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Chapter 3 : Close Encounters
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter copyrighted by JK Rowling. No money is being made off this story, or any other I write.
Author's Note: I know Hermione dropped her crush unusually quickly, but it had to be that way. I have plans for Ron that need that, and I will say no more here... Also, remember people cover fear with aggression.
Chapter 3 Close Encounters
Harry Potter had left the Great Hall following the Welcoming Feast. He hadn't had anything to eat and he was hungry. He decided he'd go down to the Dungeons for a quick snack. He found an unused room and ducked in there. He pulled a bottle of pigs blood out of his pocket and started drinking. The door opened slowly, and a shadowy figure crept in.
Severus Snape didn't know what Potter would want in the Dungeons, so he followed him. He was good at following people, but he didn't know what he was following, or that his presence had been detected long ago. He drew his wand and lit it, expecting to see his worst enemies' son doing some mischief. What he saw filled him with horror. He dropped his wand in fright and tried to back out of the room.
Harry threw the bottle down, smashing it, and leaped behind Snape. He had taken his ring off to scare the Potions Master, and it worked wonderfully. “It's not nice to follow people, Snape,” Harry said coldly. “You might be confronted with your nightmare come alive.” Harry grabbed Snape around the neck and hoisted him up the wall, the teacher's feet dangling off the floor. Snape was wimpering, and begging Harry not to eat him. “I'm not going to eat you, I'd be poisoned by all the grease. And besides, I swore I'd never harm another human being, unless it was a dire emergency. So, you're safe unless you hurt one of my friends. I will let you leave this room with every drop of your blood in your veins, but you're going to have to keep your big mouth shut about what you saw. Or I WILL kill you.” He let Snape down, and the Potions Master ran from the room in terror.
Harry left the room later, and ran into Dumbledore. Harry sensed the fear Dumbledore was trying to bank down, and it nearly broke his heart. He knew the Headmaster still didn't trust him, but he was working on a way around that.
“I hope you didn't kill Professor Snape, or I will have to deal with you,” Dumbledore said menacingly.
“I did not bite that grease-ball; if you don't believe me, check him. I will never hurt a person, unless it's absolutely necessary. Now, if you'll excuse me,” Harry said calmly and brushed past a gaping Headmaster. He continued on to his dormitory, thinking about the two encounters in the Dungeons. He remembered the two men who were plotting near his house, and wondered how he was going to prevent their plots coming to fruition. He knew exactly who one of the men were, and vowed to himself he'd keep a close eye on him.
The next day, a man was walking up the drive toward the school. This man was a vampire expert, and had heard there was a vampire at Hogwarts. Once he reached the double doors into the Entrance Hall, he saw two men waiting for him. One man was obviously Dumbledore, and the second... is that the vampire? He certainly looks like a nasty piece of work. Maybe a low-grade Romanian.
“Hello, I'm Heinrich Weisen. You called me about an undead problem? I know more than you might think about vampires.” He approached Dumbledore and the unknown man beside him. “Is this the one? He looks like a low-grade Romanian. You don't need to worry about him overpowering anyone, except perhaps a first or second year student,” Weisen, the vampire expert, said. Snape growled in rage. “Though he does sound rather mean,” Weisen added. He didn't see a little boy coming down the steps.
“Severus is not a vampire, though he did have a close encounter with a problematic monster last night.” Dumbledore's words ripped through Harry and nearly brought him to tears. He managed to hold them in, and, turning to leave, he stumbled on the stairs. The sound drew Weisen's attention. “Perhaps we should go to your office, Headmaster? I don't want to scare any students.” Dumbledore looked and said, “That's not necessary, Heinrich. The vampire I told you about is this boy.”
Harry stayed put, knowing Dumbledore had brought this man here to take a look at him. Since he didn't want to be a pain, he stood calmly. Weisen approached him carefully and took hold of his face.
“Ah, yes, I can see now. Now this is strange.” He waved his wand over Harry's head and the results of the diagnostic were shocking. “This looks like a Black Forest, very strong, and not truly dead, at least in a philosophical sense. He still has a soul; this is very rare. You don't have to worry, he's not a monster. In fact, I'll bet he's the nicest vampire you'll ever see.” Weisen ruffled Harry's hair and said, “He doesn't even look like a vampire.”
“That's because that ring hides it. I don't want a panic,” Dumbledore ground out. The aged Headmaster didn't want to think he'd been persecuting Harry for no reason.
“Ah, good. Well, if you need any advice on how to care for this young man, just let me know. I'd love a chance to come back and see how he's developing. This is the first time I've ever actually seen a living Black Forest. I also believe he might be viable, so some girl will one day be extremely lucky.” Weisen left after that. He didn't see the look on Dumbledore's face. If he had, he wouldn't be walking down the drive chortling.
After Heinrich Weisen left, Dumbledore and Snape both started toward Harry. Knowing he was overmatched, Harry fled. He personally hoped the vampire expert would come back, if only to make sure he was still among the living. He ran to his dormitory to give Dumbledore a chance to cool down. He wasn't too afraid of Snape, but Dumbledore was another story. It was lucky classes were done for the day, because Harry didn't want any chance encounters with narrow-minded teachers.
The next several weeks passed quickly, and Harry did very well in his classes, though he wasn't sure about one of his teachers. Professor Lockhart wasn't a very good teacher, and he seemed to have a dark side, or at least a dirty little secret. Also, he was positive Ron's rat, Scabbers, was an animagus. He didn't know how he was going to turn the rat back into a human, or let the proper authorities know. Until he got an idea, of course. That's why he was going to Professor McGonagall's office between classes. He already had the rat in question in a cage, and Ron didn't seem to know it was missing. Ron's paying more attention to Hermione than he is to his own pet. Lucky for me, and dare I say it, unlucky for Hermione.
“Excuse me, Professor? Can I ask you something?” Harry asked softly after knocking on his Head of House's door.
“Of course, Mr. Potter. What seems to be the problem?” McGonagall replied, putting aside the essays she was grading.
“I wanted to ask you about animagi. How do you tell an animagus from a normal animal?” Harry asked, still in a soft voice. He didn't want to wake Scabbers, because he still wasn't sure how to perform an Unbreakable Charm.
“Normally, a transformed animagus has some characteristics of the person. For example, eye color or hair color could transfer over. Why do you ask? We'll be covering this next year, you know.” McGonagall was inwardly proud Harry had enough interest in her subject to seek her outside of class.
“Is there a way to force a transformed animagus to turn back?” Harry asked next.
“Of course there is. It's a spell that requires determination to perform. You have to be determined to overpower the wizard you're trying to turn back, because he will be fighting you.” Now McGonagall was getting very interested. She didn't know why Harry was asking these particular questions.
“Well, I think I found an animagus, and I don't think he'll like being transformed back.” Harry saw the look on his teacher's face, and was happy that she didn't seem to be dismissing his concerns out of hand.
“Take it out then, and I'll turn him back.” She stood up, raised her wand, and locked the door. When the rat cage was brought out, she looked closely and stifled a gasp.
Scabbers was now awake, and could see that he was caught. He scurried around the cage, trying to avoid being picked up, but it no use. Harry glared at him so coldly that he had no choice but to stop. Harry grabbed the shivering rat and put him on McGonagall's desk. She waved her wand, said an incantation, and a blue light shot out of her wand. It connected with Scabbers, and the rat started to grow. He sprouted arms, legs; his head enlarged, and his tail vanished. Within moments, Harry and McGonagall were looking at a very-much-alive Peter Pettigrew.
“So nice of you to join us, Mr. Pettigrew. How was death? Oh wait, you faked your death.” McGonagall now believed everything Sirius Black had told her those long years ago.
It was early November of 1981, and Sirius Black was on his way to Azkaban Prison. Once he had arrived, he was given a chance to call three people for help. He chose Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, and Minerva McGonagall. They came in, one by one, and listened to his story. Dumbledore listened, then laughed and left. Remus listened, and promised he'd give him the benefit of the doubt, but couldn't promise anything. McGonagall was last. She came in and let him tell his story. At the time, she didn't really believe they could all have been wrong about sweet little Peter, but since there had been no body, there was nothing she could do. She wasn't on the Wizengamot, and couldn't change Dumbledore's mind once he'd made it. But she did promise that any rat she came across, she'd check with the Animagus Revealing Spell. She kept her promise, but never found anything. Sirius went to prison without a trial, and McGonagall personally thought it wasn't purely Crouch's bias that did it.
She promptly stunned Pettigrew, and said to Harry, “I've been looking for him for years, but I never had any luck. Where's he been hiding?”
“With the Weasleys. He was using the name 'Scabbers' and was Percy and Ron's pet,” Harry replied. “Why did he hide for so long; was he hiding from someone or something?”
“Yes, he's been hiding from the law after he sold out your parents,” McGonagall answered. She went to her fireplace and called Dumbledore and the Ministry. The Aurors came first, and Dumbledore deigned to answer her call some time later. That told her all she needed to know about why Sirius hadn't been granted a trial.
Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, had come with the Aurors. He said, “I will personally see to it that Sirius Black is released. He will have a full pardon, and while Dumbledore hasn't come yet, I feel safe in saying that I'm calling for a No Confidence vote in his abilities to lead the Wizengamot. I've never seen such a miscarriage of justice in my life; throwing someone to the Dementors with nary a thought.”
The result of that was that the so-called mass murderer, Sirius Black, was exonerated. He was pardoned, had his belongings returned to him, and granted legal custody of Harry Potter. Unfortunately for Harry and Sirius, Dumbledore had destroyed the Potter's will upon Harry's “death” and there was no proof it had ever actually existed, the destruction was so thorough. The No-Confidence vote in Dumbledore went through without a hitch, and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot became the former Chief Warlock of that prestigious body.
It was Halloween, and Harry was walking along the halls, deep in thought. He in fact had his eyes closed, and was traversing the castle from memory. That was, at least, until he walked through a cold patch of air.
“Mr. Potter, I would thank you to not walk right through me as though I wasn't there!” Nearly Headless Nick exclaimed scandalized.
“Sorry, Nick. No disrespect intended. I wasn't watching where I was going.” Harry thought to himself, That's the last time I walk around with my eyes closed. “Hey, Nick, why are you looking so glum? Is there something wrong with the arrangements for your Deathday party?”
“How did you know that?” Nick was now very intrigued. This miniature vampire was extremely intuitive.
“It's not that hard. I looked in the history books to find what I could, and I discovered that you left the world of the living on Halloween. Upon asking older students and some teachers, I found out that you traditionally host a party to commemorate your death,” Harry lied glibly. While Nick was blustering about how well-informed Harry was, neither saw Snape duck back around the corner with parchment and a quill.
“Well, it's gotten so monotonous that everyone I invited, even the Hogwarts ghosts, declined. So, I'm afraid there will be no party,” Nick replied sadly.
“Now, we can't have that. I'll go to your party, and you can tell the Hogwarts ghosts that. Maybe even renew you invitations to other ghosts. I'll even try to convince Hermione and Ron to come, too.” Harry was thinking on his feet how best to deal with the situation. He wasn't using Nick, he didn't want any favors, he just wanted to help a friend. I'm not Dumbledore, to use people until the Dark Lord of the time comes calling.
“You'd really do that, for me?!” Nick was stunned. He thought vampires were evil creatures of the darkness, or at least that's what Dumbledore had told him, but this vampire defied all logic. This vampire even had mortal friends; friends, by all accounts, he hadn't fed on.
“Of course, you're my friend and I want to help you,” Harry replied, then sniffed. There was something evil in the air. It wasn't Snape, the greaseball who'd been stalking him for no apparent reason. It was something far older, far more evil. This...thing... was as old as the castle itself. He politely ended his conversation with Nick and took his leave. It was this he'd been contemplating when he'd walked through Nick. He followed the smell along the wall, and found a spot near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. He was sure of it, it was inside the walls... in the pipes.
That night, Harry managed to convince Hermione to accompany him to the party, but Ron proved to be a different matter. Ron Weasley had, after much thought (which only took all of two seconds), not to attend the party. So, Harry led Hermione down to the dungeons at the right time, and formally introduced her to Nick. “Sorry Nick, Ron couldn't make it. He said he had express orders from his mother not to attend any Deathday parties until he's organizing his own.” Nick let them in with a mournful sigh, and an offer to help Ron organize his own party when the time comes.
“Harry, Ron never said any such thing,” Hermione protested once they were out of earshot of their transparent host. Harry laughed, and said, “I know, but Nick doesn't, and neither does Ron. I can't wait to see the look on Ron's face when Nick comes forward with that offer.” At that, Hermione laughed to. She agreed it would be a good prank. Harry suddenly swept her onto the dance floor, and said, “May I have this dance, m'lady?”
She giggled, before she replied, “Of course, m'lord. I would be honored.” And they danced long into the evening, impressing all the other waltzing ghosts. When they left, they were still laughing happily. That was, of course, until they saw what hung on the torch bracket outside of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Harry's keen eyes picked out the spiders scurrying toward the window as fast as they could. Spiders flee before the Basilisk... The crow of the rooster is fatal to it... “Harry, did you kill Hagrid's roosters?” Dumbledore believed me guilty, but vampires feed on blood, and we don't usually strangle our victims without feeding. “Hermione, go ask Myrtle if she saw anything, I'll look for more clues here. Hermione obeyed. Soon after, Dumbledore arrived as students stopped to stare in terror at Mrs. Norris.
“So, Hagrid's roosters aren't enough for you, are they? You need to kill something, so you pick the caretaker's cat. You are a monster,” Dumbledore accused.
“I did nothing. The cat was already hanging when we got here,” Harry replied calmly.
“We? Potter, you are alone. Oh, my mistake, you're alone physically, but maybe the voices in your mind are enough company.” Snape smirked at Dumbledore's jibe. Harry rolled his eyes and muttered something deprecating about Dumbledore and Snape's births. He said aloud, “Hermione and I were coming back from Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday party, when we saw this,” he gestured at Mrs. Norris, “and I sent Hermione on ahead to find help. You must have missed her.” Harry then thought to Hermione, Hermione, stay in the bathroom. I told Dumbledore and Snape I sent you on ahead to find help. I'll draw them off, and then come get you. Just sit tight.
Hermione was so surprised to hear Harry's voice in her head that she didn't think to question him. She also knew he wouldn't leave her there. She just waited patiently. When he appeared in a shadow under a sink, she was surprised. “Come over here, Hermione. I drew them away, but I'm sure they'll be watching. I'll get us close enough to Gryffindor Tower that won't notice.” She joined him under the sink, and found herself being pulled back further into the shadow by Harry. She was pulled into what looked like a vast, black, seemingly boundless room with what looked like little irregularly shaped windows to the outside world, through which she could see light streaming in from the “real” rooms beyond. She guessed correctly that these windows were the shadows. The void looked endless in every direction, and she realized to her surprise that Harry was moving through it effortlessly in three dimensions, guiding them both to their destination. When they came out of a broom closet a few minutes later, it was Harry's idea to mess up his hair and unbutton her blouse a bit, to throw off suspicion in case anyone saw them, but no one did.
So how do you all like your Halloween surprise so far? Good? Bad? Let us know! Review!
P.S. The concept of “shadow travel” is, as far as I know, completely original and by yours truly. If anyone likes it, please let me know in a review. I’m rather proud of it myself, and I would sincerely like to know what other people think. And just so you know, it does have limitations compared to apparition or floo.
(And thanks for reading, too!)
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