Chapter 11 : The Informants
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The next morning Harry woke up before any of the other boys in his dormitory, quietly dressed and grabbed some ink, parchment and a quill before going down to the common room. Upon entering the silent room, Harry found that he was the first in the tower to wake, and that the fire in the grate was now reduced to glowing embers. He started toward his favourite armchair with the intention of writing a letter to Lupin, when he saw something moving in front of the grate.
‘Winky!’ he called and watched as the surprised house elf nearly jumped out of her tea cozy.
‘Harry Potter!’ she shrieked. ‘Sir is not supposed to be awake yet. Not until Winky has finished cleaning the common room and starting the fire.’ She continued to splutter the injustices of Harry being awake while he rolled his eyes and sat down in the armchair.
‘I’m sorry Winky, but I’m up now and I’m not going back up to bed. You’ll just have to finish with me here.’
Winky huffed loudly as she continued to light the fire and dust the tables and paintings around the room. Harry could hear her mumbling about the secrecy rules as he unrolled a bit of parchment to start his letter to Lupin.
I hope everything is going well for you. So far the new term has been an interesting one. Ron’s the new quidditch captain and I’m back on the team! I can’t wait to win the cup away from Slytherin again. We have a new Defence professor, but she’s not even close to as good as you were. Professor Black is almost worse than Snape, so I’m sure you can imagine how bad that must be. Fleur Delacour and her sister Gabrielle are back at Hogwarts this year and Hagrid just got back too. Well, I guess that’s really
everything, so I can’t wait to see you at Christmas and take care.
By the way, I miss our training sessions.
He finished his letter, wishing that he could tell Lupin about the disturbing dream he’d had the night before. He wanted nothing more than to question him about his parents, but decided that it would be too risky and that Lupin would be curious as to where the sudden interest arose. Putting the odd dream to the back of his mind, Harry called a goodbye to Winky, and when she did not answer he assumed that she had finished her work and slipped out while he wrote.
Harry made his way to the third floor landing and struck up a conversation with the portrait of an elderly witch while he waited for the staircase to make its way over. After sending his letter off to Lupin from the owlery, it occurred to him that while he might not be able to ask Lupin about his parents without raising suspicion, there was a professor that could help him.
Harry made his way leisurely through the silent castle, looking around at all of the different portraits and hangings, most of their inhabitants still fast asleep on a Saturday morning. He descended to the second floor and stopped in front of the large mirror guarding the secret passage to inspect himself before going on. Once outside McGonagall’s office, he knocked loudly and waited for her to respond, hoping that she was not too busy grading scrolls to see him.
‘Come in,’ her brogue called through the door.
Harry pushed the door open to reveal his Transfiguration professor sitting behind her desk with yet another stack of parchments, and looking as though she had not moved since their last training session two nights before.
‘Good morning Professor.’
‘Potter?’ she said surprised as she looked up from her grading. ‘What are you doing out of bed so early on a Saturday morning? It’s not even half seven.’
‘I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I thought I would come and see you. I need to ask you a question Professor, if you have time.’
‘Very well, what is it?’ McGonagall said in her usual Head of House tone as she put down her quill and looked across her desk at him.
Harry stood quite uncomfortably, rocking his weight from one foot to the next and unsure how his question would be received. ‘I was just wondering if you might tell me a bit about my parents while they were at Hogwarts. I mean, they were both in your house.’
McGonagall narrowed her eyes at him for a moment before her expression softened and Harry could tell that she was feeling badly for him. He tried not to look bothered by this as he wanted answers and he knew that bristling would get him nowhere.
‘Well Potter, as you already know, your father was on the Gryffindor quidditch team, and there wasn’t a soul who could catch the snitch quicker than James. I’m sure it’s where you get your talent,’ she said to him smiling, clearly remembering her all-star player.
‘Sorry Professor, but I was actually hoping you could tell me about my mother. I’ve heard so much about my father and the Marauders from Professor Lupin and Si-’ Harry halted for a moment. ‘But I’ve barely recovered anything about her except that she was Head Girl. Aunt Petunia refuses to talk about her so I would really like to know what my mother was like when she was younger.’
Almost every line of sternness vanished from McGonagall’s face as she stared at the sixteen-year-old boy in front of her. He had lost so much and been through more than any child should ever have to bear. She wished she could do more to help him, but at least she could give him this much.
‘Alright, Potter,’ she agreed. ‘I will tell you everything you wish to know about Lily if you agree to a training session first. I have a couple of hours, and I think it would be beneficial. It is after all the weekend.’
Harry smiled widely at her and shook his head. ‘I should have known that the cost would be some form of assignment.’
‘Yes, you should have.’
For the next hour, Harry practiced his mind-clearing exercises and found that he was getting quite good at instantly wiping his mind clear of all thought; something he thought would be useful for his sessions with Dumbledore. Finally, McGonagall got up from her desk and told him that it was time for the physical training.
‘Show me the same thing we did at the last two meetings,’ she commanded.
Harry closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He pictured himself clearly in his mind now, singling out a particular feature like he had with Tonks during the summer. He pictured his feet and focused hard on what they would look like were they replaced by the hooves he had seen chasing away the basilisk. Harry concentrated hard and willed the transformation until he felt a rippling in his feet and could no longer stand upright.
He fell to the floor and opened his eyes to see enormous, shining, black hooves in the place where his feet were moments before. He looked up at McGonagall who looked very pleased with his results and then closed his eyes once more. This time he pictured his hands and once again overset the image of the hooves. Moments later, he found himself the proud owner of four spectacular Mustang hooves.
Another hour passed and Harry found himself transforming his body parts, one at a time, to Mustang features and then back again. By the end of the session he had successfully transformed hooves, ears and a long whip-like tail.
‘You are making remarkable progress, Potter,’ McGonagall said to him as they sat back down at her desk. ‘It took me nearly a month before I could transfigure a tail, but it has taken you less than a week. At this rate, I daresay you will complete the transformation by the end of October. Unfortunately, we cannot tell anyone. It must be kept secret, or it will be of little advantage to you later on.’
‘Yes Professor, I understand.’
‘Very well, you have done your part of the deal so now I will honour mine. You may ask whatever you wish about your mother.’
Harry thought for a moment about what he should ask first. There were so many questions, but how could he ask them without arousing suspicion? ‘What was she like at my age?’ he finally asked.
It was McGonagall’s turn to think for a moment as she carefully chose the words to explain her old pupil’s demeanor.
‘Lily was a very shy first year, you see. Nothing like the way she ended up in her sixth year. She would always keep to herself and minded her studies, much like Miss Granger actually. She also had the same opinions on school rules as Miss Granger, except that she did actually abide by them,’ she added with a raised eyebrow. ‘Lily was the kindest girl to ever come to Hogwarts and there wasn’t a Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff who would argue that fact.
‘It sounds as though she was perfect,’ Harry said, slightly unconvinced. ‘She can’t have always followed the rules.’
‘You didn’t let me finish Harry. That was only her first couple of years. Of course sharing a house, she was introduced to the Marauders, and upon meeting James, formed an immediate dislike for the group. James was everything she claimed to despise in a person, exhibiting arrogance and teasing those less fortunate than he.’
Harry shifted his weight uncomfortably in his chair as he thought of the memories he had seen in Snape’s pensieve.
‘It was in their third year, when she claims your father was at his most insufferable, that the other professors say Lily became much bolder and opinionated. If you ask me though, she always had been but just kept it to herself. After catching James taunting other students, she became a champion of sorts for all of the Gryffindor underdogs, and even some of the students in other houses. It truly was a vision to see Lily in the throws of a heated argument with anyone. That red hair of hers really did carry her temperament. She refused to back down and nearly always won. She really was a remarkable girl.’ McGonagall smiled sadly as she said this.
‘Professor,’ Harry took her moment of silence to ask another question, ‘I understand that my mother and father did not fall in love until their seventh year when they were Heads together?’
‘Yes, that’s correct.’
‘Then why did you say things changed when she was in sixth year?’
‘You see Harry, when she was in fifth year she was made Prefect alongside Remus Lupin, and as you know he was one of the Marauders, and a very persuasive and intelligent young man. They became good friends almost instantly, and to be honest, it was quite funny to see Remus defending James and Sirius to Lily. It took him a long time but by their sixth year Lily didn’t exactly hate James anymore. She definitely didn’t like him either though. Her and the Marauders seemed to put up with one other, and she somehow seemed to get sucked into several of their schemes. I am once again reminded of Miss Granger.’
‘Why did she get chosen as Head Girl then?’ Harry asked now. ‘I mean, Dumbledore must have known that she was involved in some of the schemes?’
‘Of course he did, but you’re forgetting that the Headmaster also made James Head Boy, and he was more often than not the mastermind behind the rule-breaking ploys. Not to mention, he was nowhere close to a Prefect!’ She shook her head and rolled her eyes with a small snort. ‘I’m not actually certain how the headmaster chooses his Heads, but I have to assume that Lily and James were chosen in part for their brilliance with a wand; James in Defence and Transfiguration, and Lily in Defence, Charms, and Potions. You see Harry, your mother was quite possibly the most brilliant student in Potions to come through Hogwarts. I’m told she had an affinity for it that most potion’s masters desire.’
‘I thought that Professor Snape held that title,’ Harry said darkly.
McGonagall looked up at him for a moment in thought. ‘Professor Snape is a very talented Potions Master Harry, but I daresay your mother gave Severus a run for his galleons in their school days.’
‘Were she and Snape ever friends?’ he finally ventured to ask what he had truly wondered.
Professor McGonagall looked away again in thought before answering him. ‘I know I told you that I would tell you anything you asked, but I have to respect the Potion Master’s privacy Harry. All I will say is that the young Severus Snape would perhaps surprise you.’
Harry sighed. He had learned a great deal about his mother, but not the one thing he wished to know. ‘Thank you Professor, you’ve really helped me to understand what my mother was like. I can’t thank you enough.’
‘It was my pleasure, Potter,’ she said, returning instantly to her normal rigid self. ‘I see much of her in you Potter, and that alone is something to be proud of. I will see you again on Monday night then for our next session.’
Harry left the office content with the information he had gained about his mother, who sounded like a wonderful person indeed. It didn’t make up for what he had seen of his father, but it was a start.
Wandering around the castle, Harry found several other students were about and heading down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Upon entering the hall, he found that about half the school was still in bed, and that only Katie, Ginny, Gabrielle, and Dennis Creevey were sitting at the Gryffindor table. He joined his housemates and started to spoon some oatmeal into a bowl as he said his good mornings.
The five students laughed and joked for a while as they ate, and Harry laughed inwardly when he noticed how unenergetic Dennis was in the morning. ‘Someone’s stolen your batteries, Dennis?’ he joked, and everyone laughed as the smaller boy scowled at him half-heartedly.
Harry noted that the majority of the professors were now in attendance, as well as most of the other students. He was watching intently as Snape and Professor Black discussed what looked like an article in the Daily Prophet, when Ron, Hermione, Neville and Marc plopped down at the table.
‘So, what are we going to do today then?’ Ron asked and filled a plate with whatever food he could reach in front of him.
Hermione answered first, explaining that like her, they should all complete their Charms and Transfiguration essays before even considering any other sort of activity. Ron snorted loudly.
‘Right Hermione, and then maybe I’ll sprout wings and fly around the Astronomy tower too.’
Hermione glared at him. ‘Fine. See if I care when you fail all of your N.E.W.T’s next year.’ They didn’t speak to one another for the rest of breakfast, and Harry sat silently watching the interaction between Professors Snape and Black.
At the end of the meal, Harry excused himself from the group as they left the Great Hall, explaining that he still had one last detention to serve with Snape and that he offered to do it on the weekend so as not to miss any quidditch practices. Ron nodded exuberantly and slapped him on the back in approval as they walked back up toward the common room.
Harry stayed in the loud entrance hall and waited for most of the students to disperse before turning and heading in the direction he wished. Unlike all the other times he had used the ‘detention with Snape excuse’, he was not going to see McGonagall or Dumbledore, but actually going to speak with Professor Snape. This would be the first time in six years that Harry elected to speak to the greasy Slytherin Head by choice and he shivered involuntarily as he descended into the chilly passageway to his dungeon office.
He paused briefly across from the wall hanging of the black serpent, in front of which he had witnessed Snape and Black having a secret meeting about him. Harry’s trust for Snape was exceedingly precarious, and despite Dumbledore’s affirmations that he was with the Order, Harry couldn’t help but hope that the old Headmaster wasn’t putting his trust in the wrong people. Pushing it out of his mind, he tried to decide what he would ask the sallow skinned man and how he could get any information out of him without enraging him and actually getting a detention.
Suddenly it hit him; he knew what he would have to do. He turned the corner in front of him and walked into the Potions classroom. He found the classroom empty as expected and Snape’s office door closed tightly. Harry steeled himself as he crossed the cool room and knocked loudly on the door in.
‘Enter,’ Snape’s cold voice hissed from behind it.
Harry pushed the door open and strode into the dark office, stopping just inside the door where he saw Snape stooped over his desk, working on what looked to Harry like the Wolfsbane potion. When he looked up, the startled widening of his eyes at seeing his least favourite student early on a Saturday morning would have seemed comical, if Harry wasn’t so nervous.
‘What are you doing here, Potter?’ he spat.
‘Um, Professor,’ Harry started, reminding himself to stay calm, ‘I wanted to ask you a question, if you have the time.’
‘Do I look like I have the time, Potter?’ he snarled, adding a light grey solution to the cauldron in front of him. ‘Just because other professors have made special allowances for you does not mean that I will.’
‘Please Professor, I just wanted to ask you about my mother.’
Snape stopped adding items to his cauldron and looked up at Harry with malice in his eyes. ‘Get out of my office,’ he uttered quietly.
‘Please sir, all I’ve ever heard are good things about her, but the way you speak about my father, I assume you must have hated my mother equally.’
‘You’ve only heard good things about her, because that’s just what she was, a good person. Now I asked you to leave,’ he said tersely and started toward the door.
Trying one last time, Harry pleaded. ‘Please Professor, I’ll do anything. I could help you make that Wolfsbane potion if you like?’
Snape stopped and whirled back toward him and the lightly steaming cauldron. ‘How do you know that’s Wolfsbane potion?’ he asked with narrowed eyes.
‘Well it appears to be the right consistency, and the light grey steam swirling clockwise is indicative of either the Wolfsbane potion or the troll tracking solution. And since you just added the silver beetle cream, it has to be the Wolfsbane sir.’
Snape stared at him curiously for a moment, unsure of what to say.
‘Very well Potter, you may ask one question, but only because you correctly identified the Wolfsbane.’
‘Thank you sir,’ he said politely as he thought of what to ask.
‘Well?’ Snape said impatiently, having returned to his seat and stirring the potion.
‘Were you and my mother friends?’
Snape gave a short laugh. ‘I will just say that your mother had a great affinity for the art of potion making, and for that I held her in great esteem.’ He sighed deeply and fixed a glare on Harry before continuing. ‘If I find out that you have told what I’m about to say to anyone, I will ensure that your last two years at Hogwarts are the most miserable years of your life.’
Harry nodded nervously.
‘Just before she was killed, Lily agreed with Dumbledore to accept the post of Potions Mistress for the year. I only received it when she was … unable,’ he looked away from Harry with what looked like grief; something Harry had never before thought him capable of. ‘Now get out!’ he shouted, ‘and don’t bother me again with such nonsense, or it will be points from Gryffindor and a detention.’
Harry made his way back toward his common room, thinking about what he had learned from his surly professor. Not only was his mother an Auror, but she would have been Hogwarts’ Potions Mistress as well. The biggest surprise of course was that it seemed that she was such a lovely individual that even Severus Snape could not find fault.
This made him want to know her more than ever. If only it were possible. With what he knew now, the pictures and memories were not near enough to satisfy him. He wished he could have seen his parents’ wedding, as it was the one day that seemed to be the happiest in their life. The photographs showed the largest gathering he had ever seen of their friends and members of the original Order of the Phoenix. From the back of his mind, a thought came to him. In their third year, Hermione had managed to go back in time and take classes that she would have originally missed. Then he had travelled with her further back to save Sirius’s life. What if he went back to his parents wedding using a Time Turner?
Harry changed directions and started to rush toward the headmaster’s office. Once in front of the large Gargoyle he said ‘Fizzing Whizbee’ and waited for it to hop out of his way before climbing the spiralling staircase as quickly as he could. Harry found Dumbledore busy scribbling a note at his desk. He sat down across from him and waited patiently while he finished, looking around the familiar room. The sorting hat was mumbling today, odd lines of rhyme that must have been bits of next year’s song, and Harry noticed that Fawkes was quite small and young on his perch. He must have recently experienced a burning day.
Looking up at the portraits of previous Headmasters and Headmistresses, most of whom were still fast asleep or at least feigning it, Harry noticed a new one that he had missed the last time he was there. Next to the portrait of Headmaster Dippet was a new empty frame. Under the vacant space was a golden inscription with the name Delores Umbridge. Harry scowled at the frame.
‘Ah, yes,’ Dumbledore said, tying his completed letter to Fawkes’ leg and letting him out the window. ‘You’ve noticed the new addition to the wall have you? She hasn’t spent a moment in this frame since the day it was put up. She undoubtedly has another frame at the Ministry of Magic in which to spend her days. Now what can I do for you Harry?’ Dumbledore smiled warmly at him, and Harry felt slightly less nervous at seeing the happy crinkles in the corners of his eyes.
‘I wanted to ask you for a favour Professor. I know it’s usually frowned upon, but I was hoping to borrow your Time Turner for an afternoon.’
The happy calm in Dumbledore’s face vanished and he sat up more straightly.
‘I realise that you have been learning about your mother, Harry,’ he began gravely, ‘but you must understand that there is no way to bring her back. I have told you before that Time Turners are not meant for meddling with history. You cannot even begin to imagine the repercussions of what would occur if your parents lived that night.’
‘I don’t want to save them!’ Harry blurted, annoyed at Dumbledore’s assumption. ‘I just want to go see their wedding.’
‘I’m sorry, Harry, but that would be far too risky. You could be seen.’
‘I could use my invisibility cloak,’ he offered.
‘I’m sorry, Harry, but the answer is no and I ask that you respect my decision and not try to find another way.’
‘Yes sir,’ Harry answered through gritted teeth and he rose and headed for the door.
Once back in the common room, Harry went up to his dormitory and climbed onto his bed, pulling the hangings tightly shut around it. He lay there for a while thinking about everything he had learned that morning, and fumed when he thought of the way Dumbledore had treated him. Even Snape had treated him better, not speaking to him like he was untrustworthy or childish.
Ron came looking for him a couple of hours later so that they could go down to the Great Hall for lunch. Harry claimed that he wasn’t feeling all that well and that he would stay in bed for the rest of the day. At first Ron protested, but when Harry told him that if he joined the others they might get sick and be unable to play quidditch, he immediately agreed to leave him and left hastily, his nose and mouth covered with the sleeve of his jumper.
While everyone was away doing whatever it was they did, Harry lay in his bed reading his animagus training text and made sure to memorize helpful tips and useful methods of speeding up the process. Passage by passage he read the yellowing pages and absorbed the knowledge found within. When he had completely finished reading that, he moved on to his Defence text and flipped through it lazily, finding that he was not so interested in the subject this year and blaming it on his new professor. He read more carefully when he reached the section on cursing and hexing, and took the time to learn several of the wand movements involved. He found most of them quite simple after all the training he had done with Lupin.
By ten o’clock, he had read through the entire textbook and learned all he wanted to from it that he had not yet read during the summer. Ron had only interrupted him once to bring him a small tray of dinner that he was able to sneak back from the dining hall.
Now Harry lay on his back with his eyes closed and reflected on his term thus far. Considering the previous years, he decided that things could be far worse and that he should not complain or else they might be. He replayed the several conversations he had had that morning concerning his mother, and his eyes flew open when it dawned on him what he had actually learned.
Of all the information he had gathered, the advice the Headmaster had given him was by far the most useful. In telling him not to try and find another way of seeing his mother, he clearly expressed that it could be done. Harry smiled. He would just have to figure out how.
Moments later Harry was creeping down the second floor corridor under his invisibility cloak toward the hanging of the badger that he knew led to the library entrance. He had quietly slipped through the common room, toting the Marauder’s Map, and managing to avoid detection by any of his friends. Most of them were grouped around the fireplace listening to Dean tell a story about the time his granddad fought off a Troll, but Hermione was sitting in her usual spot under the window working away feverishly at her Charms assignment.
As he walked down the silent corridors, he checked the map for any signs of professors patrolling the hallways for students out of bed, and found that only Professor Sprout was out that night, and she was all the way on the other side of the castle for the time being.
Harry looked for the tiny speck labelled Filch and was surprised to see that it was nowhere to be found. Filch apparently was not in the castle tonight. Harry tried to think of the last time he had seen Filch and stopped in his tracks when he realised that it had been before summer. Had the caretaker quit, or was he perhaps on holiday?
He pushed the library doors open quietly and stepped into the darkness behind them. He lifted his wand and quietly cast ‘lumos,’ only allowing the tip of his wand to shine through the opening in his cloak. He walked to the restricted section, knowing that if he was going to find anything on time travel it would surely be illegal and most likely be classified as Dark Arts; the two main requirements for a book to be placed in the restricted section.
Harry walked up and down the aisles scanning the spine of every book and finally finding only two that seemed likely to help. He pulled them off the shelf and held them tightly against his chest in case they decided to do anything funny like try to shout or something. The last thing he needed was to have Professor Sprout find him in the restricted area.
He slipped back out of the library clutching the texts tightly together and rushed as quickly as he could back to the common room. Once back in the red and gold room, Harry found that all of his friends were still sitting around the fire chatting, and that Hermione was still seated under the window, only now she had her head resting in her arms and was fast asleep.
Smiling, he walked back up to his dormitory and tucked his invisibility cloak and map back into his trunk. Pulling the hangings back around his bed, Harry lay the borrowed books down next to his others and opened the first one titled Trips Through the Ages. It was full of accounts of witches and wizards who claimed to have travelled in time and seen things they had always wanted to. Most of them had done it accidentally and the rest of them had used Time Turners. The book was useless. He turned to the next one, titled Taming Time, and flipped to the index hoping to find a useful spell. Unfortunately, this one was filled with painful ways to create a wrinkle-free face and younger appearance, making it just as useless as the first text. Harry threw the heavy volume down in frustration and punched his pillow in anger. There had to be a way.
At the foot of his bed, Harry tilted his head to read the page that had opened in his potions book when he hit it with the excruciating cosmetics text. His eyes widened when he read the title of the passage. He couldn’t believe that he had found what he was looking for, and that it had been in his trunk all this time. He smiled wider and wider as his eyes swept over the text, reading it over again and again. It was clear to him now what he would have to do, only he would need alot of help. He would have to brew the Timeless Draft.
Sunday morning, Harry awoke to the regular blurry red hangings pulled around his bed after hearing Ron shout at him to shut his bird up. He reached over to his bureau and grabbed his glasses before walking to the window sill and letting in a very persistent Hedwig. It had evidently been her tapping at the window that woke Ron, who in turn woke him up so that he could go on sleeping. The instant the window was open, Hedwig fluttered inside and landed on Harry’s shoulder, nipping slightly harder than she needed to on his ear.
‘Alright, alright,’ he said to the snowy owl, walking over to his trunk and pulling out a handful of Hooting Humdingers.
Hedwig devoured them happily as Harry untied the bit of parchment around her leg, sure that it would be a reply from Lupin. Sure enough, it was a short note congratulating Harry on getting back on the quidditch team, and warning him to stay out of Professor Black’s way for his own good. He also told him that he would see him soon.
Tucking the letter away in his trunk with his other valuables, Harry woke everyone in the sixth-year dormitory so they could make it down for a late breakfast. While they were finishing up, Hermione told Harry that she had volunteered herself, Ginny and Ron to help Katie and Roger set up for the first Prefect meeting of the year. Both Ron and Ginny grunted their acknowledgement of this as Harry and Neville laughed.
Once the red-haired siblings were lazily dragged out of the Great Hall by a surprisingly strong Hermione, Harry turned to Neville and Marc to see what they wanted to do for the next two and half hours.
‘Doesn’t really matter to me,’ Marc said, shrugging his shoulders.
‘Yeah, as long as it isn’t Chess, Gobstones or Exploding Snaps. Those Creevey brothers are driving me mad,’ Neville added.
‘We could go visit Hagrid?’ Harry suggested, remembering that he was now back at the castle, and that neither he, Ron, nor Hermione had had the chance to visit him yet.
‘Sure,’ both boys agreed.
The three friends walked lazily out of the heavy front doors of Hogwarts castle and along the path that led to the familiar, slanted shack next to the pumpkin patch at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Harry walked up to the large door and rapped hard with his fist before stepping back and waiting for Hagrid to answer. There was no response from within the hut. Harry banged on the door again and listened for the sounds of movement, but heard nothing. Not even Fang, wanting to jump him and drool all over his robes.
‘I guess he’s not in,’ Marc said, and the three boys turned to walk back to the castle.
‘I wondered when ya’d stop by ta see me,’ a gruff voice sounded from the edge of the forest behind them. ‘Though’ you’d forgot about me,’ the voice added with a hint of amusement.
Harry turned to see Hagrid’s looming figure emerging from the forest’s edge, and a giant bloodhound bounding toward him at an alarming rate. Before he could call out a greeting to his friend, Fang had leaped into the air and landed hard with his front paws on Harry’s shoulder, knocking him off his feet and onto the soft grass behind him. He lay there with Fang’s warm tongue slobbering up and down his face while Neville and Marc stood pointing and laughing at him.
‘Tha’s enough Fang. ‘arry’s glad ter see ya too,’ Hagrid told the large dog and waited for him to trot around the hut into the pumpkin patch. ‘Alrigh’ there, Harry?’ he asked, grabbing him by the shirt with a giant hand and pulling him up to his feet.
‘Of course I am. How are you Hagrid?’ he said, walking forward to hug the large man.
‘Oh me, I’m doin just fine,’ Hagrid told him. ‘And how ‘bout yerself Neville? Keepin out er trouble I assume?’ He winked at the blond boy with a grin.
‘Of course,’ Neville said, and grinned widely at their hairy professor.
‘And you sir, mus’ be Marcus,’ Hagrid said to the dark-haired boy and held out his hand. ‘I’m Rubeus Hagrid, Groundskeeper and Keeper o’ keys at Hogwarts an’ Professor o’ Care o’ Magical Creatures, as ye’ll see on Monday.’
Marc shook his enormous hand and smiled. ‘Nice to meet you sir, but please call me Marc.’
‘Well then, ‘ow bouts we go inside fer a cuppa?’ Hagrid suggested and the four of them huddled into the tiny hut.
As soon as they were all settled in their seats and the kettle was set on the fire, Harry bombarded his half-giant professor with questions about his summer travels.
‘What was Beauxbatons castle like Hagrid?’
‘It wasn’t as nice as Hogwarts was it?’ Neville added eagerly.
‘Naahhh,’ Hagrid said loudly, swiping the air with a hand as though dismissing the thought. ‘Iss a nice castle but not close ter as great as Hogwarts. Everything there is so nice tha’ ya have ter watch what ya touch. Everythin’s made of gleamin’ silver or breakable crystal. The students ‘ave ter take turns polishin’ parts of it ya know! An’ there was not one ghost! Wasn’t my idear o’ a magic school.’
Harry and Neville leaned back in their seats with a satisfied look on their faces. Marc on the other hand sighed.
‘Sounds alot better than Durmstrang. I would have paid galleons and galleons for a school of silver and crystal if it meant I could get out of that constantly cold, dark prison.’
‘Tha’s right!’ Hagrid said, ‘So yer adjustin’ at Hogwarts then, Marc?’
‘Yeah, it’s been great. Everyone’s been really welcoming and this one here introduced himself to me on the first night here. Thought I needed a friend,’ he pointed toward Harry with a scoff, making Harry redden and Neville laugh.
‘Tha’s our Harry,’ Hagrid said with a grin and reached out to mess up his already unruly mop of hair. ‘I take it ya get on with Ron an’ ‘ermione then,’ he added.
‘Yes sir. Ron actually just made me one of Gryffindor’s new beaters.’
‘Great!’ Hagrid cried. ‘Sad it is to lose Fred an’ George, I bet Ron couldn’ wait to be rid of ‘em! I’ll be cheerin for you lot, but best we not tell anyone tha’.’ They all had a good laugh.
They drank their tea and Marc took a chance with one of Hagrid’s homemade scones while the gamekeeper told them all about his time at Beauxbatons and how he and the Headmistress were actually on better than good terms now.
‘Way to go Hagrid! I’m happy for you,’ Harry said. ‘Will she be coming to visit at all?’
‘Maybe around Christmas, wha’ with Fleur and Gabrielle here now too. But she still ‘as a school ter run, yer see.’
‘Well, not much has changed here, Hagrid,’ Harry announced.
‘Except for that horrible new Defence professor. I wish Dumbledore would have asked Lupin back,’ Neville said with a slight frown.
‘Who’s this, Professor Black? Nah, she’s no’ all bad,’ Hagrid offered, again dismissing the thought. ‘Her teachin’s jus’ a bit different is all.’
‘She hates Gryffindors Hagrid, and Harry especially. Not to mention how friendly she is with Snape,’ Neville said coldly, quite uncharacteristic of himself.
‘Yes, well tha’s not really any of yer business tho is it?’ Hagrid responded in her defence. ‘I s’pose she treats the fifth years the same then, Marc?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Marc answered, beginning to flush. ‘ She’s alright to me.’
‘You can’t honestly like the woman?’ Harry said in disbelief.
‘Well, I don’t like the way she’s so chummy with Professor Snape. It irks me.’
Satisfied with this, the conversation turned to how much everyone in the hut disliked the Potions Master until it was time to leave.
‘I’ll come visit you with Ron and Hermione on Monday night, alright?’ Harry told his giant friend.
‘I don’t want yer to get in trouble now Harry, so maybe yer should wait and come in the day,’ he suggested.
‘We’ll just use the cloak,’ he told him, ‘and the map will tell us where Filch is.’
Hagrid’s eyes sprung open wide. ‘Have yer seen Filch on yer map since the start of term, Harry?’ he asked in a strained voice.
‘No, I haven’t. Why Hagrid? Is he on holiday?’
Hagrid laughed at this. ‘Filch on holiday? Not a chance. He hasn’ left the castle grounds since the day he moved in seventeen years ago.’
‘Not even during the summer?’ Marc asked curiously.
‘Nah, don’t think he has anywhere ter go.’
‘Where is he then?’ Harry asked, concerned for the first time in his life for the wrinkled and sour old caretaker.
Hagrid looked flustered now, and started to clean up the tea cups and mugs hastily. ‘Oh ya know what? I jus’ remembered that he was talkin’ ‘bout goin’ away. He musta gone on holiday. Yup, no need to worry then. Well off yous go.’ The three boys were quickly ushered out of the hut and the door shut quickly. ‘Thanks for stoppin’ by.’
They all exchanged knowing glances and headed back up toward the castle. Hagrid might have been a good friend but he was a terrible liar. Once back in the comfort of the common room, the boys sat in the three armchairs around the fire grate and discussed what they had just learned.
‘Where do you think Filch has gone?’ Marc asked.
‘I dont know. He could be anywhere, but the way Hagrid got so flustered usually means he’s hiding something,’ Harry said as he racked his mind for a connection to the whereabouts of the missing man.
‘One way or the other, there’s really nothing we can do,’ Neville commented. ‘I mean, if he was really missing don’t you think Dumbledore would be looking for him?’
‘Good point,’ Harry said thoughtfully. ‘You’re right Nev. He probably just got sick of all the rule-breakers and took some time off. It’s the perfect time, what with the twins gone now. I’m sure he’ll turn up soon enough.’
Deciding that they had spent enough of their leisure time worrying about an old man who would have done everything in his power to chain them up in the dungeons, they decided to resort to a game of exploding snaps. It turned out to be far more enjoyable when the Creevey brothers were not present to knock them over with every twitchy movement.
Just after two o’clock, the portrait swung open and Hermione bound in looking thoroughly pleased, followed by an almost dead-looking Ron and Ginny. Funniest of all though, was Collin Creevey lumbering in behind them looking even more tired than his brother had that morning.
‘Good meeting?’ Harry ventured to ask, knowing full well what Ron and Ginny’s answers would be, but giving Hermione the chance to tell him all about it.
‘It was wonderful!’ Hermione said loudly, the instant Harry’s mouth had closed. ‘Katie and Roger did a wonderful job for their first time organizing a meeting.’
‘Yeah, when you let them get a word in,’ Ron said, rolling his eyes at her.
Hermione ignored him and went on.
‘They had some really great ideas for new rule enforcement and for the Prefects to become more actively involved with it.’
‘Funny how you’re the one who brought up most of those ideas,’ Ron breathed, once again rolling her eyes in her direction.
‘Because of Hermione, we have to have nightly patrols around the castle to watch for students out of bed.’
‘I think it’s a great idea,’ Hermione said before Ron could go on. ‘There will be two shifts every night, and during each there will be a Prefect from each house and two teachers patrolling the halls. That should put a stop to students sneaking out of their houses at night,’ she said triumphantly.
‘Congratulations Hermione,’ Neville said, smiling at the bushy-haired girl and offering the only support in the room. ‘It’s great that everyone agreed with your idea.’
‘Not everyone did,’ she said, now changing her tone and staring pointedly in Ron’s direction. ‘But apparently Dumbledore liked the idea of extra eyes in the castle at night, because he approved it.’
‘Well I’m sorry if I don’t want to be wandering the corridors at midnight everynight. I need my sleep if I’m to function in class. You know that.’
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him and slumped into her chair beneath the window. ‘Whatever you say, Ron,’ she said, opening her book bag and pulling out a quill and some parchment. ‘I have to get started on the scheduling. I told Roger I’d have a draft ready by tomorrow evening.’
Ron huffed loudly from where he stood next to Harry, and Ginny was clearly trying hard not to laugh.
‘At least she’s given up on S.P.E.W. for now,’ Harry whispered to Ron, and watched as his face twisted into a grin at this silver lining.
‘So what are we going to do now then?’ Ron asked the group, looking at each one of them expectantly in turn.
‘Well I have an appointment with Professor Fliwick,’ Neville said, turning slightly red as everyone turned to face him curiously. ‘Remedial Charms. I don’t want to fall behind again.’ He picked up his book bag and headed for the exit, saying that he’d see them all again at dinner in the Great Hall.
Harry shook his head grinning. Neville had surprised him at the beginning of term with his show of abilities on the first couple of days, but things were slowly returning to normal and Harry could see the regular old Neville resurfacing. He had gained some nerve, didn’t seem to mind Snape so much anymore, and had admittedly improved in class due to a proper wand, but he was still the same shy and easily embarrassed Neville who needed help with his Charms work.
‘And we all know what Hermione will be doing for the rest of the evening,’ Ginny said laughing.
‘Anyone up for a fly around the pitch?’ Ron suggested, knowing that Harry would not turn him down. ‘I saw Dean and Seamus already out there.’
‘Yeah I could use some fresh air,’ Marc said, getting to his feet and looking to Harry to do the same.
‘Actually, I have some work to catch up on before I can go flying,’ Harry lied. ‘But I’ll meet you guys out there as soon as I’m done, alright?’
Ron agreed and rushed through the porthole with Marc close behind. The common room was now empty except for Harry, Ginny and Hermione, who was so engrossed in her schedule making that a dungbomb could have gone off and she would not have noticed.
‘So what are you really going to do?’ Ginny asked him with a raised eyebrow and crossed arms. She had not spent the last fifteen years living with her brothers without at least being able to tell when someone was hiding something
‘What do you mean?’ Harry asked confused, running a hand through his tangled black hair and wincing when it got caught.
‘I know you, Harry. You would never turn down flying with Ron unless you had something important to do. And I’m certain it’s not homework.’
Harry was suddenly very uncomfortable and started to is usual habit of shifting his weight back and forth. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Ginny, but he didn’t think that she could be helpful, and the less people who knew what he was doing, the better.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about Ginny. I’m just not feeling that well.’ He said unable to look her in the eye and blatantly lie.
‘Fine, Harry. Lie to me if you want, but I thought we were better friends than that. I’ll see you later.’ With that, she picked up her book bag and headed toward the fat lady.
‘Wait Ginny, where are you going?’ he called after her.
‘Sorry, I can’t tell you because I’m not feeling well. Talk to you later.’
Harry watched as she left the common room and let his head drop into his hands. Great. Now Ginny was upset with him and he had just lied to his best friend. He ran upstairs to grab his Potions book, deciding that of everyone around him, it wouldn’t be that bad if Ginny knew what he was doing. Maybe she could help him. Sure, she wasn’t Hermione in Potions, but she had to be better than he was.
He grabbed his map out of his trunk and opened it to see where she had gone. The tiny speck labelled Ginny Weasley had travelled all the way down to the entrance hall and was now proceeding toward the dungeons. What was she doing? Harry rushed down toward the dungeons as quickly as he could, hoping to catch up with her and explain what he wanted to do. As he approached the room he had seen her label enter, he paused at hearing a pair of voices. One was hers, but the other was male and it was definitely not Dean’s.
‘Did you need help with your potion then?’ he heard her ask.
‘In your dreams, Weasley. As if I’d take help from a Gryffindor,’ the other voice sneered in reply.
Harry took a deep breath as he looked down at his map to see who she was talking to, and just as he had feared, saw Ginny Weasley’s label right next to Draco Malfoy’s.
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