There was an uproar. It took several purple firecrackers exploding from the end of Professor Dumbledore's wand to bring silence as the silver crocodile disappeared.
"Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately! Teachers, come with me to find the troll!"
Percy was in his element. "Follow me! Stick together, first years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders! Stay close behind me, now. Make way, first years coming through! Excuse me, I'm a prefect!"
"How could a troll get in?" Harry asked as they climbed the stairs.
"Don't ask me, they're supposed to be really stupid," said Ron. "Maybe Peeves let it in for a Halloween joke or something. At least Professor Adams got a message to us."
They passed different groups of people hurrying in different directions. As they jostled their way through a crowd of confused Hufflepuffs, Harry suddenly stopped, realizing something.
Ron noticed Harry's halt, and paused as well. "Harry?" he asked. "What is it?"
"Hermione and Ginny!" Harry said, eyes wide. "They doesn't know about the troll!"
Ron bit his lip. "Oh, all right. But Percy had better not see us."
Harry stared at him like he was mad. "What're you talking about?" he asked. "We need to find a teacher!"
Ron smacked himself in the forehead. "Duh… why didn't I think of that? I thought we were going to go get her ourselves."
"Maybe because you're a Gryffindor through and through?" Harry said dryly as they darted back to the great hall. They corner and slammed right into Remus Lupin.
Lupin blinked. "Harry? What are you doing here? You should be getting back to the Tower. And your friend, too."
"Mr. Lupin!" Harry gasped, climbing to his feet and giving Ron a hand up. "Hermione and Ginny don't know about the troll!"
Lupin's slightly scarred face instantly set firmly. "Where?"
"Er… third floor girls' bathroom, I think," Harry said, and Lupin set off immediately, walking almost too fast for Ron and Harry to keep up. "She was upset by something that happened before the feast, and Ginny–"
"I can guess," Lupin said shortly. After a moment of silence, he spoke again. "I assume that there is no point in attempting to dissuade you two from following me?"
"That's right," Ron agreed, huffing and puffing with the attempt to keep up with the tall, scarred man.
"Then I must insist that you remain out of the way. I am an expert in Dark creatures, and I know the weak points of a troll. We probably won't run into it, of course, as the troll is in the dungeons. But if we do, your spells won't be able to penetrate the troll's hide, and will only distract me.
Harry and Ron nodded, Lupin's calm tone deadening their panic. After all, Hermione and Ginny were on the third floor, far above the troll. There was no reason to worry. Hermione would be fine, they would be fine, and–
Harry stopped, confused, as Lupin halted and brought a fist up next to his head. Ron continued moving until the scarred man grabbed the back of his robes.
"Mr. Lupin, what–" Ron began before being silenced by a finger to his lips. Lupin closed his eyes, apparently listening for something. After a moment, Harry thought that he heard it as well; a low grunting, and the shuffling footfalls of enormous feet.
Lupin's lips moved silently for a moment, then he said "The troll is on the other side of this wall," he said, nodding to the right. "Around two corners. Remain here." Without waiting for an answer, Lupin silently padded around the corner.
Harry and Ron looked at each other for a moment. "This is so cool." Ron said suddenly. "It's like one of those auror stories! Hey, we should go peek at what's happening!"
Harry, however, hesitated. "I don't know if we should–" but was interrupted by a blood-curling scream coming from the other side of the wall. "Hermione!" he shouted as Ron cried "Ginny!", and they dashed forward. As they rounded the corner, they heard a thunderous crash, and the troll came flying through the door of the girl's bathroom, slamming into the opposite wall. Lupin stood in the doorway with pale orange mist seeping from the end of his wand, face set in an expression of perfect calm apart from a faint smile. Harry could make our Hermione and Ginny cowering under the sink behind him.
The troll lurched to its feet and swung its club at Lupin's head, causing Harry to shout out, but Lupin simply ducked casually under it. The man flicked his wand easily, and a bolt of uninteresting grey light spilled from his wand, engulfing the monster's head. It blinked stupidly for a moment, turning around as though unable to see where Lupin was, or perhaps simply not caring. At first Harry thought that Lupin had won, but then the troll spotted Harry and Ron and the grey light seemed to collapse. It lumbered forward.
Harry was frozen in place as the Troll stomped towards him and Ron, while Lupin seemed to panic and hurled spells at the troll, all of which simply splashed harmlessly on its thick skin. Trolls, he remembered, were immune or resistant to most spells. Their skin was almost three inches thick, he thought, and would harden into something approaching the consistency of stone, freezing the beast in place, in direct sunlight. But that was useless, as they were inside. He absently noted that the troll's eyes were the clearest blue he had ever seen.
Ron, meanwhile, was raising his wand in a surprisingly steady hand. "Wingardium Leviosa!" the redhead cried, surely simply casting the first spell he could think of. But the troll's club lifted right out of its hands, causing the troll to stop in its tracks, staring at the club floating above its head. Ron dropped his wand sharply, causing the club to collide with the monster's forehead and knocking it out. Harry observed this with an oddly disconnected interest.
Lupin was staring at Ron and the knocked out troll with his mouth gaping, while Hermione peeked out from behind his robes. At that point, Dumbledore, Professor Flitwick, and Professor Snape all came around the corner and stopped, speechless, at the sight in front of them.
After a moment, Dumbledore found his voice. "Remus," he said, eyes beginning to twinkle, "what exactly happened here?"
Lupin closed his mouth, shook his head, and answered "Harry and the young man there; are you a Weasley, by any chance? I thought so… anyway, the two of them ran into me as I was leaving the Hall. They informed me that these young ladies here were in the bathroom, having been upset over something and comforting the other, and so didn't know about the troll. I went to go collect them and escort her and the young men back to the towers." He smiled a little. "I heard the troll, and so was prepared to drive it back from the young ladies, into the corridor. The troll then noticed Harry and Mr. Weasley, and set off to assault them. Mr. Weasley used a levitation charm to knock the troll out with its own club."
Dumbledore was smiling widely by the end of the tale, Flitwick had a little smirk on his face, and Snape was glaring at Ron. "Mr. Weasley!" the smallest professor said, rather proudly, "twenty points to Gryffindor, for realizing that such a simple charm could take out a mountain troll."
"And ten points for alerting a teacher rather than seeking out Miss Granger and your sister on your own," Dumbledore added. "A failing of most young Gryffindors is that they head off to battle without a second thought, and don't, say, tell a more experienced wizard about the problem."
Lupin turned to Hermione. "Miss… Granger, was it? Are you all right?"
Hermione glanced down at herself. "I… I think so. I don't feel any pain." Then, however, she noticed her arm. It appeared to have three elbows. "…oh…" she said, faintly. Ginny was looking at it wide-eyed, apparently speechless, and then gave a little sigh and half-toppled over before Remus caught her.
"Please escort her to the Hospital Wing, Filius," Dumbledore said. "And cast a pain-deadening charm on her as well; I expect the shock will wear off soon. And perhaps you should take Miss Weasley there as well." Flitwick nodded and gently steered Hermione down the hallway, levitating Ginny along with him. Dumbledore smiled widely. "Now then, we said thirty points, correct?"
Snape seemed to find his voice at this point. "Are you sure you should be so… lenient?" he asked icily.
Dumbledore frowned. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Severus."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "You do not teach Weasley, but I do; and I assure you, he is not at all competent. He is thoughtless, irresponsible; I have mentioned to you my concerns about his association with and influence on Potter."
Harry gasped. What was this?
Dumbledore raised his own eyebrow, mirroring Snape's. "Indeed. And?"
"I think that the true course of events is clear," Snape continued. "Weasley convinced Potter to go searching for the troll, and they stumbled into Lupin. Potter concocted a story to cover for them, and it went as Lupin said from there. But this raises another interesting question. Why was Lupin here in the first place?" Amid his silent fuming about Snape's clear hatred of Ron, Harry remembered that Snape had not been present during the Halloween Feast; where had he been?
"I can answer that, Albus," Lupin said as Dumbledore opened his mouth. "I've been corresponding with Harry for almost two months now, after he contacted me to ask about his father. After I returned to Britain, I made arrangements to meet with Harry in person. After some time, Albus agreed to have me come for a night, on Halloween."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "The guardian of a child is not permitted to visit without cause," he hissed. "Get out of this castle, Lupin."
"But Remus is not Harry's guardian," Dumbledore interjected. "In fact, visiting Harry is not even his primary purpose here. He will be giving a guest lecture in Defense Against the Dark Arts." Lupin blinked at this in apparent surprise, and Harry guessed that Dumbledore had decided this then and there. He was pretty sure this wasn't the best idea; Snape looked ready to leap at Lupin and strangle him with his bare hands now.
"Professor Snape?" Harry said, and everyone turned to look at him. He took a deep breath. "Mr. Lupin knew my parents, and was close to my father. I know that you don't like speaking of my father, but I do want to hear about him."
Snape glared at Lupin with more hate than Harry had ever seen. For a moment, he was worried that Snape would lose control of his magic and incinerate Lupin. But no, he thought, Snape was too in control of himself; somehow he couldn't imagine the Potions Professor hurting anyone that he didn't want to. And Lupin was clearly an experienced fighter; Harry wondered if he'd been an auror while in America. In any case, he would surely be fine if Snape did lose control. And Dumbledore was there as well.
"…do you understand me, Potter?" Harry blinked, realizing that while he worried, Snape had been giving him a stern lecture.
"Sorry, Professor, I was… thinking." Harry met Snape's blazing black eyes steadily. "Do you mind saying that again?" He felt an odd tickling sensation at the back of his eyeballs and blinked furiously. It went away, and he promptly forgot about it.
Harry was all too aware that he was probably the only student in the school who could ask Professor Snape to repeat himself, and took a strange pleasure in the astounded expression on Lupin and Ron's faces as Snape told him again that Lupin was dangerous and that he should go to Dumbledore or himself the moment that he felt the least bit threatened. Ron's expression was priceless; Professor Snape, showing concern for a student! A Gryffindor no less. Mr. Lupin, meanwhile, was simply smiling benignly, seeming to be more amused by Snape's tirade than anything else. Dumbledore had his eyes closed and appeared to be sucking on a sweet of some sort with a look of bliss.
"Yes, Professor Snape," Harry said. "I understand."
Snape nodded curtly and strode off, Dumbledore following with a wink at Harry. Lupin glanced at Harry. "I know you said you were on good turns with Severus," he said with a faint smile, "but please forgive me having found it hard to believe. His only friend, as far as I know, was your mother, and, to be frank, I'm not sure why."
Ron snorted. "I can't imagine Snape being friends with anyone," he said when Lupin looked at him. "Did you know that Harry is the only Gryffindor who hasn't lost points from him this year?"Lupin shrugged. "Far be it for me to criticize a professor's teaching style," he said quietly. "But if you'd excuse us, Mr. Weasley, I'd like to speak to Harry privately." Ron nodded and ambled off in the direction of the Hospital Wing, presumably to see how Hermione was doing. Lupin turned back to Harry. "Albus has lent me the use of a small office while I am here," he told him. "Come, I'll show you a few shortcuts."