Chapter 10 : Familiar Faces
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A/N Thanks to everyone for sticking with the story through this long wait! :o) - Kyle
‘What!’ Harry said, turning to face the youngest Weasley, not sure he had heard her correctly, ‘Parvati Patil did this? Why?’
‘We don’t know,’ Hermione started to explain. ‘Ron, Ginny, Neville and I were just finishing our third game of exploding snaps when Ron realised he was late to wake you up.’
‘He told us where he was going and then headed toward our dormitory,’ Neville continued for her. ‘That’s when he ran into Parvati! I don’t even know where she came from,’ he commented curiously.
‘She’d been talking to Dean, it looked like,’ Ginny said darkly as she scanned the room for her boyfriend, ‘then she stormed off and smacked right into Ron, dropping her book bag and spilling all of her things.’
The three of them continued to tell Harry how Parvati had snapped at Ron, screaming abuse at him, using the ‘Petrificus Totalus’ and shoving him as hard as she could onto the end table before stalking through the porthole. Harry looked down at his best friend who was now a deep shade of scarlet, and was deliberately avoiding eye contact with any of them.
‘What did she do that for?’ Neville finally asked him. ‘Did you say something?’
Ron shook his head, and got up quickly, clearly not in the mood to talk to anyone. Harry followed him halfway up the stairs before Ron turned and told him he wanted to be alone for a while.
‘I’ll bring you back some dinner then,’ he called up and headed down to the Great Hall for what would likely be an uncomfortable dinner.
Upon entering the Great Hall, Harry was unsurprised to find all of the house tables gossiping wildly about the events that had just taken place not fifteen minutes ago. If he had learned one thing attending Hogwarts, it was that there is no such thing as a secret. He dropped into his seat across from Hermione and slid over to allow room for Neville.
‘Do you think he’ll be alright?’ Neville asked quietly, making sure that no one outside of their small group could hear him.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Hermione said quickly, but with less certainty in her voice than usual. ‘He’s just a little embarrassed right now, but soon it will go away and the school will find something new to talk about.’
‘That’s true,’ Neville added. ‘Just yesterday it was Harry being Gryffindor’s heir and look how quickly they’ve forgotten about that.’
‘Thanks for the reminder Nev,’ Harry said through clenched teeth, and checking that no one had overheard. But Neville was right; not a person looked his way through the entirety of his meal. Perhaps they had forgotten.
At the other end of the table Parvati was sitting alone, textbooks strewn around her to ensure that no one took the seats next to her. He also noticed Ginny in the corner of the hall shouting at a less than pleased looking Dean. They were too far away to understand but it was very plain to him that Ginny was not impressed. This, Harry decided, was not a bad thing.
He continued to glance around the hall, pointedly avoiding the Slytherin table, but paused as his eyes swept passed the staff table and met Professor McGonagall’s looking back. He gave the tiniest of head movements and received a nod in return.
When they had all returned to the Gryffindor common room, Hermione and Neville started on their homework assignment for Charms, while Harry agreed to start a game of Gobstones with the Creevey brothers. Two minutes into the game Ginny came storming in through the porthole looking extremely frustrated, and barked at a couple of second years to get out of her way before sitting down in one of the large armchairs near the fire. Both Creevey brothers excused themselves quickly agreeing that they would be safer anywhere far from the fuming prefect.
Recalling how he had treated Cho’s feelings the year before, Harry gave Hermione a forceful glance in hopes that she would speak with Ginny and save him from worsening the situation. She walked quietly over to the armchair and, after a moment of deliberation, asked her if everything was alright.
‘Yes Hermione, everything is alright,’ she snapped back at the older girl. ‘I always scream at second years after dinner.’ Ginny looked back toward the fire and glared more fiercely than before. Harry cringed. He had never heard her speak like that before.
‘I was just trying to help,’ Hermione said, looking both affronted and hurt by the smaller girl’s words and started to walk away. Harry and Neville both leaned back on the couch, neither of them wanting to get into the line of fire.
‘I’m sorry Hermione,’ Ginny said quickly, grabbing her arm and stopping her leaving. ‘It’s just Dean.’
‘What did he do?’ she asked quietly, taking the seat opposite her.
‘Well I’m not saying it’s all his fault, but he could have been nicer to Parvati. That’s what I told him and he got angry with me!’ Ginny said, throwing her arms up in disbelief.
‘So that’s what happened,’ Hermione said with an air of understanding. ‘Poor Ron, he just got in the way at the wrong time.’
Harry and Neville looked at one another in confusion as the girls continued to exchange what the boys considered incomplete ideas with complete comprehension.
‘What do you mean poor Ron?’ Harry finally interrupted them. ‘What does Dean have to do with any of this?’
‘Don’t you see?’ Hermione started to explain to the boys as though they were four-year-olds. ‘Parvati must have liked Dean so she asked him to go on the next Hogsmeade trip with her.’
‘But he’s dating Ginny,’ Neville said confused.
‘Yes, but Parvati must not have known. They’re a pretty private couple in public. Then when Dean told her, she was embarrassed in front of all those people and stormed out.’
‘And that’s when she ran into Ron!’ Harry said, finally understanding. ‘I still can’t believe she petrified him like that, though. Completely uncalled for!’ he said with a scowl.
‘She wasn’t thinking straight,’ Hermione defended her roommate. ‘She was hurt.’
‘That still didn’t give her the right to do what she did, Hermione. I’m going to check on Ron and bring him his dinner,’ Harry stood and collected the small package of potatoes and beans that he had managed to sneak out of the Great Hall.
‘I’ll come with you,’ Neville offered, clearly keen on leaving the room before he was forced to talk about Ginny and Dean.
‘Just give me a couple of minutes, alright?’ Harry told him and received a disappointed nod in response before disappearing up the staircase.
He crept into their dormitory to find the hangings pulled tightly around Ron’s four-poster. Deciding not to let him sulk alone, Harry pulled the hangings back, ready for the onslaught of curses he was sure Ron would throw at him. To his surprise, Ron was not there, but he had left a small piece of parchment lying on the pillow. Thanks Harry, I’ll get them back to you tomorrow.
It took him a moment, but then Harry rushed over to his trunk, and after a few seconds of rummaging, found that his invisibility cloak and the Marauder’s Map were both missing. He smiled to himself and continued to rifle through his things before pulling out and securing the book he had received from Professor McGonagall into the folds of his robes. He closed his trunk and made sure to pull Ron’s hangings closed again before leaving, making sure not to raise any questions about Ron’s whereabouts from the others. He ran into Neville halfway down the stairs and told him that Ron would be fine and that he had gone to bed for the night. Neville nodded his understanding and told him that he would just grab some things quietly and let him be.
Returning to the common room, Harry found Hermione and Ginny still sitting near the fire discussing what he assumed was Ginny and Dean’s relationship. Wanting absolutely nothing to do with it, he told them he had to see McGonagall about Quidditch try-outs and left hastily.
He edged down to the second floor corridor and toward the other end of the castle, whistling to himself and scanning the halls for anything out of the ordinary. His walk remained uneventful until he reached the staircase leading down to the entrance hall and watched curiously as one of the front doors to the castle admitted a cloaked stranger and then closed again.
Harry watched from the top of the stairs as the newcomer pulled down her hood to reveal that she was not in fact a stranger, but Professor Black. She flattened her robes and crossed the hall briskly, looking around cautiously to see if anyone had seen her. Harry found it odd but decided that she must have been to the village and that he really did not have time to worry about it at the moment. He could sort it out after his training.
As he walked down the second floor corridor, his mind began to race with thoughts of various animals he could choose to become. Maybe he would be a stag like his father, or a dog like Sirius. When he finally reached the door to the Transfiguration office, he knocked eagerly. He heard McGonagall’s voice call him in and the door swung open, revealing the old woman behind her desk grading what looked to him like ten-foot-long parchments.
Seeing the look on Harry’s face, McGonagall gave a short laugh. ‘Don’t worry Potter. You won’t have to do this until seventh year. Please take a seat.’ She casually waved her wand and a large squashy armchair, much like the ones in the common room, appeared across from her.
Harry sat down and waited until she finished placing tiny scribbles on the long parchment in front of her and cleared the assignments away.
‘Now Potter, I assume you brought your text with you,’ she asked matter-of-factly and looked to his hands for the small book.
‘Uh, yes ma’am,’ he said, reaching into his robes and letting it drop onto the desk for her to see.
‘And I’ll assume that you’ve also read it cover to cover,’ she added, as though it would be ridiculous for her to assume otherwise. Harry reddened significantly.
‘Actually Professor, I’ve only read the introduction. I didn’t think we would be starting so soon and I’ve been so busy-’
‘That’s fine Potter,’ McGonagall smiled thinly. ‘I will just run through a brief explanation of what we will be doing today then.’
‘Today will be the preliminary trials. We will seek out your animagus form.’
‘You mean I can pick my animal today?’ Harry asked excitedly, having decided to become a dog like his Godfather.
‘Not exactly, Potter. You see it is the animal that chooses you. Professor Snape has kindly supplied me with a Dreamless Sleep potion. You will drink it after I have cast the first of a series of spells and it will last only minutes. During this slumber, you should at some point encounter the animal that will choose you. Do you understand?’
Harry nodded and watched as his Head of House opened the large doors to the cabinet behind her desk. She shifted some dusty phials out of the way before grasping a tall, slender bottle filled with the thick magenta fluid Harry knew so well. He took the sample of Dreamless Sleep potion from McGonagall’s outstretched hand and waited silently, tilting the contents back and forth, while she continued to pull items from the aged cupboard. Finally, with all the necessary items set out before her, McGonagall opened Harry’s animagus text and began to incant one of the spells she had mentioned, flicking and twisting her wand in a series of difficult and complicated movements.
‘You may now drink the draft,’ she said as she sat back down in her armchair and watched him uncork the phial and raise it to his lips.
After feeling the warm and soothing sensation of the potion slide down his throat, the urge to sleep overtook him and the last thing he saw through heavy eyelids was Professor McGonagall once again scribbling notes on the returned assignments.
Harry opened his eyes and found himself sitting on the cool ground at the edge of the Forbidden Forest after sundown. He stood quickly and looked all around him, searching for any sign of life; any indication that his animagus form was around. Nothing.
Harry closed his eyes tightly and listened for a sound that might help him find an animal. Try though he did, there was not a single sound around him, something Harry found very unnerving, as there were always strange noises emerging from the Forest, whether it be day or night.
Recalling what McGonagall had said about the dream lasting only minutes, Harry decided he would have to locate the animal himself and lunged into the looming branches of the dark forest. Just as he set his first footstep into the shadows, a soft sound reached his ears and he stopped abruptly, withdrawing his leg from the darkness. He took several steps backward, shaking his head as the soft hissing sound grew louder.
‘No,’ he said loudly. ‘Please no.’
Harry watched, through disbelieving eyes, a large figure emerge from the branches not ten feet in front of him. He stared in dismay as the Hagrid-sized serpent slithered out of the shadows and its silvery scales shone brightly in the now glistening moonlight. He tried to cry out but his throat muscles had seized and would not allow even the slightest sound to escape his body.
No, it couldn’t be. He should have seen this coming; the animal he would turn into would be a snake. Harry lay frozen to the spot as the king of all serpents stopped directly in front of him and leaned its head down, to gaze into his frightened eyes with its own eerie yellow slits. He shut his eyes tightly to avoid feeling the rush of death, and trembled slightly when he heard what sounded like a long pent up breath being released.
‘Harry Potter,’ the basilisk’s low hiss spoke to him on the other side of his closed lids. Harry could feel himself begin to shake involuntarily.
Before he could even try to respond to the monster in front of him, loud pounding sounded near the edge of the woods as something heavy sped toward them. A high-pitched whinny pierced the still air and Harry opened his eyes in time to see the basilisk’s tail retreating into the Forest followed closely by enormous dark hooves.
He tried to stand up to get a better look at what had caused the serpent to flee, but sleep was once again over-taking him and though moments before he had been struggling to keep his eyes closed, now it was all he could do to keep them open.
He awoke moments later to the scratching sound of quill on parchment, and opened his eyes to McGonagall grading scrolls just as he had left her. Looking up from her work, McGonagall gave him a very expectant look, waiting to hear what his animagus form would be. Harry opened his mouth to tell her, but then looked away quickly, feeling ashamed that his animagus form would be linked in any way to the most evil wizard of their time.
‘Well,’ McGonagall said impatiently, ‘what did you see then, Potter?’
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat, for what he thought would be an amazing new lesson turned out to be one of the most disappointing and disconcerting things he’d ever done at Hogwarts. ‘Well, it wasn’t really all that clear,’ he lied to her, not wanting to discuss the basilisk. He decided that if that was to be his form, he would rather give up his chance to learn the art of animagi.
‘You must have seen something because I heard you mumbling in your sleep. I’ve never had a problem with anyone before. Now tell me what you saw.’
Harry realized that there was no avoiding it, so he told her what he had seen. He spoke of the castle grounds followed by the deathly quiet, and finally his encounter with the king of serpents before it was chased away by what he assumed was a Centaur. McGonagall’s stony features had faltered momentarily, replaced by shock, but as Harry watched her she quickly recovered, and a small smile tugged at her thin mouth.
‘Very well, you shall learn to become a serpent. I should have figured as much seeing as how you-know-who did transfer some of his powers to you.’
‘If it’s all the same to you Professor, I’d rather not learn to become a basilisk,’ he said quietly, but with such resolve, it made his teacher to raise her brow.
‘Well that’s very well, because I’m afraid you will not become a basilisk.’ Harry looked up at her with a questioning look. ‘Basilisks are a magical creature, and animagi have not taken the forms of magical creatures since the time of Hogwarts’ founders. Godric, Salazar, Rowena, and Helga are among the only documented witches and wizards to have accomplished it, so Harry, as special as you may be, there is no need to worry about becoming the king of serpents. In all likelihood, you will become a serpent no longer than this desk.’
‘But what about the dream,’ Harry asked, still not entirely convinced. ‘The snake that approached me was definitely the size of a basilisk, and I would know,’ he added firmly and watched as McGonagall’s mouth pursed at the thought of him in the Chamber of Secrets. ‘If I hadn’t closed my eyes I’m certain I would be dead right now. I’m just thankful that it was frightened by that Centaur’s warning call.’
Professor McGonagall looked at him oddly now, ‘Warning call? What sort of warning call?’
‘It was a high pitched sort of neighing,’ Harry tried to describe it best he could.
‘And you saw the Centaur make this noise?’ she asked curiously.
‘No,’ Harry said, becoming annoyed. ‘ I told you I had my eyes closed, so all I saw were hooves disappearing into the woods behind the basilisk’s tail.’ Harry was slightly alarmed when professor McGonagall gave a short, harsh laugh, something he had never seen her do before.
‘Uh, Professor,’ he asked, becoming increasingly agitated, ‘what exactly is so funny?’
‘Harry, you’ve been into the Forbidden Forest countless times, and you’ve seen Centaurs before, correct?’ Harry nodded, thinking of Firenze and then all the others from his encounter with Umbridge at the end of last year. ‘Have you ever heard them neigh?’
‘Well, no. I suppose I’ve only ever heard them speak English.’
‘Exactly. Centaurs do not neigh. They would rather die than be caught acting as anything inferior to humans. That means that what you saw was not a Centaur, but more likely a horse or a stag, meaning-’
‘I’m not going to be a basilisk!’ Harry interrupted loudly, now leaning on the edge of his armchair excitedly. Relief flooded through his body as he realised that he would not be a creature of death, but one more like his father’s.
‘No. I assume you will take on the shape of a mustang. There are several in the forest and that is probably what you saw. Now, I will explain the next few steps of the preliminaries and I need you to concentrate. That is, unless you still wish to stop the training?’ she asked, the corners of her mouth tugging upward.
‘Of course not, Professor,’ Harry smiled back at her.
For the next hour, Harry listened intently to the intricate spellwork involved in the preliminary trials and tried his best not to interrupt whenever McGonagall would pause between spells. Finally, the last charm was set and Harry was free to go.
‘We can meet again on Thursday, Potter,’ she told him as he stood to leave, collecting his new copy of Dare to be Different from her desktop. ‘And remember, no one is to know,’ she warned.
‘Absolutely, Professor,’ he assured her as he made for the door.
‘Potter?’ she called him back before he slipped through the doorway.
‘I promise I won’t tell Ron or Hermione,’ he said honestly.
‘That’s wonderful, but I was wondering if we had a new Gryffindor quidditch team yet?’
Harry stared at her blankly for a moment, registering what she had said. ‘Uh, no ma’am. Not yet.’
‘Perfect, then could you please inform Mr. Weasley that he is to hold house try-outs on Friday evening after dinner. I’ve already booked the pitch.’
‘Very well Professor, but why am I telling Ron?’ He ran a hand through his hair as he tried to understand her meaning.
‘Well you see Potter, as the new quidditch captain, it will be his responsibility to handle these sorts of things, don’t you agree?’
‘Quidditch captain?’ Harry said loudly. ‘He never mentioned that!’
‘That’s because he does not yet know,’ McGonagall answered simply. ‘I thought you might like to be the one to tell him.’
‘Thank you Professor!’ Harry grinned widely and rushed through the door before she could say another word, almost running into Neville as he entered McGonagall’s office.
Harry rushed through the corridors of the second floor, completely ignoring the odd looks he received from the small groups of students headed to their common rooms. Normally he would have felt a small pang of jealousy at not being made captain, but then again there was really no one else he would rather lose it to. If there was anything that would help cheer Ron up, it was this. He had always dreamed of being quidditch captain, and in their first year, he had even seen it in the Mirror of Erised. Harry could not wait to tell him.
He rushed back into the Gryffindor common room, shouting the password ‘Murtlap Sap’ and being scolded loudly by the fat lady for his lack of discretion. Looking around quickly, he found Hermione and Ginny seated at the table under the window, both doing their assignments, and he remembered that Ron was off wandering the castle somewhere under his invisibility cloak.
He sighed and dropped loudly into one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace. He watched the golden flames dance merrily and felt their warmth on his face. Unfortunately. he was not in the mood to be sitting alone, when he had such great news for his seemingly depressed best friend. Looking around he decided that another game of Gobstones or exploding snap would take his mind off things until he could speak with Ron.
No one was around except for the girls and a couple of first and second years, who appeared to be playing their own version of wizard’s chess, resulting in many exploding pawns. Where were the other sixth years? Parvati must have been up in her room, probably being comforted by Lavender, Dean was still undoubtedly avoiding Ginny, and Seamus would have followed him around willingly, so that left Neville. Then Harry remembered almost knocking him over outside McGonagall’s office door.
Well, that was all of his friends. Wait a second. Where was his youngest dorm mate? Harry hadn’t seen Marc since earlier that day in the common room, when he had lied about where he was going with his large rucksack.
‘Ginny,’ he decided to interrupt her homework, ‘have you seen Marc anywhere? I mean after your last class.’
‘No. He wasn’t in my last class. I’m not sure where he went,’ she said, crinkling her forehead in thought. ‘The last time I saw him was just before lunch. Sorry, Harry.’ She turned back to her work and Hermione, who had not even looked up, being too engrossed in her studies to notice the interruption.
Harry continued to think about the newest Gryffindor boy’s peculiar actions, until the common room portrait swung open and revealed the energetic Creevey brothers, toting several small cameras in their arms and around their necks. Spotting Harry by the fire, they quickly bee-lined to him and Harry soon found himself resuming their earlier game of Gobstones.
At half past eight Harry ended the game and excused himself quietly toward the porthole, explaining that he had to serve detention with Snape. He slipped out into the corridor and made his way to the statue of the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster’s office, taking his time as he was not looking forward to this lesson.
Although Dumbledore would now be teaching him, Harry decided that he would much rather sit through a double-lesson with Snape than continue his Occlumency training. The complete invasion of his most private thoughts and memories was more than he liked to share with anyone. Most of the memories accessed during his sessions with Snape had been those that Harry had spent years trying to conceal and forget, and now he was forced to relive them for what he thought was a useless cause. The training did not even seem to help. It was meant to help protect the members of the Order, but it no longer mattered to Harry as the greatest damage had already been caused. Sirius was dead.
The statue of the gargoyle came into view and Harry felt his heart sink as he walked toward it, dragging his feet. He had still not decided what he should tell Dumbledore about his nightmare concerning Voldemort. Would the headmaster see it in his thoughts? Harry was momentarily horror struck at the thought of Dumbledore seeing him use an unforgivable curse.
He took a deep breath from where he stood in the shadow cast by the large gargoyle and finally said ‘Fizzing Whizbee.’ The statue hopped out of the way to expose the ever-familiar spiralling staircase for Harry to ride up to Dumbledore’s office. At the large oak door to the office, he was greeted with a warm ‘Please come in, Harry.’
Having been in this office more times than he cared to remember, Harry looked around at all of the odd trinkets still in place in the unchanged room. The sorting hat remained perched atop a large bookshelf, probably planning the next year’s sorting song, and Fawkes the Pheonix sat peacefully on his perch next to the fireplace, his golden feathers gleaming in the light offered by the roaring flames. As always, Dumbledore sat quietly behind his large wooden desk, covered in what Harry noticed were the items he had so brutally destroyed the summer before. Dumbledore smiled when he noticed Harry looking at the contents on his desk.
‘All easily repaired, Harry. No need to worry.’
‘Sorry about that Professor,’ Harry said quietly, reddening for his childish actions.
‘Shall we begin then?’ Dumbledore asked, getting up from behind his desk. Apparently there would be no lecture or life altering explanation this evening.
Harry stood and followed the old wizard to the center of the round room, where Dumbledore faced him and pulled his wand out of the folds in his robes. Harry also took out his wand, but felt awkward; he had little problem pointing his wand at Snape, but he felt very uncomfortable pointing it at the greatest wizard of his age.
‘You will not need your wand for this lesson,’ Dumbledore told him politely, and waited for him to secure it in his pocket. ‘Now, I will start slowly by using the legilimens on you and trying to see some of your earlier memories. Are you ready?’
Harry nodded, not feeling ready at all, but certain of what he needed to do. Dumbledore raised his wand quickly and said ‘Legilimens.’
Harry felt the familiar feeling as his consciousness started to fade and old memories from his days with the Dursleys started to swirl around his head. He could hear tAunt Marge insulting his parents, Dudley and Piers beating him up in the park, being locked in the cupboard under the stairs. Suddenly Harry heard his parents’ voices. His father telling Lily to save him, and then he heard his mother’s dying scream before everything went black.
Harry opened his eyes to find Dumbledore standing over him, where he had collapsed on the floor. Feeling extremely weak and slightly embarrassed, Harry stood back up and stared at the headmaster.
‘You put up little to no resistance, Harry. Have you not been training?’ He did not look angry, but perhaps disconcerted.
‘Yes I have sir. I was simply caught off guard,’ Harry offered as an excuse.
‘Just as Voldemort would do it,’ Dumbledore said pointedly before lifting his wand quickly and starting again.
Just as before, Harry was caught off guard, and images of his life started to roam around his mind. Aunt Petunia ignoring him completely on his fifth birthday, the kids at school calling him a freak because of his scar, Hermione petrified. The images started to become more recent as they ran through his Hogwarts years. Ginny’s pale face suddenly filled his mind in the Chamber of Secrets, Cedric Diggory’s lifeless body took it’s place, followed by the ragged form of James Potter at the base of the divination tower as he screamed in pain and a clawed hand wrapped around his leg.
Harry could feel hot tears running down his cheeks as he watched these images go by. Finally, the image Harry had been dreading appeared; he was in a damp dark cave and Voldemort’s voice echoed in his head. Harry lifted his wand to attack the dark wizard, but before the scene could play out Harry screamed as loud as he possibly could, ‘Noo!’
Pain he could only associate with the Cruciatus curse filled his brain as he struggled to open his eyes and found to his shock that Dumbledore was on his knees and holding the sides of his head.
‘Professor!’ Harry cried and he rushed to aid the old wizard. ‘Professor Dumbledore!’
Dumbledore’s eyes flew open and slowly he stood to look at Harry with interest, a question clearly forming behind his pensive blue eyes.
‘Are you alright Professor? I didn’t mean to hurt you,’ Harry started to apologise.
‘Not to worry, Harry,’ Dumbledore said with his normally thin smile. ‘Apparently you have been practicing. Although you will need to react quicker, I do think Voldemort will be surprised if he tries to invade your mind again.’
Harry let out a breath of relief when he saw the regular glint in Dumbledore’s eyes return, telling him that everything was in fact alright.
‘Now, before you go Harry, have you had any dreams recently, concerning Voldemort or Peter Pettigrew?’
Harry paused. Had Dumbledore not seen the image of him in the cave? Was it possible that he did not hear Voldemort’s chilling voice, or the wretched information it spewed?
‘Uh, no Professor, not lately,’ he lied.
Dumbledore gave him a final pensive glance before dismissing him. ‘Do keep on practicing Harry, and we’ll meet again next Tuesday.’
Extremely relieved that he had gotten away without punishment, Harry decided that the only way to keep his secret for another week would be to practice Occlumency daily and as often as he could; one more thing to add to his list. Suddenly there was a shout and Harry collided with something or someone, and fell flat on his rear.
‘Neville, are you alright?’ Harry asked, and quickly sat up to offer help.
The blond boy lay on his back, shock on his face and books, parchment and quills strewn on the floor all around him. For a moment, Neville looked at him dazed and then they both broke into hysterical laughter, loud enough to wake the entire castle and undoubtedly bring Filch down on them. They carried on laughing as they collected Neville’s things and repacked them into his rucksack.
Just as they stood to leave, a long shadow stretched down the hallway, and when the boys looked up they found a very somber looking Professor McGonagall looking down at them. She said nothing but just pointed with one outstretched finger in the direction of the Gryffindor common room. Not wanting to risk house points, Neville and Harry both gave courteous nods and sprinted down the corridor grinning madly.
The next morning, Harry opened his eyes feeling very well rested and did not remember a single dream from the night before. Apparently his practice with Dumbledore had really cleared his mind. He walked over to Ron’s bed and pulled the corner of the hangings open to ensure that no one else would see if he was still missing. Ron’s bed lay perfectly made in the shade of the hangings, his pillow still looking as uncreased as it had the night before. Harry wasn’t sure what to do. Was Ron alright, or could he have wandered into the forest during the night? He walked over to the window and peered toward the gloomy wall of trees across the grounds. The sun was shining brightly this morning as it slowly made it’s way above the dark forest. Only a couple of clouds blotched the bright blue sky; something lost on Harry as he was too concerned for his best friend. Turning around to go after him, Harry’s heart jumped into his throat when he ran smack into Ron.
‘You should watch where you’re going, Harry,’ Ron said teasingly with a smile on his face. Harry was about to retort with a nasty comment regarding his lack of consideration, when he realised that Ron was smiling. He no longer looked depressed or embarrassed, but like the genuinely happy Ron he was used to.
‘Why do you look so happy?’ Harry said raising an eyebrow in suspicion.
‘No reason. We should go to breakfast,’ Ron said, dismissing the question and offered Harry a hand off the floor.
When all of the sixth year boys were ready to go they headed out to meet up with the others in the common room. On his way out though, Harry paused upon noticing an equally nicely made bed where it was evident Marc had not spent the night. He followed his friends to the armchairs in front of the Gryffindor fire and thought to himself about where the young boy could have gone, until Ginny’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
‘What did you say?’ he asked her.
‘I said today would be the perfect day for flying. We should hold try-outs.’
At once, Harry grinned from ear to ear remembering what he still had yet to tell the youngest Weasley boy.
‘Actually that would be great,’ Ron agreed.
‘Yeah it would,’ Harry started, noticing all of the eager Gryffindors listening to him, ‘but try-outs are already set for Friday.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Katie asked, having just walked into the room from her dormitory, pinning her Head Girl badge to the front of her robes and now looking puzzled. ‘By whom?’
‘McGonagall told me last night.’
‘Great!’ Katie shouted excitedly, ‘And I assume she’ll announce the new captain after she holds the try-outs.’
‘Actually, the new captain will be the one scheduling and running the try-out,’ he answered cooly, trying his best not to grin.
Ron looked at him for a second and then patted him on the back. ‘Way to go Harry, you’ll do great.’
‘Thanks Ron, but I can’t do anything until you tell us when we’re having try-outs.’
A moment of confused silence followed Harry’s statement, and then Ron was buried under his friends, all of them shouting their congratulations. When people finally backed away, Harry could see an embarrassed look on his red face. Then Harry noticed that Hermione was hanging around his neck in a tight hug.
‘Way to go Ron, you deserve it!’ Harry slung an arm around his shoulders.
‘Thanks Harry, but I was sure it would be you.’
‘Nah, you’re the one who knows quidditch inside and out. All I know is Seeking.’
‘You’ll be great,’ Katie agreed, ‘but if you turn into Oliver, I swear you won’t live until the first match.’
Everyone started to laugh as they made their way out of the common room and down to the Great Hall, while Ron spoke of what new plays he might include for the season. The Gryffindors all sat down at their table, most of them still speaking excitedly about the good news when the post owls began to swoop into the hall.
Harry ate a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs and watched in surprise as, for the second time since they had been at Hogwarts, Ron barely ate a thing. The first time was of course the morning before his first quidditch match. Today he was too busy planning out his first day as team captain and what he would have the new players do at try-outs to prove themselves. Harry just laughed to himself as he ate.
He was surprised when halfway through the meal he was tapped on the shoulder by Lavender Brown. ‘Here Harry, this came for you with a letter from my cousin. I didn’t know you two were friends?’ she said curiously before walking back to her seat next to Parvati, who this morning was looking slightly less upset.
At first Harry was confused, but then remembered that her cousin was Maria. He tore open the simple Muggle envelope to find a short letter from his cousin written in ballpoint pen.
How are you? I hope your first week has been going well. Things sure are great here. Maria and I are
going on a date Friday night. I kept on running every morning after I left you know where, and now one
of the teachers at the school is letting me run around the grounds in the morning before classes. There’s
a whole bunch of us doing it now. Well, I had better keep this short so, I hope things are going well and I’ll talk to you again soon. Write when you can,
Harry put the letter away in his pocket and smiled. He had forgotten that he was to write to Dudley. At least if anything important occurred, he knew that Dudley could reach him using Lavender’s owl. He wondered how often she wrote to Maria.
His thoughts were interrupted when the Headmaster stood to make an announcement and silence fell over the entire hall. Everyone watched as, curiously, Professor McGonagall emerged from the anti-chamber behind the staff table once again carrying an old wooden stool bearing the worn and tattered sorting hat. A hushed whisper raced around the hall as all of students discussed what they were seeing. This was new. Hogwarts had never received new students after the term had begun, and they were all curious as to why it would now.
‘I have a brief announcement,’ Dumbledore began. ‘ I am happy to announce that our Care of Magical Creatures professor has returned and that we will be gaining both a new first year student and a new professor.’
Everyone started to whisper again, this time more loudly than before.
‘Our new student will be joining us late from Europe and our new professor as well. I am sure you will all greet them warmly and ensure they feel welcome in the castle.
The hall doors swung open and the students watched as Hagrid loomed in, looking happier than they had ever seen him. He waved over at the Gryffindor table as he passed it, and it was not until he reached the front of the room that everyone noticed there was a small girl walking behind him. There were several gasps from the house tables when they saw her.
She stood quietly next to the staff table, her straight white blonde hair flowing down her back and her chin held high. Harry couldn’t help but stare at the young girl as though he had met her before. He also noticed several of the other males in the room watching her intently, as though unable to look away. He continued to stare until her piercing blue eyes met his and she smiled and waved excitedly at him. He waved back at the tiny girl, trying to remember where he knew her from, but was pulled away from his thoughts as the new professor joined the room.
A taller girl, looking no older than twenty walked into the room gracefully, pulling down her hood and letting her long blonde hair spill gracefully onto her shining silver robes. Now Harry gasped. If every male was not staring at the tiny girl, they were most definitely gawking at the older version now walking between the tables. Halfway through the room she turned to the Gryffindor table and waved, ‘allo ‘arry,’ before continuing to the staff table and taking a new seat between Professors Sprout and Flitwick.
‘This is Professor Flitwick’s new teaching assistant, and your new professor. Many of our older students may remember her as one of the tri-wizard tournament champions two years ago. A warm hand for Professor Fleur Delacour.’ Everyone applauded loudly for the young woman in front of them.‘And now we will sort our new student,’ he said before sitting back down.
‘Delacour, Gabrielle,’ McGonagall said loudly and waited for the young girl to take her seat on the bench.
The sorting hat was placed on her head and everyone watched, waiting to hear what house she would join. A moment later the hat’s voice filled the air with ‘Gryffindor!’ and the table exploded with cheers as the tiny girl rushed over to join her new housemates. She plopped right down next to Harry and smiled warmly before giving him a small hug.
‘‘ow are you ‘arry?’ she said still smiling.
‘I’m great thanks,’ he answered, smiling back at the small girl that he had rescued from the Merpeople in the lake two years earlier. ‘You’ve grown so much,’ he added, ‘I barely recognized you.’
‘So ‘ave you,’ she said blushing and turning to Hermione to say hello.
Hermione, having also been rescued during the tri-wizard tournament, remembered Gabrielle and instantly started asking her questions about where she lived and why she wasn’t attending Beauxbatons like her sister had. Gabrielle told them all about her life in France, but every time Hermione mentioned Beauxbatons she evaded the question and changed the topic.
The day seemed to fly by, as first they attended their first lesson with Fleur and learned some of the Charms taught at Beauxbatons, before going on to Transfiguration, Potions, and Care of Magical Creatures. Even Defence was relatively uneventful, provided Professor Black destroying and reassigning Harry’s essay was not an event. Snape was unusually civil toward him, placing Harry on edge for the rest of day.
Gabrielle seemed to be fitting in with the other first year girls and Marc had returned that day after lunch. When questioned about his whereabouts he simply told them that he was visiting with his aunt in St. Mungos and Harry felt foolish for thinking that there was more to it. Harry had his second meeting with McGonagall that night and then practiced his Occlumency before going to bed. It looked like things were finally normal at Hogwarts.
The next day was very much the same, speeding by and leaving Harry with yet another essay to write. At this rate, he would know about the entire world’s unforgivables by the end of next week.
Finally, Friday’s lessons were done for the day and Harry could not wait to get to the quidditch pitch. Ron had decided on four o’clock for the try-outs and had posted a sign up sheet on the Gryffindor notice board. Harry ran up to his dormitory to get his Firebolt before meeting Ginny and Katie in the entrance hall, both of them also carrying brooms.
‘It’s a great day for flying,’ Katie commented as they made their way across the grounds to meet their captain.
‘Yeah, it’s perfect,’ Ginny agreed, tilting her head up to the sky to feel the sun on her face.
‘How long has Ron been out here?’ Katie asked Harry, knowing that he would know.
‘An hour and a half. McGonagall gave him a note to excuse him half an hour early. I guess she really wants a great team this year.’ They all laughed as they walked onto the freshly cut grass below the spectator stands and toward Ron, who was now dragging the quidditch trunk across the field toward them.
‘Are you guys ready?’ he asked them as soon as they were within hearing distance.
‘Of course,’ Harry answered and grinned at his excited best friend.
‘Well, there are nine people coming for tryouts, so they should be here soon.’
Over the next few minutes, groups of students started to make their way to the side of the pitch, some of them there to tryout and others there to offer support or simply for something to do. Finally, Ron stepped forward to start the tryout.
‘Alright. Welcome to everyone who showed up to tryout for the Gryffindor team. Unfortunately I won’t be able to take you all, so good luck to each of you. We will be doing air sessions by tryout groups. We’ll start with the beaters and then go on to the chasers. As I am keeper, Harry is seeker and Katie and Ginny are chasers, we will only require two beaters and a chaser. So beaters first, Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan mount your brooms.’
Ron explained to the boys that they were to try and stop Katie and Ginny from scoring. Just as in the previous year’s tryouts, Dean was quite abysmal, but it seemed that Seamus had improved significantly. Parvati and Lavender cheered them on from the sidelines and waited for them to finish. It appeared that Parvati had forgiven Dean.
After about ten minutes of hit and miss between the pair, and after seven attempts at a goal, all saved by Ron, the team set back down on the ground for the next set. This time it was Dennis Creevey and Marc Evans. Just like the pair before them, Dennis was quite incapable of hitting anything in the direction he wanted it to go, resulting in several moments of confusion when the bludgers would disappear from the pitch. Marc on the other hand was excellent, and Harry wondered if he had perhaps played at Durmstrang.
Next, a pair of second years went and both were even worse than Dennis Creevey, a feat Harry thought impossible to accomplish. Parvati and Lavender were now both sniggering in their seats rudely. Ron, seeing this, asked the girls if they could do any better.
‘You wouldn’t catch me dead playing quidditch, Ronald,’ Lavender said haughtily before giggling with Parvati.
Ron told the students that he would have to discuss what he had seen with his teammates before making any decisions. They all agreed that Seamus and Marc were clearly the best choice but that they would need to see them in the air together. Ron had them go up and just as they had expected, the pair worked wonderfully together. Harry decided that it was probably the only thing that Dean and Seamus were better at apart.
Ron next announced the chaser tryouts and first to fly with Ginny and Katie was Dean’s sister Jamaica. Her chaser abilities made Dean look like a professional quidditch player, and that was saying a lot. Next up was Collin Creevey, who admittedly was better than his brother, but that was not saying much.
Finally, the last student, a rather large fourth year, mounted his broom and raced up for his turn. Unfortunately, he dropped the quaffle nine of the ten times it was passed to him and then on his way back down to the pitch he fell off his broom before landing. Ron groaned and discussed his options with the team.
‘What can I do? We have to pick one of them, or the team will forfeit for the year and I refuse to sit back and watch Slytherin take the cup.’
‘Well, I think Colin was the best,’ Ginny offered her fellow Prefect’s name honestly. ‘We’ll just have to practice a lot.’
‘I suppose you’re right,’ Ron agreed glumly, and they all walked back to the small group awaiting their decision.
‘It was a very difficult decision to make, and I would like to-’
‘Of course it was difficult,’ Parvati interrupted him rudely. ‘You had to decide which terrible player would help you give the cup to Slytherin.’ She and Lavender both laughed loudly at this. Everyone around them gave murderous glares, but no one worse than Ron.
‘That is it!’ he shouted at her, pushing past Harry toward her. ‘You Parvati, are the most self-absorbed and rudest person I have ever met. Not only did you completely embarrass me in front of the entire Gryffindor common room the other night, but you didn’t even apologise. Now, you’re poking fun at a game that you don’t even have the guts to try, and worse, you’re insulting the people that do. Why don’t you just leave!’ he shouted louder than ever, then turned his back on her and walked back to his team.
‘You know what Ron?’ Parvati called, standing up stiffly. ‘Let’s go. Right now, you and me in the air.’
‘What?’ Ron said confused. ‘You don’t even have a broom.’
‘Accio broom!’ she shouted and Harry’s Firebolt whipped out of his hand and into her tight grasp. Before he could protest she had swung her leg over the edge and kicked off hard. Ron, completely taken aback, kicked off as well and watched as Katie followed them up with the quaffle.
Ron hovered in front of the central hoop and waited for Parvati to undoubtedly drop the quaffle when it was passed to her. Katie threw the ball toward the dark-haired girl and everyone watched in surprise as she lunged forward to meet it and rushed toward the keeper. She flew low and circled the hoops quickly before coming up on Ron’s left and throwing the quaffle half-heartedly toward the right hoop. Ron gave a small laugh at the attempt and reached a hand out for it, but before he could Parvati had burst forward and snatched it back again. She looped quickly around him and sent it sailing trough the middle hoop.
Everyone on the pitch below stood silently gaping at what they had just seen. The only person to be heard was Lavender, who was cheering for her best friend as she flew down and dismounted the Firebolt.
‘Thanks, Potter,’ she said and smiled as she handed him his broom back. ‘Good game Weasley. Now let’s go Lavender, I have to fix my hair.’
The whole team watched in silence as Parvati and Lavender walked back up to the castle discussing how they would do their hair, as though one of them had not just made a phenomenal shot in quidditch moments before.
Students gathered around the common room notice board the next morning to see who had made the team. The first to reach it were Dean and Seamus. Seamus gave a loud whoop of excitement before noticing that his best friend had not been placed as his fellow beater, or anywhere. Dean looked as though his owl had died.
‘Sorry mate, but Evans out-flew you,’ Ron said to him consolingly and placed a hand on his shoulder, ‘but we’re still good, right?’
‘Of course,’ Dean answered him with a grin, ‘but I had to at least make you feel guilty.’ He ducked to avoid Ron’s swing. The two continued to wrestle around while Marc came down to check and find his name under the other beater slot.
The students all started to go down for breakfast when Hermione, Ginny, Lavender, and Parvati came strolling down the stairs to join them. Parvati glanced at the boys for a moment, each of whom were staring expectantly at her.
‘Well, come on, are we going to eat or not? I’m sorry I embarrassed you on the pitch yesterday, Weasley. Now will you let it go.’ Ron stared incredulous at her.
‘Are you even going to look at the try-out results?’ he cried at her.
‘What does it matter? Everyone who tried out played miserably.’
‘Not everyone,’ Ginny said quietly.
Parvati walked across the round room and stared at Ron’s notice for a moment before laughing loudly and starting toward the exit. ‘Good one Weasley, very funny! Come on Lavender, I’m hungry.’ Both the girls started to walk out of the common room when Ron blocked the porthole.
‘It’s not a joke. You’re our new chaser. Those were some great moves out there yesterday,’ he forced himself to say through gritted teeth, while Parvati smirked at his effort.
‘Either way, I don’t do sport. You’ll have to find someone else.’
Ron sighed deeply. ‘There is no one else. We need you Parvati, I need you ... on the team.’ He blushed at what he had said.
‘I’ll think about it,’ Parvati responded before turning to Lavender so they could go.
‘I think you should do it,’ Lavender said unexpectedly. ‘Remember what Professor Trelawney said, ‘You’re Hogwarts experience will reach new heights’. Maybe this is what she meant.’
Hermione snorted in the background, but sobered up when Harry gave her a warning glance. Parvati looked around at all of the expectant faces before sighing and giving in.
‘Alright, but if I don’t like it I’m quitting.’
‘Great!’ Ron said and moved out of the way so that the girls could go down to breakfast.
The rest of the evening sped by, filled with laughter and general happiness as the Gryffindors relaxed in the common room playing whatever games tickled their fancies. Ron and Harry had brought a couple of third years with them to collect treats from the kitchen, all of which were gladly handed over by the house elves. Hermione of course did not participate in the festivities, but rather read ahead in her Ancient Runes textbook and gave haughty sighs and pointed glares at anyone who dared interrupt her.
‘Just because you have a new quidditch team does not mean you can ignore your studies, Ron,’ she said from behind a large stack of texts and parchments. ‘You’ll actually have to work even harder to balance your schedule now, what with practices and our weekly prefect’s meeting.’
‘Prefect’s meeting!’ Ron suddenly looked up from his chess game with Neville. ‘Dumbledore didn’t say anything about meetings.’
‘It was in your Hogwarts letter Ron, and you would have seen it if you bothered to read it instead of just tearing out the booklist,’ she chided him with a disapproving face. ‘The first one is Sunday at lunch time,’ she added before returning to her text.
‘Was that in the letter too?’ Ron said sarcastically and taking a sip of pumpkin juice that had come upstairs along with the other treats.
‘No, Katie told me this morning before classes,’ she said coldly, ‘and then Roger reminded me this afternoon,’ she added quietly.
‘Roger?’ Ron repeated loudly, slurping some of his juice down the front of his robes. Harry and a few people around them laughed at him, and Ron tried to pretend he hadn’t just embarrassed himself. ‘So, you were with Roger today then?’ he asked nonchalantly, not looking toward Hermione, but instead inspecting the chess board with what looked like great curiosity.
‘No,’ she replied just as casually, ‘I ran into him in the hallway. Is that alright with you Ron?’ she asked him with a tone as though daring him to question her further.
‘Absolutely, Hermione. Why would I care who you run into?’ With that, Ron stood and started toward the staircase to the dormitories. ‘Well, I have a big day of planning for our next couple of practices so I’m going to turn in.’ He said goodnight to all those sitting around him but made a point to not look at Hermione.
‘Good night, Ron,’ Harry said and shook his head as his friend went up the stairs noisily, mumbling under his breath about the pompous Head Boy. ‘Here they go again,’ he whispered to himself and started to clean up the game.
That night in bed, Harry lay awake, unable to clear his mind of all the new events that would take place this year. In three weeks would be the first quidditch match, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, and Harry wasn’t looking forward to playing against their seeker. He still felt badly about the way things had gone with Cho, but it seemed from his encounter with her on the first night of term, she may have gotten over it.
His thoughts then changed to his animagus training, which finally was getting interesting, and then suddenly to his Occlumency lesson with Dumbledore. It had been such a close call. If Dumbledore had seen what Harry had done in that nightmare, he might have been expelled from Hogwarts and possibly put on trial once more. He couldn’t let that happen again.
Harry’s eyes finally drifted closed as his mind changed gears and found itself focusing on Ginny Weasley. He watched from behind closed lids as Ginny flew through the air on her broomstick, passing the quaffle back and forth with the other members of the Gryffindor team. He hovered above, meant to be looking for the snitch. She smiled and laughed as the practice went on and Harry decided that there was no more denying it; he thought Ginny could be more than a friend.
The practice came to an end and everyone made their way back to the common room. Harry followed from the rear and noticed that Ginny left the pack and headed down toward the dungeons. Interested by her strange route, he followed her through the shady passageways until he saw her disappear into one of the old dungeons no longer used in the castle. Harry walked up to the door but stopped abruptly when he heard a girl’s voice talking to a familiar sounding male.
‘You’ll need help with that potion then, won’t you?’
‘I think I can manage,’ the male responded shortly. ‘And if I did need help, I wouldn’t ask a Gryffindor.’
He listened in on their conversation about a particular growth potion when it hit him to whom the voice belonged. Looking around the corner to verify his prediction, Harry almost cried out when he saw the red-haired girl talking to Snape.
The only problem was that Ginny was no longer Ginny, but Lily Evans, and Snape was not Professor Snape, but sixteen-year-old Severus Snape. Harry’s mind started to spin as he leaned back on the wall to try and understand what was happening, the cold feeling of the stones on his back somewhat soothing. Did Lily need help? Would Snape jinx her or harm her at all?
Taking a deep breath he peered back into the room and found to his shock that his mother was not being insulted by the greasy Slytherin, but hugged.
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