A/N: I hope you like this chapter; please remember to leave a review! Thanks so much! Disclaimer: Except for this plot, I don’t own anything to do with Harry Potter.
It was late November, and unreasonable amounts of work were being piled upon the students of Hogwarts as professors tried to finish up chapters of texts before their pupils were free for the holidays. Harry and Ron sat in the common room of the Head Dormitories, slowing chewing Every Flavour Beans while attempting Arithmancy problems. It was Saturday, and the air was crisp and cool. Harry wanted nothing more than to be outside flying; he’d prefer creating Quidditch strategies to completing Arithmancy coursework any day. Ron yawned and fell back on the couch, tossing his quill carelessly on the coffee table.
“I give up.” He mumbled, and shut his eyes.
“Wish I could help you, mate, but I’m just as bad as you.” Harry sighed.
Ron sat up. He grimaced as he scanned over his parchment. “I doubt anyone could help us with this.”
“She’s not even taking Arithmancy this year! And what did you just call her?”
Harry cleared his throat. “Hermione. I called her Hermione.”
“Right.” Ron looked at Harry suspiciously. “Let’s get some lunch.”
The Great Hall was alive with chatter and laughter. As they sat down across from each other at the Gryffindor table, they took notice of the worried first years next to them poring over textbooks, and also of the loud second year boys who were fooling around on their other side. Thankfully, it seemed that no one had really taken note of their entrance. Harry revelled in this; it was a very rare time in which they were not the centre of attention.
They ate and they talked about nothing in particular. Quidditch, the Ministry, the weather. And it seemed perfectly natural. It had never really occurred to either of them, but there had never truly been a time when the two of them could just sit and do nothing. There had always been some looming dark force pressing upon them, inducing subconscious worry. But now it was gone, and to them it was just odd.
When they entered the Entrance Hall after lunch, they could see thick, fluffy snow piling upon the window panes, and a slight frost freezing cobwebs on the glass. Winter had approached fast; the three of them would have to work hard to prepare for going beyond the Veil so they could get going right at the beginning of the holidays. There was pressure on their shoulders again, but it was a good kind, Harry determined. A very good kind.
Just as they were ascending the staircase, Hermione was entering the Entrance Hall from the dungeons. She was clutching a few jars and numerous vials, and was struggling under the weight of her rucksack. She rushed to catch up with them.
“What’re all those vials for?” Ron asked.
“I figure we’ll need quite a lot of the glow in case we need to wear the Expugnolers the whole time we’re in the Veil. I’m still not sure how severe the circumstances are, but it’s better to be protected anyway.”
When they entered the Gryffindor Common Room, Hermione laid everything gently on one of the armchairs and went up to her dormitory to retrieve the Expugnolers while Harry and Ron packed the vials into a leather case she had handed them. They all headed for the Head Dormitories. Ron had assured them that Ginny would not be there, as she was at Hogsmeade with some friends.
Hermione stood next to Harry, with an open jar and a ready wand, while Ron recorded how much glow had already been collected. Hermione had estimated that 15 vials between the three of them would last around an hour. She didn’t know how long they would be in there, however, so they decided that the largest quantity of glow they could take from Harry would be the safest bet.
Harry stood there, bracing himself, as he recalled memories from the war, from his childhood with the Dursleys, and his meetings with Voldemort. He had to make himself furious; it was getting harder for him now, to revisit all of these open wounds that were slowly healing, but he managed. As his anger increased, the glow pulsed, shining off of the mounted mirrors on the walls and spreading across the room. Ron shielded his eyes, and Hermione had brought sunglasses for herself as she was in such close proximity to the glow.
She coaxed it into vial after vial with her wand, occasionally waiting too long and watching some of it fade into nothing. Ron kept a tally, and by the time he had 45 vials accounted for, Harry was collapsed on the ground, exhausted. Harry’s laboured breathing slowly steadied, and he cautiously sat up as Hermione corked the last of the vials.
She surveyed the entire inventory. “Well. If we count everything we have so far, we should have enough glow to last around 8 hours.”
“What happens if we run out?” Ron asked.
“I’m not entirely sure, but my guess is that you go blind. Our eyes will be closed and surrounded by the glow contained within the Expugnolers. If there’s no more glow, our eyes will get burnt through, open or closed. I’ve been reading up on the magical properties of the Veil, and I’ve talked to Professor Argilla, too. He figures the power’s strong enough now to permanently destroy all of our vision.”
Harry adjusted his glasses. “Don’t have far to go then, do I?” Ron smirked.
“As long as we take enough precaution, I think we should be fine.” She did up the clasps on the case and set it on the table before sitting down on the couch beside Ron. Harry stood up, supporting himself on the arm of the couch, and walked over to one of the armchairs.
“It’s hard being so angry. I don’t like it much.” Harry yawned and set his feet on the edge of the table. He shut his eyes.
“But you play the part brilliantly, mate.” Ron laughed.
“Thanks.” Harry muttered.
Hermione frowned at the Arithmancy work that Harry and Ron had abandoned earlier. It was obvious she was trying to make sense of their answers with no luck. She looked at them, and Ron shrugged sheepishly.
Hermione sighed and got out her quill, and then began writing out formulas and number sequences for them. There had never been a time when Hermione hadn’t been helping them with homework, and she wasn’t about to break that tradition now.
The day before Christmas holidays was quiet. The majority of students had left early that morning for Hogsmeade station, and the corridors were empty and full of the audible footprints left by Harry, Ron and Hermione as they walked.
Hermione carried the set of vials, Ron had the case with the Expugnolers, and Harry carried a bag full of supplies and potions which Hermione had packed as an extra precaution. They turned and walked into the library.
Madam Pince was levitating some books onto a trolley, and she barely broke her concentration to acknowledge the presence of the trio. They quickly strode past her, and all of the bookshelves, until they reached the back of the Restricted Section.
After gaining access to Gryffindor’s Quarters, they threw their bags on the couch and laid the cases and vials on the table. Ron surveyed the items.
“We have no idea what we’re really going to be doing, do we?”
“Not really, no.” Hermione sighed.
“Do we ever?” Harry looked pointedly at Ron, who was clearly remembering the time he had accused Harry of not having a plan last year when they were hunting Horcruxes.
Ron raised his eyebrows. “Not really, no.”
“We usually just go with our gut, if I recall correctly.” Harry smirked.
Hermione unzipped the case with the Expugnolers. She pulled out three pairs and untangled them, setting them on the table. She looked them over, obviously thinking.
“Harry, do you still have that prophecy written down somewhere?”
Harry reached into his rucksack. He’d taken to carrying it around with him, as he didn’t want to risk losing it. It was really the only guideline they had. He passed it to Hermione, and she read it over.
“This really only warns us about the burning of our eyes, it doesn’t really mention any other real risks.” She glanced at the Expugnolers. “I think we’ll be fine with what we have.” Hermione nodded reassuringly. Ron and Harry both saw that she was hopeful. That was a good sign.
McGonagall and the rest of the teachers had decided to exempt students from their final day of classes, which was why so many students had already headed home. The staff of Hogwarts was tired; all of first term had been spent trying to convince students and parents alike that the school was safe again. Many still couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that Voldemort was gone. For good.
It was right after supper, and Harry, Ron and Hermione had promised Argilla that they wouldn’t leave until the following day. The professor wanted to know where they would be in case the worst happened and they disappeared. It was a small precaution, yet it made the trio feel remarkably safer.
Ron yawned and stretched out on the canopy bed opposite from the couch, where Harry sat. Hermione was bustling about the room, packing her provisions and securing the cases. Once she had made sure that everything was set, she picked everything up and set it down next to the door that led to the Room of Requirement. She sighed and took a seat next to Harry on the couch.
The room quieted, and was soon filled with Ron’s steady breathing as he slept. Hermione pulled a book out of her bag and began flipping through it while Harry silently stood up and headed over to the desk with the picture frames and books, slowly sifting through the loose papers and random treasures. There was so much to talk about, so much to ponder. But nothing. They didn’t want to talk. They wanted to think. Think and think and think that hopefully, someday soon, Harry’s prophecy would be returned to its proper home, and Sirius Black would be here with them, laughing and reminiscing. There was a place that Harry had always wanted to be. And for the first time in a long time, Harry felt that he might actually get there.
As night fell, Harry struggled to shove the sleeping Ron to one side of the bed to make room for the both of them. Harry had decided that it would better for himself and Ron to share the bed, and to give Hermione the couch.
He lay silently on the bed for over an hour, unable to sleep. He was tired, yes, but he was excited and nervous for what was to come, and sleep would not arrive. He shifted to his side and stared down at the floor, his eyes open and alert. He watched the shadows of branches creep across the carpet as the moon highlighted them, and saw the indistinct patterns of softly falling snow swirl around the outlines of trees. And the snow fell and fell, very slowly numbing Harry’s consciousness to a state of peace. Sleep.
Hermione woke first, and she dressed quickly before fixing the cushions on the couch. She checked the time. It was around 8:00 in the morning, and the sun was lazily basking the room in a golden light. She looked over at the bed to see Ron sprawled carelessly across the mattress; his long legs were squishing Harry’s sleeping form into the headboard. Typical.
It took almost half an hour to get Ron out of bed. Harry had been more cooperative, as he was a light sleeper, but Ron was a Weasley, and they could sleep through anything.
When they were all dressed and ready it was almost nine. They were behind schedule. There had been no real plan, but Hermione had been determined that they get an early start.
Hermione packed some books into her bag as they left Gryffindor’s Quarters, and then they headed through the library to the Great Hall. It was almost empty, seeing as so many people had gone home for the holidays. Despite this, it was still decorated lavishly, with its twelve Christmas trees and fairy lights strewn along the walls. They sat down at their usual seats, ate a quick breakfast, and headed right back.
They all checked that they had their wands and supplies; Hermione clasped her bag and stood near the door to the Room of Requirement.
“Ready?” She asked.
“As ready as we can be.” Ron muttered, joining her at the door. Harry followed.
The Room of Requirement had barely changed at all, since the Fiendfyre had damaged its magical properties during the Battle of Hogwarts. It was still as eerie as ever, a gallery of ash and burnt artefacts, seemingly frozen in time. The room was separated into rows of heaping piles of remains, each aisle appearing gloomier and darker than the last. The more they travelled through the room, the more difficult it became to breathe the stale, bitter air. It was odd to imagine that just a few years previously, Dumbledore’s Army had been meeting in the very same room through which they walked today.
As they approached it, the trio was tense with anticipation. The Vanishing Cabinet stood solid and untarnished in the middle of the room, the only functioning magical object remaining among the debris. The feet of the cabinet were buried in the surrounding ash, and the top was coated in a thick layer of dust.
“Do we have everything?” Hermione turned to Harry and Ron. They nodded. “Well, I guess this is it, then.” She took a deep breath. She was just about to open the cabinet door when she swivelled abruptly to look at them.
“Let’s just go over our plan once more. We use the Vanishing Cabinet to get to the Ministry. From there, we locate the Veil, put on our Expugnolers, fill them with glow and proceed through the Veil, correct?”
Again, Harry and Ron nodded. “Let’s get going, yes?” Ron encouraged.
“Alright then.” Hermione faced the cabinet. Harry caught a look of uncertainty cross her features.
“Don’t worry, Hermione. It’ll be fine. Do you want me to go first?” Harry offered.
“Yeah, that’s probably best.” She replied, taking a step back. Hermione wasn’t nervous, necessarily. She was just unsure, and someone like Hermione Granger does not appreciate situations that are missing valid answers.
Harry stepped forward and opened the cabinet. He looked at Ron and Hermione, gave a slight nod and reached to grab the middle shelf. Within seconds, he was gone.
“Go on.” Ron motioned towards the cabinet, and Hermione stepped forward, cases in hand, and vanished. Ron went directly after her.
They were all caught in whirling nothingness for what seemed like forever. They were falling and spinning and generally feeling quite ill, until suddenly, land. Harry touched down on the floor somewhat gracefully, sliding on his heels for a moment before he caught his balance. Hermione followed soon after, landing with a thud on the cold ground, face up. Harry was helping her up as Ron spun into view, nearly knocking into the twin cabinet that stood behind him. He expelled a huge breath and picked up his bag which had fallen off of him as he landed.
Harry surveyed the room. “Well, here we are.”
A/N: Thanks for reading, please remember to leave a review! :)
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