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HPFF United Collaboration by HPFF United
Format: Short story collection
Chapter 1: Operation Won-Won
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The mission is top-secret. The plans are classified. The recruits are stealthy. They have one objective: infiltrate one truly irritating love triangle.
It was Valentine's Day, and Harry was alone. He was alone for two reasons: first, because Hermione, in a foul mood, had taken to stalking the halls looking for reasons to tell off first- and second-years in order to vent her frustration. And the second reason that Harry was alone, was the very thing that had also flipped the switch on Hermione's temper: Ron and Lavender had become little more than a mass of red and blonde hair and tangled arms in a remote corner of the common room.
But Harry, appreciating the rare occurrence of peace and quiet, found that he didn't care too much at the moment. He had been thumbing through his Potions book for several minutes when the soft sound of someone clearing her throat interrupted him.
"Hey, Harry," said Parvati. "Do you mind if I join you?" She aimed a significant glance in the direction of Ron and Lavender's chair.
Even Harry could see that Parvati had been lonely for the past few months. It had occurred to him this kind of situation – the Ron and Lavender kind – weighed differently on female friendships than it did on male friendships.
"Sure," he said. He went back to perusing his Potions book, thinking that Parvati intended to do the same.
"It's a little embarrassing, isn't it?" she offered unexpectedly a few moments later. Harry glanced up and shrugged noncommittally.
"I feel bad for Hermione," she pressed.
Harry looked at her warily. "Why?" he asked.
Parvati rolled her eyes and abandoned all pretense. "You've known them for five years, so don't play dumb. This whole thing – it isn't right, and you know it as well as I do."
"Seems alright for Ron and Lavender."
"Well, no offense to Ron, but it's fairly obvious he's not that happy with her. Half the time they're doing this," she jerked her head in the direction of Ron and Lavender's corner, "but the rest of the time he looks bored. And as her friend, I'd like to see her with someone who wants to be there – really wants to be there, as in all the time, not just for these generous displays they put on for the whole school."
She held up her hand to silence Harry as he started to interrupt in Ron's defense. "I'm not passing judgment on him, Harry, because I know why he's like that. And it has everything to do with Hermione, so don't argue about it with me. And if you hadn't noticed, Lavender is a bit boy-crazy. She only likes the feeling of being in love, and there are lots of other boys she was interested in besides Ron…and I'm sure some of them would really appreciate her for who she is."
Harry had no idea why Parvati was spilling some of Lavender's secrets to him, and more importantly, he had no idea what she was talking about. So he continued staring at Parvati, hoping that somewhere in her stream of consciousness she would say something that he could understand without a girl-to-boy translation dictionary.
"Harry, I think we need to do something about it."
Except that. Anything but that.
"I have a plan," she continued.
Harry had seen enough of girls' plans in his young life, and he knew right away that he wanted nothing to do with it.
When he told Parvati as much, she responded, "No, listen! We've just got to attack it from three sides. We get people to help us – everyone knows what's really going on anyway. We have to plant the idea in Ron's mind that Lavender's not good for him and Hermione is. We have to get Hermione to give Ron a chance and actually own up to her feelings. We have to convince Lavender that Ron's not good for her and that there are a bunch of other boys who like her – which there are. And then it all comes together and" – she clapped her hands together – "success!"
Harry stared at Parvati for a full ten seconds.
"Well, that doesn't sound complicated at all," he said finally, looking at her as if she had lost her mind.
"It's not! It's very simple, and we – "
"We?? I don't want any part of this. And you can't work on Ron with just a bunch of girls. It'll never work."
"Who needs girls when you have these idiots?" she asked, gesturing to Seamus and Dean, who had just entered the room.
"Seamus! Dean!" Parvati waved them over, lowering her voice again once they had obliged. "I'll do your homework for a week if you help me get Ron and Hermione together."
They regarded her thoughtfully.
"Two weeks," said Seamus.
"One and a half."
"Throw in a date with your sister."
"Twelve days, and you leave my sister alone, you creep."
"Excellent, I'll be in touch. Don't say anything to anyone!" she hissed as the two grinning boys walked off towards the dormitories. Then she turned back to Harry and gave him a satisfied look that was frighteningly similar to Hermione's patented "I told you so" stare.
"If you don't want to help me, so be it. But if you say anything about this to them, I will hex you so terribly you won't know which way is up." She gathered her things and gave Harry a mischievous smile before she departed. "Now, sit back and learn from a master."
* * * * *
At lunchtime four days later, a combination of smug condescension and morbid curiosity provoked Harry to ask how the plan was moving along. But after hearing Parvati's response, he wasn't sure he really wanted to know.
Operation Won-Won, as Parvati had dubbed it, seemed to encompass half the sixth-years in the entire school, as well as a healthy number of fifth- and seventh-years. The massive operation was comprised almost entirely of girls, including Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Padma Patil, Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, Demelza Robbins, and Katie Bell – the female Quidditch players were, apparently, vitally important, since they were the closest thing to a female friend that Ron had, with a certain obvious exception. There were several names Harry did not recognize well, and there was even a fifth-year Slytherin Prefect named Ava Greene participating, as she was supposedly on decent terms with Hermione.
Harry found himself involuntarily fascinated and awed by Parvati's ability to mobilize such a large group of people. He pulled himself together just enough to tell her it would never work anyway, but felt the patronizing smile slide off his face when Hannah walked by and gave Parvati a furtive thumbs-up that seemed to indicate something had just been successfully carried out.
* * * * *
Operation Won-Won, Day Four.
"Luna was asking me some very odd questions about Ron," said Hermione as she looked over Harry's Transfiguration essay. "I don't know what that's about. Do you?"
It was then that Harry realized it would be difficult hanging around Hermione for the next several days. In direct contrast to how Ron worked through his confusion (by making two statements and then falling silent), Hermione worked through hers by asking question after question after question. And that practically invited Harry to say something stupid that would blow the whole scheme.
Harry decided that, from then on, he would only talk to Hermione when there was food nearby. Then, when she asked a question to which he perfectly well knew the answer, he would grab the nearest edible substance and shove it into his mouth, thus making it impossible to say anything at all.
* * * * *
Operation Won-Won, Day Five.
"You know what my sister said to me today?" asked Ron as they entered their dormitory. "She reckons Hermione is jealous of Lavender and me!"
Harry froze. "Oh," was all he managed to say.
"Yeah, I couldn't believe it! I mean, it's totally ridiculous – don't you think?" Ron sounded as though some part of him, buried just underneath the surface, wanted Harry to vehemently disagree.
"Um…well…I think Ginny would know more about those things than I would." That sounded neutral enough.
It was at that moment that their other three dorm mates entered the room, and Harry was spared the agony of talking about it anymore, as Dean and Seamus rose to the task Parvati had given them.
"So, Ron," said Seamus in an offhand way as he dug through the piles of clothing scattered on the floor around his bed, "how're things with Lavender?"
Ron sighed. "I dunno. Weird."
Dean laughed. "She does seem like a bit of a handful, mate," he said sympathetically. "I feel for you." Harry noticed that Dean was a much better actor than Seamus.
"You know," added Dean a moment later, "I hear rumors there's someone else who likes you." Seamus laughed and wolf-whistled and made suggestive facial expressions, probably to make sure the conversation didn't sound too girly.
"Really?" Ron's brow furrowed.
"Yeah, who?" asked Neville, genuinely confused. "You're…you're not talking about Hermione, are you?"
The room fell silent, Ron's face turned bright red, and Harry briefly considered throwing something at Neville. This, he realized, was why more girls than boys were enlisted in Parvati's scheme.
* * * * *
If Harry thought Dean and Seamus' ill-fated contribution was indicative of how the rest of the plan was working out, he was sorely wrong. Because, in the few days that followed, he noticed several things had already changed.
Lavender, for one, was spending much of her time staring at certain boys who were not Ronald Weasley – owing, no doubt, to the careful investigation and hint-dropping by Parvati's recruits who had been assigned to the L Division of Operation Won-Won. And each of those boys, without fail, stared right back.
The R and H Divisions must have been doing something right, as well. Besides the fact that Ron and Hermione were now on speaking terms – albeit awkward and hesitant speaking terms – Harry noticed that there was a great deal of blushing from Hermione, smiling from Ron, and sideways glances from both of them.
The most disconcerting part of the whole scheme, was how utterly disciplined and dedicated everyone involved was. Harry couldn't pass any members of Operation Won-Won in the corridors without receiving some kind of wink, nod, knowing smile, or thumbs-up. And he had actually come across Parvati in the common room one night, consulting a piece of parchment that had various symbols and names connected by lines and arrows. It looked like a battle plan.
* * * * *
Operation Won-Won, Day Ten.
As they sat waiting for their Charms lesson to begin, Parvati took advantage of the fact that Ron was uncharacteristically engrossed in something academic that Hermione was explaining and Lavender was absorbed in something very funny that Seamus was doing. She pelted Harry with a crumpled-up piece of parchment, which he opened to reveal a note that said: How shall you repay me for accomplishing this? A lifetime of servitude, maybe?
Harry grinned and scribbled: If you actually succeed at this, I'll be impressed. What's in this for you, anyway? Upon reading that, Parvati shrugged her shoulders and smiled enigmatically. Then she mouthed something that looked distinctly like, It's fun!
* * * * *
Operation Won-Won, Day Thirteen.
Harry knew something big had happened when Ginny grabbed him by the sleeve of his robes – apologizing to Hermione and promising she would bring Harry right back – and tugged him over to where Parvati was doing her Divination homework.
"The hippogriff has landed," said Ginny.
"Amicable?" asked Parvati.
"Aye-aye. Proceed with Project Hermes."
"Does Cupid have a target?"
Ginny made a face. "Finnegan," she said. Then she was gone in a flourish of long, red hair.
"Um…" Harry looked helplessly at Parvati. "Translation?"
Parvati beamed at him and lowered her voice to just below a whisper. "Ron and Lavender have had a friendly breakup. Lavender's setting her sights on Seamus – ugh, I guess he'll do, he's liked her for ages anyway. And now we can proceed to the final phase."
"There are phases involved??"
Parvati stared at him as though he had just asked whether there were really twenty-six letters in the alphabet. "Um…obviously, Harry." She rolled her eyes.
Then, extracting, two pieces of parchment from her bag, she said, "Now we deliver these notes, and the rest of the pieces fall into place."
Harry took the two notes from Parvati and examined them. It was clearly Dean's handiwork. Nobody else could forge handwriting like he could. The first letter, in a perfect imitation of Hermione's handwriting, read: Ron, meet me in the common room at 1:00 tonight. The other, in "Ron's" handwriting, was addressed to Hermione and said the same thing. They were both unsigned.
"Yeah, right," said Harry. "You're not really doing this, are you?"
"Of course I am."
"What if there are other people in the common room?"
"There won't be."
Harry should have known. If Parvati could organize a covert operation under the nose of her own best friend, she could certainly clear out a common room if necessary.
"And if this works…won't Lavender be upset?"
"No, because Lavender was the one who made the decision to break up with Ron. I guarantee she's over it."
"But…how do you know this is going to turn out right?" he asked. "They both come down here, see each other, realize they didn't write each other's notes…and then what?"
Parvati's eyes sparkled. "And then what, indeed…"
* * * * *
Operation Won-Won, Day Fourteen.
For the rest of his life, Harry would never understand how she did it. But she did.
When Harry entered the common room that morning, the first sight that greeted his eyes was of Ron and Hermione, hand in hand, sitting at a table by the fireplace. Ron's right hand holding Hermione's left, of course, so that her right hand was free to write her Charms essay. As she wrote, she grinned giddily to herself. Ron, on the other hand, was staring at their entwined fingers with a farcical expression of shock on his face – every so often, he would look up at Hermione, as if making sure she were still there, and then a new look of amazement would register on his face as he looked back down at their hands.
Someone nudged Harry playfully, and he looked around to see Parvati, who had just come downstairs from the girls' dormitories. He looked at her in bemusement.
She laughed as she passed by him on her way to join Lavender.
"Honestly, Harry, it was so simple. What have you been doing for the past five years??"
Chapter 2: Pride In The Snake
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He wiped the blood from her brow, using his own hands, not minding the way it stained his pale skin. He looked at her cut, wondering if it was going to scar. But no one cared about scars now. They were the treasured things people wanted to have on their faces, wanted to let people knew that they weren’t going to give up. The girl flinched as he swept his fingers over her cut, red paint still seeping.
“Be strong,” he tells her – softly, calmly. As if the scars on his face didn’t make him flinch. As if the way his muscles tightened uncomfortably in his left leg when he walked. As if his tongue wasn’t chewed up from gnawing it, resisting screaming out in pain.
“We can’t all be strong,” Luna replies softly, cradling her hand in her lap.
He sighs and looks away, rubbing the scar on his hand. “No, but we can pretend. And after everything, after the scars heal and our skin is new – then we’ll know that we’re strong – strong enough.” He looks back down at her, tilting her chin up to examine the cut again. Blood has stopped flowing and there’s a line of dusty red on her cheek.
“Pretend to be a character in book? Pretend that we’re the knight in shining armor, out to rescue a damsel in distress?” She smiles now, looking up at him with wide eyes, innocent and naive.
“Yes, Luna. We’ll be the knights, rescuing ourselves from the tower,” he replies, nodding his head softly. Luna reaches out for him, as if to reassure him that he’s not alone – to show him that she’ll be there to rescue him. But he turns away, wordless, and looks around him.
He was different now. His face held scars, blood, and a story to tell. He walked with a slight limp and his body always ached. He didn’t mind the pain, however. He never minded pain. His whole life was based around pain…
“We’ll have to leave soon, Luna. And when you do, be careful. Protect who you can, but make sure to protect yourself. All we have now is the person next to us, bleeding the same red blood. We have to unite with those who need a knight in shining armor, Luna. Because if we don’t, the tower will just crumble to pieces – all over us.”
Luna nodded her head idly, biting the corner of her lip. When had times changed? When did he become the motivator, the one who took the pain, the hits, for everyone else – anybody else? Just last week, a snobby Hufflepuff said the wrong thing and he took the blame, an Unforgiveable whisked upon him with a swish of a wand. Was it easy for him – to jump in front of the curse and take it…like a man?
“There are no more houses or divisions. We’re all one – stuck inside a war that’ll forever go on…”
Luna closes her eyes at the sound of his voice, knowing exactly where he was quoting it from.
“Have you heard from her? Is she okay?”
He closed his eyes and a small smile appeared on his face. “She’s at home still, holding up of course. Sending letters every day…silly Gran…” He chuckles softly, running his hand through his hair. “Come on, Luna. We’ll need to get you to the Ravenclaw Common Room before the Carrows find us wandering in the middle of the night.” He helps her up and keeps a hand on her shoulder, walking behind her as they make their way down the hall.
When Luna suddenly stops, he stops along with her.
“What if I’m not strong enough to pretend to be strong?” she asks in a small voice, her eyebrows knitting together.
“Then I’ll pretend enough for the both of us, Luna,” he replies, almost as if he was used to the tinge of madness and insecurity that touched everyone’s minds. He pushes her shoulders softly, urging her forward. She doesn’t protest but leans into his hands as if they are her only support.
Neville watches as she disappears into her common room, only leaving him with her airy presence of fear. He rubs his face with a tired hand, sighing loudly. His breath echoes about the hall around him, alerting him of his chilling loneliness.
“Well, Longbottom, still roaming the halls at night, I see.” Her voice is chilly, laced with deadly venom. He turns to look at her, waiting to see what she does.
Her face is hidden in the shadows; only half her face illuminated by her wand. Her eyes are dark – entrancing. He licks his lips and nods.
“I see you are too,” he replies slowly. There’s small, throaty chuckle erupting from her, filling the melancholy silence.
“But I’m the safe. You, however…” she trails off, lifting her shin to reveal her long, slender neck. Her smirk was evident on her lips, ruby with sin and cruelty. He doesn’t respond. He simply takes a step towards her, her face as emotionless as always.
Her eyes burned, and her jaw clenched. There was no fun in trying to anger him. He was as unresponsive as ever. She dropped her head, her hand tightening on her wand.
“I’m safe for now,” he says in a leveled voice.
She rolls her eyes in annoyance, lifting her wand to shed light on his face. Scars line his skin like hair, pink and angry. Her eyes travel over his cool brown eyes, almost hidden under unruly eyebrows. Cuts line his face, exaggerating his hard edge mouth, a straight disappointed line. She licks her lips, lifting a hand to swipe away a dark lock that fell into her eyes.
“For now, Longbottom, always for now.” She stands there, her wand still pointed at him and light spilling over his face. They sit there, quiet for a moment, each wondering and thinking.
She closes her eyes for a second, lost. When she found her voice, it was a harsh whisper, low and soft. “I don’t like it, Longbottom. I really don’t…it’s fun at first, getting away with things and being on top…but after a while, I can’t stand to see you people walking around, scars on your face, having to help someone walk because their leg is swollen…it sickens me – it really does.” She drops her wand so that they are both swallowed in the darkness, letting the silence coax them to think and wonder.
“It’s the price you pay,” Neville replies softly. “…the price you must pay.” She flinches, turning her head as if she were slapped. Her eyes are still closed, her face scrunched as if she were trying to forget everything.
“I don’t want to have to pay anymore.”
“Neither do we.”
A dry sob escapes from her lips and her wand drops from her hand. Light spills over her and reveals her tear stained face. Bags shadow her eyes and her skin is pale. Her hair falls limply around her shoulders, dead and lifeless. She felt the pain too, just in a different way.
Neville placed a warm hand on her shoulder, pulling her into a soft hug. She doesn’t respond, but simply buries her head into his chest and cries. Her body shakes along with her sobs, echoing the pain he wouldn’t show.
Neville rubs her back, smoothes down her hair, and whispers small words into her ear, trying to soothe her pain, hoping that his will dissolve with it.
She clutches the back of his shirt now, as if it’s her only lifeline. Taking a deep breath, she whispers, “I can’t stand to sit there, watching…seeing someone writhe in pain, cry out when…it’s just terrible. I wish I could help, sometimes. Wish that I were strong enough to fight too. But I’m not.”
Neville licks his lips, trying to find something to say. But she’s right…she could never be strong enough to go against the tide, against the Slytherins, the Carrows, and her true blood. Instead, he pulls away from her, holding her away but her shoulders.
“One day, you’ll just have to grow up and be strong for yourself. And then, you’ll realize that you were strong enough – the whole time. Until that day, you’ll simply grow.”
She bites her lips and nods, looking up at him with her wide eyes and sighs. “One day, Longbottom, I’ll be just like you.”
He can’t look away from the intensity, the purity and sureness that spill from her gaze. “And I’ll be proud of you,” he whispers softly.
She drops her head as if those words meant the world to her, meant everything. In a quick motion, she has his hand in hers and brushes her lips over each finger and his palm. “Thank you, Longbottom.”
With those words, she picks up her wand and disappears into the darkness, allowing Neville to close his eyes and finger the scar that she herself had given, remembering the way her lips felt as she kissed away the pain.
Her cloak billowed out behind her, and curses flew by her head. Her wand felt heavy in her hand as she raced across the grounds, jumping and diving to avoid death. Her eyes searched. He couldn’t be dead…he just couldn’t.
Death Eaters shot curses at anyone, not caring whether they were on the same side. She tripped over something and fell harshly to the ground, her leg aching. Looking up, she watched as a Death Eater advanced on a fourth year Gryffindor, his wand raised and a curse on his lips.
“Avada Kedavra!” she shrieks, watching with dark eyes as the towering man falls to the ground. She doesn’t dare look at his face. The small boy looks at her and gives her a sad smile, and walks toward her. He offers a hand and she takes it but shakes her head.
“Get out of here,” she says in a soft but demanding voice. She squeezes his hand, craving the warmth. He runs off, his hair bouncing. She pulls herself up, and cries out in pain as her leg shoots up in flaming throbbing. On her feet, she limps, her eyes still searching for him.
Then she sees him. His hair is disheveled, blowing in the harsh wind. His eyes are dark and new cuts and scars are already forming. She watches as he limps across the battlefield, a determined look on his face. She follows his gaze and cries out when she sees Bellatrix, a smug smirk upon her face.
Ignoring the fleeting pain that shot up through her leg, she ran.
She ran past the masked men, falling students, dueling sparks; past everything that should have mattered but didn’t – not at that moment. And she hears it, the faint whisper: Avada Kedavra.
He doesn’t see it yet, the beautiful emerald spark that’s flying toward him, but she does.
She feels it as it’s about to pass her, pass by her and kill him. And so, she jumps.
As the world fades away, she sees his face – utter shock and sadness – and wonders if he’s proud of her.
Her name on his lips were the last thing she heard, his horrified scream as the bright green light engulfed her and threw her down hard: Pansy.
Chapter 3: Croton Capitatus
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by: Joanne K
Four friends unite with a common goal: to make a better world for all wizardkind.
With a furrowed brow and clenched teeth the young witch tried her hardest to turn the yellow canary into a panflute. With a flourish of her wand she succeeded in turning it into a flute, although it still whistled like a canary and had yellow feathers sticking out.
"Well done, Trianna," smiled the dark-haired witch who was tutoring her, "You have made great progress today."
The tutor inclined her head to the young nobleman's daughter and took her leave. She exited the castle and walked down the path that led to her home in the glen. Along the way she saw two young peasant girls trying in vain to start a fire to warm themselves against the cool evening air. They had fashioned crude wands from sticks and were trying to imitate the wand movements they had seen older wizards use. The dark-haired witch was about to step forward to assist them when a black horse came galloping to a halt in front of them. A stern man in dark clothes leered at the two girls who cowered in his presence.
"Are you not aware that witchcraft is forbidden and that all those found practising witchcraft shall be sentenced to death?" the man snarled at them.
Tears sprang to the girls' eyes and the older witch stepped in front of the man.
"Please sir," she pleaded, "I was watching these girls and I can assure you they were not practising magic of any kind, they were simply playing a silly child's game."
The two girls nodded their heads in agreement. The man's eyes narrowed.
"Very well," the man conceded, "But be warned, young maidens, that it is not wise to play games concerning witchcraft."
With a swift kick to his horse's side, the man departed at a gallop, leaving a cloud of dust swirling behind him.
The kind witch helped the two young girls to find a more secluded place and started a small fire for them before continuing back to her home. Once there she put quill to parchment and wrote three identical letters:
Come to my home for supper tomorrow night, there is something I would like to discuss with you.
She called for her little owl, Shannon, and attached the three rolls of parchment. Shannon flew from the open window and into the distance.
It was morning when the small owl returned. She held in her claws three rolls of parchment all confirming that Rowena's friends would be there that night.
Rowena's good friend Helga was the first to arrive. She was a dumpy little witch with a kind face and round rosy cheeks. Godric arrived soon after, fresh from his latest crusade and full of exciting stories, which he told with great enthusiasm in a loud booming voice. Salazaar arrived late and apologised profusely as he scraped his muddy boots at the doorstep.
Once they had all enjoyed a hearty meal and caught up with each other, Rowena felt it was time to bring up the subject for which she had gathered them together in the first place.
"There is something that has been playing on my mind for some time and today I have realised that something must be done. I derive great pleasure from teaching the young maiden witches of the shire the magical skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. However, my heart is full of sorrow for the peasant children who will never learn to use their gifts to their full purpose because they do not have access to a proper magical education. If only there were a place of education where young witches and wizards could gather together and be taught in the ways of their ancestors; a safe place away from the world of Muggles where magic is persecuted. Dear friends, I believe that together we could achieve this dream."
Rowena looked around at her three friends imploringly, however she could see that they were not entirely convinced.
"My dear lady," spoke Godric, placing one of his hands on hers, "You are of a learned mind and possess a great deal of knowledge, but we are not so fortunate as to posses your intellect, how could we be of any use to you in a place of education?"
"Godric, are you not skilled in the art of wizard duelling? In fact, they say you may be the greatest there is. Magical learning is more than learning spells by heart. Young witches and wizards should be possessed with the skills to perform spells of defense should they need to or to perform spells in dire situations. I feel, dear Godric, that no one better than you could pass on these skills. And Salazaar, you have run your apocothery for a great number of years. Never have I met anyone so skilled in the art of potion making. Potions play a vital role in the life of a witch or wizard and you have an unsurpassed knowledge in this area. Every two years you take on a new apprentice and teach him the delicate art of potion making; those who have been apprenticed to you are said to make successful lives in this art as a result of your tutelage. And my dearest Helga, I know you to have a great love for children and would offer your whole heart to their learning. But quite apart from that, you have great skills in herbology. I have never been able to cultivate so much as a weed, and yet you have a gift in growing and tending all manner of magic plant.
"Together we have all the skills necessary to build and run a successful school for witches and wizards. Please consider joining with me to make a better world for our kind."
The room was silent for several minutes as the three friends pondered over Rowena's words. Finally Godric spoke.
"You can count on me," he boomed decisively.
"Me too," agreed Helga in her soft honey-like voice.
"It is a truly inspired idea, Rowena," Salazaar nodded, stroking his pointed beard, "I would be honoured to be a part of it."
The four friends planned and discussed the school well into the night. They agreed on many things, such as the school's location.
"Why not near Hogsmeade village, it is known to be a purely wizarding village?"
They agreed that all areas of magic should be covered, from the history of magic to herbology, from simple charms to defensive spells, from transfiguration to potion making. However, there was one thing on which they could not agree.
"I think we should restrict entry to those who are pure of blood," Salazaar suggested, "I don't think it is right that we should allow those with Muggle blood to learn of the ancient ways of magic."
"Nonsense," replied Rowena, "As long a witch or wizard shows promise and talent, then it should not matter how pure their blood is."
"Well if we are putting standards on this school then I propose we only induct those who are brave and true of heart," Godric interjected.
"Why should we not allow all young witches and wizards to attend out school," Helga asked, "I think we should allow anyone to attend who wants to learn."
The four argued for some time on this issue until finally Godric had an idea.
"What if we were to have four different houses within our school?" he put forth to the others, "We could each induct into our house those who we feel are most worthy of the qualities we value."
"A fine idea, Godric," Rowena agreed.
"But how will we decide which student should be inducted into which house?" asked Salazaar.
"It would need to be a fair test of some kind," Helga added.
"Why that's simple," Godric grinned, whipping his hat from his head, "We shall cast a charm on my hat giving it the ability to see into students' heads and choose the most appropriate house."
The others nodded and agreed it seemed a most fair and just way to choose a student's house.
"There is just one more thing to decide," Rowena said to the others, "What shall we call our school?"
It was Helga who had the answer.
"Hogwarts," she said suddenly.
"Pardon me?" Salazaar said, looking at Helga with a raised eyebrow.
Helga indicated the potted plant in the middle of the round wooden table at which they sat. Its branches were covered light brown, woolly hairs that gave it a whitish appearance.
"It's a Croton Capitatus, more commonly known as the Hogwort plant," Helga explained, " I thought that since we had been sitting around it all night planning this school it would make an appropriate name."
"I like it," Godric beamed, slapping Helga heartily on the back.
"It's perfect," Rowena smiled.
They all looked to Salazaar who looked pensive for a moment.
"Hogwarts it is."
Chapter 4: The Others
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I never knew it would be possible to have my body contradict itself so absolutely. My mind was numb. Everything was a dream in the swirling nightmare of foggy morning. A solid wall of blankness filled my mind, trying feebly to block out emotions, but every one of my senses was on high alert, ready to detect the slightest whisper of an attack. The only sound that could be heard was the crunching of our feet on the crisp leaves, frozen from the early morning, and every small cloud of mist that came from my mouth when I breathed felt like a beacon, drawing unseen forces toward me. The world was a vast, echoing land of hellish demons, taking the form of cloaked figures, hiding in the trees and concealed by the heavy fog. The sun could have risen, and we wouldn’t have known. Trees shot up on every side of us, sturdy and unchanging in the world that was slowly being consumed by evil. We were foreigners in this land of peace and beauty. It could have been magical and fantastic, but it could never be, for horrid terrors were going to take place in this tranquil place today.
We were on a mission, every single one of us. We were known as the Protectors, and we were a diverse lot, full of Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins. Former enemies united, all fighting to destroy our one common foe; the Others. Many of us liked to think we have information on the Others, and that we have knowledge on the way Their mind works. I know it’s not true. I know it’s a lie. I could only look on the situation in a logical way, and I would not waste my time searching for some hidden hope just so I could pretend we had a chance.
The Others aren’t predictable, and They certainly aren’t human. No being will ever be able to understand Them completely. We know They conceal their faces and their figures with black cloaks. The way They move is human, but the way They fight is not. The trick to fighting one of Them is never to leave your back uncovered, and never drop your guard for an instant. They look for gaps; small weak points that if They find, They will strike, quickly and effectively. The Others jump impossible distances, landing on their victim. So quickly that you can barely see, They stick their poisonous needle like fingers into you, and within a few seconds, you’re gone from this world. They are the product of dreadfully accurate breeding between many creatures. We know of none for certain, and yet we have our own guesses. Dementors, Acromantula, Tebo…it could be a number of things. Whatever the combination, it was deadly and spreading fast.
“Hermione,” the whisper came from my left and I saw Luna gazing around with her orb-like eyes. She turned her wide eyed gaze towards me. “I think They’re invisible. They’re hiding in the trees, watching us.” She began focusing on specific spots in the trees with her perturbing eyes and I shuddered slightly. Luna had grown on me over the years. Normally I found her strange ways of thinking humorous. Now it made me uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but feeling as though she was right, and I felt the piercing gaze of sharp eyes on me, watching as I tucked a curl behind my ear, or clenched my frozen fingers around my wand more tightly. I felt Them analyzing the way we moved, calculating their attack and the most efficient ways to strike.
“I know,” I replied softly after almost a minute of silence. And I did know. I knew that we were out of time, and that we couldn’t just keep walking around in this forest that stretched endlessly on. They were here, and we had to fight. It was time to try and make a difference.
As this realization came on I slowed my walked reluctantly, and heard the many feet following me stop as well in confusion. I waited for a minute, staring down at the leaves, breathing in short bursts as a wave of panic swept over me. I was twenty-two. I was not ready to die. I had barely lived, for God’s sake! Taking a deep breath I tried to put back up the wall in my mind, but this time I couldn’t. Danger was staring me straight in the face, and it was time to confront it.
Ever so slowly, I turned to face the small crowd gathered behind me. They all looked at me with wide eyes, confused but also scared, and I knew they understood that the time had come. And as I took in all their faces, the scene changed. No longer did the clearing seem empty and forlorn. Here were bright pinpricks of hope, love, and reason. These people were the reason I was doing this. They were the reason I was here, fighting for what may very well be a lost cause. But then I realized it didn’t matter, because even if my life had to be given to protect our race, I would do it. This was what was right. Mothers, only slightly older than I was, would be clinging to their newly born children, frightened half to death and just wondering how long they had left with their child. Families were huddled in their homes, waiting in fear, wondering when and not if their time would come. And that was the reason I was doing this. People, all the people I had ever known and some I never would, were the reason Harry, Ron, and I had created this team. Humankind was the reason I had signed up to die. I had made a promise. And Hermione Granger does not break her promises. So I stood up straight and looked around at all the people that had gathered there with me today.
“We all know that this very place is full of Them,” I began, not bothering to speak quietly. They knew we were here now. “And do we have a chance? I see many of you shaking your head, and I just have to say you’re wrong, the lot of you. A good friend of mine once told me that we have something They don’t: something worth fighting for. I’ve found mine, just looking over the faces here. Have you?
“Look at all of us that are gathered here today. Pansy, you and I used to absolutely hate each other. After Voldemort was destroyed and They were created, we found that there actually was something in each other that we could relate to. Blaise, with you as well. Hannah, I never knew you very well either, but here we are. Cho, Luna, Neville, Ginny, Seamus, Dean, we’re all here, fighting for our race. And there are more of us out there at this very moment too.
“So will we back down now? Will we fail our friends and family? No. We will all be brave Gryffindors, wise Ravenclaws, loyal Hufflepuffs, and determined Slytherins. We will fight for what we know is right, and not once back down. We are Protectors, and the time has come to earn our name once more.” I swept over the familiar faces, and slowly saw the fear being replaced with determined expressions.
“Protectors: formation,” I said, giving the final command. Quickly after much practice, we moved into a tight circle, our backs facing towards the center. I tensed as I looked at the trees surrounding the small clearing we had stopped in, and gripped my wand until my knuckles turned white.
Gradually, They became appearing, materializing in spaces that were empty before, and confirming my thoughts that They could turn invisible at will. I stared around as They made a larger, looser circle around the one we had made, and though I couldn’t see behind me, I had a feeling there were fewer of Them than us.
My thoughts shifted to Harry and Ron. Each was leading their own group of Protectors in different locations over the world. I thought of their courage; of Harry’s ability to love practically anybody, of Ron’s ability to lighten the mood of any situation, and I smiled ever so slightly. I would fight for them.
My heart felt like it was swelling with the pride I held for all of us. We’d come so far, and we’d worked so hard. I would not let all of that go to waste.
And so it was me. As the first of Them leapt at me, it was I who shouted the first curse. And it was I whose voice would echo through the trees the most today. I swore on my own life, it would be me.
Chapter 5: To The End
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By LonelyStar, Slytherin
This is to show that though we believe we are fighting for different things, sometimes we can be surprised to find an enemy fighting for the same thing…
Even though I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I tried focused my mind on other things. I tried to ignore what I was seeing in my head. Close my mind to it. That was the best way to deal with things in life. If you don’t like something, ignore it. And that was the way I dealt with things all my life.
Charity Burbage wasn’t someone I knew particularly well. I don’t remember ever exchanging more then a word or two with her, but… Her death wasn’t important to me, so why should I feel I failed? She was nothing to me! So why did seeing her being murdered bother me so much? It shouldn’t bother me at all.
I placed my head in my hands in exasperation.
I heard a loud cracking sound and looked up. Before me stood Amycus and Alecto Carrow having just apparated beside me. Both of them stood grinning stupidly down at me. They looked like the world’s most idiotic couple.
"And what have you two come for?" I asked lazily. I knew that if either of them tried to attack me I could very easily defend myself.
"The Dark Lord is looking for you, Snape," announced Alecto, still grinning broadly.
"And he has requested that we bring you to him immediately," added Amycus, matching his sister’s expression.
I instantly felt cautious. Why would The Dark Lord want Amycus and Alecto to bring me to him? Did he find out that I was a spy for Dumbledore after all?
"What does The Dark Lord want?" I inquired warily.
"He didn’t say, he only told us to bring you to him," answered Alecto, looking me straight in the eyes. She was one of the Death Eaters that believed that I was working for Dumbledore. It seemed as if she still had some suspicions.
"Then we shall go," I said as I stood up.
Without further ado, the three of us instantly disapparated. I never liked apparating and disapparating since it felt like I was being sucked down a tube, I much preferred walking, but I doubt The Dark Lord would like it if I just walked to where he was staying.
We apparated into a dark a room; there was barely any light at all. In the middle of the room The Dark Lord sat in a great wooden chair with Nagini curled around it.
"My Lord," Amycus, Alecto and I said together while we bowed low. Our voices echoed ominously into the room.
As I leveled myself up, I could only just make out The Dark Lord as he sat in the dark. Only his bright red eyes were really visible.
He spoke to me first. "I have news for you, Severus," he said in a soft voice.
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t just ask what the news was; when talking to The Dark Lord he was the one who always asked the questions. "You have done well lately, Severus," he continued. "You brought upon the death of Albus Dumbledore, even though it wasn’t your job to do so."
I stiffened. I was worried that The Dark Lord would be angry with me for killing Dumbledore when he had assigned Draco Malfoy to do it as punishment for his father’s mistakes. Cautiously, I glanced up quickly to try to make out The Dark Lord’s expression. From what I could see he didn’t look particularly angry, but I couldn’t be sure.
"Lord Voldemort rewards his followers that do well," The Dark Lord then said, as I let out a breath of relief as he finished. "As a reward, you will be the headmaster of Hogwarts. I hope you are pleased, Severus."
"I am, my Lord. You are generous," I replied, bowing before him.
I was a little surprised at this. Dumbledore had said before he died that The Dark Lord would most likely have me as Headmaster of Hogwarts so I could control Hogwarts under his orders. But I was still surprised. Being Headmaster was something I had once idly imagined myself as, but I never seriously considered it.
"As for you, Amycus, Alecto, you two will assist Severus in his running of Hogwarts," said The Dark Lord, turning his attention to the brother and sister duo.
"Yes, my Lord," Amycus and Alecto said, bowing their heads.
"Very well. All of you may take leave."
I didn’t wait for Amycus or Alecto, I quickly apparated out of there as soon as I knew I was allowed. Apart from getting out of that dark room, I had no idea where I wanted to go. So I was surprised when I appeared in Hogwarts outside in the grounds near the Black Lake. All the spells that had protected the castle were now gone on the orders of The Dark Lord, so anyone could enter the Hogwarts as they pleased. But no one else was here but me, it was the middle of summer so the students were gone home as where the teachers. I was completely alone, but I liked it that way. I was use to being alone.
Being here outside was my favourite place in Hogwarts. It was peaceful, calm and enabled me to think without someone annoying me. Peace and calm was something hard to come by these days. All I saw now was bloodshed and war because I was forced to live a life where there would be no peace. But I excepted that fact a long time ago; it was my punishment for not being there to protect someone so long ago. To fight to the end was my only option now.
I had to fight, not only to survive, but also to clear my name. And to fight for the person who mattered most to me even though she was gone. If I win this fight, I won it for her, and only her.
A light suddenly went on in the castle. I looked up towards the castle and recongised that the room where the light switched on was Minerva McGonagall office. I hastened into back into the castle, and went on the staircase, and then down through the hall to Minerva’s office. Before I entered the room I took out my want and held it securely in my hand as I opened the door.
Minerva’s back was to me when I opened the door. The door creaked loudly as it swung open, and Minerva spun nimbly around to face me. Her expression was at first surprised, but then she recongnised me and her expression almost automatically turned hate ridden, and her eyes glared down at me.
"You!" She spat, as she drew out her want to presumably attack me.
I was faster. I whipped out my wand and slashed it through the air, and as suddenly Minerva fell to the ground no longer able to move. She struggled fruitlessly against the invisible rope that bounded her to the ground. "How dare you show your face here after what you did!" She shrieked at me.
"I wouldn’t be so quick to shout at me like that, Minerva," I replied calmly, working to keep my voice as soft as I could.
"Oh yes, I’m sorry, I forgot that you enjoy murdering people when they have no wand to defend themselves! Why try to kill someone with a proper duel when you can just simply get him or her defenseless and then kill them there!" she yelled.
I tried to ignore her jibes at me. "No, I don’t mean that. You see Minerva; I’m the headmaster now."
This stopped her struggling. She stared up at me speechless lost for words. "That can’t be true!" She gasped.
"I’m afraid it is, so if you want to keep your job I wouldn’t be so quick as to start screaming at me, or else I just may fire you."
Neither of us said anything else as I left the room. I could almost understand why she yelled at me all the way through, Minerva was very close to Dumbledore throughout the years, and she believed me to be a Death Eater. But whether Minerva believed it or not we were fighting for the same thing, we were just on different sides of the table. Our motives may be different, and how we go about achieving what we wanted was certain different, but at the end of day we had a similar goal in mind. We would both fight to the end.
You've done it—you found your ticket! Hurry, rush back and see if you can make it before the show starts!
Chapter 6: Muggle Week
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Celebrating Muggle culture in all its glory. Eat your heart out, Voldemort.
Sirius lounged contentedly in his favorite chair in the common room, propping his feet up on a nearby table. He had a distinct look of genius about him.
“Gentlemen,” he announced, glancing around to make sure he had his three friends’ undivided attention, “I have just had my most brilliant idea ever.”
Remus gave him a dry, skeptical look. “The last time you had your most brilliant idea ever, we had detention for a month.”
“Well, that’s how you know it was brilliant, isn’t it? But never mind that – despite the excellence of this plan, it will not, in fact, get us detention.” He cleared his throat and added, “I think.”
Sirius stared in suspense at the other Marauders, waiting until each of them was looking at him with raised eyebrows and bated breath. He allowed the silence to hang for several moments and then, when he was satisfied with the amount of anticipation he had created, he smiled and said, “Muggle Week.”
His friends’ reactions could only be described as underwhelming. They stared at him without the slightest bit of comprehension. Very anti-climactic, he thought as he gave a long-suffering sigh.
“Look,” he said. “What if, instead of just hexing all these idiots who want to be Death Eaters, we do something even better, to really get under their skin? What if, for an entire week, we get everyone at Hogwarts to celebrate the glory and greatness of Muggle culture?”
Sirius grinned as he watched his friends’ expressions shift from curiosity to appreciation, and then to glee.
“Padfoot, it’s perfect!”
“Most brilliant idea ever!”
“But what exactly does one do during Muggle Week?”
“Well,” he replied, “for one thing, there’s Muggle sport – football, cricket, rugby…”
“But we don’t know how to play any of those!”
“Details, details.” Sirius waved his hand impatiently. “I have a basic understanding, and the Muggle-born kids can teach us. It doesn’t matter anyway, don’t you see? It’ll be loads of fun! And then there’s Muggle rock music – excellent stuff – Moony, I think you’d like it especially, it would really suit your personality.” Remus rolled his eyes, and Sirius continued. “And Muggle movies! Oh, the movies! It’ll be great, we’ll get the equipment and show them outside. There’s this one where this massive shark goes around eating people swimming in the ocean…” James laughed approvingly.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” exclaimed Sirius. He removed something from his pocket and held out his hand. “Meet my pet rock.”
Three pairs of brows furrowed in confusion. In the middle of Sirius’ palm sat a small, smooth rock. But, unlike most ordinary rocks, it had a pair of eyes. And at the sound of Sirius’ voice, it started hopping up and down in his hand.
“It’s an American Muggle trend – they have these rocks, see, and they’re like…funny, fake pets. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think it’s funny, and we can cheat a bit and charm ours to do tricks…look, I’ve already taught mine to roll over…”
For the next three hours, the Marauders trained their pet rocks – Reggie, Snivellus, Avery, and Mulciber – and discussed their plans for Muggle Week, which they all agreed should begin the following weekend.
* * * * *
Muggle Week officially began when Sirius roused his three roommates from their sleep on Saturday morning to present them with their trendy Muggle attire: men’s leisure suits in a variety of lurid colors. After five minutes of rolling on the ground laughing, James declared that it was the most fantastic thing he’d ever seen, and he demanded that Remus and Peter (who looked slightly more dubious) put theirs on at once. Sirius said he fully intended to wear his Muggle clothes to his classes the following week, and he didn’t give a flying Skrewt if he got detention for breaking dress code – until Remus reminded him that detention would probably mean missing all of the week’s festivities. And so it was decided that the leisure suits were to be worn during their free time only.
The news of Muggle Week had already spread like wildfire, and the Marauders were met with varying amounts of skepticism and enthusiasm as they made their way up and down each House table at breakfast, informing everyone that the entire day would be devoted to playing football on the Quidditch pitch. Sirius took it upon himself to personally visit the Slytherin table, as he considered it only fair to include everyone who might be interested in celebrating Muggle culture.
“Are you serious?” asked Avery in a scathing voice.
“In more ways than one,” answered Sirius, giving Regulus a jovial clap on the shoulder as Regulus covered his face in embarrassment.
As the Marauders spread the news, they also passed out pet rocks and mood rings to eager new owners.
“Mood ring, Evans?” asked James, grinning as he squeezed next to her at the Gryffindor table. To his surprise, she cracked a small smile.
“My sister has one of these,” she said, slapping his hand away as he attempted to place it on her left ring finger. She took it from him and placed it on her right hand, still smiling. “They’re so much fun! I can’t remember what the colors mean, though…”
“I know,” said James. “Black means you’re anxious, blue means you’re calm, red means you’re energetic…” he watched as Lily’s ring shifted through several colors before finally settling on purple. “And purple means you’re in love with James Potter.” He ducked as he was pelted with Lily’s purple ring.
“At least it wasn’t the rock,” said Sirius. His own rock was perched calmly on his shoulder.
* * * * *
After a brief football lesson (of questionable success), the games began. While the Marauders had agreed to take turns refereeing and playing, Sirius had volunteered to referee first.
“No, no, no!” he shouted, following the unruly game play around the field. “Grigsby, you can’t use your hands, you can only kick it! Or use your head – you can’t damage your brain more than it already is, anyway! No, Prewett, if it’s out of bounds you don’t kick it, you throw it in with your hands!”
“This sport doesn’t make any blasted sense!” yelled Dave Prewett, as Mikey Wallace, a Muggle-born student who had grown up playing football, literally ran circles around him.
It was the most confused, chaotic, and talentless game of football ever played. But Sirius looked as if Christmas had come early. He laughed in a way he hadn’t laughed in years, and he appeared more genuinely happy than most people had ever seen him. For a few hours, he was transformed from a flippant seventeen year-old to a bright-eyed boy of seven again.
* * * * *
By mid-week, Sirius didn’t know which part of Muggle Week made him happiest: the looks on the faces of all the Voldemort sympathizers; the football matches that broke out on the pitch when Quidditch practices weren’t in session; the students humming Muggle rock music the day after the concert; or the fact that the pet rocks had become so popular even Dumbledore could be seen striding through the halls with his rock Prometheus hopping alongside him. The professors had even been kind enough not to ban the rocks from the classrooms, as long as the rocks sat quietly on their masters’ desks. Most of the pet rocks were well-behaved, but there were a few rebellious rocks that had proven more difficult to discipline.
Sirius had managed to train Reggie, not only to sit, stay, come, roll over, and beg, but also to attack people Sirius didn’t like. However, as Reggie’s “attacks” consisted of hopping madly after his victims and then bouncing repeatedly against their ankles, all he really achieved was moderate irritation. Sirius praised him nonetheless; he was just a rock, after all.
On this particular evening, Reggie raced Avery, Remus’ rock, up and down the table as Sirius and Remus ate their dinners in the Great Hall.
“Where are Prongs and Wormtail?” asked Remus, helping himself to some shepherd’s pie.
“Oh,” mumbled Sirius through a mouth full of food, “they left to set up the stuff for the movies outside.”
Remus stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth. “You’re kidding me. You’re telling me that you’ve left James and Pete to set up the Muggle projection equipment by themselves.” Sirius pondered this statement for a moment and then smacked himself in the forehead. He shoved a whole potato in his mouth as he and Remus grabbed their pet rocks and ran out of the Great Hall.
“Prongs!” laughed Sirius as he and Remus came bursting out of the castle’s front entrance. “You idiot!”
James and Peter had managed to unravel two whole movie reels, and James had the bulk of the film tape wrapped around his body like an absurd toga. As Sirius laughed, Remus extricated James from the film and used his wand to rewind the reels.
“Pete,” he said, “can you go find Andrew Smith? His dad runs a Muggle movie theater – he’ll know how to do this.”
In the end, the show did go on, thanks to Andrew Smith, and scores of Hogwarts students from all four Houses poured out of the castle to find seats on the grass in front of the screen, which Sirius had enlarged to epic proportions. Somehow, Sirius had “forgotten” to mention that tonight’s movie theme was horror – to the chagrin of the girls and the elation of the boys. But even the girls watched in agonized fascination as the films played out in front of their eyes. By far, the crowd favorite was the man-eating shark movie Sirius had mentioned to his friends previously.
“Get out of the water, you idiot!”
“Yes! Yes! Well done, shark!”
Boys laughed and cheered. Girls squealed and peered through their fingers. Alice MacPherson buried her face in Frank Longbottom’s shoulder. James had positioned him directly behind an unsuspecting Lily, who jumped backwards so forcefully at one point that she nearly landed in James’ lap. Her subsequent assault on him tore everyone’s attention away from the screen until Sirius yelled at them to shut up or they would miss the best part.
* * * * *
Saturday’s cricket match proved even more dysfunctional than the preceding Saturday’s football match. There were several narrowly avoided concussions, as the result of wayward balls thrown by bowlers who had no idea what they were doing. At one point, play was stopped for a full ten minutes while everyone was doubled over laughing at Willy Widdershins, who had run the exact opposite direction from the one he was supposed to. Frank immediately dubbed him “Wrong-Way Willy,” and the Marauders decided the nickname wasn’t going to die out anytime soon if they had anything to do with it.
When Sirius had decided, earlier in the day, that the cricket teams would be divided into boys and girls, Remus had protested that it might not be a fair arrangement. And at the end of the day, it was clear that Remus had been right – the girls had routed the boys terribly.
“Well, boys,” called Sheila Jameson as she and Lily walked arm-in-arm off the pitch, “let’s keep the same teams tomorrow – what do you say?”
“Right you are, Jameson!” replied Sirius.
Peter cringed. “Are you mad, Padfoot? They killed us today!” James nodded in agreement. His ego had been particularly bruised when he was run out by Lily, who aimed the ball with dead-on accuracy at the wicket while James attempted a run.
“Trust me, lads, you’ll want to have boys against girls tomorrow.”
“Why, what’s tomorrow?”
Sirius’ grinned roguishly. “Rugby.”
James broke into a smile as he watched Lily’s retreating figure. “Merlin, I love Muggle Week!”
Chapter 7: Rightfully Ours
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"Fellow Gryffindors!" bellowed George Weasley, standing up on top of a table in the common room. "Attention please!"A few people glanced up, but although George was well known, they couldn't be bothered just yet to interrupt their various activities. George nodded at his brother, Fred, and with a grin, Fred blasted large purple sparks into the air with his wand. The sparks flew over the room, inserting themselves into peoples' ears in an extremely irritating and ticklish way, until all eyes in the room were upon George.
"Thank you," said George. "Now, as you all know too well, this school has been infested by something ugly and toady."
Whispers of "Toady?" swept through the now-assembled crowd, but even more prominent was that of "Umbridge".
"Yes." said Fred, moving to stand on the table next to his twin. "Umbridge and her Ministry filth have snuck into out castle, ruining what little joy we get from learning. However, something even more vile has crept to power under the toad."
"Argus Filch!" shouted George. "Too long has that man abused his power over us students, doing his best to make our lives miserable! Too long has that evil creature dared to try and put us in our supposed place!"
George's speech was greeted with roar, hoots and plenty of fist pumping. "Too long!" chanted Lee Jordan, "Too long! Too long!"
"We need to show Filch what we're made of!" yelled Fred, "How many of you have lost a Fanged Frisbee, a Screaming yoyo, or even, Merlin forbid, a Puking Pastille to this man known as caretaker?!"
"Me! Me!" screamed the Gryffindors.
"I say, we get back what is rightfully ours!" cried George, "Filch has stolen from us! We need to retrieve our possessions!"
With that, Fred and George jumped down and slapped high fives with Lee. Around them, excited teens chattered and made plans. "Nice work, mate." said Fred, "Way to get 'em riled up."
"We can't do this alone," said Lee, "We've yet to get the other houses on our side. The Inquisitorial Squad is watching. We need alliances to finish this."
"No problem, my friend." George punched Lee's arm, "We're on it."
Whispers spread like wildfire through the walls. Students were ready to find all the items confiscated over the years by Filch. Lee told his girlfriend in Hufflepuff about the goal, and she spread the news throughout her house. Fred and George enlisted the help of several fellow pranksters in Ravenclaw to send the message out. And they convinced Harry Potter to announce the idea during a DA meeting. And everyone swore to keep silent in front of the Slytherins, who prowled the halls and glared at the bright eyes filled with secrets and revenge. Some people had wanted to enlist their help, but then it was decided that since so many Slytherins were assisting Filch and Umbridge to watch for troublemakers, they couldn't be a part of the revolt. Almost the whole school was on edge.
The date was set; December 18th, right when people would be ready for action and bursting with excitement at the holidays, which would start just two days later. Just before lunch, when the entire school would be in the halls, kids would burst out of class and make a dash for Filch's office. Nearly every fifth, sixth and seventh year that wasn't in Slytherin was participating, and a good chunk of third and fourth years, led by Ginny, would run interference: block the halls, and chase Umbridge, Snape, and especially Filch away from the scene of the crime. The second and first years, though eager to help, were deemed too young to do anything substantial compared to the older students. They were enlisted to help Ginny, and also make their way down to the Great Hall for lunch as normal, so that the teachers wouldn't suspect anything at first. Of course the Slytherins would be there besides the younger kids, and hopefully nothing would look suspicious until the attack was under way and unstoppable.
It was a week until the stampede, though, and Fred, George and Lee feared that their idea would be given away. There was a definite increase in giggles in the halls, and several reports of Slytherins getting teased about secrets. The Hufflepuff Quidditch team almost let everything out when they were seen practicing tight formations during practice, so that they could fit in the halls, and told Professor Sprout so. When she asked why they would be flying inside, the newest member almost blurted until the captain said briefly "New Years," and the disaster was averted.
Luna Lovegood almost ruined it too, when she was seen questioning people about items lost to Filch. "I'm taking inventory," she told everyone. Ginny was told roughly by Lee to hunt her down and keep her quiet.
On the night of December 17th, a huge uproar was created. The Gryffindors, despite many warnings, threw a huge party celebrating "Stampede Eve". Professor McGonagall intervened at midnight, and asked what the noise was about.
"Freedom!" shouted a dumb first year, who'd gotten her hands on too much Butterbeer stolen from the kitchens.
"Freedom?" McGonagall said crossly, "Really, what is this all about? The castle has been whispering and talking all week long!"
"Professor, it's almost the holidays!" said Ron loudly, "We need to let out some steam now, else the castle will explode with all the excitement!"
"Professor, it's all my fault," piped up Ginny, "I knew during break I'd have to do a lot of cleaning," and here she shot a look at the other Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry who were doomed to go back to Grimmauld Place with her for Christmas, "So I thought we should let out some steam now. Otherwise dusty Doxies will have to party with us later."
"All right," McGonagall said, "I understand that Christmas is drawing closer, but this is ridiculous. To bed, all of you!" And with that she swept out the common room called over her shoulder "Detention to whoever wakes up the entire castle next!"
Grumbling, the house climbed upstairs. None of them slept, however; tomorrow would be the event of a lifetime. All the pent up frustration that had been silently building up over Filch would end. Colin Creevey was going to follow Filch all over the castle, photographing him as he realized what was happening. The Hufflepuff Quidditch team would fly around, leaving trails of red, blue and yellow sparkles everywhere that would be nearly impossible to clean up, the spell courtesy of Fred and George. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products were going to be used by every single student in Umbridge's class after the attack, just to drive her insane. All the Educational Decrees that had been posted would be torn down. The revolt against Filch was growing into a riot against everything Umbridge stood for. Students everywhere glowed with the realization that they had the power to help their school. It was a beautiful transformation.
Fred and George secretly planned their own revolt too, and the only other person who knew of it was Lee Jordan. It involved a swamp and lots of fireworks, but that was all they knew. Soon the idea would grow bigger, but for now just the knowledge that the madness wouldn't stop after the 18th good enough for them.
The 18th of December dawned cold and bright. For the first time in decades, the castle was nearly silent. The giggles and chatting of three quarters of the school disappeared. Nobody dared to look a Slytherin in the eye; they would run away in fright that the mission was discovered. No one made eye contact with a teacher for the same reason. Except Umbridge. Three times that day a kid would stare at her, and she'd glare at him, say "What is it?" and the entire class would burst out in hysterical laughter. And of course, everyone avoided Filch with his red nose and smelly cat like the plague.
The bell rang for lunch; silently the school packed up and headed for lunch. The Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws whisked up to their dormitories and dropped off their bags. They then glanced apprehensively at their watches: noon was the time for It.
Everyone held their breath. The sound of second and minute hands ticking seemed incredibly loud. Five seconds left, four, three, two, one…
"FOR HOGWARTS!" Fred and George burst out of the Gryffindor common room, followed by a storm of kids. Hufflepuffs, chanting loudly, ran up from the kitchens, and screeching Ravenclaws tumbled down from their tower. It had been planned that they would stay silent, and have a better chance of going unnoticed, but everyone knew they would explode if they didn't let out some noise. No one cared any more if they actually got all their things from Filch; this was the gesture from hundreds of kids: We can do anything, we don't need to be pushed down, we can break out of our cages and make a difference.
Some kids started chanting "Gryffindor, Gryffindor!" and Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws followed suit until it sounded like "Gryffleplaw, Gryffleplaw, Gryffleplaw!" No one even knew what house they were in, whether they were destined to be the good guy or the bad guy, they just knew they were back in control of their lives. Some Slytherins made chase, a few teachers shouted for order, but the revolution wouldn't be stopped. That was what it was: a revolution. Hogwarts would not tolerate any more evil.
The first and second years forgot their jobs and ran for Filch's office; many third and fourth years gave up their distractions and galloped down too. Colin only snapped two pictures before departing. Cho cried, Luna laughed hysterically, Ron whooped, a lone girl cried out "For Cedric!" The air was thick with yells, aroused dust and colorful, sticky sparkles.
The door was opened to Filch's office, and drawers were ripped open. Semi-dangerous toys, loud contraptions, and disgusting potions were thrown into waiting hands. Hundreds of Zonkos and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products were produced. A Gryffindor fifth year boy kissed Luna, Cho hugged Harry, Roger Davies slapped a high five with Katie Bell. Ernie MacMillan jumped onto a lost Slytherin's back screaming bloody murder.
And an hour later, when the school was at last herded into the Great Hall by the staff to be reprimanded and severely punished, every single face was smiling. Who said they didn't have any power? Fred and George had proved they knew how to organize an uproar, and way to bring frustration into organization between rivals. It was a victory for the students, and one terrible, messy loss for Filch.
Chapter 8: Heroes Never Die
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Severus Snape had never known the meaning of love until Lily had been killed. Only then did he feel the real emotion for the first time, accompanied by something else—vengeance. The one he had loved for so long was gone, and he hated the Dark Lord for it. No matter how long the wait, he would have his revenge. Lily would not have died for nothing.
So, when Albus Dumbledore offered him a way to uphold Lily’s memory, he accepted. Even if it meant protecting the son of James Potter, he would keep the boy safe, would die in his stead if necessary.
He would fight for love, would continue serving the master who’d murdered Lily Potter. He would kill Albus Dumbledore to keep an innocent boy from becoming a murderer. He would lead a double life in order to ensure the peaceful futures of the students at Hogwarts. And he would do it all in the name of love.
The first five years Harry Potter spent at Hogwarts were simple. Keeping the boy alive was rather easy for him, for being a servant of the Dark Lord let him know the murderous plans that were in store for The Boy Who Lived.
In his first year, he saved him from Quirrell. It had been maddening to watch Harry fly at his first Quidditch match, a hero and celebrity from his first day. Dumbledore had even allowed him to be the Gryffindor Seeker, breaking the rules for Harry, and Harry alone. When his broom had begun to buck in midair, Severus had felt a moment of intense happiness. The boy could not fly. He would embarrass himself by falling off his broom. But then he’d heard Quirrell muttering and had realized that this was no lack of skill on Harry Potter’s part. And so he’d had to play the hero for the first time in his life.
The following years had been a little harder, but not by much. Harry had killed the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, discovered the truth about Sirius Black, survived the Triwizard Tournament, and managed to escape the Department of Mysteries without Voldemort hearing the prophecy.
Harry’s sixth year, however, had been hardest on Snape. He’d promised to do Draco’s job if the boy did not succeed, and only because Dumbledore had told him to. He had had to watch Draco work out a way to bring Death Eaters into Hogwarts. He’d offered his help to Lucius’s son, hoping that if Draco accepted, he, Snape, could slow down the process of finding an alternate way into the castle.
He had learned, after Cedric Diggory’s death, that the houses would have to unite together if Hogwarts was to stand against the Dark Lord. And so he had tried to buy time for the students to unite and make friends among other houses.
In Harry’s fifth year, the boy had managed to create unity among three of the houses with Dumbledore’s Army. He’d been secretly glad that the group had formed, and ashamed that none from his house had joined. He’d done all in his power to keep Potter’s secret, including lying to Dolores Umbridge when she’d asked for more Veritaserum to question Harry about his secret group. It had been with a heavy heart that he watched the meeting place of the DA be discovered. But the friendships formed had surprisingly survived, and so he had not felt as much a failure than if the unity created had been destroyed.
In what should have been Potter’s seventh year, Harry never showed up at Hogwarts. It was much harder to keep him safe this way, and he hated seeing the relationships between houses fall to ruin because of Harry’s absence. When he heard that Ron had returned to the Burrow, he realized that the bonds within a house were breaking as well. Potter had fought with Weasley, and that, if anything, was a sure sign that house unity was far out of reach.
He’d led Potter to the sword, had been unimaginably relieved when Ron had returned and destroyed the Horcrux in Slytherin’s locket. The two had become friends again, and house unity was once more a possibility.
It was hard being a double agent, but it was something that he did well. None ever suspected him, and even the Dark Lord had not guessed. When Voldemort arrived at Hogwarts and Harry Potter entered through Hogsmeade, Severus had worried endlessly. Would the students, now that they were really and truly faced with danger, achieve that which he’d worked towards for so long? Would they unite against a common enemy?
But once again, his house had failed to do so. The others stood together side by side to defend Harry Potter, and his Slytherins had tried to give the boy to Voldemort.
The Dark Lord had called him to his side and he had gone. He had seen Voldemort holding the wand of Albus Dumbledore, had been filled with such fury and grief. Then the Dark Lord had explained about the masters of the wand, and how he, Snape, was the new master.
Severus had known what was coming. Yet he also knew that nothing would be gained. He was not the master of the Elder Wand—Harry Potter was.
He had watched Nagini roll towards him, heard Voldemort leave, and then felt the fangs pierce his neck. He was dying then, and he knew it.
As the colors began to bleed from the world around him, turning to gray, Harry and his friends had entered the room. And he knew then, knew that he had to give Potter the memories.
All his life he had followed Dumbledore’s orders, but now he would make his own decision. It was the only way; the only was to unite the houses and to protect Lily’s son. So he gave the memories, every last one, in the hope that Harry would see them and know what to do.
He’d felt the life draining from his body, and with his last breath had given his final instruction.
“Look at me…”
Their eyes had met, he’d seen Lily through the eyes of her son, and his eyes had closed.
It had taken most of his life to learn it, but Severus Snape finally knew what it was like to love. He finally understood the importance of friendship and unity. And he knew that his death had a purpose. Harry Potter would defeat Voldemort, and he, Severus, would not have died in vain.
Chapter 9: Changes
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If someone where to walk into the Slytherin Common Room at one o’clock in the morning on the fourteenth of April year two thousand and twenty three, they would think it was empty. They would most likely then ascend the stairs to either the boys or girls dormitories‘. Of course at one o’clock in the morning, people don’t really look in dark corners for three fifth years.
‘Are you sure this will work Scorpius? I mean, I don’t mind detentions as long as it’s for a good cause-’
‘You call this a good cause, Dementia? It’s bloody genius but it is most definitely not a good cause.’ Albus Potter interrupted his girlfriend. He alone could see that what they were doing was going to get them into so much trouble, but, it wasn’t like he cared or anything.
Yes. Al, yes I do call this a good cause. We’re just promoting house spirit. Teachers are always telling us to do that.’ Demmy snapped back affectionately. Al opened his mouth to retaliate but Scorpius interrupted him.
‘Listen, this is only going to work if we really work together. None of the house will be expecting it but news will spread fast, so what I suggest is, we split up and do each of the three houses on our own. Savvy?’ He turned to his two best friends slash partners in dangerous crimes that could get them a couple years worth detentions. Al nodded in understanding and Demmy saluted him.
‘I shotgun Ravenclaw! My sister’s gonna freak!’ She whisper screamed.
‘Oh, in that case I get Gryffindor, ’Cause of my family and everything.’ Al put in grinning. Scorpius scowled.
‘So I get Hufflepuff, then? Wonderful. Bloody wonderful.’ Denny frowned slightly.
‘So how do you do the spell? I mean isn’t it like a swish-prod movement, or is it a prod-swish one?’ She asked confused, secretly hoping it was neither, and just a easy flicking action.
‘Swish-flick. And the actual spell is “Incartem Ovsniper”’ He pronounced the words “In-car-tem Ove-snipe-er” The three friends were silent for a while, each relaxing in the soft green velvet armchairs and each one of them pondering.
Scorpius was think about the injustice of it all. He had after all thought of the amazingly breathtakingly awesome plan. Why, then hadn’t he gotten first pick of the houses?
Albus was simply thinking that it had been a year since he and Dementia had started going out. He smiled subconsciously at the thought.
And Demmy? Demmy was thinking about what would happen if you fed a cat pollyjuice potion.
‘Right, well, night you lot. Don’t let the bed bugs bite,’ Demmy muttered tiredly, as she heaved herself up from chair and tottered over to the staircase on the left. Al and Scorpius shared a look of utmost confusion at yet another muggle saying.
The next day at breakfast the three Slytherins were filled with a nervouse excitement. ‘Now, these,’ Scorpius told them quietly, holding out three mirrors, ‘are communication devices. Simply look into the mirror and say both of our names and appear in them. Okay?’
‘Oh, we have permission to be in the other houserooms after six o’clock. I asked Professor Longbottom, and told me the passwords, all that is except for Ravenclaw, you have to answer a question to get in there.’ Al stared at her.
‘How did you do it? I mean come on…’ He trailed looking extremely confused. Demmy just smiled and tapped her nose, in what she thought was a mysterious manner. It actually made her look a wee bit odd.
Potions was the last lesson of the day, and Demmy and Al were already finished with their ’masterpiece’ as Demmy so modestly put it. Over in the corner two Gryffindors were talking about the two Slytherins. Loud ebough for said Slytherins to hear. ‘I mean, how is it that the son of Harry Potter -who may I just say is like the coolest guy ever- is in Slytherin. And that girlfriend of his. She’s a muggle-born for Merlin’s sake, she must be really evil to be in Slytherin.’ Said a tall blond girl to her friend.
‘Oooh, I have a good one!’ Squealed her friend. ‘What do you call a female dementor? Dementia!’ The two girls burst out laughing at the lame not to mention harsh joke.
‘Do you reckon they know we can hear them? Al asked Demmy, his hands rolled into fists. Demmy however just smiled.
‘Oh yes, I don’t imagine their taunting would be half as funny for them if we couldn’t hear.’ She simply, then upon seeing her boyfriends expression, she added, ‘don’t Al, we’ll get them back tonight.’ She told him kindly squeezing his hand with her own.
It was six o’clock and there was a thunderstorm outside. Everyone was out of dinner and in their common rooms, all that is except three Slytherins. ‘Okay, so we all know what to do?’ Al asked grinning like mad. The other two nodded. ‘Got your mirrors?’ Again the two friends nodded. Each whispered the others names and at once two faces that weren’t their own appeared on the glass. Demmy was the first to go seeing as she had the furthest to travel. The Al and Scorpius both departed separate ways. One towards the dungeons and one up the marble staircase.
Demmy grinned as she glanced down at the mirror. Both Al and Scorpius were waiting out the common room entrances. ‘So, are we ready?’ The drown haired girl asked. Both of the boys nodded. She turned to the door and rapped the brass knocker. The eagle knocker asked in a musical voice:
‘I cannot be felt, seen or touched;
Yet I can be found in everybody;
My existence is always in debate;
Yet I have my own style of music.
What Am I?’
Demmy frowned, if it was what she thought it was then she would be able to enter the common room. She sighed, she might aswell give it a go. ‘A soul.’ she said in a clear voice.
‘Well answered.’ And with that the door swung open. Demmy smiled, her first truly evil smile in lon time. The Ravenclaws there all stopped and stared. Who was it that a Slytherin was able to get into a their common room?
‘Don’t worry. I have got permission to be here. Not that it would matter if I didn’t.’ Demmy drawled to the thunderstruck Ravenclaws.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Cried a witch who looked strangly like Demmy.
‘I’m here to spread inter-house unity!’ Demmy told her sister smiling. ‘Now if you don’t mind, Incartem ovsniper!’ At once the Ravenclaw Common Room began to change. The high ceiling began to lower and the many windows just seemed to melt into the stone wall. The Ravenclaw colours of blue and bronze gradually changed into those of Hufflepuff. After about two minutes the Ravenclaw Common Room was an exact replica of the Hufflepuff one.
‘What have you done? How do we get it to go away?’ One of the younger students wailed.
‘You can’t make it go away. It lasts for six weeks. And as I said before, Slytherin is supporting inter-house-unity. You’ll be able to find out about all the Puffs secrets coves and hidey-holes. Think of it as an adventure! Bye now!’ Demmy called over her shoulder as she skipped out the common room.
‘How did you get in?’ Rose Weasly screamed at her cousin. Al supposed she did have a right to scream. It wasn’t everyday you saw your cousin who you hadn’t spoken to in the last five years because of his house. But still, it hurt his ears.
‘Well I walked up to the portrait and I gave the password, and then the most amzing thing happened. She let me in.’ He glanced around all the Gryffindors were giving him evil looks apart from James and Lily Potter. Who were grinning. ‘And as much as I would like to stay and chat I need to do something. For house unity and all. Incartem ovsniper!’ Al watched in as the whole of the Griffindors stared at their house room. It was changing at a radical pace to look like a replica of the Slytherin one. ‘Don’t worry. All the houses are having a “make over.” Including ours. It looks just like the former Gryffindor common room. Well nice speaking to you.’
There was no one in the Hufflepuff common room. Which suited Scorpius just fine. He just wanted to get it over with. ‘Incartem ovsniper!’ He whispered. Scorpius couldn’t help but grin at his handiwork, as he watched the room turn into Ravenclaw Common Room. As soon as it was over he exited.
The three Slytherins were sent to Professor Longbottom’s office that day. Except the whole of Slytherin crowded in with them. When asked why they did it everyone answered: ‘For inter-house-unity, Sir.’
Chapter 10: Justice or Vengeance?
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“Oooh, look, a Blibbering Humdinger!” Luna shouted, pointing out the window. Everywhere, heads turned and looked. She felt Harry slide off the bench next to her. She reached out and touched the spot where he had been sitting, feeling the warmth slowly fading in the early morning light. She watched Neville as he ate; a group of admirers clustered around him hanging on his every word. She turned her attention to Draco, where he sat close by his parents, both looking around nervously at the celebrants. Draco kept his head down and didn’t speak, even when it was obvious that his parents were talking to him.
An elderly house-elf put a plate of bacon and eggs in front of Draco and he picked at it, moving it around with his fork, but not eating anything. His father ate heartily, his voice carrying in bits and pieces, “Knew he’d…Dark Lord…the Potter boy.” Luna knew from the angry muttering growing louder behind her that she wasn’t the only one who heard him. She turned on her bench and looked behind her at a group of students. Ernie MacMillan was whispering to Romilda Vane and a fifth-year Hufflepuff whose name Luna couldn’t recall.
Spying Professor McGonagall sitting in the corner near Hagrid as he tended to Firenze’s injuries, Luna started wending her way through the crowded room. As she walked near Neville, he waved her over, but instead she flipped her hair over her shoulder in a way that he had learned meant ‘follow me’ when they had crept silently through the halls on missions for the D.A. He separated himself from the well-wishers and followed Luna.
As he caught up with her, she took his hand and they walked together to Professor McGonagall.
Firenze lay motionless in the corner, his breathing deep and regular as Hagrid tended to a long gash on his left flank.
“Are you sure he’ll be okay?” asked Professor McGonagall.
“Right as rain, Minerva.” Hagrid smeared some foul-smelling goop on Firenze’s wound, which began smoking. It sealed up as a fine tremble passed down his flank.
Luna tapped Professor McGonagall on the shoulder, causing her to spin, her wand leaping automatically to her hand. When she saw it was Luna and Neville, she pulled them both to her. Luna returned the embrace emphatically while Neville stood straight and awkward until Professor McGonagall released them.
“Yes, Ms. Lovegood?” she asked.
“I think there’s going to be trouble,” Luna replied, flicking her eyes at the group of students who had been gathering behind her. In just the few minutes it took her to walk across the Great Hall to Professor McGonagall, the group had more than tripled. As Professor McGonagall watched, Romilda Vane pulled out her wand and began to point it at Draco, but Ernie MacMillan quickly pushed her arm down and looked around furtively.
“We can’t let them start a fight, or it’ll be a riot,” Luna said calmly, her voice not betraying her concern.
Professor McGonagall nodded grimly. “Yes, I see what you mean. Follow me.” She swept off toward the Malfoys.
Just as she started moving, the group of students rose and began moving toward the Malfoys. They gathered more people from the surrounding tables. Professor McGonagall noticed and quickened her pace, but was slowed by the throng of people in her way. The mob would reach the Malfoys first. They pulled their wands when they got near.
Narcissa turned her head to look at something and noticed the menacing group approaching, wands out. She shouted something that Draco and Lucius obviously heard, for they whipped around, their wands in their hands. Professor McGonagall hurried even more, Luna and Neville following in her wake.
Silence fell as people began noticing the brewing fight.
Ernie broke the silence. “You don’t deserve to be sitting here.” He indicated the Malfoys. He lifted his wand, pointing it directly at Lucius. “You should be dead in there instead of Fred or Professor Lupin.”
Lucius lowered his wand. “Then kill me if you think you can.”
Ernie’s hand shook, he raised his wand even higher as he steeled himself. He opened his mouth, and then closed it. His hand began to shake even more before he lowered it again. Romilda stepped forward, shoved him aside and shouted, “Avada Ked—” She gripped her throat as Professor McGonagall’s unspoken hex hit her.
“No!” Professor McGonagall shouted. “There will be no more killing today!”
She strode into the fray, standing tall between the mob and the Malfoys. Luna and Neville flanked her.
Romilda regained her voice. She pointed at Lucius. “He’s a Death Eater. Harry told us that he was there when V—V—Voldemort was reborn.” She turned to Luna. “You told me that he fought you in the Department of Mysteries.”
Luna stepped forward and spoke. “He did. He’s a Death Eater and he deserves to be punished, but not by us.” She pointed at Ernie. “You couldn’t kill him. Ernie, you know this isn’t right. Let the Aurors arrest him, but you can’t just kill him in cold blood.”
Romilda stepped forward angrily, brandishing her wand again. “He may not be able to, but I can.”
Neville took a large step forward until the tip of Romilda’s wand rested against his stomach. “Can you kill me, too?” He leaned forward until Romilda was forced to take a step back. “You’ll have to get through me to get to them.”
Tears sprang to Romilda’s eyes. “Get out of my way, Neville. Don’t make me hurt you!”
Neville reached out and put his hand on Romilda’s wand. Her shoulders tensed and then relaxed. Her wand fell out of her fingers. Neville reached down and took it.
He turned to the Malfoys. They huddled together, their wands out and pointed at the ground, but clearly ready to defend themselves if needed. Neville addressed Lucius. “Lucius Malfoy, I accuse you of being a Death Eater. Will you surrender yourself?”
Lucius’ shrewd eyes appraised the crowd. He nodded to his wife. They both held out their wands for Luna to take. Draco looked at both his parents before he, too, lowered his wand for Luna to take.
A voice shouted from deep in the crowd, “He’ll just buy his way out!” A chorus of supporting shouts followed.
“They’re Death Eaters! Kill them!”
“Give them the Dementor’s Kiss!”
Professor McGonagall met the eyes of one of the shouters. “Ms. Bell, do you think that we should execute people? Is capital punishment now allowed?” She turned slightly. “Mr. Corner, do you want to be a murderer yourself?”
Another voice shouted from the mob, “We want justice!”
Luna spoke, her quiet voice easily carrying over the whole hall. “Do you really want justice or do you just want vengeance? All vengeance spawns is more vengeance as one killing becomes hundreds, or thousands. It’s right to fight for what you believe, but not when it becomes zealotry.”
Professor McGonagall put her free arm around Luna. “Luna’s right. It’s time to stop the cycle of violence now.”
Ernie raised his strained face to Professor McGonagall. “You’ll make sure he goes to trial?”
Kingsley Shacklebolt strode through the crowd, three Aurors following behind. The students melted away from his smoldering intensity. “I guarantee that they’ll go to trial. And, I guarantee that they’ll be treated fairly. There will be no kangaroo courts or set-piece trials here.” He turned to the Malfoys. “Nor will there be any buying your way out of it. If you’re found guilty, you will be punished.”
Lucius nodded that he understood as the Aurors took each of the Malfoys and took them out of the Great Hall.
The angry mob slowly dissipated.
For the second time that morning, Professor McGonagall embraced Luna and Neville. “I’m proud of both of you.”
“Right is right, Professor,” Luna said, taking Neville’s hand. They joined the remaining members of the D.A. as they filtered back to a table together.
A/N Luna’s line in the first sentence is from chapter thirty-six of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”.
Chapter 11: Together At Last
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As Hermione stared in the mirror she realized how plain and ordinary she was. She could never hope to live up to Ron’s ex-girlfriend Lavender Brown. She was just book-smart Hermione with plain brown eyes and brown bushy hair. She had realized that she had feelings for Ron ever since he had been outraged that Victor Krum had taken her to the Yule Ball. Being able to see that Ron was jealous she realized that she might have feelings for him as well. It wasn’t until he started going out with Lavender that she realized she might be in love with him. She feared that she had been too late, and even though Ron and Lavender had broken up, much to her delight, she couldn’t help feeling she would never be good enough for him.
All the other girls at Hogwarts wore makeup and were just so pretty. Hermione reasoned that she wasn’t ugly, but compared to everyone else she might as well have been. She had always been called beaver teeth before they had been magically shrunken and having a bird’s nest for hair. Most girls spent their time crushing and going gaga over boys, but Hermione could never seem to get into it. She only wanted one guy. The rest of their time the girls talked fashion, products, and makeup. That was never what Hermione was interested in as she preferred to have her nose in a book.
Staring back at Hermione was the reflection of someone who she felt she no longer wanted to be. She wanted to be as stunning and gorgeous as the rest of the girls at Hogwarts. She wanted to feel pretty and seem beautiful. The only time that she had ever really felt this was at the Yule Ball. It had taken so long to get ready though and seemed like such a bother. What she wanted mostly was to be good enough for Ron. With a sinking feeling Hermione knew she couldn’t do this alone as she didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do. She was going to need help.
She left her dormitory and went searching for Ginny. Ginny would know what to do as she knew how Hermione felt about Ron. Also Ginny was gorgeous. She had had a few boyfriends, but had never really given up on Harry. Ginny was very popular, and had overheard Harry and Ron saying that she was too popular for her own good. Hermione had the nagging suspicion that Harry now fancied Ginny. Hermione had yet to tell Ginny, but she didn’t want to get involved in other people’s love live considering hers was so complicated.
Hermione found Ginny sitting in an armchair by the fire doing her homework. Hermione sucked up all her Gryffindor courage and approached Ginny.
“Hello,” Hermione said friendly.
“Hey Hermione,” Ginny responded back. “Give me just a minute to finish this Transfiguration essay, and then I’ll be right there with you.
Hermione listened to the uneven scratch of Ginny’s quill for a little over a minute and then watched her attention shift from her essay to Hermione.
“So Hermione, what’s up? The essay from McGonagall was killer. So what’s new?” Ginny asked.
“I need your help.” Hermione said quietly.
“With what…?” Ginny asked curiously.
“Everything!” Hermione cried. “I don’t fit in around here. I never seem to wear the right clothes when we can, my hair’s a mess, I don’t know how to apply mascara, and I’m afraid that I’ll never be good enough for Ron.”
Luckily the common room was empty so no one heard Hermione’s exasperated cries. She was near the verge of tears as Ginny patted her back. Hermione couldn’t help it anymore. She just let the tears out and cried and cried. She had always wanted to be pretty, but never realized just how much she had wanted this.
“It’s okay,” Ginny said sympathetically. “Everything is going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not.” Hermione sobbed. “I’m never going to be good enough for Ron.”
“Ron doesn’t care about your looks. He likes you because you’re you. You’re smart, heck you’re the smartest witch of our age.” Ginny exclaimed.
“It doesn’t matter. I just feel so out of it sometimes. I just want to feel beautiful.” Hermione said in between sobs.
“If that’s the case, all you have to do is change your image. If you want to learn how to put on makeup then I can help you. If you want to dress differently, then we’ll help you. I can round up some girls and we can help you. Only if this is what you want to do Hermione.” Ginny said sweetly.
“Okay. Thanks.” Hermione said drying her eyes with her robe, but stopped once Ginny handed her a tissue to wipe her eyes. She sniffled and hugged Ginny.
“We can start tomorrow if you want.” Ginny said kindly.
“Okay, but I’m scared.” Hermione said. “What if it doesn’t go well or people make fun of me.
“You’ll be fine, Hermione. It’s not brain surgery just a makeover. Like I said I’ll round up some other girls and we’ll be good to go.” Ginny replied. “Now go get some sleep seeing as tomorrow could be a long day.”
Hermione went back to her dormitory, but confused as it was only nine o’clock. She was just going to have to wait until tomorrow.
Hermione arose at seven o’clock on Saturday. She was scared and excited for today. She had spent the night dreaming about what might happen. She got dressed and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Harry signaled Hermione to come join him and Ron, but as Hermione was on her way she saw Ginny signal from the other end of the table. Hermione made a decision to join Ginny leaving Harry and Ron looking confused.
Hermione grabbed a spot next to Ginny and smiled. Ginny beamed back at her and whispered her plan. With the more details being thrown in her head, Hermione had a hard time remembering all of it. The details kept growing until Hermione felt like her head would burst.
“So what do you think?” Ginny asked. “I got a bunch of girls from all over the school who are willing to help. We’re going to start right after breakfast in the Room of Requirement. You better eat up.”
“Okay.” Hermione said feebly. She was growing unsure by the minute.
“I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Ginny said before leaving the table and the Great Hall.
As Hermione got up from the table she got another wave from Harry, but ignored him as this was her time to feel pretty. She headed up to the the seventh floor of Hogwarts, opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy teaching trolls ballet where the Room of Requirement was located. The only way to open the room is to walk past it three times thinking about what you need and the door will appear. In front of the Room of Requirement there stood a large group of girls. From Gryffindor there was Ginny, Pavarti Patil, Katie Bell, and surprisingly Lavender Brown. Hufflepuff had Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones and the Ravenclaws present were Padma Patil, Cho Chang, and Luna Lovegood. Even Asteria Greengrass from Slytherin who had always been friendly with Hermione was there, even though considering the differences in their houses.
“I thought that you were just getting a few people.” Hermione said embarrassed.
“I did, this is only a few people.” Ginny said. “I didn’t post a bulletin in the Daily Prophet for crying out loud.”
“God Hermione, do want our help or not?” Lavender asked.
“I do, but Lavender what are you doing here. Did Ginny explain the plan thoroughly?” Hermione questioned.
“She went into the specifics of giving you a makeover and that you like Ron. To be honest I knew you always did. I feel bad that I got in the way of you and Ron. I guess I put my own feelings before my conscious. I’m sorry.” Lavender said.
“Thanks Lavender.” Hermione said surprised. “Okay Ginny so what’s the plan?”
“Well there are several stations: makeup, clothing, hair, etc. We’re going to start with your hair.” Ginny said. As she had been ranting she had walked past thrice and now a door stood. Ginny opened the door and the girls huddled in.
Inside was a beauty parlor. There was a hair salon, makeup counter, clothing racks, nail salon, etc. There were many Muggle electric appliances like a hairdryer, hair straightener, and a curling iron. It was strange to see that they would work because usually anything electrical didn’t work within Hogwarts. The makeup counter had all the necessary products plus extra. There were several stylists waiting inside.
“It’s perfect!” Ginny exclaimed. “Okay Hermione, where do you want to start?”
Hermione just stood dumfounded. She had never been to such an amazing place that wasn’t magic in the sense of wand waving in her life. She really had no idea, so she closed her eyes and pointed randomly. Her finger was positioned towards the hair salon. She walked slowly there and let out a giggle. This was going to be fun in a way that Hermione had never had before.
The girls followed Hermione and made her sit down in a swivel chair. The hairdresser placed a smock over her. The hairdresser dragged her over to wash her hair. Hermione leaned her head back and let the cold water wash over it. She felt different shampoos and conditioners make their way to her scalp. She began to relax. Then a strange mixture was placed on her head. Hermione tried to crane her neck to see what it was, but it was getting sore fast. Hermione let out a retch as a horrible smell filled her nostrils.
“What is this?” Hermione gagged.
“Reverse perm solution.” The hairstylist answered flatly. “We’re not going to put in the curlers, but it’ll make your hair much more manageable. Once we’re done with this we’re going to dye it a nice auburn color with some darker highlights.”
“Are you sure this is going to look good, I mean making my hair less bushy is one thing, but dying it, are you sure?” Hermione asked uncertainly.
“Quit worrying, you’re going to look fabulous.” The woman answered.
Hermione tried to calm down. She had to trust her. Once the reverse perm solution was done with which took a good half an hour as they had to let it sit in, the hairstylist put in some more chemicals that would ultimately turn her hair from a plain brown to auburn. That took another half an hour before it was once again washed out. Then the hairdresser started to put tinfoil in Hermione’s hair adding highlights. Once that was done Hermione again had her hair washed. This time it was going to be cut stylishly meaning that several inches were gone in a matter of moments. It was now a shoulder length that had side bangs. Her hairdresser went to get the hairdryer to blow dry her hair. The drying process took about fifteen minutes. Then the hairstylist took the hair straightener to touch up some of the ends. With the curling iron elegant curls were added so when the final process was done her hair hung in an elegant bob with not unruly curls, but sleek curls.
“How does it look?” Hermione asked.
Everyone was speechless, but Ginny finally said, “Amazing! Let’s go over to the nail salon.”
The gaggle of girls followed Hermione where she had her nails buffed, shined, and painted. Elegant designs were painted on as her fingernails and toenails gleamed in a way that they had never done before. Hermione had her eyebrows waxed. The girls then went to the makeup counter where they had fun experimenting with different cosmetics.
“Try this eyeliner.” Pavarti said handing Hermione a black color with shimmer.
“And this eyeshadow.” Hannah Abbott said holding up a light pink.
“Don’t forget the blush.” Asteria Greengrass said.
“Okay, calm down guys, I think she’s done.” Ginny stated holding up a mirror for Hermione to see her reflection. Her eyes were more defined and cheekbones seemed sharper. When she smiled her eyes seemed to light up. Her eyebrows were arched and the mascara added great length to her eyelashes. All that was left was some new clothes.
The girls lead by Hermione headed over to the clothing rack. There were dress robes, tight t-shirts, boot cut jeans, and vintage hats and scarves. Hermione felt like she was five again playing dress up. This time it was with friends, not by herself. Hermione found herself immersed in the fun. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. Even though this was a makeover, it was nice to do something with the girls.
When Hermione left the Room of Requirement she was wearing skinny jeans with a baby blue v-neck top. She had on a scarf that was blue and black. She wore slim black boots. After the makeover Hermione looked almost unrecognizable. As she walked back to the Gryffindor common room there were turned heads from guys and even a whistle. Hermione couldn’t help but smile. For the first time in her life she felt pretty. She couldn’t wait to see what Ron would think.
Hermione departed with the girls from the other houses as some went down for a late dinner and others to their common rooms. The Gryffindor girls followed Hermione as she gave the password to the Fat Lady.
Harry and Ron were sitting on their favorite armchairs doing their homework in the ablaze of the fire. As the door swung Harry and Ron’s heads turned towards the girls. Ron’s mouth dropped as her saw the radiance of Hermione. Even though Lavender accompanied her, Ron only had eyes for Hermione. Harry gave Ron a jab in the side which was unnecessary as Ron had noticed. The girls parted and Hermione walked. Ron stood agape.
Ron had always liked Hermione as a friend, but something during their fourth year made him realize that maybe he had feelings for her. These feelings became apparent during their fifth year. He thought that back in the beginning of their sixth year, this year, which something might happen between them. That was before he found out that Hermione snogged Krum. He didn’t know if she still had feelings for him so Ron became angry. When he realized that Lavender liked him, he acted whimsical and made her his girlfriend. He was never truly happy with her; he just used her to make Hermione jealous. He realized that it wasn’t working out between them as he might be in love with Hermione and was glad when she broke up with him.
“Hermione, you look… wow.” Ron just stood there trying to take everything in.
“Nice adjective Ron.” Hermione said playfully and smiled.
“Can we talk?” Ron questioned.
“Sure.” Hermione answered.
The two of them walked together out into the hall where they couldn’t be disturbed.
“What happened?” Ron asked. “You avoided Harry and me all day and now you show up looking like that.” Ron pointed indicating Hermione’s makeover. “What’s going on?”
“You don’t like it?” Hermione asked sacredly not answering Ron’s question.
“You look gorgeous, but why all of a sudden?” Ron responded.
“I just wanted you to like me…., I mean as more than a friend, like me like me.” Hermione said quietly. “I just felt like I was never good enough for you, that I could never live up to Lavender. I just wanted your approval.”
Hermione had voiced her hidden secret and feelings for Ron for the first time to him, but now it was his turn.
“Hermione, you don’t need to do all of this to impress me. I love you because you’re you. You don’t need to change yourself, just be the Hermione that I’m in love with.” Ron replied, but with this came the realization that Ronald Bilius Weasley was in love with Hermione Jean Granger.
“Oh Ron!” Hermione cried as she rushed over to Ron. For the first time in her life, she kissed Ron, something she had yearned to do. Ron kissed back as their lips parted to let their tongues through. The world seemed to stand still as right then and there nothing else seemed to matter. They only broke apart from the squeals of Ginny who immediately rushed back into the common room. Hermione and Ron looking slightly embarrassed turned to head towards the common room hand and hand, side by side, together at last.
Chapter 12: A Time Well Tested
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A Time Well Tested
It was the beginning of the school year when they all decided to join Dumbledore’s Army. The whole school, minus the Slytherin’s of course, had decided that after the death of Albus Dumbledore that Dumbledore’s Army meant more than ever.
It started out as a simple club, meant to knock Severus Snape out of his position as head master of Hogwarts school, and the leaders, Neville, and Ginny of Gryffindor, and even Luna Lovegood of Ravenclaw were the renegade leaders.
It was the first meeting of the new Dumbledore’s Army, and all anyone could ask Ginny, and the others was “where’s Harry?”
“We don’t know,” Luna replied for like the hundredth time. “Now, can we get to learning how to defend ourselves?”
It took a while, but finally the crowd simmered down. It appeared as if half the people there were Gryffindors, even though Ginny and Neville had specifically told anyone below the third year that they would not be able to come.
“It’s just too dangerous having you with us,” Ginny said to them one evening. “Us senior years already have the skills to defend ourselves, and if you were also with us, you might be killed.
“Ginny, I have an idea,” Neville whispered to her after they left the common room. “Grab Luna, and we can discuss it.
Luna was always hanging around the Gryffindor common room these days anyways, so it wasn’t too hard for Ginny to get her attention.
“Neville had an idea,” Ginny explained.
“How about if we have one of the older students, one we know who understands the issues teach the first and second years in each of the houses. That way, we know they will get all the training they need in case of a battle. I assume that’s what Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trying to stop?
“He never mentioned what he was going to be doing,” Ginny said dejectedly. Luna rushed in to give Ginny a hug, but was waved off. “I have to believe,“ Ginny said, “that those three know what they are doing. Merlin only knows what they have gotten themselves into, going up against him.
“So, shall we do this then?” Luna asked.
“I can’t see how we can stop them from learning,” Neville replied. “Come up with the best fighters in the houses, and they can instruct the first and second years,” he said.
And so, it was decided that Dean Thomas would lead the Gryffindor first and second years, and overall, morale for the whole house zoomed up, in the midst of a panic unlike any of the students had ever seen at the school. For everyone who was defiant against Snape, and his death eater cronies, two more people would try their hands at getting them out of the way of danger. For everyone who was punished, at least five different people would try and free them. The rebellion at Hogwarts had begun in earnest, and Severus Snape, and the Carrows were unable to do anything about it.
Once again, the power at Hogwarts was not in the hands of the teachers, well some of them anyway, but the students. Whenever this happened, the headmaster, or headmistress at the time would let the students have their ways. This time was a different matter although. Snape and his croneys were very vindictive if someone tried to exert even a little power over the students.
When Ginny, Neville, and Luna stormed into the Head’s office, and tried stealing the sword of Gryffindor, that was when Snape knew there was that much resistance, and he knew that if he was going to stay in control of the school, he would have to be ruthless.
So, what did he do? He resorted to his Death Eaters croneys dishing out the punishment. Every little infraction was dealt with severely by them. Several students became targets of the new regime, and the punishments became gruesome, however that only strengthened the resolve of Dumbledore’s Army, and soon the entire school, besides Slytherin were active members.
“So, what’s going on today,” Michael Corner asked Luna as they got ready for another training meeting.
“As far as I was told, we’ll be learning to deal with giants today,” Luna said matter of factly, at which Michael just goggled.
“G-G-G-Giants,” came the murmured whisper throughout the Room of Requirements.
“Do you really think you-know-who will use giants?
“He has before,” Neville sighed, “and he probably will again. We can’t let our guard down, or what happened last time when he was all powerful will look tame compared to what he is capable of doing this time.
So, in the end, the bogart they used to simulate giant attacks gave them a pretty good idea of what they could be facing, and everyone decided they would fight to the last person. It was then that they received a surprise. Three people whom they believed were off on a grand adventure were now at Hogwarts.
The conquering heroes, I suppose you could say. Harry, Ron, and even Hermione had returned, and they brought news. Voldemort was on his way to Hogwarts, and they realized that they would have to fight.
It was the news the students had been waiting for, for such a long time. Their rebellion had now become the final act of the war, and when Luna and Harry scooted towards the Ravenclaw common room, it appeared as if there might be something there that would tip the battle into the students favor.
“Where is the lost Diadem?” Harry muttered, not sure where it was in the school, but finally having found out it may have been in the Room of Requirements all along, he seized the opportunity, and was able to get it, and destroy it also, therefore severing another of Voldemort’s links to the world.
It would take a miracle for anyone to defeat Voldemort, however with the united strengths of the students of each house, the battle would surely be won… or would it?
Chapter 13: Unbecoming
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He entered the little shop and went straight to the shelf he knew he would find what he was looking for. The books were there, all very neatly arranged in an alphabetical line. He would be able to find what he wanted quickly, which was good since he didn't like staying out for too long, especially with the kind of heat that came with summer.
"May I help you?" A friendly voice came from his left. It was pleasant and gentle, she really wanted to help apparently.
"No thank you. I know my way around." He was not even close to the friendliness the young woman was showing to him and his coldness made her back off him, having been caught off guard.
"Oh… Ok then… You can pay over there by the desk." The woman said and pointed to her left. He wanted to tell her that he knew, but it seemed a like a waste of breath. He found his book as fast as he had imagined and quickly headed to the pay desk. There was a girl there, she was writing something down.
"Excuse me; I don't have a lot of time here." He said impatiently.
"Of course I'll…" She raised her head and met his gaze. He saw her face change into a glare. "That would be 5 galleons please." The girl said looking at him coldly. He didn't know why she was doing that and he didn't care. Something about her face tugged at his memory, but there was nothing special about her, so he just let it go. He paid his money and then went out of the shop.
This went on for a few days, every time he would go and buy a new book for himself. The feeling that he was supposed to know her kept coming every time he saw her, and he kept forgetting about her altogether just as soon as he stepped out of the shop. One day he was feeling particularly bored so he started a conversation.
"Have I ever met you before? You look familiar." His attempt was lame, his voice was still full of indifference. As was her face when it met his eye.
"Yes we have."
"So… you're not going to tell me where?" He asked, now perplexed, even starting to be amused by this silly game.
"No. Here is your change. Have a nice day." She said coldly once again and kept reading.
"You're not even going to show me in the right direction?" He liked it when girls acted all mighty and powerful around him. It made him want to tear them down just to prove that he was right when thinking that deep down they were just as uninteresting as he thought them to be.
"Sure." The girl said without raising her head. Instead, she raised her hand and pointed to the door of the shop. Now he was starting to annoy her. She was being a smart aleck and he didn't like it one bit. For the first time he wracked his brains to remember her face… But he couldn't even recall the details of her face, he only remembered the fact that she wasn't pretty enough to get his attention. So he did what he supposed would get her attention. With a flick of his wand he summoned her book in his hands.
"What the … Give it back now!" She didn't sound pleading, she sounded angry. She got up and held her hand out to take her belonging. But now he could look into her face and he did remember where he had seen her.
"You're that Hufflepuff girl… What's your name… Abet… Abbott right ?" He was pleased with himself that he found out who she was. He remembered Draco and some others being particularly vicious with Hufflepuffs, but he had never paid enough attention to distinguish names from them. He still couldn't understand her vehemence to himself though. "It doesn't bestow your house to be so feisty, Abbott." He smirked at her and threw her the little book, but not before taking a peak at what she was reading.
"Where exactly doest it say, Zabini, that all Hufflepuffs are nice?" She asked with almost gritted teeth, her eyes sparkling with anger.
"In the exact same place where it says that all Slytherins are evil, Abbott. Have a nice day." He turned around and left quickly, leaving behind a very angry half-time librarian. He didn't come back in the shop anymore.
The girl almost ran thought the grounds in a hurry to get to her appointment. She had been for too much time in the greenhouses and she had no idea what the time was until she was her clock. The DA meeting was probably nearly over now, but she could hurry and at least be there for the last part. Her hair was a mess of tangled curls and her robes were stained with earth but she had no time to rearrange them. She just hoped that they hadn't left just yet. She needed to talk to Harry, Ron and Hermione about something, something very important…
She turned the corner and as she was going up she heard voices, like scattering footsteps. She stopped trying to hear better but thought not much of it. It must be someone running around in the corridors… She kept walking and she would have kept her fast pace unless someone hadn't grabbed her arm and dragged her into the shadows.
"You keep doing that and you're going to pop my shoulder out Zabini." She said. She didn't need to hear him to know that it was him dragging her. He had a particular way of behaving around her that nobody else had.
"Hush." This was the only thing he said.
"Oh, stop it, I'm not in the mood for games, I have to…" He covered her mouth with his large hand and repeated his hush to her. Once she looked him in the eyes, she saw something was not right. She quieted down and relaxed and he let her go. They began walking in the shadows of the second floor until they reached the unused bathroom and got in.
"What is it?" She asked looking at him for an explanation.
"That little society you are part of was found. Someone told, and Umbridge is after them right now." He spoke quietly, calculating her reaction, but she didn't react in any of the ways he had predicted. In her eyes he didn't see doubt or accusation towards him. Instead he saw fear and something that looked like a spark of determination. She headed for the door and he knew what she was going to do.
"What do you think you are doing? You cannot help them now!" He had stopped her by grabbing her arms and she just stood there like a rock. He looked at her in the eyes and tried to make her seen some sense. "Now, the only thing you can do is go down with them, and if they are really your friends as you say they are, they won't want that for you."
"But... But there must be something I can do…" she was preoccupied and scared and she felt guiltier then she had ever felt before. However, she did not know where it came from… She only knew that it felt bad and that she was helpless and powerless to do anything.
"There is nothing you can do about them. We will wait here for a while and then you're going to go to your common room and that's it." She knew that he was right, there was nothing she could do… she would only get herself into trouble and maybe even the others as well. This was logical, but it didn't feel right. Yet she nodded and they both sat there for another 10 minutes before sneaking to their Common Rooms.
"This is not fair Hannah… What's the point anyway!"
"The point is that I'm tired of having to tutor you on basic levels of Transfiguration and I want to have some fun!" The girl dragged the tall boy, or at least she tried to do so, but he wouldn't bulge from his ground.
"Go get some of your other friend to entertain you Abbott, I'm not in the mood!" He held his ground knowing that without him wanting to move the girl could take him nowhere. But she was very persistent and his hands her starting to itch from her constant tugging. He had to admit thought that being like this with her for a few minutes held much more freedom than an entire month with those like himself.
Maybe that was the reason why he had tolerated her friendship at first, because she was so unlike him, it made him curious. Now being with her was his favorite distraction.
"I don't want them to entertain me! It's not their fault my eyes are itching!" Therefore, she dragged his hands and tried to make him move by pulling him to her, but she barely moved him a few inches. He laughed at her attempts. Hannah was almost parallel to the ground as she pulled him to herself. In a brief moment her hand slipped and she fell right on her back. Her breath was knocked out of her for a second.
Blaise laughed and looked down at her. She was barely keeping her laughter as well but she was really trying to look angry.
"Now you really owe me the pleasure of your company Zabini." She said looking at him.
"No I don't! I didn't trip you, you fell by yourself." He retorted, giving her his hand to hold on to and getting her up. She took it, but kept looking at him angrily. He reached out and helped her get the dried leaves out of her golden hair. It was difficult, her hair wasn't very cooperative
"Oh, go to hell and back Zabini."
He laughed and she chuckled at the sound of his laugh as they headed to the lake, trying to leave behind them both the mess and the rules that had rein in the castle on their back. It was easier to be like this when nobody was around. He knew why better than she did. She had an idea, but he had to live with that idea most of his days. His friends were not all the same of course, that was a stupid thing to say. But those that mattered were not so keen on strange friendships like the one he seemed to share with Susan Bones.
He knew she would be out there in the halls. She always was, with the Mental Loony, Long-Bottom and the Weasel chick. She was insane to follow them, but he just couldn't hate her as much as he hated them for making her go with this. She was flexible to people's wishes when she found them to her understanding, he knew that well. It angered him that they used her trust in them and made her do things that would cost her dearly, if she was caught. He had seen the meaning of detention branded on other student's skin. In fact, he had found himself walking strangely with his eyes always down this year, so that he didn't have to see the limp on someone's foot or the bruises or the blood.
But hell, If they wanted a death with on their heads, fine! He couldn't care less at the moment! However, for the fact that they had convinced her to follow them, he hated them more than he had ever hated anyone in his life. And he hated her for making him care. He would have cared if it wasn't her in the middle… would he…?
Oh, course he wouldn't! He couldn't care!
He was not supposed to, he was not supposed to feel sandwiched between this fight. He was supposed to hold his side and be true to where he had belonged since first year. That was what he was supposed to do. He would have stood true to all this if he could be blind to everything else… But he wasn't blind, or deaf.
He walked slowly trying not to make noises. It was not after curfew but the school halls were deserted. As he was taking the turn to get to the moving stairwells, he heard some voices, like hard breathing and whispers. Something cautioned him to slow his steps.
He was a master at escaping at the perfect moment and not ever being seen, even though recently, his safety did not worry him much, even thought he would never admit such a thing not even to himself. However, no matter how much he denied it, it was for the sake of the health of his mind and sleep that he never wanted to get caught, or much worse, catch someone else wandering around, be it before or after curfew. He did not have the nerve to deal with that situation.
The sounds were getting more defined now that he was listening to them. There was undeniably someone talking there. He recognized one of the voices immediately and waited for them to turn the corner. The next thing he knew was that he was inches away from two figures that slid next to him trying to hide as well, their breathing hard. They must be escaping from something…
He reached out and touched the Hannah's sleeve. She jumped, her reaction instinctive. She had barely held back a yelp when Blaise touched her, but he saw her face calm and her panic lessen when she realized who it was. In the fraction of that very second a spell hit him with the force of a giant hammer and he flew to the wall behind him, his eyes rolling in the back of his head. He didn't hear Hannah's yelled whisper, trying and failing to stop her friend.
"What's the matter with you! You didn't have to Stun him like that!" Hannah was getting angry. The body of her friend on the floor was something she wasn't prepared to see. What angered her most was the fact that he really hadn't done anything, but he still got punished. Apparently the system this year worked both ways, nobody escaped it.
"I didn't really think about it… He is a Slytherin, Hannah …"
"So what! He is my friend!" She almost screamed this and Ginny was taken aback by her words. She couldn't comprehend how it was possible… Ginny didn't say anything.
"Go to your Common Room and stay there. I'll take him to the hospital wing." She sounded determined.
"No! I wont let you get punished for what was my fault! Just leave him there, someone will find him eventually… He isn't worth it anyway!"
"Don't you talk about him like that! You don't know him!" Hannah calmed herself. She was about to get into a fight and the corridors weren't the best place for it. She tried to make Ginny see her logic.
"Go, I'll take care of it. You saved me once, now is my turn. Besides, I haven't done anything yet, they'll go easy on me, while your file is much thicker I believe…" Hannah smiled tentatively at her friend. "I'll just say that I found him like this…" Ginny opened her mouth to disagree but Hannah had already lifted Blaze's body with a spell and silenced her friend with a stern and determined look. Even Ginny Weasly could not talk back to that look.
The light of the moon was dim and the Hospital wing cold. He was lying on one of the beds and let all sorts of thoughts run through his head. It was never pleasant when he did that. Too many things that he didn't want to think about came to his attention.
Like the fact that he wanted to be anywhere but here this year, yet there was nowhere else he could go. Or like the fact that he was lying a few feet away from the very person he had been trying to keep safe without even knowing what he was doing. She was now on the Hospital wing, and he didn't eve dare to think it was because of him. She was bruised and patched up, and hadn't moved since she was brought in unconscious. He had looked at her accidentally that time and hadn't since. Not even once. He wasn't fond of the way it hurt to watch her like that. It was a feeling he had never really had that deeply and he did not like it. But he didn't have an answer for the question that was consuming him at the moment: Why had he stayed in the hospital wing!?
The light voice made him turn his head so abruptly that something snapped. He had been caught off guard and was even more thrown off as he looked at her bruised face. Her entire left cheek was of a mauve color. The gash that was there when she was brought in had been healed, but it was still swollen and purple. He quickly turned his eyes away from her. First of because he didn't know what to say, secondly, he just couldn't look at her like that.
"May I ask what day is today?" she spoke again. He could pretend not to hear her of course, which was the first thing that came into his mind. He could just lay there, be his most Slytherin self, and ignore her.
"I'm sorry about what happened. It was unnecessary." He turned his head to her again, this time surprise in his face.
"Yes, it was." His tone was cold.
"Oh… ok then."
"What's that supposed to mean?" He asked abruptly. Deciphering her was not fun at this moment. She looked at him her eyes wide.
"Nothing, just what I said… You know I don't like to play games with words." It was true, she never liked sarcasm, thought she used it very often with him. And she always meant what she said and did, even the most stupid things. Even when she apologized when nothing was her fault. He guessed she had apologized for what the Weasel had done.
"But you like to play with your life, right?" Hannah, looked at the ceiling.
"That is not the point Blaise." She said quietly. She had avoided this conversation but it seemed like it was upon her now.
"What is the point Abbott, enlighten me! Do you really think that a bunch of kids running around in the corridors and eager to be used as knives sharpeners are going to change anything?! Is that what they tell you?" Hannah sat up on the bed and her head spun but not too much. She looked at him and felt the anger come forward in a rush that her body wasn't able to hold at the moment. Her hands were shaking and she fisted them in her lap.
"What they tell me?! Do you really think I'm being pulled into this, being used? Do you really think I'm that stupid?" He saw the way she was paling and she was slowly starting to take a grayish color he didn't like. He softened his tone as much as he could.
"I'm not saying that, but you have the tendency to be easily convinced by people Hannah and…"
She didn't let him finish his thought. "Don't you dare patronize me! I am very well capable of thinking with my own head and I might not be the bravest and smartest but when I see something wrong I try my hardest to fix it."
She knew what he was going to say as he got ready to speak so she didn't even let him begin the lie that was about to come from his lips. "Don't even think about telling me you don't care. I have seen the way you walk with your eyes on the ground, too afraid of what you might see if you look up. I've seen you guys do that a lot in your house…"
"Don't do that. Don't make this about houses."
"But that is exactly what this is about Blaise. That was why you are lying in that bed in the first place." Blaise looked at her and felt real anger towards her. She was strangely the only one that could bring him to these scales of emotions, like she fished for them in him with a crook. He got up and walked to her, grabbing her by the arm and getting her up with him, not caring that she looked as if she was about to faint right there.
"Cant you see that none of that matters now? You should see that, aren't you going to fight for it? Do you even know why you get yourself hurt, why you talk back to teachers in class? What are you fighting for if you let stupid colors get in your way?" he shook her several times, having lost his self control, not even truly processing his own words. He noticed her fear but his anger didn't let him care. He just knew that his thoughts were forming into words and they were coming out of his mouth before he had the time to stop them. Then he noticed her half smile and got confused.
"Oh, I know all that… and now you do too." What he said dawned on him now and a strange feeling a relief came to him along with a little fear. He looked down at her and the little smirk on her face.
"You manipulative little…."
"I dare you to finish that sentence Zabini!" She narrowed her eyes in challenge and he smiled at her. Really smiled and felt her arms come around his waist hugging him. He put her back in her bed, took a chair and sat next to her, resting his head on her stomach. There was something different in the way she held his face this time and they both felt it. A little something, just one step further from friendship but not away from its realm. It felt warm and really good, something few would dare to call peace before the storm. They never put a name to it though.
The sounds of the battle had been loud but and his ears were humming painfully now. He was looking for her. He had last seen her in the Great Hall, but he lost sight of her during one of the explosions. Where was she? He looked around himself and saw nothing but people running around also looking for their friends and family. He was covered in gray dust and it made his skin itch in the places where it had been bleeding. He walked to the entrance and looked on the grounds. He saw a flash of gold curls somewhere and then he saw a figure running to him before it jumped into his arms.
"I saw you… I saw you…" Her whispers were feverish and she was almost trying to strangle him in her grip but he didn't mind. He could not believe that in the midst of everything, the noise and the dirt and the moans of those that were hurt, he could bring himself to care that there was this someone in his arms and that she was real.
Everything had changed, it had been turned upside down and shaken around. Generalizations had lost their meaning, if they ever had one. He could feel in that very moment the meaning of the warmth in his chest. Not merely feel it in him, but really understand it and relish in it truly. He remembered the words that had first sparked their friendship and he smiled.
Slytherins weren't all bad, Gryffindors weren't always brave, Ravenclaws weren't always smart … and Hufflepuffs certainty weren't always nice…
Chapter 14: For the Greater Good
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by Violet Gryffindor
...The last Quidditch team to disband was the Holyhead Harpies, and since that time, there has been no Quidditch in all of Britain and Europe. It was a long string of ill-luck for the team that had begun with Keeper Riannon Quirke’s sudden infection by dragon pox, quickly followed by the near-fatal accident of promising reserve Keeper Minerva McGonagall. To this day, McGonagall has not been seen astride a broom...
The Prophet was becoming desperate if they were digging up old news like that. They were trying too hard to discuss anything but the war, a rather difficult thing to ignore.
She tossed the paper on the tiny table. It hit the remnants of her evening tea, spilling the now-tepid liquid across the pages, but she didn’t care anymore. Without the team to train, without anything to do at all, her own desperation had led her to this Muggle hospital, a place where there was always more work, always another mangled body to save, always another dead body going out the back door.
If this was war, real brutal war, not the stuff of wizards and magic, then she wanted it to end.
The means to end it was, at that moment, entering the hospital door in a demure (for him) lavender suit, his auburn beard cropped unusually short. In his hand was the hospital’s address – a stranger, then – but his demeanor was neither abashed nor nervous. He requested information about a certain young nurse – an old student of his, he claimed – gave a warm smile to the passing matron, then headed for the stairs.
“Wish I could have attended that school,” an orderly whispered, earning a disapproving glare from the matron.
The stranger entered the darkened upper ward, following the sound of a sink running at the far end. The patients stirred at the sound of his boots echoing upon the spotless floor. He could not see the blood that stained each patient’s bandages. That stained his hands.
There was a flickering of light at the end of the ward, obscured by a pale curtain. At a particularly plaintive groan, the stranger halted to look down at the patient. Even in the dim light, the absence of one leg was visible. The stranger turned away, guilt making the blood rush to his face.
For the greater good. This is what had resulted from all that goodness.
“Who’s there?” She had pushed aside the curtain, eyes squinting into the shadows. The candle behind her flickered impatiently.
He stepped forward. “Hello, Minerva.”
“Oh!” The single syllable hung in the air. Eyes adjusting to the light beyond her curtain, she gazed up and down the ward, then looked back at the stranger. “Come in here. They can’t be disturbed.”
She pulled the curtain back once he stepped into her tiny space consisting of a sink, stool, and tea table. A portion of the latest Daily Prophet, rumpled and stained, covered this last piece of furniture. She offered him the stool, but he, like herself, remained standing.
“How have you been, Professor?” There were lines around her eyes now, so different from the face he remembered.
He felt uncertain before her now, his mission crumbling to ash in his mouth.
“I am leaving for the Continent in the morning.”
She nodded, biting her lip, then picked up the newspaper, folding it to show him an article hidden on the fifth page. The tea stain obscured the first few lines.
...been reports that a British contingent of wizards will be soon joining those on the Continent to meet the forces of Grindelwald. While a possible treaty could be the result of this meeting, it is more likely, the Prophet’s special informant states, that this contingent includes some of the most powerful wizards and duellists Britain still has to offer. Heading this special force is said to be Hogwarts Professor Albus Dumbledore...
“It is surprising how quickly they become aware of current events.” He maintained an even tone while his mind whirled through who the identity of this so-called special informant. If this news had already reached the Continent–
“So you’ve finally decided to go, Professor.” She did not state it as a question.
Dumbledore passed the paper back to her, frowning. “Indeed. I have waited too long already. These men–”
She placed a hand on his arm. He saw the blood stain on her otherwise pristine cuff. Blood. Blood everywhere. On his hands for so long. All his fault. Ariana.
“You should not blame yourself, Professor.” She paused, brow furrowing as she tired to decipher his apparent distress. “Albus. You will stop this. All of it.”
He looked back into the silent ward. “I came to see if you would accompany me, Minerva. Join me in battle.”
She stepped away, still looking perplexed, failing to read his countenance. Just out of the candle light, she kept her own face, and all the emotions upon it, hidden from his view. She said nothing, only waited.
His explanation soon came. “The Prophet is not incorrect in their information. A number of others, those I trust most dearly, will accompany me to Nurmengard. You possess all the necessary skills and the courage–”
But she was shaking her head. “And what about them?” She gestured in the direction of her patients. “I must save them, Albus.” It was comforting to say his name, somehow. “Most of them will die if I leave.”
It was impossible to mistake the brightness in his eyes for anything but tears. “I knew that would be your answer as soon as I entered this ward.” His voice was quiet, more quiet than she’d ever heard from him. “Perhaps I knew even before. A witch at a Muggle hospital cannot stand by idly at the deaths of heroes.”
He took from his pocket an envelope, neither slim nor fat, of creamy paper, sealed in scarlet wax. She stared at it, then at him before taking it.
“What is it?”
A little laugh emerged from his lips. “A confession.”
She was going to ask something more, but he raised a hand. “I must go.”
Curiosity still ruled her face, as though all her faculties sought to discover whatever he was not telling hers. The letter. Confession. Secrets, long repressed, only to be exposed on the brink of... the verge of...
“What am I to do with this, Albus?” The accusation was in her voice. How could he think himself a failure? Him, perhaps the greatest wizard alive.
He smiled, the last reaction she expected.
“What you wish, Minerva. Read it. Burn it. My secrets are now yours. Farewell.”
She stared after him as he strode down the ward, then one of her patients began coughing again, and she had to look away. She had her own battle to fight.
They could see Nurmengard beyond the line of trees, its imposing stone walls sprouting from the land itself. Like Hogwarts, no one could Apparate either into or out of its walls. Indeed, any magic performed within a certain radius would be detected by the guards and swiftly dealt with. They could not take such a risk. There were already too few of them to spare.
What was taking place within the prison was unknown to all, even Dumbledore. He watched the place through the trees, waiting for any sign of movement, even of life. He did not relate his plans, if there were any to begin with. Grindelwald would know they were somewhere in the vicinity, that a party – an army of sorts – had arrived from Britain.
“And here we sit all the bloody time, more like Boy Scouts than wizards,” Moody grumbled. He was among the youngest of those assembled, but no one could deny his abilities, however marked by the early stages of paranoia.
“Have patience, son.” Doge was stoking the fire.
The others around the fire, a Prewett and a Bones, nodded in agreement, their mouths too full to speak. Moody impatiently threw aside the remains of his meal.
“What are we waiting for, anyway? Is Grindelwald going to waltz out and hand himself over or something?” He stalked off to do a round of the encampment.
Prewett rolled his eyes. “Shouldn’t have brought such a young’un along,” he muttered under his breath, but Doge heard him.
“That so-called young’un is one of the best warlocks Hogwarts has seen in decades.”
“Since Dumbledore, you mean?” Bones looked up from his meal.
Doge shrugged. “Possibly.”
All their eyes drifted to the place where Albus Dumbledore sat, keeping watch on the prison. He had been on edge the whole time they’d been in Germany, though Doge could testify that his friend’s unease had begun much sooner. He had never met Grindelwald himself, having been away that fateful summer, away on the very same trip that Albus had been unable to take. How different things would be now if Albus had accompanied him, if things had gone as they’d planned. Would things have come to this?
Ignoring the continued quips of the others, Doge wondered just what ‘this’ was. Albus had never been the same, but who could expect him to be? His sister dead. His family ripped apart at the seams. All his ambitions put to rest.
A rustle in the surrounding woods. Someone was coming.
The company rose. Moody ran into view, whipping out his wand in glee.
But the reply did not come from the woods.
“Someone I’ve been expecting.” Dumbledore stepped past the others. “They will not attack, Lycoris, I can assure you.”
A nervous laugh emerged from a shrub. “That seems unlikely, but all the same.”
Dumbledore signalled for Moody and the others to stand down. When the shrub finally transformed into a tall, emaciated wizard, only Septimus Weasley stepped forward to greet the new arrival.
The two wizards shook hands, Weasley staring into the other’s face with curiosity. Moody scowled from the sidelines, shoving his wand back in his robes – not in the back pocket, mind you.
“Never thought I’d see a Black in this war.”
Another nervous laugh answered him, a high-pitched rattle in the darkness.
“Officially, I’m not here. I mean to keep my place on the tapestry.”
Weasley managed a sneer. It looked ridiculous between his rather large ears.
“That blasted tapestry.”
Muted snickers resounded through the campsite, but Weasley was not smiling.
Doge had moved closer to Dumbledore, plucking at his robes and trying to avoid the penetrating eyes of his friend.
“How many more of them will come, Albus? Or should I ask how many you invited?”
Dumbledore’s laugh was deep, but Doge could see the slight tremor in his hands. Had Albus been of the same stock as Lycoris Black, then his own laugh would have held the same high-pitched note of fear. To have put off his journey to his place for so long, then to arrive and experience all the... the what?
Just what was Albus Dumbledore afraid of in that prison?
Or was it who?
“They should all be here.” Dumbledore kept his voice low, attempting a lightness that was impossible.
“For what? To see you win?” Doge held his breath, desperately wishing that the lightness would hold, that Dumbledore would remain the strong, charismatic presence he had always been.
No. Not always. Only one event marred the life of this wizard, and Grindelwald was involved somehow. He had to be.
“In case I do not.”
More arrived throughout the night and following morning. It seemed as though Dumbledore had contacted every single person he knew for this task. The small party that had originally come from Britain had more than tripled within twenty-four hours, brightening the mood of some, and causing others to sit on the edge of camp, ever distrustful.
It was not the presence of these individuals that gave rise to such a negative reaction, but rather their identities were cause for suspicion and uncertainty. These witches and wizards were from all cultures, all parts of magical society, high or low, radical or conservative. Moody’s eye was drawn by a trio of very lovely (but very dangerous) Spanish witches, well known for their duelling skills, but nothing came of it. He obstinately remained in position on the edge of the camp, waiting. Watching. Just in case.
Doge did not want to approach Dumbledore again.
He feared for his friend and was afraid of him. So changed, so strange now. All those years, couped up in Hogwarts, hiding from this moment, the moment that was to come. Doge wished he had met Grindelwald, that he had seen for himself what it was about this wizard that had utterly changed Dumbledore.
Was it the wizard, or something else?
He observed Dumbledore’s movements, how he greeted each newcomer individually with reverence and kindness alike. The red hair, still untouched by grey, caught the light from the fires, making him the brightest, the central figure on this wooded stage.
But was it comedy or tragedy?
Moody was hissing a warning. Quiet voices drifted in from the woods. Foreign accents, deep throated, filled to the brim with consonants. The first stumbled into the camp, followed by three more, all dressed in drab fur coats, too warm for the season.
“Dumbledore,” the first said, his voice carrying easily through the crowd.
It took a moment for the reply to surface.
“Volkov.” Dumbledore appeared, reaching out his hand to the other wizard.
Of all the people to arrive, it was the presence of the Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute that surprised the group into action. Spells and curses were muttered under many breaths. Some practised hand-to-hand combat, sharing their skills with those less knowledgeable in that area. Others remained silent, watchful, always waiting for the signal to commence battle.
It was to come soon. The complete party – army, if you will – was finally assembled. Dumbledore watched them, more confident of their abilities than his own. He knew his weakness too well.
The prison was there, beckoning.
So much blood between them. Blood brothers. The blood of Ariana. The blood of thousands, Muggles and wizards alike.
The world is too much with us, Gellert. If one of us dies, the other will soon follow.
The past can never be erased. Dumbledore only wanted to change the future.
They met in mid-field, their separate armies conflating around them, spells flashing past. Red lights. Green. Blue. Green again. Bodies falling. Voices screaming in pain or fury, often both. There was no room for the individual here. Only the two of them could stand apart, each too brilliant to blend into the growing night.
Dumbledore could not speak at first. Silenced like the awe-struck boy right out of Hogwarts, yearning for adventure. Here was the one who had offered that, and so much more.
But then he had taken it away. Taken it all away.
This was not about revenge. Each was equally guilty, but only one knew that guilt and held it close.
He would never forget.
One curse, then another. Then block, parry, deflect. Pretend not to care.
A scream split through the air nearby. Moody collapsed, clutching his face, blood trickling down his cheek. One of the Spanish witches raced forward, her wand flicking a fatal curse at his opponent. Doge was battling three at once, quickly beginning to tire. Weasley and Black stood back to back, temporary allies. So many of them. All willing to die.
“They will die for you, Albus.” Grindelwald’s voice still held that note, that perfect shining note, but now it mocked him. No enticement. No desire for admiration.
They were enemies now.
Perhaps they always had been.
Dumbledore parried another curse. None so far had been dangerous. Grindelwald was playing with him, the cat with a mouse between his paws.
“We could have had the world, you and I.”
He always had loved the sound of his own voice. All those faults, once endearing, even captivating, could now only disgust.
For the first time, Dumbledore spoke.
“It would have become just you too quickly, Gellert.”
His spell missed, exploding the ground beside Grindelwald. Dirt splattered onto Grindelwald’s face and he fell back, struggling to regain his balance, but the smile could not be wiped from his face.
This was Dumbledore’s chance. A quick spell, a jinx, even a curse, and he’d be gone, stopped. This battle would end, and Dumbledore would have won.
Yet he hesitated.
The laugh echoed through his head, drowning out all the noise of battle, the beating of his heart, the sound of thunder on the horizon.
“You can’t even kill me. Weak. You were always weak.”
The curse singed Dumbledore’s robes, nothing more.
“And you, my friend, always had the worst aim.”
Something in Dumbledore’s voice made Grindelwald go pale. He glanced to each side, backing away from Dumbledore, fearful, terrified of what this wizard, always the more powerful, always the wiser, would do. Death, perhaps not, but there were worse things than death.
His own army was failing. Yes, the other side had casualties, heavy ones, but his army lacked the strength, the ferocity of the other.
Dumbledore watched him, knowing what he would be thinking, knowing that soon the trapped rat would attack, more desperate, seeking escape.
There were beads of perspiration on Grindelwald’s forehead, a slight tremor in his hands. Dumbledore saw these things and knew. It was easier to raise his wand now, to ready himself for that final spell... no, curse. Only a curse would stop him.
Not his voice. He ducked aside. The green light flickered past, perhaps hitting another. He didn’t dare look.
Grindelwald held his position, his smile now bitter.
The first curse that came to mind emerged from Dumbledore’s wand. Not the killing curse, but enough to make Grindelwald feel the pain. His pain. Ariana’s pain. Never before had he hated so much, desired to induce suffering on another creature.
There was nothing to control him now.
Death would be too kind a punishment for Gellert Grindelwald.
The headline was sprawled across all the newspapers, Muggle and wizard alike.
She stared at the word. At last, it had come, brining an end to the most horrible war of all, so bloody and vicious. Yet... and yet all of it seemed so purposeless. No nation had moved ahead, rather all of them had fallen back again to lick their wounds and rebuild. All that destruction, all those lives lost. And for what?
Regret had haunted her since that day Dumbledore had come. She should have gone with him, should have been there when all of this had happened. There might have someone she could have helped, even saved.
Her eyes followed the lines of newsprint.
...Grindelwald has been captured and is currently incarcerated within Numengard awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. Many of his top generals were also captured and will face the same fate. Further details of the trials will come as soon as they are reported to the Prophet.
Albus Dumbledore was unavailable for comment, as were any eye-witnesses to his glorious victory over Grindelwald. Even the Ministry remains silent on the story that everyone in the wizarding world clamours to hear. We do, however, have knowledge of various casualties among our side. Frederick Prewett, an Unspeakable, and Eliot Wimple of the Department of International Magical Cooperation are reported to have been killed in battle...
Unsurprisingly vague. Dumbledore was fairly skilled at evading attention of this kind, though an Order of Merlin was probably in store for him.
Another short paragraph near the end caught her attention.
...One of the casualties, Auror trainee Alastor Moody, underwent experimental surgery to replace the eye he lost in battle. It has been replaced with a magical eye that should, according to inventor Irene Ivanskova, allow for improved vision and the ability to detect the use of Dark magic...
Poor Moody, but this eye, if it worked, would suit him. All his strange habits....
She thought of the letter again. Again, because she had thought of it too much, its presence unwanted, a reminder of his weakness. Dumbledore, he was supposed to be strong and wise and good, yet that letter – a confession, he had called it – could rip away his perfect mask. Did she want to see what lay beneath?
Curiosity is a fatal thing, and it ate away at her for days. The newspaper was long ago tossed in the rubbish bin, news was now more steadily arriving from the Continent, and it was said that Dumbledore himself would soon be returning to London. She could just give him back the letter then, without knowing, without tainting the vision of him she had created since her first day of Hogwarts.
In all the war, all the loss of innocence, she wanted to hold on to one last thing.
She held the letter, still sealed, over the fire.
But her fingers would not relinquish it to the flames.
They ripped at the seal and tore open the letter, shaking all the while. She had to know, had to see what he would have placed in her hands, what he must have wanted her to know.
“My secrets are now yours.”
The words on the page were plain, in his elegant script, but these were not the usual words of the twinkling-eyed professor she had known. She followed the lines of script, one by one, taking in the story of a talented young wizard who could have had the world at his fingertips, impossibly selfish, ambitious, all the things he was not supposed to be.
That poor, poor girl. An accident had ruined too many lives.
And she cried. For him. For Ariana. For all that had been lost.
...I know that when I see him this final time, I will at last be fighting for the one thing he could never understand. Those words he carved over the doors of Numengard carry different meaning now. They are the words that haunt my days, reminding me of my greatest mistake.
For the greater good.
Chapter 15: The Morning Sun
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Blaise Zabini stretched out his arm as he reached for the bedside table. His hand felt the surface and after a few seconds he found the clock. A quarter to four. He was on time. He had been in this routine for the past four years and now he didn't even need an alarm to wake up on time anymore. Who was happy about it were his room mates, who could stay in bed even after he was long gone. To them he was just a reporter, a person of little importance. But at this hour he had more important things to worry about than their opinion. He had an important report to make. And this was what kept him going over these past years. Blaise yawned and decided to get up. When he sat up his bed creaked, reminding him of the place where he was living; a place he loathed.
He grew up in a house that transpired wealth. His mother made sure he had the best clothes, the best toys, and the most expensive food. He had spent his vacations in the most exotic of places, most of which he had been to before the age of fifteen. And it was not only about money. She had loved him every single day of her life. His mother was an angel, despite what everyone said about her.
She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring and she was rich. She was everything most woman wanted to be. He could see why they wanted to take her down, but what they did was cruel: they accused her of murdering her seven husbands and keeping their fortunes. She was sent to Azkaban and all their money was taken away. Images of the day he visited her still haunted his dreams.
Blaise paced around the room. He had arrived there two hours ago, had submitted to searches and interrogations by the guards and after all of that, he still had to hand them his wand. Not to mention the looks of disdain, superiority or, even worse, pity he had received from them. His patience was almost gone when he saw her entering the room. He recognized her because of her smile: her genuine smile that she reserved only for him, her most precious jewel.
He couldn't wait any longer; Blaise ran to his mother and hugged her. Then he helped her sit down in the chair. Even this close he could barely recognise her. She was paler, thiner and her eyes no longer shined like they used to.
"How are you, son?" she asked with worry.
"Living," he shrugged, "But you are the one I'm worried about." He took her hands between his. "How are they treating you?"
"Like a prisioner," she tried to joke, a ghost of a smile showing on her face, "And even if they didn't, it would still be the same..." she took a deep breath and he could see the desperation in her eyes, "The Dementors may be gone, but we can still feel their presence everywhere," Frightened, she continued with a low voice. "There is no way anyone can be happy in here, Blaise. We can smell death everywhere."
"Be strong, mom," he said, tears filling his eyes. "I'll take you out of here soon enough, I promise." He hadn't even finished saying this when the guard opened the door and announced that their time was over.
The guard then aproached his mother and started walking her back to her cell. As they crossed the door, she turned back to Blaise and said, "It was good seeing you one last time, son. I'll always love you." And with that she was gone.
His mother died a few days after his visit; she didn't survive even a week in prison, leaving Blaise alone with nothing but his job and the feeling that he should have done something to save her. He was just thankful that she died without knowing that he had to leave the luxurious house he grew up in, or that he had had to sell his fancy clothes in order to have something to eat. He never asked anyone for help, wouldn't lower himself. He had his pride and he would not let go of his lifestyle so easily. Step by step he was taken to the life he had now. If anyone had said that after a few years he would be living in a poor Muggle neighborhood, he would say they were insane, and yet here he was.
Blaise got out of the shower and put on his best clothes. He left the flat and walked into the rat infested hallway of the building he lived. Each crack of the woody floor, each flake of the paint on the wall, each water drop that hit him from the ceiling, every drunk neighbor he had to jump over in the corridor, made him want to burn this building down. He ran out of the front door and walked down the dirty alley and into the main street. He could Apparate to the place he was going, but he liked to walk there because it always gave him time to think and to reassure himself that he was doing the right thing. Just like his mother, his friends had been persecuted for believing what they believed and doing what they thought best. Blaise couldn't escape the irony of how he was being discriminated because of the very same discrimination he was accused of having.
After walking a few blocks he entered another dirty building and strode into a big room where some drunk 'dirty looking people', like he called them, were still dancing. He made his way along the wall of the room, which was a bit darker then the rest. When he was half-way along the wall, a man collided with him as he went in the opposite direction. Without even thinking twice, Blaise caught the man by the collar of his shirt and pressed him against the wall.
"Do that move again," he roared, "and you will wish you were never born."
"I-I'm sorry, sir. It w-was just an accident," stuttered the man.
"Then give back the wallet that 'accidentally' went from my pocket to yours." The man gave back the wallet with trembling hands and Blaise continued, "I'll remember your face, so just keep away from me, scum!"
Blaise shoved the man's body against the wall, leaving him to fall to the floor as he continued to the back of the room. If he had doubts before, they were now all gone. They were not discriminating. They were not prejudiced. If they were anything, he would say that they were organized: wizards to one side, Muggles to the other. He had been living among Muggles for years and not once they had given him a good reason to like them. Not once had they given him a reason to trust them.
He crossed over to the far door and climbed three sets of stairs. This building had been their head-quarters for the last year. It was the longest time they had ever stayed in one place. He walked slowly toward the door at the end of the hall holding his wand with a firm grip, searching for any sign of a fight or of magic. He pressed his ears against the door, but heard nothing. The imperturbable charm had not been removed at least. He reached for the knob and turned, but the door didn't move. He got his key out and used it, hearing as the locking mechanism clicked. Used to precaution, he opened the door slowly, entering the poorly lit room. As he entered, he was startled to hear voices in the room.
He closed the door silently and went step by step toward the voices. He tried to distinguish what the voices were saying but they were not louder then whispers. All he could say was that there was more than one person in the room. He took a deep breath and opened the door with force, pointing his wand to the people inside.
"It's just us," said a man Blaise recognised as Adrian, who raised his hands up defensively. Blaise took a look at the other person and saw that it was his other friend, Marietta. Blaise lowered his wand and said, "Bloody hell, I was not expecting anyone here. When did you get back?"
"Sorry I didn't reach you before," started Adrian summoning more tea from the kitchen, "But I just got back a few hours ago, and I knew you would be here soon enough."
"So, now that Blaise is here may I assume I will finally learn why you called me so early in the morning?" said Marietta, who tried unsuccessfully to hide a yawn.
"I had my reasons," Adrian said smiling as Blaise conjured a chair for himself. "I really wanted you both to hear firsthand the news."
"So it must be important," Blaise predicted.
It was not always that the three of them got together, and they rarely had a proper meeting apart from the first year when they decided to take hold of the situation and do something. The three of them had suffered in the past and could not tolerate the way things were being handled. After deciding to do something they had decided to separate. Adrian and Marietta went around and gathered supporters. Blaise was responsible for keeping everybody informed of what was being done. Even though they never lost contact, they didn't usually meet in person.
"And it is. If it really works out, we will be taking a great step in turning our utopia into reality," stated Adrian, catching the attention of his friends. "Do you guys know who Igor Karkaroff is?"
"He used to be Durmstrang's Headmaster, didn't he?" answered Marietta.
"Exactly. And a friend of my father." Adrian took another sip from his tea. "After pulling a few strings I managed to contact him."
"I thought he was dead!" Blaise was surprised. Many of the people he interviewed claimed that they had seen Karkaroff's lifeless body. Facts fit, so the Minister had considered him dead, even if the body was never actually found.
"Well, now we know that he is not. He is safe and sound in Morocco."
"And how can he be important to us?" asked Blaise impatiently.
"I talked to him about what we're doing. And now he can be considered our supporter. More than that actually. He decided to build a school there," answered Adrian with a smile. "A school within the right standards. I'll show you what he has planned," he stated, as he cleared the table in front of them from the dirty dishes and napkins. Then he placed some papers down on the now cleared table. "That's the thing you could help with, Marietta, finding teachers."
As they went through the contents, Blaise's heart grew with hope and he could see that the same happened with both his friends. The first steps were being taken. Like Adrian had said, the last few years they had been working on an Utopic world. This school would be the start point of bringing their Utopia to the real world; the beginning of the society they were fighting for, the start of a world where they would be able to live in peace, away from all this mudblood filth that destroyed their lives, that destroyed his family.
Yes, it was a mudblood who sentenced his mother. Yes, it was a mudblood who had been in charge of her in Azkaban and who had let her die. Yes, it was a mudblood and her family that were living in his house. Yes, it was the 'mudblood queen', Hermione Granger, who marked Marietta's face back in their fifth year in a way that was seen even today. Yes, it was a muggle whom Adrian's former wife ran away with. And the list goes on. There were mudbloods everywhere, ruining every single thing he had in his life, and the same happened in so many other pure-blood families.
That's why they were here, to gather all pure-bloods who wanted to fight for something that matters: a happy life away from this sort of scum that was destroying the wizardry world. And they were succeeding at it. They already had over seventy wizards and witches openly supporting their cause and the number raised everyday. Ten of them were even helping them spread the word. This is what kept them going on even after the Ministry closed their first headquarter. And the second. And the third. But who is counting? They would keep spreading their word, even if they had to stay underground.
Blaise took a deep breath, gathered the papers he had taken notes on and went to the back room of the apartment. With his wand he turned on the equipment as he re-read the text he had prepared for today. His friends joined him soon after: this would be a special edition and all of them wanted to give their listeners the good news. Blaise looked at the clock and cleared his throat. Through the window, he could see the first rays of the sun. He smiled as he started the broadcast on the wireless network:
"Good morning, witches and wizards. Welcome to the newest edition of the 'Morning Sun', once again bringing hope of a brighter future for the pure-bloods all over Britain."
Chapter 16: Out of the Ashes of Despair, a Phoenix Will Rise
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Alexander Summerby pushed his way out of the small crowd that had formed around the announcement posted on the wall, a scowl of disgust on his face. He had seen enough of it. All around him he heard a murmur of discontent ripple throughout the students of Hogwarts. They had seen the new decree just as he had.
As Alexander finally cleared the crowd and made it to the small hall that adjoined the main one, he looked up in time to see an approaching group of Slytherins. Summerby silently pressed himself against the cool, hard wall and waited until they passed, his eyes focused on the stone floor beneath him. He could feel the heat of their glares as they walked by. Alexander knew better than to annoy any member of the Inquisitorial Squad and it didn't take much to annoy them.
Inside an anger simmered, a feeling that he was not used to having. He was a Hufflepuff, and it went against his better nature to feel such dark emotions, but he also felt that he shouldn't have to hide in fear, shouldn't have to be silent. Hogwarts had become an iron cage built in the bars of these new rules and new regulations.
And all around the cage swirled stories and rumors; stories about what had really happened to Cedric the night he died, stories about the famous (or to some infamous) Harry Potter and rumors that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had come back. In this time of conflicting truths and conflicting emotions, Alexander found it hard to know what to believe. Add on the grief of losing someone of his own house, a teammate and a friend, in a way that had never fully been explained, and it was no wonder that he felt so much anger and confusion. What is it he should believe? Should he believe Harry that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was really back? Or should he believe the Ministry and most of the wizarding authority who said he wasn't? If He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had not come back, then did that mean that Harry had something to do with the death of Cedric?
As Alexander thought about those perplexing questions, he noticed that the Inquisitorial Squad had passed. Still steeped in a myriad of thoughts that paraded in his mind, he wanted more than anything to be in the comfort of his Common Room, though he bore bad news. For someone had to tell his housemates of the new rule.
The rest of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team had to know that they were, as of now, disbanded by the new regime.
"The Hogwarts Champion is Cedric Diggory!" announced Albus Dumbledore.
All of Hufflepuff jumped to their feet in fanatic praise, their screams of joy and elation reaching up to the enchanted ceiling above. Never before had they ever expected that a member of their house would be chosen as the Hogwarts Champion, but now that it had happened, they had a hope they had never dared to dream for in a long time: eternal glory for a house that had very little to begin with.
The air crackled with electric excitement and the noise in the Great Hall swelled and crashed all around the new Champion. All eyes turned towards Cedric in pride. Alexander, as well as the rest of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, cheered their captain on, hugging him or patting him on the back. The Hufflepuff captain and Seeker was just as surprised as the rest of Hogwarts when his name had come out of the blue fire. He had never expected to be chosen as Champion.
Cedric rose up out of his seat, a faint blush tingeing his cheeks, and strode down the aisle towards the front. As he walked up to the podium every beam of light seemed to land on him, every eye had lit up in hope. Cedric Diggory looked as if he belonged to a different world, a world of legends.
When he reached the podium, he turned around and look at his house one last time. Alexander saw happiness in his friend's face, but he also saw a flicker of fear. Looking back, Summerby wondered if that had been some dark premonition of what would come. He wondered if Cedric had known how very short his time really was.
The Hufflepuff Common Room was silent, despite the large amount of people that sat in there. It had been silent for a long time, thick with despair and grief. Every yellow and black banner that bedecked the walls seemed lackluster and drab. Every plush armchair seemed to sag a little and the fire in the hearth lacked any spirit. As Alexander Summerby walked in, his eye involuntarily looked up at the wall closest to the door, as he had seen every Hufflepuff do. Along the wall ran a shelf where only one object stood: a golden egg, which glinted in the firelight. Not so much as one speck of dust was ever allowed to grace its surface. Above the egg was one uniform: a tri-wizard uniform of champion whom no longer lived.
That can't be the only way we remember Cedric. He wouldn't have wanted his house to remember him like this, Alexander thought, but just as he thought it, he felt a lump lodge in his throat. For he remembered the day that Cedric's uniform and his golden egg had been brought back by his desolate father, the moment that Hufflepuff had regained a part of their champion again. Tears edged his eyes and burned and he quickly turned away.
As he did, Alexander spotted the rest of the Hufflepuff Quiddtich team huddled in the far corner next to the fireplace, and he rapidly made his way over to them. He could see by the looks on their faces that they had seen Umbridge's new decree just as he had. They knew that, as of now, the Hufflepuff Quidditch team had been disbanded, but what he also saw were looks of defeat and loss.
Alexander stopped next to the chair of one of the Chasers, Marcus Bryce. Marcus glanced up despondently and then quickly turned away. In fact, no one wanted to meet Alexander's eye.
"Have you heard the news about the new rule that Umbridge just posted?" Alexander asked.
No one spoke up at first. He could see they would rather let the subject die right then. None of them had any heart to think of a team that no longer existed, a team without their captain and Seeker, Cedric Diggory. To them, the breakup of the team, Cedric's team, was like losing him all over again. Their brittle hope had shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
It was Portia Dowel, one of the other Chasers, who spoke first. With a high and shaky voice, she answered as steadily as she could.
"Yes, we saw the announcement. Maybe…" Portia hesitated, unsure whether she wanted to say what was next or not. "Maybe it's for the best, Alexander. Maybe we should let it go."
He could see in their eyes that they were seriously considering letting the team stay disbanded in remembrance of Cedric, but Alexander Summerby knew that that was the exact opposite of what Cedric Diggory, the boy-who-hadn't-lived, would have wanted. Summerby couldn't let this happen.
That one word echoed throughout the still Common Room, shattering the grey gloom that hung over it. People looked up from the nooks they were in and all eyes landed on the Hufflepuff Seeker who had spoke it. The Hufflepuff Quidditch team sat in utter shock. No one had lifted their voice higher than a whisper for a long time.
"We will not let this team be broken by some stupid rule!" Alexander continued.
"Alex, in order to ask permission to reform the team, we need a captain to bring our request to Umbridge. Cedric was our captain and he didn't name another before he died," Marcus stated, his words lacking any sort of life. "We're down a few players as well, with our former Beaters and Keeper graduating. Our chances of winning anything is slim. I don't think our House could handle another disappointment or another reminder of what we've lost. Do you?"
Summerby could hear the defeat in Marcus' words, could see it in his other team mates' eyes.
And that was the problem that Summerby saw. His house couldn't stay in this grey area of disillusionment and sorrow any longer. They had to pick themselves up. They had to push forward or else the death of Cedric Diggory would always hang over them.
"We do have a captain. Me and I am not going to let this team fall apart. I'm going to re-form our team. You can sit here and do nothing or you can join me. I can tell you right now that Cedric would have wanted you to join. He wouldn't have wanted a team he helped build fall to pieces!"
Shock percolated throughout the room. Not in a long time had such bold words been spoken. Alexander felt a rampant fear flood through him and he wondered at his own temerity. Did he have what it took to be a good captain? Though his inner being was in complete turmoil over his bold decision, his outward façade was completely still and stern. He couldn't show his sorrow or his fear. What his house needed now was strength. What they needed was hope.
The rest of the Quidditch team looked at him for a moment, unsure how to proceed. He could see that Portia was on the verge of saying yes because he saw a spark of hope light up in her wide blue eyes. Bryce still looked as if he was still uncertain about this plan and the third team member, Augustus Cadwallader, though usually in a gregarious mood, was glum and silent.
The stillness held as the other Quidditch players deliberated. Alexander knew they didn't really have faith of their team accomplishing anything, but defeat and he knew that the team's spirit was crushed. He hoped that the spark he had seen in Portia's eyes would spread. He hoped that he had lit a tiny flame inside them. Though he felt just as desolate as they did, just as gloomy, his knowledge that Cedric wouldn't have wanted this overpowered his negative thinking.
After awhile, the rest of team begrudgingly agreed to allow him to petition Umbridge and re-form the team. Summerby nodded, turned and started to walk out of the Common Room. He had a lot to do and so little time to do it in.
As Summerby left the Common Room to speak with Professor Umbridge, his insides turned to jelly. Did he have the strength that Cedric had to lead this team? Did he have the courage? Alexander didn't fully know. All he knew was that it took a thousand tiny steps to make a leap.
The sun slowly fell into dusk and it washed the empty Quidditch stadium in its vibrant beauty. The shadows on the field grew long and the autumn breeze that raked across the stadium was tinged with a touch of the winter to come. Cedric Diggory stood in the center of the field and looked up at the empty stands. He was silent and still, his broom leaning on his side and his uniform emblazoned in the dying light of the day.
Alexander dawdled on the field, nervous about approaching the captain. He had stayed behind after the others had left and had wanted to talk strategy, but now he felt inadequate. After all he was only a third year and an alternate. Though he had several ideas and strategies he had come up with, he suddenly felt they were child's play. In fact, convinced of how useless his suggestions would be to Cedric, Alexander turned and started to walk away.
"Alexander!" Cedric called out.
Summerby stopped in his tracks. He had had no idea that his captain had known his first name at all. He was used to people calling him by his last name and he sometimes wondered if his team mates even knew his first name. Alexander turned and faced his captain, who came striding over to him.
The last of the golden-mauve light cascaded down Cedric's face as he approached, hiding his expressions from Summerby in the shifting shadows of evening. Alexander was nervous. He had no idea how he was going to broach such a topic as Quidditch strategy with someone who was so far better at it than he was. But when Cedric came to his side, he wasn't mad or irritated. He was calm and genuinely happy to see the third year.
"Alexander, did you want to talk to me about something?" Cedric asked openly.
Summerby shifted nervously, the toe of his shoes drawing a circle in the leaf strewn ground.
"I have… I have some ideas that we may be able to use…um…" Alexander stopped, his nerves getting the better of him.
"It's okay, Alex. What are your plans? I'm always open to any suggestion any member of my team has!"
Alexander's heart rose in joy. Despite being the youngest person on the team and an alternate, his captain considered him just as apart of the team as any of the other players. He treated him as an equal. This notion of equality made it easy for Alexander to talk to Cedric.
"Well, I have a few new plans we may be able to use in the upcoming match against Gryffindor. I have a few offensive strategies that I came up with if you would like to use them. I also think we can deploy some defensive maneuvers and some feints as well."
"Whoa, Alexander! Those are some bold notions you have. I'm intrigued by the idea of these offensive tactics, but one step at a time. My father always said that it takes a thousand steps to make a leap. Gryffindor is good without Harry and excellent with him. We must remember to never underestimate our opponent. I would, however, like to hear some of these offensive tactics. We may not have time to use them in the next game, but we may be able to use them in another game."
Cedric began to walk back to the school with Summerby at his side. As the sounds of the evening fell into a soft hush and the mercurial sky turned from red to a deep lavender, the two boys talked about Quidditch strategy and famous games they had been to.
That was the first time that Alexander had known Cedric as more than just a excellent Quidditch player or a model student. That was the first time he had known him as a friend.
"I want to re-form the Hufflepuff Quidditch team!" Alexander stated loudly, his face set in as serious a mask as he could muster.
Inside, his nerves were like live electrical wires writhing in his stomach. He hid his shaking hands behind his back and hoped it looked as if he were standing at attention. Dolores Umbridge could not be allowed to see fear. Showing her any weakness only made her all the more vicious.
Dolores said nothing as she smugly looked over her tea cup at Summerby. She primly sat at her desk, which had a bright pink table clothe draped over it, her fingers drumming a monotonous and irritating rhythm on its surface. Disturbing looking kittens on plates pockmarked every available space on her wall.
Dolores Umbridge peered at him imperiously as she slowly raised her cup and took a sip. A wide smile covered her toad like face and it was only after she had finished her cup of tea, that she answered.
"I see. As far as I know, you have no captain, no Beaters or Keeper. I hardly call that a team. Maybe it would be better if the Hufflepuff team remained disbanded. Quidditch can be a rough sport and one I am not fond of. It breeds all sorts of inappropriate behavior that really must be squashed!"
Summerby knew that Umbridge was talking about the Gryffindor Quidditch team. He had also heard of a rumor about a secret group that Harry Potter had started up. This rumor had led to the decree that disbanded all the teams in the first place.
Leave it to Gryffindor to cause trouble for the rest of the school. But even as Summerby thought this, he couldn't help but smile inside by their actions. For he had never been a big fan of Umbridge's rules and hated her infamous detentions. He was glad that someone was finally standing up to her.
"I will be captain and Seeker," Alexander retorted, "and I plan on holding try-outs to fill the vacant positions. I know my house will rise to the occasion and fill those empty spots." Alexander tried to stay as calm as he possibly could as he answered, but his new and unfamiliar anger started to rise up in him again. He was starting to really hate this pink room and that toad like face.
"Pardon me, but I just don't see how you can get a team together before your first match. I don't think it's possible…"
"I do!" barked a firm voice behind the Hufflepuff captain. Alexander quickly turned around, stunned by this fortuitous interruption. He hadn't seen the mottled rage that was slowly spreading over Dolores Umbridge's cheeks.
Standing behind the Quidditch captain was none other than Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore's blue eyes were fierce and looked as if they could light a flame all on their own. They were focused on Dolores.
And standing next to the Headmaster was Alexander's Head of House, Professor Sprout, who looked just as furious as Dumbledore. The Headmaster, followed closely behind by Professor Sprout, strode into the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher's office.
"Dolores, I believe we have had this discussion before when you tried to deny the Gryffindor team's right to re-form. You do not have the authority or right to deny the Hufflepuff team's right to re-form. So long as I am Headmaster, I will not allow you to do this," Albus stated.
"For now," Dolores answered pointedly, her comment directed at the Headmaster. She continued on, her voice rising one octave higher than usual. "I guess I will allow this team to re-form, but I really don't see what good a brutal sport like Quidditch will do for a house that is supposed to be grieving!"
Alexander nearly snapped from the anger that broiled up in him. How dare she say they were not grieving! It seems he was not the only one who was angered by that little quip.
"You let me decide what is best for my own house!" Professor Sprout snapped. "I will see it through that the Hufflepuff house will have a Quidditch team again and they will be on that Quidditch field making Cedric proud!"
Dolores' race turned vulture like as she glared at Professor Sprout. She began to respond back to that statement, but Albus beat her to it.
"This meeting is over! The Hufflepuff team will be re-formed!" answered the Headmaster, who's glower was so fierce that Alexander could almost feel the heat coming from his eyes. "Mr. Summerby, you may go now. We'll handle this. You're team mates are waiting for you outside!"
Alexander had never been more happy than to leave that room. Never before had he ever had any personal contact with the Headmaster and now that he had, his respect for the man had grown as well as his fear. When Summerby got to the hall, he was surprised and happy to see who waited for him.
Just outside the door, Portia Dowel paced back and forth, her long, black hair whipping back and forth with every sharp step she took. When she saw him, her wide blue eyes lit up. It was the first time in a long time that Alexander had seen her so happy.
Portia had always been high in his esteem. She was a lively girl, who was not afraid to speak her opinion. Out of the three Chasers, she was the fastest, and had the most maneuverability.
Leaning against the wall was Marcus Bryce. He still seemed doubtful and gloomy, but he was there and that was all that mattered. His thin shoulders were stooped, but his dark eyes had a little more spirit in them since the last time Summerby had seen the Chaser. Alexander knew well that out of all of the team that Marcus was probably the most sensitive, but it also made him a smart Chaser. Marcus was someone who was able to read situations well and able to react to them quickly.
Standing next to Marcus was Augustus Cadwallader, their boldest Chaser. Unlike his fellow Chaser Marcus, Cadwallader was a tall and bulky boy, with sandy hair. He was usually loud and affable, but as of late he had been silent and glum.
Summerby looked at his team. He knew that he had strong people at his side, people he would be able to count on, but he had to find a way to bring their strength and hope back to them. He had to find a way to breath life into this team again.
"Let's go. We have a lot to do before our first match!" Alexander stated. He then turned and led the way down the hall, his team right behind him.
The first task Summerby set himself to do was filling those vacant positions. Over the next couple of days, he posted an announcement for an impromptu Quidditch try-out. Alexander took the time to watch every person who expressed any interest in the announcement, taking mental notes of each person. He needed people who would see a task to the end, which was not hard to find in a house that was known for perseverance and hard work. He also needed fast learners as well.
In the moments, when he wasn't watching for potential candidates for players, he began to go over Quidditch strategy with the team members that he did have. He would need their help to get the new players in line quickly. Portia became quite useful in organizing everything. Marcus came up with some very interesting new tactics and Augustus was always good at rallying their spirits.
In all, Summerby was proud of who he had at his side, but he wondered if he had what it took to hold the hopes of the entire Hufflepuff house on his shoulders. He wondered if he would ever be as good as Cedric.
Cedric lifted the golden egg up triumphantly. The firelight from the Common Room hearth sparkled on its perfectly rounded surface. Every finger rose up to touch what their champion had captured. Every heart willed their champion forward. Alexander stood just outside of the crowd that formed around Cedric. He had never seen such hope before. Alexander wondered how it felt to have to carry all those hopes, that of his own house and that of his entire school, on one set of shoulders. What mighty strength does one have to have to hold up the world? Alexander wanted more than ever to ask Cedric this and more importantly, to see if his friend was all right. He knew that, though his friend hid it well, Cedric was beginning to show signs of stress.
So Alexander waited until everyone left before he approached the Hogwarts Champion. When Summerby settled down in the chair next to Cedric's side, he could see fresh wrinkles of worry and stress on his friend's face. Shadows hung under his eyes, which, though bright, had a restless and frantic look to them.
Alexander Summerby knew his friend well enough to know when to speak and when it was that Cedric needed silence and at that moment, Cedric needed some peace. So he sat silently as Cedric gazed into the flames of the fire in the hearth. After a long moment of quiescence, Cedric finally looked up at his team mate.
"What if I fail, Alex? What if I let my house and school down? I know people look to me for strength, but I'm not anyone special. I'm just Cedric Diggory. I have never defeated any dark lord as Harry has. I'm not as clever as a Ravenclaw or as driven as a Slytherin. I am not as bold as any Gryffindor. Why was I chosen out of everyone else?"
"Cedric, you have something just as important. You have a good heart. You're fair, just and hardworking. You may not be those other characteristics, but you're a Hufflepuff and you can be no more and no less."
Cedric turned from the golden light that flickered across his face. He smiled, a real smile, which was something that Summerby had not seen in a long time.
"No more and no less…" Cedric murmured before he slipped into a contemplative haze, the sort of trance he often went into when heavy things weighed him down. Alexander, knowing he had done everything he was supposed to do at that moment, quietly got up and left the champion to his thoughts. That was the last time Alexander ever really saw his friend at peace.
The try-outs came quicker than Alexander had expected, as if his days had sped up on him without his knowledge. When he arrived at the Quidditch pitch with his team at his side, he got a pleasant surprise to find that a large portion of his house had shown up to try-out or to support those who were trying out. No one wanted to see a team that had once brought hope to Hufflepuff die. What was more surprising was the spattering of people of the other houses who came out to see the try-outs as well. He saw a smidge of green scarves, a splatter of blue and a whole swath of red and gold. Whether they were there out of support or assessment didn't really bother Alexander. They were there and that meant a lot to him.
After a grueling few hours, Alexander and the rest of his team debated and reasoned out who the new Beaters and Keeper would be, along with two alternates.
For Beaters, they chose strength in one and agility in the other. Thomas McNaught was a large boy with a wicked swinging arm that shot Bludgers like cannons at whoever or whatever he aimed at and his aim was pretty good. Unfortunately, he was not the sharpest of players out there.
Alexander countered this with the other Beater he chose, Jacob Donnelly. Jacob was almost the complete opposite of Thomas. Jacob was smaller than most Beaters Alexander had seen, but he was quick and agile in his movement. His aim had pinpoint precision and he could hit a Bludger faster than Alexander could say the word Quidditch. He was also quite smart and caught onto things quickly. During the try-outs, Summerby had seen Jacob giving Thomas pointers and he immediately knew that these two Beaters, these two opposites, would make an incredible duo.
The last player he chose, their Keeper, was a shy third year by the name of Morgana Lynch. Her reserve often made her go unnoticed by most people around her, but it was quite a different story on the field. Morgana was fast. Almost every shot taken on her was stopped, except one made by Cadwallader who used a quick feint to get it past the third year. Morgana had three brothers that liked to use her as a Keeper and now it paid off.
As for alternates, Summerby chose two mousy hair twin boys named Frank and Phillip Hornbower. They were both hardworking and kind, but out of the entire team, they were the least experienced. They showed potential and Alexander didn't want such potential to be ignored.
At the end of it all, Summerby was bone tired, but he was happy with the team that he had chosen. To have such choices at such a short notice was more than a miracle. For Alexander, it was a Godsend.
As the try-outs ended and everyone drifted away from the stadium, Alexander stood in the middle of the pitch and looked up at the empty stands. The evening light fell around him in rose colored veils. He closed his eyes and felt the cool autumn wind caress his face. He let the silence of the falling evening inundate him and in the middle of this antithesis of noise was a cradle of peace. He knew that if Cedric was watching over them, he would be proud.
"Captain?" called out a timid voice. Summerby turned and saw Morgana Lynch standing behind him. The third year was nervous and he remembered a boy who was just like her a few years back. Alexander smiled and he walked towards her.
"What is it, Morgana?"
She smiled in return as she said, "When I played Keeper for my brothers, I learned a few tricks that could be useful to us. I wanted to share a few of them with you, if that is all right."
"I'm always open to any suggestion any member of my team has. What is it you have in mind?" Alexander asked, as he walked Morgana back to the castle. The setting sun washed their footsteps in a thousand splendid colors and all the future lay ahead of the new team.
For whatever tribulations they faced, they would face it together as a team. Out of the ashes of their despair, they would rise up like phoenixes and fly once more.
Chapter 17: My Family's Unity
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You see, I have had a lot of examples of how to unite with the people around me. My family is the perfect example of how unity can make and break the members. My older brother, Percy (the evil prat), is the perfect example on how contention can destroy the good that everyone works for. Most of my family (well all of my family with the exception of Percy) believes that Harry saw Voldemort come back to life. It is hard to for us to build unity with Percy on this one subject.
You see Percy was always a hot headed person. Once he made his mind up about something, he stuck to his guns and never once changed his mind. So when he decided to go into the Ministry, that was his final decision to oust himself from his family. He knew that he wanted to do better than dad ever did—in fact all of us wanted to do better than dad I think. But the difference between us and Percy was really that we wanted to help mum and dad out instead of being selfish like he was. Fred and George wanted to get out of the house but at least they helped the family when they needed it. For example, they bought Ron new dress robes so Ron wouldn’t be embarrassed if he went somewhere special.
Percy wasn’t always bad mind you. He was a good brother—he made sure that I was never in trouble at school. If something was going wrong, he would either help me out by listening to my problems or he would find someone to help me out. If it was “girly problems” as he so named them (and he normally referred to my crush on Harry as “girly problems”), he always had me go to Hermione to talk about it. I don’t think he knew exactly on how to advise me on how I should handle my crush with Harry. To me, I would have preferred my brother’s advise instead of a friend’s advice. Since he was my brother, he knew how guys thought. Yes Hermione hung out with Harry all the time, but she was (and still is) a girl. She understood what I was going through because she had a crush on Ron and so she was able to sympathize with me.
When Percy kept on referring me to Hermione on other things besides my “girly problems,” I gave up on asking for him for advice. He was so committed to achieving his final goals—being prefect, then Head Boy and then finally getting the highest position he could in the Ministry. He once told me when I first started at Hogwarts that he one day wanted to become Minister of Magic. I laughed at the idea—how could he ever become Minister when he was so uptight? My laughter eventually became a coughing when the look he gave me was one of competent. Now that I think about it, he started referring me to Hermione around the time that I laughed at him. What else was I suppose to do—congratulate him on wanting to make something better of himself then what dad did? That would be betrayal to me—I could never do that to dad.
Over the next couple of years, I thought less and less of Percy and never heard from him. Ron heard from him in my fourth year at Hogwarts and that was to “warn” Ron to stay away from Harry. That just proved that Percy was the biggest git on the planet. We all knew that he was one and bragged about it openly but the letter was the final evidence we needed to show his true nature. With this final proof, we all thought that our minds couldn’t be changed. We didn’t want to change our minds.
But then the final battle came. The news reporters later commented that it was the battle that changed everyone in every shape and form. Lives were lost. Families lost loved ones, much like we did. Fred was killed during the battle. It all hurt us in different ways. The people that his death affected the most were Percy and George. George lost some of himself that day—he did lose his twin. They were two peas in a pod and where ever you found one, you found the other. But Percy—I think between Percy and George, Percy was the one who hurt the most. It was because Percy had finally loosened up and made a joke that Fred wasn’t paying attention and lost his life.
We all blamed Percy for Fred’s death for the longest time. George blamed him the most and I came in a close second. After George, I was the closest to Fred. I had lost my favorite brother that day—he was my big protector. He helped me sort through my emotions when I was angry and frustrated—well let’s just say that Fred was on the end of many of my hexes. A year after the battle and we lost Fred, I finally let go of my pride. I went to Percy’s flat and found him completely shaken.
During that year, he lived on the money he had saved while he was working at the Ministry. He ate only bread and cheese every day. His place had been paid (the Ministry bought the place for him, thank the heavens). He later told me that he only took a shower once a week and laundry was done maybe once a month. When I came to make peace with him, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I couldn’t believe that he was living this way because he thought to himself that he had killed Fred with his own wand. When I came to visit, he couldn’t go outside his place. I stayed with him for three days before he allowed me to take him to Saint Mungos. It was there that we were all brought back together in sorts. The relationship between George and Percy is still being repaired to this day.
On the day that my family came, I had to act as a mediator between Percy and all of our family members. Mom and dad were easy—they were just glad to have Percy back in their lives. Yes it took them losing one son to gain the other son back but they were finally happy that he had seen the light. Ron took a bit of time to pound in his thick head that Percy had changed and he finally wanted to be the good older brother that we all knew he could be. Bill and Charlie knew him as the younger son and forgave him almost instantly. They did need time to speak with him of course, but when we came in a little bit later, they were all smiling and joking. From that day forward, we have been able to grow together again as a family. We sometimes have to take baby steps and remember that we’re not perfect, but we all know that the best thing for our family is to always be there.
For me, unity has a million different definitions. One definition though stands out in my mind. Unity is standing together in the face of everything with those you love. It is standing by those you love even though you know their faults and failures. To me, I just want to be with my family and take what I learn from them to help those I am friends with.
Chapter 18: The Box
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A/N: This story takes place during HBP, after Harry begins his lessons with Dumbledore but before he is shown the memory about Tom Riddle finding out about Hufflepuff's Cup.
Harry stared out the window into the pouring rain. He was currently standing at the foot of the stairs leading up the astronomy tower, not that he was on his way to a class, but had simply ended up there during his wanderings. Ron and Hermione were busy with prefect duties, Luna was tracking down what she claimed was an infestation of nargles in the girls bathroom, and Neville was in the hospital wing waiting for yet another broken wrist to mend. Harry sighed, no one to talk to, nothing particularly interesting to do other then wander about the nearly deserted corridors. Harry was just working his way into a good sulk when a squeaky voice made him jump.
“Harry!” Colin Creevey squeaked, “Harry! I have a note for you! I think it’s from Dumbledore!”
In his hurry to hand the note Harry the small boy tripped over the hem of his overly long robe and toppled onto the floor at Harry’s feet. He rolled onto his back, and smiling handed the note up to Harry.
Harry shook his head as he watched Colin scramble to his feet, then quickly unrolled the parchment. It was, in fact, a message form the headmaster and Harry’s mind raced as he read the familiar slanted handwriting.
It would be much appreciated if you could join me in office this afternoon around four.
Ps It would be lovely if you brought some treacle tart with you.
Harry perked up immediately. A meeting with Dumbledore was sure to bring a little excitement to such a dreary day. Harry glanced at his watch and was pleased that is was nearly quarter to four already. With a grin he thanked Colin then turned and quickly made his way towards the Headmaster’s office. Two winding staircases, three obscenely long hallways and one run in with Peeves later Harry stood before the Gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster’s office.
The gargoyle stared down at Harry through his gray stone eyes, “Password.” The statue demanded in a gruff voice.
“Treacle Tart.” Harry recited, then darted through the opening behind the gargoyle and up the stairs.
The door to Dumbledore’s office stood open, and before Harry could tap on the door frame the Headmaster looked up from his desk and gestured him into the room. Harry glanced at his watch, once again, as he walked towards the great oak desk in the center of the room. Dumbledore smiled kindly at him, resting his hands on a large wooden box atop his desk.
“Harry, so glad you could join me. Please, help yourself to a sherbet lemon or two while we await the arrival of our other guests.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, obvious confusion slipping through his voice. “May I ask who we’re waiting for?”
Just then there was a knock on the doorframe and Harry spun around to see a small girl with long dark hair and Asian features standing in the doorway.
“Su.” Dumbledore greeted her, “Please, come in.” As the girl entered the office, glancing around uncertainly, a tall boy with messy blond hair and a lopsided grin appeared behind her.
“Good afternoon Professor.” He said shyly.
Dumbledore grinned back, “Good afternoon Wayne . Please, both of you help yourselves to some sweets while we await the arrival of our final guest.”
Silence enveloped the room for a moment as the three students stared blankly into the candy bowl, each of them wondering why they had been called to the Headmaster’s office.
“Ah, Tracey. Thank you for joining us.” Dumbledore said, his voice breaking the silence as a portly girl with curly brown hair entered the room.
“Now that we’re all accounted for please make yourselves comfortable and I will explain why I have called you here.”
Dumbledore twirled his wand and four comfy looking arm chairs appeared in a circle in the middle of the room. Still uncertain, the four students arranged themselves stiffly in the chairs and stared at the Headmaster, silently waiting for his explanation.
Dumbledore rose from his desk, and carrying the wooden box slowly made his way to the center of the room.
“As I’m sure you’ve notice, all four houses are represented in this room; Harry Potter from Gryffindor, Su Li from Ravenclaw, Wayne Hopkins from Hufflepuff and Tracey Davis from Slytherin.” He began, nodding his head at each student in turn. “In my hands I hold a problem, a difficult problem that I need each of you to help me with. This box has recently come into my possession, but unfortunately I have been unable to open it. My curiosity has been peeked, and I truly wish to know its content.”
Harry broke his gaze away from the box and glanced around the room at the other students. Su was staring, unblinking, at the headmaster, her lips curled up into a slight smile. Wayne was staring intently at his shoes, obviously trying to figure out what this had to do with him, and Tracey sat perfectly still with the trademark Slytherin sneer marring her already homely face. Harry had had enough experience with Dumbledore’s requests that he knew everything would be explained eventually and leaned back in his chair as the headmaster began to speak once again.
“As you can see,” Dumbledore continued, placing the box on a small table that he wordlessly conjured in the center of the circle of chairs, “this box is embossed with the Hogwarts school crest. It also has an inscription as well and as you can see there area no locks or hinges. No obvious way to gain entrance.”
Harry and Su leaned forward to get a better view of the crest and inscription, Wayne shuffled his, but leaned forward as well. Tracey did not move, she sat rigidly in her seat, staring pointedly at Harry.
“The inscription,” Dumbledore went on, oblivious to the reaction of his students. “reads: [i]United we stand, and unite you must, for the way in, is to learn to trust[/i].”
Dumbledore paused and looked up, “After that there seems to be a puzzle of sorts, but the beginning is the reason I have called you here.”
Dumbledore stepped away from the table and slowly made his way around the circle touching each student’s shoulder as he passed.
“It is obvious to me that the original owner of the box intended for the four houses to work together in order to open this box. I have chosen you four because you each have skills I believe will enable you to solve the puzzle.”
All four students stared open mouthed at him, but still no one spoke.
“Wayne , I have heard that you have an interest in codes and ciphers, and seem to be quiet talented when it comes to solving them. Su, Professor Flitwick tells me that you’re the one the others in your house turn to when faced with a particular tough riddle. Tracey, you have the reputation of being one of the most clever students in your house, and Harry, you have a knack for finding your way out of difficult situation as well as the ability to lead.”
Dumbledore returned to the center of the circle and placed his hand on the worn wooden box, “I would truly appreciate it if the four of you would spare me the time to help with this little problem.”
Harry met Dumbledore’s eyes and after a moment understood the importance of this task. He realized that what the Headmaster wasn’t telling them was that the box may have an important clue that would help in the quest to defeat Lord Voldemort, and that he was expecting Harry to find a way to bring the four houses together in order to obtain this information. Harry nodded, accepting the Headmaster’s silent request, then looked away. Su nodded quickly, her expression giving away her eagerness to start solving the puzzle, Wayne gave a quick head-bob and went back to staring at his shoes, Tracey met Dumbledore’s gaze, and after a moment gave a curt nod.
“Wonderful!” Dumbledore exclaimed, “I hope the four of you will be able to start on this right away,” he paused and glanced up at a strange looking clock hanging in the far corner of the room, “well, after you’ve had your supper of course.”
Harry stayed behind when the other students left for the Great Hall.
“Professor?” he asked quietly, “This has to do with ‘him’ doesn’t it.”
Dumbledore looked at Harry through suddenly weary blue eyes and nodded.
“It does Harry.” He answered, “And if I am correct the content of that box will bring us one step closer to understanding what Voldemort did after leaving Hogwarts. I have many theories, and that box just might lend some weight to the one I have been favoring.”
Dumbledore held Harry’s eye for a moment then continued. “I need you to bring them together, to find a way to unite the four houses again, even if it is only a temporary alliance. I’m counting on you.”
Harry felt the burden that had been placed on him weigh heavily on his shoulders. It was a feeling he had become accustom to in the past few years and looked the Professor in the eye when he answered.
“I won’t let you down.”
Dumbledore simply nodded, a kind smile tipping the corners of his mouth upward, then gestured towards the door.
“Go get your super Harry.” He said gently, then turned back towards his desk.
Harry sat silently through dinner while Ron and Hermione badgered him with questions. When he finally gave in and told his friends what was going on Ron was impressed.
“You’ll figure it out no problem!” He told Harry encouragingly. Hermione, on the other hand, became quiet and withdrawn.
“I don’t know why he didn’t ask you either.” Harry told her quietly, “You’re definitely smarter than I am.”
That seemed to cheer her up a bit because she began asking questions. When Harry told them the part about having to unite the four houses they both gasped, then Ron began to laugh.
“Good luck with that.” He told Harry, punching him in the shoulder.
Harry barely touched his dinner, and by the time the tables magically cleared themselves the Great Hall was nearly empty. But Harry remained in his seat, absently staring down at the random patterns found in the grain of the wooden table.
“Well,” Ron said, bringing Harry out of his stupor, “We’re off. I have a pile of Transfiguration homework and Hermione promised to help me with it. Right ‘Mione.”
Hermione shook her head, unable to hide the small smile that mad her lips twitch. Harry was glad that his two best friends had finally figured out the reason they argued so much, but he couldn’t help feeling slightly jealous when he saw them together. There had been a time when Harry had thought himself in love with Hermione, but even then it had been easy to see that they would never be more than friends. And that was ok.
“Before you start, Hermione could I borrow your Ancient Ruins books? Just incase.”
Hermione jumped to her feet, “Of course!” and with that they left the Great Hall and made their way through the crowds and up to the Gryffindor Common Room.
Twenty minutes later Harry sat in the abandoned class room that Dumbledore had directed him to staring at the box and awaiting the arrival of the other students. He had barley began to think of ways to unite the houses when Su poked her head into the room. Harry smiled and greeted the Ravenclaw and was rewarded with a small smile and a nod.
Well, at least Gryffindor and Ravenclaw get along fairly well. That’s one less difficulty to solve. Harry just thought to himself.
Su walked quickly to the table in the center of the room and ran her eager hands over the box.
“Should we wait for the others?” she asked Harry, never taking her eyes off the box.
Harry bit his lip. He had never been gifted at diplomacy, and debated a moment before answering.
“Let’s give the others a few minutes. That way we can all start in the same place and won’t have to waste time updating people as they come in.”
Su nodded, “Good, good. Do you think we’ll need anything else for this?”
Harry, who had just been thinking the same thing, nodded. “I think we should use the blackboard to make a list of ideas as we come up with them. That way we can keep track of any progress, and cross off the ones that come to dead ends.” Even as Su smiled Harry began to laugh. “I swear I’m starting to sound like Hermione.”
Su let out a giggle, “That’s not a bad thing Harry, she’s one smart witch. Actually, she was a topic of discussion in Ravenclaw for sometime. We still wonder how she didn’t end up in our house.”
Harry laughed again, “We tease her about that too.” He said with a wink.
Just then Wayne let the classroom door close behind him.
“What’s the joke?” he asked quietly as he ambled towards the table.
Harry began to say ‘nothing,’ it was an automatic response, but at the last minute he changed his mind.
“We were just having a laugh about the fact that people in both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw wonder why Hermione Granger wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw.”
“Hm.” Wayne responded in a tone that almost sounded like a laugh, “That is an interesting though. I always wondered…”
But Harry and Su never found our exactly what it was that Wayne had wondered because just then the door closed loudly and they all turned to find Tracey glowering at them from the doorway.
Harry took a deep breath and braced himself before speaking.
“Hi.” He said cheerily, looking directly at Tracey. “Now that we’re all here I think we should go ahead and begin.”
“Who died and made you the Queen.” He heard Tracy mutter as she walked stiffly towards the table.
Harry took a deep breath and continued without acknowledging the comment.
“Su, do you know where they keep the chalk in here?”
“Probably in the desk,” She answered brightly, obviously trying to ignore the waves of rage that were rolling off the Slytherin who stood a few feet behind her. “I’ll go check.”
Wayne took another step forward and quietly inspected the box. Beneath the inscription the Headmaster had read to them there were several strange symbols arranged in an even more peculiar manner. Su appeared across the table from Harry, chalk in hand just as Wayne reached for the box.
“OK, where should we start?” she asked, her question obviously directed at Harry.
Harry let out a slow breath. This was the part that he hated, that moment when everyone was staring at him, waiting for him to tell them what to do. No matter what Dumbledore said, Harry had never felt like a leader and it took everything in him to open his mouth and make the first suggestion.
“OK,” he said hesitantly. “Obviously we need to figure out what those symbols mean, but I think the box is too small for everyone to study it at the same time.” Harry sucked in some air, “Does anyone think they can put the symbols on the blackboard, exactly as they are on the box, only bigger?”
There was silence in the room as everyone stared up at the blank blackboard.
“Well, I guess we could try to charm them up there.” Su said uncertainly after a moment.
Harry let out the breath he had been holding as Wayne nodded his head in agreement.
“Lets see…” Su muttered, thinking out loud. “Effingo Statua!” she said loudly pointing her wand first at the box then at the blackboard.
There was a flash of light and the symbols from the box appeared in shimmering silver for a moment, then faded away. Su frowned and tried again, and again the symbols flashed up in the blackboard then faded away. By the fourth try a trickle of sweat dripped off the tip of her nose and the cress between her furrowed eyebrows has become so deep that Harry began to wonder if it would be etched there permanently.
“I don’t think it’s going to work.” He said quietly as Su lowered her wand.
Su frowned, “The box must be charmed so that the symbols can’t be copied by magic.”
She looked around the room as she shoved her wand back into her robes. Harry, who stood closest to her looked slightly amused and she wondered if he was trying not to laugh at her. Wayne stood a few feet away, staring at the box once again, his lower lip caught between his teeth. Tracey stood at the other end of the table glaring at Harry and Su with an annoyed expression.
“Can anyone here draw?” Harry asked suddenly.
Su shook her head and followed Harry’s eyes to Wayne . Wayne stared at the box a moment longer, then shook his head. Tracey said nothing.
“Tracey,” Harry began.
“Who said you could use my first name Potter?” snapped before he could go on.
Harry took a deep breath, tamped down his temper and continued as though he had not been interrupted.
“Can you draw?”
Tracey’s lips pulled back into a unpleasant sneer and Harry though he heard a quiet snarl escape her lips as she stood, cross armed, glaring at him.
Su stood nervously glancing back and forth between the Slytherin and the Gryffindor silently wondering who would win if it came down to a fight. Her money was on Harry.
Harry held Tracey’s icy stare and spoke so quietly that Su barely heard him.
“May I have the chalk Su?” he asked holding his hand out.
Su placed the slim chalk stick in Harry’s outstretched hand, then stepped back. She wasn’t sure what he was planning, but she knew she did not want to be standing in the middle if curses stared flying.
Without taking his eyes off Tracey’s Harry slowly walked forward. When he was no more then three feet away from the Slytherin girl he held out the hand with the chalk in it.
“The quicker we get this over with, the quicker we can all get out of here.” He told her, his voice strong and steady.
Tracey held his stare for a few seconds then snatched the chalk out of Harry’s hand.
“You! Puff! Bring that box over hear.” She snapped as she walked towards the board.
Wayne began to comply, but Harry held up a hand.
“His name is Wayne .” Harry said, in his best impression of Professor Dumbledore, “And I think that this would go much easier if we spoke to each other in a respectful manner.”
Tracey stopped but did not turn around, but her suddenly ridged posture told everyone that she was not used to being reprimanded and was debating what to do about it.
“ Wayne ,” she finally said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “Would you please bring the box over here so I can draw the symbols for the… for Potter to inspect.”
Harry nodded, understanding that it was the best he was going to get, and Wayne moved forward, the wooden box clenched tightly in his hands.
Fifteen minutes later Tracey had transposed the images to the blackboard, exactly as they were on the box. Harry walked forward taking the drawings in.
“Excellent job.” He said absently, but received no response.
Su and Wayne followed Harry to the board, each of them standing slightly behind him and to either side. When Harry noticed their formation he had to stifle a laugh realizing that they were in Ron and Hermione’s usual positions. He shook it off, grinning to himself, and resumed his staring at the symbols. They meant absolutely nothing to him.
Su cocked her head to the side, trying to look at the symbols from a different angle and Wayne tapped his foot, running his fingers through his hair.
Harry stared till his eyes burned, and nearly jumped out of his skin when Wayne spoke.
“They sort of look like flowers in the first two pictures.” He said, more to himself than the room.
Harry cocked his head to the side and focused on the first image. It was four small symbols side by side in a straight line, the second image had the same four symbols, but instead of a straight line they were in s circle, the edges of each symbol touching the others.
“You know,” Harry said taking a step closer, “That second one sort of looks like a thistle.”
Excited Su bolted forward, “The first one! The first one’s a daffodil!”
Harry felt Wayne behind him, and managed not to jump when that soft voice came form directly behind him.
“The third one’s a poppy.” Wayne smiled, “My mother has a ton of them in the backyard, I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.”
“But what’s the fourth one?” Su asked, squinting at the image.
Wayne shook his head, “I’ve never seen it before. Harry?”
“No idea.” Harry answered frowning, “But it has to be another sort of flower… doesn’t it?”
The three of them stared at the board, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, side by side with identical looks of frustration on their faces. The silence carried on until Harry finally squeaked his eyes shut and stepped away. Su and Wayne turned to see where Harry was going, and were surprised to him walking in quick circles only a few feet behind them.
They stared for a moment, then Wayne began to laugh. Not the quiet giggle they had head from him before, but a full rich laugh that had Harry’s head snapping up.
“You should have seen yourself.” Wayne said grinning, “A little bit smaller of a circle and people will think you’re practicing for your apperation test.”
Harry looked down at his feet then back up at Wayne , “Sorry, I think better when I’m moving.” He said, trying not to laugh.
Su giggled, “If it helps you figure out what that last symbol is make all the circles you need.”
Harry laughed and walked back towards the board. He stared hard at the last symbol and jumped when Tracey spoke.
“It’s an Erica Vagans, a Cornish Heath.” She said, without looking up, “It’s the symbol of Cornwall .”
Harry did not turn away from the blackboard until he was able to stop grinning and composed his face into a calm expression.
“Thank you Tracey.” He said, staring at her until she looked up.
“Su, would you mind writing the names of the flowers on the other end of the blackboard? My handwriting is horrible… or so Hermione keeps telling me.” Harry said, allowing a bit of amusement to slip into his voice.
As she wrote Su ran over what they had figured out.
“So we know the first two images are made up of four flowers. Thistle, Daffodil, Poppy, and Cornish Heath. We know that the Cornish Heath is a symbol of Cornwall , do we know if the other flowers are representative of any other particular regions?”
“Poppy’s are for Norfolk .” Wayne said immediately, then blushed. “My mother grew up there.”
Su nodded and wrote Norfolk in the column she had created for the Poppy.
“What about the Daffodil or Thistle?”
Harry shook his head, “Neville would know. Plants are sort of his thing, but he’s up in the hospital wing.”
Su stared at the board, Wayne shuffled his feet, Tracey remained silently standing beside the table.
Harry sighed, “Shall we go to the library then?”
Su all but bolted towards the door, her Ravenclaw need to do research pushing her ahead of the rest.
Harry couldn’t help laughing as he remembered the thousands of times he had seen Hermione do the very same thing.
He followed her out into the hall with Wayne right behind him. A few seconds later Harry heard a fourth set of footsteps dragging behind them.
Madam Pince was just closing the doors to the library when they arrived.
“Dumbledore told me you four might be along.” She said, glaring at the students. “You could have come before closing. Go on, the Headmaster said I was to let you in no matter the time. But I’m warning you, if I find a single book out of place in the morning it will be your hides.” And with that she turned and walked away.
“Well at least we won’t have her shushing us every two minutes.” Wayne said as he held the door open for the others to enter.
Su giggled and immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, an old habit from spending hours in the library through out her years at Hogwarts.
An hour later Harry, Su and Wayne found themselves sitting on the floor of the library surrounded by books. Tracey sat stiffly at a table behind them.
“I found something!” Su cried out suddenly making everyone jump. “Right here, it says that the Daffodil is the flower of Wales . Wait a second.”
Su closed her eyes tightly, rubbing her temples with her fingers, “My first year, during the sorting, the hat said something.” A quiet growl escaped her throat as she tried to force the memory to the surface.
“Ha! The song, the sorting hat said ‘bold Gryffindor, from wild moor, fair Ravenclaw, from glen, sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad, shrewd Slytherin, from fen.’ Valley Broad, that refers to Wales , Fen is the area around Norfolk , just north of London .”
She paused and bit her lip.
“Moor, isn’t that West Country? Near Cornwall ?” Wayne asked.
“Yes!” Su exlamed jumping up, “But what in Merlin’s name is Glen? I’ve never heard of anything in England referred to as Glen.”
Tracey snickered, “Don’t you know that the founder of your own house isn’t from England . Glen referrers to Scotland .”
Su ignored the snide comment and turned back to Harry.
“Do you get it? The flowers, they’re the symbols of the places the founders are from. I’m willing to bet that we’ll find that the thistle is a symbol of Scotland !”
Harry grinned, they were finally making progress and he had to admit, there was a feeling of unity beginning to develop between him and two of the three other houses represented in the room. He knew he just had to find a way to get through to Tracey.
“That’s great! Finally something to go on!” He said, his excitement matching Su’s. “I think we should go back to the classroom and add this to our list.”
Wayne walked beside Harry in the hall as Su skipped ahead. Tracey strolled just behind the two boys, her steps a little quicker then they had been earlier.
In the class room Su added the new information to the list then stepped back to examine the symbols once again.
“Ok,” Harry began after a moment. “In the first image the flowers are separate, each one an individual. We know now that the flowers represent the Founders. In the second image the flowers are combined. This has to be what Dumbledore was saying with the unity thing, about the houses having to come together. But we are together.” Harry frowned. “We’ve been working on this together for hours. Do you think there’s something more we need to do?”
“Maybe we need the actual flowers.” Wayne suggested. “I’m pretty sure Professor Sprout has all of these in the greenhouses.” He paused, running his thumb over his lower lip. “Let me go get her. Meet me near the Great Hall in ten minutes!” he finished, his words jumbling together in excitement, and then ran out the door without waiting for an answer.
Ten minutes later Wayne appeared in front of the Great Hall with a red-faced Professor Sprout behind him.
“Just give me a minute to catch my breath.” She panted leaning against the wall, “Then we’ll go get your flowers.”
When he opened the doors to the main entrance Harry couldn’t help grinning. He couldn’t think of anything more refreshing than the feeling of the cool night air on his face, and was instantly revived as they walked quickly towards the greenhouses.
Between Professor Sprout and Wayne the had the flowers they needed gathered in only a few minutes, and less then a half hour later the four of them stood in a circle around the box in the otherwise empty classroom.
Wayne stood at the head of the table and handed out the flowers.
“Thistles for the Ravenclaw, Cornish Heath for the Gryffindor,” he said as he handed Su and Harry the flowers representing their house founders. “Daffodils for Hufflepuff,” He went on placing the flower on the table in front of him, “And Poppies for Slytherin.”
Wayne held the bright red flower out to Tracey. She stood motionless for a moment, her expression guarded, but lacking her usual sneer. Slowly she reached out and took the flower from Wayne and silently took her place on the fourth side of the table.
“Now what?” Harry asked twirling the flower in his fingers.
“I think we need to make a circle with them, like in the picture.” Su said quietly, “Do you think we should place them on the box?”
Harry shrugged, “Sounds like a good plan to me.” And taking a deep breath he placed the Cornish Heath on the box, “For Gryffindor.” He said quietly.
Wayne, who stood to Harry’s right placed the bright yellow Daffodil on the box, making sure it’s end touched the Cornish Heath, “For Hufflepuff.” He said, copying Harry.
Su leaned forward and placed her Thistle on the box, its steam overlapping the Daffodil’s petals, “For Ravenclaw.” She said quickly, then turned and faced Tracey.
Again Tracey hesitated. It was not easy for her to lay aside prejudices that had been engrained in her family generation after generation, but as she stared at the wooden box it slowly dawned on her that the other people in the room had been nothing but kind to her since they had been thrust together. She had thrown up every defense she knew, had met kindness with sarcasm and acceptance with hate, and now she stood staring at the incomplete ring of flowers on the ancient box wondering if she would be able to lay down her flower and complete the circle.
She looked up and saw three faces staring back at her. And in those faces there was no hate, no repulsion, only curiosity and anticipation. Taking a deep breath Tracey met Harry’s eye and placed her flower on the box completing the circle.
Every one stood motionless as Harry and Tracey continued to stare at each other, and it was Su’s gasp that broke the connection.
In the center of the ring of flowers the box began to glow a pale gold and they all leaned forward as silver words began to form with in the ring.
One by one and once again
The one beside you was meant to be your friend
Joined together now reach across
And clasp the hand of a brother lost
Now once again you face the past
Reach across and make it fast
A lifelong grudge ends at last.
Harry read the shimmering words a second time then looked around him. Su and Wayne were staring at him, each of them knowing what needed to be done. He shifted his gaze to Tracey, who was still staring at the box. It was several long minutes before anyone spoke, and it was Tracey who broke the silence.
"Since I was a little girl I was told that people who were placed in Hufflepuff were stupid and useless." She paused, gathering her thoughts before looking up at Wayne and continuing. "I've learned today that neither of those stereotypes are true." And reaching out a trembling hand she forged the first link in a chain that had been broken for far too long. Wayne took her outstretched hand and smiled, the words on the box shivered, but remained.
"Harry," Su began turning to face him, "I've always thought that Gryffindors were foolish showoffs incapable of using logic. In this short time you have proved me wrong."
She held out a slender hand which Harry took without hesitation. The words on the book shined brighter than before.
"Su," Wayne said, his hand already outstretched, “I always thought that Ravenclaw was full of snobby know-it-alls. You have shown me that while you are intelligent, you are far from snobby." And as the third link was formed the entire box seemed to glow a dull gold.
Harry stood silently, his finger unconsciously tightening around Su's. He knew what had to be done to finish what they had started, but he had yet to find the words. He closed his eyes and let out a slow breath before looking up at Tracey.
"I was raised by muggles." Harry began, staring directly into Tracey's surprisingly damp eyes. "That alone offends you, through no fault of your own. I was not raised to hate pure-bloods, until I was eleven I didn't even know what that word really meant. I was raised by anger and indifference. My Aunt and Uncle never really wanted me, I was a burden, so I know what it is like to be hated for something that you never had any control over. My very existence offended their sensibilities. The same way I was told that my existence offends pure-bloods, offends Slytherins. But I have learned that people are not simply the label attached to them. I'm willing to look beyond the label and see the girl behind he serpent badge. You have helped us more that I could have ever imagined. And though I doubt it will change anything outside of this room, I offer my hand to you, not because an ancient box tells me I should, but because I want to. I offer my hand to help end a feud that began long before either of us were born, but hopefully does not get passed on to our children. We don't need anymore hate in this world."
And with that Harry held is hand out, over the clasped hands of the Ravenclaw and the Hufflepuff, and waited for the Slytherin to make her choice.
Tracey stared back into Harry's eyes, searching for lies, waiting for the catch, but saw nothing but unclouded pools of deep green. There was no treachery, no tricks, and as she raised her arm and placed her hand in his she knew that it had begun. Changes were coming, and for the first time in her life she was proud that she was a part of it.
The silver words shot out blinding rays of light and the box shook violently as a crease appeared that had not been there before. The box shook again, and another crease appeared several inches below the first. As the four watched, hands still clasped, a draw slid out of the side of the box. It was lined with black velvet, the emblem of a tiny badger embossed into the fabric in the bottom corner. In the center was the indentation the size and shape of a drinking goblet, and that was it. The box was empty.
A sudden loud clapping sound made them jump, and they turned as one to see Professor Dumbledore standing only a few feet behind Harry.
"Well done," he said jovially, "All of you very well done. I knew you could do it if you put your minds together."
Harry now stood, his hands hanging limply at his sides, his fingers still tingling from the power they had just witnessed. When they had jumped the connection had been broken, but the drawer remained open. Dumbledore walked forward and inspected the box briefly.
"It is as I suspected." he said with a chuckle. "Now all of you, off to bed. It has been a long night and you need your rest."
One by one they stepped away from the table and turned towards the door. Wayne's hand was nearly on the door knob when Dumbledore spoke again.
"And as you sleep tonight, tucked comfortably into your beds, remember what you can accomplish if only you work together." And without another word he picked up the box, strolled by the stunned students, and by the time any of them thought to look around, he was gone.
"Well," Harry said holding the door open as Su and Tracey exited the class room behind himself and Wayne, "I guess its goodnight then."
"Good night Harry." Su said as she reached out her hand once again.
Harry smiled and took her hand, "Good night Su."
Wayne moved beside Harry and took his other hand as well as Su's free one. "Good night Harry, Su." he said with a grin.
Without prompting Tracey moved forward and took Harry and Wayne's hands. "Good night then." She said quietly.
They stood for a moment, the circle that the founders had originally intended once again complete before turning away one by one, heading back to the houses that separated them.
Well I was right, Harry thought to himself as he crawled into bed, a note from Dumbledore always makes for an interesting evening. And that was his last thought before falling asleep, and while he slept Harry dreamt of a lion, a badger, a snake and an eagle laying together peacefully, protected by a ring of flowers.
Chapter 19: Who Holds the Quill
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When wand and quill have both failed, all that remain are beliefs. But sometimes those are enough.
Not a day went by that she didn’t think about quitting this job. It had been such a disappointment for someone like her, who had once entertained grand, naïve dreams of becoming a famous journalist. Maybe the idea of being a famous journalist wasn’t so naïve, but apparently her sense of ethics was. “Ethics” was not a concept that existed in the world of the Daily Prophet. And no amount of NEWT’s could have prepared her for the fact that this was an industry where you had to lie, cheat, and steal leads in order to get ahead. You had to kiss up to the right people and sneer down your nose at certain others.
Penelope didn’t like it. And she had made her distaste obvious enough that, even though she’d been there for the past three years, she was stuck fetching tea for the reporters in the morning and sending owls for them in the afternoon.
Not that Penelope was outspoken in the normal sense of the word. But in this business, even whispered criticisms of anyone in the chain of command could land you in the position of assistant to the junior editor’s junior assistant’s second cousin twice removed. With occasional opportunities to write an article that would be featured at the bottom of Page Six, usually on the subject of Sally the Singing Skrewt, or how Mrs. Smith swore she had seen the face of Merlin in her bowl of porridge.
That morning, after she had placed an order for quills and parchment, refilled Ms. Harvey’s coffee, and alphabetized Mr. Tileston’s 300 sources, Penelope stole away for five minutes of relaxation. Leaning against the wall in a remote corner of the break room, her eyes fell on that day’s edition of the Prophet. She nearly choked on her tea as she took in the front page headline:
WANTED FOR QUESTIONING ABOUT THE DEATH OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
The obscenely large words were printed above a photograph of Harry Potter. Penelope stared in horror. It was happening again. They were turning the public against that poor boy again. Who could have allowed this? How could they be so stupid?
Clutching the paper in one clenched fist, she stormed into the office of Dan White, a low-level copy editor with whom she was on friendly terms. He had been working there for some time longer than she had, and he was the only editor who deigned to talk to her.
“What is this?” demanded Penelope, tossing the Prophet on top of the miscellaneous papers strewn across Dan’s desk.
Dan mused over the Prophet for a moment before speaking.
“Hmm,” he said. “Yes, I know, the new layout does leave something to be desired, doesn’t it? I told Susan as much, but – ”
“Not the layout, Dan! I’m talking about this!” She pointed to the headline emblazoned above the photo of Harry.
Dan stared warily at Penelope, as if he knew exactly where this was going.
“Is this the new angle, then?” she asked bitterly. “Raising public awareness about the menace Harry Potter poses to society?”
“Shh!” said Dan. “Be quiet, Penny, for Merlin’s sake!” He sprang from his desk and peered out the door of his office. Then, satisfied that there was nobody around, he closed and locked the door.
“Penny, you’re a smart girl. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen the signs. This went on two years ago, as I’m sure you remember, because you made your opinion on it perfectly clear at that time, as well.”
He was referring, of course, to the time when the Ministry and the Prophet had engaged in a smear campaign against Harry because nobody had wanted to believe that Voldemort was back. Penelope had found the whole idea ridiculous, especially when they had accused him of being an attention-seeking little brat. Penelope had never known Harry well, but she had been acquainted with him, and it had been as clear as day to her that he didn’t want the attention. He had been a fifteen year-old boy who had had four or five attempts on his life – who wanted fame when it came at that price?
“Two years ago, yes, the Prophet made a huge mistake because Fudge was a prat. And I didn’t like it, Dan. And yes, I’ve seen the recent signs that it was happening again. And I kept it in, hoping it was some horrible nightmare, but I kept it in because I wanted to do more than fetch afternoon tea for the columnists. But this, Dan! Has the Prophet now completely sold itself out to pure evil?”
Dan shook his head. “When are you going to learn that you’ll get nowhere criticizing the establishment? You and your idealism, Penny – it doesn’t work that way here, and I thought you’d have realized that by now.”
“This isn’t about my idealism. This isn’t about my problems with the Prophet’s corruption and favoritism, or how poorly everything is run. Do you know what I would give right now, to just be working for a nice, normal, corrupt newspaper again?”
“Now you’re just being silly.”
“This isn’t funny, Dan! A system of favors is nothing compared to the fact that the Prophet is telling everyone Harry is a fugitive criminal, and helping the Ministry put a price on his head!”
Dan was quiet for a moment before continuing tentatively. “Are you sure this doesn’t have to do with your resentment about… well…” He raised his eyebrows.
Penelope was now shaking slightly, so that her corkscrew curls quivered with anger. “Don’t,” she said. “For the sake of my sanity, do not say his name to me.”
Dan sighed. “Penny, you shouldn’t even be talking about this. It’s too dangerous. Surely you’ve realized that all the power lies with those who don’t want the Potter kid to succeed.”
Penelope sniffed. “So the quill is not mightier than the wand,” she said acidly.
“Yes, it is. But it depends on who’s holding the quill. Penny, he’s taking over everything. Can’t you feel it?”
“The last time I checked, You-Know-Who was not sitting in the office of the editor-in-chief. And while that’s still the case, I have to believe something can be done.”
“What are you going to do, Penny?” Dan asked condescendingly. “Stick subversive messages in the newspaper? Good luck with that. Even if you had been given an assignment in the last two months, the higher-ups who review the final copy are all in his pocket. You can’t trust anyone. Even the lowliest members of the accounting department could be spies, or Imperiused. You shouldn’t even be talking to me about this.”
Penelope stared at Dan for a long time. She had no idea what she planned on doing about it. She only knew that her sense of right and wrong demanded that she do something. In the past, she had vented her frustration, and while it hadn’t exactly helped her career, it hadn’t been a dangerous undertaking, either. But now, in this climate, she knew Dan was right. Talk could be deadly. Still, it wasn’t in her to stand by idly and watch evil destroy everything that was righteous.
“The way I see it,” continued Dan, “you have three options. You can quit. You can stay here and do your job like a good girl. Or you can stay here and raise a fuss about the new angle and get sacked – or worse. Tell me, which of those will help you win your glorified battle between right and wrong?”
“It’s possible that none of them will,” she replied. “But there’s only one option that carries any possibility of success. That’s the one I must choose.”
Dan pondered her for a minute before adding, “Don’t talk to me about this anymore, Penny. You may not care about your job, but I’ve got a family to feed.”
Penelope narrowed her eyes. “Do they know your salary might be paid for with a seventeen year-old boy’s life?”
* * * * * * * * * *
For all her righteous indignation, and what had amounted to a call to action in Dan’s office, Penelope soon resigned herself to the fact that there was a gaping flaw in her plan. There was nothing she could do about what the Prophet printed. It was nearly impossible to talk to anyone in order to find sympathizers. And even when her goal became nothing greater than to create a small group of people who were fed up with the state of things, even then she had trouble convincing the few people she dared to approach. Jeanine Davies, one of the new hires, listened to Penelope, but that was only because she revered Penelope’s ability to keep straight who preferred coffee, who preferred tea, who liked which kind of tea, and who took milk instead of lemon.
It occurred to Penelope one day that she ought not to look inwardly for the solution, especially since it seemed the entire staff of the Prophet had adopted the Ministry’s line. She needed to look outside the Prophet if she wanted to accomplish anything. That, too, would be treacherous. The public didn’t talk openly about it. There was too much fear and suspicion. But she had an idea of where to start.
She sent off owls to Per– to his family. They had been loyal to Harry and Dumbledore… maybe they were still part of the resistance. As far as she knew, he hadn’t gone back to them, so it stood to reason that they were still standing by Harry’s efforts.
She would leak the Prophet’s latest stories to them. It would be easy enough. She spent enough time tidying up editors’ offices that she had decent access to working copies of the paper. She didn’t know how much good this would do, but at least she was doing something. At a minimum, she could try to keep everyone on the outside apprised of what was going on.
She sent an owl to the Quibbler, as well. The Quibbler had always been supportive of Harry. Penelope had known Luna, the daughter of the Quibbler’s editor, at school, as they had been in the same House. Luna was an odd girl, but Penelope always had the impression that Luna’s moral compass was more accurate than most. Penelope only hoped that would hold true for the girl’s father. Lately, evil had been stamping out good in every perceivable direction.
Could mere words between two or three dissenters have any power if not put into action? Penelope had always believed that the quill was mightier than the wand. The current direction of the Prophet made it clear that others believed it, too. But Penelope wasn’t sure anymore. Her words now seemed small and feeble and inconsequential.
But she sent them out, anyway, if only for the sake of making sure the others knew they were not alone.
* * * * * * * * * *
She had an odd sense of foreboding when she was called into the managing editor’s office months later. Her stomach churned unpleasantly, and her senses were on high alert. Miles Blakely had never talked to her about anything before.
“Miss Clearwater,” he said after she had closed the door behind her, “I’m disappointed in you. There was a very odd letter from you found in the house of Xenophilius Lovegood.”
Penelope let out a small sigh of relief. She was just going to be sacked for leaking their stories. Just as well – this job was rubbish anyway.
She didn’t notice the Disillusioned man in the corner of the room until he had shot the Stunning Spell at her.
* * * * * * * * * *
The second she was revived in the dark, palatial room, she knew something was very wrong – even before her eyes had fallen on the horrifying creature standing in front of her. Her heart thumped in a panicked cadence, and she gasped at the sight of him. But she willed herself not to lose her head as she pushed herself off the ground and drew herself up to her fullest (yet woefully unimpressive) height.
Voldemort laughed as he took in her petite figure. “A brave little soldier,” he said in a cold, mocking voice. “An aspiring young reporter searching for truth. Let me know when you find it, won’t you? If such a thing exists.”
Penelope remained silent, concentrating on her breathing, attempting to keep it even and controlled. Why had they brought her here? Surely they could have killed her themselves. What did this man – this thing – want with her? It didn’t make any sense.
She didn’t allow her eyes to dart around the room, but her mind raced frantically, searching for some kind of exit. She knew there was none – the dark figures in the background would have made sure of that – and besides, they had taken her wand – but at this point, there was nothing to be lost by hoping.
“Clearwater, is it?” Voldemort continued. “A Mudblood?”
Penelope didn’t respond, but her brow creased defiantly.
“Yes, I know,” he taunted. “People like you don’t put much store by blood purity. I believe you are acquainted with an entire family of blood traitors, are you not?”
Her breathing hitched involuntarily.
“In fact,” hissed the monster in front of her, “you left their middle boy because he was not enough of a blood traitor for you.”
Angry tears sprang to her eyes, and her heart pounded more wildly than ever.
Voldemort chuckled – a repulsive, mirthless laugh. “Tsk tsk tsk. I really don’t know what is wrong with young ladies these days.”
He drew closer to her, and, in spite of herself, she cringed away. Voldemort ignored this and leaned in close to her ear, making her skin crawl.
“The problem is,” he said, “that even he will be troublesome to me. Not yet, of course. But he has been tainted by the tree from which he was produced.” He paused, and then dropped his voice to a harsh whisper. “He, too, will be disposed of, eventually.”
Her vision became blurry, and she couldn’t tell whether it was from the tears or whether it was because she felt as if she would faint at any moment. Pain and anger, nearly indistinguishable from one another, swelled inside of her. It was over for her now – she could sense it. There was nothing further to be lost.
“You will lose,” she said. The strength of her own voice surprised her.
Voldemort’s scarlet eyes narrowed as he drew back. His face looked like death itself.
“What did you say to me?”
Penelope swallowed, trying to find her voice again. It came out hoarse, but still audible.
“You will lose.”
The curse, she learned, did not kill instantaneously as most people believed. In between the blinding green light and the crushing blackness, there was a lag of about half a second.
In that half a second, she thought about Harry. She thought about Percy. She thought about good and evil. And she prayed that good would find both of them.
Author's Note: The news headline is from Deathly Hallows, chapter 11.
Chapter 20: Unlikely Dreams
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by Aisu Hoshino
Nymphadora Tonks sipped her coffee slowly, enjoying the time of quiet as she waited for Remus to join her outside the Burrow. Times of quiet were extremely rare here, between Molly and Arthur’s seven children and the members of the Order of the Phoenix coming and going. Currently, all of the Weasley children were gone, and the only Order members present were Tonks and Remus. Tonks was exceptionally thankful for this fact. Time with Remus was a very rare and precious thing as they both had duties to the Order, and even when they saw each other they were rarely alone.
Tonks’s hair was currently bubblegum pink, in part because she was glad for being able to spend time with Remus and in part because she did not want him to notice how depressed she was. Remus was the cause of her depression, but she didn’t want to guilt him into being with her, nor did she wish for him to hate himself any more than he already did. She did, after all, love him; she didn’t want to cause him pain, even if being without him caused her pain. Tonks sighed at the war raging in her mind. The truth was that Remus caused them both pain in his refusal of her. She knew he was in more pain now in denying his feelings than he would be in if he let himself love her.
This was yet another war raging in her mind: did he feel the same way? Oftentimes she doubted that he did and thought that she read his signals wrong, that he really did turn her down because he didn’t feel any more than friendship towards her. At the same time, her gut told her differently. Somehow she knew her doubts were wrong and that he kept away from her out of nobility rather than a lack of interest in her.
Remus joined outside, coffee cup in hand. He looked downright exhausted in every way – mental, physical, and emotional. Then again, who wouldn’t? Working for the Order was a trying and tiring thing, and Remus had quite possibly the most trying assignment of all.
Tonks often worried about him. Granted, they were fighting a war and she worried about the world as a whole, but she especially worried about Remus. He was her every thought and care, and had very much taken over her life. It was difficult enough for her to live without him being hers; she didn’t want to think about life without Remus at all. Furthermore, she worried about the toll the job was taking on him. Being a werewolf had always defined his life in negative ways, and now he was forced to associate with the very werewolf who brought the misery into Remus’s life. She found herself wondering why he put himself through it when there were other ways he could serve the Order.
“How have you been?” Remus asked her casually. She hated small talk, at least when there were more important things that she wanted to discuss. Furthermore, the question angered her: how did he expect her to be?
“As well as can be expected.” she answered. “You?”
“You took the words from my mouth.” he replied, adding an “as always” in his mind. When he spoke he smiled in a way that caused Tonks to feel bad for resenting the question.
“How are things going with the werewolves?” she asked) in the same casual manner he had before, but hers was a much deeper question.
Remus sighed as the smile fell from his face. “Things are…the same as always.” She noticed his eyes held regret in them, as if he felt he could be doing more for the cause. Perhaps it was wrong, but she smiled inwardly. Remus was always the caring martyr; it was one of the traits that drew her to him.
“Remus…” she began, not quite sure she was prepared to voice her question. “Why do you do it?”
“What do you mean?” he questioned, despite the fact he already knew.
“Why do you work so hard for the Order, even if it means being around…” Tonks trailed off, knowing she had said enough to get her meaning across.
“Many reasons,” Remus answered before pausing for a moment. “You know I could never stand by and watch a madman destroy the world as we know it.”
Tonks nodded, feeling the exact same way. “And the werewolves?”
Remus sighed. “I’m the only one who will, who can, get in with the werewolves. I keep hoping that I can convince them that Greyback is wrong.” Remus paused again. “I keep hoping that when all this is over, when we win this war and the world sees what I, a werewolf, did for the cause of what is right that maybe they would open their minds. I would very much like to say, one day, that some little thing I did united werewolves with the rest of Wizarding society.”
Remus stopped, observing Tonks’s face. She said nothing, but she had been hanging on every word. The words he spoke made her love and admire him more than she already did.
“An unlikely dream, I must admit,” Remus said as he turned his head.
“Aren’t they all?” Tonks replied. “But that’s no reason not to work toward it. It can happen. One day, I believe it will.” Remus smiled at her again, but she noticed that he was still unable to wipe the exhaustion from his face.
“What about you?” Remus asked her after a short pause in which they both sipped at their coffee.
“What do you mean?” Tonks asked.
“Why do you put your life on the line?” Remus clarified, his eyes twinkling at her, causing her insides to jump. “I answered you; surely I get the same privilege.”
Tonks let out a small laugh that some might find inappropriate considering the subject matter, but this response only piqued Remus’s curiosity. “Besides the fact that I can’t stand by and watch a madman destroy the world as we know it,” began Tonks. “I have a similar dream to yours – or at least, one as unlikely.”
“And what is that?” Remus asked curiously.
“You know my mother was disowned for marrying my father,” Tonks said, lowering her coffee cup from her lips. Remus nodded for her to continue. “It haunted me at school; all the Slytherin Purebloods had something to say about it. If they weren’t picking on me about that, then it was about the fact that I was a Hufflepuff. I hope that after all this is over, some of that Pureblood snobbery will stop; that people like my mother and father can be together without hatred from their family members; that all the Houses at Hogwarts are considered equal…”
Tonks let her words trail of, contemplating them in her own mind. Remus observed her. No one truly saw what effect the Pureblood critics had on her. Nymphadora’s mother, Andromeda, had once been a Slytherin from one of the most “pure” families around. Andromeda’s marrying of a Muggleborn outraged Pureblood society, and Nymphadora had been more of a target of their resentment than Andromeda had been. Remus was glad that she confided in him as much as she did, let him see the real her, even if it did make it harder for him to resist wrapping his arms around her.
He wondered sometimes what she would think if she knew that he referred to her as Nymphadora in his mind. He would never call her by a name she hated out loud, but it fit her so well that he could not help call her that in his mind. A mirthful smile came to his mind at the thought.
“I have another question for you, before you go,” Tonks said, breaking the silence between them. She was now tense, the result of both nerves and butterflies in her stomach, but she had to bring this subject up again.
“And what is that?” Remus asked casually, a bit lost in his own contemplations.
“You’ve told me why you fight for the Order. Now tell me,” She focused her eyes on his before continuing. “Why do you fight against me?”
Remus sighed; he should have seen this one coming. He stepped a couple feet away from her, rubbing the back of his head before bowing his head. “You know why. Why do you keep fighting against me?”
“Answer me first.” she replied, still staring him down.
Remus sighed. “It’s for your own good, Tonks.”
“For my own good!?” Tonks repeated his words angrily. “Remus, being with you, is for my own good! It’s all I want!”
“No it’s not!” Remus near-shouted back at her. “Being with me is too dangerous; I’m too dangerous.”
“No, Remus – “
Remus raised his hand to silence her. “Tonks, no. I will not lose this fight.”
“Neither will I.” Tonks said resolutely.
For a moment, they stood there just facing each other in their battle of willpower. Looking at her eyes, a more serious look in them than Remus had ever seen, it was difficult to stand by his decision. But stand by it he must – for her own good. The longer he looked in those eyes, the harder it became to stand there against her instead of in her arms. He turned when he was no longer able to bear it.
“I must go,” he said. “Duty calls.”
“Remus, I will win this.” Tonks said, causing Remus to pause. “I will see the dream of us become reality.”
“I won’t let it.” he replied, leaving before she could say anything else.
As soon as Remus was out of sight, Tonks’s hair returned to a mousy-brown color. She pulled at it as she fought back tears, frustrated at herself for not saying more to convince him. But no matter, she told herself again; she wouldn’t quit fighting until her heart and Remus’s heart were united.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Violet Gryfindor for beta-ing this story for me.
Chapter 21: The Sorting Hat's Endeavor: Splitting to Unite
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The Sorting Hat's Endeavor: Splitting to Unite
September 1, 1995
I’ve been sitting on a stool for the majority of my existence. In fact, I’m sitting on one now. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore sitting on stools, but it gets old after a while, you know?
Well, I suppose you don’t know, but do try to imagine it, alright? You probably still wouldn’t understand the feeling, since you’re not a hat. Although if you wanted to be one, I’m sure Professor McGonagall could arrange it for you. But take my word on it, it’s not the most exciting object to be. You could pick something else, like a toilet perhaps.
Anyway, I was given my brains and personality by the Four Founders ages ago. I can still remember their voices. I can’t see anyone, the quartet didn’t think to give me eyes, but I suppose it was for the best. I could sit here, blind on my little stool for hundreds of years, or I could have been worn by some witch or wizard who never washed their hair (or lack of it), shoved me under their bed, and threw me into a dump a year later. I got Godric. He was my first owner, and then… Well, he gave me this stool. I refuse to believe that the fact that I sit on this stool as a hat makes it my owner. I’m the one with the brains. Well, the brains that the Founding Four gave to me. I was grateful for the Four’s generosity. So grateful in fact, I decided to show it.
Every year, since the school has started, I’ve sorted first years into their houses. Be they Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin. I’m sure many people think that I am the one who tries to divide the houses. They couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, I am the one who unifies them all. I don’t understand why they fail to see that they all have the same qualities, some just have them in more quantity that others. It isn’t a separation. It is meant for them to make friends, not enemies.
Through the years, this idea has fallen apart. Today is September 1, 1995. I can’t see them, but I can hear them coming through the door. I can’t see them as their fingers reach out to put me on their heads, most of them washed by their mothers before they came. But I know them. I know every single one of them. I can see their minds, their darkest thoughts, their saddest memories, and it almost tears me apart. Yet I see the hope that shines in them.
In every single one of the children I have been placed, there has been hope. A want to fit in, a need to know, a thirst for something greater than they themselves are. Only one person in many a year have I not seen this in. I saw into his mind, into his memories; he was full of darkness, of despair, of thirst for revenge. I immediately put him into Slytherin. To this day, I regret my choice.
If I had put him anywhere else, perhaps he would have changed, become a nice fellow, but for some reason, I know in the bottom of my heart, even though I don’t really have one, that he would not have. The boy of eleven that I had sorted many years ago is now crushing the hope I see in these children. Year after year, the light dims as if someone has their hand turning on a knob, turning it down, down, down into darkness. I found, from my days in the Head Master’s office, that my own light was growing dimmer. I though that all hope was lost, until that one fateful day: The day I met Harry Potter.
You all know how the story goes from there. That’s how we ended up here, in 1995, with Harry Potter sitting at the Gryffindor Table, his light shining out on everyone. He is trying to hold us together with that light, whether he sees it or not. I may not be able to see it, but I can feel it, I can hear it.
Voldemort is back. He was never gone. Fools they were to think he was. I can feel it in Mr. Potter’s mind even now, when he sits only paces away from me. He is our shining hope, and he is fighting for peace: the one thing that unifies us all.
However, it seems that he is on his journey alone, save for his two friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. I’m happy I sorted them with him. Somehow I knew they would be great assets and friends to him. And now they are. The Golden Trio, I do believe they are called.
I can not let them fight alone. I can not sit here on my stool, sort children, and let this division grow any longer, I can not just sit and ponder! So I suppose I can only do the one thing that I do second best: make them yet another a song.
My songs are looked down upon in these times, I know that. This year, I can not make it so trivial. I can not let them pretend that I’m just a nutty old hat. I have to make them hear me. I have to make them see the disaster that will befall them if they do not hold strong together.
The only thing I can do for them now, is sing. Warn them that they need to unite, or we will fall. Unite, or Voldemort will conquer all.
I listened intently as the doors opened wide to let in the first years. Only when the silence settled, did I take a breath.
All of the students of Hogwarts, old and new, sat in silence, as the small, seemingly insignificant hat sat on his stool, hunched over, black, ragged, and dusty opened his mouth to sing his annual song. For a moment, no one really paid attention. But midway though the lyrical tale, an eerie silence had taken over the Great Hall. Every student leaned in to hear the rhythmical words as the sorting hat began the last stanza of his song:
and by now you know the score:
I put you here, I put you there
In a house that suits you more
But in these days it will be different
Each days sings a different song
Though I know that I must part you
I’m afraid that it is wrong!
I know what I must do
And I split you for the best,
But I can not help but wonder
If you’re missing all the rest.
You follow the path cut out for you
By the colors of your pride
But you forget to look to your neighbor
And reach over the divide
You wizards clutch your wooden wands
And forget that you have hands
Remember to hold on together
Or you’ll scatter like the sands
Dark forces gather all around us
Like vultures hungry for a feast
Stand tall, and firm and stand together
Do not give in to the beast
If you do not trust in one another
Over come your pride and fears
The darkness will overtake us
And our hopes will turn into tears
You must unite, but if you fail
You will crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you...
let the Sorting now begin.
Disclaimer: Last three lines of the Sorting Hat’s Song belongs to JKR (cited: Source of the Sorting Hat Song: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (U.S. Hardback) pages 206-207, last three lines of the Sorting Hat's Song, Chapter Eleven: The Sorting Hat's New Song)
Chapter 22: Darkest Night
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She sat . . . and waited. The long, still silence of the night had yet to be broken but she knew. Somehow, tonight felt different. The energy in the air around her was filled with an emotion long-since felt within the school - fear. The previous months had become nothing but a distant memory to her, hidden amongst the shadows within her very brain. Memories that cried out with hate, anger and pain.
The crackeling of the fireplace was the only sound left in the common room. Everyone else had moved to their own dormitories to sleep . . . or prepare. Prepare for a battle no one was quite sure who would win or which side would prevail. The year had been a difficult one for the House of Slytherin. Their former Head of House was now a murderer and a known Death Eater. Professor Slughorn was placed in charge while, to everyone's surprise, Professor Snape returned to Hogwarts as Headmaster with the Carrow's as his thugs.
The mood of the house, to say the least, was tense. Sides had been taken, followers named and resistors punished. Everyone knew the end would soon come. Those against the Dark Lord were outcasts within their own house, punished along with the other houses and looked down upon by their fellow Slytherins. "Fraudulent Snakes" they were called and teased.
Being a 7th year, she was one of the ones in charge. Many nights were late ones as she was up all hours, trying to retain peace within the house and keeping a watchful eye on Slughorn. She didn't like the way he meddled in.
Things were much better when Snape was in charge. Rumors about him snaked through the entire student body. Many had their doubts of his true loyalties. She just hoped everyone would be proven wrong.
She often found herself in the Headmaster's office, speaking to him (and possibly Dumbledore's portrait) of all that was going on within the house. The division amongst them and who was for who. She still thought him to be a spy. Not serving the Dark Lord but the Order. One of the few who did, she was threatened and often hexed for it.
One of her last meetings with him was a sobering one. "What will happen we cannot stop." He spoke solemly as he sat behind his desk. He glanced to Dumbledore's portrait behind him. "We must be there to fight for the right side."
"Which side would that be, Sir?" she asked.
There was a long pause. "That will have to be your decision."
The clock on the wall chimed. It was now 10:30 p.m. Her clothes and travel cloak still on she stood, with wand in hand, and waited. Slowly, the room began to fill as older students awoke the younger ones and shuffled everyone to the common room.
The first years, she felt bad for them. How awful it must have been to have had such a year as this so young. But then, they all had suffered. She caught the eye of one of the first years and gave a small nod. No one spoke but a whisper as they all waited. A sign . . . or a signal. Something was suppose to happen. But nothing did. Doubt began to creep into the air as the minutes ticked away.
Did something go wrong? Did they win that quickly? All began to question their motives when Professor Slughorn rushed into the room. He was out of breath and held onto the nearest student.
"We're all meeting in the Great Hall," he told everyone, shocked to see that most were already prepared.
The Great Hall? That wasn't part of the plan. She glanced around to the other seventh years. All looked worried. Quickly as they could, they rushed out the common room door and up the twisting and winding stairwells. The other houses were already making their way into the Great Hall, some sending evil glares their way but the Slytherins continued to their table. She half-stood on the bench as she tried to count them all.
Everyone waited as McGonagall addressed the room. She looked around but did not see him. The staff table showed he wasn't there. A quick look about found him nowhere to be seen. Slowly, she stood. "Where's Professor Snape?" she asked, with all of Slytherin awaiting the answer.
Gone. He couldn't be gone. That wasn't part of the plan. She turned and gave a slight nod to her fellow conspirators. They knew. They all knew. As He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named voice echoed thorughout the school, the Slytherins began their next action.
Earlier that week, she accompanied a few of her fellow housemates as they took their concerns to their former Head of House. He was quite distant with them. He only left them with a warning.
"If I should ever leave the school, one way or another, it will no longer be a safe place. Get out quickly. Save as many as you can."
His message rang true to her as they listened to Parkinson speak. Being the first house allowed to leave was perfect. Parkinson glanced back to her and nodded. She had completed her task.
She stood and began ushering the younger students towards the doors. All rushed to the seventh floor Room of Requirement. Slytherin, followed closely (but not to close) by Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor.
They crawled through the tunnel to the Hogs Head upon which they scattered. Children of Death Eaters met up and headed out towards the Forbidden Forrest. The Resistors, as they dubbed themselves, and a few first years stayed behind.
She ran to the floo and quickly activated it. The noise level intensified as the battle outside began and hoards of students from all four houses had arrived through the tunnel. Older siblings and younger ones from different houses found one another amongst the crowd and quickly used the floo to get out of harms way.
The battle had already begun as the final few students exited the tunnel. Gryffindors . . . their biggest school rival. The oldest amongst them was a sixth year. He grabbed his wand from his sleeve and pointed it towards the remaining Slytherins as a few first years hid closely behind him. No words were spoken between the two groups. No one from either side dared to move.
It was a Slytherin first year who breathed first. She stiffled a cough as a loud blast ripped through the night's air. His wand moved towards the young girl when she stepped in front of her. "No," was all she whispered. "We are not the enemy." She stood, firmly planted between the Gryffindor and the Slytherin. Slowly, he lowered his wand and gestured for the first year Gryffindors to head towards the floo. A moment later, they were gone.
Another boom shook the entire restaurant as spells and fire lit up the night's sky. She took a deep breath before turning to the others. "We all know what to do right?" she asked, glancing out the window. They nodded as they shook hands and headed out into the village. A few were heading to the Forbidden Forrest to search for the spiders. Others were on their way in search of the centaurs and other creatures who would be willing to fight. She was about to head out to begin her task when a small tug on her sleeve caught her attention. She looked down to find four Slytherin first years hiding behind her. She glanced to their faces and knew. Orphaned like she, they had nowhere to go. Their only home was under seige and their school mates were against them. First years, this was definitely not part of the plan.
A loud bang sliced through the stillness. She had no other choice. It was no longer safe there. "Come on," she told them as she grabbed the sleeve of the nearest first year and ushered her to the door. "Stay close to me," she shouted as she stepped out into the street. "Don't fall behind!" She glanced around and spotted the nearest and what looked to be the safest place in town, the Shrieking Shack. "Follow me!" she shouted to them as she lead the way through the caotic street towards the ragged, haunted, run-down place.
The battle at Hogwarts could be seen in the distance as villagers ran about looking for people to fight or a safe place to hide. Diverting her attention for one moment, she glanced behind her to make sure the first years were still with her. Out of breath and frightened but all four were still there. A man from an allyway spotted them. "Hey! Slytherins!"
She turned in the nick of time to avoid a curse thrown at her but not quick enough to dodge the next one. She felt a sharp pain in her wand arm as blood began oozing down her sleeve. The first years stared in disbelief. Another curse was cast their way as others came out to join him. A moment later they were surrounded with at least twenty wands aimed at them.
"Look at what we have here, ladies and gentleman," the man from the allyway spoke. "A bunch of frightened, cowardly snakes!" He forced her to her knees as the first years stood to her side, huddled together. "Where you going, snake?" he asked as he placed her wand to her throat. "Off to find your master?" She spoke not a word as the other villagers began to laugh nervously.
A small voice crept through the tense crowd.
Booms and crashes filled the night's air as those assembled watched the south tower of the school collapse.
"Don't you see what's happening?" the small voice spoke again. Turning she noticed it was one of the first year Slytherins. "We are not the enemy," he stated, repeating her words from earlier that evening. "You call us cowardly," he spoke softly but firmly. "I don't see any of you heading to the school to help!" His voice got stronger as the crowd began to listen. "You stand here ready to fight mere children when there are evil grown ups terrorizing your every move!" A loud bang caught them all off guard as the spells cast from the smoldering school ricocheted off one of the few remaining walls and out to the village below.
"Leave them!" one of the ladies shouted. "Come on!" She turned towards the battle. "We can't let our children die for our freedom." Shouts from the crowd erupted as they rushed towards the school willing to do whatever they could to help.
For a moment, she couldn't breathe. The pain in her arm was too severe. She was loosing alot of blood. She tore her shirt and tried to wrap her wound but to no prevail. She caught the eye of the brave young Slytherin who saved them all. "Let's get out of here," she shouted to all of them. With the battle fully on, there was no way of reaching the safety of the shack. She glanced around to see the Weasley's joke shop. She smirked as she could think of no better place.
Holding her arm close to her, she quickly lead the four first years to the shop and charmed open the door. "Inside," she stated to them as they followed her in. The noise of the battle could still be heard but at least it was a safe place. . . for now. "Is everyone alright," she asked the four first years as she glanced down to her arm. It was getting worse, she may loose it all together but she wasn't about to tell them that. She glanced through the door to see a frightful sight.
The Dark Lord. . . . he was leaving the Shrieking Shack. She stayed hidden behind the door as she watched him head into the Forbidden Forrest. After a moment, she let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. To think of how close they all came to being killed, she shuddered at the mere thought of it. A tug on her sleeve brought her back.
She glanced down to see the brave first year by her side. "Has it always been this way?" he asked quietly. "Against our house, I mean."
She turned to face the others and walked over to them. "No, actually. It wasn't." She sighed as she thought back to her first few years at Hogwarts. House rivalries, yes. But to be an enemy just because of the house someone was sorted in . . . that came a few years later. After He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had fully returned.
She glanced towards the door. "There will come a day when all of this will be over. A mere memory for you," she began. "Painful to remember but difficult to forget." She glanced to each of them before continuing. "Just remember . . . there are both decent and cruel people sorted into all four houses." She looked down and her bleeding arm. "And not all Death Eaters were Slytherins."
"Are you proud to be in Slytherin?" one of the girls asked her.
She thought for a moment. "Yes," she stated quietly. "Proud, as you should be. My years at Hogwarts are all but ended. Your journey has only just begun." She smiled as the other girl in the group looked up at her. "This war will end. And one day we will be able to hold our heads up high again."
The calmness was interrupted by the sounds of war raging on around them.
"Do you think the good guys are going to win?" the brave Slytherin asked.
She looked from one young student to the next. "I have no doubt," she stated strongly. "We are going to prevail and victory and peace shall live amongst us all."
The younger students smiled as they glanced around the shop. One of the girls found five drinking glasses and quickly filled them with water. "A toast," she proposed as she passed the glasses to those assembled. "To Slytherin!"
"To Slytherin!" they stated before being drenched with water. She forgot. It was a joke shop after all. The younger students laughed at the scene causing herself to get the giggles. This was definitely not part of the plan.
Chapter 23: The Butterbeer Brigade
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She saw the first ones during Transfiguration one Wednesday afternoon. The first cloud of Nargles, that is. Of course, in a castle the size of Hogwarts, she’d glimpsed the occasional Nargle before. It was hard to be absolutely sure, as Nargles were so easily mistaken for motes of dust, but to be on the safe side, Luna never went without her butterbeer cork necklace.
For most of the class period, a lively dust cloud had been dancing and swirling around Professor McGonagall’s desk. Although the lesson’s material was certain to come up on the OWLs, Luna found herself entranced by the eddying dust. Funny things like that were commonplace at Hogwarts, but the dust had been growing more plentiful of late, much to Filch’s consternation.
It wasn’t until Professor McGonagall couldn’t find last week’s homework to hand back that Luna realised what was happening. The dust cloud was really a cloud of Nargles.
Luna’s thoughts immediately flew to the other dust clouds that had been causing Filch so much irritation. Could Hogwarts have a Nargle infestation? Daddy didn’t believe in killing Nargles, but Luna wasn’t so enthusiastic about them. They were a frightful nuisance, really, once an infestation set in. At first they’d just hide things, but as their numbers grew, their tricks could become more spiteful. Luna fingered her butterbeer cork necklace. Thank goodness butterbeer is toxic to Nargles, she thought.
The rest of the day, Luna saw dust clouds everywhere. It seemed that there were so many more than yesterday. Yes, Hogwarts was clearly suffering from an infestation of Nargles. They hadn’t taken over completely yet, but it was only a matter of time. She wasn’t sure if the teachers would appreciate the danger; they had completely ignored the Wrackspurt scare last year. Maybe she could get Daddy to send her some more corks without telling him exactly what they were for.
Later that evening, Luna sealed a carefully composed letter into an envelope—she’d just written that she would like to have some corks to make better necklaces—and made her way up to the owlery, where she selected a large, sturdy looking school owl to deliver the letter.
“This goes to Xenophilius Lovegood,” she told it as she fished an owl treat out of her pocket. “He might send a large parcel back with you.” The owl gave her a grumpy look at those words but took the treat and soared off.
Sighing, Luna hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and headed for the library. Snape had set them a particularly nasty essay in Defence Against the Dark Arts, which she had double with the Gryffindors, and Luna had been putting off finishing it. Why he’d made it due on a Thursday, she couldn’t imagine. Perhaps the Nargles had hidden his lesson planner.
She found Ginny sitting at a small table. Various books were piled all around her as she worked on the same essay. Moving a few aside, Luna sat down in the other chair. After glancing around to check whether Madam Pince was in earshot, Luna leaned forward and, indicating a nearby dust cloud, whispered, “Hogwarts has a Nargle infestation.”
“Nargles?” Ginny scoffed, still bent diligently over her parchment.
“Yes. They’re extremely tiny creatures that like to hide things and play tricks. They hid the homework Professor McGonagall was going to hand back to my Transfiguration class.”
Ginny shook her head, dipped her quill in her inkpot, and continued writing. Unable to put it off any longer, Luna took out her own supplies and pulled one of the many tomes toward her. The two girls worked in an amiable near-silence, pausing now and again to reference a fact in a book or ask one another a question. After a couple of hours, they were both finished. Ginny yawned and stretched and Luna flexed her cramped fingers.
“Thank goodness that’s done. I hate Snape,” Ginny said as she and Luna packed up their supplies and stacked the books on a re-shelving cart. As they walked toward the exit, the dust cloud that had been hovering near them all evening danced its way closer and engulfed Ginny’s book bag.
Ginny sneezed. “You’d think they could get someone more competent than Filch to perform a dust control charm on this place,” she grumbled.
“That wasn’t dust, Ginny. It was some of the Nargles. You really should check your bag. They might have taken something. They like to do that, you know,” Luna advised, but Ginny just waved a cheery goodnight and hurried off.
* * *
Luna carefully watched the post owls the next morning, although she knew Daddy couldn’t have written back so soon. All around her, people were sneezing and complaining of misplaced quills and neckties. It hardly seemed possible, but there were more dust clouds today than ever before. She’d even caught a glimpse of Filch shuffling around looking even more ill-tempered than usual, muttering about students hiding his mops.
The Potions lesson with the Hufflepuffs was a disaster that morning. Judging by the hazy air, the dungeons were positively teeming with Nargles. Slughorn lost track of the dung beetle carapaces he’d set out, and then he misplaced his silver knife. Even worse, the words on the blackboard seemed to erase themselves when he wasn’t looking. By the end of class, Slughorn was looking utterly bewildered and waved them out of class ten minutes early.
The troubles only continued. When Snape collected the essays, Ginny couldn’t locate hers.
“I know it was right here in my bag!” she said to Luna while frantically searching.
“The Nargles must have taken it. I told you we had an infestation,” Luna said airily, gesturing at another dust cloud. Ginny gave her a dirty look and emptied her bag onto her desk.
Snape swept past and clucked his tongue. “No essay, Miss Weasley? Well, you can write it during detention on Saturday morning. And five points from Gryffindor for this unsightly mess.” He gestured at the contents of her bag.
Ginny’s face was bright red, and Luna could tell she was fuming. “I hate that old bat,” she hissed under her breath.
“Maybe if you explained about the Nargles,” Luna began. The two girls looked at each other and then burst out in quickly muffled laughter. “No, Snape wouldn’t care,” Luna finished.
The next morning, Luna eagerly searched for the school owl she’d set to her father. It should be back today, but as owl after owl swooped in with no sign of the large one, she felt disappointment set in. Just as she was about to give up hope, she spotted it struggling into the Great Hall, the very last owl to arrive, bearing a large, bulky parcel. She rushed over, still carrying her toast, and quickly relieved it of its burden. The owl shot her a baleful glance, snatched the toast from her hand, rumpled its feathers, and took flight immediately.
Luna shook the package experimentally, hearing some soft, muffled thumps. The package wasn’t heavy. Not bothering to finish her breakfast, she rushed up to her dormitory and ripped open the package. Butterbeer corks tumbled out onto her bed, along with a roll of string. Dear Daddy, she thought. He can be frightfully absent-minded sometimes, but he thought of the string.
She only had fifteen minutes before class, so she managed to make just one necklace before she had to cram the string and a few handfuls of corks into her bag. During the morning break, she made a few more necklaces. She wasn’t sure how to distribute them yet. She didn’t think that most students would take very kindly to her handing them out in the hallways. Perhaps the former DA members would be more receptive. Yes, she’d start with them, especially Ginny.
Before DADA, she pulled Ginny aside and gave her the first necklace. “This will keep the Nargles away. Butterbeer is toxic to them, you know.”
“Er, really? No, I didn’t know that,” Ginny said, eyeing the necklace uncertainly. Luna couldn’t blame her. The necklace really wasn’t very pretty.
“You can just put it in your pocket if you like. It’ll still be effective. Nargles can sense even the faintest trace of butterbeer from twelve feet away.”
Ginny looked relieved. “Oh, ok. Thanks. I’ll do that,” she said, quickly shoving it into her pocket.
Most of the other DA members were in the year above her, so she couldn’t talk to them during class. After dinner, Luna finally managed to catch Neville at the top of the staircase. She groped in her bag. “There’s a Nargle infestation. You’ll want one of these,” she informed him, pushing a butterbeer cork necklace into his hand. He looked at and then glanced at the one she wore around her neck.
She hastened to assure him, “I know it’s not as nice as this one I have, but I didn’t have enough time. It will keep you safe anyway. And if you don’t want to wear it, you can keep it in your pocket.”
“A what infestation?” He didn’t seem to have registered her last words.
“A Nargle infestation. There are always a few around, but nothing like this.”
“Nargles. What are those again? I mean, are they dangerous?” He looked a little worried.
“Well, they’re not exactly dangerous, but they can pay some nasty pranks once they get bold. They start out just by hiding things, though. They took Ginny’s Defence Against the Dark Arts essay yesterday. Snape gave her detention.”
“Oh.” He held the necklace up to his eyes. “Why butterbeer corks?”
“Because butterbeer is toxic to Nargles, of course.”
“Oh. And they steal homework, you say?” The worried look had returned.
“Oh yes! They even hid all the work Professor McGonagall was going to hand back to us,” she replied.
That settled it. Neville hung the necklace around his neck. “If they’re allergic to butterbeer, why not spray them with butterbeer, then? We could fumigate the whole castle.”
Luna paused to consider. Butterbeer wasn’t allowed in class or in the corridors, of course, nor were any other drinks. It was one of Filch’s innumerable rules. But since the weekend was coming up, it would be a good opportunity to get to some of the worst nests.
“That’s a good idea, Neville. Do you know where we can get some butterbeer by tomorrow?”
He looked uncomfortable. “Well, no. But Ron Weasley might!” he said, brightening. “His brothers were always sneaking food in. They might have told him how they did it. Besides, he and Harry sneak out a lot. They might know a way.”
“He’s seeing Lavender Brown, isn’t he? But he really likes Hermione. He’s just not very nice to her,” Luna observed.
“Um,” Neville twisted the necklace nervously, looking extremely uncomfortable. “Look, here they come now! You can ask them!” he exclaimed suddenly, pointing and looking very relieved.
Luna turned around. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were slowly making their way up the stairs, huddled together and whispering fiercely. They looked up at the sound of Neville’s voice. Ron bounded up the stairs and stopped in front of them. “Ask us what?” he demanded aggressively.
“We were wondering if you knew where we could get some butterbeer for tomorrow,” Luna said.
“Butterbeer? Are you having a party, then? Excellent! D’you think the house elves would have any, Harry?” Ron rubbed his hands together enthusiastically.
Harry and Hermione had reached the top of the stairs by then. “I dunno,” he said. “I suppose we could always ask.”
“Absolutely not! That’s against the rules!” Hermione broke in. “Besides, you can’t ask the elves to sneak in contraband for you!”
“Blimey, Hermione,” said Ron, rolling his eyes. “Enough with that spew stuff already. No one said anything about asking them to sneak it in. We only want to know if they already have it. Where do you think Winky—”
“Shhh!” Hermione hissed, glaring and jerking her head toward Luna and Neville.
“. . . got hers? I bet they use it to cook with!” Ron continued as if he hadn’t noticed Hermione’s interruption. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking extremely pleased with himself. Hermione, on the other hand, looked ready to explode.
“First of all, Ronald, it’s not spew, it’s SPEW. And even if they don’t have to sneak in the butterbeer, you can’t steal their cooking supplies. And you shouldn’t even be thinking of having a party! It’s against the rules. Think how much trouble we could get into! I won’t allow it!”
“You won’t allow it?” Ron asked incredulously. “Yeah, well, you’re not my mum, Hermione!”
“Well, you’re obviously not responsible enough to look after yourself!” Hermione was nearly in tears.
“And so you think you have to do it?” Ron shouted.
“Stop it. Just stop it, both of you,” Harry interrupted, massaging his head as if it hurt him. Hermione and Ron stared in opposite directions, both wearing mutinous expressions.
“We’re not having a party,” Luna ventured after a moment. “We just want the butterbeer.”
“No party?” Ron gaped. “But why d’you want the butterbeer, then?”
“We’re going to use it to get rid of the Nargles,” Neville said miserably. “It’s toxic.”
Hermione looked round at him blankly. “Excuse me? You want it for what?”
“Nargles! There’s no such thing!”
“Yes there are,” Luna contradicted. “Hogwarts has an infestation right now.”
“They stole Ginny’s homework,” added Neville.
“No, they didn’t, because they don’t exist! They’re a myth, Luna!”
“Then how do you explain all the strange dust clouds we’ve been having in the castle?” Luna asked calmly.
Hermione only hesitated a moment before launching into a detailed explanation of stray magic concentrated in one place and the effects it could have on everyday objects, but she was soon interrupted by Neville.
“Um, Hermione? I don’t think we should take any chances. Besides, it’ll be fun. Sort of like the DA meetings.”
“Yeah, Hermione. It’ll be fun,” Ron emphasised.
She shot him a dirty look and asked scathingly, “And what exactly do we need the butterbeer for? If we drink it, they’ll leave us alone?”
“No, we’re going to sprinkle the butterbeer around the castle. It was Neville’s idea,” Luna explained, beaming at him.
“We’re going to sprinkle butterbeer around the castle?” Hermione repeated. “Oh, Filch will love that.”
“He’ll be thanking us later. The Nargles are driving him mad,” Luna said, although she didn’t really think Filch would ever thank them. He was even more close-minded than Hermione.
“Maybe we should let him go mad,” Ron said, a gleam appearing in his eye. “Say, I wonder how cats react to butterbeer? Think we could feed some to Mrs Norris?”
“Ron! That’s despicable!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Well, so is Mrs Norris,” he retorted.
Luna decided to interrupt before they could begin bickering again. She reached into her bag and pulled out three more necklaces. The three friends stared at her bemusedly.
“They’ll keep the Nargles away. Go on.”
They all hesitated, and she saw Ron and Harry exchanging uncomfortable looks.
“Neville has one already, and so does Ginny,” Luna pursued, looking straight at Harry. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually wear them if you don’t want to. You can keep them in your pockets.”
Ron reached out and took one. “All right, then.” The necklace disappeared into his pocket. He took a second necklace and handed it to Hermione. “We’ll go see the house elves right now, don’t you think, Harry? How much butterbeer should we get? How many do you think are coming, Luna?”
She paused a moment to consider. “Well, I haven’t asked anyone else yet, but I was hoping all the DA might show up. Maybe if you asked them, Harry? If you called a meeting like last year? They’d listen to you.”
“Ok,” he agreed, taking a necklace. “When are we meeting?”
“Oh, as soon as possible. Tomorrow morning. I was thinking ten o’clock outside the Room of Requirement.”
Harry looked sceptical. “That’s not much notice. I don’t think many will come.”
“People will join in as they see what we’re doing, I expect,” Ron said, a hint of glee in his voice.
“You’re probably right, Ron. Thanks, Harry. I’ll see you in the morning, then?” Giving a little wave, Luna headed off. She wanted to swing past the Room of Requirement on her way up to Ravenclaw Tower.
As she walked away, she heard Hermione ask, “You don’t really believe her, do you Neville?”
“Don’t you?” he replied.
It was Ron who answered. “Well, no! Nargles? Hermione’s right, they don’t exist. I’ve never heard of them, anyway, and my mother knows all about magical creatures. But Luna’s all right. She’s always good for a laugh. Besides, this will be fun! Can you imagine Filch’s face when he finds out we’re sprinkling butterbeer all over the castle?”
By then, Luna was too far out of earshot to make out the reply, but she had to suppress a little giggle at the thought of Neville’s expression as he pictured that idea.
She had known people wouldn’t believe her about the Nargles, but the butterbeer would still be effective, whether or not anyone believed it. People never did believe anything that was printed in her father’s magazine, even when he had plenty of evidence to back it up. To be fair, he had printed some rather odd things, even she had to admit that, but the Daily Prophet wasn’t always right either!
As Luna entered the seventh floor corridor, she came across two Slytherin girls. They were obviously startled to see her, because one gave a little squeak of surprise and dropped a bottle of butterbeer, which shattered all over the floor and soaked her shoes. Normally Luna wouldn’t stop to talk to Slytherins, as they weren’t very nice to her. However, these girls couldn’t have been more than second years, and they looked absolutely terrified.
“That’s all right. I didn’t mean to frighten you,” Luna said kindly. She pulled out her wand, siphoned the butterbeer off the girl’s shoes, and repaired the bottle.
She continued, “So you know about the Nargles too? Several of us are getting together on tomorrow morning at ten o’clock to fumigate the castle. You should come! Do you already have your own butterbeer corks?” She pulled out the last two necklaces she’d made. The girls looked at each other in confusion.
“Uh . . . what?” the one on the left asked.
“For the Nargles. To keep them away, of course.” It was Luna’s turn to be confused. Perhaps the girls didn’t know about the Nargles after all. That must be why they had looked so frightened when she came up. They must have been afraid she’d report them to Filch for having drinks in the corridors.
“Nargles?” the girl repeated.
“Yes. Wasn’t that why you had that butterbeer? It’s toxic to them, you know. Sprinkling butterbeer gets rid of them.”
“Oh.” The girl on the right spoke up. “Yeah, Nargles. That’s what we were doing, right, Cr—I mean Belinda?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Nargles, that’s right.”
“We’ll just be getting on with it,” the first girl said, trying to edge around Luna.
“Wait, take these,” Luna insisted, pushing the cork necklaces into the girl’s hand. “You can keep them in your pockets if you’d rather not wear them.” Luna was beginning to think she should have just handed out the corks as is, without worrying about putting them on a string. No one seemed to want to wear the corks. Perhaps if she’d had enough time to make them pretty like hers . . .
“Fine,” the girl muttered, stuffing them into her robes before zooming off down the hallway, the second girl right behind.
“Don’t forget about tomorrow,” Luna called after them, only just realising she’d forgotten to tell them where everyone was meeting. “Bring a friend!” She continued feebly, knowing the girls were out of earshot.
* * *
When Luna checked her old DA coin the next morning, she saw Harry had changed the coins to show the Nargle extermination meeting, so she assumed he and Ron had managed to get hold of some butterbeer. All through breakfast, she kept reaching into her pocket to rub her coin. Hermione was sitting across from Neville at the Gryffindor table, her mouth set in an unforgiving line, but Harry and Ron had not appeared yet. Finally they hurried in and took seats on either side of Hermione. Ron looked over to the Ravenclaw table and made a thumbs-up sign.
“We got it!” he mouthed before diving into a heaping mound of pancakes. Luna breathed a sigh of relief.
Once Ron and Harry finished eating, they all left the Great Hall together. Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot hurried to catch up with them.
“Is there really a DA meeting this morning?” Susan asked.
Harry replied, “Well, it’s not exactly a DA meeting. Maybe Luna better explain.”
“Hogwarts has a Nargle infestation. We’re going to fumigate the castle with butterbeer, which is toxic to them. You’d better each take one of these corks for protection,” Luna said briskly, handing out the corks. “You can put them in your pockets,” she added a moment later as she recognised the bemused expressions the two girls were wearing.
“Nargles steal homework!” Neville blurted.
“We’re going to feed Mrs Norris butterbeer!” Ron chimed in.
Hermione opened her mouth, but Harry cut across her, “Let’s get going, shall we? Ron and I left the butterbeer in the corridor up there, and Filch or someone might find it if we leave it there too long.”
Susan and Hannah exchanged a glance and then shrugged. “All right then,” Hannah agreed.
Once the group rounded the corner on the seventh floor, they saw Harry had been quite right to worry that someone would find the butterbeer. Two figures were seated on the cases, each drinking from a bottle.
“Wonder who left this here, eh?” the one on the left asked.
“Dunno, but it sure is nice!” the second one replied.
Ron started forward. “Hey! That’s ours!”
The figures looked up, and Luna recognised the girls from yesterday. The same girl as yesterday dropped her bottle, sending up a spray of glass. Luna hurried forward, cleaned up the mess again, and said, “I’m glad you came. I didn’t think you would.” She turned to explain to the others, “I met these girls yesterday. They’re here to help with the Nargles. They have corks and everything already.”
“That’s right. Nargles. Gonna fum’gate the castle,” the girl on the left said.
Ron ripped open one of the cases and handed a bottle to everyone. Hermione took hers, gave a long-suffering sigh, and said, “Well, if we’re going to do this, we might as well make it easier.” With a wave of her wand, she transformed all the butterbeer bottles into spray bottles.
“Brilliant, Hermione!” Ron exclaimed. She blushed, looking pleased.
“I think we should start in the dungeons,” Luna said. “That’s where the Nargles are the thickest.”
Hannah gestured at the stack of cases with her bottle. “We should take all this along, don’t you think?”
Harry concurred, “Dobby and some of the other house elves helped us move these up here, but we could probably levitate all these down to the dungeons as we go.”
Half an hour later, after some careful manoeuvring through secret passageways to avoid teachers, the group and the butterbeer arrived safely in one of the abandoned dungeon classrooms.
The moment Harry’s back was turned, Ron took advantage of the opportunity to spritz him with some butterbeer. Harry let out a yell, wheeled around, and sent a stream right back at Ron. Within moments, Neville and the two Slytherin girls had launched themselves into the butterbeer fight. The other four girls beat a hasty retreat into the corridor.
“Boys,” Hermione said disgustedly, cautiously peering around the edge of the door and surveying chaos and dripping walls and desks.
“It’s working, though. Look. No dust,” Luna pointed out.
“You’re right! Well, I’m all for anything that’ll get rid of that dust. It’s been awful!” Susan said. She shook her bottle of butterbeer and began spraying down the walls. The other girls followed suit, working their way systematically down the hall. Behind them, the muffled yells of the butterbeer fight grew more distinct as the participants spilled out into the corridor.
Suddenly, a door burst open.
“What is the meaning of this commotion? I am trying to conduct a detention!” Snape roared. Neville dropped his bottle, and the two Slytherin girls tried to edge away. Everyone else froze and silence fell.
Snape continued in a smug tone, “Well, well, Mr Potter. Thought you’d break your little girlfriend out of detention, did you? And you’re promoting contraband; butterbeer is not allowed in the corridors. Defacing school property is not permitted, and students are to wear dry clothes at all times. Fifty points from each of you. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy serving detention with me every weekend,” he finished with a nasty grin.
“I told you we’d get into trouble,” Hermione said miserably.
Chapter 24: The Quidditch Ban
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"No, Potter, I'm afraid I'm not."
Professor McGonagall gave the young Gryffindor a pitying look. The scowl on his face deepened, and he ran a hand through his already untidy raven hair. "That's impossible!" he muttered half to himself. "Y-you can't ban Quidditch... It's just... It's not doable, Professor!"
On James Potter's right side stood another boy with a mutinous look on his handsome face, Gryffindor Beater Sirius Black. This was his first year on the team, and he did not take kindly to this sudden announcement. If McGonagall thought she could ban Quidditch without answering to the Gryffindors first, she was off her rocker.
"It is doable, Mr. Potter," McGonagall sighed in exasperation. "I believe I have just proved that by doing so. Look, there have been far too many injuries! Madam Pomfrey has complained continually that she would have less than half her average number of patients if there was no Quidditch."
James was Captain and star Chaser to the Gryffindor Quidditch team; their Seeker, Thomas Keane, always joked that even if he didn't catch the snitch, James would have scored enough goals for a win anyway.
"So charm the damn bludgers not to hit so hard," James said crossly, folding his arms across his chest. "Don't ban the whole sport!"
"At the end of the week I shall send my decision to the Board of Governors," she told him firmly, "and that will be the end of it." There was no mistaking the disappointment in her voice as she added, "I'm sorry, Potter, but that's my final word."
As she swept away, the boys' other two friends, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, quickly joined James and Sirius; they had been hovering close by, listening to the conversation.
"No luck, huh?" Peter said sympathetically. "Well, I suppose that's that, then--"
"What do you mean, Pete?" interrupted Sirius, a spark catching in his dark eyes. "Were you listening to the same woman as I was? According to old McGonagall, we've got a week to change her mind."
Remus heaved a sigh of resignation. "I don't suppose your master plan includes a whole lot of good behavior," he acknowledged dryly.
The statement was greeted by the silence it deserved. Of course Sirius didn't hope to win her over by means of impressive cooperation in class. It soon became clear, though, that Sirius's plan was largely academic.
"Mr. Lupin, will you collect the essays?"
It was the morning following James and McGonagall's row, a crisp Tuesday. The day before, McGonagall had assigned the sixth year Transfiguration students a short essay on why human transfiguration was more difficult that that of an animal.
As Remus took his paper, James checked to make sure McGonagall wasn't looking and then tipped him an enormous wink. Remus just shook his head, smiled, and placed the stack of papers neatly on McGonagall's desk.
"Today we shall be practicing human transfiguration," McGonagall announced, taking her place in front of the class. "As you read about and explained in your essays--" Sirius snorted "--this is considerably more difficult than what you have practiced so far with animal transfiguration. We will start simple; you will divide yourselves into pairs and take turns changing each other's eye colors." She demonstrated the incantation on herself, turning her eyes a miraculous shade of yellow and then back to brown. "Don't forget to indicate your desired color; if anyone has troubles restoring their original eye color, see me after class."
She sat at her desk, pulled the pile of essays toward her, and dipped her quill in an ink bottle. The class came to life as chairs scraped away from desks and students rushed to find a place to work with their partners.
"I wonder what our marks for the essay will be," Sirius remarked vaguely. "Vertipictus violacea," he added, waving his wand and turning James's hazel eyes to pure violet. "I feel as though I didn't put all the effort into it that I could have."
"Really? I know I did." James scrutinized Sirius's face thoughtfully. "I think you'd look dashing with pink eyes." His spell caused Sirius's eyes to take on a hue reminiscent of bubblegum. "Aha! The girls will be fawning over you now."
James and Sirius had of course practiced human transfiguration before -- how else would Snape have woken up with blond hair one morning? -- but the rest of the class were less experienced. It took Remus only a couple attempts, but Peter struggled, his face screwed up in the effort to make the spell work. Finally, Remus's eyes turned an emerald green to rival those of Lily Evans. It was while the other Marauders applauded his triumph that McGonagall spoke two words that frosted the very air in the room.
Unfazed, James strolled to the front of the room and leaned against her desk. "Yes?" he said innocently, twiddling his wand in his fingers. No one else made a sound except for Sirius, who was trying and failing to fight the desire to laugh. "Is something wrong?"
"I think you know what's wrong."
James just looked at her, not giving anything away. She flared her nostrils impatiently and pushed his essay toward him. "I suppose you see nothing wrong with this, then?"
The piece of parchment was the exact size she had asked for, and labeled with the heading she had instructed them to use. At first glance, it was an essay like any other. The content, however, stood out. Anyone who read it would come across sentences such as While transfiguring a head into a quaffle does suit some people quite nicely, it is wise to learn the counter-spell beforehand or One should not transfigure any part of their body into a bludger if they do not wish that body part to be treated as such.
"Judging from the title, you did not forget what the subject of this essay was intended to be. Perhaps you did not understand what it was asking?"
"Oh, no, Professor, I understood," James assure her earnestly. "I thought I explained it rather well. No? I figured it would be glaringly obvious that transfiguring, say, a cat into any sort of Quidditch equipment would be much simpler than doing the same thing to a human. After all, a cat can't really complain as much once you lift the spell."
McGonagall glowered. "What a ridiculous attempt to return my focus to Quidditch. I can't say I wasn't expecting something of the sort, but this wasn't even up to your usual par -- not that I'm encouraging you. You will do lines on learning to do the assigned homework, rather than manipulating it to suit your purpose. My office, tonight, seven o'clock."
James marched back to his friends and smirked heartily, an expression that became more pronounced when Sirius's own essay was marked. All McGonagall had to say on the matter was, "You will be joining your friend, Mr. Black."
The two boys' detention stretched longer than either one had expected. Then again, James reflected, McGonagall had probably done that in purpose to serve as a double punishment. He and Sirius had wreaked more havoc in Charms, conjuring bludgers that cuffed people over the head every time they tried to speak. Flitwick had been kind enough to restrain from a punishment, but McGonagall no doubt had other plans.
"You will forgo these lowly attempts to change my mind," she told them sternly before she dismissed them. "I don't like it any more than you do, but Poppy has put her foot down; we can't risk losing our medi-witch to something as trivial as a sport."
That, at least, revealed a weakness, but for once James couldn't see a way to turn the tides in his favor. He and Sirius strolled gloomily through the halls to the kitchens; a snack prepared by the house-elves might cheer them up and even stimulate their minds.
Once on the other side of the fruit portrait, the house-elves scurried about to bring the two Gryffindors a large tray of treacle tarts and pumpkin juice. The food was good, if not particularly inspirational. “We’re screwed,” Sirius said glumly, having swallowed his last gulp of pumpkin juice. “There’s no way we’ll be able to come up with something by the end of the week, not something that’ll change her mind.” He heaved a great sigh that made a couple of the house-elves look up from the spot of floor they were scrubbing. “I guess our flying days are over.”
James was about to admit his agreement when a slightly mocking voice said, “Take heart, brother. It’s not over yet; or do all Gryffindors give up so easily?”
Of course Sirius recognized the voice, but he mightn’t have believed it if he hadn’t heard the word “brother.” “Regulus?” he asked incredulously, spraying a few crumbs of treacle tart on the “s.” “How do you know how to get into the kitchens?”
Regulus Black, boy who could have been mistaken for Sirius at a distance, rolled his eyes. “I’m a Slytherin,” he reminded them, sneering. “You thought you two geniuses were the only ones who could figure out how to get in? A third year could’ve applied the magic it takes to--”
“Who cares how you got here; what do you want?” James cut in rudely.
The smug look of superiority that spread over Regulus’s face was enough to make James curl his fist into a ball. Oh, what he would give to get in a good punch, but he could never do that to Sirius’s brother, no matter how big of a git he was. Unless, of course, Regulus gave the first hit. Then nothing could stop James from pounding, or better yet, hexing him into oblivion.
“The same thing you want, I imagine,” Regulus replied airily. When James and Sirius remained silent, he added with exaggerated patience, “Quidditch. I want to save Quidditch.”
James was taken aback, but recovered quickly. “We’ve already tried,” he shot at the younger boy. “Sirius and I -- we’ve had talks with McGonagall, we’ve tried to make a point--”
“You call writing phony essays and conjuring a couple of bludgers in class ‘trying?’” Regulus scoffed. James opened his mouth to ask exactly how Regulus knew what they had done when he realized that he would probably get an answer along the lines of “I’m a Slytherin,” and frankly, he didn’t care to be reminded which House Sirius’s family was generally associated with.
“I’m a Slytherin,” Regulus went on anyway, and James groaned loudly, “and I don’t know if you’ve ever paid attention to the Sorting Hat’s songs, but one main attribute we’re associated with is cunning. That means I know how to work my way around people. That said, I won’t pretend our dear medi-witch Madam Pomfrey has any fond feelings for me. Like it or not, I can’t persuade her to change her mind alone, and as you two, for reasons I have yet to discover, seem to be deep in her good books, I… can’t do it unless you’re there to back me up. And as I’m the one who knows how to read people and get around them, you can’t go there without me. You need me.”
James gaped. A Slytherin wanted their help reinstating the Quidditch cup? And he expected them to think of it as their needing his help? He turned to share his outrage with Sirius, only to see his friend nodding slowly. It was then he remembered that the two were brothers. Different though they may be, they were still brothers, and Sirius had never hated Regulus.
“You can’t seriously be thinking of teaming up with him?” James pried weakly, but he knew the answer before it was given. It made sense, he admitted to himself grudgingly. He would do anything if it meant having Quidditch back. But this was a Sltytherin…
Sirius gave him a dark look. “We’ve got to,” he said gravely, as though they were agreeing to fight Dark wizards rather than accompany another student to talk to the medi-witch.
Though every cell in James’s brain was screaming in protest, his shoulders slumped and he had to accept defeat. “All right,” he said heavily, trying to stress that he would rather do anything but this. “We’ll do it.”
“That should do it, Miss Evans,” Madam Pomfrey was saying kindly to an all-too-familiar redhead in James’s class. His heart turned over when she saw the tearstains streaking her face, and a potion bottle in her hand as she stood up from the bed she was sitting on and left the hospital wing, hardly seeming to register that there was anyone else present.
James vowed he would get one of Lily’s to tell him what was wrong later; he knew Madam Pomfrey would never say.
“Do it now,” Regulus hissed in his ear. He and Sirius stood on either side of him, waiting for him to make the first move. They had gone over what to say the night before, and it wasn’t as though James had never tried to sweet-talk any of the professors. It felt somehow wrong when it came to Madam Pomfrey, though.
“Hullo,” he started off lamely. His mind raced frantically back to what Regulus had told him. “Uh - lovely day out, isn’t it? Perfect to get some fresh air. You don’t seem to have any patients; care to join us for a little stroll?”
Madam Pomfrey glared at him suspiciously. “You wouldn’t happen to want something, would you, Mr. Potter?” she barked shrewdly. “No potions to keep handy in case one of your stunts goes wrong?”
“Nothing like that, Madam,” James assured her, giving her a winning smile. “We - Regulus, Sirius, and I - just thought you’d enjoy the fresh air, and perhaps a friendly bit of conversation.”
He had begged Regulus to let them stay inside. After all, how many students just invited a staff member to join them for a walk? Regulus had insisted on it, though, and there was no changing his mind.
“I suppose,” Pomfrey said reluctantly. It was clear she still suspected that something was off, but Regulus took her by the arm and led her out through the hospital wing. The four of them crossed through the entrance hall and made their way to the grounds.
“Nothing like a good bit of fresh air,” Sirius sighed, stopping for a moment to breathe in deeply. James sniggered; this may be what they had agreed on, but it looked and sounded positively ridiculous.
“Air is good,” Regulus agreed heartily, clapping Madam Pomfrey on the shoulder. She scowled at him and crossed her arms, but didn’t say anything. “Say… it’s a shame we older students aren’t allowed out very often. Between sitting in lessons and studying for exams and doing all our homework, we’ve no time to come out except on Hogsmeade weekends. Of course, we used to come out for Quidditch, but I guess that’s over now.”
Madam Pomfrey’s scowl deepened. “Yes, it is,” she said icily. “I won’t deny that a spot of air is healthy, but it’s not worth all the oxygen in the world to be out playing dangers sports that could cause serious injury! I’d rather have you half-suffocating inside the castle walls than up in the air, getting chased around by bludgers and making horrid dives that you just barely pull out of in time! I‘ve made up my mind; the sport has to go!”
She was fuming, practically foaming at the mouth, but the boys held their ground. “All that ever really happens is a broken bone or two,” James coaxed her gently. “That can be fixed in about a minute, can’t it? You’ve put up with it all these years -- why ban it now?”
“Besides,” Regulus added before she could say anything, “Quidditch is the only way some students feel accepted. Without being part of the team, they’re just a nobody. This could lower some people’s self confidence, and could lead to depression.” His eyes were dark and serious, and James had to admire him. If he hadn’t known this was scripted, he might have thought Regulus was speaking straight from the heart.
“I’ve made up my mind…” Madam Pomfrey repeated, but she didn’t sound as sure. Students with depression? That wasn’t something easily treated.
James pulled out his final hope, his winning card, the reason Regulus had needed him to come along. “You’ve fixed up a lot of me and my friends’ injuries,” he said, giving her a small smile. “I think only one of them was ever from Quidditch. But keep in minding, banning the Quidditch Cup doesn’t mean that students won’t still fly around the pitch and play their own games. It wouldn’t be as fun as playing in front of the school is, though -- or as safe. Surely it would be better if there were hundreds of people nearby to help, rather than just a handful of other students? What if someone died because there wasn‘t a teacher around to save them? What if, say, Sirius hit a bludger at me and I fell off my broom? He certainly doesn‘t know any healing spells, and all the professors would probably be inside teaching.”
The last two lines weren’t planned, but they helped get the point across, and James couldn’t resist making a dig at his friend.
Madam Pomfrey exhaled through her nose. “I see you three aren’t about to let up,” she observed. “All right, fine, you can have your game. But don’t think that the next time you show up in the hospital wing because you were hit in the head with a bludger that I’ll let you forget this was your idea.”
She walked away, back to her office in the hospital wing, and Regulus, Sirius, and James exchanged looks of glee. For one day, they had been able to forget that they were normally on opposing sides, and the result was the return of their favorite pastime.
“GRYFFINDOR SCORES!” the commentator shouted; it was the first Gryffindor-Slytherin match of the season, and the majority of the spectators were clad in scarlet-and-gold. The Slytherins’ cheers for their team were not outshone, though. No one could say they lacked in House spirit.
James whooped loudly, having just scored a goal. It was 120-30, Gryffindor in the lead. The Seeker, Thomas Keane, circled the pitch like a hawk searching for prey. Regulus Black was hovering near the Slytherin goalposts, squinting out at the vast stretch of sky in front of him.
The quaffle was back in James’s possession. He shot forward, dropping it down to Chaser Howard McCormack, who passed it back as a green-and-silver blur tried to steal it from him. James was nearly at the goalpost. He aimed to throw the quaffle in the middle goal, but before he released it, Regulus suddenly shot upward. Thomas Keane was racing from back farther towards the Gryffindor end of the pitch. James rushed closer to get a better look, and soon he was on one side of Regulus, and Keane was on the other.
Regulus tilted his face a little until he could look James straight in the eye. “Thanks for your help, mate,” he said with a wink, and then it was over. The snitch fluttered in Regulus’s hand, which was raised triumphantly in the air. The Slytherins’ screams drowned out the groans from the Gryffindors by far, and even James could hardly resent the win.
Just this once, he would let the Slytherins have their victory in peace. In the end, a lost Quidditch game was better than none at all.
The philosophy would not last long, though, for next game, he would beat them, and no shared bond with Regulus would stop him from gloating.
Chapter 25: A History of Staircases
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Helga stepped between the men as both advanced toward the other, wands held threateningly in front of them. Arms outstretched, she looked from one man to the other. “We can’t fight. We mustn’t,” she implored.
“I’ve had enough of his non-sense,” Godric snarled, glaring at Salazar. “Hogwarts is a school for all young wizards and witches. We have agreed on that when we first began!”
“That was before we know there was such a thing as Muggle-borns,” Slytherin replied icily. “I do not trust Muggles. You’ve seen what they can do to our kind. Have you forgotten?”
“But that is exactly why we built Hogwarts,” Rowena spoke up, stepping forward, sweeping a concerned gaze over both men. “We teach our students to control their magic so they don’t alarm Muggles. It is especially true with Muggle-borns. Children with magical parents won’t have the same problem as they do.”
“None of our students have betrayed us,” Godric said through gritted teeth, “and I thought you were sure of our protections? Did you not put some of them up yourselves?”
Salazar’s hand twitched dangerously around his wand, but Helga was faster. There was a bang, and both Godric and Salazar staggered backward, taken aback by her shield. “Enough!” she yelled, her own anger rising. “There will be no duelling between you; arguing is bad enough. You’re supposed to be best friends, for Merlin’s sake!”
Neither Godric nor Salazar replied, but they were still glowering at each other as they stood up. Rowena exchanged a look with Helga and spoke softly, “We built this school together. I do not wish to see it fall apart because we disagree on this matter. I understand your concern, Salazar, but Godric’s right too. Hogwarts should not discriminate.”
“If you wish to teach Purebloods,” Helga quickly added as Salazar opened his mouth, “you can take them as your students. This is why we have our houses, is it not?”
Salazar turned his gaze on her; fire was burning behind his dark eyes, and even Helga could see that neither her solution nor Rowena’s had satisfied him. Nonetheless, he nodded curtly and said, “If that is the only way.”
Godric huffed, but made no argument. Warily, Helga lifted her shield and watched as Godric stormed out of the room, followed several moments later by Salazar who headed to the opposite direction, the door closing behind him.
She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “This isn’t over, is it?” she asked, lifting her brown eyes to meet Rowena’s blue ones.
Rowena shook her head, sighing as well. “They’re stubborn, those two. We need to find some ways to get them to talk this out, instead of having to raise a wand every time they are in the same room. For now, let’s just let them calm down.”
Helga stared at the door and nodded.
Helga hummed to herself as she wrote down her lessons plan in her office. She loved this, planning classes and teaching these young wizards how to use their powers. And the fact that she was doing it with her best friends didn’t hurt either. The thought of her best friends dampened her mood a bit, and Helga busied herself with tidying up her desk, dreading the moment she had to come down to the Great Hall for dinner.
Godric and Salazar were acting like complete strangers. They did not talk at each other, they ignored each other, and when they did have to talk, it was with such politeness or sarcasm that Helga wanted to scream. It was straining their friendship, it unnerved the students, and Helga knew sooner or later it would come to a point where she had to choose whose side she was on. Though how they would ever expect her or Rowena to do that was beyond her.
Rowena had tried talking to both of them separately with no result, and Rowena was the most convincing among the four of them. If she couldn’t change their mind, Helga wondered what she could do. She couldn’t just sit back and hope the problem resolved by itself, could she? She knew Salazar hadn’t changed his opinion about Muggle-borns, and neither had Godric. Sooner or later they would give up the cold war and return to arguing, and she wasn’t sure she would like that.
Knowing she couldn’t linger behind for much longer, Helga left the class and headed to the Great Hall. She smiled absent-mindedly to the paintings she passed, still busy trying to figure out a way to reconcile Godric and Salazar. She just needed to remind them that they were friends, best friends, but how?
She was walking down the stairs that would lead to the Great Hall when she remembered something. Some students have complained that they found it difficult to navigate their way on the stairs. She had often seen students running into her classes, out of breath. They had discussed the possibility of moving their classes closer to one another, but that had resulted in a loud argument between them, so the idea was dropped. In the midst of Godric-Salazar tension, it had been sort of forgotten as they assumed that the students had figured out some way to deal with the problem. Perhaps that was true – students were getting accustomed to finding their way around the castle and the number of tardiness was decreasing – yet she couldn’t help but think that, if they could, they should have done something to make it easier for the students.
Besides, ever since the Apparation ward was put off, they too had to walk around the castle. It was inconvenient at first, but it was a necessary protection, so nobody complained out loud. However, Helga knew even Rowena grumbled a little if she had to go to Salazar’s office in the dungeons from her tower. If they could fix the stairs, they too would be able to work more efficiently.
An idea was starting to form in her head, but she didn’t fancy the idea of asking Godric and Salazar to work together. Then again, perhaps it was exactly what they needed. She remembered how much all four of them enjoyed those moments where they sat down together and plan the school, watching their dream materializing in front of their eyes. It had brought them closer together before, perhaps this time it would happen again.
“Moving stairs?” Salazar echoed, the puzzlement clear in his face as he gazed at Helga across the round table.
“Which will take students to classes faster, yes,” Helga affirmed with a nod.
“I thought you said tardiness wasn’t a problem anymore,” Godric said, unable to keep the accusatory note off his voice, “and why could you not wait until tomorrow to tell us this? I thought you said it was an emergency.”
“Because if I called the meeting tomorrow, either you or Salazar would find an excuse to not come, and then Rowena and I would have to go back and forth between the two of you. We would never get anything done. Catching you two off-guard was the best solution, and it obviously worked,” Helga answered simply. Godric and Salazar caught each other’s eyes before swiftly looking away, but Helga knew both had to admit she was right.
“So explain to us your idea,” Rowena piped up, a small smile playing across her lips.
“Well, I think we all know how tiring it is to climb those long stairs all day, and the students feel the same way too. So I was thinking maybe we could charm the steps to move the moment we placed a foot on it.” Here she paused, waiting for the arguments. None came, so she proceeded, “It would save the student and us a lot of energy and time. I know it’s going to be complicated, but I think it’s worth trying.”
There was silence for a moment as each Founder became lost in their thoughts. Helga looked from one friend to another, anxious. Perhaps she had not thought it through, but she really believed that they could make it work if they wanted to.
It was Salazar who spoke first. “I think it’s a good idea, but,” he began slowly, holding up a finger when an excited smile quickly spread through Helga’s face, “we must think everything through. Safety measurements must be taken, the charm must be tested, and all of those had to be done before the students return.”
Helga turned to Godric hopefully. He was still tapping his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose we can do it,” he relented with a grin. “It makes the castle more... adventurous.”
Rowena looked a bit worried. “Is a month long enough to put it all together?” she wondered out loud. “We’ve got so much work to be done.”
“It’s a challenge,” Godric replied, still with a grin. “One I’m sure we can conquer.”
Helga smiled. There was that old feeling in the air, the excitement that always seemed to settle each time they sat together like this. It had not changed.
Yet as Helga turned to Salazar, she could feel him putting his guard up again, his expression slipping back to its coldness as Godric spoke. “How about taking it as a responsibility?” he suddenly challenged mockingly. “Make it adventurous and a student will soon get hurt. Times for experiments are over, Gryffindor.”
It was as if someone had poured ice into the room. Godric was still, and both Helga and Rowena were still registering Salazar’s use of Godric’s last name when he finally replied, “I never put our students in danger, and you know that, Slytherin.”
“Enough,” Rowena interrupted sternly. This was not about the stairs anymore, and they all knew it. “Godric, you and I are going to work on the spell. Salazar and Helga, concentrate on the safety measurements and the design. Two weeks, and then we start working on the stairs. Does everyone agree?”
Godric and Salazar nodded tightly, while Helga sighed, nodding as well. “Good,” Rowena concluded. “See you all tomorrow morning.”
Godric was the first to leave, and then Salazar, leaving Helga and Rowena to walk together to their chambers. For a while, they walked in silence. Rowena was not a talkative woman, and Helga didn’t feel like chattering the way she always did.
“Tell me everything’s going to be fine,” Helga suddenly said, turning her head to look at Rowena imploringly.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Rowena repeated dutifully with a small smile. “And I do believe it. It just takes time.”
“I’ve never seen them so hostile towards each other,” Helga sighed, wringing her hands together. “Not even when we first met. It was always you and Salazar who fought, but never them. I just don’t understand why...”
Rowena lifted her blue eyes and gazed at her quite sharply as she replied, “Do you really, Helga? Do you really not understand why they both felt so strongly about the situation?”
“Well, I...” Helga trailed off. When she really thought about it, she did understand. Salazar’s parents died at the stake, an end which he had narrowly escaped himself. He claimed he didn’t hate Muggles, but he didn’t trust them with their secret. To him, Muggle-borns was as good as Muggles. Godric, on the other hand, had never known his parents and struggled with his own powers in his youth. Godric would not tell them the whole story, but Helga knew he had been friendless and misunderstood throughout his childhood. He saw himself in the young Muggle-borns.
Rowena saw the understanding dawn on Helga’s face and drew a heavy sigh. “I dearly hope we can reach a decision before long. We don’t have enough time to find Muggle-borns for next year, but we need to agree on something. All of this tension is not doing any of us any good.”
The next month flew by as they worked relentlessly. They taught each other the spells they came up with, practiced them on models, pointed out flaws, and so on. It was almost like the old days. The enmity between Godric and Salazar ceased somewhat as they concentrated on their respective tasks, yet each set their jaw when the four of them sat together and refused to speak to the other directly. It didn’t matter how many times Helga or Rowena talked to or even yelled at them. Helga had half given up on them by the time they had to actually work on the stairs.
The four of them stood at the double doors in the entrance hall while Rowena handed each of them a rough map of Hogwarts. “We’re going to split up in order to finish this today. I’ve marked each of our starting points,” she pointed to the dots of colours on the map, “and when you’re finished, just tap the parchment twice and the dots will shift to the next destination. It’s possible that we will run to each other, I suppose, but that shouldn’t be a problem.” Her eyes lingered on Salazar and Godric, but she said nothing. “Right, we should start now.”
Helga glanced at her map and took off to the seventh floor. Her three friends headed out to different directions as well, and as she stole another glance at the map, she wondered if Rowena had a plan of her own.
She pushed this thought out of her head as she focused on the task at hand. The spell Rowena and Godric had come up with had to be done precisely. They had blasted several models in the process of creating the spell, and though they were sure that the spell wouldn’t be able to blast Hogwarts staircase, they also admitted that they weren’t sure on what would happen if the spell went wrong.
Helga, on the other hand, had found that Salazar really was keen on the students’ safety. He worked her day and night to come up with spells and charms that were “powerful enough to counter any foolishness”, as he had put it. Whether he was talking about the students or Godric, Helga couldn’t tell.
For an hour or two, Helga worked with ease, moving from one staircase to another without much disturbance and occasionally coming across one of her friends. Though she lamented the fact that this wasn’t bringing Godric and Salazar together, the spells were working well, and she supposed she had to be satisfied for now. She could always think of other ways to reconcile them...
A loud bang startled her out of her thoughts, and the blue jet she was directing to the steps hit the banister instead. A fine crack formed immediately, but her attention was somewhere else. She took out her map from her robe’s pocket. The green and red dots were overlapping on the second floor, two floors below her. Groaning, she hastily pocketed the parchment and dashed down the stairs she was working on, but when she reached the stairs that would lead to the second floor, she was forced to stop, clinging to the walls beside her to stop herself from falling.
She was standing on the edge of what should have been a staircase, yet there was only empty air in front of her. Her first, harried, thought was that the staircase had been blasted off. On a second look, however, she saw that it was not the case. The missing staircase had been, indeed, suffered a blow, but it wasn’t completely destroyed. It broke into several parts, the numbers of which Helga wasn’t exactly sure, but one was floating in mid-air between the second and third floor. However, it wasn’t standing still. It was moving back and forth, as if hesitating where it should go.
Helga’s jaw dropped, but her attention was diverted again as a red jet shot from the second floor, hitting the wall on her right, causing the paintings on it to protest loudly. She took another look at the second floor and gritted her teeth. “Bloody temperamental fools,” she muttered, for it was Godric’s and Salazar’s spells that were flying around her.
“Helga!” She turned around to see Rowena running toward her, her dark hair flying behind her, worry etched on her face. “The stairs...” she trailed off, catching her breath. “Somebody misfired the spell.”
“I’ve seen,” Helga answered grimly. “We’ll worry about it later. For now, we must stop them before they destroy something else.”
She looked around, desperate for a way to get to them. Her gaze landed on the floating stair, and she pointed her wand at it without a second thought. “Accio staircase!” To her surprise, the staircase immediately floated towards her. She stepped gingerly on it and, without waiting for another spell, it floated back to the second floor. She had gripped the banister tightly for fear of falling, but it was stable and it only bumped the wall slightly when it came to a stop.
Hopping off the stairs, Helga pushed away all amazements and puzzlement out of her head as she focused on the battling men in front of her. Ducking out of a runaway hex, Rowena flicked her wand. “Expelliarmus!”
Caught off-guard, the wands flew out of their hands. Helga reached up to catch them while Rowena stormed up to them. Both men had the grace to look somewhat sheepish as she glared at them. She yanked them both by the arm and dragged them to the archway that led to the staircase. “Look at what you’ve done!”
Helga, too, looked out at the scene before them. It was a strange view to behold: big blocks of small staircases were floating in mid air, quite broken. Some of the rubbles had fallen to the ground, and there were burnt mark on the wall where the misaimed hexes had hit. Not all of the stairs were broken, she noted, only the one that connected the second and third floor.
Her gaze landed on the small staircase she had summoned before which was still waiting in front of them. She furrowed her brows; perhaps they could work their way around it...
“What happened?” Rowena demanded. She was furious, that was obvious. Rowena didn’t turn to ice when she was mad; she lashed out. It didn’t happen very often, so the effect was quite frightening when it did. “What was so important that you so readily destroyed the place we have worked so hard on? I have had enough of your fights. If you value our friendship at all, you will stop all of these childish bickering and talk. Do you think of Helga and me at all? How do you think your fighting makes us feel?”
Salazar and Godric met her glare quite bravely, Helga thought. She would’ve immediately apologized, but both of them stayed silent, still avoiding each other’s gaze. A cold despair gripped her heart; was there really no hope of reconciliation between them?
“It was my fault,” Godric suddenly admitted. Helga blinked in disbelief, but her ears had not deceived her. “I was distracted. The spell swerved and missed the steps. The staircase cracked.”
“I happened to see it, and I called him a fool,” Salazar interjected. “I was going to fix it, but he refused my help. I could not remember who started it, but we started duelling.” He grimaced. “Neither of us paid attention to our surrounding. I didn’t care to notice that it happened.” He gestured to the floating stairs. “It was my fault as much as Godric’s.”
Godric looked as surprised as Helga felt, and he locked eyes with Salazar. For a moment the four of them were quiet, as if waiting for an explosion. There was none, but Godric offered Salazar the tiniest of smile, which Salazar returned, and Helga breathed. Perhaps there was hope for them after all.
Rowena’s face softened considerably, though she seemed determined to remain upset with them. “Well then, what do you suppose we do now?”
Another moment elapsed in silence as they gazed once again at the stairs before Helga cocked her head and said slowly, “I think I have an idea.”
There was a murmur of awe and excitement among the students as Godric explained to them about the moving staircases. Helga smiled; the excitement was contagious. She couldn’t wait until the students actually see what they had done.
It took them another two sleep-deprived weeks to fix the damage and lay out their new plan, but it had been worth it in the end. The stairs turned out better than they expected. Instead of charming the steps, they modified the spell so the staircases would move the way it did when Helga stepped on the one Godric and Salazar broke.
And, this time, there were no animosity between the men. Sure, they were still a bit terse when it came to the subject of Muggle-borns, but they had started talking to each other, even working together side by side without going into an argument. They had even joked and laughed together again, and meetings were not as dreadful as it used to be. It was like the early days of Hogwarts.
And for that, Helga was glad.
A.N.: Big thanks to Violet Gryffindor for the staircase idea and for looking over the story before it was sent off to be posted. =D