A/N: Hello everyone! Firstly hapy birthday to the Weasley twins and ME! I am 20 today on the day of the fool! Secondly, I am so sorry for the long wait this time around, but at least i have the legit excuse of being hospitalized without Internet access for nearly two weeks! Sad i know, but true, and now i'm ready to go n and finish the story! Take care to all of you and thank you for sticking around. Please read and remember that it is my birthday = juicy review at the end of both parts. Wishin you all a Happy April Fools, Kyle : D
Chapter 27: The Witness (Part 1)
The end of lesson bell had rung, and now Harry sat alone at his station with increasingly thinned nerves, waiting to find out what horrible reason Professor Sharpbane could have asked him behind for. Looking around the old dungeon classroom, Harry realised how much like the past it felt, especially with the most feared Potions Mistress of Hogwarts not ten feet away from him.
Having finished storing the class’ daily samples for grading, Professor Sharpbane turned around sharply and glared hard at one of her most obviously despised pupils. Harry glared right back at her and found himself surprised by what he saw. She surveyed him coldly, and even slightly grudgingly, but there was no longer the hint of aggression and strong distaste that had once lingered on her features. Now in its place was a look of critical judgment and possibly even understanding.
‘How have you been Portus?’ her ever resilient voice finally filled the air, making Harry start and blink several times.
Of all the things he had expected to come from her mouth, the words how have you been were certainly not among them. Harry eyed the older woman with intense skepticism and a continued dislike as he tried to reason her actions. What exactly was she playing at?
‘I’ve been better,’ his response finally entered the air dryly.
Studying her familiar stony features, Harry was unsurprised that other than her graying cobalt hair and few lines around her eyes and mouth, Morganna Sharpbane had been virtually untouched by the effects of time; Something he was certain reflected her ability to brew a decent, and not to mention illegal draft. Her eyes continued to be the darkest pools of strength and duress Harry had ever seen, only adding to the mismatched question and gaze.
The Potions Mistress continued to watch him intently for a moment, her harsh and searching eyes pouring into his own emerald, and finally when Harry felt a flickering memory of Gideon Prewett clapping him on the back after winning the Quidditch match, he blinked hard before whipping out his wand and shouting ‘Protego!’
The connection was instantly broken and Harry glared fiercely from his place two feet in front of his Professor, his chest now rising and falling rapidly as he tried to maintain control of his emotions.
‘How dare you?’ he managed to grind out between deep breaths, and nearly shot out his wand once more when she smiled.
‘I see you’ve been practicing,’ she now continued to speak as though she had not just tried to infiltrate Harry’s private thoughts and memories. ‘Severus told me that you were weak, and I agreed, but now there’s something there.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Harry asked then, still trying to lower his anger so that she could not succeed in piercing his mind again.
‘Your mind of course,’ her severe expression fell back into place. ‘I can see why few people defend your intelligence,’ she added casually. ‘However, I am intrigued by the feelings in your mind.’
Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly with the intention of slowly calming down so that he might learn something of interest and not once again find himself calling his Professor some foul creature.
‘The first rule of the Occlumens is to clear your mind. It has always been that way, and yet you rarely do this.’
‘I always do it,’ Harry retorted hotly, failing miserably at controlled breathing.
‘That’s right. What I meant is that you rarely succeed,’ she corrected her last statement, and waved a hand in apology.
‘And yet I just closed you out of my mind in seconds,’ Harry replied, trying to stand a bit taller as he confronted the formidable woman. ‘Odd wouldn’t you say?’
‘This is exactly the point I am trying to make Mister Potter. That hat certainly knew which house not to place you in,’ she insulted him again. ‘I just can’t see why you’re different,’ she spoke more quietly now, her voice taking on a pensive tone as she once again tried to stare him down.
‘Join the club,’ Harry mumbled irritably, and found that for a brief moment she got into his head again, only to be trounced out as his anger flared up.
As he lowered his shield charm and glared furiously at her once more, Harry found his Professor’s eyes alight with a curiosity that he had never seen. There was almost delight in the look she now shared
with him, making him extremely unnerved as she watched him.
‘How would you feel about continuing your Occlumency lessons Mister Potter?’ she asked then, and Harry could actually feel as his jaw lowered itself with incredulity.
‘You’re kidding right?’ he said mirthlessly, and readied himself for her next attempt.
‘Have I ever shown a propensity for humour Mister Potter?’ she said gravely before turning back toward her desk and collecting several parchments and a quill. ‘If you choose to explore this oddity, I will be more than accommodating on Tuesday and Thursday nights. If you do not, well, accommodating is not a word I use often.’
This being said, the dark-haired woman gave the slightest of nods before entering her office and leaving Harry alone and disturbed in the still classroom.
The next two days went by rapidly, every student working hard to keep busy in order not to think of the losses that were so heavily affecting the school. Dumbledore had indeed announced the reformation of the dueling club, and Harry was pleased to see that, days later, the students’ main chatter continued to consist of that very topic.
Harry had explained to Ron what he could about Professor Sharpbane, telling him of the way he had already offended her in the past, but deciding to keep her interest in his training to himself for now. Ron had been sympathetic toward him, but refused to believe that anyone could be worse than Snape or Black.
Harry had attended his first meeting with Professor Sharpbane, unsure of how she would try to train him differently and finding almost no change whatsoever. She continued to enter his mind frequently and insulted him just as often between sessions. He really was not sure why he agreed to the training at all.
Ron’s comment about the next Quidditch practice was halted a moment later as Dumbledore stood at the head table and tapped his goblet lightly. The action was really quite pointless, as it made very little noise, and the Headmaster rising generally had the room fall into silence anyhow. The old wizard cleared his throat quietly as the many expectant faces in the hall watched him with eagerness.
‘As I have informed you all, the dueling club will be reforming, and any students in third year and up will be permitted to join.’ He smiled as several small groans of disappointment arose from the younger school members. ‘This evening shall be the first meeting in which the rules, regulations, and general happenings will be discussed. Once dinner has concluded, I suggest that all students interested in becoming members return to their dormitories and change into comfortable robes, before returning and meeting right here.’
Several students commented quickly in hushed and excited whispers before hushing to allow the Headmaster’s continuation.
‘The club shall be led by three of our Professors, in an attempt to offer to our students the widest and most useful variety of spell work available. Professors Flitwick and Lupin shall be taking charge of the first several meetings after today, and I myself shall head the club to help in any way that I may for the time being.’
Another bit of noise rose from the hall, however this time it was in the form of scoffs and snickers from the Slytherin table, expressing their less than enthusiastic want to join a group led by the Headmaster. Harry nearly smiled when he saw the edges of Dumbledore’s mouth twitch upward slightly.
‘While I am happy to be a part of this experience, I am afraid that I shall only be a stand in, until the group’s regular Head returns to us, at which time Professor Snape will inform you all of any changes he wishes to make.’
Now Harry gave a small laugh at the even spread of shocked faces around the room; many of the students who had felt excited moments ago, were now showing signs of trepidation at working under the Potions Master. The Slytherins also seemed to be torn. Should they join the ridiculous club led by Muggle-loving Headmaster and bear the company of the other houses, or keep away and later risk the wrath of their Head of House.
Dumbledore gave them a few more instructions before reseating himself and allowing the meal to restart itself. It was not long before the students excitement was once again abound, many of them discussing spells they had researched and hoped to submit as a suggestion to the professors. Harry was beginning to feel like he would be attending a D.A. meeting. Just as the other students had recovered from their surprise, the Slytherins were now back to their snide selves, throwing comments around about how useless it would be to attend the silly gathering.
‘Clearly they need the help,’ Pansy was saying as she waved a hand dismissively in the air. ‘I’ve learned all I need without some wretched club. Perhaps what the others need are remedial lessons.’
Ron snorted from where he got up next to Marc, and Neville simply shook his head as they made to leave. Harry thought he heard Ginny throw a comment at Pansy, and it was not until he saw the affronted look on the Slytherin’s face that he turned red and hoped Mrs. Weasley never heard her daughter repeat something like that.
Soon enough, the Gryffindor group returned to the Great Hall in their more casual robes, comfortable clothing underneath, and they entered to join the rest of the excitable youth collected at the head of the room. The increasing group of students was gathered around the familiar dueling platform from Harry’s second year, bringing back memories of his duel with Malfoy, and causing him to look around for his pale-haired nemesis. He found himself actually being disappointed when he could not find him, having hoped greatly for another shot at hexing the ferret.
In his time away, and now with the recent events in his life, Harry had thought very little of the blond boy, and now he wondered just what he had been doing to keep such a low profile. It was not often that a day passed without at least one snide remark or misfired hex from the git, and as of the past several weeks Harry could not remember even seeing him.
Harry was trying his best to remember if Malfoy had been in Potions the day before, when he was tapped on the shoulder and turned to find Cho Chang and Terry Boot standing in front of him. A suddenly awkward sensation flooded his form as he tried his best to smile at Cho, hoping she had not come to curse him early, or perhaps tell him off for avoiding her so effectively since his return from the past. He was further made to feel awkward when she stepped forward quickly and gave him a tight hug.
‘How are you Harry?’ she asked quietly, and Harry was stunned by the calmness to her voice.
‘I’m alright,’ he answered back just as quietly, hoping not to have anyone notice their small conversation and start bombarding him with questions.
‘Good,’ she answered with a small smile. ‘I was worried when I didn’t see much of you before the holidays but I decided you were probably busy getting used to being home.’
Harry watched Cho with wonder, hardly able to believe how understanding she was; this was not the same girl he had dated the year before. That girl cried every time they met, and took offense to nearly every word that came out of his mouth.
‘Alright, well if you want to talk about anything ever, you know where to find me,’ she said with another small smile, and Harry was thankful that she had not brought up Hermione’s name. ‘I do think we’re overdue for another breakfast or lunch.’
Harry returned her smile and nodded at Terry who did the same, before the pair walked off together to get a better look at the platform with some of the other members of Ravenclaw. Harry stood silently for a moment, pondering what had just occurred. Had Cho just secretly asked him out on another date, or was she merely being a friend? Ron had apparently thought this over as well and come up with the first option as he clapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder and raised his eyebrows a bit.
‘Good luck mate,’ he sighed before turning toward the platform as the professors entered the hall.
Harry followed him and found that Ginny was now watching him oddly from where she stood next to Neville, Marc and Katie. She also kept throwing skeptic glances in Cho’s direction, however now they no longer seemed as hostile as before.
‘Thank you all for arriving so promptly,’ Dumbledore started his introduction as soon as all three professors had approached the midnight coloured platform. ‘I am happy to see that most of our third years and up have decided to give it a go.’
Harry looked around the large crowd of students and realised that the Headmaster had decided not to mention the obvious lack of Slytherins in the hall. Not a single green and silver tie showed anywhere in the crowd. Harry had assumed as much, and figured that as soon as Snape returned, so would spending time with his house in enclosed spaces.
‘We shall start today by separating you all into groups for training. Perhaps we shall do it by year and house. This way there will not be too large a number per group.’
The students began to shuffle around the room, breaking off into smaller groups and chatting amicably with their roommates when Harry decided to speak up.
‘I don’t think this is the best way sir.’
Everyone stopped to listen as Harry Potter told the Headmaster he was wrong in doing something. Harry could feel red creeping up his neck and into his cheeks as he continued, hoping he would not land himself in detention for undermining the Headmaster’s instructions in front of everyone. Had Snape been there, he knew he would have.
‘If we confine ourselves to year, we’re really being limited. For example, I know for certain that Collin could duel very well with Katie Bell and they’ve two years between them.’
‘And I’m sure I’m not comfortable dueling with Katie,’ a seventh year boy said, blushing as he admitted his novice.
‘Are you suggesting we duel by house then Mister Potter?’ Professor Flitwick’s squeak of a voice filled the hall, and Harry could see a glint of excitement in his eyes at the prospect of a new Hogwarts house competition.
All the other students apparently thought of this as well, as excited whispers and mumbles rushed around the room. Harry thought about it for a moment, but decided that he did not very much like that idea either.
‘Actually sir, I think a competition is a great idea. Four teams, four captains and a lot of practice,’ he said, and was met with a round of cheers and applause from the others.
‘Are you volunteering to be a captain Mister Potter?’ Professor Lupin asked with a smile, certain that Harry could more than easily hold his own on a team.
‘I’d be more than willing sir, but not for Gryffindor.’
Gasps of surprise filled the room as everyone turned to look at the Boy-who-lived. Hard as he tried, Harry could not keep the red off his cheeks as they all gawked at him curiously. Taking another breath, he noticed the knowing smile on Dumbledore’s face and chose to elaborate.
‘I think we’ve already got enough house competitions, and I personally would like to work with some of the other students. I know for a fact that Ernie and Justin can throw a pretty good hex and I wouldn’t mind having them on my side. I’ve already dueled with most of my mates, and I think change would do a great deal of difference. Besides, Ron already knows how I duel, so it will be much harder for me to work against him.’
Several people nodded their agreement and soon everyone was chattering about the idea. The professors were also discussing the prospect of four mixed teams when another suggestion was made.
‘I’m with Potter, but I think it would be useful to have everyone pair off today and duel once to see what level they are at. Then the Professors can determine how to equally split the teams so that each has a fair number of each skill level. There’s no point in making the teams with different levels of skill or we learn nothing,’ came a hushed but confident voice Harry had never before heard.
Every head turned to see where the comment was coming from and Harry was surprised to see Blaise Zabini standing nearest the professors. He had not seen the Slytherin when he first looked around, and found it odd that he would be here all alone. All the other students were now staring at him skeptically, unsure of whether or not to agree with the idea of a Slytherin.
‘Besides, if we go by house it would appear that I am my own team.’ The dark-haired boy said with a small smirk.
Harry laughed at this, and soon everyone joined in, leaving the awkward feeling behind for the moment. The Headmaster smiled appreciatively at Harry for doing this before agreeing with the Slytherin boy’s comment and beginning to pair students off.
As expected, most students paired off with their best friends, often the person with whom they regularly worked in lessons, sadly undermining the whole point Harry had just tried to make. Marc seemed to notice this as well and was the first to walk over to Hannah Abbot and ask her to be his partner. This time when Harry looked over at Ginny, her glare was not devoid of hostility.
Harry watched as everyone paired off rather quickly, and out of the corner of his eye he could see that Cho Chang had already turned two others away as she made her way through the crowd toward him. He could feel his heart rate quickening as he panicked in an attempt to find a way out of dueling with her. They were just now beginning to be friends again and he truly did not want to do anything to set her off.
Neville and Ron had paired up quickly, ensuring that Ron would not be with his girlfriend. Since Christmas holidays the pair had rarely been seen together, a fact that was obviously bothering the dark-skinned girl. Dean and Seamus had also paired off along with Parvati and Lavender. Harry did a quick scan for Collin but found that he had taken on his Prefect counterpart and that his brother was working with a Ravenclaw girl.
‘Harry,’ came Cho’s voice an instant later, making him turn around swiftly and beam at her. ‘Would you like to duel with me? It’s a good thing you made those suggestions or we would not have been allowed,’ she smiled happily at him.
‘Uhh,’ he started to nod his head in consent but was shortly cut off by that quietly poised voice.
‘Sorry Chang, but Potter’s already got a date. I’m afraid I nabbed him a few minutes ago,’ Blaise said coolly with a snide grin. ‘Maybe you can have him next meeting. That’s if he survives of course.’
‘Oh,’ Cho said briskly, glowering at Blaise with contempt that Harry did not know she could show. ‘Well, I guess I’ll work with you next meeting then Harry,’ she said politely to him before glaring at the dark-haired Slytherin once more and stalking off to steal Terry boot away from his partner.
Harry waited until she was far enough away to let out a pent up breath and relax slightly. Then he looked up at Blaise and realised with an inward laugh that he had just been relieved to trade in his ex-girlfriend for a Slytherin who could not wait to hex him into the ground.
‘Thanks,’ Harry said quickly and quietly, hoping that no one but his partner would hear it. ‘I didn’t really want-’
‘Let’s just get on with this,’ Blaise said in an annoyed voice and pulled out his wand. ‘The sooner we determine our skill level, the quicker we can be placed and get back to our common rooms.’
Harry nodded and followed the boy over to the queue where the others had already begun waiting their turns. He looked over at Blaise and could not help but wonder why the boy was present. He had come all alone, without the usual entourage of Slytherins to have his back in a typical insult game between houses. Harry rarely saw the boy outside of the classroom, and only saw him with Malfoy during lessons and during meals. Other than Crabbe and Goyle, Zabini would have been next on his assumptions list for Malfoy’s friends.
Harry had never felt the need to wonder about the boy before, but now that he had been involuntarily partnered with him, he was curious as to why the Slytherin would choose him. He had never once in six years spoken to him, and until today had never even heard his voice. He once or twice saw him questioned during class hours, but his responses had never been of much interest to Harry, and the hushed tone to his voice managed the rest. More to the point, it was usually Malfoy of Parkinson who spoke for everyone when the time came.
Now, the strong featured youth stood firmly next to Harry, looking calculatingly over the crowd of students from his curtained brown eyes. The dark honey colour had a certain gleam to them, reminding Harry strongly of his old friend Gwendolyn, or more accurately, the late Mrs. Snape. Blaise swept a strand of his dark hair from his eyes and as it caught the light, Harry noticed for the first time that it was in fact brown and not black like he originally thought. The Slytherin noticed at this point that Harry was looking at him and gave a scowl.
‘Did you want a picture Potter? You realise this isn’t really a date,’ he said derisively, before crossing his arms and smirking again.
Harry narrowed his eyes at the boy but said nothing; as of yet, he had not done anything to him and Harry was truly interested to see why the boy had come to the meeting. Scaring him off would not help. Harry looked up to the platform now, just in time to see Collin throw a decent Jelly-leg jinx at Ginny, only to have it blocked and than narrowly miss getting hit by the Petrificus Totalus. A few more hexes and it was Collin who came out on top.
Next up, Harry watched Ron get narrowly beaten by Neville, though the way the blond boy threw his curses and placed his shields seemed almost nonchalant, making Harry further ponder what he was hiding. Next up were Luna and Zacharius Smith. Harry knew that Zacharius was still recovering from his attack but could not help but hope that Luna won. His hopes were realised when she hastily disarmed him after flipping him upside down. Several other groups went up and Harry and Blaise continued to watch each pair in silence until they were next.
Finally the pair mounted the platform and everyone gathered slightly closer to watch; even the professors seemed interested to watch the oddly matched youths. Harry gripped his wand tightly in case Zabini dueled anything like Malfoy did, and kept his eyes locked on the bronze-skinned boy while he bowed. The instant they lifted their gaze, Harry prepared to shield but found it unnecessary as Blaise had not sent a hex his way. It appeared they both had the same idea.
The two watched each other for a while before Harry finally made the first move, sending a ‘Furnunculus,’ whirring across the platform where Blaise easily shielded it with ‘Protego,’ and retaliated with a well aimed Confundus charm. Harry easily blocked it before trying a simple ‘Expelliarmus,’ and finding that the simplicity was there for Blaise as well, before narrowly dodging his binding charm. Harry decided to liven the stage a bit and cast ‘Flagrate!’ filling the air with flames and causing several students to shriek in surprise.
Zabini’s eyes had widened in surprise for a mere moment before he cast the Flame-freezing charm and then banished the shattered ice pieces toward his opponent. Harry lithely avoided the large rigid shards and tried the once effective ‘Rictusempra’. Blaise tried to roll out of the way but was caught in the right shoulder and flipped several times across the platform before landing hard with a thud where he began laughing uncontrollably. Not a second later he had cast the finite incantatem and protego against Harry’s expelliarmus, and sent a hover charm at the unsuspecting Gryffindor. Harry prepared to send another hex from his place in the air but stopped when Professors Dumbledore, Lupin and Flitwick began to applaud.
‘Very well done,’ the Headmaster said. ‘That will be all for today. We shall consider what we’ve seen this evening and in two nights time we shall meet here once again and form the new teams. Have a wonderful evening,’ he concluded.
The students began to filter from the Great Hall, leaving Harry standing at one end of the platform breathing heavily after he ended the hover charm, and Blaise heaving with the same difficulty from his end. Blaise jumped down to the floor and started to make his way off toward the dungeons when Harry decided to call something out.
‘Good duel,’ he called loudly and waited for the boy to return the comment.
Blaise did not return the comment or anything else at all. He simply turned to face Harry for a moment with narrowed eyes before shaking his head in disapproval and exiting the hall.
Harry lay on his bed that evening, contemplating all that had occurred in the past few days. It struck him that he did this quite often as of late, and every time he thought back it rarely did any good. First of all, he thought of the most recent developments: Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy. Where was Malfoy, and why was Zabini acting civil?
Harry had been thoroughly surprised to find the honey-eyed boy could duel so adequately, managing to fend him off for the entire time. Harry had never yet lost a duel and hoped that perhaps he would get the chance to prove his worth come next meeting. As for Malfoy, if the self-indulgent blond was not in class the next morning, he would be sure to ask the Headmaster about his whereabouts.
Pushing these thoughts to the background of his mind, Harry pulled up the straggling thoughts about his ex-girlfriend, who intentionally or not, made herself quite available in the past little while. What exactly did she expect of him, and why did she expect anything now? She had already made it clear that she understood he was in mourning and that they did not even make a good match, so why on earth was she still insisting on harassing him?
Harry thought for another moment about all of their recent meals and of their good-natured Quidditch match months ago. Overall, he had been having some rather decent times with her, even if they were strictly platonic meetings. Perhaps he could give the girl another shot at his friendship, but only friendship; nothing more.
The thoughts of girlfriends brought Harry to think of Fleur and how she had been acting lately as well. Nothing had been out of the ordinary, and as far as Harry could tell, she was acting as though they were simply close friends, talking to him in the halls between lessons and telling him how Bill was getting on and such. Unless they had been told he had dated the girl, Harry was quite certain that any passers by would be unable to detect any hint of a past relationship between the two.
Harry frowned as he realised this, and wondered how little he had actually meant to the part-Veela. Had he simply been used to get back at Bill, or was he just someone to keep her occupied until she could get the chance to claim her old beau once more? Deciding not to dwell on thoughts of his ex-girlfriends, Harry now turned his mind to another girl recently thrust into his life.
Luna Lovegood was one of the stranger people in his world and though she had her oddball ways, it was slightly endearing these days. While other girls either fancied him or hated others for fancying him, Luna was the only girl he could spend time with and not even consider the possibility of a romantic involvement from either party. It was truly refreshing, albeit dry in the way of logical conversation. He knew that Luna would never fill the role of personal advisor, but sadly enough he knew he was hoping she might help to fill the void left by Hermione.
Quickly deciding that he did not have the energy to dwell on thoughts of Hermione’s missing body or of the circumstances under which it was stolen, Harry forced his mind to continue on the track set forth pertaining to Luna.
The small blonde girl had been rather impressive during her dueling match with the well-skilled Zacharius Smith, helping to convince Harry that his friend really was the latest discovered heir. Of all the students Harry could have chosen from, Luna would not have even made the list for Ravenclaw’s heir, making him feel slightly foolish. Following this idea, Harry realised that had he made a list for potential heirs of Slytherin and Gryffindor he would have been completely wrong as well; suddenly his feelings of confidence dropped as he tried to understand the complexities of bloodlines.
Harry held a hand to his scar, feeling a soft beating below his skin as the red mark throbbed quietly on his forehead. The lightning shaped window to Voldemort had erupted in pain the evening before, telling him for the first time in months that Riddle had been thoroughly displeased. Harry welcomed the pain, knowing that the Dark Lord’s frustrations could only have come from learning of the Potters’ escape to their own time. He had felt Riddle try and enter his mind to verify this fact, and unlike every other time that Harry had placed up a wall, he allowed it. Rather than giving the monster free reign to his memories and possibly Order secrets, Harry pulled up the memory of saying goodbye to his parents and thought as hard as he could about it. Not an instant later, he had felt a searing pain on his forehead and knew that Voldemort had seen it as well. The throbbing had continued since then.
Rubbing his scar absently, Harry thought of what it meant to be an heir, and furthermore how the other heirs would be affected by knowing him. Neville and Luna had both proven to be good friends, and neither of them should have been forced into a battle solely because of their ancestry. Dumbledore had mentioned Neville’s willingness to fight, but Luna had simply been included in the meeting without any real mention of duty or even a want to participate.
Harry closed his eyes and allowed the image of Luna rasping the new, or rather ancient, prophecy once more. He had thought of it often since he had heard the original version, and he was just as confused now as he had been when he first heard it in the Headmaster’s office. Harry sat up and sprawled himself across his bed to reach for the trunk at the foot. He pulled out his borrowed parchments and began scanning them over for what must have been the hundredth time, hoping against all odds that he might find something useful that he had missed the fist ninety times.
Page after page of yellowing parchment went by, each containing interesting documentation of Hogwarts history, but never teaching anything relevant to Ravenclaw’s prophecy. He had stopped to laugh at finding an amazing sketch among Helga’s notes, depicting the other three founders in a game of tag with a mountain troll; Hufflepuff certainly had the sense of humor for the group.
Finally tired of reading the ancient footnotes and feeling as though he may go cross-eyed, Harry set the parchments back into his trunk for safekeeping and laid back down to rest his eyes. Now he chose to think of his remaining best friend and of what he would soon have to endure. There was little worry about the outcome as Ron had done nothing wrong; once the story was told the Ministry will have no choice but to see things from Ron’s point of view and understand that it was indeed in self defense. Ron had already lost so much, and now he was going to be tried for some ridiculous technicality that the Minister obviously felt would find him a great deal of publicity. Harry ground his teeth as he thought of how badly he wanted to kick the old man in the head once more.
Before he could further process the wonderful imagery, Harry was stirred form his imagination by a sturdy tapping on the window. He got up to the sill and found upon the window, a large brown delivery owl with a scroll attached to its talon. The owl held the note out, and Harry read Mr. Ronald Bilius Weasley in curling black ink.
‘I’ll bring it to Ron,’ Harry told the owl, and the black eyed creature stared at him in silent contemplation before apparently agreeing and holding the letter out further to be untied.
Harry started rushing toward the dormitory door the instant he had the scroll in his hands, but turned back sharply when he heard the screeching arrival of another post owl. He rushed toward this smoky gray bird and held out his hand impatiently, sure that another letter had arrived for his best friend. Upon untying the letter, Harry was surprised to find his own name scrawled across the front in very familiar green lettering. Now certain that the letters would pertain to Ron’s trial, Harry sprinted across the room in record speeds and nearly knocked over several third years on his way to the common room. As soon as he leapt off the bottom stair he thrust the scroll addressed to Ron into the redhead’s arms where he sat in front of the fire.
‘What’s this?’ Ron asked sardonically, clearly certain of what it was as he unrolled the note.
Harry watched his friend cautiously, hoping the letter would not address anything too outlandish and throw Ron into a spiral of nerves and doubts. Many other students were now watching the red-haired Prefect with keen interest, causing Harry to bristle and shoot a rather unwarranted glare around the room. It worked to efficiently rid the closest seats of students, and Harry had to tell Marc to sit back down when the curly-haired boy got up as well.
‘Don’t flatter yourself Harry,’ Marc laughed as he walked across the room. ‘There’s a bird at the window.’
Harry watched as Marc opened the window and another post owl flew in, extending its message for Marc to remove. Marc scanned the name quickly before sighing and giving Harry a nod and confirming that it was addressed to himself.
‘At least we know what they’re for,’ Ron said dejectedly as he began to read his own.
Harry and Marc both waited to read their letters, and both boys expressions grew increasingly worried as Ron read on. The redhead’s eyes continued to widen as he read the contents of his letter until finally he shook his head in disgust and threw the parchment across the room with a cursed shout. Marc rushed over to pick it up before anyone else could read it.
‘What is it Ron?’ Harry asked anxiously, unsure of how to deal with Ron’s news. ‘Have they decided on a date for the trial,’ he ventured, figuring Ron’s anger meant it would probably be in the next few weeks.
‘Tomorrow!’ Marc’s incredulous shout filled the air and had Harry nearly floored.
‘What? You can’t be serious,’ he cried angrily. ‘They’ve not given you any time to prepare,’ he defended Ron the best he could, but found himself falling short of arguments.
‘First thing tomorrow morning, nine o’clock in the Great Hall,’ Ron explained more accurately, and now Harry understood the embarrassment in his best friend’s eyes.
‘Why on earth would they do it at Hogwarts?’ Harry demanded furiously, wanting to help his friend in any way possible. ‘Surely another ploy of Fudge’s.’
‘Actually, it’s on Dumbledore’s request. He sent a formal request to the Wizengamot for me to be tried in an environment where my friends and family could be present to witness it. Dumbledore told me last night that Fudge had been furious at first, and only agreed when the Wizengamot consented provided Skeeter could be present as well.’
‘I’m so sorry Ron,’ Harry said as he deflated slightly and started to unroll his own letter.
‘You and Marc are to be witnesses to the event,’ Ron told both boys as they read and confirmed the news in their letters from the Headmaster. ‘Dumbledore had to fight Fudge on that too. The pillock didn’t think I even needed a witness. He said the evidence spoke for itself.’
‘Well don’t think on it Ron,’ Marc told him and clasped his shoulder firmly. ‘There’s nothing Fudge can do because we will be there now, and believe me when I say you did nothing wrong.’
‘I’ll duel the little green man if I have to,’ Harry added hotly, eliciting a small grin from Ron and a laugh from Marc that had all three of them picturing the Minister on the receiving end of Harry’s temper.
‘Quite a step from kicking him in the head,’ Marc said quietly with a glint in his eyes. ‘I wish I could have seen that.’
‘You and me both,’ Ron said disappointedly before getting to his feet and informing his friends that he wanted to get to bed early; he had a big morning ahead of him.
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