Chapter 20 : Blackout
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It has been decided to introduce a short early morning exercise program for ALL students starting tomorrow morning at before breakfast.
All students are required to meet on the Quidditch pitch at six-thirty in the morning. Failure to appear will lead to the deduction of House points.
“Has Dumbledore gone nuts? Or has he retired and McGonagall is Headmistress now?”
“And what does it mean morning exercise? Do we have to do sports outside every morning now? The whole staff seems to have gone crazy over the holidays.”
Many of such nice comments could be heard throughout the four Houses that evening.
Harry was peacefully asleep and the teachers were having tea in Poppy’s office oblivious to the commotion in their Houses.
In the morning, the students arrived just in time on the Quidditch pitch. A few of them were only half dressed yet but nobody could say they hadn’t participated to the morning exercise. At exactly six-thirty the Grey Lady appeared on the grounds.
“Good morning, students,” the ghost addressed the students, smiling.
A tired ‘good morning’ was the response.
“Oh, no no no! I’m sure you can do that better,” Rowena told the mass. “Please say ‘Good morning, Professor Ravenclaw,’ now.”
“Good morning, Professor Ravenclaw.”
“That was much better. No, we will run five times around the lake. Please follow me.”
The ghost started hovering around the lake, and the students obediently followed the founder’s ghost. Angry voices but also amazed voices could be heard among the students. When everyone had finished the five rounds, Rowena let the students assemble on the Quidditch pitch with their backs toward the castle. She proceeded to show them a few exercises she wanted them to practise.
As requested by the person he thought about as his little master, Skippy came early in the morning to wake Harry, who immediately averted his eyes to the enchanted window noticing that the whole school seemed to have assembled on the grounds. Harry was still pondering whether he should join the students or stay inside the castle when Poppy entered his room, astonished that he was already awake.
“Good morning, sweetie, everything all right?” Poppy asked, placing a kiss on Harry’s forehead.
“Good morning, Aunt Poppy,” Harry replied. He scooted to the edge of his bed and motioned Poppy to sit next to him and cuddle for a moment. Normally, being cuddled by Poppy ended in a tickling attack which Harry enjoyed immensely.
Oblivious to everyone else, while leading the students in exercises, Rowena concentrated on the Kakure Spell, a Mirage Spell she and Harry had agreed to use on the castle this morning. In order to use the spell however, she had to tap into Harry’s core magic, which she was able to do because he was her heir and had agreed to the plan in advance.
When the whole castle slowly faded from sight in front of the students’ eyes, Harry could suddenly feel his magic drain away. He knew immediately that Rowena had proceeded to fulfil their plan but he hadn’t expected to feel so horrible. He groaned inwardly. Rowena and he had agreed to hold the Charm in place until just a few minutes before curfew, which was still fifteen hours away.
Poppy noticed that Harry stiffened in her arms and watched him worriedly. “Harry, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t feel good,” Harry replied and lay back onto his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to summon his Healing magic to let it flow into his head but it just didn’t work. ‘Oh, why did I have to do that prank? And why didn’t Rowena tell me that it would be so strenuous for me?’
“Harry, you can’t go to classes today, you are ill,” Poppy told him.
“I’m fine,” Harry protested, “it’s just a bit of a headache.” There was no way he was going to miss all the fun!
“No,” Poppy said sternly. “You’re running a fever, and you will stay in bed until I say otherwise. Now try to sleep a bit more, and then you can eat breakfast.” She handed Harry two potions, and he felt better immediately.
On the Quidditch pitch, the first students had already noticed that the castle was no longer in sight. They quickly alerted the others, and now everyone was standing on the grounds, stunned, looking in the direction in which they supposed the castle to be.
“Professor Ravenclaw, do you know what happened to the castle?” one of the prefects turned to the ghost. However, the Grey Lady had already returned to her office wondering if Harry was all right.
Knowing that it was no use arguing with Poppy, Harry shut up. However, as soon as Poppy had returned to her office muttering something about several students already being in the wing, Harry transformed into his phoenix form and flashed into the Entrance Hall. As he walked to the Head table he saw that only three students were sitting at the House tables. He absentmindedly pushed his food around his plate, listening to the teachers’ conversation.
“What happened to the students? Minerva, perhaps you could ask the two students at the Gryffindor table about the whereabouts of their classmates,” Albus suggested.
Minerva stood up immediately, walking up to her House’s table. “Where are your House mates?” she asked briskly.
“We have no idea, Professor. We had to spend the night in the Hospital Wing and were just released in time for breakfast.”
Frowning the professor returned to the Head table.
“Harry, you haven’t by chance asked the House elves to put a Sleeping Potion into the pumpkin juice last night, now have you?” Severus asked sternly, watching the child closely.
“No,” Harry replied, slightly offended.
“Come here to me, please, Harry,” Severus admonished, noticing that the child wasn’t his normal cheerful self. He pulled the boy up onto his lap, feeling the heat of Harry’s sweaty feverish skin. “Harry, you’re ill. Come on, let’s put you back to bed.”
“I know,” Harry mumbled. “Aunt Poppy told me to stay in bed but I didn’t want to miss classes.”
“Oh, Harry,” Amelia threw in. “I will tell Mrs. Weasley that you can’t attend classes today, and I’ll bring you your homework later if you want.”
Too weak to protest Harry let Severus take him back to his room where Poppy glared daggers at him. Severus tucked Harry in and sat on the edge of his bed. When his gaze wandered to the charmed window, He noticed that the missing students were apparently gathered on the Quidditch pitch.
“Look, Poppy. The students are all outside. I’ll have to go and see what is happening.”
“No, Uncle Severus,” Harry began to whine. “Stay with me for a while, please.”
Severus gave Harry an astonished glance, not able to resist the too bright green eyes. “All right, Harry. However, in thirty minutes I have to leave for my first lesson.”
“All right,” Harry mumbled and laid his head on his uncle’s lap.
“Severus, if you’re staying with Harry, I’ll go to the Great Hall for a late breakfast and I’ll tell the others about the students being outside,” Poppy told her colleague quietly, who gave her an appreciative nod.
When Poppy entered the Great Hall, her colleagues were in a bit of an uproar. The Headmaster had sent Professors Flitwick, Sprout and McGonagall to their Houses to see if the students were still asleep but all three Heads had returned with the news that all their students were gone.
“I know where the students are,” Poppy spoke up, putting a pancake onto her plate. “Severus saw them from Harry’s window. They seem to be out on the Quidditch pitch.”
Remus stood up immediately. “I will go and ask what they are doing.”
“Thank you, Remus,” Albus acknowledged.
The students didn’t know what they should think. The castle had vanished right in front of their eyes, and there was not a single teacher with them except for Hagrid, who had joined them a few minutes ago. But he had no idea what had happened either.
Suddenly, Remus appeared out of thin air. “Professor Lupin, what’s wrong with the castle?” a dozen voices clamoured loudly.
“Wait, please. What should be wrong? Nothing is wrong apart from the fact that you are all outside, while the teachers are waiting for you in the Great Hall,” Remus replied sternly.
“Ooh, look around, professor. The castle is gone!” someone shouted.
Remus turned around and groaned. “Doesn’t that look like the prank with Professor Black’s classroom last year?”
“Oh, that’s right. Professor, what can we do? We haven’t even had breakfast.”
Remus frowned. “Binky!” he called and a House elf popped up in front of him. “Can you please bring breakfast out here for everyone?”
Five minutes later, the House elves had prepared long tables that were overflowing with food, and the whole school sat down for breakfast on the grounds.
Ten minutes later Remus had yet to come back to the Great Hall. “I’ll go looking for Remus,” Sirius promised and went out of the Hall but did not return.
“Does it make sense to head to our classrooms?” Flitwick asked suddenly.
“As long as the students are outside and everyone who heads outside won’t come back it doesn’t make any sense I suppose,” Minerva answered briskly. “Frankly speaking this all feels like a prank.”
“But if it is, it must be someone who is inside the castle, right?” Albus agreed.
“There were only three students here, so maybe we could question them,” Flitwick suggested.
“And Harry,” Amelia added frowning.
“Harry is ill. He seems to have a head cold or something similar, so he is in no condition to play pranks today,” Poppy objected firmly.”
“I will go and see if the Playschool and Primary students and Mrs. Weasley have come,” Amelia excused herself.
“And I will return to my office and send Severus down to you,” Poppy muttered, bustling away.
Albus waved his wand at the farther wall of the Great Hall and a huge window appeared, looking straight onto the grounds in front of the Entrance Doors. The teachers went over to the window. “Look, there are Remus and Sirius. What are they doing? Are they just walking around?” Minerva asked incredulously.
The Headmaster cast a Sonorus Charm on himself and shouted, “Remus!” Receiving no reaction, he shouted again, “Sirius!” Glancing around the grounds, he called the students, “All students, come over here please!”
“They obviously cannot hear you,” Minerva stated. She noticed Severus arriving and waved him over. “Severus, can I speak to you privately for a minute?”
“Of course,” Severus replied, raising an eyebrow at his older colleague.
When Minerva led him to the small room adjoining the Great Hall, she asked straight away, “Who is responsible for the prank with the Fidelius Charm last year?”
“I promised not to tell anyone, Minerva,” Severus stated, smirking.
“Severus, I promise that I won’t tell anyone, I won’t scold the student, I just want to know. You see, last year it was fun, but pranking the whole school is a bit too much, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I fully agree with you, Minerva. However, last year it was Harry, but it can’t be him today.”
“Harry?” Minerva gasped. “Please do tell him that I want to congratulate him for a brilliant prank!” She watched as the edges of Severus’ mouth pulled slightly upwards.
Harry was lying in bed watching the commotion on the grounds. Feeling absolutely awful he was thinking about how to contact the Grey Lady in order to revoke the Charm earlier than planned. He tried hard to remember the name of the House elf he could call in order to contact the Grey Lady. However, he just couldn’t come up with the name. Finally, he called Skippy.
Skippy appeared in a blink. “What can Skippy dos for Master Harry?”
“Skippy, please don’t let Aunt Poppy see you. Could you please…”
At that instant, Poppy entered the room and Skippy turned invisible. Poppy talked to Harry for a few minutes before she handed him a potion, which made Harry sleep immediately.
The students stayed on the grounds for the rest of the day. Half an hour before the start of curfew, Albus ordered the House elves to put tents out on the ground for the students to sleep in, each equipped with a small bath as well as ten sleeping bags. While at first everything seemed to be funny, in the meantime the students had become very annoyed with what obviously seemed to be a prank. They happily entered the tents and tried to sleep. Only a few students were still walking around the grounds, suddenly noticing that the castle came back into view.
A few teachers had remained in the Great Hall, drinking tea, talking, and wondering about what was happening for the whole day, while the others had joined Remus and Sirius on the grounds to supervise and teach the students. After dinner, the teachers, who had remained inside, had returned to their own quarters except for Minerva, Amelia, Poppy, and Severus, who sat in Harry’s room, where they could watch the grounds from the enchanted window.
Harry had slept through the rest of the day oblivious to the fact that the teachers spent the evening in his room watching the students outside and throwing worried looks at him from time to time. A few times he woke up, noticed that someone was sitting on the edge of his bed, but without the energy to communicate with anyone he always went back to sleep after mere seconds.
When Harry woke up in the morning, he saw immediately that the grounds were full with lots of green tents. Feeling much better now, he was sure that Rowena had cancelled the Charm overnight. He crawled out of his bed, looked for clothes to wear, and had just started to dress himself when Severus entered the room.
“What do you think you’re doing, Harry?” Severus asked surprised.
“I’m getting dressed. Look, it’s already seven o’clock and Primary school is going to start soon. I don’t know where Aunt Poppy is,” Harry explained. He left his clothes on the floor and ran over to his favourite uncle, trying to hug the tall man.
Severus put a hand on the child’s forehead. “No, Harry, you may not go to school today. You’re still not well and you have to stay in bed.”
“No!” Harry replied indignantly. “I’m fine and I’m going to school!”
“No, Harry, you will not. Aunt Poppy is busy in the infirmary, and she asked me to look after you and tell you to stay in bed.”
“No! I.will.not. I couldn’t see my friends yesterday but I want to see them today. What’s that outside? Why are there so many tents?”
“Yesterday, someone played a prank on all students and they couldn’t get into the castle. So the House elves prepared tents for them to sleep in. I hope that they’ll be able to get inside now. Therefore, there was no Primary school yesterday, and you didn’t miss anything. It was a good timing to become ill, otherwise several people would have thought that you had played the prank. They still don’t know who it was though. Now, back to bed with you.”
Harry shook his head and went back to where his clothes lay. He pulled his T-shirt over his head and just began to put his socks on when Severus picked him up and put him onto his bed. “Now, you will stay here. Try to move once and I will put a Charm on you, so that you will wish you didn’t know me.”
“No! I.am.going.to.school!” Harry shouted angrily. When he tried to get up he soon found out that he couldn’t budge. Hot tears started to run down his cheeks while he feverishly thought about what to do now. Suddenly he had an idea. He summoned his magic, noticing that he still felt very weak, and transformed into his phoenix form.
#I’m sorry, Uncle Severus, but I am going to school today# he trilled, well knowing that his uncle wouldn’t understand a word of his trills. The instant he flashed away he saw that the professor’s face had taken on an unusual red colour.
In a splash of water, phoenix Harry landed on the grounds. He quickly transformed back into his human form and curiously glanced into the tent next to him. He was lucky – it was the tent in which Bill and his friends had stayed.
“Hey Harry,” Bill called him over. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I was just wandering what these tents were,” Harry told the older boy.
“Haven’t you been here yesterday?” Bill asked astonished. “I looked for you but I couldn’t see you anywhere. We couldn’t get back into the castle and had to stay here. I don’t know if it’s possible now but as we can see the castle now it should be all right.”
“Wow, that’s strange. Do you know what the reason was?”
“No, nobody knows I think. They believe it to be a prank but how and from whom I don’t know.” Noticing that Harry was shivering he added, “Now, let’s try to get in and head for breakfast.”
Harry shook his head and told Bill that he had escaped Professor Snape and that he couldn’t be seen in the Great Hall.
“All right then, shall we go to the kitchen?” Bill’s friend Tom suggested and the three boys quietly entered the castle and had breakfast in the kitchen. From their spot at the kitchen table, which was directly under the Head table of the Great Hall, they could exactly hear what happened in the Hall.
After a few minutes, many students seemed to enter the Great Hall. When the House elves were still waiting for the signal to send the food up to the House tables, the Headmaster stood and addressed the students.
“Listen, Dumbledore’s speaking,” Tom whispered.
“Yesterday, we all have been played a very bad prank. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have found out who the culprit was…”
Thanks to all those who participated in the poll on my Yahoo News Group concerning this story!
Thanks to Twinheart and JWOHPfan for their brilliant beta-ing :-)
I do not own any of the characters in this story; they all belong to J.K.Rowling or are a free creation, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
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