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Halfway To Infinity by Eponine
Chapter 49 : Chapter Forty-Eight: Hogwarts
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8

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Author's Note: Thanks to coolh5000! This chapter is dedicated to all NaNoWriMo participants! Good luck to us all!

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Chapter Forty-Eight: Hogwarts

The next day began early. Lottie groaned as a loud buzzing filled the hall to wake them from their thin camp beds. Older students took turns with two hour shifts upstairs, guarding the entrance to the headquarters. With a plummet, Lottie realized that all of the older students knew how to produce a Patronus. Even Ally had mastered it. Her, Andrea and Colm were the only ones unable.

As though to punish them further, Palmyitor gave the fifth years extra work. Lottie was given the unhappy task of transcribing all of the older students’ dull observations. Ally seemed to take cruel joy out of making Lottie write about every crow that had flown by.

The next day was not much better—and neither was the day after. Lottie was restless with boredom when Palmyitor finally announced, three days later, that somebody would actually do something.

David Neil, the Clynalmoy seventh year, and his partner, Anna Squire, a seventh year Maelioric, were sent up to the castle. Palmyitor did not brief everyone else on what they would be doing, but when the pair returned, they both wore smug looks of superiority.

“Even with the Dark Lord’s followers running the place, it was awesome,” David said.

Anna Squire had another take on Hogwarts.

“It was spooky,” she said. “Nobody smiled or anything.”

“What did you do?” Ally asked with a sort of reverie.

“Oh you know—this and that. We spied on a few classes and snuck around a bit, looking for secret passages.”

“You spied?” Lottie asked.

“What else would we do, Rowe?”

“That’s our job,” Lottie said, indicating her and Andrea.

“Well maybe Palmyitor wanted somebody actually competent.”

Lottie glared at him, but not anything else. Now that Palmyitor was finally sending students out, she had a reason to stay on her good side.

Lottie spent the next two days on her best behavior, but scowled with frustration every time someone else was sent out on a mission. “Why isn’t she sending us?” she asked Andrea one night after their dinner. “Aren’t we supposed to be the best at this kind of thing?”

Andrea had no answer, but certainly didn’t help the situation when she was told that her and Ally were the next to go check out the school. After questioning her own competence for a moment, Lottie decided that it had to be Colm who was holding them back. She gave Andrea a quick good luck hug and watched her climb out of the tunnel.

Andrea returned with exciting stories that made Lottie churn with jealousy. They had been sent to search the nooks and crannies of the school. Tiny Andrea had crawled through stuffy passages while Ally kept watch.

Lottie spent the next day sulking until Palmyitor finally gave her and Colm an assignment. She approached the pair after breakfast, and explained, “We’re going to need you two to be a bit creative for this one.”

Lottie grinned. Finally she was going to do something interesting. “We’re trying to find the location of the Sorting Hat,” Palmyitor went on. “We have had little luck so far, but we have not checked the towers yet. You two are going to have to check them—the old Gryffindor and Ravenclaw towers, the Astronomy tower, and the Headmaster’s office. We believe it will be there.”

“Er—but how will we get there?” Colm asked skeptically.

“Brooms,” Palmyitor said. “If you get caught, Rowe, you will have a lot of explaining to do. Scrivener, I suggest you shut your mouth and let Rowe do all of the talking.”

“When’re we going?” Lottie asked.

“Tonight at midnight.”

Lottie beamed and ran off to tell Andrea immediately. Together they discussed possible explanations that Lottie could give if they were found before deciding on a story of Colm stealing her wand and flying off. That had the added bonus of getting him in trouble and maybe getting rid of him for good.

That night, at midnight on the dot, after bidding Andrea goodbye and receiving instructions from Palmyitor, Colm and Lottie climbed up the tunnel and emerged in complete darkness. Lottie hadn’t been outside since they first arrived and gulped down the fresh air gratefully. They were dressed in black school robes, and clutched broomsticks.

“Ready then?” Lottie asked Colm. “Let’s go to the Astronomy tower first—I want to get it over with.”

They kicked off the ground silently and zoomed through the night sky, careful to keep a good distance from the castle as they gained height. They were over the forest when they finally got high enough.

Lottie led the way, soaring toward the tallest tower. It stood darkly against the black sky. Her knuckles were white from all of the pressure she was clutching the broom with. The pair circled the Astronomy tower for a few moments to be sure it was deserted before they landed against the stones.

Even when she was not on a broom, the wind whipped Lottie’s robes around her ankles. “Come on,” she told Colm. “Let’s give this place a good search. Lumos.” By the white light of her wand, Lottie could see Colm shiver. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

“It’s eerie,” he said. “This is where it happened.”

“Where what happened?”

“Where Snape killed Dumbledore.” Colm pointed to the edge of the tower. “Cursed him—and Dumbledore fell all the way, but he was dead before he even hit the bottom.”

“Is that why Palmyitor thinks that it might be here?” Lottie asked. “That makes sense kind of. I thought it was weird.”

The searched the tower silently for fifteen minutes, checking each stone carefully for a hidden compartment. “Nothing,” Lottie whispered after checking her half.

Colm even tried a few summoning charms, but nothing had happened. “It’s not here,” he said. “Come on, let’s check the common rooms.”

They kicked off again and silently flew to where Palmyitor had explained where the Ravenclaw tower was. Lottie peered through the window, while Colm stood guard behind her.

The common room didn’t look like a common room at all, but an overly large cupboard. Mismatched items scattered themselves across shelves that did not look like they entirely belonged there. Most of the items looked suspiciously Dark, either because they were shaped like a body part, or because it seemed to quiver with magical energy.

“I think it’s clear,” Lottie said. “Come on.” Together they managed to get inside. Colm’s Alohamora spell could not unlock the window, and he would not let her put her first through it like she suggested. With Lottie casting repeated silencing Charms and Colm using a clever blasting charm, they managed to take the window out at of the wall entirely.

Inside was silent. Lottie got the impression that nobody entered this room much anymore. She began carefully combing through the room, searching for anything remotely hat-like. Losing patience with walking up and down the long shelves, Colm hissed, “Accio Sorting Hat.” Nothing happened. “Come on,” he said. “It’s not here.”

“What about the dormitories?” Lottie asked, pointing to the two sets of stairs that she assumed let to the dorms. She set off up the first stair, but was just confronted by a large door with an eagle-head knocker. She tried pushing, pulling and even cursing it open, but nothing worked.

She got to the common room again to find Colm shaking his head. “Locked,” he said.

“Yeah, mine too.”

“If it’s in there, there’s nothing we could do now.” He walked to the window and mounted his broom. “Come on, let’s check Gryffindor.”

They both kicked off and soared around the castle, carefully avoiding passing by windows. When they got to the window that Palmyitor had said was Gryffindor tower’s, they stopped and hovered.

Inside, everything was white and deathly still. There was no furniture. It looked almost like it had snowed. “Ash,” Colm said. “They must have burned it down.”

Lottie stared still. She imagined what the common room used to look like. Maelioric had fondly recounted his time as a Gryffindor. “They destroyed everything?” she asked. “Why?”

Colm shrugged. “Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Dumbledore—they were all Gryffindors. The house had a reputation for putting up a fight.”

Lottie stole one last glance at the Gryffindor ashes before spinning around. “Come on, let’s go to the head’s office.” She sped off. She didn’t want to think of Hermione having lived there—with Harry Potter nonetheless.

They found the headmaster’s office quickly. It was the only tower room with lights still on. They had to stay a good distance off to keep in the shadows. Even though the room was lit, there didn’t seem to be anybody inside. From what she could see, it was a huge circular room, with portraits lining every inch of wall. There were many shelves, but very few items on them. They must have all been in Ravenclaw, Lottie thought. But one thing was on the shelf.

Lottie inched closer, after checking to make sure the room was still empty. There it was. On the shelf sat a large, dusty and incredibly old hat. She spun to Colm. “There it is,” she whispered.

Instead of the triumph she expected, Colm wore a look of horror. “What?” Lottie asked, and spun around to see what he was looking at.

Her own question was answered immediately, when she spotted dark silhouette standing in the doorframe. Paralyzed with fear, she sat solid, staring at the figure. It moved to the desk, but seemed not to notice the teenagers on the brooms outside.

The figure moved closer to the window and instantly, Lottie recognized that sallow face, black hair and hooked nose. “Snape?”

She had no more time to gape, though. Colm grabbed her forcefully and pulled her across the sky. “Come on,” he growled. “Hurry up.”

But Lottie couldn’t move. Snape was at Hogwarts—so he was working for Voldemort after all. And he saw her. But no doubt he already knew she would be there, since had been at Alsemore all year. Lottie’s head pounded as muggy thoughts soared through them. She let herself be dragged by Colm all the way back to headquarters.

When they landed by the rubble in Hogsmeade, Colm let Lottie just stand there while he shoved the stone covering the tunnel aside. “Come on,” he said, pulling her by the wrist. “Let’s go.”

Lottie went first. Numbly, she clambered down the cold ladder and stopped on the ground. She knew that Snape had played spy for Dumbledore in his time—but not that he was still at it. Or was he actually a spy for the Dark Lord and was just leading them all on? He was the best Occlumens alive—maybe besides herself—after all.

“What’re you doing standing around?” Colm groaned as he reached the ground as well. His chest was heaving from the climb down. “Come on, then. We’ve got to go tell Palmyitor.” Colm took the lead and trotted down the tunnel. Lottie followed suit, only vaguely aware of what she was doing, still absorbed in her own thoughts.

“Oh thank Merlin.” It was Andrea’s voice that brought Lottie back to her senses. She looked around at the dimly lit, cavernous room. Six of the students were sleeping in their camp beds, under the extinguished torches.

Colm and Lottie stood with their brooms over their shoulders in the doorway, and Andrea embraced Lottie in a tight hug. Ally Overton was the only other student still awake. She sat cross-legged on her bed, polishing her wand and gazing shrewdly up at them.

“You’ve been gone much longer than we expected,” Andrea said. “Maelioric was just going to ask Clynalmoy for advice—and Palmyitor looked a bit sick.”

As if on cue, the two heads emerged from the other tunnel. Bathed in the dim yellow light, Palmyitor looked older than ever before. Her face, as Andrea had suggested, did seem a bit green. Maelioric lauaghed out loud as he saw them and ran over to clap the two of them on the back.

“Knew it,” he said. “Knew that the two of you could get out of anything. What, Rowe, had to talk your way out of a tight corner? Where’s the Hat?”

“Couldn’t get it,” Lottie croaked, wincing with anticipation of Palmyitor’s rage. As the old professor stepped into the light, however, a very different expression crossed her eyes. Was that relief?

“Very well,” she said. Some of the green seemed to fade from her cheeks.

“We know where it is, though,” Colm said. “It was in the Headmaster’s office, but it may have been moved now. We saw Snape in the office.”

The look of mild surprise on Palmyitor’s face told Lottie everything she needed to know. “Are you quite certain that it was Professor Snape?”

Lottie gaped. If Palmyitor didn’t know Snape was here, who was he working for? “Positive,” she said.

Palmyitor’s shock faded quickly. “Interesting,” was all she said.

“Erm—Professor?” Lottie began tentatively, knowing that she was about to tread on thin ice. “How—how do we know that Snape isn’t working for the Dark Lord?”

“I personally trust Severus Snape—”

“But why?” Lottie demanded. “No, listen, if he were working for the Dark Lord, then he’d know a lot of valuable information, wouldn’t he? Is it even worth that risk?”

“I should like to think that I know Severus Snape a little more intimately than you, Rowe. I can see his intentions—”

“But he can do Occlumency! And if it was really necessary to drag him out to Alsemore to teach us, he must be better at it than you, mustn’t he? Then how would you know whether or not he was lying to you?”

A vein somewhere in Palmyitor’s forehead throbbed. “Enough, Rowe. You may think you know this war inside and out, but I have been fighting it for over fifty years, and am confident in saying that I understand more than a headstrong fifteen-year-old.”

And without another word, Palmyitor spun around and swept out of the room. Maelioric gave them a warning I’d-keep-my-mouth-shut-if-I-were-you look and followed after her.

“Well it’s true,” Lottie said turning to Andrea and Colm. “He is better.”

“That seems to be a bit of a sensitive subject,” said Andrea. “You might not want to bring it up again.”

“But what would happen if I’m right? Just think of everything the Dark Lord will know. A lot of lives are on the line here—including mine.”

Andrea shut Lottie up with a quick warning stare, but Colm was quicker than that. He glanced curiously at Lottie, but didn’t say anything.

Lottie slumped onto her bed and sighed. She dearly hoped Palmyitor was right about Snape. She didn’t even want to think about the possibility of Voldemort knowing that she was related to Harry Potter. Her insides squirmed and she collapsed into a fitful sleep.

If Palmyitor was angry with Lottie for not getting the Hat and accusing Snape, she was a superb grudge holder, because Lottie was not sent out again for a whole week. Lottie wondered if making a point was more important to Palmyitor than having a successful mission.

They knew the Hat had not been moved. Scouts had been sent every night to peer through the windows of the Headmaster’s office to make sure that it was still there. Nobody was taking any other action. Lottie wondered if the heads were just lost for what to do. They were in contact with Clynalmoy, though, weren’t they? Why couldn’t he think up a plan?

Finally, on Lottie’s eighth day inside, Palmyitor gathered the four fifth years. “Listen, you four,” she said seriously. “We have an important mission for you.”

Lottie grinned, but listened obediently.

“We have been formulating a way to get into the Headmaster’s office, and we finally have a plan.”

She pulled out a scroll of parchment that had a diagram of several rooms of the castle. “We have discovered a number of tunnels, secretly excavated into the walls of Hogwarts. They connect several of the most important rooms, and all lead to the Headmaster’s office. We believe that the Dark Lord made them for his snake to be able to spy, unseen, and report back to him.”

Lottie surveyed the drawings carefully. “Unfortunately you, Woolbright, are the only one here small enough to fit in these tunnels. Rowe, we need you to explain her out of this mess—and you two—” Palmyitor glanced at Ally and Colm “—we need to help fight if necessary.”

Andrea did not look overly excited at the prospect of crawling through a recently deceased snake’s lair, but she had that look of set determination that Lottie found so familiar.

“All four of you are going to fly to the edge of the forest. Then you, Rowe and Woolbright, will enter the castle. There’s a tunnel in the Entrance Hall. There are four large hourglasses that are no longer in use. The bottom of the one containing rubies unfastens without causing the rubies to spill. Woolbright, that will get you into the series of tunnels. The Headmaster’s office is the highest location the tunnel goes, so just keep going up the slopes.”

Andrea peered over the map, chewing on her bottom lip.

“Once she is safely in the tunnel, Rowe, you go out to the forest and meet these two. All three of you will fly up to the main window, here.” Palmyitor jabbed at the map with her wand. “Woolbright, when you emerge, let them in and take the Hat. Then the four of you will fly back here. Any questions?”

“What if we run into the Dark Lord?” Lottie asked.

“You’re going to have to think of a story, Rowe.”

“Isn’t the Dark Lord supposed to be the best Legilimens alive?”

Palmyitor surveyed her darkly. Apparently bringing up anybody else who might possibly be more talented than the old professor was a soft spot. “We happen to have information that the Dark Lord is currently in his London Headquarters. So having him suddenly appear is most unlikely.”

Lottie frowned. “Good,” she said.

Palmyitor sniffed and continued. “If there are no more questions, then I suggest you prepare. You leave tonight.”

Neither Lottie nor Andrea had much to do to get ready, but that didn’t stop them from bustling around, checking their best spells and jinxes, more for something to do than anything else. At eleven-thirty, the four fifth years gathered and went over the plan again. Colm didn’t talk much—he looked as if he might throw up if he even opened his mouth. Lottie hid her emotions well, but secretly was feeling just as anxious.

At eleven-fifty, Palmyitor handed out brooms, and Lottie waited anxiously, going over her spells in her mind. The four of them stood in silence for a long time. Lottie was sure that, like her, the other three were too nervous to talk. This was more dangerous than anything they had ever done, and Lottie knew how much was riding on her shoulders.

“It’s time,” Palmyitor said. ‘If you’re not back in three hours, we’ll send a search team.”

Again with the silence pounding in their ears, the fifth years climbed the ladder out into the open. The fresh air would have been welcoming to Lottie, who had not been outside for a whole week, if she wasn’t worried that this might be her last breath of clean air.

“Come on,” Ally said, mounting her broom. “We have to be back in three hours.” The four of them kicked off into the air and quickly reached the shelter of the trees. They flew through the forest for a few minutes, before Colm pointed ahead. The trees were thinning, and they all knew that as a sign to land.

Lottie over-anticipated her landing and ended up jumping the last three feet off of her moving broomstick. The other three landed beside her. Lottie and Andrea left their brooms with the two and, crouching, ran up to the castle.

The door was unlocked. Lottie had a suspicion that it was for Death Eaters coming and going throughout the night. She only opened the door an inch, though, and found that her suspicions were correct when a voice called, “Who’s there?”

Lottie shut the door and darted into the shadows with Andrea following suit. The door opened, and the same voice called, “Snape? Is that you?” The Death Eater stepped into the moonlight. He was a large, burly man with quite a small head.

Stupefy,” both Lottie and Andrea whispered.

Promptly, the man collapsed. Lottie felt a surge of gratitude towards Andrea for having had the same idea. She was quite sure that only one Stunner could not have knocked him out.

They crept up toward him. He lay, spread-eagled with his eyes shut in the doorway. Just for good measure, Lottie pried his wand from his hand and threw it as far as she could.

They pushed open the door. The entrance hall was unguarded, seeing as they had just knocked out its only guard. Lottie couldn’t help but feel slightly impressed. Even though it had been taken over the Dark wizards, the Hogwarts entrance hall was much larger than Alsemore’s. It looked like it could fit a small house in it, whereas Alsemore’s could barely fit the entire student body.

Andrea pointed to the right, where four hourglasses were lined up. They were so dusty that Lottie could hardly see inside, but they figured out which one had the rubies, once Andrea found a small hinge on its bottom rim.

Together, they pushed open the bottom. Like Palmyitor said, no rubies spilled out. “I guess this is it,” Andrea breathed.

“Good luck,” Lottie said, before Andrea embraced her in a tight hug. “Come on, Andrea, we don’t have time.”

“Good luck to you too,” Andrea whispered, before going to her knees and crawling into the hourglass. Once she was entirely inside, Lottie left at a run.

She just reached the edge of the forest before Colm thrust the broom in her hand. The three of them took off in silence and soared up to the Headmaster’s office window. It was empty this time, and the Hat still sat on the shelves. A tense five minutes followed. Lottie had a minor panic that Andrea had been caught, but soon enough, she emerged from a large cupboard, covered in dust.

She ran to the window and tried to open it. After pushing for a minute, Lottie could tell it wasn’t going to work. Andrea seemed to realize this too, because she took a step back, waved her wand, and the window clicked open.

Hurriedly, she helped each of them in, and they all approached the Hat. Colm, who was the tallest, reached up and took it. It seemed rather unimpressive now, laying limp in his hand.

“Okay,” Lottie said, anxiety creeping into her stomach. “We got it. Let’s go.” They just spun around to leave, when they saw, outside the window, a horrifying sight.

Two masked Death Eaters, one large and burly, the other scrawny, and only slightly bigger than Andrea, sat on brooms, grinning.

All eyes seemed to turn to Lottie, as she inched toward the window. She knew this was her moment—she had to save everybody. Her stomach plummeted as she approached the pair. “Students out of bed?” growled the first large Death Eater. “Sneaking into the Headmaster’s office? Tut-tut.”

“You know the rules about stealing,” said the small Death Eater, indicating the Hat still in Colm’s hand. “And you know the punishment for being caught.”

Lottie vaguely wondered what the punishment was, but didn’t let her mind wander too far and betray her Occlumency. “Yes, sirs. I’m sorry, sirs.”

“Would you mind telling us why you were out of bed?” asked the first Death Eater.

“A bet,” Lottie said, thankful for her sudden moment of brilliance. “I have a bit of gold riding on this mission—and I told my friends I’d split the money with them if they helped.”

The Death Eaters seemed to find that a plausible answer, because next they asked, “And what’s your name?”

“Hannah Finnigan.” Lottie used the alias Palmyitor had given her when they traveled to France.

The Death Eaters’ suspicious looks returned. “Hannah Finnigan left school last year,” the small Death Eater said. “How—”

Just at that moment, several things happened at once. The door to the office flew open to show another man, and the brawny Death Eater began clambering through the window. All four fifth years shot Stunners—Lottie, Andre and Ally at the Death Eater in the window, and Colm at the Death Eater who just came in. The three Stunners were enough to send the Death Eater plummeting off his broom, and Colm’s was powerful enough, Lottie guessed, as a loud thunk reverberated around the office.

“Run!” Lottie shouted.

With the one Death Eater already climbing through the window, their only option was to go through the castle. Somewhere in the kerfuffle, the Sorting Hat had fallen to the ground. Lottie snatched it up as she dashed out of the room.

Portraits all across the corridor were slowly waking up as the four students pounded past. Some were shouting encouraging words, while others yelled for help. Lottie vaguely wished they would shut up.

She heaved and panted as they turned another corridor. Lottie could hear footsteps echoing behind her, and knew the Death Eaters were drawing nearer. Their jinxes ricocheted off the walls—it was just a matter of time before one of them would get hit.

They reached a large staircase. All four of them pounded down the steps, Andrea taking them two at a time, but even in their adrenaline, they were slowing down. The Death Eater’s curses were drawing nearer. They were just reaching the third story, when the Death Eaters finally caught up with them.

Lottie could hardly breathe out of fear and exhaustion, but they all kept running. Over the deafening thumping of her own heart, she could hear a Death Eater’s cry of, “Avada Kedavra!”

All Lottie could see was a blinding green flash. All she could hear was the rush of something extremely loud. She wondered if the spell had hit her—but—no—the Avada Kedavra curse killed instantly, and she was still wheezing. She spun around to see what happened.

Ally swayed at the top of the stairs. Her eyes were wide open, but completely lifeless. She was already dead. She stood for a moment, suspended by the magic that had killed her, and then plummeted down the steps.

Lottie couldn’t move. Her knees locked. She just watched, horrified, as Ally’s body came to stop right at her feet, still with the wide-eyed, glazed look of shock.

The Death Eater at the top of the stairs was raising his wand again. Colm shouted something before shoving Lottie out of the way. The force of his body weight pushed her all the way into a door that flew open when she hit it.

Lottie heard Colm shout, “Run!” and the thumping of two pairs of feet as he and Andrea ran down the stairs. In a moment of panic, Lottie shoved the door closed, bolted it shut and used a Locking Charm. She didn’t think that would keep the Death Eaters out, more than just delay them, so she spun around.

She was in a long, empty corridor with no doors, only a sooty fireplace. Lottie ran over to the fireplace and peered inside. It looked just like the ones at Alsemore—except for a small crest on the opposite wall, glimmering under the soot.

Lottie didn’t know why, but she reached out to touch it. A low rumbling noise followed. The wall where the crest was had opened up to reveal glimmering lights coming in from another chamber.

Realizing that she didn’t have many other options, Lottie got to her knees and crawled through—hopefully to safety.

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