He had been walking for twenty minutes since he left Hermoine’s cottage before he decided he had to stop and eat something. Fortunately with the full moon out there was sufficient light to see by as he walked to the edge of a nearby copse of trees to gather firewood. He arranged the wood in a tee pee fashion and cast the spell incendio to set it ablaze.
The fire lit, he unpacked the food Hermoine had given him and began to eat. He stared thoughtfully at the night sky as he ate his sandwich, thinking what he might say to Neville or Aberforth to convince them to let him see Lord Voldemort’s body. In the end he decided that he would tell them the truth. Neville, Dennis felt, would be able to appreciate what it is he was trying to do.
He cast first the milk carton and then the apple core into the fire and watched as the flames consumed them. He rolled the paper bag into a ball and was about to toss it onto the fire when for some inexplicable reason he placed it into his pocket.
Inspite of his weariness he got up. It was true that he had slept a good portion of the day away but he was still dog tired and wanted nothing more than to make a bed of the soft fragrant grass that grew all around, lie down by the fire and sleep forever. But he knew that every minute counted and the best time to see Neville was when he wasn’t teaching, that meant it would have to be tonight.
This time when he apparated there were no surprises. He found himself on the outskirts of Hogsmeade just as he had wished.
He waited another minute or two for his stomach to complete the journey and catch up with the rest of his body. “Perhaps” he thought to himself “I should have eaten after I apparated rather than before.” But soon enough his stomach ceased its grumblings and he began walking in the direction of the shrieking shack. Dennis knew one of his failings was his antisocial behavior, but he felt that tonight perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea. The fewer people he ran into the better and so he decided he would take the shortcut through the Shrieking Shack to enter the grounds of Hogwarts. Providing that was the entrance hadn’t been closed. Dennis doubted that it had been though. Even Voldemort had not known that the Shack could have been used to enter the grounds of Hogwarts and the Shack’s reputation still kept everyone away with perhaps a few exceptions, Dennis now being one of them.
The Shack was the same as Dennis remembered it, like a set of LEGO Blocks on crack. The Shack was an insult to real houses everywhere. And he wondered if perhaps he hadn’t made a mistake in coming here.
“Lumos” He said and the tip of his wand began to give off a pale yellow light and then faded. That had never happened to him before he thought, the Lumos spell was one of the most basic charms and any first year worth their salt could have produced one. “Lumos.” He said again this time focusing on the spell. The light went from a pale yellow to a bright, warm glow and Dennis pushed the door further back and went in.
Despite the fact that he was now indoors Dennis felt a chill run down his spine. Something was wrong, there was evil here, true evil, he could feel it. Once upon a time Dumbledore might have wanted people to think that the place was haunted so they would stay away. But now Dennis could feel that the Shack didn’t need help anymore, there was something here now. It emanated from the walls, the floorboards, every brick and timber that made up the Shack, and Dennis knew he shouldn’t have been surprised. Voldemort had done murder here, killed Severus Snape for nothing less than a desire to master the “Elder Wand”.
In the end Voldemort had failed but some residue of that murder/betrayal had remained and had combined itself with the remnants of torment that Lupin must have felt in the days and nights he had spent locked in the lower rooms of the Shack. What was more there was magic here, Dennis could feel it. Denis began to feel other things too as he made his way through the Shack; anger, hate, spite, jealousy all of those emotions seemed to radiate out of the walls at him as he found the tunnel.
He had been walking for about 2 minutes when the temperature plummeted. Suddenly Dennis felt a wave of sheer mind numbing terror course through his head. He dropped his wand and the darkness enveloped him.
In the instant before his wand fell he had seen something shuffling towards him, and he knew it could not have been human. Nothing human could ever move or look like that.
It was still some distance away buthe felt that it was moving now with a terrible purpose towards him.
Dennis dropped to his knees and began frantically searching for his wand. He ran his hands along the ground where he thought the wand might have fallen but all he could feel were the years of dust that had accumulated on the ground.
He couldn’t tell what it was that he had seen but he knew it wasn’t alive; at least not in the conventional sense of the word. it was animate though and angry, what more he could sense it shuffling towards him ever faster, as though it were anxious to reach him before he could recover his wand.
Cold fear gripped him again and he began to feel around the floor even more frantically his fingers desperate to find the slender piece of rowan wood.
It was useless he thought. He'd never find it. What was the point. For a moment he thought of fleeing but he knew almost as suddenly as the thought entered his head that that was exactly what the thing he had seen wanted him to do. If he tried to run without his wand the thing would have him there in the dark.
Suddenly he stood up a despearte plan had leapt into his mind. “Please, please let this work.” He prayed. He took out the paper ball that he had stuffed in his pocket back at the Burrow and held it in his hands. “Incendio.” He said weakly. Nothing happened.
He could feel the temperature decreasing steadily. His breath if he could have seen it was like mist, his ears, nose and fingers felt as if they had been coated in liquid nitrogen. He could feel the myriad collection of negative emotions becoming stronger. “Oh God, why didn’t I just take the long way to Hogwarts? Why did I ever begin this foolish quest?” he thought to himself.
He felt his hands began to tremble and he made a fist, holding on to the paper tightly in case he dropped it. “Calm down.” He told himself, "You have to calm down. That’s exactly what that thing out there wants you to do, panic.”
He took three calming breaths and willed himself to be still. The presence was closer now, Dennis could sense that every bad feeling that the house had ever witnessed was now making its way towards him. However, an unusual sense of peace had descended, one that belied the near panic state he was in not mere moments ago. He cleared his mind of everything, the house, the creature, everything. In his mind’s eye he saw himself standing in darkness, suddenly there was a small flame in his outstretched hand and the surrounding darkness began retreating.
Although he couldn't see it, he looked at his hand and where the ball of paper should be and said “Incendio” again. This time the paper ball burst into flame and he allowed it to fall towards the floor. Now Dennis could see his wand. It had somehow rolled 3 meters or so away and had come to rest next to a second year wizarding textbook that was lying on the floor. But it was too late the entity was right next to it and what was more it had began shuffling forward even faster now that it sensed that it’s prey might try to elude it.
For the first time Dennis was able to get a really good look at the creature and to him it seemed like a a Dementor……..and yet it wasn’t. Its shape roiled and shifted much like a boggart’s might, but it wasn’t a boggart either. Still the feeling it gave off, the sense of hopelessness, the cold fear had left Dennis with the impression that it was a Dementor and so there was only one thing that he thought might work.
Dennis held his hand out and shouted “Accio wand.” His wand flew past the creature which tried to snatch it, but failed and into Dennis’s outstretched hand. “Expecto patronum.” He screamed and from the tip of Dennis’s wand a hawk took flight. It was a silver Merlin; Dennis’s patronus, and the tunnel was suddenly bathed in a burst of pure white light. It was as if a small star had exploded below ground and the creature which had moments before been reaching for Dennis crumbled into the dust from which it had been formed.
The house began to creak and groan as though it were experiencing an earthquake and Dennis felt a shower of dust fall on him from the roof of the tunnel. Dennis began to run now his patronus before him. The Shrieking Shack began to shudder as though it was in pain and he understood that the creature he had destroyed had been a physical manifestation created in part by the house. But there was other magic here as well he thought.
He wasn’t sure, if the Shrieking Shack would be able to pull together another one of its Dementor-Boggart type creatures again any time soon, but he had no intention of staying around long enough to find out.
It was only after Dennis had made his way out of the tunnel and to the base of the Whomping Willow before he stopped to catch his breath. And even then he didn’t wait long. Seeing the knot that would stop the tree from trying to kill him, he took up a nearby rock and managed to hit the spot with his first throw.
With the Whomping Willow now motionless Dennis struggled out of the hole and took flight once again. Not until he was several hundred meters away from the Willow did he stop to collapse on the ground, breathless; his heart hammering away against his rib cage, his lungs feeling like someone had filled them with hot coals.
It was sometime before Dennis felt sufficiently recovered to get back on his feet. But as he began his walk towards Hogwarts castle he knew that someone had set a trap in the Shrieking Shack. Maybe not specifically for him, but he began wondering now if the secret tunnel to Hogwarts was so secret after all.