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Chapter 28 : Hogsmeade under attack
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Mum’s response surprised me. She had appeared to like Bertram a lot that day he visited during the holidays, so I wasn’t expecting her to be cheering. However, this is what she wrote:
It was with great relief that I read your letter. I hope you’re not too upset by what happened, because I’m not sure Bertram was worth getting upset over. I didn’t want to say anything while you were seeing him, but there was something about that boy that made me uneasy.
Please don’t get angry with me, I realise you may not be over him yet and therefore may still be sensitive to any negative comments. My main objection to Bertram was that he plainly didn’t make you happy. You were constantly on edge that day he came to visit, not at all your usual self, and you didn’t smile much or laugh at all. If my little girl is going to be falling for anyone, I would like them to be someone who makes her smile without her realising she’s doing it.
Also I am falling back on many years experience in the police force when I say that Bertram wasn’t entirely what he was making himself out to be. There was a shiftiness in his eyes that I didn’t like and he looked at you with greed rather than with affection. So your revelation that he was seeing someone else behind your back quite honestly didn’t surprise me. I wish it wasn’t so, but it was.
On the other hand, the boys who looked after you when you found out sound much more dependable. Maybe next time you should be looking closer to home for someone to bestow your affections upon?
Take heart and best of luck. Y ou will get over him and you’ll be much better for it once it happens. And know that we love you and you can always count on us to help you to feel better.
Lots of love,
Mary raised her eyebrows when I showed her the letter. “Yer ma’s really go’ ye figured, hasna she?” she asked. “Th’ girl who go’ cheated on bu’ didna seem t’ min’ much because o’ who tol’ her aboot it.”
“I mind,” I pointed out crossly. “It still hurts that he did that. I’m just trying to distract myself by thinking about something a bit more pleasant.”
She grinned. “Wha’, Sirius? Aye, I dare say he is more pleasant t’ think aboot.”
“Sshhh,” I whispered, conscious that we might possibly be overheard from our spot in the common room – and this was definitely something I didn’t want anyone overhearing. To be on the safe side, I quickly cast Muffliato at all the nearby groups of students.
“Yer ma’s richt, though,” commented Mary once I’d finished. “Aboot Bertram, tha’ is. He didna make ye smile. E’er since yer birthday party, ye were on edge a lo’. Ye’re more relaxed nou.”
“That’s because he kept making inappropriate suggestions,” I pointed out. “You’d think that after the tenth time I said no he would have got the hint. But still …” I trailed off, not really sure what I had been intending to say.
“Still wha’?” Mary wasn’t going to let me get away with it that easily.
“I do miss him,” I said. “There’s something missing now.”
“Naethin’ a good snog canna fix,” Mary said with a smile. “Nou, we jus’ need t’ fin’ ye a willin’ collaborator …”
I looked quickly at the armchair by the fire that Sirius was ensconced in, blissfully ignorant of my predicament. Mary caught the action and groaned.
“Nae, tha’s nae wha’ I mean’,” she admonished. “A willin’ collaborator who’s nae him. Or James, fer tha’ matter, ’cause then I micht kill ye afore Lily does, even.” I looked at her in surprise. “Aye, I micht be over him,” she said, “bu’ only fer her. I’ll be richt miffed if anyone else ge’s a han’ on him.”
“Okay, I’ll accept that,” I said: it did sound reasonable. “But what about Marcus?”
Mary shrugged. “I lik’ him a lo’,” she admitted, “bu’ I’ll always hae a sof’ spo’ fer James, I think.”
“Right,” I said, changing the subject as her cheeks had gone a little pink. “But why can’t my collaborator be Sirius? That’d solve all my problems at once. And apparently he’s good at it, too, if we believe what Martha had to say on the matter.” I kept my voice down despite the Muffliato, just in case someone had missed being caught by the charm.
Mary grinned. “He can be yer collaborator,” she said, “bu’ I’d sugges’ ye go fer someone a wee bi’ more realistic i’ th’ shor’ term. Remember, they hae t’ be willin’.” My face fell. Of course, I’d forgotten that bit – she certainly had a point. In any case she started looking around the common room as though expecting to find someone appropriate just sitting there waiting to be asked.
“No you don’t,” I said sharply as her gaze rested on the boys by the fireplace, who were talking rather furtively among themselves and kept looking at the clock. “Not Peter, I absolutely refuse.”
“Remus?” she suggested with a grin.
“He’s not around, is he?” I asked, looking towards the fire again, where Remus was indeed conspicuous by his absence. “I’m sure I heard James saying something about his furry little problem cropping up again. Which reminds me, I’m not sure I’d want someone who’s always running around after a rabbit anyway. Not to mention the fact that Charlotte would most probably have me drawn and quartered if I even tried it.”
“Okay,” she agreed reluctantly. “Richt, ye can hae Gerry Stebbins, that’ll ge’ him off my back fer a bi’ as well. Kill two birds wi’ one curse!”
I groaned. “Must I? I thought we were looking for someone I wouldn’t mind snogging. And I’m sorry, but Gerry really doesn’t fit the bill.”
“Damn,” Mary said cheerfully. “Worth a sho’, though.”
“Ah, you can’t ask Peter now anyway,” I said a little triumphantly as he, James and Sirius got up from their spot by the fire and headed rather furtively out the portrait hole. “So you’ve lost your opportunity.”
“Damn,” Mary said again. “Richt, hoo aboot Avery? He’s a charming lad an’ all.” She ducked as I picked up a rather heavy Charms textbook and swung it at her head.
We were still going on the same track half an hour later when Martha came over with Lily and Charlotte in tow. “Right, Mary, you coming?” she asked briskly. “Astronomy’s starting in ten minutes. Good night for it, too, the moon’s full so we should be able to see loads.”
“Oh, aye,” said Mary hurriedly, quickly looking through her piles of books for the appropriate texts. “I’d fergotten, we were jus’ tryin’ t’ fin’ Laura a lad t’ snog t’ ge’ her mind off Bertram.”
“Where’s Peter?” Martha went on, looking at the couch and armchairs by the fire where a handful of first-years had now settled in, making the most of the sixth-year boys’ sudden departure.
Mary shrugged. “They all wen’ off oot th’ portrai’ hole aboot half an hour ago,” she said. “Maybe he’s skivin’ off again.”
“Must be,” said Martha, shaking her head. “That boy misses so many classes I’ll be surprised if he passes this year.”
Once Mary and Martha had taken off, Lily looked at me mischievously. “Right, Laura, what was it that you and Mary were up to before we came over?”
I blushed. “Uh – she was trying to find me someone to snog so I’d forget about Bertram.”
“That was it,” said Lily with a grin, her eyes flicking to Charlotte who was also smiling playfully. “I’m sure Charlotte and I can come up with someone for you. Now, who have you ruled out?”
Before long we were being reminded of the final Hogsmeade visit for the year, which was scheduled for late May. We were all looking forward to getting out of the castle and enjoying the spring weather, as well as stocking up on anything we might have been running low on and checking Honeydukes for new lines. However, as the wizarding world was becoming less safe, the rules and restrictions on those of us wanting to visit Hogsmeade were ever increasing, as Professor Dumbledore outlined at supper about a week beforehand.
“I regret to advise of some further security measures,” he announced, “which are becoming necessary to ensure the safety of all students.” We all groaned as he gave an outline of what they entailed: we could only travel in groups of three or more; we weren’t to leave the village proper, meaning no trips to the Shrieking Shack or anything else outside the confines of main street; we weren’t to talk to anyone we didn’t already know. Half a dozen teachers were to accompany the students on the walk to and from the village, and they would patrol the main street during the day to ensure that nothing untoward happened.
Mary, who had planned to spend the day with Marcus, complained about the arrangements more than once. They meant that couples would have to either double-date or take other friends along in order to spend time with each other, and I suspected that a tidy few of them would enter places like Madam Puddifoot’s in groups of two pairs before separating to sit at individual tables.
The girls and I – minus Mary – had intended to go down as one group, and the boys from our year as another (Sirius having successfully evaded Elvira’s advances), but we all converged in the Entrance Hall at the same time before leaving and ended up as a group of eight. I had a suspicion that the other girls were rather relieved at this, not because they necessarily wanted the proximity but because there was additional safety in numbers, and James and Sirius in particular exuded a feeling of security that we all appreciated.
Just as we reached the gate I noticed Bertram and his Ravenclaw squeeze – the same one we’d caught him with behind the tapestry of Andros the Invincible the previous month – heading arm in arm in the direction of Madam Puddifoot’s along with a couple of other seventh-years. He must have decided to cut his losses and make the most of what options he had left, I reasoned, and at least he had stopped bothering me. Sirius, who was walking next to me, noticed me make the briefest of pauses and followed my gaze to Bertram’s retreating figure.
“You okay?” he asked, looking at me sharply as we fell into step again.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am,” I said, and I was. I realised that I’d rather be just where I was than with Bertram and his pals, and the realisation gave me a bit of strength. And at least I wouldn’t be subjected to that atrocious tea-house again.
Sirius was throwing a filthy look in Bertram’s direction, and I noticed with some satisfaction that the older boy had suddenly sprouted a very cumbersome-looking set of antlers. I looked back at Sirius, who was putting his wand away with what appeared to be an attempt at subtlety. “You never liked him, did you?” I asked.
He looked uncomfortable and even a little guilty. “Ah, Laura, don’t ask me that.”
“Why not?” I asked, surprised. “I value your judgement.”
He seemed pleased but still wouldn’t answer my original question. “Look, you’re not over him yet, so you don’t actually want to know what any of us thought of him. If we liked him you’ll be second guessing your decision, and if we didn’t you’ll want to know why we didn’t say anything. It’s better not to ask, trust me.”
I looked at him shrewdly. There was a ‘but’ there, hanging, so I decided to provide it. “But?”
He appeared even more uncomfortable and I got the impression he was choosing his words carefully. “I think he’s a prick for doing what he did, and I think he should have appreciated what he had. But I also think you’re better off without him.” He paused, as though trying to decide whether or not to continue. “I think you deserve better.”
“Thanks,” I said, thinking it over. “You may be right.” I wanted to point out that not everyone had their pick of the student body, that some of us had to take who we could get, but that would have sounded petty. And besides, he was right, I did deserve someone who didn’t cheat on me. The tricky bit would be finding them.
He put his arm around me and gave me a bit of a squeeze, which once again was surprisingly comforting. “That’s the spirit,” he said. “Pick up and move on.” His arm was still around me and I had a sudden almost overwhelming urge to respond in kind, and I smiled to myself as I wondered, if I actually did it, just how many seconds it would take for him to realise what was happening and sprint off. As it turned out it wouldn’t have mattered, because James turned around from his conversation with Lily at that moment and saw us, and Sirius’ arm dropped abruptly to his side.
I looked again in the direction Bertram had disappeared in, thinking. “It’s just –”
Sirius gave me another sharp look. “Just what?”
“He was the first person who ever told me I was beautiful,” I said. “Apart from family, of course.” This had only just occurred to me and I realised it was the reason I had been feeling bereft since Bertram and I had broken up. I didn’t miss him, per se, but I missed the way he had made me feel about myself. I wanted to feel beautiful again. Why I had said it out loud, however, I had no idea, and I was wishing I hadn’t. Why couldn’t these epiphanies come when I was talking to Mary? It would have been a lot less embarrassing.
Sirius made a noise that sounded like he had been about to laugh but then thought better of it. “Is that what’s been bothering you?” he asked, pushing his hair out of his eyes as he looked down at me. “’Cause he won’t be the last person to say that. You are beautiful.”
I smiled briefly at him. “Thanks,” I said, “but you don’t have to humour me.”
He looked like he was about to say something again but checked himself, choosing instead to grab my hand and squeeze it, and dropping it straight afterwards. I wasn’t sure if I felt comforted or not, part of me very aware that he hadn’t denied that he was humouring me. We walked the rest of the way to the village in silence.
The eight of us had been rather keen to enjoy the May sunshine but for some reason there was a really uncomfortable mood in the village when we got there, so to shake it off we trundled into the Three Broomsticks and ended up having an early lunch, accompanied by a few butterbeers and the occasional Firewhisky. Once we’d finished our feast, we left the pub and wandered out to a main street that was suspiciously deserted. The uncomfortable feeling was still there and immediately the boys formed a protective cordon around us, James and Sirius at the front, and with their wands out they surveyed the surrounding area, trying to locate the cause of this lack of activity. Baffled at what was happening, I stayed with the girls inside the protected circle, looking around frantically to try to work it out.
The streets were so hushed it was quite eerie, and even the amulet sellers appeared to have packed up and moved on. We couldn’t see any other Hogwarts students, nor any of the teachers who were supposed to be patrolling the immediate area. And then, without warning, Sirius tensed like a dog on a scent, and James followed his gaze to the top of the hill.
A mob of dark figures were coming down towards the village: there appeared to be at least a hundred of them. They too were eerily quiet, moving silently and purposefully down the gentle slope. They appeared to be weaponless, though it was a job to tell at that distance – they were still several hundred yards away. But the silence was becoming oppressive, and I felt a cold chill and inexplicable sense of dread come over me.
“Dementors,” muttered James, and I looked at him in shock, and then at the other girls. They too looked horrified, and Charlotte made a sudden move to go back into the Three Broomsticks.
James had noticed. “Yes, go,” he said, directing us back to the pub. “Go inside and close the door, and don’t let anyone out. Try to find a teacher in there,” he added, “any teacher will do.” Charlotte and Martha both dashed back across the road and into the safety of the pub and so, I saw, did Peter. Lily, I noticed, was staying and, not wanting to leave her alone, I decided to stay with her.
James looked around at Lily, who hadn’t moved and had a determined look in her eyes. “Lily, please,” he said softly, almost pleadingly. “We want you to be safe.” I looked at her, wondering if she realised it was probably the first time he’d called her by her first name.
If she did realise she hid it well, as there was no change on her face as she stood her ground. “I’m a prefect,” she said resolutely. “It’s my responsibility to make sure all the students are safe.”
“And they will be, if they’re in the pub,” Sirius said reasonably, his eyes and wand still trained on the approaching menace.
James nodded. “If you want to help, go in there and try to make sure they don’t panic. If they do, then this is going to be a whole lot harder to deal with.”
Lily shook her head. “We can’t be sure they’re all in there, though,” she said logically, watching the Dementors slowly progressing towards us. The cold chill in the air was escalating and I could feel all the happiness draining from me. “I think I should do a quick scan of the other shops and tell anyone inside them not to come out.”
James and Sirius looked at each other with exasperation, then focused again on the Dementors. “Let her,” I said quietly. “I’ll go too. It’ll be quicker with more than one person, and once we’re done I’ll make sure she goes into the pub.”
“Not you, too, Laura,” Sirius said, taking his eyes off the creatures briefly to look at me. “Can’t you just get to safety like we’ve asked? Please?”
Remus, who too had his wand trained on the approaching mob, spoke up. “How about I take the girls to check all the shops,” he suggested. “I’m a prefect too, it will look more official. Then you two can tackle this lot.”
“No, we need you here,” said James. “We need as many Patronuses as we can get, looking at the number of them.”
“Then I’m staying too,” said Lily firmly, changing her mind. “I can cast a Patronus just as well as Remus can.”
James sighed, still not looking anywhere but directly in front of him. “All right, then. But make sure you stay behind us, okay? Out of harm’s way. Where are those teachers?” he went on, clearly frustrated at their non-appearance.
Remus grabbed Lily and me and dragged us to well behind James and Sirius, who were now in battle mode. We stood behind them, wands out, trying desperately to think of something happy enough to conjure a Patronus in front of so many Dementors.
It appeared that James and Sirius knew each other well enough to be able to guess the other’s actions without being told. They waited until the army of Dementors were less than fifty yards away, and then suddenly their wands moved in unison as they bellowed “Expecto patronum!” A silvery stag and a huge dog erupted from their wands, charging down the approaching army and scattering the first onslaught. Remus, Lily and I followed suit, and though our Patronuses weren’t nearly as strong as James’ and Sirius’ had been, we still managed to dispel a few of the Dementors.
James and Sirius had re-cast their Patronuses and the two large animals were once again careering towards the Dementors, driving even more away. There were less than a dozen of the creatures left by now and the air was feeling much less compressed, much more cheerful. Looking around, I could see at least two dozen faces pressed up against the windows of the Three Broomsticks, watching the proceedings.
Another round of Patronuses from Remus, Lily and I helped disperse the remaining creatures. Again, they were much weaker than the others, and I felt my strength draining, but it seemed like we’d broken the back of it and one more Patronus Charm could very likely finish them off. So I couldn’t understand just why James was still looking so worried.
“Get inside, will you?” he said almost weakly, looking around at Remus, Lily and me. “Just to be on the safe side.”
Just then, however, a teacher finally appeared on the scene, five minutes too late to really be of any use. It was Professor McGonagall and for once I was thrilled to see her, as she was most probably the most capable member of staff at the whole school. (Aside from Dumbledore, of course.) We called James’ attention to her as soon as we had spotted her.
“McGonagall, thank goodness,” he breathed, before belatedly realising that Remus, Lily and I were still with them, that we hadn’t yet gone to the safety of any of the adjacent businesses. “GET INSIDE!!” he bellowed at us, “it’s not safe yet! There could be more!” He looked almost frightened and we quickly stepped inside the nearby doors of Honeydukes. Lily, however, kept the door ajar, evidently wanting to hear as well as see what was happening.
“What happened, Potter?” we heard McGonagall ask, looking around and taking in the surroundings.
“Dementors,” said James. “There were over a hundred of them. I think we got rid of them all, but we don’t know who sent them. Someone has to have sent them, and they’d have to be pretty powerful to have control of that many.”
McGonagall nodded, her expression tense. “And the students are all safe? No one was Kissed?”
“No one was Kissed that we know of. No one’s been attacked since they reached the village, we’ve made sure of that,” said James. “Most of the kids are in the Three Broomsticks, Martha and Charlotte know not to let them leave, and we kept an eye on the other shops in case someone came out. Though they would have felt the effects inside, so I can’t imagine anyone coming out by choice.”
McGonagall looked impressed. “Black,” she said, “please keep an eye out in case any more of them show up. Assistance should arrive shortly.” Sirius nodded, his face resolute. “Potter,” she went on, “come with me. In the absence of any other members of staff, it will have to be you. We need to find who is responsible for this attack.”
Professor McGonagall waved her wand and sent a silvery wispy thing that looked from our distance to be a Patronus that hadn’t formed properly off in the direction of the school, and then she and James walked determinedly up the hill to where the Dementors had first been seen.
Lily closed the door of Honeydukes, her face pale. “Where have they gone?” she whispered.
“Trying to find whoever’s responsible,” said Remus. “They could still be out there.”
“But he could be – he could be killed!” she said, her voice no louder, her green eyes wide and anxious.
“I’m pretty sure he can take care of himself,” Remus reassured her. “McGonagall wouldn’t have taken him if she didn’t think so.” She looked unconvinced and started shaking uncontrollably.
“Oh, look,” I said, giving her a bear hug and trying to distract her. “Dumbledore’s arrived.”
And indeed he had – somehow he had found out what had happened and had hurried down from the castle. Almost immediately afterwards four wizards Apparated onto the main street, and Remus said he thought they were from the Ministry, probably Aurors. They took responsibility for the after effects of the attack and Sirius, after a lengthy conversation with Dumbledore, came and joined us at Honeydukes.
He was visibly relieved when he saw us. “You all okay?” he asked, looking searchingly at each of us in turn. We nodded, thankful it was all over. “All right, then, chocolate all round,” he said, pulling out his money bag. “We’ve all had a shock.” And he went straight to the counter and bought at least three dozen blocks of chocolate, some of which he started breaking apart and handing around to everyone in the shop.
“Thanks,” I mumbled with my mouth full. “But why so much?” I pointed at the pile of chocolates in his arms.
“You forget, Laura,” he said, “there are about a hundred kids in the Three Broomsticks who need it just as much as you do. Moony,” he went on, looking at Remus, “would you mind? I’m beat.”
Remus nodded, a surprisingly indulgent look on his face as he took the chocolate from Sirius, who promptly collapsed onto the floor to my left. “You have a rest, Padfoot,” he said with a grin. “I’ll take these across to the pub.”
Suddenly exhausted, I too sat down, and must have looked even worse than I thought because Sirius looked at me with a very concerned expression on his face. “Don’t worry,” he said quietly, putting an arm around me. “They’re all gone now. It’s over.” I nodded vaguely, still finishing my chocolate, as we watched Remus march across the street to where a number of dazed teenagers were slowly emerging from the safety of the Three Broomsticks.
Author’s note: We never learned from JKR why James ended up as Head Boy when he wasn’t a prefect, considering that would certainly be an unusual chain of events. I figured it would have to be something pretty big, so saving half the school from the Dementor’s Kiss seemed a reasonable extrapolation of that. (Originally I wrote it as Inferi, considering we’ve had another Dementor attack already in this story, but from what’s been said about Inferi it seems they wouldn’t be out in daylight so that got canned. As were most other Dark Creatures – having it happen during the day was more limiting than I’d thought. And I just couldn’t get a Death Eater attack to work in a way I was happy with.) Anyway, I’d be interested to know what other people think of this idea. Thanks!
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