly waiting to be dismissed.

“Oh! Well, what do you know . . . how time flies!” he beamed. Once again, he didn’t notice the frustrated looks flying around the room. “You may go . . . oh, and everyone may take a signed photograph as they leave! A reward for being such a wonderful class!”

They got up and filed out, much muttering going on. Probably discussing what a wonderful lesson it was, Gilderoy thought brightly.

He collected the leftover photographs (funny, he’d have thought he’d have less than that after the class took theirs), he walked to the door of the classroom, and stepped out. He glanced down the hall; Professor McGonagall was coming his way.

“Oh . . . oh, Gilderoy! How did your first lesson go?” she called. He waited for her to reach him, and they began walking together.

“Quite spectacularly, I believe, Minerva,” beamed Gilderoy. He glanced at the photographs in his hand. “Did you want a signed photograph?"

Chapter 30: Poppy Pomfrey
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By: SeamusFan1 and PureBlood Muggle
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and Brooklyn
Chapter Graphic: PureBlood Muggle
Title: My True Calling
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (mild violence), Substance Use/Abuse
For the Staff: Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing for all of us. We really do appreciate all the time and effort you put into HPFF and thank you for the fantastic site we have as a result!

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A/N: Thank you to our two wonderful Betas brooklyn and Arithmancy_wiz who both helped us out tremendously with this fic!

Flashbacks are in Italics - enjoy!

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“Students…” Professor Dippet started by saying once we had all assembled for the ‘Emergency dinner meeting.’ “The school is no longer safe. Two ghosts were petrified this morning…what could petrify a ghost we cannot say, but we do now know that the attacker is ruthless and will attack anything and everything in his, her, or its path.”

I glance through the Great Hall. There are a few pure-blood students comforting their Muggle-born friends, a few Muggle-born trying to plaster on a brave face, and a few people not bothering to hide their fear. Everyone is thinking the same thing; why attack a ghost? Obviously the attacker has something against Muggle-borns, but most of the ghosts at Hogwarts are pure- or half-blood.

My eyes slowly wander over the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff tables, landing on the Slytherin table. Here the reaction is very much different than the other three tables. There are people talking and laughing, girls painting their nails and fixing their makeup, the Quidditch team strategizing. This talk is different for the Slytherins. It doesn’t add fear to their lives as it does for the rest of us. They are all safe. They are all pure-blooded. We all know that it’s a Slytherin attacking everybody, but we can’t figure out who it is.

Whoever it is isn’t leaving any traces, and they are acting it off very well. No one at their table is missing, and no one is acting out of the ordinary. Everyone is reacting the same. Except Tom Riddle. He isn’t flirting with the girls or talking Quidditch with the boys, he is paying rapt attention to the Headmaster. He is the only Slytherin who cares. He is one of those boys who is the school heartthrob, across the board. That’s because he’s not the normal Slytherin. He’s not nasty, or evil. He’s nice, and sweet, not to mention handsome. I can see the Slytherin girls starting at and whispering about him, but he doesn’t notice. There is a look of real concern on his face, not fear, but concern. I tear my eyes away from him and lock them back onto Professor Dippet.

“And so, my students, I urge great care and caution, for it is now that we must learn to love and care for each other. Stay in large groups and follow your Heads of House to the dormitories. You will be fetched by a teacher for meals and lessons. Here is your last grim warning; do not wander astray, or it may be your life on the line.”

As I push myself up from the table I glance back at Tom Riddle. We make eye contact, but this time, his face is different than I’ve ever seen it before. I can’t explain it, it was almost….threatening. But only for a split second, before it returned to normal.


I shake my head in order to clear it and to rid myself of that horrid memory which haunts me during my waking hours. At night time I have long resorted to taking a dreamless sleep potion.

I push all those thoughts firmly to the back of my mind and purposefully walk over to two of the petrified students in my care. Mr. Finch-Fletchley and Mr. Creevy. I know they cannot hear me, yet I talk to both while wiping their faces with a cool flannel. I tell them about anything at all, even about the weather. It makes me feel better as I cannot do anything else for them until the Mandrakes are ready for harvesting. We hoped for them to be ready by last week, and every day since seemed to pass in slow motion.

It is very quiet in the Hospital Wing at this time and I tidy up a few bits here and there, anything to keep my mind occupied. I am glad that Filch insisted on keeping that dreadful cat in his own office. Likewise, I am glad that Professor Dumbledore kindly set a disused broom cupboard aside for Sir Nicholas. The last thing I need here is a petrified ghost scaring my patients.

I find nothing more to tidy and so I brew some tea, then sit down at the desk in my small office. Against my will, my mind once again begins to wander...

As soon as I heard about Ceridwen, I came running. But, as usual, I wasn't allowed into the hospital wing to see her. God! It's all so unfair!

Ceri has been my best friend since first year when we met on the train. We were both Muggle-born, both new to the magical world, and both scared.

And now we have a reason to be so. Scared, I mean. Attacks had been popping up all over the school. Students of every age, of every House (except Stlytherin.) Then we got it all pieced together. Muggle-borns. That's who was being attacked, left and right. No one knows how, or why, but somebody's got us all petrified. Either we're frozen stone cold in the hospital wing, or frozen with fear.

The whole school is scared, but not nearly as scared as those of us under attack. Every time we turn a corner, every breath we take, our life is on the line.

Now, as I pound back to the Common Room from the closed Hospital Wing, I can hear my heart beating faster, my breaths coming in short gasps. Not because I’m running, but because I am Muggle-born, and alone.

Alone in a dark, empty corridor, strange noises following me from all sides. I slow down because I hear something ahead of me, something around the corner. Someone, or something, is moving just around the bend. I take a deep breath, take one more step around the corner and…


I'm being brought back into reality as I take another sip of my tea and very nearly spit it back out. It is stone cold by now. Goosebumps cover my arms and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end.

After all these years of suppressing these memories, they hit me harder than I thought possible. Maybe I should follow Albus's advice and use a Pensieve to rid me of my memories for at least a while. More than one person has asked me why I didn't do just that. My answer is always the same. In order to put those thoughts into a Pensieve, I have to concentrate on them and relive the moments I feared most. If only for a short moment, this fear has kept me from doing what logic would dictate.

A shiver runs through me and I get up, sighing heavily. I clear away my cold tea and decide to once again check on my few patients, all the while thinking of how horrible this situation really is. I am glad that Pomona had Mandrakes growing already. We'd have to wait until autumn to plant the seeds otherwise, and I cannot even begin to imagine how terrible it would be for these students' parents to see their children still petrified through the summer.

I walk over to the shelves next to the window in my office, take new flannels off them and charm them cool. My gaze finds the Hogwarts grounds and my mind races again, back to those thoughts I hate.


“Rubeus? What are you doing here?” I say, relaxing slightly but still on guard. The boy in front of me gives a start of surprise.

“Wha-? Oh, I was, eh, I was…” I heard the strange noise again.

“Never-never mind…,” my voice quivers. “Will you walk with me to my Common Room?” He nodded.

Rubeus Hagrid was a nice boy. He wasn’t in my house, but, as he was in my year, he was in a few of my classes. More specifically, Care of Magical Creatures and Charms. I am absolute rubbish when it comes to animals, so Rubeus helps me out. And likewise, I help him in Charms.

The noise is growing slowly and steadily louder. I can’t identify what it is, something creepy. Suddenly, there is a loud bang followed by a long, low hiss and several short hisses.

“Do you hear that?” I silently scream.

“What is it?” Rubeus is shaking almost as much as I am.

“There’s a window where the noise is coming from! Then we can see who-or what it is!” I whisper excitedly, ready to identify the noise. I walk slowly to the window, careful to not make any noise. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and another step forward. I open my eyes slowly to find….



I'm shaking all over and decide to take a Calming Draught before continuing to work. Usually, there is a big supply of this particular potion until the exams start. This year, however, I’ve had to re-stock it three times already. Students are overcome with fear and I find it hard to console them, knowing from first-hand experience that danger really does lurk just around the corner.

The flannels are warm again so I re-charm them and go to tend to the two girls in my care. Ms. Clearwater and Ms. Granger. Especially seeing Ms. Granger like this gets to me. I have seen her in here often, mind you, but only to visit her friends. She's always so happy and full of life. It really is not fair to have these students exposed to such dangers.

And Ms. Clearwater. She lies in the same bed I lay in back in those horrible days...

The world stares back at me in almond shaped slits. I blink again, and the slits get wider. Each time I blink, I see more and more of the hospital wing. The hospital wing? Why am I….? There are people crying and running around all over the place. The nurse waddles over to me, bends down to look me over, and hands me a cup of tea and a vile of earthy smelling potion.

“Drink that.” She says to me. “You were petrified. The last to be before…before…it happened. But, never mind that, you are alive, and awake, that’s all that matters. And the culprit has been found.” As she waddles away, I can’t help but wonder what had happened while I was petrified.

I drink the sweetened tea and potion slowly, my joints are stiff and hard to move. Slowly, but surely, I get out of the bed and stretch out. I glance around. There are other students and their exhilarated parents milling around with a few ghosts and professors. I glance around for my parents before I remember that they would not be here. They are so afraid of magic that they would never come even close to crossing the threshold of this castle.

“You can become a witch, but Mum and I have decided that we do not want anything to do with it. We will spend summers and holidays with you, but we do not want to hear about school or receive these…owls from you.” My father had said, shuddering, the day I got my letter.

But enough about my fearful muggle parents. Where was Ceri? I had missed her so in the weeks that she had been petrified, and I wanted to discuss everything with her from start to finish. I take the last gulp of the dirt-like potion, and, seeing my Potions master, I walk over to thank him for making it. And then I see her, lying, motionless in the bed across from mine.


I jump slightly when I hear the large oak doors open and footsteps hurry my way. Pomona and Severus, closely followed by Albus, make their way over to me.
“Oh, good, you are still awake. The potion is finally ready!” I can tell that Pomona is more than pleased as she speaks faster and louder than necessary, while a big smile is spread across her face.

“Wonderful!” I turn to Severus, who hands me the potion and, as usual, doesn’t show any sign of emotion.

“Don’t spill it. There is no more,” he says before turning to leave. With his long strides he reaches the doors quickly, and he, with his robes billowing behind him, leaves the hospital wing and the petrified students behind.

Albus speaks encouraging words to me that I don’t really take in. I am too excited about finally being able to revive these children. I rush into my office to divide the potion into equal portions and bring four vials back into the room with me. One each for Ms. Granger, Ms. Clearwater, Mr. Finch-Fletchley and Mr. Creevy.

I begin with the student closest to me, Ms. Clearwater. I manage to get some potion down her throat. I see her mouth relax a little after a minute. I force more potion down until that vial is empty and then all there is left to do is wait for her to, hopefully, wake up.

Next, I go over to Ms. Granger and, taking the second vial, start forcing the potion down her throat also. It takes me a little bit longer than with Ms. Clearwater, but I manage.

I repeat the procedure with the two boys in my care and, once finished, turn to Albus and Pomona who patiently waited for me to finish.

“All we can do now is wait and pray to Merlin himself that this potion will work,” I say and go to sit down on one of the visitor chairs. Again, my memory catches up with me and brings me back to the day I woke up from my petrified state.

No! What happened? Why wasn’t she awake? I watch, filled with horror, shock, and dread. Is that what the nurse had been talking about when she had said, “before…it happened.”? Had the attacker come back to finish Ceri off? I can’t see the people around me, and I can hear nothing but silence. It’s as if the world has been turned temporarily off. Silently, I will Ceri to wake up. “Please wake up…please wake up…please…please….please wake up…”

The nurse takes yet another vial of potion from Professor Slughorn. I can see eight or ten empty vials on the bedside table. As the nurse tips the vile over Ceri’s throat, I hear my breath catch in my throat. I’ve stopped breathing. “Please wake up…please wake up….please…please…please wake up…”

Suddenly, Ceri gives a jerk and starts sputtering. As she starts breathing again, so do I. I cheer, and I hear everyone around me cheering as well. Apparently, there had been silence and little movement as everyone watched to see if Ceri woke up.

The nurse saved all of our lives tonight, and she’s retiring in a few years. What would happen if the attacks started again? Who would save the helplessly petrified people? ‘I will,’ I thought. ‘I will become a magical healer, and save lives, just as I have been saved.’ At this moment, there is no other career path that I would ever want to take. I will become the next nurse at Hogwarts.


The sound of coughing brings me back to the present day. I spin around to see Ms. Clearwater sitting upright in her bed, coughing, and it occurs to me that a coughing sound has never sounded so sweet before. I rush over to her, pulling my wand out as I go, and immediately start to check her over. To my relief, she is fine apart from the obvious shock.

It doesn’t take long before the rest of the petrified students stir and begin to sit up, looking confused, scared and above all, worn and tired.
They groan as they shift and begin to move muscles again which they had not used in a long while.

I make sure that all four students are as well as the circumstances allow and then prepare the potions again for Filch’s cat and Sir Nicholas. I still don’t know how to give this potion to the ghost, but Albus assures me he knows how to do it and thanks me for the two vials before taking his leave. I thank him too and let him know that I will be giving him my full report on these students in the morning.

Pomona says good night to me soon after and I am left to care for my patients. Almost automatically, I go into my office to prepare four Dreamless Sleep Draughts. Merlin knows these young students will need it. Under a lot of protests, all four take the potion and fall into a sleep that will invigorate each one. Tomorrow I will be able to let them go back to their common rooms. For now, I will keep a close eye on my patients. Watching them sleep and knowing they are now safe affirms my reasons for being here.

Yes, this is my life. Moments like these are what I live for, I am convinced of that. I feel like I was born to be a Healer. Of all the choices I have made in my life thus far, this was the only one I never doubted: becoming a Healer, helping those in need and doing this here at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.




Chapter 31: Penelope Clearwater
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By: killsdracowithspork
Beta read by: slytheringinny and canadianstar
Chapter Graphic: killsdracowithspork
Title: Echoes of Fear
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thank you to every member of the HPFF staff for donating your free time to making this website the great place that it is. It gives me (and everyone else too, I’m sure) the opportunity to feed the Harry Potter addiction (which is always a good thing). Again, everything you do is extremely appreciated. You're all awesome.

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Penelope Clearwater pulled out a chair from under one of the Hogwarts library tables and sat down. Glancing to her left, she noticed a second or third year Gryffindor with extremely bushy hair. The little girl was concentrating intensely on an old, thick book. Lying adjacent to the girl’s elbow was a miniscule hand mirror with a light blue rim. Penelope heard the girl murmuring to herself, but couldn't make out exactly what she was saying.

This girl was behaving rather abnormally. She jumped at every sudden noise, and every time somebody passed by the backs of their chairs, the girl would swiftly grab her mirror and peer into it to note the person behind her. Penelope couldn't help but wonder how the girl could be so fidgety and still manage to read her book with so much concentration. The girl’s strange antics perplexed Penelope, but she attempted to ignore the bushy-haired Gryffindor, and continued reading her book, Spectacular Sphinx Stories.

However, the harder Penelope tried to ignore the girl, the more difficult it became. So when the girl closed her book, grabbed her mirror, and got up to leave, Penelope followed her. Due to the girl's unusual behavior, Penelope found it likely that the little Gryffindor was up to something suspicious. And, after all, it was Penelope’s job as a Prefect to ensure that order was maintained within Hogwarts.

Penelope crept softly behind the girl as she exited the library, making sure to be particularly careful not to make any noise that would cause the girl to look into her mirror and discover that she was being followed.

She had been stalking the girl for two minutes when a soft hissing sound could be heard from behind Penelope’s back. As she turned around, Penelope momentarily saw the bushy-haired girl glance into her mirror, before she was face to face with a giant snake. A basilisk.

In less than a half of a second, Penelope took in the basilisk’s bright green scales, most the size of her arm, its huge fangs, dripping clear-as-water venom, and its enormous body, roughly the width of a tree trunk. Then she saw its eyes. They were a brilliant, unearthly yellow.

There was a flash and a roar, and Penelope's entire body seized up.

***

Silver moonlight streamed in through the window of the Ravenclaw seventh years’ dorm room. It threw luminescent rays across the contorted face of a still sleeping Penelope, and lifted her out of her nightmare. The Ravenclaw prefect was drenched in cold sweat that pinned her dark, curly hair to the sides of her face. She was surrounded by a jumbled mass of blankets. Her breath was shaky and she was trembling slightly.

Penelope, now awake, sat up and attempted to steady her heartbeat. She ran a quivering hand across her brow as she struggled to calm herself.

It had been more six months since she was attacked, but Penelope had not yet recovered from her fear of the basilisk. That was quite disconcerting to her. She knew that the basilisk was killed and she knew that the Chamber of Secrets was sealed up for good. So what was she so afraid of? There hadn’t even been any other basilisk sightings in four hundred years! Although Penelope was no Gryffindor, she found it shameful to be worried about something so pointless and impractical. For heavens sake, what was the likelihood of being attacked again by another Basilisk! It was beneath the dignity of a Prefect (from Ravenclaw, to boot) to have a fear of something so illogical.

Despite Penelope’s knowledge that she had absolutely nothing to be afraid of, she continued to dream of death by Basilisk. At first the dreams only came every couple of weeks. Up until the end of her sixth year and throughout the summer, Penelope sometimes would wake up and believe that she had just been killed by a 50-foot-long basilisk. The dreams were recurring, but they did not come often enough to cause much of a problem. However, when she returned to Hogwarts, the dreams began to occur almost every night. It was almost as if there was some presence on the school grounds that had been causing her fears to escalate so drastically.

Penelope may have felt a little bit better if she knew that she wasn’t the only one waking up regularly from Basilisk related nightmares. But she doubted that anyone else was having the same problems as her. Percy had said that his little sister Ginny (who had actually been taken down into the Chamber of Secrets) went back to normal shortly after she went home for the summer. Penelope doubted that the bushy haired girl, or any other of the victims for that matter, were having troubles either.

No one else was scared of the Basilisk. Penelope was alone.

Why then, did Penelope fret every time she saw a shadow shaped remotely close to a snake? Why did she jump every time she heard a noise sounding somewhat like a hiss? Penelope asked herself repeatedly, but could not find an answer. Perhaps it was because she knew her dream could have been reality. If it weren’t for that bushy-haired girl and her mirror, Penelope would not be alive. If Penelope did not stop to look into the mirror before turning around and facing the basilisk, she would have died. It was such a miracle that Penelope was still alive. She should have been thankful. She was not.

She was scared.

***

Dinner in the Great Hall ended at seven o'clock. Students flooded out, filling the corridors with the loud buzzing of chatter. Slytherins and Hufflepuffs headed downstairs to their common rooms and Gryffindors and Ravenclaws headed upstairs to theirs. The prefects stayed behind to patrol the castle.

As soon as Penelope was able to fight her way out of the large sea of students, she began to search for her boyfriend, Percy Weasley. She spotted that fiery red head of his poking up from the crowd almost immediately.

"Penny!" he exclaimed ecstatically as he advanced towards her. Percy nearly stepped on her robes as he picked her up into a clumsy hug. "I haven't seen you all day!"

He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She sighed blissfully and tilted her head up to kiss Percy on the lips. When they pulled apart, a rosy pink had tinted the apples of Penelope's cheeks. But her blush couldn’t compare to the impressive beet red that had spread across the middle of Percy's face, progressing until it completely colored his ears. His glasses were also skewed in an extremely undignified manner. Penelope giggled. She instantly felt better when she was with Percy. When they were together, she had no fear. That wretched Basilisk inhabiting her nightmares was but a transient worry, flying right past her like a gust of wind. Fear existed in a far off land.

Percy cleared his throat. "Perhaps we should begin our duties."

Penelope nodded in agreement, feeling honored to have a boyfriend with such competence.

"I've also been thinking," Percy continued. "After what happened yesterday, with Sirius Black breaking into Hogwarts, we should probably split up to cover more of the school."

Penelope's face fell.

"Now Penny, I know that you would rather do prefect duties together. I would too. But by doing so, we'd be risking the safety of our fellow pupils."

"Wouldn't it be dangerous to split up? What if one of us was to come across Black? It would make more sense to stick together," Penelope coaxed.

"We'll be able to cover more ground this way. Don't be selfish, Penny."

Penelope gave in and nodded reluctantly. She watched Percy give her a grin and disappear around the corner, staying frozen until the even thump thump of his footsteps slowly faded away. Then she was alone, and suddenly aware of every little sound and movement around her.

She leaned against the gray, stone wall and told herself that everything would be okay. She could pull through if she stayed calm and stopped worrying. She needed to think logically. There couldn’t possibly be a basilisk on school grounds.

Suddenly, something moved out of the corner of her eye. Penelope couldn’t make out exactly what it was, but she could have sworn that it had a long tongue and fangs. Closing her eyes, she attempted to steady her now erratic breathing. Her attempt failed when she began to hear a faint, almost nonexistent hissing sound.

Penelope’s eyesight immediately went blurry and her head began to spin. For a moment, she was paralyzed with fear; glued to the spot. She couldn't move a muscle. She tried to talk herself through it, but the panic overtaking her consumed every rational thought. All she could think was that the Basilisk was going to kill her.

So she ran.

She had no idea where she was running. Penelope only knew that she had to get away. So she tore blindly through the halls, sprinting faster than she ever had in her life. Her heart was pounding deafeningly in her ears and tears threatened to spill out of her eyes. She wanted to get away from the basilisk, but most importantly, she desperately wanted to break away from her fear. However, the more she ran, the more scared she became. The air gradually got colder. She felt weaker.

Even so, Penelope continued on until she happened to reach Hogwarts’ large front doors. She soon found out why the air was so cold. A dementor was positioned right at the entrance.

Images of the day she was attacked by the basilisk in the first place flashed through her mind. The bushy-haired girl. The blue-rimmed mirror. The reflection of those bright yellow eyes.

Penelope somehow found the energy to back away and run toward the Ravenclaw common room.

***

Apart from the subtle whistling of wind emitted from a barely opened window, the Ravenclaw seventh years’ dorm was silent. Nearly all of its inhabitants were fast asleep. Penelope, however; was wide awake.

It would have been impossible for her to drift into even a restless sleep with so much on her mind. Before her episode earlier that evening, she had been apprehensive enough. Now she was becoming just plain frantic. She was worried that she would be left alone to have another anxiety attack. She was scared that she would run into a dementor again. She was anxious that someone would find out about the way she had completely lost control. Most of all, Penelope was ashamed. She did not conduct herself in a way that any model prefect, or even model Ravenclaw would do.

Again, Penelope asked her herself why she was so frightened. The Basilisk was gone! It made her so angry that she felt so apprehensive all the time. She blamed herself. If she could think rationally or if she could just get a grip on herself, everything would be all right. Sure, Penelope had been scared before, but this time, her fear was so much more intense than it had ever been. The fact that her fear was running rampant over something so minor made everything even worse.

Why did Penelope's fears start taking over her so all of a sudden? Why not during the summer? Why not last school year? What was so different about her seventh year at Hogwarts compared to her sixth? The only big difference she could think of was the presence of the dementors. Those dementors definitely hadn’t been making anything better. Perhaps they were even making her phobia worse. She couldn't have been scared only because of the dementors, however. Even so, the thought that Penelope wasn’t entirely to blame for her senseless and cowardly behavior made her feel just a bit better.

After sorting through her thoughts, she was finally able to drift off to sleep.

***

Penelope took a seat at a table in the Hogwarts library. A bushy-haired Gryffindor was sitting to her left and reading a tattered old book with a faded green cover. A tiny hand mirror was resting beside her arm. This girl was rather jumpy, despite the fact that she was deeply focused on her book.

Penelope couldn’t help but think that the situation was eerily familiar. However, she ignored any odd feelings she had and continued to read her book.

Penelope was just reading about a particularly violent sphinx attack on some muggle Egyptologists in 1965 when the girl finally stood up. She decided to follow the girl, just in case the small Gryffindor was up to no good. Penelope tiptoed behind her, as quietly as she could.

For a couple of minutes, there was total silence. Penelope made completely sure that her footsteps were soundless. The Gryffindor seemed at if she was trying to be very light on her feet as well.

Then Penelope heard a rattling noise coming from behind.

The air seemed to freeze around her. She shook violently as she was filled with feelings of lightheadedness and nausea. Her breaths came in short gasps and every happy memory she’d ever had began to fade from her mind. The rattling sound was soon replaced by loud hissing that rang through her ears, blocking out almost every thought but fear. Instinctively, she slowly turned around, expecting to see the creature of her nightmares.

But nothing was there.




Chapter 32: Remus Lupin
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Title: Hunting Tea Leaves
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Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild language)
For the Staff: Thank you for giving us a safe playground to have fun with the characters we all love to decanonize. Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for being who you are. *hugs*

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Numbly, Professor Lupin flopped into the chair behind his desk. He had no real desire for anything, but a part of him wished he had bought some spicy tea leaves, instead of those horrible tasteless tea bags which only made hot water change colour. He really needed a nice cup of tea to relieve the throbbing ache in his temples.

Halloween was finally over and Professor Snape was for once doing something else other than breathing down his neck. The man should just brew his potions and leave the rest for the capable and the considerate. The nerve of the man. Like he, Remus, would ever let Sirius Black inside the Hogwarts castle. It made him want to growl. Stupid little man with a brain the size of a nugget.

Of course, Snape hadn't said anything to him. No, he had to overhear it, when the hook-nose revealed his suspicions to Headmaster Dumbledore. Cursed wolf-hearing. Cursed life. Cursed tea bags.

In a flare of anger, he pushed all the books, quills and vials off the table with a long sweep of his right arm. Glass shattered, shards flying in all corners of the room. Miraculously he was left untouched.

The rational part of him knew that his rage was directed at the most convenient target imaginable. He wasn't feeling very rational at the moment, though.

Pushing his chair back, he stood and charged at the door. He would find those damned tea leaves.

He strolled down the stairs to the Entrance Hall, listening intently for any sound of closing steps or a whoosh of a ghost. He was a man on a mission, feeling determined and extremely focused. He wasn't Remus Lupin, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, or a vicious werewolf. He was a man in need of a cup of tea.

For some odd reason, Sybill Trelawney came to his mind, and he changed his course from the kitchens to the North Tower. Sybill had tea leaves and sherry, he reasoned to himself.

It never occurred to him that it might be dangerous to visit a colleague's class room in the middle of the night.

Climbing stairs wasn't the ideal way of spending the night, but at least it kept him preoccupied. Each step meant that he was a bit closer to his goal - the steaming relaxation.

He was tired, beyond exhausted actually. Seeing that ripped painting had made him want to throw up the entire Halloween feast. Why didn't he tell them that Sirius was an Animagus? Maybe because he wanted to keep one part of their friendship alive. They had done it for him, the Marauders. It was his debt to Sirius.

What a rotten debt.

Remus had to hide his fists in his pockets to prevent himself from hitting the wall and breaking his knuckles. It was sad how little age did to one’s violent urges. One just learned to hide them better.

Finally, he reached the tiny landing and the circular trapdoor in the ceiling which led to Sybill's classroom. Now, he only needed to figure out how to get up.

As he thought of ways to get in, the trapdoor suddenly opened and a silvery ladder descended at his feet. How convenient. Was the Seer still awake?

He climbed up with such grace and agility that an outsider might have thought he was ten years younger and not at all exhausted. Being a wolf had its perks.

The room looked like a cross between an old-fashioned brothel and a teashop, with dark red scarves covering the lamps and red velvety curtains pulled in front of the windows. It was unbelievably tasteless and tacky. Remus felt a shudder move up his spine and travel through his long arms to each finger. Yuck!

Suddenly, he felt most unsure of his chosen actions. Why on earth had he come here of all places? He must have lost his mind.

Remus was about to hurry down and leave, before someone - namely one skinny and bug-like Divination teacher – could find him there, when he felt cold fingers curl around his wrist and pull him into an embrace he most definitely did not want to receive.

"Oh dear Herbert, I've missed you so," the woman said mistily. "You should have come earlier. I'm old, too old for you now. You should have come when you promised."

Um, Herbert? Remus tried to get his arms free from the embrace, but the woman was stronger than she looked. His arms were locked on his sides and Professor Trelawney's iron grip seemed only to tighten when he wiggled in her arms.

Impossible situation. What was wrong with the woman? He decided to inquire the matter.

"Professor Trelawney, could you please let me go? I'm not Herbert. I'm Remus Lupin and I'm only looking for some tea leaves."

None of this seemed to have any effect on the Seer-lady. Was she in some kind of a trance? Had someone cursed her? Or him, for that matter? Oh bugger.

The woman started to sob openly, wetting his tattered robes just under his collar bone. "I-I-I've m-missed you a-all these y-years," she stuttered between tears, but then seemed to gather her remaining wits, sounding quite like her melodramatic old self, “Why… oh, why didn’t my Inner Eye reveal this tragedy? I should have Seen it all. I should have...” After that she just continued to murmur incomprehensible things into his chest.

It occurred to him that she might be sleepwalking. How should one handle a sleepwalker? He really didn't know. But this Herbert guy seemed like a complete bastard, leaving poor young Sybill waiting all alone. He wanted to strangle the man for putting him in his current predicament.

"Sybill, dear? Can you hear me? I'm not Herbert." He tried to reason with the woman again. "Please wake up. Just wake up." Part of him was getting angry. This was the way he finally got a woman in his arms? Oh, the irony of existence.

Suddenly the woman jerked away, wide-eyed and screaming. “Who are you? What are you doing here?" Then she turned around and screamed even louder than before, "Sexual harassment! Help!"

It took him a moment to realize the unexpected change in his situation, and in that moment he managed to grab the woman's hand to try to calm her with his words. A big mistake.

She slapped him with her free hand and kicked him hard on his left leg. She was insufferable, crazy even. And then she was screaming again, filling the dark room with words like rapist, animal, and Azkaban.

Remus was losing all control of the wolf inside. He wanted to throw the woman out of the window, make her silent somehow, make her stop creating those horrible noises. Make her stop. The man in him took a step back and released the insane witch.

"Look, Sybill, I haven't done anything. I'd never hurt you. I only came here to find some tea leaves so I could make myself a hot cup of tea. But if that's not possible, I'll just leave you alone." He took another step back, but kept his eyes locked in hers.

Professor Trelawney looked at him under her brows suspiciously and then came rushing towards him. "Out! Get out, you animal!" She pushed him out with all her strength and with pure luck he managed to catch the ladder before he cracked his skull while falling to the ground.

"Get out and never come back!" She banged the trapdoor shut.

Heart pounding in his ears, he jumped down. The smell of sherry was strong in the air and he marvelled at himself for not noticing it earlier. He really was tired.

Limping slightly and holding his aching cheek, he descended the stairs. What a splendid turn of events. A growl escaped his lips.

Some other man might have lost the courage to continue his mission, but not Remus John Lupin. He was more determined than ever. If the fates wanted to play with him, he could play along. And he had never had any difficulties changing the rules to his benefit in the middle of the game. Hah, little setbacks could not stop him. Had they ever?

Kitchens it was, then.

When he reached the painting with the bowl of fruit that protected the entry to the Hogwarts kitchens, his limp was gone and so was his earlier irritation. Kitchen meant normality in its purest sense. Kitchen meant intensive but delicious smells, full stomach, and definitely hundreds of different tea flavours. He grinned wickedly as he tickled the pear on the painting and then entered the house-elves' kingdom - or so he thought.

What he saw made him question his sanity for the second time that day. Cows? And chickens? But how? He was in a cowshed and it certainly didn't smell delicious. He couldn't even see the end of the long room and all the mooing and shifting of hooves made him feel rather dizzy.

A chicken started to peck at his right foot, and soon the others followed in hope of finding grains.

Remus let out a strangled scream and rushed out of the shed, chickens at his heels.

Leaning against the wall and breathing heavily, he thought about his next move. He could go to sleep. He could forget about the whole thing and act maturely. He could. Really. Nobody knew about his sidesteps.

But giving up now would mean that all this had been for nothing.

He stared at his feet, noticing that something brown had stuck to his right shoe. Oh great. He could feel the tears of frustration begin to gather in the corners of his eyes. Bloody hell, he would find the tea leaves even if it was the last thing he did.

Dragging his right leg behind him, he headed to the closest possible place to find the tea he was looking for, Snape's office.

Remus knocked on the door out of habitual politeness, but then barged in without waiting for an answer. He might have been born a gentleman, but there was a limit for his good manners, too. He would not be polite to that oaf of a Potions teacher, not after all he had been through.

To his mild amusement, the dimly lit room was rather messy and completely void of the pompous Severus Snape. Remus smiled to himself as he started searching through the jars that were lying here and there, instead of being neatly lined on the shadowed walls as usual.

It looked like the Potions Master had been searching for something, too. Or had someone stolen something from him? Maybe Peeves had finally decided to drive the Professor insane. He should probably thank the poltergeist the next time he saw him.

After ten tedious minutes of frantic searching, Remus finally discovered a small bag of what looked like bona-fide tea leaves. He felt like dancing a victory dance, and after looking from side to side, he made a little twist with his right leg while lifting his left hand up, forefinger pointing at the low ceiling. Who's the wizard now, fate?

His gleeful and worry-free attitude continued till he reached the second floor corridor and just happened to look into a mirror. Where had the mirror come from? He hadn't seen a mirror there before. And just what the hell was growing on his face?

His skin was covered with dragon scales.

He whimpered in agony. Bloody Snivellus. Somebody had been snooping around his office and he must have put a charm somewhere in the room to find out who. Damn him for being so untrusting. Damn him to premature baldness.

Remus touched his mangled skin with a shaking fingertip. Oh god, oh god, oh god. He couldn't teach the kids looking like this. He couldn't face the Potions Master either. He would know. What a humiliation.

Just as he was sinking into desperation deeper than the old lake on the Hogwarts grounds, a shriek echoed through the walls. Peeves. Fate was a tricky little woman-creature. She was really trying to smoke him out of the castle.

Remus tried to run for cover to the only broom closet he knew to be located nearby, but Peeves was quicker and sneakier. The poltergeist whooshed past him, screaming, "Snoopy-snoopster! Snoopy-poopy! Come see our beloved Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher! Snooping! Snooping!" And then he disappeared, leaving behind only a warning, "Snape will come for you. Snape will skin you alive."

Slouching and sighing in defeat, Remus began his journey back to his own office. He should have gone to bed. Oh yes, he should have.

As he waited for his dear colleague to come and hex him, Remus fixed himself a drink. He would at least get a decent mug of proper tea before he got killed.

"Tell me, what made you do it?" Snape's quiet voice came from the door. He stood there, tall and menacing, making Remus feel uncharacteristically nervous. He was guilty. Snape knew it. Life couldn't be sweeter.

Remus sat down on a comfortable sofa by the fireplace and gestured Snape to do the same. The wizard sat down opposite him on an equally comfortable armchair, but managed to still act very stiffly. He wasn't making it any easier for the poor werewolf.

Hands shaking, Remus lifted the mug to his lips. He needed time to think.

The Potions teacher coughed. "I wouldn't drink that if I were you."

Remus lowered his hand before taking a sip from his drink and asked quite defensively, "Why? Are you going to hex me if I do?"

"Already did, didn't I?" Snape sneered, looking a bit too gleeful for Remus’ liking. "But no, that's not the reason. The bag you took from me contains leech powder that has been created in a... rather dark ritual. You will lose your eye sight most definitely if you taste that thing."

"Oh..." He paused. “Oh dear.” He put the mug on a table beside the sofa and looked Professor Snape in the eyes for the first time that night. “Thank you… I think.”

Severus Snape knew it was a bad idea to stay. He knew exactly how much he would loath himself in the morning and how very difficult it would be to face everyone in the first staff meeting of that very same morning, but still, he couldn’t leave – he blamed curiosity. Indeed, he was curious to know why Professor Lupin had stooped so low. It intrigued him, as well as made him wonder if he could use the information against the fellow wizard. Could he get him sacked? What a joyful thought.

He took two teabags from Remus' cupboard, reheated the water, filled two mugs and then sat next to the fidgeting werewolf, absolutely detesting the idea that he would have to say something nice. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher looked like he had lost every ounce of faith and joy, like there was no tomorrow, like life was not worth breathing for. Actually, he looked every bit as guilty as he was. Snape cleared his throat, but said nothing. He offered the other mug to Remus, who took it with an accepting nod. Neither felt very talkative. Remus sipped his tea. "It's pretty good. Better than Tallie’s Finest, don’t you think?”

“Mmm…”

The silence between them wasn’t completely uncomfortable, but not even the friendliest soul would have described it as enjoyable either. They were just two English gentlemen, drinking tea very early in the morning – or late at night, whichever way one preferred.

“Did you know,” Remus began quietly as though frightened of the other man’s reaction to his words, “that the kitchens turn into a cowshed from time to time?”

Snape watched him over his mug, measuring him with his eyes. Was he serious? “Professor Dumbledore once told me about the supply rooms of Hogwarts, but I didn’t take him that literally.”

Like air had been squeezed out of a balloon, Remus relaxed, leaning back against the soft cushions. It was quite obvious that he had been worried about his mental state after the night’s events, and it might have been amusing to the Potions Master if he wasn’t the one, sitting next to the obnoxious wizard, holding his breath to prevent himself from saying something nasty. He was trying to gather information, for Merlin’s sake. He had to pull himself together.

“So…” Snape had absolutely no idea what to say.

“So…” he began again, “… why did you choose this night for strolling around the castle?” It definitely wasn’t a good question and it lacked casualty like a storm lacked opera music, but all brilliant and useful words had abandoned him. He did not sound like a master interrogator, a former Death Eater extraordinaire. The years with children had made him soft. What a shameful development for a man like Severus Snape, a high class Dark Wizard. Oh bugger.

Remus watched him curiously as though trying to figure out his possible motives. “I had nothing to do with him getting into the castle if you’re implying that.” He paused for a moment and then continued, exhaustion clear in his voice, “I just wanted to relax with a steaming cup of tea. Real tea, mind you. But this hasn’t really been my night as you can tell.” He pointed at his scaled face and then fell silent, realizing that he had already said too much.

Severus Snape disliked the unpleasant feeling that raised its head inside him. It was something between compassion and pity, and it made him feel unnaturally normal. Maybe he did have a heart after all. Maybe he owed Remus one decent night for old time's sake. For the sake of misery and betrayal and lost friendships. Maybe.

Instead of pushing his colleague any further with questions, he picked a red-covered book from the table and started making a conversation out of nothing. They talked about the old ways of binding books and their favorite authors and all their lost friends without ever mentioning names or dates.

Even with its otherworldly atmosphere, the night turned out to be quiet after all.

And somehow it was very comforting for them to know that at least the enemy was familiar and quite close indeed.



Thank you very much.


Johanna




Chapter 33: Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank
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Wilhelmina looked around her house again. The armchairs were clean with the matching fluffy pillows in the arm. The counters in the kitchen were gleaming. The perishable food had been disposed of, and the house looked desolate and depressed with the lights off and the curtains drawn. The house looked as a house only looks when its inhabitants are on a holiday. Wilhelmina went through one last mental checklist as she picked up her trunk. The pipes were turned off, and the cats were taken care of.

Arabella Figg, her close friend, had taken her cats. She had cats of her own, and although she had broken her leg tripping over one, she still loved feline friends. It was one of the only topics that she could discuss with Harry Potter, during the long sessions when she watched over him, one of the few connections to the wizarding world that she still had.

"Little Harry Potter came over today, and I felt so bad, telling him all about Snowball….I wish we could tell him he was a wizard. I mean, that would just simplify things!"

"I agree with you, Ara'! He could live at my house, all of my kids have flown the coop!"


As Wilhelmina rode in a taxicab to the train station, she thought about the letter that she had gotten that morning from Dumbledore.

Dearest Wilhelmina,

As you probably know by now, our gamekeeper, Hagrid, is a half giant. And although I've tried to explain to him that it doesn't really matter, and that he should be proud of who he is, he is still not able to resume teaching after the Christmas holidays.

Would you be willing to be a temporary Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

Let me know by owl as soon as possible. I will send the Hogwarts Express for you immediately. It will be waiting at Platform 9 ¾.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore


Now, as she boarded the single-car train, she thought about what her first lesson should be. She decided that it would be unicorns. Wilhelmina's first Care of Magical Creatures lesson in her third year was unicorns, and she had been in love with them ever since.

She had poured over countless books about unicorns. She knew everything that there was to know about them, and anything new that was found out was owled to her immediately. (She was signed up for The Unicorn News.)

Unicorns were something that came up at every level, even the N.E.W.T. level. Knowing about the unicorn's good and bad properties was something that was not only necessary, but likeable. As a temporary professor, Wilhelmina had learned that you needed to make the students like you on the first day. As a regular, everyday professor, they didn't have to like you, because you could make their life at school terrible. Unless, of course, you were the only teacher not whipping the students. Wilhelmina had been that teacher at Durmstrang, and they had liked her no matter what she taught.

Wilhelmina fell asleep after about an hour of riding in the empty train compartment, with no one to talk to. Some time later, she woke up, with the driver of the train tapping her gently.

"Ma'am?" He saw that she was awake. "Ma'am, we're at Hogsmeade Station. The Headmaster is waiting for you."

Indeed he was. She peered out of the window to see Albus Dumbledore sitting patiently on a bench. She picked up her trunk, thanked the driver and walked out onto the platform.

"Hello, Wilhelmina! How have you been?" Concern was etched on his face, along with evident relief and happiness to see her. He led her to a carriage as she spoke.

"I've been doing fine, Albus. Things aren't quite the same as they were since he died, but the kids stop in now and then, and I've got the cats."

"And how are your children?"

"Fine. All fine." When the castle came into view, she sighed. "I haven't seen this place in ages. Since my oldest left, actually."

"Well, I'm sure you'll find it just the same," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, as they walked in the front doors, trunk and books floating along behind them. Dumbledore led her to an empty office.

"This," he said, pointing to a door, "was Professor Kettleburn's old office. He used to have a few "indoor creature" lessons in these classrooms, but most are still held outside. You will have fourth years tomorrow, and you can meet them outside of Hagrid's cabin. I'm afraid some of the fourth years will ask, three, in particular--and they may become persistent-- where Hagrid is. Simply let them know that he is indisposed. We won't need this to become bigger than it is."

"Perfectly understandable" said Wilhelmina, pushing the study door open to find a comfortable bed. She set her bags down and turned around to Dumbledore. "Mind if I smoke in here?"

Dumbledore was taken aback. "I didn't realise that you smoked."

"I just started. After he died, and left me his pipe. The smell reminds me of him."

"I see. Go ahead. Unless something happens to Hagrid, which is unlikely, to say the least, he will be our Care of Magical Creatures Professor for a very long time, so this office will go unused, except by you, should you choose to stay."

"I'm fine, Dumbledore. Always willing to teach temporarily, but as I said when Kettleburn retired, I don't want to work full time."

"Understandable. I'm afraid we've already had dinner, but I can send the house-elves up with something."

"I ate on the train," Wilhelmina lied. "But if you see Minerva, will you tell her I would love to see her?"

"Of course."

"Thanks Albus, for everything."

"It was nothing. Good night. I may see you at breakfast tomorrow, I may not."

Several minutes later, Wilhelmina was lighting her pipe, and a knock came at the door. "Just a minute." She opened the door and immediately set down her pipe, throwing herself upon the woman standing there. "Minerva! I haven't seen you in ages!" Wilhelmina stood back and conjured armchairs in front of the fire.

Sitting in one, Minerva McGonagall looked upon her friend. "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing alright. It's quiet around the house, but the kids drop in when they can. I'm doing better since I was at the funeral."

Minerva nodded. "I understand, dear. Well, at any rate, I'm glad to see you here! I can't imagine a more suitable temporary!" It was true. Wilhelmina knew more about magical creatures than everyone else she knew.

"Thank you, Minerva. I learned from the best!" At Wilhelmina's last comment, Minerva blushed.

"Just because I was always having to teach you things does not mean that I was your teacher! I'm two months younger than you are!" Why does such a small age have to matter? Wilhelmina wondered to herself while she spoke.

"Well, you always were in the better situation…after teaching at Durmstrang, I'd rather be here." Wilhelmina shook her head.

"We all understand why you quit teaching there. Dumbledore said you mentioned that you wouldn't want a full time job teaching here?" Minerva was sure that her closest friend might need something to take her mind off of her lonely life.

"No, my husband left me enough to live on, and although I enjoy teaching, I could never teach all year. I want to travel with one of my sons. He just got promoted to "Travel Tips" in the Daily Prophet, and I'd like to travel with him soon." Wilhelmina smiled. All of her children were so successful!

"I see. Well, I'd better get to bed. You and I need to get some sleep! You're sure you're all right?" Minerva was concerned for her friend. Losing someone that close was hard, for anybody.

"Yes, dear. Thank you for your concern, but I'll be fine. I'm already back on my feet. I miss him, but that is no reason to stop living. I already have a few weeks worth of lessons planned, and I'm ready to roll." Wilhelmina was lighting the pipe again.

"Well, I'm here if you need me." Minerva still looked concerned.

"Thank you, Minerva. I shall keep that in mind."

After Minerva left, Wilhelmina sat in the one remaining armchair in front of the fire, warming her toes, smoking her pipe, and thinking about her old life.

After she had finished at Hogwarts, Wilhelmina wanted to teach others about magical creatures. The only job opening was at Durmstrang, a school well known for teaching the dark arts. Wilhelmina had not been allowed to teach about the creatures she loved—hippogriffs, unicorns, and nifflers- but had been forced to lecture about dark and dangerous creatures; giant snakes, huge and magical deadly scorpions.

Wilhelmina had started going to the pub, to hide from everything. She was not happy teaching at Durmstrang, but she didn't have a choice. One day, however, a man that she didn't recognize had sat down next to her in the bar, and started smoking a pipe. Soon, they had introduced themselves.

Wilhelmina had found out that he was a single father, living in Bulgaria for the only job he could find. He had come to Durmstrang to fetch his only son. He had gotten a job promotion that would not only move him back to his native home in Scotland, but it would take his son out of 'that terrible school' Durmstrang and place him in Hogwarts.

All night Wilhelmina and the man talked. She told him about how unhappy she was. When the pub closed, the two continued taking, walking together through the snow towards the inn where the man was staying. Once inside, they had sat in front of the fire in the inn lobby, and talked all night. When it was time for Wilhelmina to start class, and time for the man to fetch his son, the man stood up and looked down at her.

"Come with us," he had said, and she had.

She had told the Headmaster that she was quitting, and she had moved to Scotland with the father and son. Soon the two fell completely in love and got married, and Wilhelmina had moved from her apartment to their new home.

Tears came to Wilhelmina's eyes as she smoked the same old pipe and remembered moving to Surrey. She had met Arabella Figg in a small shop, and got to know her even more through Albus Dumbledore. She had gotten to visit Minerva McGonagall, her best friend from Hogwarts, when she dropped her adopted son off at Hogwarts. Life had been good.

For several years, things went great. The family grew closer together and added three more beautiful children. By the time the oldest had left Hogwarts, and home, however, things had gone downhill.

Wilhelmina's beloved husband had become ill. He was unable to go to work. Wilhelmina tried to teach, but a long-term teaching job kept her away from her ill husband, and reminded her of meeting him. It had become too hard.

As a couple, the two decided that he should spend his remaining time with her, and that there was enough money for both of them to live for years.

Wilhelmina's husband had died over the summer. Old friends and teachers of theirs had come to the small funeral, as well as their entire family. It had been hard on Wilhelmina, but she had steadily been getting better.

Dumbledore offered her the long term post at Hogwarts, remembering her complete resume from years before, but she had turned it down. Seeing the kids in Hogwarts and teaching them reminded her too much of her late husband.

In small doses, being a professor was fine, but, Wilhelmina was afraid, it would take a toll in time.

As the night slipped away, and the pipe tobacco diminished, Wilhelmina had a tear-streaked face and a heart full of memories and emotions. It was odd, how something she loved had become, in her old age, something that brought on so much pain.

And although she knew that she was qualified, Wilhelmina couldn't stand the thought of teaching without him. He had rescued her from a terrible job, and anything that related to teaching made Wilhelmina sad.

But it also made her happy. Teaching was a nice way to remember him, without feeling like a sappy widow, crying over photographs. Instead, she could be productive. She could cry in her room at night if she had to, but she would teach these kids everything she could.

Sitting alone by the fire, reminiscing about her late husband, she couldn't help but think that teaching was not a sad remembrance of her horrible past, made good by one man, but a sweet reminder of the man she loved so dear.


Chapter 34: Percy Weasley
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"Penny!" Percy Weasley smiled as he walked into the Entrance Hall. His girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater was running towards him.

"Perce!" She kissed him quickly on the cheek. "Here," she pushed something into his hands. "I know that our two year anniversary isn't for a few weeks, but I couldn't help it. I had to give this to you now." Percy started to unwrap the gift. "I know you've seen it before in Diagon Alley, but you're always reading it, and I thought you might like your own copy." Percy pulled the paper completely off. Penelope looked up expectantly.

"Oh, Penny!" Percy exclaimed, hugging Penelope and kissing her on the cheek. "It's wonderful! I love this book! Prefects Who Gained Power ." Percy turned the book over and over while Penelope continued to speak, nervously.

"You always read it, in Diagon Alley, and in Hogsmeade, and I thought, since, you know, you want to be Minister for Magic . . . " Penelope trailed off. Percy noticed this and leaned in to kiss her.

"I love it." Penelope relaxed. "Come on," Percy said to her, walking towards the Great Hall. "Let's go get some toast." Penelope and Percy ate breakfast, a few pieces of toast each, and talked about their future plans.

"Well," said Penelope, buttering another piece of toast and handing it to Percy. "Of course, you're going to be Minister for Magic someday, so I guess I'll be Head of the department for Games and Sports," she slid on the bench closer to Percy, "and Ministeress for Magic." Percy stared at her.

"Mini-minis-ministeress for magic?" He choked.

"Well, yes," whispered Penelope. "We won't be in Hogwarts forever you know."

"I-I know, it's just, I hadn't been thinking along those . . . lines." Percy was at a loss for words.

"Oh," whispered Penelope, looking close to tears. "Okay. I-I have to go to class. En-enjoy your period off, I'll see you in N.E.W.T. Transfiguration, then." Penelope got up from the bench quickly, running out of the hall and leaving a trail of tears behind her.

"Well mate," said a Ravenclaw who was getting up from the table. "That's not where I would’ve gone, but there you go." Percy watched the boy walk away. Maybe he's right. he thought as he got up from the table and slowly walked towards the Gryffindor common room.

Percy was alone in the common room. The other students who had the class period off were on the grounds or in the library. Percy pulled his favorite armchair over to the fire. The armchair was high backed and under-stuffed, something that an office executive might sit in at their desk. Percy sat up straight in the chair and opened his brand new copy of his favourite book.


Prefects Who Gained Power

Part Two:

Becoming Minister For Magic

Chapter One:

Reputation


Reputation is defined as the way one is looked upon and talked about, either positively or negatively. It is an integral part of gaining power. If one is looked upon badly, there is no way that they can gain power. Becoming Minister for Magic is the aspiration of many and the highest position of power in our community today..

Educational Reputation

Education is an integral part of becoming Minister for Magic, and a very large part of one's reputation. One must have a large number of O.W.L.'s and N.E.W.T.'s. Except in extreme cases, the Minister for Magic has attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for all of the seven years of magical training. Any additional training, such as Ministry training, Auror training, and/or international training does not hurt either.

It is a well-known fact that the most qualified person usually gets the job, if they will accept it. The more qualification in education and training that one has, the better chance that there is that one will become Minister for Magic. One case in which this did not happen was the case of Albus Dumbledore. In 1990, he was not only the most qualified for Minister, he was the popular choice. However, he elected to stay as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Cornelius Fudge became Minister.


"What an idiot,' thought Percy, 'staying Headmaster instead of becoming Minister.'

Character Reputation.

Character is also a large part of one's reputation and an essential for becoming Minister for Magic. If one wants to become Minister for Magic, it is especially wise to be seen donating. Physical appearance is also a huge part of showing character.

1. Donation of Time.

One should donate their time. Doing charity work, visiting children in the hospital, sending 'Get Well' cards to those in the hospital. It is often reported when one does something for someone else, and it is looked upon fondly, especially by women and the elderly, which are affected the most by time donation.

2. Donation of Money.

When one is seen donating money, they are viewed as someone who gives up something of their own, giving up luxuries and comforts for others. Obviously, the less money one has, the less they have to give, because one's looks are extremely important.

Percy started walking toward Professor McGonagall's classroom for N.E.W.T. Transfiguration, still reading his new book.

3. Physical Appearance.

A good physical appearance is a very ideal thing for anyone who wants to gain the post of Minister for Magic. One must always dress well, and for the occasion, and must be well groomed.

Muggle clothes are only acceptable if there might be interaction with muggles. If so, a three-piece suit would be recommended. Otherwise, robes must be clean, with no stains or lint, and of the right length and color. The correct color can be determined based on the event attended. For instance, it would not be wise to attend a funeral in bright colors. When at the Ministry or on important ministry business, one must wear robes with the Ministry seal. Hair must not be long. Long hair equates to rebels and lazy-workers. If one wants to appear to be a hard worker, one must take into account everything about their appearance. Physical appearance is very important because it is a strong point of judgment. One must always look well kept, neat, and classy.


Percy walked into the classroom. Penelope was already sitting at their table in the front. She patted the seat next to her; she seemed to have forgotten her anger from breakfast. When Percy sat down, she gave him a kiss, to several wolf-whistles from their classmates.

"Wow, Percy," said one boy, "I didn't know the Head Boy was so, risqué." Percy blushed and turned towards the front of the classroom.

"Never mind him," said Penelope. "We're in love. A bit of public display never hurt anything but reputations. How's the book?" Percy was taken aback. He hadn't thought of his reputation being at stake.

"Oh, er, it's good. I was reading about reputations for becoming Minister for Magic, actually."

"Oh," said Penelope, giggling. "What a silly coincidence! We were just talking about that!" She giggled again, leaning forward to kiss Percy. Percy leaned away.
"I don't think we should be kissing in public." He said smartly, sitting up straighter. "We are the Head Boy and Girl, you know."

"Yes, I know." said Penelope, her voice hurt and angry, as her eyes filled up with tears. “We must set good examples."

Percy agreed with her statement, however angrily she had said it. The two were the best in the class, and already good magical examples. During Transfiguration that day, Percy and Penelope were the first to gain the ability to transfigure themselves into furniture. Percy was proud of himself. Even though his book had not mentioned it, he knew that his exceptional magical ability would make him Minister for Magic someday.

___________________________


At break, Penelope went to check out a few books from the library, so Percy sat down in an empty desk in the N.E.W.T. Study of Ancient Runes classroom. He opened his new book to the page where he had left off.

Romantic Reputation.

Romance is something that most men and women dream about, but there is little room for it in the Minister for Magic position. There are several problems with romance in gaining the minister position. The things listed in the following paragraphs are such that the magical community looks down upon for their leader, they bring down the reputation of the perspective candidate, and make it impossible for that person to gain the post of Minister for Magic. As such, Romance is absolutely unacceptable and impossible for one who wants to become Minister, unless one becomes involved in dating, marriage, and family after they have gained the post of Minister for Magic.

1. Public Display.

Many people who fall in love take great enjoyment in flaunting it. They kiss, hold hands, and hug in public. These things are simply unacceptable for one who wants to become Minister for Magic. The magical community will see such things and look down upon the prospective candidate, since the public often sees public displays of affection as sickening. Once one becomes Minister, one must learn the balance between too much and not enough affection to keep the rumours away.

2. Focus Point.

It is highly possible that one’s focus point will be swayed if one allows oneself to be in love. The focus will sway to the wife or girlfriend and the family, rather than the position of Minister for Magic. Whether one sees it or not, one’s focus will sway to one’s loved ones, and the community and one’s position as the Minister for Magic will be at risk.

History.

In history, no man or woman has ever gotten to office while they were dating or married. No Minister for Magic has ever been married, with the exception of Cornelius Fudge, who started dating and got married after he gained the noble post of becoming Minister for Magic. This was fine for the magical community because when he started dating, the well being of the community did not worsen. In fact, it gave Fudge the appearance of a loving family man, which has actually helped him to maintain his post. All in all, however, the magical community does not like change.


Percy looked up, closing the book just as Penelope walked in and class started. The class was given a large stack of rune prints to translate in pairs. Percy was paired with Penelope, as always, and they started translating at once.

I can't ruin my reputation any more than it already is. thought Percy, as he looked up a translation that he did not know. She's wonderful, but I can't be in love. She deserves someone who will focus on her, and I can not. I must focus on becoming Minister for Magic, and then on the magical community. I can't let myself slip into love. Maybe I can salvage my reputation before it's too late.

Percy continued to help Penelope translate. They were the only two who got through an entire stack and began to translate another one.

"Come on," said Penelope, grabbing Percy's hand and dragging him down a corridor at the end of the lesson. "I have something to show you." Penelope dragged him into an empty classroom, throwing her bag on the floor and turning to lock the door. Percy couldn't figure out what she was doing, so he picked up her bag for her. "No, silly!" She said, taking her bag and his, throwing them to the ground again. "We're not here to study!"

What are we here for, then? Percy wondered as Penelope walked towards him, and then, Surely not. Penelope pushed Percy so that he was sitting on the teacher's desk, and sat on his lap. I can't do this, thought Percy, panicking, as Penelope leaned towards him.

"Penny," Percy said, calmly, pushing Penelope off of his lap so that she was sitting next to him. Penelope looked up at him, biting her lip. "We can't do this."

"But-but I locked the door," Penelope said shakily, pointing. "No one could catch us, so it wouldn't be public kissing, it'd be private kissing."

"No, Penny, it doesn't matter, public or private. It's still romance, and that's not allowed."

"Says who?" Penelope whispered, tears falling silently onto the desk where she was sitting.

"Well, the book you bought me, Prefects Who Gained Power, has a whole section on becoming Minister for Magic,"

"Oh. Here we go!" yelled Penelope, the tears falling faster, "Another way to get the beloved Minister's spot!"

"Yes, Penelope," said Percy angrily, "You know it is my dearest ambition to become Minister for Magic, and the book says that romance brings down the reputation of the prospective minister. I can't have that. I already have a family to leave blemishes on my reputation. My father, who has never been ambitious enough to do anything that doesn't deal with Muggles, my brothers, the dragon breeder and the curse breaker. My whole family is looked down upon. We are poor, and that is unacceptable. I can't easily rid myself of my family, so I must rid myself of anything that is damaging to my reputation."

"IS THAT ALL THAT YOU CARE ABOUT? YOUR REPUTATION?" Penelope was shaking with anger. She threw her arm out and the door unlocked. "I loved you. I would have given up everything for you. Given up everything to follow you in a week, when we get out of this place. I'm not going to let you break up with me!" She sobbed. "I am going to break up with you. And not because you'd ruin my reputation and chances of going where I want to go, but because you are a jerk, and you don't deserve me. Percy Weasley. It's the name of a failure. You will be a failure! You are going to lose everything worrying about your reputation! You are going to lose EVERYTHING! And I'm not going to feel bad. I'm not going to feel bad, because at least you'll keep your BLOODY REPUTATION!" Percy's ex-girlfriend took one last look at him, shaking her head. "And all because I bought you the book that you like. If I had only known." Percy watched as she grabbed he bag and ran towards the door. I can't believe that just happened, he thought.

When Penelope was at the door, Percy felt the tears start to well up in his eyes. "Well! Let's hope it's not too late!" He yelled after her, as the door slammed shut. "I hope you aren't the cause for my tarnished reputation!"




Chapter 35: Cedric Diggory
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By: Jessi_Rose
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and nicalyse
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Title: Lost Opportunities
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: This one goes out to shade, Ravengryffendor, LogicalRaven, Noblevyne, and timeturner. Over the last few months, you all have been a tremendous help to me in one way or another! I hope this shows my appreciation and gratitude for all of your help!

A/N - I do have to give major thanks for saurkraut_poet for helping me kick start this fic. And also to Dobby101 for having a really fun dialogue-a-thon with me. You both rock! :)
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“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

As those two fatal words spilled out of his heinous mouth, a fleeting image crossed my mind. I thought not of myself and my wasted future, but of her face, sodden with tears, staring down at my lifeless form with a mixture of pain and regret. How I wished, in that moment, to somehow convey the depth of my feelings to her! Or was it better to leave the words unsaid? Would it help her to move on more quickly? Just an hour ago, my blood would have boiled at the thought of another man holding her in his arms. And now, all I can think of is how I missed my one opportunity to tell her how much I love her, and to guarantee that everything will be okay.

Late into the fall, a group of Hufflepuff sixth years stood on the castle grounds, admiring the way the golden sun reflected brilliantly off of the vast lake and rebounded on the mighty walls of the historical school. Deep into conversation about the approaching Yule Ball, they chatted excitedly with the champion, Cedric Diggory, the only Hufflepuff to have a date as of yet.

“Cedric is going with Cho Chang from Ravenclaw, aren’t you Ced?” prodded a young man on the right of the handsome Triwizard contestant.

Cedric looked up from the ground with a shining smile, displaying his beautiful pearl teeth, along with a set of dimples that had sent most girls into fits and giggles. As his russet, tidy tresses fell lightly over one eye, Cedric inclined his head at his house mates in order to let them know what they heard in the rumour mill was, in fact, true. A few wolf whistles sounded around him, but Cedric was ignoring the calls of the immature boys and was now supremely focused on the most gorgeous girl to ever walk the planet.

Cho Chang had just emerged from the school, walking with her friend Marietta, talking in hurried whispers in between enthusiastic titters. Her onyx hair swung around her shoulder before her chocolate eyes met the obvious stare of Cedric. Smile still plastered to his face, he offered his apologies to his friends and walked over to meet with Cho and her friend. His hand reached out immediately to take the books that she had been holding in her hands, while his eyes stole another glance at her. The beauty that was embodied within the girl, to Cedric, was in such quantities that it almost made it impossible to breathe in her presence. It was as if the world was feeding all of its substance to her, leaving the rest of the population to die in wonder.

Marietta smiled knowingly at Cedric and ran off in search of her other Ravenclaw friends, most likely to tell them of Cho’s latest beau. As Cedric and Cho walked onward, their mutual target became the large oak tree on the lakeside. When they reached the shade of the mighty oak, Cedric removed his top layer of robes, laid them upon the plush green grass, and offered his hand out to Cho to help her sit down. Her face brightened considerably as she took his strong, masculine hand. A static electric sensation flowed through Cedric’s body, leaving him momentarily immobile. It was the best and most terrifying feeling he had ever experienced. He looked on to Cho, her coffee colored eyes sparkling with the glistening of the water, her tan skin soaking up the sunlight. She had an immaculate glow about her, one that was fascinating and mesmerising. Catching himself staring, Cedric turned his attention back to the water, still ensnared by the ambience he was receiving from his Ball date.

“Are you frightened of the next task?” Her voice, though quiet and velvety, easily broke the reverie that Cedric had created.

“Oh,” he shook his head. “Terrified, actually. The second task is only a month away, and I still haven’t an idea on how I’m going to survive it.” Moving his eyes quickly to Cho, he saw a small grin curve on her lips, which he returned with his charming pearlescent smile.

“You’ll do fine,” she assured, letting her hand graze his bicep as she patted it affectionately. “You’re the most talented in the tournament. I’ve seen you in class. You are a very skilled wizard.”

As much as he tried to hide his proud smile, still, a smirk presented itself. Trying not to seem too confident, he slipped her a slight wink and turned his attention back to the lake with a sigh.


When I felt our connection by the lake, something inside of me told me that she was the one, the one I was made for. I remember breathing in her scent, fresh lilac. Even when she was no where around, I could smell it, and I knew that somewhere, someplace, there was someone who was thinking about me, and loving me completely; though we never did tell each other how we felt.

She’s with me now, I feel it. Though that hiss will be the last thing I hear, the last thing I smell, the last thing I see, and the last thing I experience will be Cho. Her love is overthrowing the terror that is residing within me now and graciously masking the sorrow.

The Weird Sisters slowed down the melody, causing all of the couples on the dance floor to step closer together. Cedric and Cho, who had taken a break from dancing in order to get drinks, were sitting at one of the tables, listening to the mindless chatter of their surrounding friends, both too preoccupied with one another to really take in anything the other classmates were saying.

When there was a slight silence at the table, Cedric leaned into Cho’s ear and whispered, “Care to dance?”

Cho nodded excitedly, her swept up hair bouncing as her head moved. She gripped onto Cedric’s outstretched hand and followed him enthusiastically to the dance floor, realizing that the song was slow- and romantic. She hadn’t been paying proper attention earlier and now was flushed at the thought of being so close to Cedric, wrapped securely in his arms.

They stood a foot apart, both locked in an intense staring contest. His strapping arm reached out and gripped around her waist as her arm slid around his neck. He stole her other hand from her side and brought it up, even with his shoulder and held onto it, as if the world would slip away if he let it go. Afraid of prancing on her feet, Cedric guided them around in long, graceful steps. The tension of being so close was starting to grasp at him, and a slight nervous smile crept up on his face. For a fraction of a second he looked to the ground before bringing his eyes up to meet her shining, dark brown orbs. They were dazzling and enchanting, lined beautifully with a tan shimmer that made them stand out against her flawless skin.

“You’re beautiful,” he complimented in a sexy whisper. “The most beautiful girl in this room.”

Cho’s slender hand slipped from Cedric's and found its way to his neck, intertwining with her other hand. Cedric allowed himself to wrap his arms around her waist and pull her in closer, breathing in the fresh lilac scent that lingered playfully in her hair. In his stomach, knots were forming. He was beginning to lose himself in her, in every way possible; the way she moved, the way she smelled, and the way she spoke.

“I really like you Cedric,” she purred against his chest.

He held her tighter, forgetting about the steps they were dancing. His focus became her presence; there was nothing more important in the world than soaking in the immeasurable bliss that he felt being so close to the woman he loved.


I can still feel the smile on her face that I felt against my chest that night when she told me that she liked me. I wonder, does she know that at that moment I wanted to tell her that I loved her? That being in the company of her makes me think I own the world? I doubt she will ever understand just how much I feel for her. My heart aches that I never got to say it. I had so many chances to express to her exactly how she turns my world upside down. The sun never sets on this feeling inside; the feeling of hummingbirds twittering a parade in my stomach, sending shocks to awaken my brain. I love her, and I wish I could have said it.

After a long day of classes and studying in the Great Hall, they had decided to stretch their legs about the castle. It was getting late, curfew had almost kicked in. Cedric offered his escort to her common room entrance, which she accepted. They had been walking for what seemed like hours in silence, simply enjoying the piece of each other’s company.

“Are you coming to watch the Third Task?” Cedric asked.

Cho looked at Cedric in mild surprise. Why would he even have to ask? “Of course! Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well, I figured,” he ran his labored hand through his smooth hair, “I figured you’d be a nervous wreck, actually.”

Their walking stopped as Cho stepped forward quickly, taking one of Cedric’s arms in her tiny hand. “Cedric, I am a nervous wreck! But, that won’t stop me from being there supporting you. You know that I,” she took a deep breath and stared him square in the eyes, “care a lot about you.”

So, he finally knew how she felt. Cho had an uncanny ability to hide exactly how she felt and he had taken it upon himself to tell her countless times in the last few weeks to loosen up and show herself. When he spoke, it was meticulous, “I care for you, too. And…” he broke off the intensity of the eye contact and started determinedly at the floor.

“And what?” Cho urged. “Is there something wrong? Are you scared?”

He gave a gentle chuckle. “Scared? Hardly. I think…I think that you,” he sighed loudly, while forcing his hand to move from cupping his neck to her hand. He tangled their fingers together and spoke more seriously. “You’re great, you know? I just don’t want you to worry, is all.”

“You know I’m going to worry. I’ve worried throughout this competition. So many people have…well…you know.”

“Died-” Cedric finished for her. “I won’t be one of them, Cho. Dumbledore has all the right protections around to make sure we don’t get too hurt.”

She stomped her foot in a miniature tantrum. He just didn’t get it! “But, I couldn’t deal with it if someone that I lo-you didn’t come back out of that maze.”

Cedric knew what she was about to say. However, at this moment, it wasn’t time for declarations of love. It was the time to assure her that he would be okay. “I’m coming back. If not for anything else, I’ll be back for you.”


I have been made a liar. I cannot return to her, and I cannot comfort her. In mere seconds, I will cease to exist in the physical world and take up a place among the dead. In dark and dangerous times I will not be able to hold her, to protect her, to whisper encouraging words into her ear. And now, she will turn to someone else in hopes of easing the pain. She deserves to be happy, she deserves to move on. However, though we never said, I am and always will be her first love. Just the same as she is my first and last. If I could do one more thing with my life, I would tell her that it is better that we received the chance to discover our love, than to have wondered about it through our lives. I hope she feels me inside of her right now, as my body begins to fall to the earth. I love her…I loved her.



Chapter 36: Alastor Moody
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Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and wiccan
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove
Title: Hidden Torment
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (substance use/abuse)
For the Staff: I would like to dedicate this story to the staff and volunteers at HPFF for all of the hard work that they have done to make HPFF the outstanding site that it has become. Their efforts have made HPFF a place where Potter fans can gather to read and share their stories, ideas, and opinions. Through all of the years and upgrades they have doggedly remained patient and understanding (providing there were donuts and coffee enough) to the complaints, comments, and suggestions of the many members that frequent the site.

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AN: DISCLAIMER: *** ALL HP characters are the property of JKR, WB, and prospective publishers. This is simply a FF that I have written.
The lines denoted by an asterisk (*) are direct quotes from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by J.K. Rowling, Chapter 3, pg. 46 (US Edition)

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The scraping of a chair could be heard as Dumbledore rose to his feet and waved his arm to get the attention of the other witches and wizards in the room. The moment he had the eyes of everyone focused on him, Dumbledore cleared his throat and began speaking.

“Now, on to the last order business for the night,” Dumbledore rumbled as he frowned off in Mundungus Fletcher’s direction. “As most of you know, last night, Harry Potter and his cousin were attacked a short distance from their home by two dementors.”

A chorus of angry and nervous muttering broke out amongst those seated and it took several minutes before Dumbledore could quiet his colleagues enough to continue.

“Both boys are fine, thanks to Harry’s quick thinking. However, the presence of the dementors raises many concerns over the safety of Mr. Potter. The Ministry fiasco that occurred immediately following the attack only heightens my apprehension for the boy.” Dumbledore continued only to be interrupted as angry muttering arose from the far side of the room where Sirius Black was sitting beside Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley, and Nymphadora Tonks. Matters only escalated when Sirius caught sight of Severus Snape’s disdainful sneer. A violent duel was only avoided when Dumbledore threatened to forcefully remove both men from the meeting.

“Now, where was I?” Dumbledore muttered absently as he continued to watch Sirius over his half-moon glasses. “Ah, yes, I remember – Harry Potter. Now that the last of the security measures have been put into place here at Headquarters, I’d like to make arrangements for Mr. Potter to be escorted from his Aunt and Uncle’s house in Little Whinging. We’ll need a couple of volunteers who are willing to collect the boy from his relatives and see that he arrives safely.”

This announcement was greeted by the loudest of outbursts yet; only a handful of witches and wizards were not clamoring to be included in the escort – Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and Alastor Moody.

“He’s my godson, I can protect him and see that he makes he makes it in one piece,” Sirius barked out eagerly.

“Mr. Potter recognized me; I should be allowed to lend a hand in protecting him,” Dedalus Diggle practically squealed as he leapt from his chair, his top hat tumbling from his head.

“It’ll be best to have the guard made up of qualified Aurors,” Kingsley Shacklebolt insisted calmly.

“There should be friendly faces in the guard; we don’t want to frighten the lad,” Hestia Jones piped in, leaning dangerously close to the edge of her chair.

The cacophony ended abruptly when Alastor shot a stream of red sparks into the air, accompanied by a loud boom. Every eye in the room turned to stare worriedly in the old Auror’s direction as he rose to his feet and addressed Dumbledore in a gruff growl. “I volunteer.”

Several loud protests were called out as many of the younger Order members climbed to their feet – many of them personally familiar with the ex-Auror’s paranoia.

Their voices died out as Sirius shoved back his chair and stormed towards the door – his voice growing steadily louder as he ranted over his shoulder. “If all you brave souls are just going to argue about it, I’ll go retrieve Harry myself tonight. I don’t plan on waiting for another round of dementors to show up whilst you sit and argue about who is better qualified to protect him.”

“Stop right there, Sirius,” Dumbledore ordered as Sirius’s hand touched the latch. “There will be no debate. If I had known how enthusiastic the volunteers would be, I would have chosen a team before the meeting.”

“When do we leave?” Sirius countered; his demeanor only slightly less aggravated than before.

“You will not be a part of the escort,” Dumbledore replied sadly.

Sirius snarled wordlessly at Dumbledore before yanking the door open and stalking out of the room, stiff with rage.

“I’d like to be allowed to go in Sirius’s place,” Remus stated calmly in the wake of Sirius’s awkward departure.

“Very well, Remus, I’ll leave it to you to sort out the rest of the volunteers,” Dumbledore murmured. “Meeting adjourned.”

Remus was quickly surrounded by nearly every member that was in attendance as Dumbledore quietly left the room. He was at a loss for the first few minutes, the steady stream of demanding, begging, and arrogant voices slowly bringing on a headache. Remus soon managed to push his way clear of the crowd only to wind up face to face with Mad-eye.

“Moody,” Remus acknowledged wearily.

“Lupin,” Moody returned with a slight nod, “I owe the boy.”

Remus looked slightly puzzled by Moody’s statement, but he didn’t reply as a handful of other witches and wizards gathered around the two expectantly. Several hushed whispers of: “Lupin wouldn’t be mad enough.” “Mad-eye isn’t stable enough.” and “He’ll most likely hex the boy first!” shot through the kitchen, but both Alastor and Remus ignored them.

“You’re in,” Remus announced before looking up to study the faces of those surrounding him. “Kingsley, Podmore, and Vance - I’d like you to join me as well. Tonks, can you run a bit of interference to get the Muggles from the house? Good, I’d also like Doge and Jones to come along. Who’s scheduled to monitor Little Whinging in two days time?”

“I am,” Dedalus squeaked excitedly.

“Perfect, we’ll join you at Mrs. Figg’s house once the sun sets,” Remus continued as he nodded at Dedalus. He called out another nine names that he relegated as a rear guard and five more that would be responsible for scouting for Death Eaters within a fifty mile circumference of Number Four Privet Drive.

It wasn’t long before those not chosen reluctantly began dispersing as Remus and the other volunteers began working out the details that would surround Harry’s removal from the Dursley’s. Three hours later they wrapped things up and the majority of those involved scurried off to prepare for the big event.

Remus sighed and stretched out his cramped back before taking out a half-eaten bar of Honeydukes chocolate and taking a big bite. He closed his eyes and chewed slowly, savoring the warmth that was slowly trickling down his throat. Only to choke on the half swallowed bite when the scraping of a chair startled him.

“You ought to be more careful with what you eat Lupin,” Moody stated gruffly as he turned to look at him. “Constant vigilance!”

“Merciful Merlin!” Remus exclaimed as he tried to catch his breath. “I thought you’d left with the others.”

“Thinking will be the downfall of every young wizard,” Moody pointed out sagely. “Don’t use your head to determine what occupies your surroundings, use your senses.”

Remus muttered some vague reply and washed the last of his chocolate down with a swig of Butterbeer. He let the silence draw out for several minutes before turning to study Moody for the second time that night. When his curiosity got the better of him, he gathered his courage and ventured to ask the question that was foremost in his mind. “What did you mean when you said you owe him?”

Mad-eye flinched slightly, as if he’d forgotten that Remus was sitting near him, and rolled his magical eye around to study the werewolf. “Why the sudden interest?”

“I’m curious,” Remus admitted, “and I’ve not been able to come up with any reason why you’d be in debt to Harry, of all people.”

Moody sighed and closed his eyes without answering, his whole body seeming to collapse in on itself as Alastor aged before Remus’s eyes. Just when Remus thought Moody wasn’t going to answer, the ex-Auror began speaking in a much softer growl then he usually did.

“I blame myself for what happened during the boy’s fourth year,” Alastor stated, his eyes still closed. “I’d accepted the position of Defense Professor as a favor to Albus, never imagining that things would turn out as bad as they did. Albus and Aberforth warned me that there were plots afoot, but I was too confident in my own abilities.” Moody paused here and opened his eyes to glance over at Remus before picking up where he left off.

“I broke my own rule; I grew lax and complacent in my home – thinking that none would dare attempt to tackle me within the security of my house. I was a fool to assume that my past instilled fear into my enemies as it once did when I was still employed with the Ministry. The wards surrounding my house were seemingly untouched when I arrived home that night and I walked in without testing them magically – my first near fatal mistake. The second one came when I took my magical eye out to rub at an itch that had developed in the socket. I never saw Pettigrew or Crouch as they ambushed me from the hall closet.

My reflexes are still quick enough that I had my wand out the moment I heard the squeak of the door opening, but I didn’t have time to fire off more then two spells before they disarmed and stunned me. It was a pathetic display from a washed up has-been.”

“You’re still one of the best Aurors to ever walk the Queen’s Land,” Remus quietly and firmly asserted as he poured a glass of Ogden’s best and passed it to Alastor.

“It’s kind of you to say so,” Moody said as he accepted the glass but didn’t drink. “I wish I could agree with you, but nine months trapped in my own baggage at the hands of a deranged criminal says otherwise.”

“You aren’t the first wizard to be kidnapped and tortured for months on end, Mad-eye, you’re lucky to have survived the encounter!” Remus protested.

“It was a first for me though. All through my career I’d hunted Death Eaters and Dark Sorcerers and never once fell into the enemies’ hands. I’m a disgrace to the squad and Harry suffered because of my mistakes.”

“Harry doesn’t blame you,” Sirius declared softly as he reentered the kitchen and took a seat beside Moody. “The boy is an open book, like his father before him, when it comes to hiding his emotions – especially his anger.”

“He inherited a bit of his mother’s kindheartedness too,” Remus added.

“Of course the boy won’t admit he hates me!” Moody bellowed at the two friends. “He doesn’t know the half of what happened!”

“No one knows what you experienced,” Sirius pointed out as he reached out and took the glass from Moody and took a drink.

“I don’t like thinking about my mistakes,” Moody growled out defensively, “let alone discussing them with any old witch, wizard, or warlock who happens along.”

“Yet you dwell on them quite a bit,” Remus stated simply.

“How can I not?” Alastor inquired tightly as he sagged further into himself. “The memories torment constantly. I can still hear that misbegotten brat of Barty Crouch’s laughing at my helplessness, I see his taunting sneer when I close my eyes, and the foul scum ruined my best eye.”

At this outcry Moody pulled his magical eye from its socket and summoned a glass of water that he used to rinse the eye before returning it to its place. Remus politely glanced away while Moody cleaned his eye, but Sirius watched with the fascination of a young child.

“How’d he manage to keep you subdued all that time?” Sirius asked when the process was complete. “I remember seeing you disarm Death Eaters with the flick of a wrist during the first war, what stopped you from bashing Crouch Jr. and breaking out?”

“Padfoot!” Remus hissed as he glared at Sirius.

Mad-eye frowned at the two of them before turning his attention to the now empty glass that was once more sitting on the table in front of him. “He kept me knocked out with sleeping draughts and stunners, reviving me only when he felt the need to torture information out of me or to taunt me. He made certain that there wasn’t a chance for me to regain consciousness during the times between his visits. He tried to use the Imperious Curse on me once, but quickly gave up going that route because I almost managed to regain my wand when I threw off the curse. Never bothered to test his limits again with that one.”

“Knowing that, why do you still blame yourself for what happened to Harry?” Sirius wondered as he stared at Moody in confusion.

“Because, if I hadn’t relaxed my guard, then Crouch and Pettigrew would not have been able to defeat me the night they attacked me in my home. I would have been at Hogwarts teaching, not Crouch. Harry’s name would not have been entered into the Tournament and the boy would have been spared the events that followed the third task.”

“You don’t know that,” Sirius countered gently, surprising both Moody and Remus with the maturity of his statement. “I used to feel the same way about the night James and Lily were murdered.” Sirius looked up and blushed when he found both of them staring at him. A ghost of a smile flittered across his face as he climbed to his feet and gave Moody a pat on the shoulder. “Do me a favor; bring Harry to this depressing prison in one piece. I miss my godson.”

Alastor let out a dry chuckle as Sirius left quietly, a little of his self-confidence returning. “That one is full of surprises.”

“Yes,” Remus agreed.

“I’d better get going, there are some things I want to do before we start our mission,” Moody announced as he rose from his seat.

“I look forward to working with you again, Alastor.”

Moody smiled and limped out of the kitchen, his magical eye whirling every which way as he searched the shadows for possible attackers.

Remus chuckled softly to himself and leaned back against the table as he watched the old wizard slip out the front door. “There goes a great wizard.”

Two nights later, Moody landed silently beside Remus in the shadows that filled the Dursley’s back yard. Off to their left, an odd assortment of witches and wizards alighted just as quietly before spreading out to search every corner of the small fenced off yard while Remus slinked to the back door and unlocked it with the wave of his wand.

Moody used his magical eye to search the interior of what appeared to be the Muggle’s kitchen before signaling the youngest witch present to enter the house. Two heartbeats later, a crash echoed through the dark house and eight battle-hardened witches and wizards poured through the door with their wands drawn – ready for battle. It wasn’t until Remus caught sight of Tonks standing over the shards of a broken plate that they all relaxed. Moody began chastening the young Auror while Remus quickly repaired the plate and returned it to its proper place.

The hushed argument lasted until the small group had gathered at the foot of the stairs that led up to the upper rooms. Remus waved his wand once more and the soft click of an opening lock, followed by the squeak of a swinging door drifted down the stairs. Moody turned and focused his attention on the walls blocking his view and soon tapped Remus on the elbow to signal that Harry was venturing towards them. Consternation filled the grizzled old Auror when he noticed that Harry had his wand out and pointed at the group, and he couldn’t help the words that left his mouth.

“Lower your wand, boy, before you take someone’s eye out.”*

“Professor Moody?”* Harry called out uncertainly.

The moment he heard Harry call him professor, Moody felt a tiny bit of the guilt he’d been carrying around inside him melt away. He strengthened his resolve to repay his debt and swore to himself that he’d watch over the boy as best he could, beginning with the gruff admonishment; “Don’t put your wand there, boy! What if it ignited? Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know!”


Chapter 37: Dolores Umbridge
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By: Mrs Insane One
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and canadianstar
Chapter Graphic: Mrs Insane One
Title: The Umbridge Way Into Hogwarts
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I would like to dedicate this story to the staff and volunteers at HPFF for all of the hard work that they have done to make HPFF the outstanding site that it has become. Their efforts have made HPFF a place where Potter fans can gather to read and share their stories, ideas, and opinions. Through all of the years and upgrades they have doggedly remained patient and understanding (providing there were donuts and coffee enough) to the complaints, comments, and suggestions of the many members that frequent the site. Thank you - Jenn

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Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, sat smugly in the cushy armchair with a cup of tea in one hand and the latest edition of the Daily Prophet in the other. Every few minutes her high pitched girlish giggle would burst forth from between her lips as she read the latest slander against Albus Dumbledore. There was a sharp edge to her laughter though, a cutting undercurrent that reflected the hate Dolores felt for the popular and well loved Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

A hesitant tapping sound drew Dolores’ attention from her paper and she looked up to see Percy Weasley standing impatiently in the doorway dancing from foot to foot as he unconsciously demolished the sealed roll of parchment that he carried in his hands. Dolores’ lips twisted into a grimace, twisting her features into a look that carried a close resemblance to a toad, which Percy mistook for a smile of welcome. She set her tea off to one side as the gangly nineteen year old pranced importantly into the room and presumptuously closed the door.

“Hem, hem. What have I told you about disturbing me while reading the morning news?” Dolores demanded in a simpering tone.

“Sorry ma’am – I mean Assistant Minister Umbridge. But you – I was instructed to make sure you received this document first thing this morning,” Percy informed her, his tone swelling with importance with each word he spoke.

“Is this an urgent missive from Cornelius?” Dolores inquired as she reached for her cup of tea and took a small sip, a frown creasing her face when she discovered that it had gone cold.

“Er, no, Lucius Malfoy handed it to me five minutes ago and insisted that it be given straight to you in privacy,” Percy countered, clearly uncertain about Dolores’ reaction.

“Hem, hem. Well hand it over then, boy,” Dolores ordered in a straightforward tone that was far removed from her usual simpering.

“Oh. Yes. Of course, ma – Assistant Minister Umbridge,” Percy rambled as he stepped closer and passed the parchment to Dolores.

There was a lengthy, awkward pause as Percy hovered expectantly which Dolores broke with her usual, “Hem, hem. You may go, boy, remember to speak of this to no-one and close the door on your way out.”

Percy nodded in response to the dismissal and backed awkwardly out of the office. Dolores paid him no heed though, as she checked the seal on the parchment for evidence of tampering before tapping it open with her wand. As she scanned the short note, her brow rose briefly in shock before furrowing in concentration. Dropping the note to her desk, she leaned back in her chair and allowed a self-satisfied smile creep onto her face as a devilish gleam entered her cruel brown eyes.

“How interesting,” Dolores murmured. Lifting the note from the desk once more, Dolores leaned forward and placed it inside the fireplace before lighting the fire with a wave of her wand. She watched the parchment curl and blacken in the growing flames before rising from her seat. A quick check towards the flames insured no trace of the confidential missive remained and Dolores stepped outside her office and locked the door before marching purposefully towards Fudge’s office.

Percy glanced up as she strode by his desk, but Dolores never glanced his way as she knocked softly on the Minister’s office door.

“Come in,” Fudge called out from inside his office.

Dolores opened the door and swept inside, making sure that the door closed firmly behind her as she greeted Fudge warmly. “Good morning, Cornelius.”

“Ah, Dolores, a pleasant morning to you,” Fudge greeted warmly in reply. “Would you care for a spot of tea?”

“No, no thank you, Cornelius.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this morning, dear?” Fudge inquired as he leaned back in his chair and studied Dolores. His eyes taking in her immaculate black work robes worn over a bright pink jumper, the small black bow in her hair, and the tell-tale flush of excitement that colored her cheeks and clashed violently with the malicious gleam in her eyes.

“I heard the most disturbing rumor this morning,” Dolores confided as she leaned forward in her chair and stared pointedly back at Fudge.

“Another one?” Cornelius asked with exasperation.

“This is the best one yet, Cornelius, one we can use to our advantage.” Dolores breathed excitedly as she smiled and nodded.

“How so?”

“How familiar are you with the old rumors that tell of the position as professor for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts is a cursed position?” Dolores countered as she leaned back.

“I have heard it said, but always believed that Dumbledore was somehow behind the constant need for new appointments. What is there to gain by cursing a job?”

“Whether cursed or not, the position is once more open and rumor has it that Dumbledore is having trouble finding someone to take the job.” She paused for a moment and surveyed the Minister expectantly. When she noticed that he didn’t seem to be following her train of though, she continued, “And term starts in less then three days.”

“How exactly can that be used to our advantage, Dolores? The Ministry only has little to no influence among the school’s governors, and that is far from significant enough to have Dumbledore forced out of the school.” Fudge ranted quite emotionally as he rose from his seat and paced to and fro behind his desk in agitation. “Senile as the old fool is, swearing that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned, we can’t dislodge him without the unanimous cooperation of the governors.”

“What if there was a way to change the amount of control the Ministry had at Hogwarts? What if the Ministry issued a series of Educational Decrees that allowed the Ministry to step in and monitor Hogwarts more closely than it has in the past? What if, Cornelius, you had someone inside Hogwarts that reported directly to you? A spy, if you will, who can monitor Dumbledore’s every move?”

Fudge slowed to a stop as he turned to face Dolores with a thoughtful look on his face. Dolores cast her simpering, self-satisfied smirk as she watched Fudge digest her suggestions.

“It could work,” Fudge grudgingly admitted as he resumed pacing in a more dignified manner.

“Hem, hem, it would have to be someone you trust completely, someone who would know what to watch for.”

“He would be in a position to keep track of that Potter boy too, slippery as an eel, that one. I was so certain we had him right where we wanted him at that trail for his blatant disregard for the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Security. Dumbledore keeps too close of an eye on that boy for comfort though, lets the boy get away with the most outrageous stunts and believes his every word.”

“You could send that Weasley boy you have working for you.” Dolores suggested.

“No, I don’t trust him. I only gave him the job so I could keep an eye on his family. Arthur Weasley is very close to Dumbledore and his youngest son is reported to be friendly to Potter.” Fudge stated irritably. “The boy is completely self absorbed with his own importance though and had the gall to inform me he has disowned his family.”

“Why not pick one of the Aurors then? That Shacklebolt fellow seems to be very attentive to detail and he’s been putting a considerable amount of energy into tracking down that criminal Sirius Black.”

“No, Kingsley has full control of the Sirius Black search. Black’s escape is a dark stain upon my reign as Minister and the sooner he is found and returned to Azkaban the better.” Fudge countered as he finally stopped pacing and sat down once more. “I would need someone who is capable of monitoring the situation, who can ensure that the students are not learning any dangerous spells, and who can step into position as Head of the school should Dumbledore overstep his bounds.”

“Do you have someone in mind?” Dolores asked.

“Yes,” Fudge replied slowly as he studied Dolores once more. “I think you should be the one to go.”

“Me?” Dolores gasped girlishly with mock surprise at Fudge’s declaration.

“You are the most qualified, just think of all the work and effort you put into the Werewolf Registration Act and the new legislation that mandated all werewolves must inform prospective employers of their condition. Who better to keep an organized watch on Dumbledore’s activities and to supervise the older students’ curriculum?”

“Hem, hem, I’m flattered Cornelius,” Dolores purred, “but who will manage your office if I am gone?”

“The Weasley boy can handle the riff-raff and petty complaints for a few months – it will keep him out of my hair while at the same time he’ll be close enough for me to keep an eye on and I can handle the rest.” Fudge pointed out. “You’ll accept the position though won’t you?”

“Of course, if that is what you wish.”

“It is,” Fudge said. “I’ll need you to draw up the decree, simple legalities and such, and I’ll sign it into effect and we can inform Dumbledore first thing tomorrow morning.” The conversation turned to small talk for the next ten minutes while Fudge finished his tea and browsed the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.

Dolores excused herself shortly after and hurried back to her office where she immediately drew up a rough draft of what would soon become known as Educational Decree Twenty-Two. Drawing upon her vast knowledge of workable loopholes, Dolores paid particular attention to several minor details – such as the number of signatures that would be required from the Board of Governors to implement the new decree (only two-thirds so as to bypass those that were closest to Dumbledore), the earliest date that the Ministry can step in to appoint a staff member, and a loose interpretation of the qualifications that the appointed person or persons would need to have in order to be considered fit for the position or positions open.

By the time four o’clock rolled around, Dolores had revised the decree at least three times before turning the document over to Fudge personally. Fudge, of course, had been ecstatic as he skimmed through the ten page document and immediately signed the decree before handing it back to Dolores. While Dolores was off gathering signatures from the governors, Cornelius contacted Dumbledore to arrange a meeting for the first thing in the morning.

Dolores returned to the Ministry shortly after six o’clock that evening wearing a smug grin as she clutched the signed decree in her pudgy, little hands. It had been an easy task to persuade all but two of the governors to sign the decree, most of them had been anxious to stay in the Ministry’s good grace, and Dolores hadn’t even needed to resort to veiled threats like Lucius Malfoy had used to remove Dumbledore from the school a few years earlier.

She quickly duplicated the document and placed the original on Fudge’s desk before returning to her own spacious office where she went about filing the multiple copies with various departments within the Ministry. Tucking the final copy in with her personal records, Dolores allowed a self-satisfied smile to spread across her face as she leaned back in her chair and gazed about the room.

Two days later Dolores calmly pulled on her favorite pink cardigan and stepped back to admire her appearance in the floor length mirror that graced her new private quarters inside Hogwarts Castle. Pleased, she smiled at her reflection and after a quick glance at the clock, hurried from the room. Making her way through the castle she mentally reviewed the speech she would give once she was introduced to the students.

In a matter of minutes she was taking her place at the staff table as a House Elf announced the arrival of the carriages that carried the older students from the train to the castle. There was a brief flurry of activity as the rest of the staff members hurried to their seats before the doors suddenly burst open and the first wave of students poured into the hall and noisily took their seats.

Dolores smiled widely as she watched Harry Potter enter the room with his friends and housemates. She was going to enjoy pushing him around, almost as much as she would enjoy stalking Dumbledore. In her mind, it was shaping up to be an unforgettable year.



Chapter 38: Hannah Abbott
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By: Meridith
Beta read by: canadianstar and arithmancy_wiz
Title: Hannah Abbott
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild scenes of sexual behavior, mild language)
For the Staff: Thanks for everything everyone's done. I truly admire all the work you guys put into this kick-arse site, it's absolutely amazing!

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“Ernie!” Hannah bounded towards, then hugged the no longer stout and pompous boy she used to know. “I haven’t seen you all summer!”

“Well, vacation in France did keep me busy,” Ernie excused himself. He was glad to see Hannah-her absence from his summer had seemed especially prominent this year for some reason. He stared at her for a moment after she had pulled away, his eyes widening with discrepancy at her appearance. “Hannah! You look…different!”

“Dad and I had a bit of a falling out, which has something to do with it,” Hannah shrugged her shoulders, not really wanting to talk about it right then, and defended herself saying, “But I’m pretty much the same! You look different yourself,” she poked at him.

“Maybe a little fitter, but other than that I’m just the same old Ernie,” he said while smiling at her. “Oh, but I forgot to tell you,” he mentioned while pulling up a shiny new badge on his robes, “I’m a prefect.”

“You never told me you made prefect! Ernie! Me, too!” How could he forget to tell me something so important? she thought, hurt.

“Congratulations, Hannah!”

“Good job to you, too! Perfect, now we’re both prefects,” Just like we wanted. The two friends would have gone on to congratulate each other more, if it wasn’t for Ernie noticing they only had two minutes before the train departed, almost leaving them behind.

Together they found an empty compartment, dropped off their luggage, and did prefect duties. After a while they got back to the compartment to catch up on all the many missed events during the holidays. Ernie explained about his vacation to France with his family, all the boring museums he was dragged to, and he teased Hannah by telling her about the cute French girls he saw. Oh, really? she thought.

Hannah then in turn told Ernie about her typical summer, the new owl she received as a gift from her parents for becoming a prefect, and, to get back at Ernie, all about the cute new guy who moved in across the street.

The rest of the train ride was mostly spent swapping chocolate frog cards (Hannah finally settled on trading her rare Ptolemy card for Ernie’s Agrippa one), talking about being prefects and all the duties, studying for O.W.L.’s, and other various things, until the compartment door slid open.

“Hey, Hannah!” interjected Megan Jones, one of Hannah’s best friends. Megan then noticed Ernie, “Oh, hey, Ernie. Hannah missed you over the summer, it’s good to see you two finally get to talk to each other.” Was that a completely necessary comment? The latter blushed horribly and fixed her eyes on her feet, but didn’t really know why. When she looked up a few moments later she was surprised to see Ernie’s face just as red.

“So, how was your guys’ summer holiday?” Megan continued while walking into the compartment, and then seating herself between them. They ignored the earlier comment and went on sharing and swapping summer experiences with her.

A little afterwards the train rolled into the station. Students dressed in black robes shuffled out to smell the first tangs of autumn and hear the braying calls of Hagrid.

“Firs’ years! Fir’ years over here!”

Hannah looked at the frightened first years figuring out whether it was safe or not to walk over to that big man. I remember my first year at Hogwarts, I can’t believe I was that small…

She was interrupted from her thoughts by a tugging at her sleeve.

“Come on, Hannah. There’s an empty carriage over here,” Ernie said to her, then grabbed her hand and pulled her through the crowd to the carriage. Something was different when he was holding her hand this time. A feeling ran through her that normally wouldn’t have. But she excused it off as just the excitement of being back at Hogwarts.

Hannah, Ernie, Megan, and Wayne Hopkins (one of Ernie’s good pals) made it comfortably to the castle in the horseless carriages, talking without a break the entire way up. At the feast they all sat and enjoyably engorged themselves together along with a few other fellow Hufflepuffs.

At the end, walking towards their warm, waiting beds, Hannah and Ernie were glad to be in just each other’s presence. It’s nice to have just Ernie and me sometimes, Hannah thought. Departing to their separate dorms, they said goodnight and fell asleep, excited to see what would become of tomorrow.



“Here, quick, hand me your schedule,” Hannah said frantically to Ernie, then snatching his schedule right out of his hands to compare his to her own.

“We have History of Magic, Transfiguration, Potions, Double Charms, and a free period after lunch together,” Hannah said happily, pleased with what she saw. At least we have some classes together.

“Good classes this year,” Ernie said and Hannah agreed, “But come on, we’re going to be late for History of Magic.”

Once again accompanied by each other, they hurried off towards History of Magic-which turned out to be very typically boring. During class they compromised that they would take turns taking notes every other class. So one could sleep, but still catch up later.

After several other classes they walked into Charms; Hannah’s best, Ernie’s worst.

“Can’t wait,” Ernie said sarcastically as they walked trough the classroom door.

“It won’t be that bad,” Hannah comforted him.

Not even half an hour into class Ernie was lost.

Ernie started thieving glances at Hannah, each time staring longer than the last. Every other glance was filled with jealousy, then the next with admiration at her elegance for the subject. She was cunningly witty and intelligent, but yet slimming and sophisticated. He also noticed how much she seemed to be growing up, no longer the stick-thin, gangly girl he once knew. And there was something different about her, though he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what it was at the moment.

Hannah felt his stare and glanced at him. He turned away before she could ask anything and pretended to be engrossed with what Professor Flitwick was saying. But he found it hard to try to keep the best of his ‘raging teen hormones’ in check.

The end of class couldn’t come soon enough for Ernie, but eventually it did. He walked out fast with Hannah behind him. She put her hand gently on his shoulder and tugged him back to her pace.

“See, it wasn’t that bad,” Hannah said to him. I don’t get why he has such a hard time with that class.

“I don’t get what you think is so easy about that class, and yes it is. There’s already a foot long essay about the color changing charm,” he complained.

“Honestly, once again, it’s not that hard!”

“Just like Transfiguration, huh then,” he snapped back at her, now irritated.

“That’s not fair, at least I try,”

“So sitting there sucking on your quill pen, staring out the window qualifies as trying now?”

“It’s better than staring,” she started to walk faster than him, being agitated with his arrogance. Transfiguration was one of her weakest subjects, the foible in her near perfect academic record, and almost the equivalent of Ernie to Charms class.

Ernie caught back up with her and put his arm around her, “You’re right. Let’s just get through this class and we’ll work on it during lunch and our free period. You help me with Charms, and I’ll help you with Transfiguration. Deal?”

“Deal,” she said almost reluctantly. I’d give anything just to drop Transfiguration. Why is Ernie so good at it but not me? I just can’t do it, I’ll probably end up multiplying a ferret into a flock of flamingoes by the end of the year…

Hannah walked into Transfiguration after Ernie, taking a last swallow before she did. They took seats as always next to each other. Hannah was lost before it begun. Immediately she connected with her fantasy world located somewhere outside of the window. At first Ernie tried to point things out during class, but soon gave up with Hannah being difficult too learn the subject. I’ll never grasp it anyways.

In her own mind she started to link into thoughts concerning Ernie. She flowed over his body and drifted through their experiences together, thinking how each one changed a little more. Maybe when he held my hand yesterday it was something more… But, she was snapped out of her thoughts when Ernie tried to point out how phoenixes and house elves could vanish and how it could possibly be related to Evenesco. Soon that even slipped from her mind and she found it incredibly difficult to keep her thoughts pure the rest of the class.

“Let’s go, it’s lunch time and we have to work on our ‘problems’,” she said as soon as the class was over with. They went down by the kitchens into their empty of people, golden, Hufflepuff common room. Ernie was the first to plop down on a plush, red couch across from the fireplace; Hannah then took a comfy seat beside him. They spread out their books and parchment, then pulled quills and ink from their bags.

“Let’s get started,” Hannah said, dread filled. Ernie just sighed and said, “Okay, where do we start?”

“Well, I guess with the header,” they dipped their quills in ink and let them scratch across the parchment. After that, Hannah pulled out her large-for-one-day’s-taking-of-notes note pile, and then they got started writing their Charms essay.

After various tips and pointers from Hannah to Ernie, they completed the essay in only a half hour. Ernie still hadn’t grasped the subject, but he definitely attained a better understanding of it.

“Let’s take a break, I’m in need of one before we start in at Transfiguration,” Ernie stated while setting down his quill, fatigued with the monotony of writing his essay.

“Sure,” Hannah replied, also grateful for the respite. They sat there a few minutes in a comfortable silence, until Ernie broke it.

“So what made you drop the pigtails, huh?”

Hannah looked over at him, unsure of whether she was up to discussing the topic. After a pause she said, “I just got annoyed with my father for having such a stern insistence that I be raised exactly as he was.

“Dad’s always been really strict with me, about everything. I was brought up learning impeccable manners, things that many witches and wizards haven’t used for years.” She stopped here, and Ernie raised his eyebrows, still confused. Shrugging, she continued. “It was weird for me to get to Hogwarts only to discover that most people didn’t act like my father did-most weren’t raised like I was. But his mannerisms rubbed off on me and I always obeyed without a second thought, but I’ve always found the whole hair thing rather ridiculous.”

“He wanted you to wear pigtails because…?” Ernie asked, and Hannah shrugged again.

“I honestly don’t know,” she admitted, “but I think a lot of it was the old fashioned way HE was raised. But it seemed a bit eccentric to me, and I told him that this summer. He got a bit angry.”

Ernie’s mouth formed into an “O” shape, not knowing exactly what to say. What would you say to that?

“Well, I like the new Hannah,” he finally confirmed with a smile. Hannah blushed lightly.

“Thank you,” she said, now the both of them rather cheery.

“Should we get started on Transfiguration?” Ernie asked, causing Hannah’s mood to drop a little.

With a sigh, she nodded her head. It was now Ernie’s turn to tutor her.

“First off, you need to know about what you’re doing. Which is?” Ernie started out with simply quizzing her on the basic material, as he had always found that, especially with transfiguration and everything else in life, it was best to completely understand the theory behind something before trying to work out the applications.

“Evenesco,” she replied.

“Right, and what does it do?”

After several more minutes of inquisitions, he asked, “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be…Evenesco!” she shouted to a small snail on the table in front of her…and it worked, the snail was no longer there. I actually made a snail vanish!

“You did it! Good job!” Ernie congratulated her, happy for her accomplishment.

“I did!” she exclaimed. Over pleased with her triumph, she wrapped her arms around Ernie, giving him a blissful hug. She felt shocked almost; it wasn’t like they had never hugged before-but this intimate connection felt just like before on the platform. Ernie seemed to be experiencing the same feeling, because he let his hands slide down to Hannah’s slender waist. She then placed her arms around his neck in a more comfortable position. Ernie leaned towards her, his eyes staring directly into hers. He continued to move closer, until Hannah was quite sure he was going to kiss her, but a wave of embarrassment washed over almost immediately after his thought ran through her head. He was moving closer to whisper something, even though the Common Room was virtually empty.

“I like you better than I ever liked those French girls,” he said softly, his warm breath on her ear making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. As he moved away, she knew he was about to do what he should’ve done in the first place.



Chapter 39: Padma Patil
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Title: If Only For His Love
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (Mild Violence)
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"Come on!" Parvati pleaded. "It'll be fun! Don't you want to learn how to defend yourself?" It was breakfast, and Padma Patil's sister had come over to the Ravenclaw table.

"Parvati, I am a prefect. I can't get caught doing something illegal." And plus, she added to herself, I don't want to give up my Hogsmeade weekend.

"It's not illegal!" Parvati was more persistent than Padma expected.

"Yet! Why don't you just go with Lavender?" Padma watched her sister’s face change expressions. Rather than persistent, it was now sad and a little angry.

"Not that it's any of your business," Parvati spat, "but Lavender and I have….we've…had a row." Tears were welling up in her sister's eyes, and she started to get up. "I'm sorry that I asked you to come to the meeting. I just think it would be a great way to learn defense, and to make other friends. I know you don't have many."

Padma drew breath to deny what her sister had so bluntly said, but then she remembered that it was true.

"And plus," Padma heard her twin continue, "Ron Weasley's bound to be there. I mean, Hermione asked me and it would be Harry teaching us, so why wouldn't he be there? I thought that might at least be a little bit of incentive." Parvati started striding away.

"Wait," Padma called after Parvati, her heart beating quickly. "I'll come."


_____


"Padma! Padmeee! Paddy-cakes!"

Padma spun around. "I told you not to call me that in public, or ever for that matter!" She whispered urgently, looking around the Entrance Hall frantically.

Parvati Patil held up her hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay. But I am just excited and I had to get your attention!"

"What are you excited about?"

"I've been asked to the ball!" Padma's heart dropped to her stomach. Neither she nor her sister had been asked to the ball, and they had planned to go together. 'Girl's night!' they had said. Until now.

"Wow, Parvati. That's really great. Who is taking you?" Padma tried to hide the disappointment in her voice.

"Harry Potter!" Parvati was practically jumping up and down. "Can you believe it, 'Adma? Harry Potter!"

"Nope. Can hardly believe it's true." In fact, Padma could believe that it was true. She had heard Cho Chang telling a friend that Harry Potter had asked her to the ball, and how sorry she was that she couldn't go with both of them. 'I mean, which would look better? The hunk, or the hero?' Padma couldn’t stand people like Cho. Always looking out for their reputation, always wondering which boy (or girl) to date, because they were always asked out by, what seemed like, hundreds.

In the end, Cho had chosen to stick with Cedric, and Padma had guessed that Harry would ask the first girl he saw after that. Laughing to herself, Padma looked up at her sister.

Parvati had never before been so excited about anything since her first letter from Hogwarts.

"I hope you have the time of your life, sis. I'm sure it'll be a ball." Padma started laughing hard at her immature pun-joke. In between snorts, Parvati leaned towards her and spoke.

"We. You mean we." Padma stopped laughing

"No. I mean you. I don't have a date, remember?" Padma was a little bit angry that Parvati had overlooked the fact that Padma didn't have a date.

"You do now!" Parvati was practically screaming now. "Ron Weasley! You know, Harry Potter's friend? He's your new partner!"

"Parvati, I have no idea who that is." Parvati's face fell.

"Oh. You don't? Here." Parvati took Padma by the hand, dragging her to the doors of the Great Hall. She pointed at the Gryffindor table. Padma recognized Harry Potter, and across from him, Hermione Granger. Next to Harry Potter, however, was a laughing face that Padma didn't think she'd ever seen before.

The boy had bright red hair, and was eating with gusto. He was talking and laughing with what Padma assumed were his friends, although she couldn't see them. She suddenly felt like the heroine in a fairy tale love story. All she could really see was the red-headed, unlikely hero, nothing around him, and all she could think about was how handsome he looked.

Her sister was saying something, but Padma couldn't hear it, she was so far gone. Already, she imagined herself at the Gryffindor table, laughing at something the boy said.

"So you'll go with him?" Parvati asked, dragging Padma roughly back to reality.

"Fine." Padma wanted it to seem like she didn't want to go, but she was already in a much brighter mood. She ran off to check that her dress robes were pressed.


______


As Padma walked through Hogsmeade with Parvati, they looked for a birthday gift for their mother. Settling on an Eagle Quill, they made their way towards one of the village pubs. Padma felt her heart skip a beat when they walked inside. Parvati sniffed at the dank dustiness of the Hog's Head, but Padma led them towards a table, stopping long enough to give a tall, red-headed Gryffindor some change for a butterbeer.

As Hermione Granger, the smartest girl in class, told everyone about the idea, Padma couldn't help but sneak glances at Ron. He had changed in the past year. He was a bit taller, and his face was slightly older and more handsome. Padma slipped into a reverie, detailing him trying to show off his defensive spells for her (his partner), and consequently turning his hair blue. Jerking back to reality, Padma noticed that he was watching Hermione, and not in the way that everyone else was either. He was looking at her the way that Padma felt she was looking at him. But that was to be expected, after what had happened in her fourth year…

_______


Padma took well over an hour to get ready for the Yule Ball. Everything had to be perfect. Parvati thought she was just sitting alone in the common room reading, but in reality, she was wanding her hair.

First it was curly. Padma held up her dress robes. Then it was wavy, but that didn't work either. It was up. It was down. It was half-up, half-down. It was static-electric, it was straight. It was wet, it was dry. It was frizzy, it was knotted. Finally she settled on a long braided plait. Her dark hair was wound with silver strings, a few well-placed strands left framing her face.

As she pulled on her robes, turquoise to match her necklace, she looked at her face, trying to decide what to do as far as make-up. After a minute of staring at herself in the mirror, she decided that the natural look was best, and dusted on some flesh-colored glitter powder. Satisfied that she looked as perfect as she could make herself, she started toward the Entrance Hall. There were several people wandering around the common room, and she heard a few boys in her year, who hadn't managed to find partners, wolf-whistle.

As she got into the Entrance Hall, Parvati appeared in front of her. "Ron's waiting for you!" she practically screamed. As she led Padma by the hand through the hundreds of people, she whispered. "You look beautiful, hon. You really do." Compliments were in short supply between the two sisters, but tonight they would tell the truth.

"You look beautiful too, sis," Padma said, and for a brief moment the two smiled at each other. Usually fighting, the peaceful and friendly moments with Parvati were to Padma an excuse to smile extra wide.

Even with the large crowd, it didn’t take long for the girls to spot their partners—what with Ron’s flaming red hair poking out above the other well-groomed heads. As they made their way toward the boys, Padma let out a small gasp as she got a good look at what her date was wearing. Was that lace around Ron’s collar? And what was the matter with his sleeves? For a few moments she was utterly miffed about her dates appearance, but then she realized that, in an attempt to rid himself of those hideous frills, he had probably created most of the damage to the robes himself. It was actually sweet in a way, she though with a smile, him trying to look better for her. Padma kept the displeased look on her face, however, as an excuse to look Ron up and down.

His robes were obviously not new, but they were still handsome, in their own way. As a second-hand shopper, perhaps he had tried for the more traditional approach. She smiled internally, and as Harry Potter and Parvati wandered away, she looked forward to a dinner and dance with Ron.

However, Ron didn't want to dance with her. The whole night, the only person he seemed to have eyes for was that Hermione Granger. He stared at Hermione as if Padma was not there. As if she didn't exist, as if other women didn't exist. Padma watched him talk to Harry, watch Hermione Granger, and sulk around. Glancing over at Parvati, Padma saw that her sister didn’t seem to be fairing much better with her own date, though she had, at least, found herself a very cute boy to dance with. And then, just when she thought the night couldn’t get any worse, Hermione and Viktor Krum dropped by the table, and a row ensued.

By the time Hermione left, Ron was furious, and Padma could tell that it was a lost cause. Ron would never see her for who she was, he only had eyes for Hermione Granger. She asked him one last time if he was going to ask her to dance. He didn't even look at her. He just said 'No.'

As Padma crossed the Hall to find a dance partner, she couldn't help but feel sad. All of the time that she had spent getting ready was wasted. Wasted, because she wasn't good enough for her hero. She had a good time with her sister and the Beauxbatons boy, but it wasn't the time she wanted, so her enjoyment was severely limited.

Despite the terrible disappointments of the Yule Ball, and against her better judgement, Padma couldn’t push Ron out of her thoughts. During the Second Task, Padma had not been able to see Ron, or Hermione. Assuming the worst, she had held her breath until she had seen them both pop up from underwater. Padma had thought then that Ron would be the thing that she missed most, had she been in the Triwizard.

Padma had made a point of talking to him in the corridors, and hearing his story firsthand. But as he recounted his tale of being the hero, he had often glanced up at Hermione, to see her reaction. Padma had thought that Ron would give up on Hermione, now that Hermione and Viktor Krum were a well-known item. It was like a fairy tale gone wrong; where the hero loved the heroine instead of the devoted fan girl, Padma.


_____


Padma had tried to get over Ron, but she kept seeing him in the corridors and at mealtimes. And now as she sat here, with Parvati at the Hog‘s Head, watching as she was passing notes very nonchalantly with Lavender, Padma knew that she could not stay away. She was addicted. Addicted to the hero-sidekick aura that followed Ron Weasley. Padma thought that Umbridge was doing fine teaching from a book, forcing them to learn theories rather than actual spells. She wasn't all that good at defensive spells, anyway. But she knew that she would join Harry's club.

As Padma signed the paper, she knew that she hadn't joined the new defense against the dark arts group to learn defensive spells. Instead, she would go to the meetings to see Ron. She would learn the spells that she struggled with; if only for his love.


Chapter 40: Draco Malfoy
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It was a given that they’d choose me as Prefect. I mean, come on, with Lucius Malfoy as my father, how could they not choose me? I was the most desirable candidate out there, among any of the Houses! The next closest candidate would have been that pretty-boy, Zabini, but even Dumbledore saw the light with that fellow—too busy preening to take notice of his immediate surroundings. Unlike myself, Zabini has no vision beyond his mirror. Plus, Father would see the Board of Governors again if they hadn’t chosen me, and I know very well that no one would enjoy that experience! He knows too many of their more embarrassing secrets, if you know what I mean.

The best part of being a Prefect, well, one of the best parts, is that Potter is not a Prefect. That’s the very last thing this school needs—Dumbledore’s pet boy wonder bowing to his every command. It’s bad enough that I have to endure Potter’s very presence in the corridors. If I had to endure him as Prefect, I think I’d run off and beg the Dark Lord to let me be a Death Eater straight away. But all is well, even if Weaselby is Prefect, along with the Mudblood.

As Prefect, I’ve discovered that there are many perks, which for a Fifth Year like myself, is no small thing. Of course, as a Malfoy, I deserve as many perks as I can grab for myself. That’s just natural. What do the Muggles call it? Oh yes, Manifest Destiny.

Take the Prefects bathroom, for example. I’ll be honest about something. I always thought that nothing could surpass my private bath. They know that I like things just so—why shouldn’t I? I deserve it! I wanted a waterfall in my bath and of course, they got me the very best one. I wanted solid gold taps and pure water, white Italian marble floors and the best, thickest cotton towels available, and I got all that, too. Mother saw to everything. I could tell you some pretty wild tales of what Pansy and I got up to in my private bath during summer holidays when our parents were up to who knew what. All I can say is that I’m glad the walls don’t talk at Malfoy Manor. Father made sure of that.

The Prefects’ bathroom at first made me angry—Mother and Father assured me that I had all the very best at home, but it quickly became obvious that I did not. That bothered me greatly—in fact, I wrote a missive to Mother right away, reprimanding her for her negligence and instructing her to make the necessary changes to my own bath—immediately. In the Prefects’ bath, for example, you can turn a knob and have any number of soap bubbles in all colours and fragrances pour out. I didn’t get that at home. I spent a lot of time in that bath during end of term exams—I could study, relax, sneak a cigarette or two, maybe a bit of fire whiskey and the occasional tobacco alternative, and completely unwind from the long day of bullying the First Year Gryffindors. Thankfully, there’s a lock on the door, so no one can walk in on you when you’re starkers.

On the other hand, catching someone else in there could be quite fun. One time, for example, I heard that some Hufflepuff troll was letting non-Prefects use the bath. That, I determined, would come to a quick end. The easy thing would be to complain to my Head of House, but I decided to take advantage of the situation first, and especially, to take advantage of my position. I found out who was doing it, some fool called MacMillan, so I sort of set a trap, in a manner of speaking. I fixed the door so that you couldn’t completely lock it, and then, I waited for the right moment. Sure enough, MacMillan and that Mudblood Fitch-Fletchley showed up. This could be quite a scene. But once MacMillan let the Mudblood in, he left. But that was OK with me. Catching a Mudblood would just make it that much better.

I brought a camera Goyle had nicked from Creevey the year before. Fitch-Fletchley was in the bathroom for quite some time—I swore I could hear him singing some disgraceful Muggle tune in there—and I waited until he was completely relaxed and out of it. And then, I burst open the door, and just as he had half jumped out of the bath, completely starkers, I got a photograph. I still have it somewhere. The best part is the shocked, horrified look on the Mudblood’s ugly face. Then, I just ran for it, all the way to the Staff Room, where I demanded to see Sprout, the Hufflepuff Head of House.

“Yes, Mr. Malfoy?” she asked, very curious as to why I would want to see her of all people.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Professor,” I said very politely, “but it has come to my attention that Ernie MacMillan has been admitting his non-Prefect friends into the Prefects’ bathroom. I thought you should know so that you might speak to Mr. MacMillan about it.”

She smiled at me. I could see why Longbottom liked her so much. She had this sort of soft, simpering look on her squashy face that made idiot gits like Longbottom feel as if someone actually cared about them.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Malfoy,” she replied. “I will speak to Ernie right away. I am very glad you brought this to my attention.”

What a sap. You’d think she were in charge of Gryffindor House or something. They’re just as silly and asinine—perhaps even more so.

Stupid Gryffindorks. It appalls me to see just how much they get away with around here, as if they were the gods’ gift to wizardkind or something. Father says Dumbledore is in Potter’s back pocket. He must be, I mean, I’ve never seen a student get as many privileges as Potter. I wonder how much he pays off Dumbledore to get his way. Father has never had so much luck with the old man. He always has to pay off the Governors or even that Umbridge cow to get anything done. I don’t see why he feels that it should be so necessary. I’m a good student—I get O’s and E’s on most things. It makes me wonder if he’s paying for my grades. Apparently Potter isn’t, because his are terrible! Tosser.

Anyway, life as a Prefect has other perks besides the bath. I often use the excuse of patrolling the halls after hours to go out of bounds with Pansy. We’ll tell that idiot squib Filch that we’re going to check on a noise we thought we heard—our favourite excuse is to say that we thought we saw a Gryffindor with a dungbomb. The fool believes us every time! And of course, you can imagine what we get up to. We are careful, I mean, I’ve never been in a position where I would be forced to marry the girl or anything. Not yet, anyway.

One time, though, Snape caught us. I know the guy is pretty pent up and all and he hasn’t had any action since…well he’s probably never had any. Who would want to shag such a greasy, Dementor-like wraith? My gods, he’s positively foul! Bloody brilliant, of course, very clever, but that’s about it. I don’t see what the Dark Lord wants with Snape. Father said that Snape is treading on thin ice right now; he even suggested that Snape’s days are numbered, unless he can really prove where his loyalties lie. I don’t really care about his stupid loyalties. He can be loyal to a ruddy hippogryff if he wants. All I care about is being able to do what I need to do, when I need to do it.

So when Snape caught us, I tried to put on my usual charm. Mother told me that Snape was a real sucker for a good sob story, but only if it came from a Slytherin, and especially if it came from me. Apparently, he had quite a thing for Mother when they were at school—she never did anything with him, naturally. In fact, she remembers him as this sort of pathetic, greasy weirdo with bad hair and a lot of dark secrets who used to skulk about in dark corners, waiting for her to pass by. I often think of that whenever I see him. It allows me to take him much less seriously.

“Just what do you two think you’re doing?” he asked us in that sort of hissing sneer of his.

Well duh! What did he think we were doing? Performing tonsillectomies? Incredible!

“Oh, good evening, sir,” I crooned in my silkiest, most innocent voice. “We were just taking a bit of a breather. Patrol and all.” Pansy cowered behind me, straightening her robes.

“Yes,” he replied, “I could hear you two breathing clear down the corridor!”

So he was going to play hardball. I could handle it. I’d been talking my way out of trouble with Father for years. I could take on Severus Snape any time. He’s no match for Father. Plus, he doesn’t have that serpent cane like Father does. That was an advantage for me.

“Oh, that was a pair of Gryffindorks, sir. We chased them off,” I lied. Pansy sniggered. I wished she hadn’t. No matter how many times I have to take her in hand, she ends up doing something stupid. It’s just a good thing that she’s a terrific kisser, or I’d be with Daphne Greengrass in about a second. Daphne’s no great asset to Slytherin House, but at least she can do one thing right.

The sharp scowl on his face told me pretty fast that he didn’t believe me. He stuck a bony finger in my face and gave me his very best glower.

“If I catch you two again, I will write to your father!”

Jerk. It’s no wonder he could never get any. Who would want to kiss that? Yech! I wouldn’t even make Granger kiss him on my very worst day! Well, maybe Granger. Then again, I wouldn’t expose a Slytherin to the kiss of a Mudblood. Even if he is annoying, Snape does have his uses. I wouldn’t want him to be tainted by a foul Mudblood. That would be beyond cruel, even for me. Snape doesn’t scare me, however. Write to my father? I dare him! Father doesn’t care for Snape all that much, says he’s a bit dodgy, not one to be trusted fully. There were a lot of questions about him last year, when he didn’t appear at the Dark Lord’s side in June.

I shudder to think what Hogwarts would be like without him around here, though. More than anything, he’s my closest ally when it comes to things outside of class. That is something I can’t just cast aside, especially if I expect to maintain any sense of power at this place. Fortunately, I’m a decent enough Potions maker that he doesn’t give me any grief in class. Without him, things would be too unpredictable, too…I don’t know.

Another perk made itself apparent just last week, as I was trying fruitlessly to help Goyle and Crabbe revise for a Transfiguration exam. Honestly, one would think they were Squibs! They are so thick! I don’t know how they’re going to make it through their O.W.L’s. About the only talent they have is beating up First Year Hufflepuffs and stinking up the Slytherin common room after supper. Goyle once caused such a foul stench that we had to open up the windows for three days—in the dead of winter! Disgusting. As punishment, I made him write a love note to Loony Lovegood and send it to her with a chocolate frog. The freak was stupid enough to write him back! Well, even as Prefect, I am powerless to turn Gregory Goyle into a civilised human being. We all have our weaknesses—fortunately, I don’t have too many.

As we were all having a right good laugh at Lovegood’s expense, one day in the Great Hall, I happened to notice that a Gryffindor Third Year started hurling insults at us Fifth Years. This would be fun. I stood up, made myself as tall as I possibly could, which is pretty tall now, and I strode over to him. The brat’s name is Sloper or Slapper or something. Either way, the kid was way out of line. Well, maybe he wasn’t, but I decided that he was, so he was. My opinion was all that counted at that point. When I heard him use the word “arse,” I took that as my cue to let him have it.

“Hey, you,” I bellowed. “Get your Gryffindor arse over here!” I know, I know, I used the same word he did. I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite. I prefer the word “social Darwinist.” So Sloper schlumps over, hands in pockets, trying to look all innocent. Stupid Gryffindorks.

“What?” he asked inanely. I thought he’d start drooling in a minute with that stupid expression on his fatuous face.

“Is that how you address a Prefect?” I demanded, using my most dangerous tone.

“What, sir?” he said.

Sir! Amazing! “I’m taking ten points off of Gryffindor for your foul mouth!”

He stomped his foot. “That’s not fair! You can’t do that, Malfoy! You’re not Head Boy!”

“That’s ten more points for your cheek, and twenty for addressing me with a negative attitude.”

Pansy and Blaise laughed. But then that Mudblood Granger had to come over and spoil my fun. There she was, her rats nest of a hairstyle bobbing in the breeze, her pencil-thin lips pursed tighter than Potter’s arse. Gods, she’s a nightmare! It’s astonishing that Krum actually went for her last year! She must have had him under the Imperius Curse or something, because I can’t imagine that someone like him would even consider such a harpy as a potential girlfriend. Maybe a scullery maid, but not a girlfriend.

Anyway, Granger stomps over and says, “You can’t do that, Malfoy!”

Pansy made a terrific face at her, which made us all laugh. She sort of crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out sideways and tried to imitate Granger’s snotty voice. Hilarious!

“I most certainly can, Granger,” I replied. “And if you countermand me again in front of a stupid Third Year, I’ll dock Gryffindor another twenty!” Take that! I knew what I was doing. I was well within my rights. Interfering meddler.

So guess what the Mudblood did? She stomped off to McGonagall to tattle on me, as if we were Firsties again! Can you believe it? And all I can think is that the Deputy Head gave Granger a piece of her mind and a sharp dose of truth, because when the Mudblood came back, she looked vaguely chastened. You should have seen her! Her beady little eyes were narrowed, and she gave me this mean sort of look, like she wanted to mess with me. I wasn’t about to take that from the likes of her! I swooped in for the kill.

“Well?” I asked. “Satisfied now, Mudblood?”

“If you think you can abuse the rules and get away with this, Malfoy, you’re quite mistaken,” she said. I thought I saw some pumpkin pasty in her teeth. What a Neanderthal. Can’t even eat pudding without turning it into a disaster! Whoever marries that will have to hide her away, to keep from being humiliated. I hope she doesn’t breed. Normally, I’m not in favour of contraception, but I think I can make an exception in the case of Granger.

“What’s the trouble, Mudblood?” I said. “You’re such an insufferable doctrinaire when the rules suit you. Can’t stomach it when the rules don’t go in your favour, Mudblood?”

It got better. That carrot-top prat, Weaselby, comes to her defence. It was laughable.

He said, “Stop using that word!” Such a Weasley, measly voice.

“What word, King Weaselby?”

He narrowed his stupid eyes at me. “You know what word I mean.”

“Hmm, let’s see. Arse-brain?”

Everyone laughed. Weaselby turned as red as his hair.

“No?” I said. “Oh! Um…pathetic, stinking sod?”

More laughs. Granger tugged at Weaselby’s elbow, to get him to come away with her. Why he would go with that filth is beyond me. I tried again to spur him on.

“Oh! I know!” I said. “Low-class, ginger-haired, scrawling, bottom-feeding, rotten, feeble-brained burrower?”

I knew exactly what Weaselby would do, and it was exactly what I wanted. He tore himself from the Mudblood’s grasp and lunged at me. I played right into it, like always. Weaselby clenched my neck and squeezed—actually, I think he really meant to kill me this time—and it was only when Potter and Snape tore him off me that he let go. I fell to my knees, choking and gagging and coughing—he actually hurt me pretty badly. And before you say I deserved it, I would just point out that, whatever my intentions were, I did not deserve to get nearly strangled, especially by a blood traitor. I’d have to shower for a month to get the stink completely off me. You should have seen the bruises he caused. He would pay for that.

All the same, the raspy voice, the terrible pain and bruises I sustained on my throat were worth the sacrifice—seeing Ron Weaselby getting called before the entire staff and threatened with expulsion for attacking another student and a Prefect. Oh yeah, and the loss of two hundred points from Gryffindor was the icing on the cake! Too bad he didn’t get at least ten years in Azkaban for attempted murder. That would have been sweet. The Dementor’s Kiss—no, that would be too much. After all, I need Weaselby in my life, just like I need Quaffles and Snitches to play at sport.

My throat is all healed now, though I didn’t follow all of Madame Pomfrey’s instructions right away. I didn’t want to heal too fast or I wouldn’t have gotten all the sympathy I got from a lot of people, especially from Pansy. Her sympathy is rather sweet and lovely, if you know what I mean. Father was furious when they didn’t charge Weaselby with a crime. He filed a complaint with the Board of Governors saying that they had discriminated against me because I did not share an intimate connection with the great Harry Potter.

The other part of the whole incident that I especially appreciated was that first, I never had to admit any wrongdoing, nor apologise to Granger for, as some prefer to say, using the “M-word,” that is, calling her a Mudblood. And second, I got to stand before all of Gryffindor House and Slytherin House and watch as Weaselby was forced to grovel before me and Professor Snape and beg our forgiveness. Of course, I knew he didn’t mean a word of it, but that wasn’t the point. The point of the whole thing, at least for me, was to ensure the entire school who was in charge and who was not. That’s all it’s ever been about. After all, a blood traitor like Weaselby doesn’t deserve regard—that they chose him as Prefect can only be because of Potter’s influence.

No, I believe that the universe must be reconvened, and if I have to resort to drastic actions to ensure that, well, then that’s what I have to do. Father taught me as much long ago, and I mean to live up to his example.

Plus, Weaselby-baiting is much more fun than Quidditch. It’s so much more rewarding, too. A Quidditch Cup is a nice thing to have, to be sure, but the memories of putting blood traitors in their proper place is priceless. That’s what matters in the long run, and I believe that the Dark Lord will think well of me for doing it.

Gods! I love being a Prefect! It’s the greatest!





Chapter 41: Peeves
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By: Bittersweet Ending
Beta read by: canadianstar
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Title: The Requirement of Curiousity: A Poltergeist's Tale
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: This story was written to thank the staff for their
helpfullness and their hard work. Thank you.

-----


The Bloody Baron had told him not to try it. There were secrets meant to be secrets, not to be revealed. Still, what did he know about fun? He was boring and dead, him with his droning voice and restrictive rules. Not that Peeves was not dead, but he knew how to live, how to test limits, and how to have fun. He was Peeves, a poltergeist, and he was not going to let the Baron stop him. Not this time at least. So, of course, he had to try. He had heard Potty-potty Potter talking about it. 'Oh, it's so perfect,' he would exclaim, his face beaming. After months of gloomy looks, it had actually made Potter smile. It must be some room. "The Room of Requirement." Peeves wondered what the requirements were. Naturally he had to find out.

He began to follow the claimed heroic boy around, invisible, waiting for him to go to the room. Peeves wanted to know how to get in to that room for himself. He heard people call him a lunatic behind his back, people who obviously were not his friends. People who would not be the type to stop and chat about a room. The room! Then he would see others come up to him excitedly, and ask him a question in his ear to which he would either answer in the same manner or slip them a note. If only he could hear what they said. It might be about the room. He would go through lessons and homework silently on some days, and on others he would ramble on about nonsense that was absolutely unimportant to the situation at hand. Detentions and professors. Still, the enigma of the room was making him all the more curious. He waited for every clue he could, to find more about the room.

Finally, on one night, he spied the Potter boy sneaking around with the Weasel and the girl-formerly-known-as-the-beaver. After checking a blank parchment for some words that were well hidden, they scampered away from their Common Room. The three wandered around the castle aimlessly, up and down stairs, and arrived at tapestry. 'That's an odd place for an important secret room, if it is the room at all,' thought Peeves, interested to see what they would do next. Potter muttered something quickly, and even with straining his ear forward, Peeves was too far away to hear. Bummer. They paced around in front of the tapestry. 'What an odd little ritual,' Peeves smirked. His first instinct was to zoom over and make fun of them, but he restrained himself to wait for the moment, a later moment, when he would not regret it.

There was a creak in the floorboards behind him. He whipped around quickly to see no one, nothing, not even Mrs. Norris. By the time he turned forward again the trio had disappeared. water hole! He was just about to turn back when a group of girls sprinted up the stairs, chattering all at once. They stopped at the tapestry, and paced, doing the odd ritual Potter had done. After a time, a door appeared out of nowhere and the students slipped inside. 'Interesting,' thought Peeves, 'very interesting. This must be the Room of Requirement!'

Soon, many students had paced and entered, mostly in groups of two or three. Some did not seem to care if anyone saw; others peered around before going inside. Peeves itched to alert Mrs. Norris, the horrid cat, and Mr. Filch, the cat's equally horrid owner. However, if he was alerted, Peeves would be asked too many questions for his liking, and the area would be secured, making his entry nearly impossible. After a monotonous two hours, the students piled out the door, excitement on their faces. Potter appeared to be the ringleader of the little group, ushering everyone, and all of them whispering something at him. Peeves waited until Potter had left to try his hand at entering.

An antagonizing ten minutes later, Potty-Potter, Weasel, and girl-formerly-known-as-the-beaver left, leaving the room empty. Peeves cautiously flew over the part of the corridor and stared at the tapestry, not sure exactly what to do. It was merely that. A tapestry. On first attempt, he slammed into the wall, seeing if that would do the trick. A slight bump on his head swelled at contact. It was odd, not being able to go through. Some wizard must have charmed it. Hexed it, rather. 'Well, that didn't feel good. I guess I'll try Potter's ritual.' Hovering above the ground, he moved back and forth. 'Let me see the room,' he thought, 'let me see the room.'

He paced ridiculously for minutes, speeding up with frustration. His mind wandered to many things. 'I hope the baron doesn't catch me doing this nonsense… but I do hope I find the room. I want to find the room.’ He shook his head. It wouldn't work. He was a poltergeist, not alive. Hopeless, unworthy. He looked up one last time, and was about to move away when he noticed a small door in the wall. He took the knob in his quivering hand and turned it.

Inside, he found a room. It had white walls, a wooden floor and emptiness. There was nothing in it. It was small, only about as big as a closet, but its white walls, and perfectly flat floor was almost scary in perfection. It was the most boring room Peeves had seen in the castle, though. Nothing special. A wave of disappointment shot through him. This was the magical room? This was the Room of Requirement? This doesn't deserve to be bragged about. 'I'm such a fool.' He opened the door again and left, floating around the halls aimlessly, too distressed to be mean. All that work, all that anticipation. And for what? An empty room. 'Potter and his friends must have been disappointed,' he thought. But they hadn't looked disappointed; they had looked happy and excited. What did they see that he didn't?

"How had all those people fit into that room?" he wondered aloud, and then looked around furiously to see if anyone had heard. There was no way all those people could have fit into that tiny room, even with magic. How had they done it? Maybe it was how they entered. Maybe getting into the room required more than just pacing. It would make sense, seeing as people pace all the time and someone would have been bound to find it in all this time. To get to the room, you needed something more.

"But what," he almost screamed.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that," an ugly ghost with glasses sniffled. "Were you saying something about me?” She almost started crying. A perfect opportunity to make the day better.

"Yes, I was saying how remarkable it is that even after death your acne could get worse and worse," he cackled maliciously. Taunting Myrtle was one off his great pleasures in life. Her insecurities made this the best part of any day. He smiled as she hurried away, her head in her hands, transparent tears falling from her fingers as she screeched, bawling.

'Now, where was I?' he thought, 'ah . . . yes. What did I do that was abnormal from a regular person pacing?’ Tapping a finger to his head, he whooshed through empty classrooms, making havoc with chalk and chairs. He floated, was dead, but he still got in. Just then, it hit him. He had been thinking about the room. That must be it. It had to be. Potter was obviously doing the same thing, as were the others who went in after him. He had been hoping for the door to pop up, and it did. But that still didn't explain how fifty people fit into a room that made him claustrophobic alone.

He decided to try getting in again, just to see if he could. Taking shortcuts through stairs, tripping ickle-firsties, and clapping his hands over ears, he came to the tapestry. And the mimicked ritual of little Harry Potter's pacing began. He wished he could have a room like Potter got, fitting fifty-some students. Maybe it was just because he was Harry Potter. Everything was better for Harry Potter. 'Why can't things be like they were for Potter for me,' he thought, 'I want a room like his. I need a room like his.’ Pop! A door. It was different than the other one, much bigger, polished to glisten with a brass handle. Peeves breathed deeply and opened the door.

He stepped into a spacious room with cushions that looked like silk all around. Bookcases filled every edge of wall space, even above the door. A range of encyclopedias filled the lowest shelf, each volume thick with information. Everything had one thing in common. Everything was aimed at the defense against the dark arts. On one set of shelves were a scattering of tools. This definitely wasn't the same broom cupboard he'd walked into before!

'If this room can do all this, what else can it do?' A devilish smile crept across his face. What other rooms could he wish for? Which could fill his requirements? Oh, the possibilities!

"I could make this into a room filled with tools to drive Filch out!” He exclaimed, "I could fill this room with gold and become rich and buy this rotten school. I could teach them important things, like how to drop a bookcase on a caretaker's head without him noticing." The hint of a smile formed on his wicked face at the memory. He could make this a torture chamber for Argus Filch, and make him beg for forgiveness. He could make it a secret hideaway where the Bloody Baron would never be able to find him, and wreck all the fun.

"This room could mean great things for Peeves," he nodded. But what to do first? He would fill the room with all the supplies he would need to drive the students -- and Filch-- mad. All the dung-bombs he would ever need would be right there at his finger tips. After the students left, he would start on the teachers, gradually making the castle unbearable, a Mischief's Quarters. He knew he was already a Hades' Hideaway-raiser, but with ammunition like this, he would make life absolutely amazing. He would have complete control of the castle, and everything inside. Eventually, he would drive all the other ghosts out, too. All but one. He would keep Myrtle for his devilish pleasure. He would make her even more delirious with self-consciousness and his heart would be satisfied. Of course, he would save something special for Potter as a thank you. A repayment was definitely necessary. If it wasn't for that obnoxious little brat, he would never have found this abode. What gift for Harry Potter? An afternoon underwater with the mermaids? A ride on the back of an angry dragon? Being fed a dung-bomb? All were adequate options, but he would need something special. After all, without Potter, he would never have been able conquer the school.

"Thank you Mr. Potter, thank you very much indeed."

He heard the creaking of the doorknob. He gasped praying that it was not the Baron. He knew what the Baron could do when he was angry, and he hadn't taken control of the school yet.

"Um, excuse me," a small, meek boy said. He sighed in relief and turned around, "Sorry to interrupt, but, um . . . I . . . er, I forgot my wand," he said shakily, picking it up from a pillow, "I'm sorry," he pleaded, looking terrified. Peeves smiled, glad he had that effect on people.

"Oh, no trouble," Peeves said jauntily, "I'll give you just as much as I give Potter."

"Er, thanks," the boy almost inquired, and bewilderedly, Neville Longbottom stepped out of the room, daintily closing the door with as little noise as he could. Oh, how Peeves loved being a poltergeist. He loved scaring the students. He loved making them fear him.

He almost laughed, but he felt it choke up in his throat. It dawned on him that if he took over, there would be no students to torment. What fun would it be to rule an empty castle? He picked up a cushion and left the room.

"You're welcome," he shrieked as he dive-bombed the cushion at an unsuspecting Neville, letting it crash onto his head. His senses jerked alive and the boy screamed, his face contorting into a priceless expression. Peeves zoomed off, crowing his victory. Even if he was not completely in charge, that look made it all worth it.




Chapter 42: Firenze
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By: Yuu
Beta read by: Infairi and Delta
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove
Title: A Foretold Destiny
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild violence)
For the Staff: In thanks to HPFF's staff. I am very grateful for
everything you've done and your great efforts in mantaining such
a great site and helping so many people that want to become
writers or simply write as a hobby. I especially thanks timeturner,
who always deals with my many questions about things not
clearly stated in the ToS. lol Secondly, I thank Violet, who has
always been there for me to help when I haven't bugged timeturner
for something, thirdly, I thank Noblevyne, whom I always go to
cry on in the messenger. I thank all the others because you guys
are always there dealing with so many things, even when you have
very busy lives. It takes lots of time and dedication and not
everyone can do what you guys do. Keep up the good work!

-----

A/N: Bane's words are from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, American Version, chapter fifteen, page 257, by J.K. Rowling.

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It was written in the stars and in the planets. Everything could be read in the shining fiery rocks that floated throughout the vast universe. He knew the time would come for him to be rejected and expelled from his herd and the forest that had always been his home. Those who feared the forest might have called it Forbidden, but the Forbidden Forest had always been his shelter and his home.

Firenze knew it would come. For many nights, he had seen it in the starry heavens ever since he was a foal. It was his destiny to help in the fight against the Dark Lord, Voldemort, even if his involvement with the humans wouldn't be direct. He would help the Potter boy no matter what, and he had known his fate ever since that night he had seen the boy in front of him for the first time. The boy from the prophecy had been in the Forbidden Forest when he had encountered his nemesis, but he, Firenze, had helped get young Potter out of the forest. At that time, he had known he would be scolded, but there were more important things in his opinion, like fighting against evil.

"What are you doing? You have a human on your back! Have you no shame? Are you a common mule?" Firenze could remember Bane's thunderous words perfectly when he was seen galloping with Harry Potter on his back. It was shameful for a centaur to carry a man on his back, but young Potter was no ordinary man's foal. The stars stated so, even if the other centaurs wouldn't understand. Firenze had been witness to a horrid crime. He had seen the symbiotic form of Professor Quirrell and Lord Voldemort slay a beautiful and pure being, a unicorn, to drink its blood. Repulsed by that scene, Firenze had not been able to just stand with crossed arms and do nothing. He hadn’t been able to just sit and watch while Voldemort did as he pleased in the Forbidden Forest. Firenze's sense of justice hadn’t approved of such a posture. He had felt that he had to do something. Rage had boiled in his veins as he had watched Voldemort with the recently killed unicorn. Firenze had been hidden by the dark shadows cast by the wood's trees on that fated night and Voldemort hadn't noticed the centaur's presence. As he had watched the scene unfold, Firenze made took to the decision he had been destined to choose. No words could describe the fury he had felt against such evil being allowed in his home, and he would never understand why the others of his kind could allow such an atrocity. Perhaps if they had seen what he had seen, if they had witnessed what he had to witness... But he couldn't change the past and show them. Still, Firenze's path had already been preordained.

Ever since that night, Firenze knew he would end up being exiled. In truth, he had known ever since he was a foal, but that night had confirmed the path he would take. That night when he had been chastised, the event reminded him of a future that was so near and clear.

Almost four years would pass before the time came though. On that fated day, Firenze had encountered Hogwarts' headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. The old wizard had come to the forest looking for him. Before, Firenze hadn’t known how his destiny would be fulfilled, but when he had found himself in front of Dumbledore, he had known that the time had arrived. The headmaster had addressed him courteously and had offered him a place in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Divination teacher, Sybill Trelawney, had been sacked from her teaching position by a Ministry official named Dolores Jane Umbridge. Albus Dumbledore had needed someone to replace her immediately and thus, Firenze had accepted. He could have easily turned down the offer, but this was something he had to do, a purpose given to him by the movements of the planets and brilliance of the stars. Firenze had been aware of the consequences that would fall upon him, but everything had already been determined and this was his fate. The time was right. He knew the consequences that would come and sometimes he was afraid. Would the cause be worth it? The herd was his family. All his life he had lived between his fellow centaurs. Firenze didn't know if he would be able to stand strong if he eventually got exiled. He suffered in silence, unable to share his views or even his pain with anyone. Giving up a normal and somewhat easy life was no easy task for a centaur like him, but no one would ever understand him. None of his people understood how serious the situation was and they would never interfere. It wasn't in their nature. After all, they had even preferred being labeled as beasts by the Ministry of Magic to speaking to the humans even though such a label was hardly correct.

Night came and the white-blonde centaur with a majestic palomino body that shone under the moonbeams was confronted by his peers when he revealed he would become a teacher, not just a teacher that would guide young foals of their race to understand celestial bodies better, but a professor that would teach their deepest prediction secrets to humans. "This is an outrage!" Magorian growled, kicking his hind legs in deep fury. "How dare you intend to reveal our wisdom to those who aren't worthy of learning it?"

All of the centaurs agreed with their leader and Firenze could still remember how he had been sentenced to death. His fellow centaurs started to kick him at the same time and when he tried to flee he was held back, but he knew he wouldn't die unless he had read the movement of planets wrongly. There was always the chance that one’s predictions would be wrong, but, at that time, Firenze was positive that his predictions weren't.

With the removal of his arrow filled quiver and bow by the other centaurs, Firenze was defenseless. The blows kept coming against him and he could feel his body weakening at a rapid pace from the excruciating pain the damage being inflicted on him inevitably caused. Finally, the kicks stopped. Firenze couldn't get up from the ground no matter how he tried, but at last he would be relieved from his suffering. Several centaurs stood in front of him to apply their sense of justice. They aimed at him with their bows and arrows, ready to finish the execution and Firenze wondered again if he had misinterpreted the signs of the heavens. He was sorry he wouldn't be able to accomplish what had been asked of him by Dumbledore, and he deeply regretted that he wouldn't be able to help in the cause of wizards. Calmly, even when in pain, he closed his eyes and waited for life to end, but Magorian bellowed for the others not to shoot. Instead, the blows started again. Arrows would have been better. Instant death would not have been very painful, but they had decided to kick him to death rather than grant him a painless end.

The movements of the planets hadn't lied, though. Help came in the form of Rubeus Hagrid. The half-giant interfered with the painful execution and stopped the other centaurs from finishing off their man-friendly peer. After a very heated discussion with the other centaurs, Hagrid helped Firenze stand and somehow escorted him out of the forest and all the way into his house. There was no way Hagrid could bring the centaur to Madam Pomfrey, but Hagrid was not the Care of Magical Creatures teacher for nothing. He could help Firenze recover from the wounds under his own care. Firenze wished he could warn Hagrid about his attempts to teach Grawp, but Firenze was too injured to form coherent thoughts at that time. He would do so later. Perhaps he would be able to repay Hagrid's kindness by sending Harry Potter with a warning after becoming a teacher.

Hagrid, almost too enthusiastically tended to the damage inflicted upon his friend, making sure that there wasn't any internal bleeding caused by the many blows the centaur had received. He took care of Firenze until he was able to inform Dumbledore about what had happened and had the Headmaster establish Firenze in new quarters. Soon the centaur would start giving classes.

Firenze knew that his predictions were right and it deeply saddened him that his fellow centaurs wouldn't share his views. They had seen what the planets had written for them too. Why they knew what was coming yet did nothing of it was a mystery beyond anything written. He was no better in reading the movements of celestial bodies than the others. Still, they wouldn't do anything to interfere in what they felt had to do with men. It wasn't in them to provide any help, even when they knew that if the wizards failed in vanquishing the evil surrounding them, the centaurs would be affected too.

Loneliness was something Firenze could deal with, even though he could still feel the rejection from his herd in the flesh and still had the marks on his body that such rejection had left on him. Eventually, though, his sadness would be pushed aside although his real home would remain in his heart for he loved his herd, still. Even if it was only him, Firenze would do everything in his hands to help the wizarding world. He would make sure his peers would survive and he would do everything he could through his teaching to help students choose the correct path. It was his fate to teach as he had known for many years and he would do it. It wasn't just his honour or pride as a centaur at stake. It was the well being of all creatures. No matter how much he suffered, no matter what he gave up, he would sacrifice himself and his life as he knew it to ensure the continuation of his species and the goodness in the world.






Chapter 43: Pansy Parkinson
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By: Bellas blanky
Beta read by: slytheringinny and Jessi_Rose
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove
Title: A Different Kind of Power
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild Language, mild scenes of sexual nature, mild violence, spoilers)
For the Staff: Unfortunately it’s often the people who work that hardest that go without the credit; I just wanted to say a huge thankyou to all the staff at HPFF, without whom none of the brilliance of the site would be possible. You guys make posting and reading on the site a piece of treacle tart. Although, hopefully, none of the staff use methods sneaky as Pansy’s, this is a story for the Slytherin in all of you.

-----


Pansy Parkinson was nothing spectacular to look at, her wit was about as sharp as a lump of cheese, and in all truth, rumours were beginning to surface about the size of the fortune needed to marry her off. But there was one thing that set her apart from all the rest. Pansy possessed a great gift. It was not an entirely natural gift, as it had taken many painstaking attempts for Pansy to master it, but she liked to think she possessed a certain predisposition towards it. A predisposition that had been learnt over many balls and parties, during which she spent hours watching the interactions of couples, specifically the ways and means they used to achieve their ends.

Narcissa Malfoy was the one that Pansy watched the most. It was true that she was one of the most beautiful and elegant woman in the pureblood circle, but it was not her exterior that intrigued Pansy. For the majority of her life Pansy had observed the ongoing battle for dominance between her parents. By the time she was old enough to notice, a definite trend was beginning to emerge; it seemed Phillipa Parkinson had two ways of dealing with her husband. She either lost her temper completely, hurling abuse and precious objects in his general direction, or she closed up, keeping a complete silence and refusing to even be in the same room as her husband. Though these two methods seemed highly contradictory, Pansy noticed that no matter how well her mother employed either of them, it was always her father that came up victorious.

Pansy began to think this was the way with all pureblood couples, until one midday meal she spent with the Malfoys before her return to school for her 5th year.

“Pansy dear, I’m so glad you could join us,” Narcissa spoke delicately as she took her seat at the end of the table, assisted by her husband. “Draco was just complaining the other day about how lonely he was.”

“Mother!” Draco whined, clearly embarrassed.

“That’s ok, Mrs. Malfoy; I was starting to get a little bored myself.” Pansy smiled reassuringly, glancing for a moment at Draco.

“Well isn’t that lovely,” Lucius said sarcastically, sinking down into his own chair.

“Dearest,” Narcissa warned with a soft smile, there was a brief silence before she spoke again. “Could you pass the water?”

“Of course,” Lucius answered through narrowed eyes.

Pansy was slightly uncomfortable, whenever her mother wished to reprimand her father, the way Narcissa obviously wanted to, it always ended up in a brawl, somewhat akin to those in Muggle westerns.

“So Pansy, do tell us about your holidays so far,” Narcissa spoke politely, letting her eyes linger meaningfully on her husband. “I believe you and Draco got a similar little surprise in the mail the other day, congratulations.”

“Oh thank you, Mrs Malfoy. I guess Draco and I will be seeing a lot more of each other now,” Pansy paused, noticing the discomfort around the table and quickly moving onto Narcissa’s first question. “As for my holidays, I’m afraid there’s not much to tell. Been shopping a few times, a few luncheons with Mother. Other than that, I’ve just been hanging around the house.”

“Really?” asked Lucius with a fresh round of sarcasm. “Hanging around?” The little cough that Narcissa let out following his statement made him jump so high that Pansy was surprised he didn’t upset the table.

“Oh darling I’m sorry, I didn’t startle you, did I?” she asked softly.

“Of course not dearest, more water?” He offered the water jug to the glass he had filled moments ago.

“No thank you, sweet,” she said taking a brief token sip from her glass. They regarded each other for the briefest of moments before an elf popped into the doorway with four plates on its arms.

“So Pansy, I trust you did well in your exams?” Lucius spoke arrogantly as the meal was being served.

“Quite well, thank you, Mr. Malfoy. Although I’m afraid I’ve been out done again by Draco,” Pansy smiled in her classmate’s direction, knowing he would be more receptive to her if she praised him in front of his parents.

“Really, what an amazing feat Draco,” Lucius snorted sarcastically.

“Lucius!” Narcissa reprimanded again, though lacking her former pretence.

“Yes, how truly splendid for you Draco, considering you were beaten in every subject by a mudblood. What a fantastic achievement!”

“Lucius that will do,” Narcissa spoke in a low dangerous voice, before returning to her social tones. “I really don’t think Miss Parkinson needs to be present for such a vulgar display, and I’m sure Draco is well aware of your feelings on this subject.”

Pansy braised herself, surely a man such a Lucius Malfoy would not allow his wife to speak to him in such a manner. It was very clear to Pansy that Lucius didn’t like her, it was not only the things he said to her but the tone he used; as though he were speaking down to her, as though she was not worthy of his company and certainly not worthy of his son. Pansy realised he must consider himself to be above the vast majority of people he came across, but a man who is trying to secure a pleasing companion for his son would not take such pleasure in wrong footing her.

“Of course Cissa, it was most inappropriate.” Pansy couldn’t believe her ears, was a Malfoy apologizing? And to his wife no less? “Congratulations, Miss Parkinson.”

“Father, I hear you visited the Minister yesterday, how did that go?” Draco said softly, entering the conversation for the first time. Pansy was slightly put-out that his subject matter didn’t interest her.

“If you are referring to the unfortunate incident with the…” Lucius only got half way through his sentence when Pansy turned off completely. Politics were one of those all-male subjects that really didn’t interest her.

The remainder of the meal past without great incident, Lucius and Draco continued to speak about the state of the ministry and other male things, while Narcissa remained silent, apparently comforted in the knowledge that Lucius wasn’t upsetting Pansy. Pansy herself watched the Malfoy matriarch with great interest, she wondered how it was possible to get a man eating out of her hand the way Lucius was from Narcissa’s. Just as she began to think about this in-depth, the woman in question spoke across the table to her.

“Pansy, I hear you and your mother had tea with Delina Avery a few weeks ago,” she said just loud enough so the two men could hear.

“Yes, last Thursday,” Pansy replied slowly, wondering where this was going. “It was very pleasant.”

“I’m sure it was. I hear they have just redone their rose garden.”

“Yes, oh you should see it!” Pansy exclaimed, perhaps a little more enthusiastically than she should have. “Its beautiful, and the smell is fantastic.”

“Calm down Parkinson, it’s just a garden,” Draco sneered at her from his end of the table before being reprimanded by his mother.

“Oh Draco, don’t be such a killjoy, I know you men don’t realize it but a garden can be very alluring to a woman, isn’t that right Pansy?”

“Oh, yes,” Pansy said unconvincingly.

“Well didn’t the Avery’s garden make you feel a certain way, perhaps a little more womanly?” Narcissa said suggestively, bringing a light flush to Pansy’s cheeks.

“I guess so,” she said, trying not to look at the older witch or her son.

“Oh Pansy dear, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I guess those feelings should remain a little private.”

“No, its okay, Mrs Malfoy. I just never thought about a garden that way,” Pansy said callously before noticing to look on Narcissa’s face. “But now that you mention it, yes I guess that’s exactly how it made me feel.”

“Well it looks like we are all done here, what do you kids have planned for this afternoon?” Narcissa asked light-heartedly as an elf popped into the room to clear the table.

“Zabini, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle are coming over this afternoon, Mother. I think a game of Quidditch above the lake is in order,” Draco said with a little half smile.

“Draco, you shouldn’t ignore Pansy like that, she might not like to watch a game of Quidditch all afternoon,” Narcissa said sweetly.

“Oh, don’t worry Mrs. Malfoy,” Pansy began before being cut off by Draco.

“Pansy won’t watch mother, we need her to play to make the teams even.”

“Draco that’s incredibly rude of you, using Pansy just to make the teams even. Have you even asked her what she wants to do for the afternoon?”

“Cissa, I’m sure they can sort this out by themselves,” Lucius cut in gently.

“I really don’t mind Mrs. Malfoy; I quite enjoy a little game of Quidditch.”

“If you’re sure Pansy.”

“Of course she’s sure, Mother. If you don’t mind I think I just heard the door bell.”

~~~~~~~
Although it was only a brief glance into the lives of the Malfoys, it was all Pansy needed to spark her interest in the way Narcissa manipulated her husband. Barely three weeks later, Phillipa Parkinson was invited to a tea party in Narcissa’s new rose garden. Pansy was more stunned than ever when her mother returned home saying it was even more beautiful than the Avery’s garden.

Pansy set out from there to discover the Malfoy woman’s secret, surely it was something that would be very handy for Pansy, and since it seemed Narcissa favoured her as Draco’s future partner, it appeared to be the perfect situation to learn a few things.

Such an occasion arose a few weeks into the school term at one of the many Malfoy balls. Pansy had jumped at the opportunity to attend the ball, not just to leave school for a weekend but it also gave her a chance to observe Narcissa in action once more. However, it seemed Pansy was to be disappointed, a few hours after her arrival she found she was incredibly bored and decided that no-one would miss her if she just sneaked off momentarily for a peak at the new rose garden. Unfortunately, it seemed someone did notice her absence and guessed where she was headed.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Narcissa spoke from the door as Pansy bent down to smell a pale pink flower.

“Oh, Mrs. Malfoy, I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry, I know how you like to keep your house private,” she spoke quickly hoping not to upset Narcissa.

“Don’t worry about it Pansy, after all you helped me get it,” Narcissa said with a smile as she made her way into the room.

“I’m not sure I understand, Mrs Malfoy.”

“Sit down Pansy,” Narcissa requested quietly, gesturing to the empty bench next to her. “I know what it is you are after.”

“Mrs Malfoy, I don’t know….” But she was cut off.

“Pansy, believe me, I am no enemy of your intentions, in fact, I’m quite the opposite,” she paused as if thinking intently. “And do stop with all this 'Mrs. Malfoy' nonsense, if we are going to be related I would much prefer you call me Narcissa.”

“Related?” Pansy asked now totally confused.

“Yes, like I said I would welcome the union, the Parkinsons are a well thought of family with a long and illustrious history. I would rather my son marry you than a Zabini or a Dolohov.”

“Marry?” Pansy stuttered, was Narcissa saying what she thought she was saying?

“Yes marry, as you saw the other day, my husband is a little reluctant to accept you, but don’t fret Pansy, I’ll see to him.” She offered Pansy yet another knowing smile but didn’t elaborate.

“Mrs… Narcissa I’ve been meaning to ask you for quite a while…”

“How it is I control my husband?” Narcissa offered knowingly. “It was a talent I learnt from the former Mrs. Malfoy and it’s one that I believe I should pass down to you.”

Pansy was delighted and she listened intently as Narcissa told of all the occasions she had completely hoodwinked her husband into doing something totally non-beneficial to him. She spoke of seeds, of little hints and subtle persuasion, which allowed her to manipulate her husband’s thoughts so much so that he eventually took credit for her ideas and thus could not be mad when they did not turn out to his advantage. Narcissa outlined the method she had used to obtain her rose garden. The subtle cues prior to the lunch with Pansy, then mentioning that the Avery’s had a new garden, for jealousy and pride were the keys to manipulating a Malfoy. They came to the dagger in poor Lucius’s heart, Narcissa reminded Pansy of the way they had described the garden, how it made them feel. Then she lowered her voice and told Pansy that she had denied Lucius access to their bedroom for a full week. She did say it was a punishment as Pansy’s mother would. Just that she was not in the mood. Narcissa said it was like watching a light bulb go in inside Lucius’s head when he realised the key to getting his wife back might be a trifle of a rose garden. So construction began the very next day.

“He wasn’t suspicious?” Pansy asked incredulously.

“Not one little bit. It’s all about the pride Pansy. They want to think that every good idea comes from their own heads. So it’s not very hard to convince them.”

“Mother told me your garden was in barely a week after construction started, how did you get it in so fast?”

“Well since Lucius insisted on keeping it a secret, how was I to know he was building me a garden,” Narcissa said with a grin from ear to ear.

“You still denied him!” Pansy was dumbstruck.

“Yes I did, the key to getting a job done quickly is to give them some incentive.” Narcissa said with a wink. “Now I think it’s about time we return to the guests.”

~~~~~~~
Pansy took the advice and offers of Narcissa deeply to heart, spending the next year at Hogwarts refining her technique. By the time the Hogwarts Express pulled out of Hogsmeade station at the end of their 5th year, she had all of the males in her year eating our of her hand. She had a power over them that would make Narcissa Malfoy proud. Despite all that was going on with Lucius, and Bellatrix, Narcissa still managed a satisfied smile when she saw Pansy exiting the train with Crabbe and Goyle carrying her trunk, Zabini holding the door open for her and Draco holding an umbrella over her head. Pansy Parkinson had arrived.

The pinnacle of her new power came to her slowly over the next few weeks such that by the time she was back on the train to Hogwarts for her 6th year Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy were an item. He had not actually asked her, but it was like an unspoken alliance between the two of them; one which Pansy had forged through the jealously between Draco and Zabini, and one which she was trying to maintain via the same means. It was vitally important that Draco be aware of the ‘friendship’ between Pansy and Blaise, however limited it was in actuality.

Another chance to remind him of it came on the train ride to Hogwarts. Following a large commotion when Zabini returned the cabin having visited Slughorn, Draco started a discussion regarding the people invited to Slughorn’s cabin. Pansy had eagerly jumped at the opportunity to kill two Doxys with one stone. Not only did she mention her acquaintance with a Raverclaw boy called Belby but she also raised Draco’s awareness of her relationship with Blaise by pointing out he liked the look of the youngest Weasley. This served as a double hit, as she was making Draco jealous using her knowledge of Blaise’s personal life and making Zabini uncomfortable by mentioning his attraction to a blood traitor.

When she wasn’t baiting the two boys Pansy sat back and idly stroked Draco’s hair, offering moral support during Zabini’s obvious attempts to out-do him. However, her calm manner disappeared rapidly as Draco mentioned the Dark Lord.

Pansy wasn’t stupid, (despite popular belief) she was well aware of her boyfriend’s allegiances, and many of the tasks he was asked to perform to upkeep them. In spite of this, Draco’s declaration that he might not be returning to school for his seventh year came as a mighty shock to Pansy. It seemed this was one life-changing decision he had made without consulting her and that made her tremendously unsettled. She wasn’t just angry at him, it went deeper than that. She felt betrayed, like he had let her down, fled from a battle ground leaving her to fend for herself. She knew she was being a bit unreasonable, after all he was joining a noble course and would be fighting battles much larger than the adolescent squabbles of Hogwarts, but how could he? What was Pansy supposed to do without him, all alone with no one but the scum of the school for company? How would she manage?

The rest of the conversation past as a haze to Pansy. Instead she was concocting a plan to ensure he did not leave her all alone in the haven for mudbloods and traitors. She knew his fatal flaw was pride, so to suggest he not serve the Dark Lord outright was a mistake. Pansy decided the simplest plan would be the best, one that played on his insecurities while softly stroking his ego. A plan that would, of course, revolve around Zabini.

~~~~~~~
The start of term feast past without major incident. The arrival of Potter in blood spattered robes was a highlight but Pansy was too involved in her own scheming to care much. A point that did not go undetected.

“Pansy, what the hell is wrong with you tonight?” Draco asked as he guided her towards to common room, letting the 5th year prefects direct the new students.

“I don’t know what you mean, Draco,” she said coldly trying to wrestle herself out of his grasp. “It’s been a long day; I think I would prefer to go to bed early.” She inclined her head in his direction and set off for the common room alone. It was only moments before she was joined by the perfect person.

“Pansy, is everything alright?” Blaise Zabini enquired in a caring voice so unlike his own that Pansy almost laughed at him.

“Oh yes, why wouldn’t it be?”

“I just…well I saw you ditching Malfoy and I was wondering if you were ok?” He said as they reached the common room entrance.

“I’m fine, it’s just, well I’m a bit worried about him,” she said in a falsely anxious tone as she sank into the leather sofa. “All this talk of not coming back to Hogwarts, it’s got me a little concerned.”

“There’s nothing to worry about Pansy,” Zabini said before realizing he was sticking up for Draco. “I mean, there’s nothing you can do about it, it seems like he’s made up his mind.”

“Oh Blaise, you don’t think he would actually go through with it do you?” Pansy began to fake cry as Zabini leaned in and wrapped his arms around her. Pansy smiled to herself through fake tears, he was almost as easy to predict as Malfoy.

“If he does, don’t forget you always have other friends here.” It was lucky Pansy was hugging him because his slimy manner was making her sick. Then right on cue Draco walked in.

“What the hell is going on?” He yelled as Pansy broke away from Zabini, looking away from him so he wouldn’t notice her dry eyes. “Pansy, what the hell is this?”

“Don’t yell at her Malfoy,” Zabini yelled back, her knight in shinning armour. Pansy didn’t even say a word to either of them as she fled the scene to the girl’s dorms. She feared if she opened her mouth she would laugh outrageously at their antics.

“Well, now look what you’ve done Zabini. You’re a real mate, did you know that!” Draco’s voice floated up the stairs to where Pansy sat crouched listening intently.

“Me! You think she’s mad at me!” Zabini yelled incredulously. “You’re blind, mate.”

“Why the hell would she be mad at me?”

“Think really hard,” Zabini offered sarcastically. “Maybe I can provide her with something you can’t.” The sound of something smashing following this comment told Pansy all she needed to know about Draco’s reaction.

“You rat!”

“Now calm down Malfoy, she obviously knows class when she sees it!”

“And that’s why she’s been with me since last year!”

“Well with your imminent departure, it looks like she has a vacancy, one I would mind filling, if you know what I mean.”

Pansy was overjoyed; her plan couldn’t have gone off better if she had scripted it. The dull thud of a punch and the sound of a body hitting the floor made her smile all the wider; it seemed Zabini might be missing their first lessons tomorrow morning.

~~~~~~~

“Where’s Zabini this morning Draco?” said Pansy at breakfast the next day. “I hope you didn’t hurt him last night.”

“He deserved to die.” He muttered into his eggs. “Painfully.”

“What for giving me a hug?” Pansy scoffed. “Not jealous of him are we?” she teased.

“Should I be?” he answered instinctively before adding. “Pans, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about what I said on the train.”

Pansy smiled, “Yes,” she said slowly, it seemed the thought of Pansy being left alone with Zabini for a whole year had worked a treat, and he was coming around quicker than she had anticipated.

“Well, I do intend to…to… fully enter his service,” he began in a low whisper. “But perhaps, for everybody’s sake it might be best if I wait a little while.”

“How longs a little while?”

“At least till the end of the year or the end of next year” he added uncertainly.

“And what’s brought about this sudden change of heart?”

“Well I was thinking about leaving you here all by yourself with….well, I just thought it would be better for you if I was here.”

Pansy didn’t say anything; she just smiled and went back to her breakfast. She felt on top of the world, there was nothing she couldn’t accomplish, no one she couldn’t handle. It was true that there were some women that could have men submitting to their every whim because of their beauty, but Pansy Parkinson preferred to manipulate them, to plant little seeds and watch them grow until the lines between her idea and their idea were blurred. Pansy Parkinson possessed a great gift, a different kind of power.



Chapter 44: Pomona Sprout
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By: SeamusFan1
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Chapter Graphic: Seamusfan1
Title: The Gift
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Staff! I am forever grateful for your undying service and ability to work through problems in a SNAP! Thanks so much, all of you, for everything!

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In all my years of teaching, I had never seen a student like him. The first time he walked into my classroom, alone, I saw it in him. Friendless, timid, and afraid, he was walking the way one does when they are nervous and lonely. He bumped into a table and knocked a plant off. I jumped forward, ready to clean it up and scold yet another first year when he picked up the plant, gently, carefully. He cleaned up the dirt and repotted it carefully, with his hands, not his wand. That’s when I saw it. I saw The Gift. I saw an extraordinary magical ability in him, something that none of the other professors could see; the only thing they could talk about was Harry Potter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s all well and good. Harry’s a great boy, with a tragic story that seems to be continuing every year since he’s come to Hogwarts. But he doesn’t have The Gift. Neville Longbottom has the Gift. And he’s the first student I’ve ever seen to have it.

Magical Herbologists are few and far between. We generally aren’t as good at other magic, because we have The Gift. For those of us born into wizarding families, much of our childhoods are spent dodging noisy relatives who try hard to squash magic into us. It isn’t until we arrive at Hogwarts that we discover the magic hidden within—The Gift

To normal people, plants are plants. Now, magical plants are more interesting to them than say…begonias, but they still are uninterested. I mean, if you don’t love plants, they are just green leafy things that happen to possess qualities that are useful.

To people with The Gift, plants are an alternate world, a place to escape, to explore. Plants are living things that are generally silent and hold magical properties that are immensely powerful and necessary. Take Mandragoras. Also called Mandrakes, they are an essential ingredient in most antidotes, but extremely hard to take care of.

In Neville’s second year, Mandrakes became very important to the non-Herbologists at Hogwarts. The Chamber of Secrets was opened and many students were petrified. It was my responsibility to brew a Mandrake restorative draft to heal the victims. I told everyone that I needed to further the Mandrake care alone, since the plant is extremely dangerous. After that matter had been cleared up, I sent a very special letter.

I knew no one give it a second thought if Neville received my letter during normal morning Owl Post delivery, saving him from having to answer any odd questions my letter might bring about. Magical Herbologists are looked upon as strange and are often shunned. I should know, because I am one.

In my fifth year I was very taken with a boy named Walter. He was the Quidditch captain, and top in our class. His smile could make me go weak at the knees, and his laugh could make my heart beat faster than it already was for being in his presence. The dream guy; for any girl. Tall, dark and handsome, he was my ideal boyfriend. So when we got the calendar for Hogsmeade visits, I worked up the courage and I asked him.

“Walter?” I said, biting my lip nervously.

“Yeah, Ponoma?” he asked, turning around.

“Would you….would you…would you go to Hogsmeade with me?” My lip was bleeding then from biting it so hard.

“With you? No. I’m not going to be seen on a date with you. Ponoma Sprout, the plant freak!” With that, he walked away down the busy corridor. For the rest of my Hogwarts years, much to my dismay, I was called “Plant Freak.”

To add water to the dragon dung compost, Walter never spoke to me again, and he went to Hogsmeade with Samantha Quarteggo. Samantha Quarteggo, the normal girl. Samantha Quarteggo, the girl who never had dirt in her hair.

Ever since then, I have surrounded myself with plants, and never asked anyone out, or, for that matter, been asked out. Not to say my life has not been an enjoyable one. No, not at all. For many happy years I have worked here at Hogwarts, taken my love of plants to the extreme, teaching students all that I know about plants. But they have never been that intrigued, not until Neville.

Ah, yes, Neville. So, I sent a letter to the boy.

Neville,

I wish for you to come down to Greenhouse Three during the cancelled Herbology lesson to serve your detention.

Professor Sprout


Now, Neville didn’t really have detention, he never gets detention from me because he never harms my plants, and I rarely give detention anyway. But I knew that if the letter fell into the wrong hands, everything would be fine. No one would ask any questions.

So, when Neville came down to the greenhouse, he was shaking.

“P-P-Professor?” he asked, knocking on the greenhouse door.

“Neville! Put on these earmuffs. We will be repotting the Mandragora!” Neville’s face brightened considerably; after all, the boy loves plants.

“Before we do, Professor, can I ask why I have received detention?” Poor Neville was confused.

“Oh, no dear. You don’t have detention. That was just a cover-up. I really just wanted you to come down here, because you have The Gift, and I need help with these Mandragoras.” Neville was still confused.

“The Gift, ma’am?”

“Surely you’ve noticed that you have an exceptional ability with plants, but not so much with every other kind of magic?” Neville nodded. “It is because you have The Gift, my boy! You have The Gift, with plants! You have a destiny, as a magical Herbologist!”
Neville looked excited now.

“You really think so, Professor?” He looked hopeful.

“I know so. You love plants. You love learning about them and caring for them. You have The Gift. And, after you help me with the Mandragoras, you can come and help me in the greenhouses every Tuesday and Thursday for ‘Extra Lessons.’ You can learn everything you could possibly learn about plants from me, my plants, and my books.”

After that day, the Mandrakes were fine, and were brewed. The petrified people were saved, and although no one knew it, Neville Longbottom had helped to save them. Neville Longbottom, forevermore, will be a closet hero. He may never have recognition, but he knows it. He knows that, without him, there would still be people petrified in the Hospital, as Mandrakes take years to grow.

We’ve had our lessons. Greenhouse by greenhouse, plant by plant. And every time Neville and I have a one-on-one lesson, he reminds me of myself at his age. An immense love for plants, and a hunger to learn more about them. He drinks in every ounce of information that I feed him, like a cactus take in water.

Neville and I have a bond now, that is just about as close as student and teacher can be. While we work with our favorite things, he can confide in me, and I can teach him.

During his third year, we discussed Sirius Black and his tactics and motives. I haven’t seen any student not worry so much. Neville told me which plants he would use, if he were in Sirius’ position. For defense, food, and shelter, he had a plant. For all of our sakes, we must hope that he never becomes a criminal. In his fourth year, we discussed the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule ball. We talked about the tasks and the Champions, the controversy with Harry Potter. Neville always had a loyalty to Potter; there must be some sort of connection. Perhaps they are dorm mates, or perhaps they experienced something together in which Harry helped him. We talked about who he wanted to ask to the Yule Ball, and who he ended up asking, and then who he actually went with and how it was. Neville told me that he and Ginny spent the entire night laughing and dancing, poking fun at the strange dress robes that everyone wore. At the beginning of his fifth year, we talked about the escape of his parents’ torturers, and at the end, we talked about what happened with him and the others at the Ministry. I could tell that he needed to talk about it, and he knew that I wouldn’t say anything. He also knew he could trust me with the information of a secret defense club. Never have I seen in someone the passion to defend, and I suppose it comes from his parents being murdered.

Now in his sixth year, he has grown immensely. He has a few actual friends now, but we still have our private lessons. He is so far ahead of his class; he could take the Herbology N.E.W.T. and get a higher score than all of the seventh years. Neville has shared with me his noble aspirations in Herbology. He wants to become a teacher of Herbology at Hogwarts, just like I am.

I have spoken to Albus Dumbledore, and he has said that Neville can stay on as my assistant for several years, until I retire, and then he can take over my job, and my greenhouses. I would feel comfortable with Neville Longbottom in charge, because he has the passion. He could teach the Hogwarts students better than anyone I know. He has the smarts, and the love for plants. Neville Longbottom has The Gift.



Chapter 45: Argus Filch
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By: jenniiiiii
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and arithmancywiz
Chapter Graphic: PropMaster
Title: Beast and the Harlot
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I'd also like to say how grateful I am for being
included in this project and I've had a wonderful time doing it.
I hope the staff enjoy this piece and they're worth every minute
of hard work that's been put into this whole project, from all
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A/N: The title of this fic comes from the song Beast and the Harlot by the awesome Avenged Sevenfold. Thanks go to jessi_rose and arithmancy_wiz for beta reading and the wonderful chapter graphic was created by PropMaster!

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Argus Filch limped down the corridor, Mrs Norris trotting maliciously at his side. It was an off balance, jerking walk that fitted well with his ugly – for lack of a better word – features and his cantankerous personality. He was in a bad mood. Some would say he was always in a bad mood, but this was certainly a worse one than usual. He had been working at Hogwarts for many very long, tedious years, and never had he been successful in casting one single spell. A chance happening upon the purple Kwikspell leaflet, within a few months of finally abandoning it, had brought his resentment and hate bubbling back to the surface.

He was a Squib. Filch was a proud man, although you wouldn’t think it to look at him, and being a Squib was almost more than his pride could handle. Of course, he had had a good few years to get used to the idea of being a disgrace to the name of wizards. What was the use, he often wondered, of living in a world where what you wanted most was the quality that everyone else except you possessed? Why did he work in a school for magic, where he would have to see children increasingly younger than him mastering difficult spells, when he couldn’t cast the simplest Lumos? Simply, he didn’t wish to be segregated completely from the wizarding world, having been brought up in a wizarding family. Being a caretaker was one of the few jobs a Squib could be employed into, and he had it better than most at Hogwarts.

Perhaps once he had not been so bitter, perhaps once the youngest children of Hogwarts had brought a smile to his face when they had succeeded in casting their first spell. Perhaps once he had even been kind to the children, and would have enjoyed his job if he had not been a shameful Squib. But those days were long gone. Fifty years of having your greatest desire flaunted in front of you daily was enough to make even the most good-hearted man bitter and angry at the world.

His childhood had been difficult. His parents had been expecting magical abilities to rise at a young age and when it hadn’t happened, they had been disappointed. Not angry, just let down, as if he had chosen purposefully to renounce his heritage and not be a proper wizard. Young Argus Filch had been struck deeply by his parents’ disappointment in his magical prowess, however much they tried to hide it. He had gotten older and older, and still had as little magic as any of the most blinkered and stupid Muggles. And slowly, he noticed the hushed conversations between his parents growing more frequent, and the times when they fell silent when he entered a room increased, and the sorrowful and disappointed looks began to seem permanently fixed to their faces whenever they saw him. When his eleventh birthday came and his Hogwarts letter didn’t, Argus Filch’s world fell apart. From there on in, the little faith he had still had in the world diminished bit by bit, until all that was left behind was the bitter knowledge that he would never fit in.

No one could even imagine what it was like for him, Filch often reflected. He saw the sympathetic looks people gave him, he saw the absolute pity in their eyes as they felt grateful for the fact that they weren’t like him, he saw the condescending looks in the young students’ eyes grow over time as they began to realise that they were better than him, and always would be. But whatever they imagined he felt, the reality was ten times worse.

To grow up in a family where summoning objects to you and numerous other simple charms were a part of life and then learn that they wouldn’t be a part of yours was more then hard to cope with. It was simply impossible to comprehend. Young Argus had struggled to understand that he would never be like his family, that he would never inherit the talent that was effectively his birthright. The years until he had been invited to work at Hogwarts by Albus Dumbledore were full of darkness and depression. He hadn’t really had a place in the world. He wasn’t a Muggle, but he definitely wasn’t a wizard. All he knew for sure was that he was the bearer of that shameful title that every member of every wizarding family dreaded. Squib.

Argus had drifted between the two worlds for a few years, working for his father in the Ministry and then giving that up and living as a Muggle to try and forget what and who he was. It seemed like such a little thing when he distanced himself from it and thought about it now. So what if he couldn’t do magic? He knew what people must have thought, how quickly they must have lost sympathy for the bitter man he had been even back then, if not nearly so resentful as he was in the present day. But for young Argus Filch, and indeed, the older Argus too, it was much more than simply not being magical. He was a failure, unable to perform what he should have been born to do. He was an outcast, fitting in neither world and unable to live in either. He was a Squib.

People treated you differently when you were a Squib. Filch wasn’t exactly the most neat and tidy looking man, but people naturally assumed he was a wizard and treated him accordingly. He was well known in Diagon Alley as the Hogwarts caretaker because, as you can assume, that particular job entailed a lot of buying and selling of goods that weren’t of the usual type. This commanded at least a modicum of respect and polite treatment. Being affiliated with Dumbledore had always been a blessing for a man like Filch.

But when people found out he was a Squib, he saw how their attitudes changed. It was almost imperceptible, but change they did. Where he had been treated with grudging respect when people thought he was a wizard, a shred of condescension crept in instantly when they found out he was a Squib. Sometimes it wasn’t merely disdain, but pity as well. Pity for a man who couldn’t do magic like they could. Pity for a man who was so bitter that he couldn’t even smile any more. Pity for a man whose jealousy was so great that he could no longer treat any witch or wizard with kindness, and would do anything to be able to put them back in their places.

Harry Potter and his stinking little friends were three of the worst. Full to the brim with magical prowess and great deeds, the three walked the halls of Hogwarts like they owned them. Filch would give anything, anything, to have even the Longbottom boy’s miserable powers, and there was Potter moping about like the gods hadn’t made him famous, powerful and talented all in one. Filch was jealous, oh yes, but he wasn’t just jealous of Potter and his friends. He hated them.

Professor Umbridge, wonderful Professor Umbridge, had promised Filch everything he had ever wanted. The ability to wipe the smug smiles off those irritating, arrogant faces. The ability to have more power than them, just for once. And maybe it would make Potter finally stop breaking rules, but he doubted it. Umbridge had been a horrible woman, but Filch didn’t care. Her assurances that he would be able to punish the students properly was a heady promise that made all else seem irrelevant in the prospect of revenge.

If he was honest, he wouldn’t really be punishing any errant students for their rule breaking, but rather the fact they were magical when he was not. Why did Filch not join the Dark Lord? He had often thought about it; the Muggleborn students were almost more than he could bear. He was of a wizarding family yet magic was beyond his reach. But there were several reasons for his loyalty – or at least not a betrayal – of Dumbledore. Filch was if nothing else a proud man, and so he remained faithful to the man who had brought him back into the fold of the wizarding world. It caused pain and bitterness beyond any he would have experienced living in the Muggle world, but sometimes he received a modicum of respect that made it seem worthwhile.

There was another, more selfish reason. Filch was afraid of offering himself to the Dark Lord, in case he was mocked. He had no doubt that his services would be received with pleasure; he knew more about Hogwarts than anyone except Dumbledore, and even more about the people in it. He watched and listened whenever he was in a position to do so, and so he had learnt much that would be of interest to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from whispered conversations in dark corners or from simple observation. But on the few occasions he had come face to face with one he knew as a Death Eater, they had looked upon him with derision and he couldn’t face having that constantly behind his back if he were to serve the Dark Lord.

Mrs Norris yowled at his feet and Filch looked down. He had been distracted by his wandering thoughts, which had taken a path that he had trodden many times before. It never changed.

“What is it, my love?” he whispered, kneeling down to stroke her back firmly. She meowed again, twining between his legs and pressing up against them. He ran his hand over the whole of her back and up her tail, his touch filled with a tenderness that was reserved solely for his cat. She arched into his caress with a similar love that, again, was only for him. They had a connection, and although to most she was just a cat, to Argus Filch she was his life. They understood each other fully, and were both loners who had bonded together. Filch showed Mrs Norris a side of himself that might have been more prominent, had his life been happier and more filled with affection.

Mrs Norris and he didn’t communicate, as such, but he was well versed in understanding her small movements and noises. “Irma?” he asked, not sure if he had interpreted her sign for the cranky librarian correctly. Mrs Norris meowed in confirmation and Filch stood up hurriedly, almost knocking into the cat at his feet. She hissed and swiped a claw at him, but he ignored her annoyance and hurriedly arranged his drab clothing neatly.

Irma Pince was the woman of his dreams. The mature, grim librarian was the only staff member who understood his hatred of the students and indeed, shared it to some degree. Whereas he cared only for his cat, she cared only for her books, and woe betide any unfortunate person that came between them. But for a long time now, Filch had harboured a secret fondness for her thin features and sharp voice. Snape perhaps was the only other tolerable staff member, but he was apt to defend his Slytherins. Filch had no preference for any of the houses, not even Slytherin, so he had come under the brunt of Snape’s biting sarcasm several times. All the other staff members protested strongly against Filch’s suggestions of corporal punishment, whereas his Irma strongly maintained that if a student willingly – and perhaps even if they did so by accident – vandalised one of her tomes, she would make them sorry through any method which she saw fit.

She turned the corner now, her mouth pinched together in her classic severe expression and a pile of books held tightly in her arms. Filch stepped into her path.

“I can carry some of those if you like, Irma,” he said in an oily voice that he considered rather dashing.

“No, that’s quite alright, Argus,” she replied briskly. “That dreadful Hermione girl has been on a researching binge again, and I need to get back to the library as quick as possible. Heaven knows what she’s getting up to.”

Filch gave her a sickly smile. “Potter breaking the rules again?”

“Who knows. That boy simply doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble.” Madame Pince looked disapproving. Filch chuckled appreciatively. He watched her from the corner of his eye, admiring the sharp figure she made. She had never mentioned a partner, or had any romances at all in her time at Hogwarts, as far as he knew. But that didn’t mean anything, when wizards and witches lived for one hundred and fifty years or more. One could have years between relationships and yet still have a long time with the person they finally settled down with.

“I had to chase some of those little menaces in the younger years out the other day. They were intent on annoying you, Mr Filch.” She sniffed in disapproval, and Filch puffed out his chest, feeling important. “I told them you had far more important things to be doing than punish little scallywags like them.”

“I’ve always got time to…rearrange the priorities of students.” Filch smiled maliciously. “I rather enjoy putting them in their places.”

Madame Pince smiled coldly. “Indeed. I sometimes wish corporal punishment were permissible for the more daring students, but the other staff members don’t seem to share my feelings.” Her voice held a hint of danger, and Filch felt a shiver of glee at the lengths she was willing to go to when a student mistreated her books.

“Professor McGonagall wouldn’t even let me punish the student who tried to curse poor Mrs Norris.” Filch agreed with her wholeheartedly, not for the first time wishing that Professor Umbridge were back in charge. His loyalty to Dumbledore didn’t stretch far enough to cover Filch’s wish for revenge upon the students.

Irma Pince gave him an approving look. “It’s nice to hear someone with a bit of sense. Students have to be punished or they’ll never learn, and detentions just aren’t effective enough. Why, I had a student blatantly write on the front cover of one of my books!” She let out a noise of outrage.

“I had a group of students break into my Confiscated and Highly Dangerous drawer and steal something from it once.” Filch scowled, rearranging his scruffy clothing once again. “I don’t know what it did, but I took it off that murderer Black and that good-for-nothing James Potter when they were students here. Knowing those two, it’s something dangerous. They never did have any respect for anyone but their own arrogant selves.”

Irma tutted. “Disgraceful. Those four boys were a nightmare.” The pile of books in her arms began to overbalance, and Filch was about to help when he noticed Mrs Norris under his feet, eyes gleaming. He leapt back so he didn’t step on her, and the books cascaded to the floor without his help to steady them. Cursing filthily when he saw the bent covers and ripped pages, Filch knelt down in a rather ungainly way to try and assist the librarian in picking them back up. His ragged, dirty clothing trailed over Mrs Norris and she yowled, taking a playful swipe at the edge of the material. He glared at her; it was the cat’s fault that this had happened.

Madame Pince was kneeling over her fallen tomes protectively. Whipping out her dark hued wand, she muttered a spell and the books started straightening themselves out. Covers smoothed back into shape, pages attached back together, and they flew into two neat piles. She frowned at one stubborn crease, and Filch flinched at the casual use of magic. His help wasn’t needed. But he soon forgot his troubles when she turned to fix him with her steely gaze.

“Did you not think to help me, Mr Filch?” she said icily.

Mrs Norris wrapped around his legs, and he reached down to run his fingers along her spine, reassuring her she wasn’t in trouble. “It’s all right, my sweet,” he cooed at her. “Mrs Norris was in the way. I didn’t want to hurt her,” he said by way of explanation to Irma. To his surprise, her expression softened.

“I’ve always thought your cat was beautiful,” she said, shocking him utterly. All the other teachers expressed dislike for the eerie cat that Filch was so devoted to, and certainly many of the students went out of their way to torment her. Professor McGonagall had even been involved in a scrap with Mrs Norris whilst in her Animagus form. The poor cat still had an odd coloured patch of fur on her tail to mark where McGonagall had bitten her. So to hear that Madame Pince liked his cat meant a lot. He couldn’t like anyone who didn’t accept his cat.

Twisting his face into a friendly smile was difficult but he managed it eventually. He was used to only malicious smiles when he got to punish a student. Scratching his head, he plucked up his courage. “Do you – do you want some help there?” he said hopefully.

“I’d like that, Argus.” she replied, and smiled. And so the couple headed off to the library together, an unlikely pair who had finally found a way to belong.



Chapter 46: Irma Pince
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By: dim at best
Beta read by: canadianstar and Jessi_Rose
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Title: An Old Book Opened
Rating/Warnings: 12+, Mild Language
For the Staff: Being a part of this whole surprise was a blast! Writing my first character sketch was a bit challenging at times, and gave me plenty of headaches, but I knew that the Staff deserved it. Without them, a bunch of writers wouldn't have a home. As Hogwarts is to Harry, HPFF is to me. Thank you, I hope you like this!

-Terri

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Madam Irma Pince loved books. They were her everything – books had given her adventure, romance, friendship, knowledge, comfort, and most importantly, books were what had given her a job and a home. Irma’s life revolved around books, and she saw no problem with that.

Books were the single most important things in her life. To her, no question could be solved without a book – books held the answer to everything. Books were a fountain of knowledge, and held the power to transport its reader to another world.

However, what Madam Irma Pince never realized, was that books were not a substitute for real life.

In all the years she’d worked as librarian at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she’d never opened up to anybody. Irma saw herself as a tightly bound leather book, one that anyone had yet to read, and her analogy was quite correct.

Nobody in the school, even her colleagues, knew what her favourite colour was. Nobody knew when she took her tea, or how she took it. Nobody knew the story behind the feather duster she brandished, and nobody knew when her birthday was. In fact, it was Irma’s strong suspicion that half the school didn’t even know her first name was Irma.

She wasn’t too concerned about her animosity within the halls of Hogwarts. She figured, quite logically, that the less that was known about her, the better things would be in the long run. It was a terrible thing when something, or someone, became too attached – she should know.

You see, Madam Irma Pince was not always stingy and irritable. Her life once hadn’t revolved around books, or been all about them. Madam Irma Pince had been young once. She’d been young, she’d been in love, and she’d been married.

It had been a happy marriage, and, as she thought back, a foolish one. Sure it had been filled with love and happiness – but it had also been so carefree and impulsive, with no thoughts to the future. No consideration of the consequences, and no preparations for adulthood.

Alistair hadn’t been handsome, smart or sensible – but he’d been funny, and, believe it or not, Irma used to love to laugh. When they were both seventeen, he’d convinced her to elope. They were adults, he’d said, and could take care of themselves. Live off love was the theme of it all, and Irma had been caught up within its romance.

But dark times had taken her Alistair away from her, and she’d been left isolated and without money. She’d roughed it in those days, and had learned to never take things for granted. She’d mourned for Alistair, but she never let his death consume her. She distracted herself with novels that Alistair had left behind. And so, her love of books began.

A year after Alistair’s death, Irma heard of an employment opening at her alma mater, Hogwarts. They were looking for a responsible adult to become Guardian of the Hogwarts Library, and Irma rushed to apply. She managed to get the job, and she never looked back.

She remembered a visit from her parents, some years after she’d taken up post as librarian. They’d said they could hardly recognize her. She was so serious and so thin, so consumed with her love of books.

Irma had brushed it off as useless mollycoddling that parents tend to do. But now, Irma wondered if they were right.

She could barely see her old laughing self within the frail woman she was today. She was sure that if Alistair ever saw her, he’d be appalled that he’d married such a woman, and Irma wasn’t sure if she would blame him.

She’d been so happy to lose herself within books that she’d never stopped to question the wisdom behind this action. Now, nearly fifty years later, the actions of a certain caretaker were making the doubt finally creep in.

Argus Filch was a kind man, a man whom she knew to be a loving soul, despite his gruff exterior. He loved his cat, he loved his school, and Irma was proud to note that she had never ever seen the man mistreat a book.

Over the years, the two had struck up a tentative friendship. She’d instantly known of his affections toward her, however, back then she’d decided that his crush would only last a moment. A passing fancy, if you will. Irma figured that nobody could ever like her in that way for a long period of time, therefore, befriending Filch wouldn’t hurt.

Now, Irma was surprised to find that she returned the man’s feelings.

They were frighteningly similar. He was devoted to his cat, she was devoted to her books. He loathed the students at Hogwarts, she held the same dislike. He was all for corporal punishment, and she too saw it as a form of justice. The two were both outcasts in the professor social group, yet both held an unwavering loyalty to Dumbledore.

Yes, Irma Pince and Argus Filch were quite the match.

But this bit of information scared Irma. There was the matter of Alistair of course, and the rumors that would no doubt fly once the pair were seen together, but most importantly, there was the fact that a romance with Argus Filch would not be in a book. It wouldn’t be written out for her to follow, or be a part of some great storyline. Irma would have to live it in real life – and that terrified her.
It was one muggy day in February, as Irma was pondering the pros and cons of going out with Argus, that it happened.

The day had started out normal enough. She’d woken, dressed, eaten, and opened the library. She’d just begun to repair the damaged books some careless (and now punished) students had broken, when she’d fallen into an Argus Filch daydream.

It was quite uncommon for Irma to daydream, especially during working hours, yet lately she’d found the caretaker invading her thoughts at all hours, with daydreams related to him becoming more and more frequent.

A loud crash and some cursing snapped Irma out of her reverie.

Irma hurried out of her library, for she considered it her’s, and into the corridor. The very subject of her daydream stood there, covered head to toe in Stinksap, and looked furious.

“Argus! What happened?” Irma’s eyes watered from the foul stench of the sticky liquid.

“Bloody kids is what happened,” he muttered savagely, “you know how they are. A couple of Gryffindors jinxed this suit of armor to spew out Stinksap”

“That’s awful,” Irma said sympathetically, practically gagging from the smell in the air.

“I’m just grateful that Mrs. Norris wasn’t here to get covered with this … stuff.”

A nasty scowl fixed itself onto Argus’ face, and although there was nothing remotely attractive about Filch at the moment, Irma found herself falling a bit more for the stinky man in front of her.

“I’ll clean it for you. Scourgify!”

Irma waved her wand, and instantly the sap disappeared. She closed her eyes in relaxation, and took a deep lemon-scented, stink-free breath of air. When her eyes reopened, they nearly popped out of their sockets.

Her simple cleaning spell hadn’t just removed the Stinksap, no, it had also removed the usual dirt and grime that coated Argus. His stringy black hair had turned into a lustrous walnut streaked with silver, his skin lacked its habitual grey tinge, and his clothes held a new vibrancy that she’d never seen before.

She looked at him for a while, soaking up his newfound cleanliness, before she realized he was squirming under her intense scrutiny. Not bothering to blush, Irma found her voice.

“Well, is that better, Argus?”

“Much better, Irma. Handy spell you used there,” his vice cracked, but Irma paid it no mind.

“It was a simple cleaning spell, really. The students you punish would normally be begging to use it.”

“Ah, yes. But how else would they learn if they never did it the hard way?”

“Cleaning the Muggle way is hardly enough of a punishment in my opinion,” Irma voiced, eyes still scanning the clean Filch, “I think Dumbledore’s gone a bit soft in that department. Did you know that he actually made me weaken nearly all the curses on my books, saying that the jinxes are partly why so many students avoid my library like the plague?”

“That’s terrible,” Argus agreed heartily, “the Headmaster even thinks that I too am a bit too hard on the students. I keep telling him that softer punishments would just make them more willing to break the rules, but he still won’t allow whip authorization.”

Madam Pince wasn’t sure if Filch was joking or not, so she decided that a swift change of subjects would be in order.

“Anyways, Argus, why were you coming this way down the corridor?” she asked briskly.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” he replied in explanation. Irma simply blinked.

“Valentine’s Day?”

“Yes, I was wondering,” he looked around a bit nervously, before focusing on his feet, “I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me – perhaps to Hogsmeade? I hear Madam Puddifoot’s coffees are good.”

“Coffees?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, well … why … that seems …” Irma was in complete and utter shock, “lovely. Positively lovely.”

“Would you like to go now?”

Irma nodded mutely, mind scrambling for some sort of book she might’ve read on dating. The last time she’d been with a man romantically was Alistair, and it was safe to say that her brain was quite fuzzy on the subject now.

“Oi! No skulking in the corridors!” Argus barked, making a second year jump. Irma looked at him with a sort of admiration, and suddenly, the two of them were drawing closer together.

His large lamp-like eyes closed, his chapped lips puckered, and Irma’s eyes widened.

“I … have to close up the library. Make the appropriate sealing charms to guarantee its safety. Then perhaps, we can go and fetch some coffees from this place in Hogsmeade.”
Disappointment and hurt filled Argus’ eyes, and, without thinking, without considering a single book, Irma kissed him right on the mouth.

It was the most awkward, weird, kiss in the world. Argus mouth had been partly open, while hers had been firmly closed. Both of their eyes had been wide open, and their noses were digging rather uncomfortably into the other’s face. Irma found that Argus had bad breath. And yet, despite all this, their kiss was magical.

Irma turned on her heel and began to close up the library with her wand.

“Shall we get going then?” he asked a bit gruffly when she turned around.

“Sure I –”

The pair was interrupted by loud laughter. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger were turning the corridor, making much more noise than either Irma or Filch would’ve liked.

“I cannot believe you did that, Harry. Did you see Malfoy’s face?”

“No, but I bet it was priceless.”

The trio laughed again, and Irma and Argus scowled simultaneously. It was then that Ron took notice of them.

“Harry, Hermione, look!” he said rather loudly, “Pince and Filch actually are dating? Can’t say they don’t deserve each other, ‘course.”

But instead of outrage, as Irma’d expected herself to feel at such a tactless, idiotic, remark… she felt herself considering it. Did she and Argus deserve each other? They were really similar, and enjoyed each other’s company. They had the same love for despising students, and both were devoted to objects that they really shouldn’t be devoted to (she had her books, and he had Mrs. Norris). But did they truly ‘deserve’ each other?

For some reason Irma found herself thinking of her past romance with Alistair. Had she deserved him?

And then, Irma remembered something she’d read in a book once. It didn’t matter about matching a person, or deserving them, or being similar to them. All that mattered was that you loved them, and it suddenly hit Irma that she did love him. Argus Filch, that is.

Irma tuned out Argus’ scolding of the trio, and instead thought about whether or not she was ready to love. She was a tightly bound novel, made of old leather, cracked and worn. She hadn’t been opened in fifty years, letting no person close enough to read who she truly was.

She thought of her old optimistic self, and what she’d say to that. With a smile, Irma realized that her old self wouldn’t say anything to that at all. She’d laugh at that. Laugh incredulously and loudly, unafraid for anyone to hear her. And then, once her old self became serious enough, she’d say to just ‘open up’.

Old Irma and new Irma accepted each other and became one. It was time that she took her own advice.

Irma looked at Argus, who was smiling at his effective and brutal treatment of the trio. He looked positively euphoric at the detentions he’d doled out, even more so because there hadn’t really even been a reason to give them out.

Madam Irma Pince smiled widely at him and took his hand in hers.

It was time that this old book opened.


Chapter 47: Horace Slughorn
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By: Lyn Midnight
Beta read by: canadianstar and nicalyse
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Title: Snare of Cowardice
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (mild language)
For the Staff: Ever since I joined HPFF, it's been like a second home
to me. I thank the staff warmly for that. I dedicate this short story
to their magnificent talent and love for the site and its members.
It's been a pleasure to be a part of this project! ~Lyn

-----

A/N: The incantation is translated as follows:

Tear from within what he wants to lose.
Give it to me and lock it deeper within.
Never reveal what should be hidden.


-----


He swore under his breath immediately after realizing it was just another one of the usual dreams. He had just woken up with a start, sweating and breathing hard. Nightmares wouldn’t leave him after what he did. He often thought about it, during the day and at night. Tossing and turning, finding it hard to fall asleep, knowing what would come later.

Nightmares did not only come at night; he was having them every waking moment as well. It had been a year now. He chose the easy way and hid himself from the danger... from the war. He took the cowardly way. His decision was cowardly.

Thinking about it did not bring him any peace of mind. It only got worse with time. Peace was for good people. He was not such. He had brought this war upon his friends and his decisions had been deadly to both people he knew, and those never heard of.

It had been entirely his fault. Living with it never got any easier. He often woke up after a half-hour of sleep screaming, his eyes staring widely open at the walls of his room. They always changed. One day they were white and the other they changed to gray. He never knew where he would go next. Muggles didn’t really appear to be the most cautious of creatures, that he could tell.

Sneaking in and out of houses in the middle of the night was his current existence. It was not something that he wanted, but he had no choice. He once had it, but not any more. No one would have forgiven him for this foolish mistake. Horace Slughorn was a proud man. Acting like a coward was below his level, and yet, he did it every day. He went to bed as a coward, woke up as a coward, and left the house as a coward.

He led a cowardly life and he was only able to admit it to himself. Cowardice was his second nature by now. He did it well, as if he had been a coward all along. He could barely remember instances when he appeared brave. Yet he saw bravery as something that the foolish idealists, fighting for other lives rather than their own, would do. It was not something he believed in. He was no fool. He knew the meaning of the word cowardice. He knew what it implied, what it turned him into, as well as what awaited him for hiding. Who would help the man to live a normal life again? Not someone that could find him. Except...

No matter. He still had to deal with the memory. He had searched for a way to change it, to kill it, so that no one would know what he’d done. But the human mind was much more complex than he wished it to be. He had been convinced that he would have managed by now, yet he still struggled to forget.

I am a Potions professor, darn it, he thought bitterly before he remembered that was no longer the case. So he thought about this for days on end. It crossed his mind more than once in an hour. He counted the minutes until the next time he got to see his former student’s face again.

He saw the inquiring look upon his face. How could he think it would be safe to confide in one of his own students? How could he even explain such monstrosity to a child? No, he was not a child. If he were, he wouldn’t have committed such insanity. He had long been tainted by lust after power, as his heart was filled with darkness that even the brightest of stars could not revive.

The sudden knocking on wood got him out of his daze in a matter of seconds, making him feel edgy. He looked left. There he saw the same old oak door, slightly ajar, giving him a head start if someone entered the house. Then his eyes traveled to his right. The same old broken window with oak frames. If he was foolish enough, he would have thought that it was the wind.

Hiding had caused him to turn into a nervous wreck; a neurotic and paranoid man crouched in a shell. He could hear the slightest sound. And he could sense when someone closed the house because of the light wards he pulled up just in case.

But he did not feel a change in the wards; therefore it might have been some bird.

Flash.

The boy’s face staring at his professor, asking about something he read in a book from the Restricted Section.

Flash.

He could feel an invisible hand pulling his scattered thoughts as if trying to take something from his head.

Flash.

That look... that demanding look. Burning him from inside, taking away memory upon memory until nothing’s left.

Flash.

“What is it? What does it mean?”

Flash.

“It is not something to be discussed at school.”

Flash.

I want to know now!

Flash.

Then it was all dark. It was another one of his visions. Visions of the past that haunted his nights and days -- the same visions that scared him in his sleep. All these years his only wish had been to forget about the boy’s name. However, when everyone started fearing it, he was relieved and terrified altogether. He was not used to being alone, no longer surrounded by his best students.

Wait. That was it. A brief realization dawned upon him. It was a flicker of hope that he held onto long enough to form a plan – a desperate, but effective plan to get rid of the burden and destroy the evidence altogether. He needed an experienced mind. If he was captured, his secret would be revealed. However, he could get rid of the secret and find a safe place to keep it... with the help of an incantation he had never used before in his life. It was time.

On the next morning, Horace Slughorn was on a mission. He would risk his safety by exposing under the sun’s gentle caress. Even though it was the brave thing to do in his mind, he still had a feeling that he was choosing the cowardly way.

He had long left the last house he chose to hide in. He was on the move again, only this time, it was to face the consequence or, rather, to escape from the inevitable. He walked on the back streets of the suburbs until he could see a familiar building in the distance. Horace thanked his angels that it was summer and he did not have to think of a way to get the current Potions Professor out of Hogwarts.

In the distance, right in front of him, rose a huge house that looked centuries old and dilapidated, although it was not completely true. It was all just a magic ward to keep it from prying eyes. Every wizarding house had one of those, but this seemed almost real to Horace’s experienced eyes. He was used to seeing behind the obvious, and yet he found it hard to concentrate. Darn that anxiety, he cursed under his breath for the tenth time that same day.

He shook his head and hurriedly discarded the thought. His former student had indeed showed exceeding knowledge of the ways of magic. So the old Potions Professor headed towards the house, hoping that it would not take long to convince Severus Snape to take part in his sudden plan that could as well bring more trouble than solve any existing problem.

It wasn’t long before he reached the front gates. He hesitated for a bit, taking in his surroundings. Every place posed a danger to him, and yet he was tired of hiding. It was time to end it all with just one last decision.

~*~

“I will not do it,” the middle-aged Snape snapped at his former professor.

Horace just sighed heavily.

“You know you have no choice. You owe me, Severus.”

“I owe you nothing,” he averted his gaze. “ Even if I did owe you, the thing you are asking me to do is madness, which I am not willing to even consider to attempt.”

“It won’t hurt. It’s something like having a Secret Keeper, but more powerful.”

“I know what it is,” Snape sneered. “You taught me, remember?”

“Indeed,” Horace could not hold in his smirk. It lasted briefly, because he quickly remembered that he had no time to waste. “It’s time. You have to do it, Severus. I promise you, no one will know of this. Not unless you tell someone. I will probably not even remember afterwards. All you have to do is take it. Take it away. I can’t live with it any longer. It won’t burden you, Severus. It will just...”

Snape cut him off impatiently, “Stop jabbering, old fool.”

Horace gaped. He drew in another breath before saying in an undertone, “You better be respectful, Snape. Should the truth be known, you will not remain unscathed.”

Snape looked into Slughorn’s fiery gaze. He was no fool. This meant that if he chose to disobey the senile man, he would surely regret his rashness.

“All right,” he finally chose to comply. “I will do it.”

~*~

It was all prepared. Everything was in its place, from the lit candles that encircled the two cloaked figures in the middle of the room, to the ghosts that lingered in the walls, waiting to see a real spectacle. One of the men kneeled on the dusty floor, at a medium distance from the other, who was standing. The latter had his wand in one hand, which was pointed directly at the kneeling Horace Slughorn.

Severus Snape knew there was no evading this. So did the man in front of him. They were both ready for what would follow – oblivion in the pure sense of the word. One of both men would forget, and neither knew what the consequence would be. Horace looked carefully at his former student. Upon seeing Snape’s concentration, he shivered. Should his plan fail, they would both lose a lot. If the spell chose to reverse, it would cause Horace to know of affairs that weren’t meant to be revealed.

There was light sensation in the room. The time for the ritual had come, and both were ready to risk it for the good of... the risk. If it worked, Horace would be a free man. If it failed, he would have another life on his shoulders. Ancient magic shouldn’t be meddled with, and no one knew this better than Horace Slughorn himself. Yet, he chose to trust it one last time. It was like gambling – either you win everything or you lose what you have left.

Suddenly, they both felt the air getting heavier. Snape raised his wand in determination before uttering the incantation.

Scinde de intus quod cupit amittere.
Done cui me et obsera quod altum intum
Numquam recludere quod est occultum.


“Occultum,” Horace chorused. A moment later, the whole room was spinning in front of their wide-open eyes. A single gray thread linked both the kneeling man and his Fear Keeper. Their breathing was ragged, as they were forced to hold their breath against the heavy air filling the room, suffocating them with its thickness. If there was anything that could hurt more than tearing something from one man’s mind, it was forcing it into another man’s head.

Screams of pain and fear filled the now smaller room. Severus Snape found himself on the ground, holding his head. It was being forcefully filled with another’s thoughts and fears, while Horace’s mind was being freed from the burden of knowing that he had created a monster only a year ago. In a moment, Snape saw everything that was not supposed to be seen by anyone.

Horace was crouched on the floor, exhilarated by the feeling caused by the invisible force, pulling the memory he so dreaded from his tired brain. As he slowly began to regain his composure, he lifted his head slightly to see the now whimpering form of Snape on the floor, just a few steps from himself. Horace tried to get up, and managed after the third time. His weak body led him to the seemingly unconscious Severus. As soon as the old man reached his former student, Snape raised his head.

Sharp pain shot through Slughorn, as though thousands of knives scattered pieces of his brain into million smithereens. Images of Darkness went through his mind, as another round of sheer pain tore him from within. He screamed despite of himself. When it wore out a little bit, he realized the man in front of him was laughing. Severus Snape was laughing, and Slughorn could hardly think of anything that he could find amusing at that moment.

“What...”

“Old fool. You wouldn’t have asked me of this. You are free from your secret. However, now I am free from mine as well.”

That said, Horace passed out, overwhelmed by gruesome images of Voldemort and his servants, torturing innocent muggles until they broke. Hours later he woke up in a bed that was not his own. He looked around – the place reminded him of all those muggle homes he used to hide in. A new wave of mental pain shook him, as he tried to stand up. Carefully, he rose to his feet and went as far as they would carry him – the window.

He was in the suburbs still, though he could not recognize his exact location. He started to recall Snape’s last words. Now I am free from mine. He closed his eyes. He was burdened yet again by another man’s demons. He was freed from the notion that he had created the most fearsome wizard his world has ever known, but at the same time, he was haunted by Severus Snape’s own nightmares. How could he have been so stupid?

A new shot of pain shook his whole body, as he hit the cold floor. All of the pain and suffering of the ones tortured hit him in an instant. Severus Snape, his favourite student, was a Death Eater. And now he could not tell the world, because if he chose to do the right thing for once in his life, he would be blamed for the deaths of all of Voldemort’s victims and even the war. Life was always cruel to Horace Slughorn. Now, however, it was different. He was a marked man – marked by death for as long as he lived.


Chapter 48: Filius Flitwick
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Title: The Mirror of Egdelwonk
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Another year at Hogwarts was finally over, and the summer holidays had started. I had decided to take a real holiday this year, and was now apparating to Hamburg in Germany.

The German Ministry for Magic provided a room in the train station of Hamburg-Altona where wizards and witches from all over the world could arrive and depart by Apparition, Floo Powder or Portkeys. An elderly Ministry witch was in charge of selling Muggle maps and train tickets to those who, like me, wanted to continue their journey by Muggle means of transport.

I had bought some casual Muggle clothes for my holidays, exchanged money and even learned a little German. Aside from being quite quick with new languages anyway, I also know a potion or two to aid in learning a little faster.

So now here I was, leaving the Ministry room and setting out towards the platforms with my trunk on a Muggle luggage trolley. It was quite easy to find the correct platform; apparently, Muggles aren’t as chaotic as they are said to be. I boarded the train to Westerland, that’s on the isle of Sylt, which would take two hours to bring me to my destination. It’s sometimes quite hard to believe how slowly Muggles travel.

This “Muggle style” holiday was not an idea that would normally have occurred to me, but I talked a lot to Arthur Weasley lately, and it’s quite hard not to be intrigued by Muggle life when you listen to him.

Two hours later we arrived at a small station where Muggles could get their cars aboard the train to have them transported to the island. You could reach Sylt by ship or train, but there was no Muggle road.

Around us was marshland, with a few solitary trees every now and then, stretching perfectly flat to the horizon. It was a truly romantic landscape, just as though it had been created to serve as a place to spend one’s holidays.

Soon after that, we turned west towards the island. The railway was built directly across the shallow area of sea that fell dry twice a day at low tide, and that the whole area was so famous for. Luckily, I was travelling at high tide, and the greyish blue waves of the North Sea almost reached the railway on one side. On the other side, sheep were grazing on the salty grass. We would soon be reaching Sylt.

I never liked big hotels, so I had rented a room in a house in the old town of Westerland. The landlady had told me the house once belonged to the captain of a big trading-vessel who had made quite a fortune in China or Japan. I don’t remember which.

The old house was not far from the station. Like the other buildings in the neighbourhood, it was built of red bricks and had a roof of reed. I rang the bell, and an elderly, motherly-looking Muggle woman opened the door.

At first she looked right over my head, but I’m quite used to that by now. People are always a little astonished by my size, or rather my lack of size. However, she recovered quite fast.

“Good day, Madam, I am Filius Flitwick; I rented one of your rooms for two weeks,” I said in German.

“Ah yes, I’ve been expecting you! Come in please, Mr Flitwick!”

The landlady, Mrs. Tadsen, led me into the house. Through a small corridor we reached the “Pesel”, as the living-room in a Friesian house is called. It had a low wooden ceiling, and the furniture consisted of a large table with a couple of chairs around it, a few old shelves and cupboards, and a TV set. Up to waist height, the wall was covered in old tiles showing mainly maritime pictures in blue and white.

“The guests who rent only one room, like yourself, can all use the Pesel together. I will come here, too, sometimes, to chat a bit with my guests,” Mrs Tadsen explained.

“It looks really nice, Mrs. Tadsen. Almost as though it came directly from the 18th century. Except, of course, for the TV,” I said.

“These houses are considered valuable historical monuments, so we have to keep them as they were when they were built,” my landlady explained, “But I really like it that way, too, and so do the tourists. This way,” she indicated a door to her left, “is your bedroom.”

We went into my bedroom, which was furnished in the same style as the Pesel. Through another door opposite the one leading to the Pesel I could get to a bathroom, which I also had to my own.

When Mrs Tadsen had showed me around the house, I unpacked my trunk and decided to go down to the beach. It was still afternoon and quite warm outside, and I didn’t feel like spending the first day of my holidays indoors.

I found myself a nice spot on the beach, away from the larger crowds of tourists, and sat down in the warm sand. Behind me was the dyke with cafés and bistros on top of it. Before me, the waves of the sea stretched away into infinity.

I had just settled down and was taking out my Muggle crime novel when a large brown owl landed neatly next to me. Some Muggles looked my way, surprised to see an owl in bright daylight, and apparently a tame one. I quickly placed an Obscuring Charm on the owl. Any Muggle looking at it would instantly be distracted by something more interesting. Then I untied the scroll of parchment from the owl’s outstretched leg. Opening it, I read:

Dear Filius,

The Order needs your help. We have been looking for an ancient magical device known as the Mirror of Egdelwonk. Undoubtedly, you know about the Mirror of Erised; the Mirror of Egdelwonk was manufactured by the same wizard, who apparently suffered from a lack of imagination when it came to names. However, I recently learned where this mirror might be hidden, and I think you are aware how useful it would be for us if we found it.

The mirror was made somewhere in the orient and sent to a wizard who lived in a small town called Rungholt. This place is located a little south of Sylt, but we have not yet found out exactly where it is. I suppose you will be able to gain access to that information more easily since it has to be near Sylt, and someone there should know more about it.

It is possible that Lord Voldemort has learned about the Mirror as well by now. You will have to be careful.

I hope you do not mind that I had to spoil your holidays like this. If you find the mirror, please bring it to Headquarters as soon as you can.

Yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore


Spoil my holidays? Not at all! There is little I enjoy more than a nice mystery, and Albus knows it.

Rungholt. I did not remember having seen the name on any map of the area, and decided to ask Mrs Tadsen.
After everyone had come back from dinner, we sat in the Pesel and chatted a bit. We, that was Mrs Tadsen, Ms. Ashley Sue McMillan (a beautiful blonde from New York City in designer clothing and with an air of perfection about her), Mr. and Mrs. Huber (a middle aged married couple from somewhere in Bavaria), and myself. “Myself, that was, as far as the others knew, a physics professor from a boarding school in the north of England – close enough, I’d say.

We talked about this and that for a while, soon switching over to English, because the Hubers’ English was a lot better than my German.

After a while I asked Mrs Tadsen, “A friend told me about a place called Rungholt, but I couldn’t find it on the maps I have. Can you tell me where it is?”

Our landlady seemed a bit surprised when she answered, “Why, no wonder you didn’t find it! The town sank in a tidal wave in 1362. All you will find in the place where it’s been is water.”

“That’s like, so interesting!”, Ms McMillan exclaimed excitedly, “Where was it?”

“It was about 60 kilometres south-east of here,” Mrs Tadsen began her explanation, “On an island called ‘Strand’. In 1362, Rungholt sank in a stormy night. A few centuries later, other parts of that island were washed away as well. Today there are just a few more or less small islands and sands left.”

“Was Rungholt, like, a totally big place?”, Ms McMillan wanted to know; I could see Mrs Huber roll her eyes, but Mrs Tadsen didn’t seem to mind Ms McMillan’s way.

“Yes, it was. It must have been an important place for sea trade. Merchants from all over the world came there. Legend has it that Rungholt was as big and important as ancient Rome had been, but I suppose that’s an exaggeration.”

“Did archaeologists try to find any remains of the town? Can that be done at all if it’s all underwater now and probably already destroyed?”, I asked her, fearing for the fate of the Mirror.

“Yes, of course, people did search,” Mrs Tadsen replied. “Some areas of the old island of Strand are dry at low tide, so you can look for traces of civilisation rather easily. A few things were found, too, like remains of buildings or wells, and some pieces of pottery. The trouble is, most things have either been washed away long ago, or else sunken deep into the mud. If some item surfaces from the mud, it can be seen for some time – years, if you’re lucky – but then it’ll be destroyed by the water.”

“That’s a real pity,” Mrs Huber interjected, “so there are no ruins underwater?”

“Would be romantic, wouldn’t it?”, Mrs Tadsen said. “No, I suppose there aren’t any. Maybe there’s something under all the mud, though.”

“Like, oh my God! What about the people of Rungholt? Where they, like, rescued?” Ms McMillan inquired, her eyes wide with interest.

“Most weren’t, I suppose,” Mrs Tadsen answered. “Those who were in the town in the night of that horrible tidal wave didn’t have much of a chance to get away. A few may have made it to higher grounds. Anyway, it is said that the richer their town got, the citizens of Rungholt would get even more arrogant. They might not have believed anything would happen until it was already too late.”

“Like the passengers of the Titanic,” Ms McMillan remarked.

“Yes, in a way,” Mrs Tadsen said thoughtfully.

Both Ms McMillan and myself were interested in the old legends and urged Mrs Tadsen to tell us more. I hoped to get some bits of information as to where the Mirror might be today. Telling the truth, what Mrs Tadsen had said up to now had been rather discouraging.

Apparently, people thought of Rungholt as some kind of a second Atlantis. Just as glamorous, as rich, as mystical as the “real” Atlantis. I took it for a good sign that the inhabitants of Rungholt were believed to be mighty sorcerers, although Ms McMillan didn’t believe it. (“Magic? No, there is no such thing! I would know, because I always feel it when there’s something strange around. I would sense anything supernatural, and I never have, so there is no magic.”) I think it is understandable that I didn’t try to correct her.
On the next day, I phoned every museum in the area to find out if they had a mirror from Rungholt. If they had the one I was looking for, I would try to buy, or the Order could do that; or, in the worst case I could always steal it and replace it by a look-alike.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful. It seemed that the Mirror was still in Rungholt, or else destroyed. I had high hopes that it would still be intact because it must have been protected by spells. At least that’s what I’d have done. There was always the possibility that someone had found the Mirror and brought it away, which would be really bad; I tried not to think about that and hoped that there was magical protection against that, too.
I finally decided to take a look around Rungholt. I’d do that at high tide, diving with Gillyweed so that no Muggles or, yet worse, Death Eaters, could see me if there were any.

To reach Rungholt, I chose the easiest possibility: A Muggle tourist ship. It would have been an enjoyable voyage, had I not been so anxious about the Mirror. I’m afraid I get excited far too easily…

As the ship approached Rungholt, I found myself a spot where I would not be observed and chewed the Gillyweed I had ordered from a wizards’ store nearby. I waited for the herb to take effect and then disapparated into the water.

The water of the North Sea wasn’t very clear, so I didn’t see much. I took my wand out to perform a Lumos spell in order to get some light. The ground of the sea wasn’t far below me, and I reached it quickly. Among the sea plants and shells, I looked around for anything that looked as though it was made by humans, and indeed I found remains of walls and wooden buildings.

Even with the light my wand cast I couldn’t see very far, and after all there were no places in sight where a mirror could be safely hidden for such a long time. I had expected that and brought a Magic Detector. Unlike common Dark Detectors, it indicates any kind of magic around. It had taken me some time to bewitch it to work underwater, but finally I had managed.

I took out the small instrument that looked like a normal clock, and waited for the hands to give off some sign of magic. At first it didn’t react. Then, suddenly, all the hands shot up to what would have been 12 o’clock on a normal watch. A strong source of magic must have appeared out of nowhere – definitely not the Mirror.

I extinguished the light at the tip of my wand and watched, trying to make no sound.

Everything around me seemed to be as quiet as you’d expect the bottom of the sea to be.

I ducked inside an ancient well to make sure I wouldn’t be seen if there was someone around. Peering over the well’s rim, I looked around, trying to make out any shapes in the dirty water.

Suddenly, I saw Bellatrix walking cautiously closer.

She had her wand out and was searching the ground for something. What this something was wasn’t really hard to guess – the Mirror, of course. She was using a Bubble-Head Charm for diving.

Bella hadn’t noticed me yet but it was only a question of time until she would. Of course, I could have apparated out of the water again without her even noticing I had ever been there. But I couldn’t leave her alone to find the Mirror.

I climbed out of the well, and Bella spotted me immediately. I barely managed to duck the curse she shot my way, and quickly put up a Shield Charm before she could make another attempt.

I couldn’t hear any incantations because of the Bubble-Head Charm, so basically I had to guess her spells to react properly. I admit she kept me very busy.

All the stray spells soon threw up so much mud that we could only guess where the other one was standing.

Suddenly I felt a curse hit the hem of my robes. I was lucky it hadn’t touched me, because it looked a lot like a Killing Curse.

I was trying to circle Bella now in order to get a clear shot at her and hoped that she wouldn’t have the same idea. I tried to use only defensive spells that wouldn’t be visible from wherever she was standing or floating so that she couldn’t figure out what I was doing.

Bella started to direct her curses in different directions, and some hit the ground dangerously close to me. Based on the course her spells took, I tried to guess where she was. When I thought I had found out exact enough, I pointed my wand that way and thought, “bulla magica interpellandam est,” trying to perform the complicated wand moves in the water before me.

I had never before done that curse, but I knew it had worked when seconds later I heard a splashing in the water before me as Bella apparently struggled to keep her balance. Then there was silence.

Before I could do anything else I got more Gillyweed out and chewed it because the portion I had taken earlier was already ceasing to work.

As soon as I could breathe freely again I edged forward to where Bella had stood. She had now disapparated, of course. My curse had caused the bubble around her head to collapse, and to my relief it would also prevent her from using the Bubble-Head Charm again too soon.

I continued my search for the Mirror. Another hour later I had found – nothing. My Magic Detector couldn’t pick up the faintest trace of anything magical.
In the evening I came back to Mrs Tadsen’s house, I was not only exhausted but also at a loss for ideas as to where to look for the Mirror next.

Ms McMillan lay on the sofa absorbed in a book titled “Rungholt”. I had heard enough of Rungholt for one day, but she greeted me excitedly, “Hello Mr Flitwick! This is so, like, interesting! Did you, like, know that legend about some people, like, knowing there was a tidal wave, like, coming?”

I admit I can’t stand Ms McMillan, but this sounded interesting. I told her no, I didn’t, and of course she had to “like tell me” lengthily.

Apparently, there were theories that some sorcerers in Rungholt had predicted the tidal wave.

“This like legend must have been, like, invented back in the days when people still believed in, like, magic, “ Ms McMillan commented.

“Some people still do,” I hazarded.

“Yeah, alright,” Ms McMillan replied in an offhand sort of voice, “but they’re, like, nutters. Come on, you’re a scientist, you can’t, like, believe that!”

Obviously I couldn’t – there’s still the Statute of Secrecy.

Luckily, Ms McMillan wasn’t waiting for a reply but went right on explaining the old legend.

According to her book, the sorcerers of Rungholt tried to convince the Muggles in their town of the coming natural disaster but, like Mrs Tadsen had already pointed out, they were getting arrogant and thought the dykes around Rungholt would be strong enough to protect them.

When the citizens decided to stay, the sorcerers did the same. They wanted to try and help the Muggles with their magic, hoping to save at least a few lives. It was the only decent thing to do, but Ms McMillan was very much impressed by this “like nobleness”.

Anyways, the sorcerers wanted to get any important magical items out of Rungholt, and so they sent them to friends all over the world.

Ms McMillan starting listing different things the Muggle legends mentioned. I didn’t quite take them in, because I was so anxious to hear anything about the Mirror. And indeed, its fate was known! It was brought to... Japan! But where in Japan – that was not stated anywhere. My famous luck. But at least I had a point to start from, and maybe the Mirror was still intact – wherever it might be. Chances were it was already brought out of Japan again, or owned by Muggles, or destroyed, or…

I admit I didn’t quite like Ms McMillan. She seemed to be such a spoiled, arrogant girl. But now I began to change my mind about her. At least her curiosity was very useful.

I had to travel to Japan and contact a few friends there. And I had to do that fast, before Bella found this bit of information as well.

As soon as Ms McMillan had finished her story (and that seemed to take forever) I went to my room and packed my trunk.

Why couldn’t these ancient sorcerers simply leave the Mirror where it had been, and protect it magically? Why did they have to make me go on a treasure hunt all over the world? The next thing I had to do was tell Mrs Tadsen that I had to leave now. It could all have been so easy!

I walked over into the kitchen to see if Mrs Tadsen was there. I looked around the beautifully furnished room, but didn’t see her. I noticed that our landlady seemed to like antique decoration objects. Unusual enough for a kitchen, there were paintings on the walls and even an old mirror on the wall opposite the door. I looked at my reflection for a moment –

– and then the image in the mirror changed. It didn’t reflect me and the room around me anymore. It showed me giving a mirror – the very same mirror – to Albus.

There it was.

Right before me.

It had been there all the time.

I felt like laughing out loud. I had searched the ground of the sea, got myself into that battle with Bella, and I’d almost gone on a trip to Japan. But I’d never thought I might find the Mirror right here. Fate is playing games with me sometimes… But, you know, humour is the best way to take them… Especially if they’re this ridiculous.
The rest of the story is quickly told. It was true that the Mirror had been brought to Japan centuries ago. It had many owners – Muggles as well as sorcerers. Finally, a Muggle with no idea of the value of the Mirror sold it to the captain of a European trading-vessel. This man was the one who built the house that now belonged to Mrs Tadsen. Why, she mentioned that on my first day here! The families who owned the house after he died kept the Mirror. They were all Muggles, so no one ever noticed that there was more to the Mirror. Apparently it didn’t work when a Muggle looked into it.

I talked Mrs Tadsen into selling the Mirror to me without telling her the entire truth. She wasn’t all too sad about it, especially since I paid her enough money to buy several new or, if she wanted, antique mirrors.

Seeing as my holidays would be over in a few days’ time anyway, it wasn’t even suspicious that I left the day after I found the Mirror of Egdelwonk. Albus was absolutely delighted to see the Mirror. Of course he was unable to restrain himself from laughing at my story but I suppose I wouldn’t have reacted differently.

Albus hung the Mirror in his office in Hogwarts where it would be safe. I helped him put it up, and now, for the second time, I saw something in it. Something other than the normal reflection a mirror is supposed to give. I saw a group of people, most of them members of the Order, celebrating something in the Headmaster’s office. It was like one of the parties fourteen years ago when Lord Voldemort almost died. The picture vanished again before I could make out any details. Any but one. Albus’ portrait was hanging on the wall.

THE END



Chapter 49: Severus Snape
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For the Staff: To put it lightly, I admire each and every one of the staff members in different ways. You all show profound dedication to HPFF, and I wish there was some way to express my gratitude and appreciation. I hope our secretive project can somehow portray that feeling, and let you know just how much we love you.

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“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

Psalms 23:4 KJV



*

A lone figure stood in the shadows, staring intently out the window. Wonderment engulfed him as he watched a boy, no older than himself limp across the courtyard. The young man was accompanied by an older woman. It appeared to be the school nurse, Madame Pomfrey.

The figure in the window tried to follow their progress, but one second the boy was there, the next he was gone. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. Where he went so often was a complete mystery to the boy at the window. A mystery he had been unable to solve, much to his intense displeasure.

Students of all sorts walked past the window without a second glance. Not one of them noticed the figure in the shadows. He turned from the window as he heard the voices of two familiar boys coming down the corridor.

“Did you see? She looked at me!” a boy with messy black hair and glasses said to his friend.

“Yes, I saw. Face it mate, she can't resist the charm of Saint Potter,” the tall dark haired boy replied dryly.

The figure drew further into the shadows hoping these students would pass by like all the rest.

His hopes were quickly dashed as the boys froze mid-step, looking in his direction as they noticed his movement.

“Well look who it is, Prongs,” the second boy said, breaking into a devious smirk. He didn’t get a response though, because Prongs' attention has been drawn from the window to a red haired girl as she passed them. “Oh, just go after her,” the friend said, rolling his eyes. Prongs smiled a quick thanks and hurried off to harass the Evans girl.

The boy in the shadows breathed a silent sigh of relief, but it was too soon.

“Well, well, well,” the remaining boy said mischievously, his eyes glittering.
The boy in the shadows gritted his teeth as the gap between them shrunk in a matter of seconds.

“Interested in Remus again, are we?” the boy asked, peering out the window to see what had captured his victim's attention. “You want to see where he goes?” he inquired, delighted that he had the upper hand. “All you need to do is prod the knot with a stick, the knot just at the base of the Whomping Willow.”

“What if I don't want to?” the boy said bitterly, a distinct sharpness to his tone.

“Then, I'd say that you're a coward.”


*


He doesn't know the meaning of the word coward, Severus Snape thought icily as he pulled himself out of the memory. If he did, he‘d know that I‘m certainly not one.

His glittery black eyes stared menacingly into the murky depths of the Pensieve as the memory continued to swirl inside. That scene had replayed in his mind countless times over the years…since its result. The sequence of events from that encounter had started this all.

The most infuriating part of their outlandish treachery was that they didn't know. They had no comprehension whatsoever of the insufferable pain caused by a certain black mark etched into Severus' left arm.

The Dark Mark had an insatiable thirst. It uttered never ceasing hisses, sweet seductions to its bearer. Severus had been a bearer of that mark longer than most knew.

That's how Death Eaters were bound to Him. The mark rendered them incapable of rejecting the urges it invoked; incapable of refusing to carry out His deadly commands.

Severus Snape could no longer be a coward, lurking in the shadows. He was about to do the unthinkable. He was about to refuse.

*


In stealth he moved over the grounds. Enveloped in silence, even the quiet crackling of the crisp fallen leaves under his feet echoed loudly in his head. Within the darkened confines of the Forbidden Forest, more than just sound and light were blocked from the outside world. It also masked a certain level of thought and reasoning.

“Aaah, Severus,” a man greeted him in a raspy yet even voice. “Thank you very much for responding to the message I sent, and especially on such short notice…”

Severus nodded, but did not return the feigned pleasantries. Instead he kept his eyes fixated on the ground.

“In these dark times, you're probably the only person I can trust, besides Voldemort himself! We three are the most knowledgeable Legilimens of the age, so it certainly is an advantage to have you on our side. It is also the very reason Voldemort is pleased to have you on his side…”

“This is about Draco, isn't it,” Severus interrupted, but it was not really a question. He looked down at the ground as he walked, their words lapsing into silence.

“Severus,” Dumbledore said after several long moments. He paused again before continuing. “I believe there's a reason for everything. But people have the everyday choices that lie before them. Those choices can change the course of the future, whether or not there's a force beyond all magic that has the future predetermined. We must let fate descend . . . There is something I must ask of you . . .”


*


The memories swirled like a slow moving fog in the bowl below him. Seeing one’s past displayed in such a manner was difficult to withstand. It was almost like seeing a play of your life, except you got to walk around the stage, unnoticed by the actors in the scene. It was unexplainable really, the feeling of reliving a moment this way.

The light from the Pensieve glittered in the darkened office. There was no other light except the glittering of two black eyes, if they could even be considered light. Severus looked up, away from his past. He felt a bit sick as he replayed the moments that led him here. The Mark was telling him something. It triggered thoughts, emotions – it allowed Severus think for himself, but told him what to think about. It wanted him to do Draco's bidding. It didn’t realize that Draco’s bidding was what Dumbledore wanted him to do as well.

Severus twirled a quill between his fingers in an almost surreal state of tranquility, his eyes staring at a point on the floor but not seeing it. Anyone looking down at the scene would probably think there was nothing wrong. They would be mistaken. Severus was battling with himself. He was trying to distract himself from reality, trying to avoid the truth. He knew he couldn’t stop what was coming. The past had been written, yet the future holds a magic beyond explanation - fate. It was as Dumbledore said, “We must let fate descend…”

There was an unmistakable noise on the other side of the office door. A fervent knock, an agitated squeal. Severus shot up in an instant from his thought-induced reverie in an instant and opened the door. Upon first glance there was no one, but Severus looked down as Professor Flitwick pushed him aside in his panic.

“Oh Severus, it has happened!” Filius squealed. “Death Eaters have found their way through our doors and have already ransacked the Entrance Hall! Where is Dumble…”

His sentence was left to the wind as he fell to the floor with a dull thud.

“Sorry I had to do that,” Severus said blandly as he looked down at the limp little body. He brushed past the body on the floor and swung the door open again. Without bothering to look back he rushed away from the scene and down the dark corridor.

Two orbs were shining in front of him, slightly below his eye level. There were small noises coming from the darkness as well, and Severus suddenly realized the lights were eyes.

“Hello, Professor,” said Luna Lovegood in a trance-like state. Hermione Granger was standing next to her, her eyes locked on Severus. His eyes narrowed instinctively as he regarded her but she just looked steadily back at him. She looked like she wanted to accuse him of something but wasn’t sure what.

“Professor Flitwick has fainted in my office. Attend to him,” he ordered briskly.

Hermione gave him a querying look, hesitating for a second before she did as she was told.

Severus left them, continuing on down the corridor and before swiftly turning the corner. The corridor just beyond was almost pitch-black but Severus made his way easily. His eyes were accustomed to the darkness. He floated along, his robes billowing like that of a ghost, the hems drifting away into air. His mind was wandering again, this time his thoughts were induced by the darkness. Fate was a lingering subject.

Was everything driven by the cruelty of fate? When you begin upon the pathway to darkness, but then turn back toward the light, is that fate…or simply the voice of reason? Do we choose our futures or are we merely following the trail to an inevitable end?

Severus moved resolutely through the castle corridors, plagued by those very questions. Years ago, he’d taken his life in his hands when he denounced Voldemort and chose to do what was right; chose to wear his mask and play both sides.

From that day to this, so much had been sacrificed along the way: love, pleasures of the flesh, and his own peace of mind.

Now, was it all going to be for naught? Did it even matter anymore? Regardless of the road he chose to follow, by some cruel twist of fate, Severus found that it had ironically led him to the same destination.

Severus heard the battlement noises as he approached the Entrance Hall. He knew what choice lay before him, but did not yet know the right path to choose. If he chose to follow through with the orders, whose orders would he be following? Good? Evil? Another matter of the ever deceitful fate . . .

Severus recognized the growls and howls of Fenrir Greyback as he passed. Now there was a wicked man, wicked being a term not to be thrown around lightly.

He let his eyes flick over the scene in an attempt to quickly determine which direction fate would let him wander. He noticed a large amount of his kin at the opposite end of the Entrance Hall. They all seemed to either be warding off their nearly defenseless foes or swarming up the spiraling staircase leading to the Astronomy Tower. A sudden impulse told he needed to get to the top of that tower immediately.

One of the Weasleys, Severus didn’t waste the time trying to figure out which one, tried to intercept him just as he made it to the threshold of the staircase but got blasted aside by purple twittering sparks.

Severus leapt through the icy magic barrier that was holding back everyone who didn't bear the Mark on their arm. He turned his head, letting his line of vision fall back on the scene below. The icy force he had passed through was now fire, fire that was blocking his way back down. Fate had decided this, he supposed. His choice was now burning. The situation was no longer in his hands. There was no going back.

“Where's he going?” one of the tall Weasleys hollered in confusion. “The fight's down here!”

No. There was absolutely no going back. It wasn't even an option at this point. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t, as the way was blocked. Severus could hear the laughing and jeering of his fellow Death Eaters as the battle raged below and it was somehow rather disheartening. He felt like a coward just listening to it because he wasn‘t down there helping. Or maybe the fact that it made his resolve weaken was the cowardly act.

Slowly, he reached down and slid back the sleeve of his robes. There, burned into his flesh, was the Dark Mark. It was Voldemort’s eternal brand, a permanent reminder of the naïve choices of youth.

They say that with age comes wisdom, but none of that mattered now. It all came down to a single decision, one that he feared he’d spend the rest of his life regretting.

If he followed the Dark Lord’s orders then surely he was a coward for not resisting. If he didn’t follow through with Dumbledore’s request, he was in the same predicament.

He was a man with two faces.

It didn’t really matter which one he chose to wear now, because both faces led him to the same place.


Chapter 50: Albus Dumbledore
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By: Arithmancy_Wiz
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and Wiccan
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Title: In Memoriam
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild Violence, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme)
For the Staff: An enormous thanks to jessi_rose and Wiccan for their
time and encouragement with Beta reading, to sauerkraut_poet for
the amazing graphic, to Dobby101 and Elf_ears13 for including me in
this project, and of course, the HPFF staff, who work tirelessly to make
magical things happen everyday. As Dumbledore is to Harry, all you
staff members are to us; patient and wise mentors, helping us learn,
grow and better ourselves each day. I tip my lime green bowler hat to
you all.

-----

A/N: Please note that the opening three lines of this story are a direct quote from JKR’s “Half-Blood Prince,” pp. 595-596, U.S. edition.

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Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face. “Severus...please...”

Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.

“Avada Kedavra!”

In that instant, time seemed to slow. Through his half-moon spectacles, Dumbledore watched Snape’s sneering lips form each syllable of the last words he would ever hear. He stared unblinkingly as the end of the wand before him ignited in a brilliant flash of green light. As if gazing into his Pensieve, memories flooded Dumbledore’s mind. He remembered another night on the rooftop of Hogwarts, over fifty years ago, when talk of murder echoed through the darkness...


Rain was pouring down. The hard stone beneath his feet had become as slick as ice. Yet, Dumbledore continued to run, his path illuminated only by brief flashes of lightning that streaked across the night sky. The drumming of the rain and the crashing of the thunder drowned out the sound of his pounding boots as he raced across the bridge suspended high above the rest of the castle.

A faint noise behind him made Dumbledore spin round. He tried to make out shapes in the darkness and blinding rain, but he saw nothing. He turned back and continued running.

His wand in hand, the end of his rain-soaked robes trailing behind him, Dumbledore made his way across the rooftop bridge that connected the West Tower with an unused section of the North Wing. On either side of him, large marble gargoyles lined his path. Each had a menacing look upon its face and great stone wings emerging from its hunched back.

A brilliant fork of lightning momentarily shattered the darkness. Was it a shadow or had one of the gargoyles near the end of the bridge just moved? Dumbledore raised his wand.

“Avada Kedavra!”

A jet of green light went flying past Dumbledore, narrowly missing his right shoulder.

Reacting on instinct, Dumbledore pointed his wand in the direction from whence the spell had come, sending out a retaliatory stream of pulsing blue mist.

A shrill cry of frustration rang out from somewhere in the darkness, but it was quickly swallowed by a great crash of thunder.

“Grindelwald! Show yourself,” Dumbledore bellowed so as to be heard above the sounds of the storm.

The only reply was another flash of green light, which again whizzed passed Dumbledore without making contact.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Grindelwald. You cannot honestly believe I will allow you to harm this place or anyone who resides here.” Though continuing to speak loudly, Dumbledore’s tone remained steady, unwavering.

“You’re a fool, Dumbledore!” a frantic voice called out. “How long do you think you can fight us off? You are but one stubborn, old man; we are hundreds and growing in number each day. It is only a matter of time before those with great, dark power, like myself, will rule over all. We are everywhere, Dumbledore, even inside your precious school. How do you think I got in here tonight?”

Dumbledore strained to tell from where exactly the voice was emanating, but the combined noise and darkness from the storm made it nearly impossible. He could have easily cast any number of spells to assist in the search, but he did not want to give his opponent any unintended advantage for attack. He might be the far superior wizard here, but Grindelwald was cornered and desperate, and Dumbledore was too wise to underestimate a desperate man.

“Perhaps you are right,” Dumbledore said, composure still etched in his voice. “I have been known to be stubborn and foolish at times, and I am certainly not as young as I once was.”

As he continued to speak, Dumbledore carefully calculated his next move, stepping cautiously behind the nearest gargoyle.

“But the same can be said of you, can it not? How long have we been fighting this same fight, Grindelwald?”

“The fight ends tonight, Dumbledore!”

And with that, three red jets of light came flying at Dumbledore. In the blinding flash, the silhouette of a tall man in long, billowing robes was momentarily illuminated against the night sky, only yards from where Dumbledore stood.

But Dumbledore had been ready for the attack. Without a word from the great wizard, the gargoyle beside him sprang up, expanding its massive wings and opening its great, fanged mouth to swallow the hurtling red lights. In an instant, the living statue exploded, propelling forth huge clouds of dust and rubble.

Grindelwald had been caught off guard, the force of the blast causing him to stumble backwards. In that moment of confusion, Dumbledore made his move.

All at once, Grindelwald was swept up off the ground as if by an invisible hand and thrown against another gargoyle, which immediately sprang to life and enclosed the stunned wizard within its stone wings.

Somehow Grindelwald had managed to maintain his grip on his wand. Fighting against his confines, he began shouting counter-curses, but the gargoyle would not loosen its grasp.

“Expelliarmus!”

The trapped wizard’s wand flew suddenly from his hand and landed on the wet stone below him, well out of his reach. Infuriated, he clawed and kicked at the statue, a mix of rage and panic filling his voice and covering his face.

Dumbledore stepped in front of the gargoyle that held Grindelwald. The struggling man looked mad. His glassy eyes were wide with fury, his wet, black hair tangled and matted to his freshly bleeding face.

Catching sight of Dumbledore, Grindelwald stopped struggling. After a moment, he began to laugh uncontrollably. Between the sickening shrieks, he managed to speak.

“Going to kill me, Dumbledore? Commit murder on the roof of your precious Hogwarts? Ha! Well, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing my death will haunt you everyday you walk through these halls.”

“You are wrong, Grindelwald.”

Am I?”

“Oh, yes. You see, I am not going to kill you.”

At this, Grindelwald stopped laughing. He stared at Dumbledore, who remained a formidable presence despite the fact that his robes were soaked through and rain was dripping from his long, auburn beard.

“No, I will let the Dementors do with you what they must. It will be a desperate day indeed when I so deplorably defile Hogwarts as to willingly participate in a murder on her rooftop.”

The jet of light that emanated from Snape’s wand crept ever closer to Dumbledore, slowly filling his line of vision until he could see nothing but the green glow before him. Again, his memories took hold. He was taken back to another time when bright, flashing lights overwhelmed his senses…

“Come on, Professor Dumbledore. Just one more.”

Upon hearing his name, Dumbledore turned around just in time to hear a loud click, which was followed immediately by a brilliant burst of white light.

“Perfect,” said a portly wizard dressed in hideous tweed robes, a large camera slung around his fat neck. “That’ll make a great shot for the front page. Mind you, you’ll have to share it with the Minister if he gets any say. Never misses a photo opportunity, that one. A reporter will be along any minute, I expect. You know, to get a few quotes and all.”

Blinking repeatedly, Dumbledore struggled to get a good look at the man speaking rapidly to him; a man he assumed must be a photographer from the Daily Prophet. But with the many colorful spots dancing in front of his eyes, the Headmaster was finding that focusing on anything at the moment was all but impossible. By the time his vision returned to normal, the photographer had already lumbered off, snapping pictures of the large, excited crowd that covered the Hogwarts grounds as he went.

“Headmaster!”

The stern call emanated from a tall woman in emerald green robes, who at that moment came sweeping up beside Dumbledore. As it was everyday, the woman’s dark hair was pulled up into a bun that sat imperiously atop her head, and her thin mouth was stretched into a tight scowl…all of which combined to gave her the look of an aged bird, though she was still quite young.

“Professor McGonagall,” replied Dumbledore cheerfully. “What can I do for you?”

“Headmaster, I am convinced this was not at all a good idea. Reporters and Ministry officials swarming around. And the students!” Her voice rose with indignation. “Well, I must admit, I have never seen such blatant disregard for the rules. You think they would have a bit more self-control, considering the occasion.”

Dumbledore could not help but smile. One could hardly blame the students for acting out. It was, after all, a beautiful spring afternoon. While they were outside, classes canceled for the day, it was not hard to imagine how difficult it must be to sit still when the shade of the trees on the edge of the Great Lake called out to be laid under and enjoyed.

“Ah, yes, Professor McGonagall. Well, I have complete faith in your ability to keep them all under control. And I am sure that my impending speech will be so dry as to surely put them all to sleep soon enough.”

Clearly not satisfied with his reply but recognizing the fruitlessness of arguing, Minerva McGonagall nodded curtly and walked off, a misbehaving student immediately catching her eye.

“Cornelius, sit down this instant!” she barked. “And take that ridiculous hat off your head.”

Smiling still, Dumbledore took a moment to appreciate the scene around him. Long lines of white chairs covered the lawns that sat directly outside the main entrance to the castle. In the first few rows sat the proverbial “Who’s Who” of the wizarding community. Dozens of Ministry officials had turned up for the day’s events. Even a few high-ranking wizards from other countries were in attendance. Behind this illustrious group sat the students of Hogwarts, all of who were dressed in matching robes save for the small emblems that identified each with their respective house. Stroking his long, graying beard, Dumbledore supposed Minerva had a point. The students were starting to get restless, their behavior earning repeated glances from several flustered Ministry members. But before he had an opportunity to intervene, Dumbledore felt a great hand upon his shoulder.

“Excuse me, Headmaster, sir,” bellowed a deep voice. “They are just about ready for you.”

Dumbledore turned to face Odicrus Ogg, the Hogwarts groundskeeper. The man was large and broad shouldered, with a bushy red beard covering his suntanned face, and not a speck of hair atop his shiny, bald head.

“Thank you, Odicrus,” said Dumbledore. “And I do say it is about time.”

Ogg merely grunted. He was, at present, distracted by the swarms of people trampling over his well-kept grounds.

Dumbledore made his way through the rows of chairs and crowd of people toward the makeshift stage that had been erected for the occasion. His progress was slow as he kept being stopped by witches and wizards eager to shake his hand and offer their congratulations. By the time he reached the platform, the jovial-looking Winton Barfield, the current Minister for Magic and the day’s Master of Ceremonies, was already center stage, his wand held up to his throat.

“Greetings to all,” boomed the Minister’s voice, the sheer volume of which caught many off guard, and caused poor tiny Professor Flitwick to topple clear out of his chair. “Welcome fellow Ministry members, distinguished guests, and residents of Hogwarts, the finest wizarding school the world has ever known.”

This last comment caused the students to break out in whoops and cheers, though not all the foreign wizards look convinced. After a few sharp looks form their teachers, the students calmed down and the Minister continued.

“Yes, yes. Thank you all for joining me on this most special day. As you know, we have gathered here in order to honor a very great wizard. A wizard who stands up for all creatures and strives to make not only the wizarding world, but the world at large, a safer place for all. It is my great pleasure to stand here before you today, the first of May, 1958, and introduce the newest recipient of the title of Order of Merlin, First Class…Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

Applause broke out again as the Minister gestured for Dumbledore to join him on stage. As the Headmaster climbed the platform stairs, something overhead caught his eye. High above him, something small and red was streaking across the brilliant blue sky. Dumbledore recognized the shape at once. It was Fawkes. She had come to watch over the ceremonies. Dumbledore smiled, his eyes following the phoenix as she swooped gracefully above the oblivious crowd. He stared up, transfixed, until the magnificent creature flew directly in front of the sun. At that moment, all Dumbledore could see was a brilliant ball of warm light.

It would only be a moment now until the full force of the spell collided with his weakened body; just an instant left for one last memory. Dumbledore was not scared. He was prepared. His last thought was not even for himself, but for Harry. How he wished he could spare him from this sight, from what he was leaving the child alone to do. But, no, that wasn’t right. Harry was no longer a child, nor was he truly alone. His family was ever with him, even if Harry could not always see them...

“Professor Dumbledore, sir? What do you see when you look in the mirror?”

The boy that looked up into Dumbledore’s eyes seemed to the Headmaster so undeniably young. He stood there, his feet bare, his oversized pajamas hanging loosely off his small frame, and his father’s invisibility cloak clutched tightly in his fist. There was such innocence in the boy’s brilliant green eyes that the aged wizard’s heart ached at the thought of what was to come. How could he explain to this child, who had already suffered so much, what the deepest desires of such a troubled old man’s heart meant for him? The time for such confessions would come soon enough, but it would not be today. Harry was far too young to bare such burdens. How does one even begin to explain that their deepest desire is for a young child to grow up and prove himself a murderer?

No, such things must remain secret for the present. But what to tell him? Dumbledore would not lie to Harry. He had far too much respect for the young wizard to do that. So he would have to settle for a half-truth. Not so much the Headmaster’s greatest desire, but instead what he desired his greatest desire to be. He would tell him not what he wanted most in life, but what he wished he wanted most. If times were simpler, his mind less preoccupied, Dumbledore imagined he would be quite content with life. He would lack only the smallest things, like perhaps...

“I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks,” Dumbledore finally replied. “One can never have enough socks.”

The light finally reached his body. The warm green glow enveloped him completely. It all began to slip away as one hundred sixty years worth of memories faded silently into the night. Summoning every last inch of life left inside him, Dumbledore closed his eyes and forced his mind to form one last conscious thought.

“Good luck, Harry Potter…”



Chapter 51: Terry Boot
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By: jenniiiiii
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and arithmancy_wiz
Chapter Graphic: Elena78
Title: By the Wayside
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I wouldn't have been half so happy with this fic without the help of Jessi_rose and arithmancy_wiz for beta reading and the amazing chapter graphic is solely the creation of Elena78. I've had a wonderful time with this project and whilst I'm glad it's all done at last, I'm really going to miss the wonderful atmosphere of it all. I hope the staff enjoy every bit of their present! Happy reading!

-----


Terry Boot sometimes felt like a background character in the story of someone else’s life; the sort of character who gets mentioned once or twice but never has an integral role in the main plot. In one word, he was forgettable. Unimportant.

He wasn’t noisy in classes; he didn’t talk back to the teachers or break any rules. He wasn’t a joker, like the Weasley twins, or even ridiculously smart like Hermione Granger. He was simply a stereotypical Ravenclaw – not that there was anything wrong with that - and merely sat at his desk taking his notes studiously. The only time Terry Boot had ever done anything against the school rules was in his fifth year, when he had joined Harry Potter’s little rebel group. Of course, there had been extenuating circumstances then. He hadn’t really seen Umbridge as a teacher; therefore he hadn’t felt obliged to obey any rules she set down.

Despite Terry’s usual tendency to follow rules, he wasn’t as strait-laced as he always acted. Joining the DA had partly been a way to finally break the rules. He had been sceptical of Harry’s claims at first, but the Defence classes had seemed a good idea anyway. And eventually, getting to know Harry and his friends had changed his perspective somewhat. Terry had become a believer of the Boy-Who-Lived and was staunchly loyal to him even now, when they had barely spoken for a year. Terry analysed the facts, and the facts said Harry was a good person.

Michael Corner had dragged Terry and the other Ravenclaws along to the very first DA meeting, although it wasn’t the DA back then. Terry had thought of it more as a way to purge the anger and resentment towards Umbridge rather than an actual plan to undermine her. He’d only gone because Michael hauled him there, and Michael had only gone because he was going out with Ginny Weasley. He’d always been slightly bitter about that. Ginny Weasley had been his dream, the sort of crush that you nurture fondly but know nothing will ever come of, because she was a Gryffindor and attractive, and Terry was a studious Ravenclaw that no one ever noticed. Michael was more noticeable than him. Michael had gotten the girl.

The first DA meeting had been interesting, to say the least. The slight twinge he had felt when Ginny Weasley had smiled and greeted him was soon pushed to the back of his mind. It wasn’t Michael’s fault that he had taken the girl Terry had so often thought about. It wasn’t like Terry really wanted her; he didn’t know her very well and he probably wouldn’t be firm friends with her even if he did. But it still felt like a betrayal in his subconscious mind, of a kind that he was used to. So it wasn’t that difficult to forget her – although he couldn’t help but notice the approving look Michael gave Cho – and concentrate on what Harry Potter was telling them. Or not telling them, as the case may be. The words people actually spoke weren’t half as telling as the ones they didn’t.

His conclusion after that first meeting? Harry Potter knew what he was talking about and he could learn from him. Terry resolved to go back to the meetings. But the thing with Ravenclaws is they are constantly competing with each other and everyone else, and Defence was not Terry’s best subject. He was a typical Ravenclaw, more of a book learner than a practical learner, and very detailed with theory work. So when it came to Defence, he wasn’t that talented. He knew all the spells and the theories behind them perfectly, but he didn’t have the raw magic to execute the more complicated ones without a lot of practice, and he didn’t have quick reflexes. So the meetings were something of a trial for him at first.

He didn’t stand out as any worse than the others, and definitely not worse than Neville Longbottom, the good hearted but bumbling Gryffindor boy. But to Terry, this knowledge brought little comfort. He didn’t require special help because he was keeping up fine, but he didn’t merit being singled out for praise. He was unnoticeable once again. A lot of his fellow Ravenclaws liked it this way; they were free to learn and practice in peace, without anyone trying to help or interfere. Michael Corner was happy as long as Ginny Weasley noticed him, and Cho was happy as long as Harry Potter noticed her, although she was very subtle about it at first. Terry, however, only saw this as further proof he was unimportant and unremarkable.

He didn’t mind not being the best; Terry wasn’t like that. But he wanted to feel noticed. He slowly came to respect Harry, as he realised the boy had done everything people said he had. Well, not the bad stuff. Harry wasn’t the Heir of Slytherin and he wasn’t crazy or an attention seeker. But he was very good at Defence. He had more knowledge than Terry had expected from a Gryffindor like him. Meaning, of course, that he wasn’t particularly motivated to do all his work on time. He suspected Hermione Granger had a lot to do with Harry’s extraordinary store of hexes, curses, jinxes and counter-jinxes. Not to mention with his success in the Triwizard Tournament.

But more important than knowledge – Terry had plenty of that - Harry was quick thinking, he was inventive with his spells, and he had very honed reactions, the reason he was so good at Quidditch. Maybe if Terry learnt from him for long enough, he’d pick up some hints. It looked like being able to duel would be important in the future.

And slowly, very slowly, the work with the DA began to pay off. But things got worse before they got better. Neville Longbottom started improving rapidly, surpassing nearly everyone in the group. Except of course for Hermione Granger, but that went without saying. Not all Ravenclaws were work obsessed, but Terry was mostly a stereotypical Ravenclaw. He didn’t mind doing work, but the reason he did it well, and thoroughly, was because he liked being one of the ‘smart’ students. He liked being near the top of his class, and he liked having knowledge to do spells others couldn’t. But now even Neville was outstripping him.

So Terry worked even harder, and eventually, he began to improve. It wasn’t particularly obvious to him at first, but his improvement manifested itself here and there, like when he managed to repel a curse from Michael for the first time, or when three of his hexes found their mark even when he shot them off whilst dodging someone else’s. He barely even realised that he was quicker than he used to be, and his reactions were better than they had ever been. When Harry Potter stopped to watch a particularly successful duel of his with Michael, instead of giving Terry advice like usual, he simply said, “Great work, Terry. Michael, you need to hold your wand a little differently when you block; it’s making your shield weaker.” Terry gaped a little, and then regained his composure. He had finally been singled out for praise. Terry smiled. Maybe he wasn’t simply a background character after all.

As if life was determined to prove that he was important, Michael was seen later that same day arguing with Ginny Weasley, and Terry found he didn’t even care. He’d gotten to know the little Hufflepuff called Hannah Abbott quite well during DA meetings, and she’d agreed to go to Hogsmeade with him on Valentine’s Day. She didn’t have the Weasley girl’s flair and outgoing personality, but that was okay. Ginny Weasley wasn’t really the sort of girl he wanted anyway. He was far more comfortable with Hannah, and she accepted him for the Ravenclaw he was. He suspected Ginny wouldn’t be quite so accommodating of his studying habits.

And if Hannah and he never became serious, he knew he had a friend in her. Neither of them were the type to take offence over the usual boyfriend/girlfriend things, and their relationship was steady rather than passionate. So if they didn’t work out, he would be okay with that. Now that he possibly had one, he didn’t really think he needed a girlfriend.

The year passed quickly, and all too soon the exams were over, signalling a return back home. To his surprise, he had found the Defence Against the Dark Arts practical exam really easy, and the theory even simpler. But he was dreading the return home. He had wizarding parents, but that was the problem. His elder brother was also magical and was currently making a name for himself somewhere in America, doing something that earned him lots of Galleons and a large house. When he returned home, Terry knew he would be back to the sidelines, overshadowed by his brother and his accomplishments. Terry didn’t bring any money to the family. Terry wasn’t a genius. Terry wasn’t special in the slightest.

But before the term ended, something happened that completely changed things. Harry Potter and five of his friends – including the Longbottom boy and his fellow Ravenclaw, Luna, of all people – fought Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries, and now He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s return was proven. Almost overnight, the whole wizarding world changed. Leaflets with safety rules were given out. Old stories of Death Eater victims were dragged up. More and more frequently, teachers and students were seen whispering in corners.

All the while, Harry Potter, the one who had proven his return, the one who had fought him and lived, was sitting at his meals and lessons with a blank look on his face. And for some reason, that upset Terry more than any of the other strange things going on. Somewhere along the way, he had learned to see Harry as more than a teacher and a hero. He was a friend.

Terry had believed Harry was telling the truth for months now, but he had never really stopped to let himself think what that meant for his family and the rest of the wizarding world. But now, thinking about Harry and what he must have gone through, Terry couldn’t even work up the courage to go and tell Harry how grateful he was for everything he had done. He couldn’t face that blank look that even Ron and Hermione couldn’t seem to lift. He was a coward. But, Terry mused moodily, that was why he wasn’t a Gryffindor. But Harry didn’t need him anyway. Harry would always carry on; he was a hero! But it didn’t quite ring true. Terry knew that heroes were still human, and every human needs somebody, however much they say they don’t.

When he was on the train home, he was very quiet. It had been a good year for him, despite all that had happened at the end, and he didn’t want to go back to being the old Terry Boot. But he couldn’t help but feel slightly happier than before about going home. His parents would find it really impressive that he was friends with the Boy-Who-Lived, and was in fact taught by him. Hopefully he’d receive a good grade in Defence Against the Dark Arts, which would pacify them further. But feeling like that just made him feel guilty as well. How could he be pleased about the blank look that constantly adorned Harry’s face now?

He’d heard a disturbance outside, and was fairly certain he had seen a flash of white-blonde hair pass in front of the door. He’d also heard the sneering voice of Draco Malfoy. Terry exchanged looks with the other occupants of his compartment, and they stood up as one. Terry didn’t wait to hear what Malfoy was saying to Harry, lifting his wand as soon as he saw the fury in Harry’s eyes. Several voices sounded at once, and Malfoy and his cronies were thrown back as a multitude of hexes hit them simultaneously. Terry craned his neck to see what the combined curses had done, and winced, wishing he hadn’t. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

When he looked up, Harry was staring at them all. His face no longer looked so expressionless. He looked slightly surprised, but somehow Terry knew he was grateful and touched by the show of support. He gave the dark haired boy a small smile, just an upturn of his lips. It was more than just a smile for Terry; it was a way of telling Harry that he was also grateful for the support the DA had given him all year, and for all that the Gryffindor had done for him. Whether Harry understood or not, Terry suddenly felt much happier.

Whatever happened during the summer, whatever happened next year, Terry would be prepared. And this time, he would not be by the wayside, watching as the rest of the world went by.



Chapter 52: Hermione Granger
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By: Elena78
Beta read by: PrincessPotter and Jessi_Rose
Chapter Graphic: Elena78
Title: Unexpected
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (Mild Sexual Behavior)
For the Staff: To all the staff at HPFF and the Forums: While I still consider myself a newbie to HPFF and the world of FanFic, I send you my thanks for the dedication and hard work that goes into the site and the forums. Regardless of how the site began or by who, you have all worked together to unite a world full of Harry Potter fans, allowed us to take the wonderful characters that JKR created and give our own touch of imagination to them. For me personally, you all have made me get back in touch with one of my other passions in life besides reading, and that is to write!

While credit can also be given to the thousands of people who contribute their stories to the site, it’s all of you who keep us coming back to the site. From the updates and day to day maintenance of the site, the validator’s who take the time to read our stories and make sure we comply with the TOS to the many hours spent on the forums, making sure we have the resources to guide and help us.

You all have not just created a site for fan fiction, but a place we can call home. A place where friendships are formed and at times, those friendships can turn into a “family”. HPFF has become my new home on the web, while I still surf other fan fiction sites, HPFF is by far the best in my opinion and will be the only one that I wish to share my stories on. So once again, thank you to you all

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Hermione woke up before anyone else did at the Burrow. Not wanting to disturb anyone so early in the morning, she quietly got dressed and went down to the kitchen. All of their bags were packed and they would be leaving soon to join Harry and the rest of the Order members at Grimmauld Place.

Hermione made herself a cup of tea and decided to head out into the gardens of the Burrow. While the gardens were not anything spectacular, Hermione felt a sense of peace and homeliness whenever she was here. Perhaps over the years she found a new home here at the Weasley’s, or perhaps the simple and neglected state of the gardens resembled what some people would call a “Muggle” garden.

The grass was overgrown, the wooden fence was falling apart and the plants were dying from neglect of proper care. As Hermione walked down to the lake, she couldn’t help but smile as she saw the little gnomes scuttle by and hide in the bushes. The little garden gnomes were probably the only things that weren’t a normal occurrence in a Muggle garden, yet they still seemed to make her feel like she was at home.

Hermione sat herself down under a tree and gazed out over the lake. She sipped her tea, hugging her robes tighter around her to shield herself from the cool freshness of the morning air. A sudden feeling of sadness flooded her mind as she was reminded of all the fun she had had here by the lake.

She remembered back to last summer when she, Harry, Ginny and Ron swam almost everyday in the lake. Ron and Harry were always trying to prove who was more masculine by playing silly dunking games. She and Ginny would giggle and laugh at the boys when they weren’t busy cheering them on.

Hermione sighed, unable to figure out her sudden feelings of sadness. She had been at the Burrow for a month now. After what happened in their sixth year, Hermione’s parents had agreed to take protection from the Order and Hermione was allowed to stay with her friends for the summer. However, when she returned to the Burrow to meet up with Ron and Ginny, she was informed that they were not allowed to go to Grimmauld Place until it was safe to do so.

Harry had been working with the Order to find the remaining Horcruxes and Hermione was furious when she learned that they were not allowed to help. More than anything, Hermione felt useless. What was the point of being known as “The Brightest Witch of Her Time” if her knowledge and skills were not put into any use? Despite Hermione’s suggestions to go to Grimmauld Place early, Mrs. Weasley insisted that they stay at the Burrow until things settled down at the Order’s Headquarters.

At first they were furious at being left at the Burrow with Bill and Fleur, but after a few days, they got used to it and began to pass the time by playing tricks on Fleur while Bill went to Order meetings every night. Hermione couldn’t help but laugh to herself as she thought of the two newly weds who were left in charge of Ron, Ginny and herself. Bill and Fleur were the oddest couple, yet the love they shared was undeniable.

Hermione’s thoughts came back to the present when she noticed the chattering of her teeth. The wind had picked up outside and the chill cut through her robes causing her to huddle further into them. She knew she should really return to the warmth of the Burrow, but she felt so peaceful sitting by the lake, so she stayed against her better judgement. Her thoughts inevitably began to drift to Ron and she felt a slight blush warming her cheeks, making her forget the cold momentarily.

She had always known she had feelings for Ron, but she had never acted upon them. Ron always seemed comfortable with just being friends and Hermione never thought twice about possibly ruining that by revealing her romantic feelings for him. The last few weeks though, she had begun to notice a change in Ron. He seemed more protective of her and more attentive to her feelings. At first she just thought he was compensating because Harry wasn’t with them. Harry had always been better at being respectful towards her feelings while Ron usually behaved like a git.

Hermione closed her eyes and sipped her tea again. It was cool now but she didn’t notice as she remembered the unexpected moment when Ron became more then just her friend…

…It was a beautiful sunny day. Ginny had been forced to prepare lunch with Fleur and Bill was at a meeting for the Order. Ron and Hermione were out in the gardens and Ron was trying to get Hermione over her fear of heights. He had gotten tired of practicing Quidditch with Ginny and needed a new person who he could have up in the air with them.

He started by getting Hermione to climb up one of the tall trees and just sit on a branch. While up there, he’d sit on a nearby branch and they would just simply talk. After doing this a few times, Hermione became more relaxed with being up in the tree and Ron moved to actually trying to get her on a broom.

He was commanding but, never pushed her, always allowing her to hover only a few feet up off the ground. On this particular day though, Ron was growing impatient from a mixture of Hermione’s lack of balance and the heat of the day.

“Hermione, listen to me. Focus, I promise you won’t fall off,” Ron said in frustration.

Hermione managed to get herself back on the ground without falling off her broom.
“I’m sorry Ron. I am trying, so you don’t need to snap at me.” she replied in annoyance.

Ron let out a frustrated sigh as he wiped the back of his hand across his forehead to rid it of the beads of sweat that kept forming.

“Alright, let’s try something different,” he began as he took the broom from Hermione and mounted it. “Hop on,” he said as he pointed to the space on the broom in front of him.

“W...what? Are you sure?” Hermione stammered as she looked nervously at the small amount of room left to hold her.

“Do you trust me?” Ron asked as his eyes met Hermione’s.

“Of course I do!” Hermione replied automatically, a little taken back that Ron would question her trust in him.

“Then get on. I would never do anything to hurt you Hermione,” Ron replied with a slight blush on his cheeks and he averted his eyes away from her to try and hide the feelings that stirred up inside of him.

Hermione noticed his blush anyway. It was something that you really couldn’t help but notice. His face always went a shade darker then his hair when he was embarrassed and no-one could miss something brighter than the trademark red hair of the Weasley family.

After a few more urges, Hermione finally agreed to get on the broom with Ron. As she mounted the broom, she couldn’t help but feel like she had butterflies in her stomach as she felt how close she was to Ron’s body. Her heart picked up a few hundred beats as Ron’s strong arms reached around her waist and his hands took a hold of hers. He placed them firmly on the broom, gripping on tightly to keep their balance.

“Okay, are you ready?” Ron whispered into her ear.

Hermione felt like she couldn’t breathe as she felt his warm breath on her neck and as they were seated so close together. Hermione’s senses were sent on fire as she breathed in his scent. He smelled slightly sweet from the cologne he wore mixed with his sweat. The only word she could come up with to describe it was “manly.”

Hermione nodded and a moment later, Ron kicked off the ground. Within seconds, they were soaring through the air. At first, Hermione was terrified and closed her eyes as she squealed with fright. However, after a while, Hermione opened her eyes and the sight she saw before her was startling.

“Oh, Ron,” Hermione gasped. “This is just amazing.” Although she couldn’t see Ron’s face she knew he was smiling.

They flew around for awhile before Ron headed back to the Burrow. Hermione had just started to really enjoy herself and sighed when she realised where they were heading. Ron took a different route back though and soon enough they were flying over the lake. Hermione gasped as she watched their reflection in the water beneath her. The sun was setting and the light that reflected off the lake made the water glisten and shine.

Ron slowed down and soon came to a hover over the lake. He was enjoying having Hermione in his arms and he wasn’t ready to let her go yet.

“What’s wrong? Why have we stopped?” Hermione asked, slightly worried.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Ron replied. “I just didn’t want to get back yet,” he added truthfully.

“Oh.” Hermione said and knew her face was not just flushed from flying, but was red from blushing.

They sat on the broom for a moment in silence as they enjoyed the scenery around them. Ron then took his hands off Hermione’s and wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her close to him. Hermione was startled at first when his hands left hers, but once she felt him hug her she relaxed a little.

Ron slightly shifted his weight so he could turn his head to talk to Hermione. “So, do you think you have conquered your fear of heights yet?”

Hermione laughed and turned her head slightly to look at Ron. “What do you think?” She replied with a small smile on her face.

Ron smiled back as his eyes connected with hers and for a moment they both seemed lost in each others eyes. Ron found his courage from somewhere deep inside and leaned down and placed his lips on hers.

Hermione felt his soft lips upon hers and allowed him to kiss her. At first the kiss was just a series of small sweet kisses before Ron placed a hand on the side of her face and deepened the kiss.

Hermione moaned around their kiss as she felt Ron’s tongue brush against her lips. She had no idea how long they sat there on the broom engaged in her first real passionate kiss, but she knew she never wanted this moment to end.

She thought that they had better stop and head back, but the thought quickly left her mind as she felt Ron’s hand sneak away from her face and across to the back of her neck, pulling her even closer still into their kiss.

As Ron did this though, his weight shifted too far and they found themselves falling off the broom and landing in the lake, with a huge splash. The fall had happened so suddenly that they didn’t have time to scream or react. Both Hermione and Ron surfaced from under the water coughing and spluttering to get air into their lungs.

“Hermione…are…are you okay?” Ron choked out as he tried to clear his eyes and looked around him to find where Hermione was.

“I’m fine.” Hermione replied and to Ron’s surprise, she was laughing.

“What’s so funny?” He asked as he swam over to her.

Hermione recovered from her laughter as Ron swam to her and her eyes met his. “I just thought that if I ever fell off a broom, I’d be terrified. But I’m feeling far from terrified.” Hermione replied, and although the sun was slowly disappearing for the day, Ron could see the slight blush on her cheeks.

Ron grinned at her and pulled her into his arms and kissed her again. Their kiss only lasted a few seconds though, as their combined weight pulled them under the water once again. When they had resurfaced, Hermione suggested that they should head back. Ron agreed and summoned his broom with his wand. Once they were both mounted back on the broom, they flew back to shore…

Hermione’s blush deepened at the memory and she felt the grin planted firmly on her face. From that moment on they had been inseparable. They had tried to hide their romance, but Ginny was too observant and knew straight away. They were happy that Ginny approved, in fact her response was “It’s about time!”

Once again, Hermione sighed as she remembered that they were heading back to Grimmauld Place. She couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty about the last few weeks. Her frustration about not being there to help Harry had been all but forgotten as her relationship with Ron came to light.

Ron had filled her time at the Burrow with happiness and security, something she knew Harry wasn’t feeling and something that would inevitably be lost when they reached Grimmauld Place.

Hermione finished the rest of her tea and stood up from the ground. She took one last look over the lake before heading back to the Burrow. As she was heading back, she noticed Ron approaching her.

“Hey, where have you been?” Ron asked.

“I woke up early and decided to get a bit of air,” she replied.

Ron nodded and noticed the sadness in her eyes. “Hermione, what’s wrong?” He asked his voice full of concern.

Hermione gazed at his face, and smiled slightly as she shrugged. “I have gotten so used to being here with you, that I forgot about helping Harry. Do you think he’ll mind that we are together now?” She asked somewhat worried about revealing their relationship to Harry.

Ron dropped his eyes to the ground as he pondered her question for a moment before looking back up at her, his eyes staring deep into hers. “I think Harry will have the same response that Ginny did. Besides, if I can be cool with the fact that he has feelings for my sister, then he should be okay with us.”

Hermione sighed once again and slipped her hand into his. “I hope you’re right Ron. I just hope we can still find time to be together once we get to Grimmauld Place. It’s going to be so hectic and busy,” she squeezed his hand, “I don’t think I can bear not having you close to me now that we’ve had all this time together.”

Ron pulled Hermione into his arms and hugged her tight. “We’ll be just fine Hermione. You’ll see everything is going to be fine,” he whispered into her ear.

Hermione snuggled up into Ron’s arms, loving the way he made her feel so safe with just a simple embrace. She finally pulled away from him and they headed back to the Burrow.

Chaos, could not describe what was going on back inside the Burrow. Fleur was running around packing last minute things that Bill had forgotten and she practically ran them over as they entered the kitchen.

They joined Ginny at the table and began filling their plates with food. The three of them ate their breakfast in a hurry so they could help Fleur find what Bill needed as well as make sure that they had everything they needed.

Bill soon turned up with a Ministry car, and Ron helped him pack their belongings into the magically enlarged trunk. Hermione took a deep breath and took one last look around the Burrow. The war was coming and she wasn’t sure if this time next year she would ever see this place again.

Hermione let out a sad sigh and whispered “Goodbye” to the usually busy kitchen of the Burrow that was now deadly silent. A single tear rolled down Hermione’s cheek as she walked outside and swept her eyes around the gardens and the lake. Her mind was trying to burn its every feature into her mind.

Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would have such unexpected feelings this summer, but as she settled herself next to Ginny in the car and closed the door, she knew that more important issues were just around the corner and she would do well to remember to always expect the unexpected.




Chapter 53: Barty Crouch Jr.
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By: Shii and Nel
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and Jessi_Rose
Title: And All is Still
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (sensitive topic/theme/issue)
For the Staff: Thanks, especially to sauerkraut_poet, who brought me to this wonderful project.

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The floor and ceiling are made of tiles, but the walls are a bleak metal, covered in absolutely nothing but air. The furniture is neat, organized, and is full of items that the average wizard would not dare touch; a knife, a scalpel, and several bladed objects that are in odd shape or form. One of the creepiest of these instruments is a wand, except it is like a wand no other; from the middle to the tip, its wooden material fades into a metal blade.

It is cold, but what more could you expect from a morgue?

Like so many times before, there is a body lying on the table in the middle of the room. Sometimes the corpses belong to children, sometimes they are Aurors, and occasionally to something not quite human, but humanoid enough to pass regulations and have the luxury of an autopsy.

You see this is no ordinary morgue.

It is reserved for only those who suffer during the great magical war. Surely you’ve heard of it, the war. Who hasn’t lost a friend or relative during this tragic time?

How could someone who was reduced to an entity that was less than a ghost, half a spirit, become something so deadly that he could cause so much death and destruction? He couldn’t have done it without the help of the man whose is lying on that table in the middle of the morgue at this moment.

It is June 28, 1994. Just four days ago, the Dark Lord rose from his weak body and stepped into a fragment of his former power, which, though shattered, is still greater than the average wizard or witch.

This man lying on the table is not dead. But he’s about to be, as soon as the doctors inject a magical serum that will instantly kill him so they can perform an autopsy, if needed, and get rid of the body. He does not move, he does not try to escape, he does not even resist.

The reason why he’s dully staring at the ceiling, the reason they’re killing him instead of giving him an Azkaban cell, is simply that while he is alive physically, his soul is long gone. He does not think, he does not react, and he simply stares at whatever’s in front of him, not comprehending or even trying to comprehend.

An old man and a younger man walk into the morgue towards the empty shell’s body, each wearing sweeping white robes that drag behind them. The older man, owner of a grizzled beard and a bald head, imediently inspects the blades on the table, while the young man taps his wand eagerly against his palm, occasionally running a hand through his sandy blonde hair.

“Who’s this bloke?” he comments.

“Barty Crouch’s son,” the older man grunts as his fingers delicately rearrange the blades.

“Poor bastard…” the young man dismisses at first, but then he performs a double take, “Wait… I thought he was already dead!”

“Mmm… more of You-Know-Who’s tricks. One of the Ministry’s dementors performed the kiss on him without the consent of authority - they say it was an accident.” The old man limps closer to the body. “Pfft, I don’t blame the dementor one bit.”

“Why, what’d he exactly do?”

The young man taps the wand over Barty’s head, muttering strange words, and a soft blue light spreads throughout the man’s body. The spell paralyzes his body completely, but it hardly makes a difference.

“Well, first of all, he was a big You-Know-Who supporter back in the ‘70s…” the old man takes a red sinister looking potion out of a nearby cabinet, “Open his mouth.”

The young man extends a finger to Barty’s jaw and opens it with a single push. He withdraws his fingers and the older man walks closer.

“After that, he went into hiding… was supposed to go to prison, but thanks to his mother’s whining, and his fathers cooperation, the bloke escaped. Dunno the details, though…”

He gently pours the potion into Barty’s mouth. The liquid flows smoothly down the empty shell’s throat. While it is not visible, the potion leaks through his muscle and tissue and enters his heart, slowing its heart rate down to a dangerously sluggish rate.

“After that, he used some Polyjuice stuff and went and disguised himself as Alastor Moody! Went to Hogwarts, teaching and all that crap!” The old man gives the empty shell a look of disgust, “Imagine him, surrounded by kids!”

“Why didn’t they just… I dunno,” the younger man mutters, “dump him in Azkaban?”

The older man lets out a grunt of a laugh, “Well, first of all, it’d be wasting a cell.” The young man blinks, surprised at the man’s harsh words… usually they handled these cases sensitively. “Second of all, there’d be records of him! The whole reason they told us to keep this hush-hush is because they don’t want the public to panic.”

“Wh… what’s that mean?” the younger man asks, unused to the idea of concealing from Britain’s people.

“Between anyone outside of us, Barty Crouch Jr. died back in the seventies, and this,” the older man motions towards the empty shell, “this never happened.”

A pregnant silence passes before the old man raises his wand, “Let’s kill him now, I don’t want to wait.”

“We’ll have to wait five minutes for the potion to take full effect, not to mention there is someone who wants to witness,” the young man reminds him, and the old man lowers his wand reluctantly. Despite his better judgement, the young man continues, “Did he do anything while under the disguise?”

“Well… the public ain’t supposed to know it yet, but there was a leak and… I happen to know that this man killed his father, who didn’t just innocently die of sickness like the Ministry said, and…” the older man had lowers his voice so low that he and the young healer have to lean over Barty’s body to listen to one another.

“The details are sketchy, and I was almost caught eavesdropping twice already. It’s going to get me in hot water if I get caught, but word has it that…” the old man looks to the right and the left, though they and the empty Barty are the only ones in the room.

His voice comes out as a hoarse whisper, “He tried to kill Harry Potter!”

The young man’s eyes widens three times normal size, and he runs his hand through his hair again, “Good lord!”

“Just imagine, if he succeeded,” the man’s eyes contains a savage element, with either panic or rage, “Imagine if The Boy Who Lived was gone! What would we do?”

The young man acquires a bitter taste in his mouth as his eyes wander down to the empty criminal’s eyes. There were no plans beyond The Chosen One. He is their only hope… isn’t he?

Barty stares back at him, innocently, no demons or angels lurking behind his empty eyes. There is a serene air within him, even though there are strange men doing strange things to him, and no doubt that would spark curiosity and slight panic in any human. But the young healer stares into Barty and Barty stares back, and no more.

“How’d he do it?” he asks abruptly.

“Hmm?” the old man grunts, and the healer glances up for a moment to see that the ancient healer is staring at Barty too, with a grim anger.

“How’d he tried to… you know… kill Harry Potter?” the young healer asks.

“Ooh… you know… everyone thought he was Moody, remember? And the only thing people suspect Moody of is, you know, if he is crazy or not. They say that the Triwizard Cup was a portkey, but I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything,” the old man lets out a sigh as his fevered eyes glance at the clock.

A full five minutes of silence escape, and the young healer places his hand on Barty’s chest and quietly counts the rate of the heart’s beating. “It’s working,” he informs the older man.

“Good… Now, help me clean him up.”

It causes an unsettling feeling in the pit of the old man’s chest that they have to clean up this scoundrel, when he would rather dump him in a ditch. But then again, the men who order him to do his tasks are never the ones actually doing the job. Still… the urge to get rid of this man is almost tangible, and he feels it like a web on his body.

The only thing he is content with is messing with the bastard’s hair; it is hardly the display of cleanliness. He snatches up a plastic comb from a desk and bats at Barty’s bangs a bit.

“How terrible,” the young man readjusts his glasses.

“I know… guess he was too busy plotting to get a haircut,” the old man snorts.

The young man jumps, “No, I mean… I was just thinking…”

“Yeah?”

“How will this affect the students? I mean, they’re going to find out eventually, no matter what the Ministry does! What will they think of strangers, or even the people they know? They won’t trust them!” The man works himself into such a flurry that his nervous fingers send his wand flying across the room, knocking a blade off of its tray.

Everyone, including Barty, stares at the wand for a few moments.

“Pick up your wand, boy, that’s why you’re a healer and not an Auror; you think too much.” The old man gives Barty another withering glare before hobbling to the fallen blade to restore it to its proper place.

“Sorry… I guess I’m just a bit disturbed by all this.” The young man recovers his wand and begins to fidget with it.

“Yes… Ah, hell, he looks fine now. Besides, people don’t expect Death Eaters to look good.”

“I noticed we weren’t doing this in the usual execution room… surely someone wants to be here?”

“Just two people… they’re right outside, go let them in, I nearly forgot…” the old man stays behind to his loyal duty of glaring at Barty.

As soon as the young man leaves, the older man limps back over to get a better view of Barty.

Barty stares blankly left and his eyes looking disgustingly innocent, clear and shallow. His hair does not look much better, still in disarray. And despite his ignorance and his bliss, there is a lingering something… menacing left in him.

The old man grits his teeth, “You sick bastard.”

Suddenly, the door opens with a loud squeak and the young0 healer returns, followed by a boy of about fourteen years old. Next to him is an old woman.


She looks as though someone had bathed her in a jar full of vinegar before they let her walk about; wrinkles bath her face in the most distraught manner. An ankle-length green dress splashes over her thin frame and an almost amusing stuffed bird hat is perched on the tip of her grayed hair.

The boy has a slightly plump face, though diminishing, and dark brown hair. He is nervous, twitchy, and yet has the air of belonging here. His eyes jump imediently to Barty, and he stoically stands next to the young healer.

Nonetheless, the old man barks, “They sent a boy and an old woman to watch?”

“And why not, sir?” the elderly woman snaps as the boy winces.

“Well, I…” the old man’s voice wavers. The elder woman gives him a steely sharp look, as though challenging him to explain his thoughts.

“It was a private request…” the young healer looks like he agrees with the older healer.

“Please, sir, we won’t be of much trouble.” The boy has not torn his eyes away from Barty.

“Don’t apologize, Neville. Apparently this man hasn’t looked in the mirror in a while if he thinks an old woman can’t handle this,” she chirps.

“You see, ma’am, I…. What’d you say his name was?” the older man’s eyes has widened.

“Neville… Neville Longbottom… and I’m his grandmum.” Her nose is thrust in the air as though ‘grandmum’ is a proud business title. Neville simply fidgets and tries to shift away from his clutching relative.

The old man bites his tongue; he had heard of the Longbottoms. He will have to tell the young healer the story later, for it was a very good one…

“Very well… The way things are going with the war, you’re gonna watch someone die anyway,” he grumbles. The grandmother gives him a glare for choosing such words, her hand now resting on Neville’s shoulder, though it looked as though her claws were protectively sinking into his flesh.

“Do you have to kill him?”

There is surprise and silence strung about in the air that lasts for a long while, every eye in the room is set on Neville, except for Barty’s, who simply gazes around, following movement.

First, the grandmother reacts, “Don’t you dare talk that way, young man! This man killed your mum and dad! Don’t you want your parents to have revenge? Ooh, Frank wouldn’t have behaved this way,” she moans softly before giving Neville a soft whack upside the head.

To hear mercy asked for Barty, and especially to hear it coming from a Longbottom, is a shock for the older man. He expected Neville to join him in this frenzy for this wicked one’s death.

Neville, after recovering from his grandmother’s strike, finds the situation unbearable as he stutters, “I-I mean, I reckon he’s better now, without his memory and experiences. I know he was a... a...”

“A murderer.”

“A villain.”

“A sick bastard.”

“Er, yes, that, but…” Neville withers under the glares of the two healers, but most of all from the destructive stare of his grandmother, “Uh… never mind…”

His grandmother gives him one last hiss of disapproval before settling herself into a proper position. The men shrug it off and look at the empty criminal with great anticipation; this death will be just the start of ending terrors and, in the old man’s opinion, the deaths could not have come sooner.

“Are you going to use an Unforgivable?” Neville asks, quivering.

“Be quiet, boy.” His grandmother gives him a silencing look.

The young healer answers anyway, “No… we’ve weakened his heart, so a stun spell will cause his heart to give way.” He earns himself a glare from the grandmother for overriding her.

Neville pales at the immobile torture that is about to take place, but great relief floods onto his face when he learned no Unforgivable would be involved.

“Let’s do it,” the young man says, and the old man raises his wand.

His eyes let out one last flare of anger as he directs his chant, “Stupefy.”

Barty’s body does not move, but his eyes dart around in a terrible panic, probably the only emotion he has ever felt during his time of bearing no soul. He looks like he should be writhing, but the blue colored spell has done its job and he is perfectly still.

Everyone else feels just as paralyzed as Barty is, though with different intentions and feelings, as they watched one of the foulest Death Eaters meet his end. Finally, Barty’s eyes rest on Neville and the movement drains from them as life leaves his body.

Five minutes of silence and no movement passes, and Barty’s eyes do not move or close.

“I reckon he’s dead,” the old man says bluntly, and hobbles over to a corner, where stacks of white blankets were folded.

“Good heavens, and it’s about time.” His grandmother dabs her forehead with a delicately withdrawn handkerchief. “I’ll be writing to the Ministry about improving the efficiency of how prisoners are accounted for, but goodness knows, it probably won’t help those fools who think they’re in charge…Time to go, Neville. Let’s go visit your parents, hmm?”

Neville lets out a gurgle-like croak before he shakes and gives a quick nod. As his grandmother gives a curt turn on the heels and began to walk away, Neville gives Barty one last horrified look before following.

“Wait, Gran,” he mutters, and she stops, giving him a curious skeptical look.

Neville turns. “Is he going to have a funeral? O-or anything proper?” he stutters.

The older man lets out a bark of laughter as he drapes the cold white blanket over Barty’s dead body.

“No one’s gonna miss this vile dog,” he grins almost hungrily at the dead body as his fingers let go of the blanket.

Neville gives them each another terrified look each before exiting the morgue, his legs stiff as they try to carry him as far away as possible, landing him at the heels of his grandmother. The younger man gives Barty one last look before he, also, turns and exits the room.

As the doors slam behind the younger man, the old man gives the dead body one last glare, a finale of all of his prejudices and hatred for the night. Then, with no one else is there to witness, he spits on the floor underneath the body’s table and hobbles away. He turns off the lights, closes the door, and all is still.


Chapter 54: Minerva McGonagall
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Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Title: Remember
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme)
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An enormous mansion sat in the middle of a rather large plot of land, imposing against the black sky. The pale stone that covered the façade glowed eerily, providing almost as much light as the sliver of moon that had risen above the extensive grounds. It was strangely quiet, as though all creatures had fled from the seemingly deserted mansion. To the untrained eye, the darkened windows suggested that there wasn’t a living being for miles; but if one was to look carefully, they would see something under the bushes, just inside the tall, ornate gate, sparkling in the moonlight.

There, under the shrubbery, a regal tabby cat sat, alert and watching. It was strange that an ordinary house cat would be sitting under the bushes outside of such an imposing home. Of course, if you knew what you were looking for, you would realize that the markings around the cat’s eyes were not those of a typical house cat. Those eyes, so bright and alert, belonged to Minerva McGonagall.

The mansion was Malfoy Manor, the apparent gathering place for Voldemort’s supporters, the Death Eaters. The Order of the Phoenix had been deriving a plan to invade the Manor for months, but they needed just the right moment; they needed an inconspicuous spy, and Minerva, in her Animagus form, was perfect for the assignment. She had been sitting, alert and inconspicuous, for nearly an entire day. And as she sat, she had been remembering.

She stepped through the huge doors into the Great Hall and looked up at the starry ceiling in awe. She had heard stories about Hogwarts for as long as she could remember, and she had devoured Hogwarts, A History as soon as she had gotten her acceptance letter, signed by the well-known Deputy Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

She followed the short boy in front of her to the head of the huge room, where there sat a stool with a tattered hat upon it. “The sorting hat,” she murmured to herself, earning a strange look from the short boy.

She waited, patient and silent, until she heard her name called by the bearded professor. “McGonagall, Minerva.”

She went forward and sat on the stool, waiting to hear the voice of the sorting hat speak into her ear. “I do believe that there is more to you than meets the eye, little girl,” the hat said, its voice low. “You will go on to do things, impressive things, things that no one ever expected.” It paused, as though thinking. “I do believe that you will go well in GRYFFINDOR.” The hat shouted the last word, and Minerva hopped off the stool happily after it did, then ran to the table where the Gryffindors were cheering for their newest student.


The cat’s eye glittered as though it was amused, then quickly scanned across the property. The windows were still dark, everything still shut up tightly, and yet she continued to watch as she perused her memories.

”Miss McGonagall!” Professor Dumbledore greeted. “It’s so good to see our new Head Girl.”

“Thank you, Professor. I’m honored to have been chosen.”

He smiled down at her. “You deserve it, Minerva, you’ve more than proven yourself. Now, I would like to give you your first assignment, to lead the meeting with the new prefects.”

She nodded. “Of course, Professor. I’ve actually spoken to all of them on the train already, except for the boy from Slytherin. He was absent from the prefect’s carriage.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Riddle. He is absent occasionally, but I think he was a suitable choice for prefect.”

“Riddle? Tom Riddle?” she asked, her voice sharper than she had intended.

“Yes, McGonagall, me, Tom Riddle.”

She jumped at the voice behind her. “How lovely,” she said stiffly, hiding her surprise.

“Mr. Riddle,” Dumbledore greeted. “Miss McGonagall will escort you to the room where you will be having your first prefect meeting of the year.”

Tom smiled. “Lovely, thank you, Professor.” He turned to Minerva. “Ready, McGonagall?”

She forced her lips to curve up in a smile. “Of course, Riddle. Goodbye, Professor.” They walked away side-by-side, but as soon as they turned the corner she quickened her steps, drawing ahead of her escort. “Riddle, we need to get one thing straight right now.”

He scoffed. “Excuse me?”

She quickened her steps still more. “Do not pull any of your ‘better than me’ stunts this year, Riddle, I won’t tolerate them. It’s an abuse of power now, which is worse than just being pompous and assuming.”

Riddle chuckled. “Oh, McGonagall, you try so hard to control me. You’ll never succeed.”

She pursed her lips and ignored his final comment as she entered the room where the other prefects were waiting for her to begin the meeting.


The cat seemed to stiffen as she examined the landscape. A light breeze blew, brushing leaves from the shrub she was under against her ear, but she didn’t even twitch. She was too focused on the tasks at hand: her lookout and her memories.

Minerva stepped into the Three Broomsticks, snow swirling behind her in the cold November wind.

“Hello, Minerva,” Professor Dumbledore greeted, standing from his table.

“Hello, Professor. I’m glad to meet with you tonight.”

He inclined his head. “Now, Minerva, I would rather not take up time with flowery language, so I’ll just tell you why I’ve asked you here: You had expressed an interest in teaching at Hogwarts, Transfiguration in particular. Unfortunately, Transfiguration is my post, but I do have a position for you teaching Arithmancy.”

Minerva looked down at the table. “Professor, I’m not sure that I can spend the rest of my career teaching Arithmancy and be happy,” she told him, her voice uncharacteristically quiet.

“I understand, Minerva. I cannot make you any guarantees about when, but I can assure you that the Transfiguration post is yours as soon as Professor Dippet retires and I become Headmaster. At that time, I would also be honored to allow you to become the head of Gryffindor House.”

“Professor—“

“Minerva, I believe that you will be happy at Hogwarts. You were happy there as a student, and I genuinely believe that you will be one of the most successful teachers we’ve had in some time.”

Minerva thought quickly, her mind racing. What would she do if she wasn’t teaching? “I accept your offer, Professor. When would you like me to start?”


The cat was completely emotionless, quite unlike most cats. She was also completely still, nearly unheard of for most cats. And still, the woman inside the body of a cat traveled through her memories.

She was sitting at her desk, grading essays on animal-human transfiguration, when something at her window caught her eye. She was shocked to realize that it was a student. And it wasn’t just any student: It was Harry Potter, a first year.

Her first inclination was to be angry. First years should not be flying this high, and someone was going to hear about it. Her second inclination was shock: He had just caught a falling object, an object that very few people would have seen, let alone caught. And that was when it hit her. “A seeker,” she whispered to herself.

She stood next to the window, considering. On one hand, he was a first year who had most certainly broken some rule by being that close to her office window. On the other hand, the Gryffindor Quidditch team was desperately in need of a good Seeker. The Seekers for the past few years had been inferior, and, quite frankly, she was tired of losing. Worse than the losing was listening to Severus gloating afterwards. She remembered him as a student and it nauseated her to have to listen to his comments without retorting.

The thought of listening to Severus gloat about his own Slytherin Quidditch team was what made up her mind: Harry Potter would be the new Gryffindor Seeker.


The cat’s eyes moved sharply to a tree at the rustle of the dead leaves in the braches. Minerva’s spine stiffened, then relaxed as she saw the shape of an owl crossing the eerily lit sky. However, nearly as soon as she relaxed, she stiffened again as her mind took her to another memory, a painful memory.

At the end of the day, Minerva walked slowly to her office—her new office. She couldn’t believe that after so many years, her mentor was gone: Albus Dumbledore was dead.

She closed the door behind her and allowed herself to slump for the first time in days, then shuffled her feet across the room. She collapsed behind the desk, so familiar but so different from this side.

Dumbledore had been a man she had idolized for so many years. She had heard of him before coming to Hogwarts as a child, and was in awe of him when she arrived. Through her years at school, she learned so much from him. He began her love for Transfiguration, and he could be credited with her exceptional skill in it now; the basic foundation that he had lain gave her the tools she needed to take it to the next level. When he gave her the Arithmancy job years later, she was reluctant to teach the subject, but eager to begin working with such a great man as an equal, so she accepted the position.

So many years she had worked beside him…and now he was gone. Inexplicably, unexpectedly, undeniably gone. At this thought, Minerva buried her head in her hands and began to sob. It was senseless, and all done in the name of that disgusting excuse for a man. Tom Riddle. She scoffed at the thought of his moniker, Voldemort. Riddle was a coward and a sorry excuse of a man.

And at that moment, sitting at the desk of her deceased mentor, thinking of the man who had put her in this situation, she made a resolution: She would be a part of destroying Voldemort and the disgusting world that he was trying to build.


The cat’s eyes glistened, as though filled with unshed tears. At the creaking of the gate, however, she snapped to attention, eyes sharp, back stiff, fur standing on end. As soon as the gate clicked shut, hundreds of lights began to blaze in the windows of the once-glorious mansion. The property was illuminated, making it easy for Minerva to follow the progress of a man in black robes. She crept out from her hiding place beneath the bushes and followed his progress, slow and silent, across the property to the door. Confident that the proper people had been alerted to the change in the residence and that they would be arriving soon, she slipped through the open doorway behind the black-robed man.

They walked through many hallways and down a cold stone staircase, until they entered a chamber, dark and quiet. And there, in the middle of the dark room, stood a man. Or, rather, a shadow of a man: Tom Riddle. The man responsible for the death of the most influential man in her life.

At this sight, Minerva lost control of her emotions for the first time in many, many years. She transformed back into her human form, pulling out her wand as she did. She could hear the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs behind her as she finished transforming.

The man in the center of the room smiled grotesquely. “Hello, Minerva.”

Her blood boiled and she pointed her wand at his chest, aiming for the heart that she knew was already dead. “Hello, Tom.”




Chapter 55: Ernie Macmillan
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By: delta
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and canadianstar
Chapter Graphic: Infairi
Title: An Ordinary
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thanks to all the wonderful staffers who have made HPFF possible. I don’t know what I would do without you guys (and hpff). Also, thanks to my betas Jessi_Rose and Canadianstar for their help, as well as Infairi for making the graphic. -Delta

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On any given day, the wind swirls about, spreading its stories throughout the surrounding villages, reliving the memories of those that came before it. Rain brings dreary memories – the death of a bygone hero, tears for a forbidden love, and even, when the rainbow just begins to break the horizon, memories of all the little miracles in life, all of the small pleasures, all of the renewals, and all of the gratifying experiences. And, often, the stories told by the wind are not only of the famous heroes of life, but of the ordinary ones – the ones who pushed themselves for the greater good, who struggled with existence, yet managed to persevere. These ordinary heroes are the ones who are forgotten in the passing of time, and whose stories lay hidden, remembered only by a select few and forgotten, eventually, for all of history.

But, here I stand, your dear narrator, to spin a tale of one of those ordinary heroes. I stand here, not to tell you of the brave, the mighty, or the wise, but of a fiercely loyal and fiercely honest boy who struggled in life because he was a hidden hero and an unappreciated one at that, who, despite his proud and sometimes misguided nature, was determined to right the many wrongs that soiled his forsaken world.

My name is Hannah Abbot, and I am no longer the cheery, pig-tailed girl I once was. The death of my mother, and the subsequent loss of my grandfather to disease in the months that followed Voldemort’s return cut me deeply. My withdrawal from Hogwarts as a result of these incidents hurt me even more. But beyond any of these problems, real though they may be, stood the fact that my one true friend and one true love soon died fighting for a cause that he had deemed right. He had always seen the light and had always been determined to fight for it. Yet, because of his bravery, our love never had the chance to blossom. Perhaps, it never would have blossomed had he survived the war. But that is not something I can ponder any more than I can question why the sky is blue or the grass is green. The only thing I can do for my fallen soul mate is to remember him, and remember him well before his memory fades for all of posterity.

------

I can still remember the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled and the way he always took large, broad steps to Transfiguration. I can still remember the twinkle in his eyes when he showed me his stack of Chocolate Frog Cards for the first time, and the way his laughter always came out full and throaty. But even more than that, I remember his compassion and his loyalty. His anxiety. His earnestness. And I remember these things because these traits exemplified him and who he really was. They shown out of him and lit him up. He was at his best, at the height of his passion during those moments that needed his friendship and his concern. I can still remember the way he would always stop to help a lost First Year, and the way he always stood up for what he believed was right, no matter what other people thought.

I remember, and I shall never forget.

------

One of those moments that stick out most in my mind is that time in fifth year when he stood up for Harry when no one else would, when he believed what everyone else was too scared to believe. When he reaffirmed Harry’s validity to the masses, with no regard for the damage it was doing to his own reputation. He did not have to perform this reputable deed, did not have to see a truth that no one else saw, did not have to speak out for it, but he did, and I loved him for it. I loved his courage, his strength, and his sense of justice. I loved how he only did what he knew was best, how he was determined to act only on his morals, and no one else’s, how he did what he knew was the right thing to do, even though it was not the most popular thing to do.

And what makes this action of his so remarkable was that he overcame envy to do it.

Often, he would reveal to me a side of him that was extremely unlike his normal, happy-go-lucky self. Sometimes, I felt scared to see this side of him, but deep inside, I was truly happy that he trusted me, and only me, with his secrets. The fact that not even Justin knew what he shared with me made it all the more special. He had singled me out, made me into something that enthralled me, and showed me his trust.

I still remember one of those conversations very vividly.

“Hannah, what do you think about Harry?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied.

“You’ve heard what the Ministry says about him,” he said, running his fingers through his hair, “and what Luna said about him earlier. Most people seem to think he’s a crackpot, and many are just too willing to believe it. What about you?”

“I guess I think that’s he telling the truth. I mean, he’s Harry. He’s got to be telling the truth,” I answered emphatically.

“That’s what I think too,” he replied. A determined look appeared on his face. “The next time someone insults Harry, I’m going to stand up for him.”

“But, it really isn’t your fault or your place to do that,” I protested, “People won’t believe you. They’ll just think that you’re as whacked as Harry supposedly is.”

“I know, Hannah, but I just have to try. This whole situation just isn’t right,” he said distractedly. Mutely, I just nodded my acceptance. “Look, I know that what I’m doing probably isn’t normal. I mean, you know how I’ve always felt left behind in school because of Harry, how my grades and my behaviour are overlooked because of the Golden Trio. But I just can’t watch people soil Harry’s reputation and not do anything about it. It’s just not right.” He ran another frustrated hand through his hair and gave me a troubled look.

“I guess you’re right, Ernie,” I acquiesced, “but you’re just so much better of a person than I will ever be. Heck, if I was you, I would be more likely to belittle Harry than support him. I’d be eaten up with envy inside.”

“I am, Hannah, I am,” Ernie replied, “but I can’t help but feel that I owe him something because of the way I treated him in second year when I thought he was He-who-must-not-be-named or something because he petrified Justin. I feel like I’ve wronged him. Sure, I apologized in the end when I realized that I had been wrong, but I still have this lingering sense of justice that just keeps making me feel somehow indebted to him.” He paused for a moment. “I dunno, it’s hard to explain.”

I gave him a long look. “Do whatever you think is right, Ernie. You know that we’ll always back you.”

Slowly, his head had nodded just once in agreement. Ernie Macmillan had made up his mind.

-------

“Hannah, I’ll miss you,” he said.

“I’ll miss you too,” I replied forlornly.

It was the day before I was leaving Hogwarts, and Ernie and I were giving our goodbyes. As we struggled on in silence, I couldn’t help but feel that our words were meaningless, mere sounds emitted from an emotionless void. It seemed as if this goodbye was just a process to be endured, as if I wasn’t really leaving tomorrow, as if I would still be struggling through Transfiguration class until the end of the school year.

Yet, somewhere, burrowed deep down in our plastic reality, lay the knowledge that we might never see each other again. We both knew that You-Know-Who’s return spelled constant worry and danger. You-Know-Who had already hit my family – it would only be too soon before all of us were fighting in a war that we should not have to fight. It just wasn’t fair. But there was nothing any of us could do to change the situation. Nothing that we could do to stop that comet leering on the horizon. We knew it would hit – this terror and confusion – we just hadn’t known when. And it was sad, really. The fact that we were just teenagers, who were forced to grow up too quick, adults before our seventeenth birthday – our childhoods were cut short, and so was our humanity. How I hated fate. How I hated – Voldemort. I could never say his name while he still lived. Ernie could. But, often, I wish that Ernie hadn’t had that noble courage, that he had been more mellow, more quiet, more safe. But inside my heart, I know that if he hadn’t been the pompous, noble boy he was, I would never have loved him.

Life lives to spite.

------

I saw Ernie one last time before he died. One might think that such a meeting would have been memorable. It certainly was, but not in the way that I would have intended. In the weeks following that day, I couldn’t sleep, haunted by those dark, heavy eyes and sorrowful face lines. Even now, years after the war, I still lie awake at night, wondering if it would have been better had I not seen Ernie one last time before his final breath – sometimes I wonder, for the Ernie that I saw that day was so unlike the Ernie I knew, so unlike the boy I had grown to cherish that it had broken my heart to see him that way.

Those formerly carefree eyes that used to twinkle at a kind word or a friendly remark now knew only the sorrow and anger that accompanied war. Now, they did not twinkle, they glared. His eyes darted constantly – suspiciously, wary to any slight movement among the ranks, any rustle of the leaves.

And it wasn’t just Ernie who was like that, so grown-up and hardened. It was all of them. All of my former classmates who were gathered there had lost their happy faces and bright eyes; now, they were all the same – one mass, one army, fighting, fighting, constantly. It was sad, really. When I left them a day later to continue my training as a Healer, their dark faces, haunted by the shadows of war, would plague my sleep and invade my dreams for the many weeks and years that followed.

------

I heard about his death one late summer day.

The war had been in full swing for at least half a year, and I had often been sent to the frontlines to care for the sick and wounded. It was horrifying just how quickly my job became just another routine in life, a mere chore that I had to accomplish. Deaths no longer carried names or faces, their significance faded as the death toll just kept rising higher and higher. Now, we just looked at the numbers. At first, one added death was cause for terror, but soon, like the despicable creatures we were, we grew used to the numbers. They lost all meaning to us, just as our lives lost meaning for us too. We were trapped in all of the fighting, trapped between life and death, and had no way out, so we just struggled on. Holding on to whatever existence we had had. Whatever lives we had once led. Those memories were our nourishment during the war – and our sorrow. Their existence gave us something to live for, something to strive for, something to yearn for, for life had lost its allure, and we had lost our hope in the world, as our carefully constructed society fell apart one by one. It was hard to watch unmoving as neighbours were killed or turned to crime, hard to live when we knew that there was danger lurking behind every corner, hard to talk when we knew that our best friend could be working for the Dark Lord. The lines had blurred. Good and bad had run together, and the rest of us were just trapped in the crossfire, unable to save our lost society and ourselves.

And so it was that life went on. The deaths had no real significance for me until a letter came from an old Hogwarts classmate, a certain bushy-haired Hermione Granger.

------

I remember my delight when the owl had handed me a letter – a rare occurrence during the war – and I had seen Hermione’s name stamped on the envelope. Slowly, I had unrolled the parchment, which was quite scarce at the time, and read the contents carefully. I don’t remember what I had expected – perhaps, a ‘how have you been?’ or a request for medical aid, but the contents had been anything but.

The letter had begun by detailing the last battle, complete with an incident during with Ron’s cloak had been singed, and I had just stopped to just skim the letter. As I had quickly glanced over a line, the word ‘dead’ had caught my eyes, and I had read the sentence to myself. I had read it again and had stopped abruptly. Standing up, I had quickly lighted a fire with a swish of my wand before having thrown the letter into the fireplace fiercely. Short of breath, I had collapsed on the sofa in a daze, and had just sat there shocked at what I had read. I soon had found a thousand reasons why Hermione could possibly be lying, each wilder and less probable than the last. I had been desperate to find any room for doubt, but all of my guesses and stipulations had just kept pointing me back to the letter’s contents. I had realized with a sob that my soul mate was truly dead.

-------

There is no need to tell anymore of what I suffered, for this is not my story, but Ernie’s.

Hopefully, my short and altogether incomplete telling provides a glimpse of Ernie, at his shortcomings and at his heroism. He was an ordinary boy caught in a war that he was determined to fight, and because of his bravery, he became just another name in that destructive battle. But, at least for me, Ernie was much more than that, for he was my friend and my love, my noble warrior. He was everything I could ever hope to be and more. I saw in him a sort of brilliance that I saw in no other, and this radiance reflected onto his peers, for we revelled in his presence. He was always the leader of the group, always the captain, but he, more than anyone, knew when to back down, knew when he was wrong. And this discipline and grace of his transformed him into a constant friend and a sure leader. Yet, even so, I know that during the war, he would not have fought for leadership, would not have challenged Harry’s authority. Ernie wouldn’t do that. He knew the invisible lines in society and knew which ones were the ones not worth crossing. Ernie would have understood that, in the whole mix of things, he was just another pawn in a larger game. He would have understood that and accepted it.

As I sit here, I can only pause for a moment to think of my soul mate once more, for I have spent more days and more years pondering the existence of my beloved than has been warranted. Yet, even so, I am reminded of his presence constantly, for his memories and his personality have almost become a part of me insomuch that my every action reminds me of him, my every word reminds me of his nuances. I cry out and rail against his death every moment of my life and remember him always, for Ernie has become and shall always remain a part of my life and a part of my memory forever.

My friends, join me in remembering a stalwart and eager boy. Join me in remembering an ordinary hero. Join me, my friends, in remembering a boy who was willing to sacrifice his life for what he believed was right. Join me in remembering Ernie Macmillan.


Chapter 56: Sybill Trelawney
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By: Jessi_Rose
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and PrincessPotter
Chapter Graphic: Elena78
Title: Tale of the Tarot
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (substance Use/Abuse)
For the Staff: This project was a must for me, because all of you have done so much for this site and for everyone that is a part of it. There are no words to express how grateful I am to you, so I hope that you can sit back, relax and enjoy a bit of humor with Sybill as your guide. *huggles all* ~Jessi~

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Mauve curtains lie draped across the half oval windows. The sunlight that peeks through them casts a strange glow around the cramped room of the tower. A mixture of heavy rosemary incense and cooking sherry permeates the room with a musty stench that can be smelled throughout the higher parts of the castle.

Sybill Trelawney sits at her maple table, staring at the cards that are laid out in front of her. Her jaw is all but coming unhinged as her mouth hangs open. Her preying mantis-like eyes are unfocused, daring the information before her to be true.

The reading is undeniable; no excuses can be made for its meaning. Within the intricately designed cards, the truth shines out. Centered among the lot is the High Priestess, crescent moons resting on two pillars behind her. A curtain extended between the pillars is decorated with pomegranates, the fruit of love and fertility. Adorned in simple, white robes, symbolizing her purity, the Priestess wears a crown made up of white daisies, the flowers of innocence. On her lap lie white narcissi, the flowers of death and rebirth.

Sybill’s long, wrinkled fingers glide pensively over the card’s image. She marvels at the porcelain woman as if believing her to be perfect. Essentially, she knows that this card is a representation of herself, the inquirer. Loyal and divine, the woman on the card foretells future gain. Whether it will prove a gain of knowledge or truth depends on what lies around her.

With her glasses on the bridge of her nose, Sybill’s magnified blue eyes glaze over as she sees her old foe. Next to the Priestess, set diagonally from Sybill’s sherry glass, is the Page of Swords. The Page is a young boy wearing a blue tunic and white shirt that reflects the colors of the sky behind him. In both of his hands he holds up a sword, which he tilts to the left of the card. He is an image of versatility and creativity. The bird depicted behind him symbolizes the mind’s ability to soar high above the mundane. Though his nature on the card seems genuine and harmless, Sybill knows differently. She saw this card on the day preceding the death of Albus Dumbledore. This young boy was at best mischievous, and at worst, malicious.

Of what importance is this boy to me? she wonders as she reaches a frail hand out to grab her almost empty glass of sherry. Slowly, she brings the drink to her thin lips and takes the last sip, letting the sour grape taste linger in her mouth a second longer than normal. When the short glass is empty, leaving only a small, crimson ring at the bottom, Sybill makes to put it back upon the off-white tablecloth. Missing by several inches, the glass lands on the ground with a reverberating clang as it shatters.

Professor Trelawney sits still and quiet, appearing oblivious to what she had done as she contemplates her next fate. On the card below the Page dwells a major arcana card: The Wheel of Fortune. A blindfolded woman wearing a purple gown stands in the center of a wheel. On each side resides a different man; top, bottom, left and right, each representing a chance in life; one good, one bad, one who has been good, and one who has been bad. Sybill takes in the meaning of the card, her third eye focusing gravely on the man at the bottom of the wheel- the man who indicates strife. Still, the Wheel of Fortune only tells its true position by its surrounding cards. By intuition, Sybill knows that her fate is in deadly question.

Barely drawing a breath, she shudders and tries to reason with herself. One never expects to read negatively into the divine, but the third eye never spares us the truth. I shall take precaution when in the presence of others because, obviously, some man wishes me ill.

Willing her eyes to move to the final card, a loud gasp of terror escapes her throat. A hoarse ‘No’ echoes through the thick, musty air before Sybill rises from her table and runs from the tower, quickly opening the trapdoor and descending the ladder that leads to the corridor.

With her shawl draped haphazardly around her shoulders, she runs as fast as she can through the seventh floor corridor. Her abnormally long feet scurry across the marble, leading her straight to the only place she knows to seek comfort.

The wooden door next to Barnabus the Bewildered opens with ease at the touch of her shaking, frail hand and she slips inside. The door slides shut behind her. Sybill stands anxiously in the spacious broom cupboard, holding her hand over her opened mouth. Finally feeling her tension ebbing away, she finds a small bucket and sits herself upon it. Clasping her pointed chin between her thumb and fisted hand, she begins biting her already jagged nails. It is clearer now than ever before- the High Priestess, Page of Swords, Wheel of Fortune, and…Death.

Trembling at the thought of her final card, Sybill stands from her bucket and begins to pace small circles around the broom cupboard. She reflects warily on her final fate, the merciless image of a skeleton riding bareback upon a black horse. Etched in her mind’s eye is his scythe and hourglass perched in either hand, taunting her with her time left to live. Raven and poppies plague her mind; she knows death is surely immanent. Typically the death card represents change and transformation, but her paranoia and the surrounding cards symbolize to Sybill a much more dastardly outcome.

Her wariness only elevates at the creaking and stomping noises of the students coming down for supper. At every minute sound, the distraught Professor jumps a mile in the air and clutches her shawl tighter around her shoulders. A low, yet friendly voice from the hall finally breaks through her morbid thoughts.

“I tell you, Baron, Peeves is waiting for the first years. He has a box of the Weasley’s Wheezes Potions. And,” the voice says becoming graver, “he will use them.”

“That is no issue of mine,” the Baron replies haughtily.

“But…You,” Sir Nicolas implores before seeming to give up. “Oh, never mind.”

Sybill gasps as she hears about Peeves and the potions. Obviously they are dangerous; they are, after all, from the Weasley twins. She knew someone was out to get her, but she never would have suspected Peeves. She knows she can’t let him find her lest her Tarot reading become reality. She waits until she can no longer hear the ghosts talking and then sneaks from the oversized cupboard into the empty corridor. She draws a ragged breath as she shuts the door behind her, jumping at the click of the lock. Determined to see the Headmistress, Sybill tiptoes quickly down the hall. Every so often she looks behind her to make sure that Peeves is no where to be found.

Only two flights of stairs, she assures herself. She knows Peeves is most likely outside of the Great Hall, waiting for the innocent first years to get done eating dinner. It is his favorite time to harass the students. To Sybill’s luck, she is right; Peeves is not around the third or fourth floor corridors. One more staircase, she chants mentally, one more staircase..

Having not encountered any trouble, she now stands, filled with dread, in front of the large, stone gargoyle that guards the Headmistress’s office. Its facial expression is snide; its eyebrows so close together that they create a crack in the cement across its forehead. Its mouth is parted as if begging to say something sarcastic. Sybill stares at the unwelcoming guard, racking her brain for the correct password.

“Lemon drops?” she whispers hopefully to the gargoyle. When its face changes to an impassive expression, Sybill puts her forehead in her hand. No, of course. That was Dumbledore’s password.

“Oh! I don’t remember,” Sybill pleads with the gargoyle. “You know me! I was here all the time last year,” Sybill shouts in exasperation. She can’t understand why the stone won’t just move out of her way; this is an urgent matter. “You wretched...”

“No, no, no, Oh Divine One,” comes a sing-song voice from down the corridor. Sybill freezes, willing herself not to face the source of the voice. “Peevsie knows the word. His Bloodiness told me so just now. The Headmistress would like to see Peevsie,” he sings.

Peeves hovers above Sybill’s quivering form, blowing raspberries and feigning the dropping of the potions. When she sees a tiny droplet of purple liquid come to the brim of one of the glass jars, Sybill leaps skittishly to the side, causing a clamor of iron to sound throughout the corridor. While falling to the floor, Sybill watches as a dozen knights in armor clatter to the ground around her. Peeves cackles evilly, feeling triumphant in his scare of the old insect. The entire time that the divination instructor is struggling to stand from the concrete ground, she keeps her eyes focused intently on the dastardly poltergeist. She moves her eyes just enough to get the Weasley’s potions back into her view, scared that if she isn’t paying close enough attention, she could wind up with a burn hole in her forehead from Peeves’ taunts. If he makes one false slip, she could be done for.

Using all of the strength that she can muster, she brings herself into an unsteady standing position. She pushes her thick framed glasses more securely on the bridge of her nose while using her other free hand to wrap her shawl closer around her neck and shoulders. Taking a final, frightened glance at Peeves and his potions, she runs from the front of the Headmistress’s office, back toward her tower. Peeves, however, has another plan for the poor, terrified Divination Professor.

As Sybill reaches the third floor landing, Peeves is floating just behind her with one tiny vial of purple liquid, uncorked and ready to spill. Without paying attention to the stairs in front of her, the Professor’s substantially large loafer catches on the first step, causing her to fall face first into the uneven concrete. Gingerly, she lifts her throbbing head from the ground and holds herself up on her hands and knees.

“Did the Divine One see that coming?” Peeves mocks. “Your third eye missed that one, Oh Celestial One?”

Sybill groans as she quickly lifts herself up from the floor. Still shaking from Peeves’ threats with the vial, she makes to run away again, but to no avail. Peeves zooms in front of her on the stairs and splashes the purple liquid into her face.

A scream of terror erupts from Sybill’s throat as it hits her. I’m dying! Oh Merlin, he’s killed me, she cries as her hands fly to her face, wiping furiously at all of the muck covering her cheeks and her chunky glasses.

Peeves chortles menacingly, watching her desperately swipe at her face.

“What is going on here?” a stern voice asks from behind the scene, causing Peeves to assume an upright, ghostly posture. “What is this mess, Peeves?”

“Oh, hello, Headmistress,” Peeves says with feign politeness. “One of your ickle Professorheads has a wittle bit of a boo boo,” he baby talks, pointing behind him to where Professor Trelawney stands grasping at her face.

“Is everything okay, Sy-,” McGonagall starts, but hastily finishes with, “Oh, my word!” Professor McGonagall clasps a wrinkled hand over her open mouth in shock. Standing before her is a woman with a giant green face covered by a pouf of messy, dirty blonde hair. Her multiple eyes are abnormally large, looking as if someone had taken a window screen and pressed it on top of two shiny black rocks. Her face is shaped like a rounded triangle, with small, twitching feelers sprouting out from the top of it.

Sybill’s hands explore her face, as she looks quickly back and forth between Peeves and the Headmistress, having abandoned her previous attempt at cleaning.

“How did this happen, Sybill?” the Headmistress inquires, forcing her face to remain impassive as her lip twitches. “Why do you look like….that?”

“That mischievous poltergeist was trying to kill me, Minerva,” Sybill exclaims as she points at Peeves. “My dying transformation has already started,” she wails! Her hand goes to her forehead as she lets out a dramatic cough.

“Peeves! Did you do this to her?” Minerva demands.

“Terrible lies, Headmistress. I would never kill anyone. Just a little prankie for Peevsie,” he harmonizes with a squeal.

“Prank? This is no prank, Headmistress. I am going to die! It was all in the cards just now,” Sybill cries. “Death by a malicious soul!”

Surely you won’t die, Sybill,” the Headmistress consoles. “We can get this sorted out in no time. Best get you into the infirmary before the students see.”

“I will not parish in a hospital bed!” Sybill hollers. “My face has already undergone the gods’ transformations!”

“You are only a preying mantis,” McGonagall answers with a big sigh. “Peeves, you need to meet me in my office as soon as I get Sybill to Madam Pomfrey,” she orders, glaring in his direction for a second before turning back toward Sybill’s. Her eyes fill with revulsion as she once again takes in the altered face that of her Divination professor. “Come now, dear. Your sight should show you that you will be fine.” The stern looking older witch gently grabs a hold of Sybill’s elbow, leading her down the hall.

“It is…the end,” Sybill exaggerates, bowing her head in acceptance. Just as she retracts her arm from the Headmistress’s grasp, a loud commotion fills the corridors. Students begin pouring from the Great Hall, making their way back up to their dormitories to finish their homework and chat. Buzzing excitedly, and full bellied, the students stroll past the insect, poltergeist and Headmistress with very little notice, until one squeaky, boyish voice fills the hallway.

“Oi! A giant bug!” screams one of the students while gesturing frantically at the others.

“Oh, dear,” the Headmistress says with a faint laugh. “It’s going to take ages to get them to calm down now.”

“I’ll do it, your Headship,” Peeves assured. “Hey, you lot! Feel it! It’s really bumpy,” he sings over the crowd as he zooms away.

A cluster of kids run up to the transfigured woman, poking at her extraordinary face. Her knees buckle under the pressure of the kids, leaving her lying on her back on the solid ground below.

“Children,” called the Headmistress. “That is no way to treat your Divination Professor.” She uses her hands to shoo the students away from the, now twitching instructor. “Up, Sybill,” she requests as she takes Sybill by the arm. “I will get this straightened out right now.”

“Minerva, there is nothing you can do,” Sybill sighs sadly. “I have seen the omen. It was the omen…of death!”

“Merlin’s beard, woman. You only got transfigured into an insect. Will you put your hands away from your face and let me perform the counter spell?”

Sybill reluctantly obeys the former Transfiguration Professor, dragging her hands from her face down to her sides. “Do what you must. But it will not change the inevitable.”

“Everyone will die one day, Sybill. If you remember that, you may keep your sanity,” Minerva says irritably. She takes her slender hand and reaches into her robe pocket to withdraw her wand. Pointing it directly between Sybill’s gigantic black eyes, she mutters, “Finite Incantatem.”

Instantly, Sybill’s head begins to shrink down to normal size and change from an olive green to a natural blush. Instead of a thousand clustered black eyes, she now has two very large, magnified eyes hidden behind a pair of thick, black framed spectacles. The only remaining pieces of her former state are two tiny red marks where her feelers had grown. Still feeling the pain of sprouting antenna from her head, Sybill places her fragile, shivering hand on her forehead, feeling the first beads of sweat from terror and embarrassment.

When the hall starts ringing with laughter, Minerva silences the students with a wave of her hand and says genuinely to Sybill, “Honestly, Professor Trelawney, you don’t think we’d let something from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes in this school that would actually harm someone?” She gives a cool smile to the Professor and turns to walk away, leaving Sybill standing amidst a pointing and giggling crowd.

Feeling her strength return to her jelly-like legs, Sybill walks back up the long, tedious path to her tower. She replays the day’s events over and over in her head. According to her Tarot, she should have died today; the third eye spares no whimsical details. Why then had she not expired? The death card is a card of transformation, you know, mocks a skeptical voice inside of her head.

“The Death Card in any reading is not a good thing. With the cards before me, I know that death is coming. I will prove it,” she snaps at herself.

Swinging open her heavy tower door, Sybill stalks into the stuffy, stale room and places herself smartly in front of the table where her tarot cards still lay. She ‘humphs’ at the cards; they are still aligned according to their previous reading. Sliding them all together in one quick movement, she brings them up in the air, eye level, and begins to shuffle all seventy-eight cards together. Making sure that each card has slipped out of place at least once, Sybill brings them down onto the table and, between her two hands, forms a bridge with the cards, making sure that they are indeed shuffled to the best of her ability. Finally satisfied, she lays them in three piles in front of her before making them into one neat stack again.

Taking a long, deep breath and staring blankly at the elaborate, pale blue design on the back of the square deck, she lays out four cards face down in front of her. Slowly, she overturns the first card, revealing none other than her previous, wicked fate. The haunting image of the skeleton mounted on a black horse is fixing her with a death-like stare in the eyes. Screaming a blood curdling shriek, Sybill jumps from her table, causing it to overturn. As she pauses briefly to see the damage she has done, she notices that every Tarot card that is facing upward has the same morbid sketch. There, in front of her, are at least fifty skeletons, all holding their scythes, glaring coldly back at her.

Practically frozen with fright, Sybill slowly backs her way to the trapdoor of her tower. As soon as she has reached the bottom of the ladder she runs as fast as she can down the deserted corridors. Before she gets to the great oak doors of the castle, she passes by a semi-transparent figure and a floating poltergeist in deep conversation. They pause briefly from their discussion to watch the horror-filled woman fling open the double doors and cast herself out into the night.

“Peeves, what exactly did the Weasley twins send you?” inquires the shrewd form of Sir Nicolas.

“A box of transfiguration potions,” Peeves sings whilst floating away. And just before he is about to disappear through a wall, he calls back to Sir Nicolas, “And a deck of trick tarot cards.”



Chapter 57: Rubeus Hagrid
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By: andharrywokeup
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and marauderin_around
Title: Game Over
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove and Infairi
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thanks to all the admin and helpers at WPSS for
organising such a great present for the staffers!

Oh and naturally a huge thank you to the HPFF staff themselves
for running such a fabulous site - I have never been so addicted
to internet in my life!

Thanks to arithmancy_wiz and marauderin_around for their amazing
advice as beta reasers and thanks to harrystrulove and Infairi
for together producing a stunning grapic!

*pulls out wand and conjures up cookies for all*

-----


This time she shivered as she saw the castle that she had last marvelled upon through seventeen year old eyes. Something was different. This time there was no warm feeling of contentment that she usually experienced when stepping upon these grounds. Surely that feeling of being home was meant to rise up stronger than ever now? Especially considering she hadn’t been back in over ten years. For six years this place had brought her more joy than during any other time in her life, but it wasn’t the same any more. The stone of the architecture was cold, not inviting. The sweep of wind that rushed through her hair was bitter, not refreshing. The grounds that used to be a place of buzzing excitement were now full of seemingly lifeless Wizards moving around in mundane routines. Without them, Hogwarts could never be home again.

She walked the oddly familiar path down to his hut, painful memories attacking her mind with every step. Memories of them. How many adventures had taken place on these grounds? How many conversations had fallen from their mouths with every step they had taken to the hut? She saw the Whomping Willow and remembered Sirius Black. He had been the first to go and they, along with the rest, had followed him on the next adventure. That adventure had been one she missed out on, the first adventure that wasn’t faced as a trio. And one day, she would be left to walk those last steps, just as alone as she was now.

She looked to the lake and found herself unable to block out the memories of her first kiss with one, and then the argument they’d had with the other afterwards. Even that personal moment had been shared between the three of them. She should have known it would have been difficult to return. However, the second she had heard the news, she had known that it was time to come back. For this time there was no escaping it, this time her last remaining friend needed her support.

She balled her fist and timidly knocked on the door. She had never once seen him since that final day. The day life and she knew it had ended. Would he remember her? Would he welcome her into the hut like he always had in her school days? He had been a rock for her during her third year. Would the same kindly man, with trusting beetle black eyes, still be there? She knocked again, this time louder.

***

He opened the door to see a young woman he had never met before. Yet, as he looked more intently, he noticed something familiar about her. He had seen those chestnut brown eyes somewhere before. He opened his mouth, but the women spoke first.

‘You don’t know who I am, do you?’

Her voice was pained and straggled and his spine pirckled as he heard it. It was a voice he had once known well. It was a voice that, years ago, he had thought he had heard for the last time. His skin paled with shock and though he felt his jaw freeze, deep inside he was glad that finally, over a decade later, there was a certainty about what had happened to her. His instinct had been proven right, she was alive and, at last, years of waiting had paid off. She had come home.

‘Yer wrong fer the firs’ time in yer life, Hermione.’

To her, his voice sounded cold and bitter. Had she made a mistake in coming back today? She should have known that she couldn’t just jump back into the community she had, perhaps cruelly, abandoned so many years ago. Had she really come for Hagrid today, or had she come for herself? Surely she should have known that people would have been stunned and shaken, seeing her again after all these years. She looked up into his disappointed eyes and all hope of recomposing herself was lost as tears began to leak from her eyes. Clearing her throat she spoke once again.

‘I have been wrong many times before, Hagrid. I think that maybe I was wrong to come back. May I come in?’

Hagrid looked at her incredulously before turning around and leading her inside and to a seat.

‘Course yeh weren’ wrong ter come back. I’ve bin waitin’ too long fer it ter be a mistake, Hermione! But why today?’

‘How did you know I would come back? The Prophet reported me ‘Missing Believed Dead’ after the battle.’

She looked at her giant friend, through watery eyes, as he began to clutter around the kitchen making a pot of tea. He hummed to himself slightly and she got the impression that he wasn’t going to answer her question. As Hermione watched him, all the times she had watched him potter around the kitchen came back to her, she smiled through her tears. It wasn’t until now that she realised that what her mother and Mrs Weasley always seemed to say might actually be true - a cup of real English tea had the capacity to make anyone feel better. As she thought back, she become conscious of the fact that Hagrid’s tea always seemed to work - but then perhaps it was only extra satisfying because it was always served with his less than adequate, tooth breaking rock cakes.

True to her expectations, Hagrid returned to the table with a plate of rock cakes that resembled small boulders. He poured the tea into mugs that Hermione thought really should have been used for beer. He looked up and finally caught her eye.

‘There was no body. Not like there was with the others. Yer don’ need ter explain yerself ter me, Hermione. I jus’ had a feeling. I can understand why yeh wan’ed to go, I was gonna run too. When we were told tha’ they had died it felt like the game was over an’ there was no point in hangin’ around after. It was so ruddy awful tha’ I jus’ wanted to disappear. ‘S why yeh don’ need to explain. I jus’ wan’ ter know why yeh came back now, so outta the blue!’

‘It was difficult to come back, Hagrid. I’m still not sure if it was a good idea, but I heard you were retiring - it was in The Prophet.’ She sipped her tea before continuing.

‘When I read it I was curious, I thought you might need someone to talk to. It seems a bit stupid now, I mean, how is someone who has come back from the dead meant to comfort a friend? I guess I wasn’t thinking straight and I realise now that maybe I was getting a bit lonely on my own in the Muggle world.’

‘I knew yeh were a smart one, Hermione. Yeh sorted out yer problem on yer own, and now yeh can help me pack!’

Hermione, for the first time, looked around the hut and realised it was in complete disarray. Clothes were packing themselves, dishes wrapping themselves in protective wrapping and the bed was turned on its side, revealing a colossal mess underneath. Hagrid’s great overcoat lay covering the majority of the floor, its many pockets sorting themselves out.

‘Why are you retiring, Hagrid? Surely you can only be in your seventies? You have at least thirty years of fitness left! How can you want to leave Hogwarts?’

‘Yeh must have noticed, Hermione. It’s different now. The young witches and wizards don’t have the excitement they used to have. None of them have any interest in visiting me. I wanted to run like yeh did, after tha’ last battle, but I knew Dumbledore would have wanted me ter help build up Hogwarts again. It’s taken time to build up, and though the building is still the place where spells are learnt and potions are brewed, there doesn’ seem ter be any magic left.

‘We were all fightin’ fer a better world. As Dumbledore said it was goin’ ter be a world were evil was kept at bay, but Hermione, now that the new era has come it’s nothing’ like we dreamed it ter be. Everyone I expected ter share it with has moved on and livin’ here at Hogwarts is like bein’ stuck in a hermitage, a cocoon of other people’s good luck. I’ve done my duty ter Dumbledore and I think it’s time fer me ter find some aspect of a life back. Tha’s why I’m gonna cross the seas and visit Olympe. Yer remember her don’t yeh? The headmistress at Beauxbatons? She’s bin feelin’ a bit lonely an’ all an’ we’re gonna keep each other company.’

Hermione looked up once again at her friend and noticed that he too was crying. The new life was difficult to grasp, she had known it would be; it was why she had run away. On her own she had come to terms with the fact that she would never see the two people she loved most. At least until she was ready for the next adventure. Like Hagrid, she had been living in her own cocoon of other people’s happiness. Was she ready to start living again? Surely there would never be anyone who could make her feel the way Ron did? Or anyone she could worry about like she did Harry? No, it would be silly trying to replace them. The old life was a dream, leaving her stuck in the nightmare of mere existence. She could never be as brave as Hagrid.

‘Hermione, don’ look at me like tha’. Surely yeh can understand why it’s time fer me ter leave? It seems like the game finished when they died, doesn’ it? But do yeh think Ron would ever have said no ter a new game of chess? No matter how hard things got, did he ever give up his post as Keeper in Quidditch?’

At this, Hermione found herself unable to hold back laughter. Until now, all the memories that Hogwarts had brought back only made her hurt more. There was something different about reminiscing with a friend. She had been alone for far too long.

‘It always seemed that there was nothing more important to Ron and Harry than Quidditch, you know? It confused me at the time, how could they care so much about something so trivial when there was so much worse in our lives? It seemed that all the way through sixth year when people were constantly getting murdered -’ she shuddered at the word before forcing herself to continue, ‘when people were getting murdered that all Harry and Ron cared about was how to win Quidditch! It was only after they went, and I couldn’t find refuge in the usual things, like my reading, that I realised that it was just something they could escape to.’

Hermione took another deep breath and met her giant friends eyes. This time she could see some more happiness in them, perhaps a joy that was reflected in her own eyes.

‘You’re right. Hagrid. We do need to find a new game, to play in our free time. But you can’t refer to your entire life as a game; it is much more than that. If you entire life was fun and games, without sadness, you wouldn’t appreciate it half as much. For years I wished that Ron and Harry hadn’t died, I still do, but I’ve finally realised that if they hadn’t fallen, than Voldemort would still be standing. It is with the loss of what or whom we love most that we can appreciate even more what we have left.’

Hagrid did not respond, but Hermione noticed another tear leak down the side of his face. She had known that returning was going to be difficult, but never had she imagined that she would come to the understanding that finally after all these years dawned upon her. She drew another breath and continued with words that were becoming increasingly difficult to voice.

‘You said yourself that you know that Professor Dumbledore would have wanted you to stay and help rebuild Hogwarts and we both know that the Hogwarts was more than just a magnificent castle. It was a place of excitement, mystery and mischief. It was where there greatest wizards were trained to accomplish the great things that they did. It was a place where binding friendships were made and where love was shared. Would it not be an insult to all the great Wizards who died if we don’t bring the glory back? Hogwarts was the most magical place for so many people - for Ron; for Harry; for Sirius and above all for Dumbledore, and yet the students I watched today all seemed to be bored - as if, Hogwarts is nothing more than a school to them. They don’t seem amazed by their surroundings or inspired by their heritage. Can we really leave it like this…so incomplete?’

Hermione became aware of Hagrid finally looking up at her. He brushed his cheeks as his face exploded into a smile.

‘Hermione, I’ve been waitin’ fer yeh ter say those words since you turned up today. Even though yeh were so scared, I knew yeh would stay and help. Crikey - if anyone can bring back the magnificence that was Hogwarts, s the cleverest witch of our age!’

‘Hagrid, you don’t understand do you? Hogwarts will never be as great without you. Without your help Hagrid, the game, the fun, will really be over.’

The great man rolled his honourable beetle black eyes and sighed. He picked up a pink umbrella and led his friend to the door, knowing that he would never be able to leave the best home he had whilst there was still hope of saving it. He realised now that it was only up to the player to decide when it was truly time for the old game to end.



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