Chapter 13 : We've Got To Stop Meeting Like This
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Update: I've added on a huge part to the end, so please make sure you read it!
The next week passed quickly. The seventh years were bogged down with so much homework, Harry wondered how he could have balanced his classes and quidditch had the tournament been allowed.
Professor Amsel proved to be a very good teacher, albeit strict and demanding. The first harsh criticism they had received after their test was expressed more in a form of frustration and annoyance towards their previous professors rather than the students themselves.
“You all seem to suffer from the belief that the louder you say a spell, the more effective it is. This is not only a naive belief, but also implies the impossibility of silent spell work, which we all know is possible. Whatever delusion you have about shouting, screaming or yelling spells needs to be forgotten as of today. Verbal incantations are all well and good for the process of learning and mastering the spell, but it is a hindrance in the real world of dueling and everyday life. By the end of this term, no one in this class will be mumbling, muttering, whispering, or otherwise verbalizing common defensive spells. And by the time your NEWTs are administered…” she trailed off, giving each of them a sharp stare, her point clearly understood: Not one spell will be uttered aloud.
He still had his doubts about Amsel’s true identity and her possible link to his mother. The past week of classes had only given further fuel to the flames of doubt. He had thus far not taken Hermione’s advice to confront Professor Amsel. He felt a kind of trepidation whenever she spoke to him during class or passed by his desk. He could ,feel a kind of…resentment would have to be the best way to describe it—towards him whenever they made eye contact. Her deep violet eyes rarely locked with his, but there were a few occasions when they had, and it sent chills down his spine. Her apparent resentment towards Harry was beginning to rub off on him. He didn’t like being around her. He resented her resentment. She didn’t even know him, but for some reason she had already passed judgment.
Every night Harry browsed through the long notes between his mother and V, trying to find anything that might hint at a connection between the woman who taught his class and the girl who had penned the silver loopy writing. The only similarity was the handwriting, and it wasn’t enough to convince him. The writing might be the same, but the person was not.
However much he hated to admit it, Hermione was right—the only way he was going to know for sure would be to ask her. It was an unpleasant truth, but a truth nonetheless.
On Saturday morning, the sixteenth of September, Hogwarts woke to unusually cold weather. An icy fog blanketed the grounds leaving sparkling crystals of dew on the grass.
Near six in the morning, the uppermost window in Gryffindor tower was lit up, its occupant awake—wrapped up in thick red quilts—wiping the remnants of tears from her face. She had dreamt of it again. The same horrifying scene of her parents’ murder. It was a dream she hadn’t had since she left Grimmauld Place. Why was this coming back to haunt her now? Hermione tried to push through the vivid images, forcing them to recede back to the furthest reaches of her memories. She didn’t want to remember it. She didn’t want to deal with it. She couldn’t. Not now. She wiped the remaining tears from her face and focused on something else.
The circle of symbols was bright in her vision; glowing a soft hue of red—a residual effect from the color theme of her dream. The Ring came and went from her vision with no apparent pattern. The only constant in its appearance was in the dreams. It was always there.
They didn’t make any sense to her. She had spent her few spare hours between homework, classes, Head Girl duties and sleeping, in the library, searching through any book that might hold even the smallest mention of anything remotely similar to what she was experiencing. Granted, she had only been back at school for two weeks, but her failure was disheartening. There had to be something somewhere—anywhere—that held some sort of clue to her dreams and these damnable symbols.
She sighed, running her fingers through her tangled hair. Hermione threw back the covers, quickly wrapping up in her warm robe and walked over to her desk.
A few complicated taps and flicks of her wand and a small slot popped opened just beneath the lip of the desktop. She pulled out a small stack of parchment and spread them out on the desk.
Ever since she recovered her necklace, Hermione had started documenting the appearance of the Ring: when it appeared, what color it was, how she felt at the time, who she was looking at, the physical effects of the appearance, what was happening, and how long it lingered in her vision. She cross checked the table, hoping to find some sort of pattern or meaning to the colors and the people or events that caused its appearance.
She had made some progress. For instance, every time she looked at Harry, the ring (if in her vision) would turn ocean blue. Even during the attack in Diagon Alley it had flashed blue when she glanced at him. She didn’t know what the color meant, but she knew to associate the color with Harry. Likewise, she knew that red was a color of warning and precaution, it often made her eyes feel like they were on fire and it showed up in times of strain and panic like Diagon Alley. Black was the worst color. Hermione couldn’t really find a word to really describe what it meant; she just understood that when the Ring turned black, she knew mortal danger or death was near. And unlike the other colors she had experienced, black seemed to empower her, as if the Ring itself defied what the color predicted and didn’t want her to fail. The power she had felt in Diagon Alley and…even her house was almost frightening. It didn’t come from her. It came from the Ring and it always left her worse for wear.
The table was just over a foot long now. There were so many different hues of colors and different times when she saw them, and so many inconsistencies of occurrence. Patterns were becoming harder and harder to find. Hermione added the light red color that was now almost completely faded from her view and filled in the remaining details. She could only hope this was a sign that it would not reappear for the rest of the day.
Pulling a few more pieces of parchment into her view, she tucked her color table under the other sheets. These rolls of parchment were covered with her attempted tracings of the symbols that created the Ring. The bottom corner of the page had a tracing of her necklace as well. The style matched up, but none of the symbols in the Ring matched the pendant.
She scrutinized the sorry excuse of a drawing. She was certainly no Dean Thomas, she mused, but this would have to do.
There were three different circles of symbols drawn on this particular piece of parchment. One was larger than the other two—an interesting development she had yet to really explain. At the time she had traced it out, the ring just looked bigger—closer—in her line of sight and she still had not pinpointed why this had happened.
Looking at one particular sequence of symbols in the larger circle, Hermione grabbed another piece of parchment and a quill and started writing. But she didn’t get very far. As soon as she finished the second symbol and began the next, a very strange and startling thing happened: the two completed symbols began to smoke and char then suddenly burst into flame. It happened so quickly, Hermione dropped her quill in surprise dooming it to burn in the flames that consumed the whole piece of parchment.
This had just become a bit more complicated.
“It just burst into flame?” said Harry at breakfast. “Just like that?”
Hermione sighed, “Just like that.”
When Ron and Harry finally made it down to breakfast, they found Hermione near the end of the Gryffindor table, stained and tattered books stacked three and four high around her. It hadn’t take much prodding to get Hermione to spill the reason why she was reading rather than eating breakfast. While both Ron and Harry were a bit perturbed that she had not told them about her work on the colors and symbols, they were more concerned about the spontaneous combustion of her parchment. How could copying down some symbols cause the paper to burst into flame?
“Why didn’t the parchment burst into flame when you copied the symbols in a circle?” asked Harry. Hermione shrugged, said she didn’t know and opened a new book.
“Where did you get these?” asked Ron, picking up one of the smaller books and studying its cover (Spontaneous Combustion: The Curse of Fire Demons).
“Restricted Section,” she answered without looking up. “One of the perks of being Head Girl: I have unlimited access to the Restricted Section.”
“So, have you found anything yet?” asked Harry, sifting through some of her books.
She shook her head. “Not really. I did find some quoted pieces that could show promise. I just need to look them up the next time I get a chance. If I ever get the chance,” she added as an afterthought.
“I take it that means you won’t be able to come with Ron and I to see Hagrid after breakfast?”
A wistful expression crossed Hermione’s face. “If only I could,” she told him. “But there’s no way. After breakfast Ernie and I have to meet with Professor McGonagall about the increasing hostility between the Slytherins and the Gryffindors and the abnormally high numbers of students being caught out of bed.”
“Increasing hostility?” said Ron, “What increasing hostility? We haven’t seen Malfoy and his bunch outside of class!”
“Not with the upper years, Ron. The first, second, and third years seemed to have started a war between themselves. Madame Pomfrey’s injury reports of Gryffindors and Slytherins are starting to pile up.”
“We’ve hardly been here for two weeks!”
“I know, Ron. That’s the point. That’s why Professor McGonagall wants to work this out with Ernie and I. We’ve got to stop this before it gets any worse.”
“We could put off the visit until later today,” offered Harry. “I’m sure Hagrid will miss seeing you if you aren’t with us.”
“I know, Harry, but that won’t work either. After our meeting with Professor McGonagall, we have to go over all the Prefect reports, compile them, and hand a single report to Professor McGonagall by breakfast tomorrow morning.”
Ron choked on his pumpkin juice. “Re-reports?” he sputtered.
“Yes, Ron, reports. And now that you mention it, I haven’t seen yours in the Head common room…” Ron’s eyes grew wide. He’d forgotten about the report.
“I take it you won’t be able to see Hagrid either,” said Harry. Ron started to say that, yes, he could come, he still had the whole afternoon—but Hermione’s cold glare stopped him mid sentence. He shook his head.
“It doesn’t look like it, mate,” said Ron, utterly disappointed.
Before leaving the dormitories Harry grabbed a few of him mum’s notes on a whim. He might not be able to face Professor Amsel about this, but Hagrid might know something about his mum’s friend.
Bundled up in his scarf and gloves, Harry walked briskly across the grounds towards Hagrid’s hut. Seeing smoke rise from the chimney, Harry hoped that Hagrid was boiling water for tea. Even with his scarf and gloves, the temperature bit at his face and ears.
Just as he was about to knock on the large wooden door, a voice drifted out through the door, stopping his hand mid swing. It was the last voice he would have ever expected to hear come out of Hagrid’s cabin: Professor Amsel’s.
“I don’t know what they did,” he heard her say, “but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.”
“Tha’s odd,” said Hagrid. “I know I’ve heard Firenze talk’in about it before.”
“I’m sure he has, Hagrid. But it wasn’t there. Now, hold still.”
Harry ducked around the corner and crouched under the window for better listening.
“Well? Wha’ do ya think?”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Hagrid. Six stunners at close range…I don’t need to tell you how lucky you are to be half giant.”
Slowly, Harry inched up the side of the hut.
“I would have taken ten,” replied Hagrid.
Harry peaked over the window ledge and barely stopped himself from voicing his shock. Sitting shirtless in his large leather chair, Hagrid held a very large bowl on his knee while Professor Amsel was bent over his lame arm.
He was transfixed by the sight of Hagrid. After seven years, h e had never once imagined Hagrid to like this under all those heavy coats and furs. Scars—large patches and long, thin, jagged lines—riddled his lower chest and up over his shoulders. But the damage to his lame arm far outstripped the rest of his exposed skin. The skin, wrinkled and distorted, was pale and jagged; the hair all but stripped away. A sick feeling of guilt traveled from the pit of his stomach to his throat. If he hadn’t asked Hagrid…
Professor Amsel paused her work and gazed up at Hagrid. “You, Hagrid, more than any other man I know, have stayed truly good over all this years.”
“Na,” he protested, his face tinged with pink, “There’s always Dumbledore.”
“Yes,” she conceded softly. “There is always Dumbledore.” Hagrid watched her closely as she pulled several different colored bottles from a small black bag that sat on the large footstool. His eyes followed her to the fireplace, were his large black kettle hung over the fire.
“What’s goin’ on with you, Verena?” he asked when she pulled the kettle from the fire. “You don’ seem like yurself.” She didn’t’ answer him right away. Instead, she reached her hand out towards Hagrid, who handed her the bowl and she refilled it with the boiling water from the kettle.
“Your assessment is slightly outdated, Hagrid,” she said softly, gingerly pouring the potions from the bottles into the water and mixing them in with her wand. “It has been twenty years since we have last spoken. The myself I was then is not the myself I am now.”
“Tha’s not what I meant, Verena,” he countered in a low voice. She ignored his statement and carried the bowl back to his side, setting it down on the floor next to her.
“Don’t move for a moment now, Hagrid,” she told him, soaking a large white towel in the bowl. Harry could just see that the water had changed to a silver color. When she squeezed the towel to remove the excess liquid, the potion dripped in thick portions, like liquid mercury. “This might sting a bit.”
“I doubt it. I havin’ felt a thing in this arm sin—shssst!” He hissed in pain when she laid the towel over his arm, stretching the potion soaked towel to cover as much of his arm as possible.
She flashed him an amused smirk. “And here I thought this is exactly what you wanted me to do.” She pressed down on the towel (Hagrid winced again) and slowly slid her hands up and down, massaging his arm and forcing the potion to soak into his skin.
For these few moments, Harry observed, Professor Amsel was nothing like he thought her to be. Her tender and caring ministrations went against everything she had presented her self to be in the last two weeks. Here, Harry could see the woman he had hoped to meet. The way she moved her long, nimble fingers gingerly over Hagrid’s damaged arm and flashed him sympathetic looks when he grimaced in pain…this was the kind of person Harry had expected from the beginning.
“This is only a start, Hagrid,” she said, re-soaking the towel in the bowl. “If I can’t find those—” She stopped abruptly when she looked up to his face. “Hagrid? Whatever is the matter?” His eyes were watering (whether or not they were tears or the effects of the potion, Harry didn’t know) and he sniffed loudly, gazing down at his arm. “I know it stings a bit,” she said, “but for you it shouldn’t be much. If you were human you’d be feeling a lot worse.”
“Na,” he croaked, using his good arm to wipe the tears from his eyes. “It isn’ that. It’s just that I’m feelin’, Verena. I don’ care how much it’ll hurt, I’m ,feelin. Those healers down at Saint Mungo’s said I’d never feel anythin in this arm again.”
“Healers,” she scoffed. “They don’t know anything beyond potions and spells. The only Healer I ever met who knew enough about the properties of herbs, roots, leaves, bark and sap is currently sitting in the Hospital Wing. It’s unfortunate that did not allow her to treat you before they damaged your arm beyond her healing knowledge.” Amsel picked up the bowl and carried it back to the table. “But, Hagrid, this is as far as we’ll get if I can’t find that cluster of trees.”
“Have you asked Firenze?”
Her expression darkened considerably. “Bane nearly killed me when I tried to cross the border into Firenze’s area of exile. The same happened early this morning when Firenze crossed back into Centaur territory. It took every ounce of persuasion to get Bane and his little followers to back off and allow Firenze to return to his exile.”
“Ruddy centaurs,” growled Hagrid as he awkwardly tried to get his shirt back on. Professor Amsel returned the now empty bottles to her black bag, tapped her wand on the edge of the bowl—vanishing both the remaining potion and the bowl.
“Hagrid,” she began, changing the subject, “I haven’t yet thanked you for—” Harry ducked down from the window instantly.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid…” he chanted as he hit the back of his head on the wall of the hut. He hadn’t been paying attention to how much of his head he had exposed. For that one brief moment when Amsel look up from her bag, violet met green. There was no way she missed him.
“—how is he treating you?” Professor Amsel’s voice floated through the thin glass window above him. If she did see him, Harry thought, she was waiting until she finished her visit with Hagrid to waylay him.
“Ah, the ol’ git was a bit cool and standoffish at first, but after a few days he softened up to me. Actually,”—Harry heard the large chair creak and Hagrid’s boots take a few steps across the hut—“he reminds me a lot of you, Fow.”
“Yes…well…” Her quieted voice made Harry even more curious as to what was going on in the hut. But he resisted the urge to peek back up to the window.
“Ya aren’t leavin now, are ya?”
“I’m afraid I must, Hagrid. Dumbledore and I have a lot to talk about and he asked to see me before lunch.” Harry heard the snap of her bag fastening. “I do still need to set up Wednesday morning’s class with you—”
“Anytime works, Fow. Ya know where I live.”
“Alright, Hagrid.” The door creaked open slightly. “Remember, no more than one glass of mead a week, Hagrid. This potion does not work well with alcohol of any kind—”
“I know, Verena,” he chuckled. “I’ll stick with gillywater the next time I visit Rosmerta. Mind ya, she won’ be happy to hear I can’ have my mead.”
“Just blame it all on me,” she said, amusement clear in her voice. Harry back around the hut a bit further. Amsel might know he was there, but he didn’t want Hagrid to know he had eavesdropped on his conversation.
Professor Amsel stepped down the few stairs to Hagrid’s cabin but made no move to round the corner towards Harry.
“Oh, Verena?” Hagrid called from the doorway, “Can ya tell me one thing?”
She hesitated for a moment, her eyes flicking to Harry’s side of the hut. Harry knew she wasn’t going to say anything to Hagrid about his being there, but if she refused to answer, Hagrid might think something was up. “I suppose so,” she said.
“Why did ya leave?”
“I left because I had to,” she said flatly. “Now I really must be going. Albus has been trying to talk with me ever since I arrived.” She took a few steps backwards as Hagrid reluctantly said goodbye. The moment the door was shut, she stopped.
He didn’t waste time trying to pretend he wasn’t there. Harry stepped out from around the hut and came face to face with a very angry Professor Amsel.
Her tone was sharp and low. “The moment your visit with Hagrid is over, I expect you in my office.” She turned on her heal and headed back towards the castle before Harry even replied.
Hermione sat at the small table in the head’s common room copying down the notes she had taken in the meeting with Professor McGonagall. Ernie sat opposite her, compiling the prefect reports.
“Yeah,” she said without looking up.
“Do you mind? That’s really distracting.” Hermione looked up her worked, questioning him with her gaze. “The necklace,” he said pointing to her neck, “it’s reflecting the light and it is really distracting.”
Hermione looked down and realized that she had been fiddling with her pendant. She quickly pulled her hand away from the necklace and gave him an apologetic smile. He nodded his thanks and continued on with his work.
Before continuing with the notes, Hermione stretched out her hands and cracked a few knuckles. The tension in her hands and wrist released, but the slight tingly sensation in her left hand remained.
“Something wrong, Hermione?” asked Ernie as she continued to shake out her hands and wrists.
“I just think my hand fell asleep,” she answered, now massaging her fingers. He shrugged and dipped his quill in their shared ink well.
The tingling sensation didn’t go away.
Harry trudged across the grounds from Hagrid’s hut to the castle. His scarf and outer robe thrown over his shoulder; he squinted in the brightness of the now clear, sunny sky.
A few students had come out of the confines of the castle to enjoy the new warmth of the late morning. Harry silently cursed himself for the shear stupidity of what he had done. Why did he have to eavesdrop? Why?!
He jogged up the stairs and through the doors to the castle. Passing many students on their way out, he waved at their greetings and continued on towards the grand staircase. He wasn’t watching where he was going and the moment he rounded the corner to enter the grand staircase, he ran smack into someone, knocking the books and parchment out of their arms.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—” he stopped dead at the sight of who he had just run into. “Oh, no,” he breathed.
“Oh, yes,” countered a very annoyed Katarina. “You did it again.”
“I’m so sorry,” he repeated, bending down with her to pick up her books. “I didn’t mean to. I’ve gotten into a bit of a mess with Professor Amsel, and I—”
“You vat?” she stared in surprise.
“I’m in a bit of a mess—”
“—Vith Professor Amsel?” she stared, “Are you just crazy? Or do you have some sort of death vish?”
“Neither, I just…” He stopped in mid reach for a book and stared at Katarina. Something had just occurred to him that he hadn’t even considered before.
“Vat are you looking at?”
“Amsel,” he whispered. Katarina’s head snapped around to look behind her.
“Vat are you talking about she’s not—”
“No! Amsel...Katarina, what does Verena Amsel mean to you?” he asked quickly.
“You mean…other than a strict professorin who likes to assign long essays?”
“The name, Katariana,” he said impatiently. “What does the name Verena Amsel mean to you?”
She clicked her tongue in annoyance, but answered him. “Amsel means ‘blackbird’ in German, and—”
“German…” he muttered to himself.
“But Verena? It doesn't really sound like a name I've heard of," she said, quickly picking up the rest of the books that Harry had left on the ground. “Unless…” she said softly, rearranging the books in her arms to fit better, “unless you mean Ferena. That is a German name—”
“Ferena? No. Her name is Verena.”
“Yes, you vould pronounce it that vay wouldn’t you,” she chastised. “But in German, a V is pronounced the same as the English F.”
Harry stared. The pieces to the puzzle were snapping into place.
“So while the name is spelled with a V, it is pronounced Ferena. Why are you so interested?”
“Katarina,” he said, ignoring her question, “if you saw a V, just a V, written down, what would you think?”
“You mean, how I would say it?” she asked, her brow knitted in wary confusion. He nodded briskly. “Fow,” she said. “In German, ven a V is standing alone, it is pronounced fow.”
Harry didn’t even wait to hear her question he reasons to why he was asking these seemingly ridiculous questions. He shouted his thanks over his shoulder as he sprinted up the stairs, leaving Katarina wondering if Harry Potter had totally gone nuts.
Harry made it up to the top of the southeast tower in record time. He pushed open the doors to the defense classroom and walked in.
It was empty. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, reflecting off the dust that hung in the air. The classroom looked so serene empty. It was so quiet he could hear the small bursts of thunder from the world map.
The bookshelf at the left side of the room opened and Professor Amsel’s cold voice carried well in the silence of the large empty classroom. “In here now, Potter.”
The quasi-bookshelf-door closed behind him with a snap. If he had been in this office under any other circumstances, he would have paid better attention to the odd instruments in her office, the shelves of potions, and opened wardrobe full of cloaks and robes.
Instead, his focus was on the woman who stood behind a large oak desk, stacking up books and parchment.
“Do you make a habit out of eavesdropping on private conversations?” Her voice was harsh and low.
“No, Professor, I don’t.”
She stopped her work and looked up; her hard, violet eyes piercing him with such a gaze, Harry had to look away.
“Then, why,” she began, walking around to the side of her desk, “did you do it this time? The moment you heard Hagrid and I speaking you could have walked away and waited.”
“But you didn’t, Potter,” she continued over him, “and I’d like to know why. Did you have some sort of burning curiosity as to what Hagrid’s arm looked like or did you, in the arrogant fashion of your father, believe we were speaking about you?”
“What?” The mention of his father made Harry flush with anger. He could feel the raw emotions boiling up from his core. The frustration, the resentment and the confusion from the past two weeks all balled up and steeled his spine for what was sure to be a gruesome confrontation.
“It is so unfortunate that you were given the eyes of your mother and yet act in the same despicable manner as your father.”
“My father was not despicable,” he growled.
“And how would you know?” she snapped. “I’m sure that every person who has met you has gushed about your father—placed him behind rose colored glass to ignore his many, many faults—”
“Yes, I know,” he interrupted, his emotions boiling at the very edge of his breath. “He was an arrogant git who carried around a snitch in his pocket, mussed up his hair when girls walked by and liked to hex the Slytherins. He had a huge ego. I know that. His best friends told me that.”—her jaw set tightly as he spoke and her nostrils flared at his tone—“But maybe, since you seem to know him so well, you could tell me something new.—like maybe you can tell me why you resent me so much? Or is acting like my father the reason why you resent me?”
They stood there, nearly toe to toe, staring it down. Harry was not going to back off. He didn’t care if he lost a thousand points or got detention for the rest of the year, he was not going to put up with undeserved resentment from her.
“I don’t resent you,” she said suddenly. “I resent the fact that you have only be told about your father so as to make you want to be him.”
“He was my father, Professor. He might not have been perfect, but he was my father.”
“Is that supposed to justify your eavesdropping?” she asked sardonically, “or your self-centered obsession with everything that is going on or your hero complex?”
“Well maybe if I had been around one of my mum’s friends I would have gotten both sides of the story!”
“What,” she began; her eyes narrowed dangerously, “does that have to do with me?”
“I don’t know,” he said, roughly pulling the rolled up notes from his robes and slamming them down on her desk. “Why don’t you tell me.”
She glanced down at the notes and Harry could have sworn he saw shock flash through her expression. “That’s you, isn’t it?” he said pointing at the curvy silver writing, signed by V.
“I fail to see how you have connected a simple letter to me.”
“You’re first name is Ferena—”
“I don’t see an F written there, Potter,” she snapped.
“No, because in German, your name is spelled with a V. And according to Katarina, the German V is pronounced just like an English F.” He waited for any kind of response, but received no such gratification. Not even a slight change in posture or tone. He decided to unleash his final piece of the puzzle. “Hagrid called you ‘Fow.’ You answered to it. When a V stands alone in German, it is pronounced Fow. This signature isn’t just the initial of the writer, it is the nickname—your nickname, Professor.”
She didn’t reply, but went back to the other side of the desk and sat down in her high leather backed chair.
He stood his ground. Ready for any outburst; any admonishments to his disrespect of her position as a Professor. But it didn’t come.
She reached out for the few crumpled notes he had slapped down on the desk. He didn’t move as her eyes quickly read through the conversations.
“Where did you get these?” she asked softly.
“I got them for my birthday. Remus gave them to me. You know Remus, he—”
“—was the only level headed one of the bunch,” she said still reading the notes. “Where did he get them?”
“I don’t know. He just told me he got them in the post.”
“Is it only these three?”
Amsel’s attention was suddenly focused behind him. Harry turned around and found Professor Dumbledore standing at the entrance of the office.
“Is this a bad time, Verena?”
“Of course not, Headmaster. Potter and I were just finishing up.” She stood and rounded her desk. “I won’t take points away from Gryffindor as I don’t see a reason to punish the whole house for your immature actions,” she told him quietly, “but you will meet me outside the kitchens on Monday, after dinner, for detention.”
Harry nearly objected, but her sharp stare made him nod instead.
“And if I ever catch you eavesdropping again,” she warned, “You’ll get the worst detention of your life.” She jerked her head towards the door and he followed her cue to leave.
Just before the bookcase shut behind him, Harry heard Professor Dumbledore say, “I told you he was like his mother.”
Harry wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. He was too preoccupied with the realization that Professor Amsel was V. Even after she admitted it, he found it hard to find a connection between the girl in the notes and the woman in the office. A new puzzle was forming in his mind: Why did she change so much?
Just as he exited the passageway behind the tapestry of battle of Bradford the Brave and the jungle fire dragon, he collided with someone going in.
“I’m sorry—oh for Merlin’s sake.” He had just run into Katarina, again. “At least you don’t have any books this time,” he joked.
She half smiled at his quip. “Ve have got to stop meeting like this.”
“How about you just wear a bell?”
“Harry!” Ron called from the hall, sprinting as fast as he could. Katarina whirled around at the sound of his voice.
“See you around, Harry,” she said quickly, scowling at Ron’s approaching figure.
“Harry, you’ve got to get to the common room,” Ron gasped just as Katarina disappeared behind the tapestry.
Harry froze. “What do you mean? What’s wrong?”
Ron shook his head; bent over trying to catch his breath he said, “I don’t know. She was critiquing my report when she just freaked out about something.”
“Those symbols again?” he asked, moving back down the hall towards the Gryffindor common room.
“I don’t know,” said Ron. “She didn’t say anything. She just looked down at her arm and…just freaked.”
Harry dashed down the hall with Ron wheezing closely behind him. Couldn’t they just have five minutes peace?
When he made it to the common room, Ginny was waiting for them. “I don’t know what’s going on,” she told him the moment his eyes met hers. “Just after you left, Ron, she practically screamed bloody murder. I don’t know what’s going on. She wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Where is she?” he asked.
“She’s locked herself in her room,” answered Lavender, coming down the stairs from the dormitories. “Ernie’s tried to get in from his side but nothing’s worked. She’s done some freakishly advanced charm that won’t let anyone in.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ron.
“This is what I mean,” she held out her hand—which was covered in read blotches that reminded Harry of the burn marks Dudley had sustained from his battle with the frying pans. “We’ve tried everything, but the door just won’t unlock. I can hear her pacing and muttering about something. Some ring or something like that.”
“Dammit,” Harry growled. “We’ve got to get up there.”
“But the stairs,” Ginny protested, “They won’t let boys up.”
“What if we all stand on the stairs?”
Harry turned around to find a young girl—couldn’t have been more than a first year—standing next to the portrait door and looking at him quite sheepishly.
“What do you mean?” he asked her.
Her face flushed and she answered timidly, “W-well, maybe if a bunch of us g-girls stand on the stairs, they won’t c-collapse.”
“It’s worth a try,” said Ginny. “We’ve done everything else short of flying up to her window and breaking in.”
Two minutes later six Gryffindor girls lined up on the stairs up to Hermione’s top room. Ron and Harry stood at the base of the stairs, hesitant as to how they would get this done.
“I say one of us goes at first,” said Harry. “We don’t even know if this will work for sure.”
Ron nodded. “You go then. Shout down to me when you make it and we’ll break down her door the muggle way if we have to.”
“Damn straight we will.” Harry dashed up the stairs, taking three steps at a time. He made it to her door without a hitch. “Hurry up here, Ron!” he called down.
“Hermione?” he called through the door. He could here her in there, but she didn’t answer. “Hermione, what is going on? What happened?” Still no answer.
A moment later Ron arrived at his side.
“Come on, Hermione!” Ron shouted. “It’s us!” Still nothing.
“Dammit, Hermione!” Harry shouted, angrily slamming his fist into the door. “This is ridiculous! Tell us what’s going on!”
The pacing stopped, but she still didn’t answer. He could hear the scraping of wood—maybe the opening of a desk drawer—and a rustle of papers.
“Open the door or we’ll break it down the old fashioned way,” warned Ron.
There was no answer. No sound of movement.
“Fine,” said Harry. “You asked for it.” He and Ron backed down several steps and then sprinted back up.
They never heard the click of the lock and the door opened just as they plowed through. Their momentum carried them crashing into Hermione’s large bed.
“What the hell is going on?” Harry bellowed at her the moment he distangled himself from Ron and the bed. “Why are—” He stopped dead in his tracks.
Tears were pouring down her face, her right arm was held tight to her stomach by her left as if it were in a sling. Several pieces of parchment were clutched crumpled in her hand.
“Hermione?” He stepped closer, cautiously. “Hermione, what’s going on?” She just stood there, staring at the both of them. Harry reached out to her arm but she jerked away. “Hermione? Please…tell me what’s wrong.”
She shook her head violently. “I can’t,” she whispered.
He took another few steps towards her and reached out again to her arm. She moved away slightly, but then allowed him to grasp her shoulder.
“Hermione…” Her shoulder was so cold. Ice cold. Slowly sliding his hand down her harm towards her hand, her shirt did nothing to prevent his notice that her skin got colder and colder the further along her went.
“Her arm is ice cold,” he told Ron, who had come up and stood right beside her. He looked up to her eyes, pleading with her to tell him what was happening.
“Is Professor Amsel, V?” she asked suddenly.
“What? Hermione what does she have to—”
“Just tell me, Harry! Is she?”
“Then get her.”
Harry stared. Professor Amsel? What the hell did she have to do with any of this? “I don’t understand, Hermione. Why do you need her?”
“Please, Harry,” she begged. She suddenly grasped her hand, hissing in pain. “Just, please!” she shrieked, fresh tears falling from her eyes.
“Okay,” he said, pulling her trembling body into his embrace, “We’ll get her.”
Post Note: So...any comments on the little conversation between Amsel and Harry? Did my section with Hermione help at all or was it totally bogus? Let me know so I can change it if I need to. I want all of you to understand what the Ring in her vision is because it is really important to the plot.
And just for a heads up, from now on I will be spelling Amsel's name with a V. But think Ferena for pronunciation. Thanks so much for reading. *Eli*
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