Granny Learns The Truth
The term at Hogwarts was proceeding nicely and the two new appointed teachers, Professors Dumbledore and Weatherwax had settled into their new positions with ease. The students continued to be baffled by Professor Weatherwax’s unorthodox methods but there was no denying that what she was teaching was indeed useful, even if hardly any of it involved magic. Halloween was nearly upon the school and Professor Weatherwax had not performed a single piece of magic, not one spell nor charm, and certain people, namely Hermione, were growing suspicious of their new teacher.
‘I just think it’s strange, that’s all,’ said Hermione one cold mid-October morning. ‘Why doesn’t she want to use magic? It’s as if she prefers to do things the hard way.’
‘Come on Hermione,’ said Ron in between mouthfuls of cereal. ‘She’s great, hardly any homework.’
‘Trust you to think of that,’ sighed Hermione. ‘I’m not saying she’s not good at her job, I just find it a little odd that in a school of witchcraft and wizardry we have a teacher who all but avoids using magic. Why do you suppose it is, Harry?’
‘Maybe she don’t think showin’ off an’ flingin’ spells about the place is the proper way to teach you lot to defend yourself,’ said Professor Weatherwax, who seemed to have just appeared behind Hermione. Ron nearly choked on his cereal as Hermione’s eyes widened at the realisation that she had been caught talking about a teacher behind her back. Slowly, she turned round to face Professor Weatherwax.
‘P-Professor,’ stuttered Hermione. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know…’
‘S’not nice to be talkin’ about folk when they can’t hear you,’ said Professor Weatherwax sharply. ‘Or when you think they can’t hear you.’
‘I’m sorry Professor,’ stammered Hermione. ‘It won’t happen again.’
‘I daresay it won’t,’ sad the Professor before proceeding to the staff table. When Hermione turned back to face Harry and Ron they were both stifling huge grins.
‘Oh be quiet,’ said Hermione huffily, casting her gaze downwards towards her toast.
‘Way to put your foot in it Hermione,’ chuckled Ron.
‘Shut up,’ she snapped.
‘Hey, you guys sorted out dates for the Halloween ball?’ asked Harry, quickly changing the subject before another fight broke out between Ron and Hermione.
‘Nope,’ said Ron, indicating that he had no desire to even do so.
‘Sort of,’ said Hermione quietly, as if she did not want to be heard.
‘Sort of?’ said Ron, frowning slightly. ‘What, you want to take Lockhart but can’t because he’s banged up in St. Mungo’s?’ Ron looked proudly to Harry for some recognition on what he thought was a fine joke but before Harry could do anything Hermione bit back.
‘No!’ she said, blushing slightly. ‘Someone’s asked me but I don’t know if I want to go with them.’
‘It’s not Neville is it?’ asked Ron. ‘Hasn’t he asked you every year so far?’
‘No, it’s not Neville,’ said Hermione who did feel a little sorry for Neville because he had indeed asked her to some function or other since the first year.
‘Well who is it then?’ asked Ron, getting impatient.
‘Colin Creevey,’ said Hermione, blushing harder than before.
‘What? That kid who followed Harry round all our second year and wouldn’t stop taking pictures of him?’
‘You want to go with him?’ exclaimed Ron in clear disbelief.
‘I said I don’t know,’ repeated Hermione. ‘He’s actually a very sweet boy when you get to know him, but I just don’t know.’
‘Do you like him?’ asked Harry before Ron could protest further.
‘He’s nice enough,’ nodded Hermione.
‘Then why not go with him?’ reasoned Harry. ‘It’s only one date, it doesn’t mean anything, and you might have a really good time.’
‘Thanks Harry,’ smiled Hermione. ‘You know you’re right, when I next see Colin I’ll tell him I’ve made up my mind.’ With that Hermione finished off her pumpkin juice and said she was going to the library for a couple of minutes before class and that she would meet them there. When she was safely out of earshot Harry turned to Ron.
‘If you’re going to get so mad every time someone else takes Hermione to a school do you’re really going to have to pluck up the courage to ask her yourself.’ Ron could not have looked more shocked if Harry had told him he was eating horse manure and he seemed to choke on the torrent of words that wanted to fly forth from his mouth.
‘What are you talking about?’ he spluttered, ears turning red. ‘I don’t like Hermione in that way!’
‘Okay Ron,’ said Harry, not convinced one bit.
‘I don’t!’ repeated Ron, the rest of his face catching up with his ears in redness, but inside the privacy of his own mind a little voice was making itself heard, and it said ‘Do I?’
* * *
The Halloween ball was as usual the talk of the school in the days leading up to it and Hermione had taken Harry’s advice and agreed to go with Colin Creevey, much to the silent chagrin of Ron, who had not bothered to look for a date and probably would not have gone at all had Harry not all but dragged him there. Harry did not have a date either, partly as a mark of solidarity to his best friend but also because he was quite frankly sick of trying to figure girls out. After seemingly putting his foot in it with Cho Chang at every opportunity he was not feeling particularly confident when it came to girls so he decided to stick by Ron and watch the ball from the wings.
The Great Hall had been decked out in its usual Halloween finery and people were talking and dancing and having the time of their lives, all except for Ron who seemed to be determined to stay in a foul mood all night.
‘You want a drink?’ asked Harry, trying to strike up a conversation. Ron just grunted and Harry was left to decide whether that meant yes or no, but as he was getting himself a drink he thought he may as well get one for Ron as well.
‘I’ll be back in minute,’ said Harry, rising from his seat. He may as well have said he was going to feed himself to a Hippogriff for all the attention Ron was paying him but Harry knew better than to try and pull Ron out of such a mood prematurely, the best thing to do was leave him to it and let him come out of it in his own time, anything else could prove disastrous.
As Harry made his way to the refreshments table he smiled as he saw Professor Dumbledore dancing with Madam Pomfrey and Hagrid attempting to dance with Professor Weatherwax, who would later remark that if Hagrid trod on her foot one more time she would have kicked him smartly in the shins. Harry also caught sight of Hermione and Colin, sitting at a table on the other side of the Great Hall. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, they were talking and laughing but when Harry looked from them back to Ron he realised what his friend had been staring at most of the night. Harry sighed and returned to his table with two tall glasses of pumpkin juice.
‘Here you go, mate,’ said Harry as cheerily as he could. Ron grunted his thanks and took a swig from his glass, seemingly never taking his eyes off the other side of the room. As much as Harry knew he should not interfere, he was not about to sit in total silence all night so he decided to broach the subject of Hermione.
‘Why don’t you go and ask her to dance?’ he ventured. ‘I’m sure Colin won’t mind.’
‘Harry will you shut up about Hermione? I don’t like her in that way and I’m getting bloody tired of you saying that I do!’ Harry knew this was a touchy subject but he did not appreciate being snapped at, all he was trying to do was help. He fixed Ron with what he hoped was his best you’re-not-fooling-anyone glare and it seemed to soften his friend’s mood somewhat.
‘Look I’m sorry Harry,’ said Ron, much calmer than before. ‘I just…’
‘You do like her, don’t you?’ asked Harry, feeling brave. Ron looked like he was about to spring into protest again but it seemed he knew he had been rumbled.
‘Is it that obvious?’ he said, visibly deflating as he sank into his chair.
‘Well duh,’ smiled Harry, relieved that Ron had finally admitted it. ‘I think everyone figured it out before you.’
‘You mean Hermione knows?’ gasped Ron, looking suddenly horrified.
‘I don’t know,’ said Harry reassuringly. ‘She’s never said anything to me about it, but why don’t you find out for yourself?’
‘How?’ asked Ron nervously, flitting his gaze from Harry to where Hermione was sitting and back again.
‘Well asking her to dance could be a good start.’
‘I can’t,’ said Ron, looking down at the table.
‘Why not?’ asked Harry.
‘What if she says no?’
‘Then at least you’ll know,’ said Harry, feeling as if they were within sight of a resolution. ‘Come on Ron, this is Hermione. Even if she does say no you two will still be friends, right?’
‘Yeah, you’re right,’ said Ron, sounding more confident. ‘What harm can it do, eh?’
‘That’s the spirit, good luck mate,’ said Harry enthusiastically.
‘Right, here I go,’ said Ron, standing up. He smoothed his robes down and began to walk confidently across to where Hermione was standing, but he had not gone several steps before he was stopped dead in his tracks by an ear splitting crack and a flash of brilliant light erupting from the dance floor. The entire party halted and every pair of eyes in the room was glued to the now growing ball of light that sat in the middle of the dance floor. Professor Dumbledore strode forward, wand in hand as a human form took shape within the light and with every passing second Harry was plunged further and further into the icy waters of dread as he realised whom the figure was.
Gasps and screams coursed through the Great Hall as the now recognisable form of Voldemort stood flickering before them, menacing and cold. People backed away as far as they could and hid behind tables and chairs and in some cases, Hagrid, but Dumbledore stood his ground.
‘You are not welcome here, Tom,’ he said sternly. Voldemort let out a shriek of maniacal laughter that seemed to cut through the very souls of everyone present, but Dumbledore stood firm.
‘I have not forgotten about you all,’ he hissed, pointing a long and bony finger around the room. ‘My time draws near and then you will all feel the full power of true darkness!’
‘Be gone!’ roared Dumbledore in an uncharacteristic show of anger. He pointed his wand at the heart of Voldemort and fired a shot of pure white straight at him, dissipating the figure into nothingness. As the light faded in the Great Hall the malevolent laughter could still be heard echoing in every corner and when calm had once again returned Dumbledore pocketed his wand and addressed his school.
‘Calm yourselves,’ he began, his voice still tense but with far more of its usual serenity than before. ‘That was not the real Voldemort, he was merely projecting himself through the use of a certain spell that I had thought would be deflected by our magical defences at Hogwarts, but now I see I am gravely mistaken.’ A wave of conversation rippled through the Great Hall and Dumbledore had to call for quiet before he could speak again. ‘However,’ he continued. ‘You may rest assured that I will be personally revamping our defences as soon as possible and while this incident is no doubt unfortunate I do not want it to spoil our evening.’ With a wave of his hand the music started up once again and the Great Hall seemed to shine with more light than before, as if Dumbledore had added decorations to the ones already present. As people began to clam down and the ball resumed somewhat of its festive atmosphere Dumbledore approached Harry with a concerned expression.
‘I think it would be best if you saw me in my office immediately,’ he said, laying a hand on Harry’s shoulders. Harry nodded mutely and followed the Headmaster out of the Great Hall.
The sudden explosion of light and noise had knocked Ron off his feet and when it was all over he found he had somehow scrambled away from Voldemort’s ghastly image in the direction of Hermione.
‘Are you alright Ron?’ she asked concernedly when people began to talk again.
‘Yeah, thanks,’ said Ron, thankful she was taking an interest in his safety but he thought it was just typical. The minute he had plucked up the courage to ask Hermione to dance the Dark Lord decides to crash the party, perfect.
‘Who was that gruesome bugger?’ asked Professor Weatherwax who once again seemed to appear out of nowhere.
‘The Dark Lord,’ said Hermione, almost whispering.
‘Who?’ asked Professor Weatherwax.
‘You-Know-Who,’ hissed Hagrid who had joined them at the table.
‘No I bloody don’t know who, so who was he?’
‘Lord Voldemort,’ mouthed Hermione, who was now definitely whispering.
‘Speak up girl,’ snapped Professor Weatherwax. ‘Who?’
‘Lord Voldemort!’ said Ron, surprising everyone with the urgency with which he uttered the unspeakable name. ‘That was Lord Voldemort.’
‘Voldemort eh?’ said Professor Weatherwax. ‘Don’t sound like any name I’ve ever heard.’
‘You’ve never ‘eard of You-Know-Who?’ asked Hagrid in surprise. ‘He’s only the baddest, meanest, most evil dark wizard there is. Killed poor Harry’s parents stone dead he did.’
‘Did he now?’ said Professor Weatherwax thoughtfully.
‘Professor, what is it?’ asked Hermione.
‘It’s just that Voldemort don’t sound right, it sounds too…made up, y’know?’
‘Well Voldemort isn’t his real name,’ said Hermione.
‘Isn’t it now?’ said Professor Weatherwax, assuming as much. ‘These dark wizardy buggers are all the same, they ditch their real names and pick something silly and fancy, I mean Voldemort, I ask you.’
‘His real name is Tom Riddle,’ ventured Hermione.
‘What?’ said Professor Weatherwax, snapping her attention to what Hermione just said.
‘Tom Marvolo Riddle, to be exact,’ nodded Hermione. No sooner had Hermione spoke the name Professor Weatherwax had turned on her heel and walked briskly out of the Great Hall, leaving Ron, Hermione and Hagrid to ponder what was going on. Walking at full stride, Professor Weatherwax wended her way through corridor after corridor until she came to the stone gargoyle that protected the entrance to Dumbledore’s office.
‘Let me in,’ she demanded.
‘Password?’ requested the gargoyle.
‘I don’t know it,’ said Professor Weatherwax flatly. ‘But I have to see Dumbledore, now let me in.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the gargoyle. ‘I can’t let anyone in who doesn’t know the password.’
‘Now you listen to me,’ snapped Professor Weatherwax, pointing a threatening finger at the gargoyle. ‘I don’t have time to bandy legs with you all night so if you don’t let me in this instant I’ll turn you all hot and runny like your ancestors what lived in a volcano.’ That seemed suitable a threat to forego any password and the gargoyle dutifully slid aside and let Professor Weatherwax through, glad that she was no longer threatening to turn him into molten lava.
Ascending the stairs as fast as she could, Professor Weatherwax reached the top and stormed unannounced into Dumbledore’s office. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix that was close to its burning day, squawked and erupted into flames at the shock of Professor Weatherwax’s entrance and both Harry and Professor Dumbledore looked up in surprise.
‘Ah, Esmerelda…’ began Dumbledore.
‘Tom Riddle?’ said Professor Weatherwax, crossing the office to the large ornate desk. ‘Tom flaming Riddle! Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Harry,’ said Dumbledore, smiling at the bemused pupil sitting across from him. ‘I think it would be best if you were to return to you dormitory for now.’
‘Yes Headmaster,’ said Harry, who secretly wanted to stay and watch the rest of this conversation unfold but knew better. He exited as quickly as he could, but as the door to Dumbledore’s office closed he could hear Professor Weatherwax start up again.
‘Albus, what’s going on? What’s Tom Riddle got to do with all this?’
- June 2005