The Falling

Trial And Tragedy

True to his word, the following night Professor Flitwick had Draco Malfoy back amongst the number of the guilty. To everyone's delight, save Malfoy's, Professor Flitwick gave him the prestigious task of keeping clean rags and fresh buckets of soapy water available for those that cleaned, while scrubbing the tapestries clean alone. As Harry so eloquently put it, "Malfoy's the servant's servant". Malfoy seemed to agree with Harry, his foul mood spilling over as he was heard cursing down the fourth floor corridor. Hermione noted that the second room was larger than the first one and in far worse condition. It took them nearly three hours to finish and even her hands, which were use to hard manual work, ached after the amount of scrubbing, sending dread through her when she thought what the following night would be like.

Sure enough, each night became increasingly harder; causing Neville by the third night to actually swear aloud at the sight of the room. Harry tried to make use of their time by inquiring every chance he got to ask the twins if there was any new tea news. To their dismay, no change was yet reported in Tonk's condition, while Sirius' sudden freedom and change of venue had caused much spirited discussions amongst Order members. The first really good intel from their staff room plant came Wednesday morning, when Professor Umbridge was recorded apparently talking to herself about how Lucius Malfoy was right to want to punish Mr Potter and Ms Granger. Upon receiving the news, Harry immediately began plotting of how to place an enchanted listening device in her office.

Whether it was the level of humiliation he had felt so far that week or just the fact that he was being prodded by someone else, Malfoy made is move the following morning. Hermione noticed him waiting off to one side of the staircase as they reached the Great Hall for breakfast. She gently nudged Harry before stating aloud that she had forgotten something in the common room and needed to go fetch it. Harry played along, telling her not to keep him waiting too long, before proceeding into the Great Hall. Hermione started up the stairs then turned and headed towards Malfoy, flashing him a filthy look as she approached, following him behind a suit of armor.

"What's your bloody problem Granger?" sneered Malfoy. "That little urchin hasn't had you fetching water like some mut."

"Poor Malfoy," hissed Hermione "your uptight arse thinning under the strain?"

Malfoy's face contorted with rage, looking as though he wanted to curse Hermione; his breathing heavy and his gray eyes glaring.

"You know what I'm after Granger." spat Malfoy. "So let's just cut the –"

"Watch your tongue, Malfoy." interrupted Hermione, withdrawing her wand. "You're not the only tired one."

"Go ahead, hex me." sneered Malfoy. "See what happens."

"Harry's waiting on me, so –"

"So stop stalling Granger." interrupted Malfoy. "What do you have for me?"

"Nothing." replied Hermione, glancing away.

"Nothing?" asked Malfoy slyly. "You sure? I mean – that won't go well at all. Not at all. We don't want any accidents –"

Hermione pointed her wand directly at Malfoy's chest, causing him to take a step back.

"Don't be stupid, Granger." said Malfoy, losing his heir of confidence. "Think about what would happen if you did."

"I want proof that they're still alive." hissed Hermione. "Not another thing from me until you show me!"

"Don't get your knickers in a wad, Granger." said Malfoy, reaching inside his cloak. "Besides, that's Potter's duty, isn't it?"

Malfoy held up one hand as he reached inside his robes and withdrew a tiny mirror. He then handed it to Hermione. She looked into the mirror, yet the only thing she saw was her own reflection. Malfoy withdrew his wand, taping the mirror with its tip and whispering, "Morcetu". Immediately, Hermione's reflection began to swirl within the frame, revealing the same moss-covered stone floor and sitting perched against an adjoining wall was her parents.

"Mum? Dad?" whispered Hermione, tears starting to flow down her face.

Mr and Mrs Granger sprung to their feet, looked directly at Hermione and yelled for joy. Their shouts were muffled to whispers, yet Hermione could tell that they could see her.

"Mum, Dad, are you both okay?" asked Hermione, wiping the tears from her face.

"Could be better," said Mr Granger "but our captors are treating us almost as good as your aunt Mary treats her house guests."

He forced a smile for Hermione while keeping a firm grip around her mother's waist. Hermione could tell that her mother wasn't faring as well as her father.

"You'll be home soon, I promise." whispered Hermione.

"Whatever they want from you, don't give in to their demands, Hermione." said her mother.

Malfoy tapped the mirror with his wand and they were gone, Hermione's reflection staring back at her again.

"Bring them back!" hissed Hermione, glaring at Malfoy.

"No." replied Malfoy coldly. "However, if you're a good little mudblood, maybe you'll be reunited with them one day."

"Now, what insights do you bring me this morning?" sneered Malfoy, jerking the tiny mirror from her grasp.

"Nothing." spat Hermione.

"Really. Don't be coy with me Granger," sneered Malfoy "I heard you and the Weasley twins talking in what was apparently some sort of code last night during detention."

Hermione bit her lower lip hard. "We've learned from a foreign correspondent of ours that Charlie Weasley may be somewhere near a place called the Valley of the Mills."

"A foreign correspondent." repeated Malfoy. "My, you did make real use of the tournament last year, didn't you."

Hermione glared hard at Malfoy, looking for signs he might already know of this, however his pale complexion did not change.

"Interesting." mumbled Malfoy. "Any other news or are you just waiting for me to kiss you again?"

"Do that again and you'll lose the little manhood you have!" hissed Hermione, her wand pointing below his belt. "Understand?"

"Keep fighting it Granger," smirked Malfoy "you know you loved it. Made you feel all dirty, didn't it?"

"Keep talking, ferret." warned Hermione through gritted teeth.

"It's not a ferret, Granger. It's a snake." sneered Malfoy, pushing his way past her.

Hermione dug her nails into her own skin to keep from turning around and hexing Malfoy. She waited a moment, gathered her composure, then headed to the Great Hall. As she walked over to the Gryffindor table, she noticed Cho Chang watching her intently from the Ravenclaw table. Harry was watching Hermione as she sat down to join him.

"How'd it go?" whispered Harry, not looking directly at her; the sounds of the morning breakfast providing a good cover.

Hermione looked around to make sure that Malfoy couldn't see them.

"I saw them." whispered Hermione, playing with a piece of sausage on her plate.

"What!" said Harry a little louder than intended.

"Shhh!" hissed Hermione. "He showed them to me with a mirror. I was able to speak to them and everything." she whispered.

"He has a mirror." repeated Harry, again a little louder than intended.

"Who has a mirror?" asked Ron, looking up from his plate.

"Nobody Ron." replied Hermione sharply.

Ron frowned, then went back to eating his breakfast. Hermione glared at Harry, who was off adrift in his own thoughts. She slapped his leg below the table and his eyes jerked to her face before raising his eyebrows, mouthing, "sorry".

"I could hear them and they could hear me." whispered Hermione. "They're okay, but looking very thin."

"Does it look as though they're in the same place?" whispered Harry.

"Yes." whispered Hermione.

"Did you notice anything different from last time?" whispered Harry.

"No, but my, uh, he said something odd." whispered Hermione, frowning as she thought.

"What did he say?" whispered Harry, looking directly at her.

"He compared the people they're with to my aunt Mary." whispered Hermione.

"Who?" whispered Harry.

"My aunt Mary." whispered Hermione. "She lives in France and is the nicest and wealthiest family member we know."

"What exactly did he say?" whispered Harry, leaning in closer.

"He said that they're treating them almost as good as aunt Mary treats her house guests, but that cannot be true." whispered Hermione.

"House guests." repeated Harry softly, sitting up straight. "Wealthy hou – that's brilliant!"

"What's brilliant?" asked Ron.

This time Neville had taken notice too. Harry studied them for a minute and Hermione could tell he was thinking fast.

"Pass the word to Luna, Ginny, and the twins." said Harry, rising to his feet. "Tonight after detention, we're having a meeting."

Hermione, who wasn't at all hungry, rose and followed Harry out of the Great Hall. Again, she noticed Cho watching her as she left, making her very uncomfortable.

"Wait up." said Hermione, once they were clear of the Great Hall.

Harry paused on the first step, waiting for Hermione to catch up.

"What's your hurry?" asked Hermione. "Where are you going?"

"Can't use the loo without permission now?" asked Harry, then mouthing "play along".

"Excuse me for caring!" replied Hermione loudly, raising an eyebrow. "I'll just see you in class then!"

"Oh come on now." said Harry imploringly. "Don't take it that way!"

Hermione could tell he was biting back a grin. She grabbed him by his robes and pulled him close, their noses only inches apart, then said, "You infuriate me sometimes, Harry James Potter!"

"Meet me on the seventh floor, but take the long way." whispered Harry. "Somebody is watching."

Hermione winked then shoved Harry backwards a step before turning to storm away. As she did, she caught a glimpse of raven black hair darting back into the Great Hall. She decided to pace for a moment near the Entrance Hall before heading up the stairs to the Room of Requirement. Upon arriving on the seventh floor, she about to head towards the corridor when someone grabbed her from behind, placing a hand over her mouth and dragging her into a nearby vacant office.

"It's me!" whispered Harry in her ear and she stopped struggling.

"What are you doing now?" asked Hermione, rounding on him as he released her.

"I checked the Marauders Map on the way up and there's just too many people roaming the corridors this morning to attempt it. Terry Boot and Hannah Abbott are in the corridor right now."

Harry showed her the map and sure enough, the dots representing Terry Boot and Hannah Abbott were in the seventh floor corridor near the Room of Requirement, standing extremely close and extremely still.

"I'll cast a silencing charm and we'll just talk here." said Hermione, closing the door. "We only have ten minutes before the start of classes."

Hermione cast the silencing charm then turned to face Harry.

"So, are you thinking what I'm thinking, Harry?" asked Hermione.

"That your Dad was tipping you off as to where they were – or that this would be a great time to snog?" asked Harry, smirking.

"The first." replied Hermione, blushing slightly. "Do you think that the Malfoys are holding them captive personally?"

"You said house guests and that your aunt is wealthy, correct?" asked Harry and Hermione nodded. "Then if your Dad is as bright as you, those were clues and Lucius Malfoy has a lot of wealth."

"How can we be sure?" asked Hermione, thinking hard about the day that her parents disappeared.

"Were going to have to confide in another," said Harry "but before we do so we need to figure out how to prevent anyone from telling, via torture or treason, what we're up to."

"I know just the way." said Hermione grimly. "It's similar to the Fidelius charm."

"Excellent." said Harry. "You prepare it for tonight and then we can bring the entire Alliance into the fold after detention, if we choose to."

"You sure about this, Harry?" asked Hermione.

"We're going to need help and we've got to be able to trust them, including Ron." said Harry. "If this charm of yours works Hermione, then we will be safe."

"Then I'll make sure to test it first." said Hermione, with a mischievous grin.

She knew just whom she could test it on and she couldn't hardly wait.

"Not sure if I wanna know." chuckled Harry. "Now, how did Malfoy take our story?"

"I think I sold it well." replied Hermione. "He didn't even question it. Just some garbage about making good use of last year's tournament."

"Excellent." said Harry. "Hopefully, we will have a better understanding of what we are up against very shortly. You'll need you to send Krum an owl this weekend."

"Absolutely." said Hermione. "I'll make it very simple and brief. I will thank him for his support in the cause."

"Won't he be confused?" asked Harry.

"Not at all." replied Hermione. "In his last letter, he specifically said that he was helping rally the cause in Durmstrang after their Headmaster's disappearance."

"Really!" said Harry amazed. "I wasn't sure if he believed me."

"He remembers what happened in the maze." said Hermione. "He's grateful that you didn't kill him."

"Yeah, well, we all were fortunate to make it out. All except for Cedric." mumbled Harry, looking away.

Hermione took his hands in hers and kissed him on the cheek. He pulled her into a hug and she could hear him sighing to himself. The tournament had changed Harry forever and she secretly hated the wizarding world for it.

That afternoon, during Transfiguration class, Professor McGonagall called Harry up to her desk.

"Mr Potter, I have been asked, as your Head of House, to inform you that the Wizengamot has extended you an invitation to attend Mr Pettigrew's hearing tomorrow morning." said Professor McGonagall. "Your godfather has granted you permission to go however, he will not be attending. It is your choice whether you would like to attend. No one will pressure you."

"Can Hermione go with me?" asked Harry.

"This is all highly irregular as it stands, Mr Potter." huffed Professor McGonagall. "Even if the Wizengamot agreed, I would have to receive permission from Ms Granger's parents."

Harry noted that Professor McGonagall looked as white as a sheet. He immediately wondered what she knew or suspected.

"Well, being that Hermione's parents wouldn't be able to respond in time, and like you said this is highly irregular, surely the Headmaster could make an exception." retorted Harry.

"If Ms Granger would like to attend with you, so that you are not alone, I will speak with Professor Dumbledore and see if he can make special arrangements."

"Thank you, Professor." said Harry, then turned and proceeded back to his desk.

"Hermione," whispered Harry "the Wizengamot would like for me to attend the trial tomorrow and I would like for you to go with me."

"I can't!" whispered Hermione. "They would need my parent's permission and you know they can't do that!"

"Professor McGonagall said that she would see if Dumbledore could make special arrangements." whispered Harry. "Hermione, I think she knows something. She gave in easy – too easily."

Hermione didn't say anything; just sat there biting her lower lip.

"So, will you go with me?" whispered Harry.

"Of coarse I will, if they'll let me." whispered Hermione, her brow furrowed.

Harry looked up at Professor McGonagall, who was watching them intently. He nodded and she smiled before nodding in acknowledgment. He then saw her scribble something on a small piece of parchment, toss floo powder into the fireplace, followed by the bit of parchment. A few minutes later, the fireplace roared green, and a small scroll of parchment popped out onto the floor. Professor McGonagall picked up the scroll, read it, then smiled as she made eye contact with Harry, as to say, granted. After class, Professor McGonagall notified them to be in the Headmaster's office at 8am sharp. They would be escorted, via the floo network, to the Ministry by Dumbledore. Harry wasn't too sure how much he liked that idea, but agreed anyways.

In detention that evening, Malfoy seemed extremely cheerful by comparison to the day before, and Harry thought that his information must have been well received. Everyone was eager to get detention over with and worked hard to be done as soon as possible. Even Ron didn't complain, but hurriedly cleaned the desks and the floor.

"Did you get the charm prepared?" asked Harry, while wiping down a chair.

"Right here." replied Hermione, patting her robes. "I tested it on Lavender earlier, right before dinner. I told her a bit of gossip about us after I enacted the charm and told her not to tell anyone. I then hid and waited for Parvati to arrive. The moment Lavender saw her, she tried to tell Parvati but couldn't. Then, she broke out in hives."

"Broke out in hives?" repeated Harry.

"That way we'll know if anyone tried to tell." said Hermione smiling brightly.

"Excellent." said Harry.

Professor Flitwick commended them for working so quickly to finish, then dismissed them for the night, reminding them that tomorrow night was their last night.

Harry told everyone to meet up in the vacant office at the top of the stairs on the seventh floor. From there he could check to see if the coast was clear or not.

"Bloody hell!" said Neville, getting a glimpse of the Marauder's Map as Harry studied it closely. "So that's how you rarely ever get caught!"

"We gave it to him." said the twins proudly in unison.

"Pinched it from Filch's office our first year." said Fred.

Neville looked on in awe of the rule breakers that stood before him.

"Okay," said Harry "let's go. Ask no questions until we are – hang on, what's he –"

Harry broke off as the door opened and Seamus entered.

"So, what did I miss?" asked Seamus, closing the door behind him.

"What is he doing here?" asked Harry harshly.

"I invited him." said Neville, to Harry's shock. "Listen Harry, he's sorry and wants to make a mends."

"I've been thinking a lot about what you said that night." said Seamus. "Truth is, I can't think of a time you ever lied to me or why you would lie about something like this. Me mum is afraid, like everyone else. She doesn't want it to be so, but if it is – I gotta know."

Harry glanced down at the map again then looked back at Seamus.

"Ask no questions until I give the go ahead, understand?" asked Harry.

Everyone, except for the twins and Hermione, nodded in agreement. Harry kept a close eye on the map as they made their way towards the Room of Requirement, ready to quickly change directions at a moments notice. They made it to the blank stretch of wall without incident; Dumbledore and Umbridge in their perspective offices. He ignored the incredulous looks from Ron and Seamus as he paced three times; enjoyed the dumbfounded looks that filled their faces as the door magically appeared. Of the newcomers to the room, Luna was the only one that didn't seem blown away. Of course, Harry thought the "Wow" that escaped her mouth might be as good as it gets with Luna.

"Subtle changes from last time." said Fred, pointing at the targets and dueling dummies.

"Thought we might need something to practice on." said Harry.

"What's going on, Harry?" asked Seamus.

"Before Harry answers any questions, everyone needs to sign this." said Hermione, withdrawing a roll of parchment from inside her robes.

"What is that?" asked Neville, pointing at the parchment.

"A simple magical contact, stating that you agree to tell no person, living or otherwise, about what the Alliance is doing." said Hermione.

"Yeah, I heard we're being called that." said Ron, smirking.

"And if we refuse to sign?" asked Seamus.

"Then we obliterate your memories and chuck you out into the hallway." replied Hermione, withdrawing her wand.

"It was just a question!" said Seamus, holding up his hands.

Harry signed the parchment first, then watched as the others signed below his name. Hermione rolled the parchment up and sealed it before placing it back in her robes. Harry gestured to the large table in the middle of the room and everyone took a seat.

"Thank you all for coming." said Harry. "As you all know by now, whether we like it or not, Lord Voldemort has returned." Harry paused for a moment, as several gasps were heard at the mention of Voldemort's name. "Furthermore, Professor Umbridge is not proving to be a proper teacher. She has made it crystal clear that the Ministry does not want us to learn how to do defensive magic."

"That's for sure." said Ginny. "That old hag isn't going to teach us anything."

"Personally, I cannot bare the thought of another Lockhart year, especially when the threat of Voldemort looms so heavily." said Harry.

Neville, Ginny, Ron, and Seamus this time cringed at the sound of Lord Voldemort's name. Harry just stared at them impassively, for he did not care. He would not call him You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for anyone; he would not give him that respect.

"So what do you propose?" asked Seamus.

"I propose that we train here." replied Harry. "That way we can properly defend ourselves. This room is completely equipped to meet our needs."

"It's bloody amazing!" said Seamus. "So what do we practice first?"

"First thing we need to practice is defensive spells." said Hermione, looking to Harry who nodded in agreement, followed by the rest of the group.

"Who's going to teach us?" asked Seamus.

"I think the most practical choice is Harry." said Hermione. "He's seen more action than all of us put together."

"Not a far stretch there, Hermione." said George.

"So," said Fred "what's next, Harry?"

"You are now, officially our glorious leader." said George.

"Now, we train." replied Harry. "An hour each night. If anyone asks, we've formed a study group."

"Ron? In a study group? Who would believe that?" laughed Ginny.

"So, what should we practice first?" asked Luna dreamily.

"Shield charms." said Harry, ignoring Ginny's continued snickering as Ron's ears burned red.

Everyone rose from the table, excited to get started. Harry sorted them into pairs, demonstrating the proper technique for Ron, Neville, Seamus, Luna, and Ginny. Everyone was serious as they practiced, even the twins. Luna, Ginny, and Seamus were able to produce a decent shield charm after a few tries, while Neville and Ron finally produced strong enough shields after a half hour of practice. Harry wanted to practice some stunning spells, but was worried about the time, so he decided to wait until the following night. Staying out of sight too long might raise too many questions.

Harry checked the Marauder's Map before giving the all clear to leave the room one at a time. Seamus looked as though he wanted to say something, but instead he just smiled and nodded, then left the room.

"I had fun. See you tomorrow." said Luna dreamily as she turned to leave.

"Wait up Luna." said Ron. "I'll walk you to your common room."

Ron's ears turned red as the twins began to snicker loudly. Ginny and Neville just stood there, staring in amazement.

"Okay, Ron." said Luna dreamily. "If you want to."

Ron walked away without another word, holding the door for Luna as they left the room.

"Did that just happen?" asked Ginny, still stunned.

"Yep." replied the twins in unison.

"Well, see you all in the common room." said Ginny, sighing as she left the room.

"Ya, see you in a minute." said Neville. "I can't believe I produced a shield charm!" smiling brightly as he left the room behind Ginny.

Harry held up a hand for the twins to stay, which they did so without question. He wanted a chance to talk to them in private.

"Overall, that went well." said Fred, an odd expression on his face.

"As well as could be expected." said George with the same expression.

"Decided not to tell them?" asked Hermione, looking at Harry.

"Didn't feel right." replied Harry. "We'll tell them when the time is right."

Harry leaned up against the bookcase, rubbing the back of his neck. Hermione absent-mindedly stared at the corner of the room where the violin she had played before was absent this time.

"So, what do you two know?" asked Fred.

"That you're not telling us?" asked George.

Hermione looked at Harry, waiting for him to respond.

"We're not positive, but we think that Hermione's parents might be at the Malfoys." said Harry.

"Do you think that Charlie might be there too?" asked Fred eagerly.

"Not sure, but there's a good chance." said Hermione hopefully.

"So why waste time here?" asked George.

"If we think they're there, let's go get them." said Fred.

"How do you propose we do that?" asked Harry, eyebrows raised.

When the twins didn't answer, Harry continued. "I have a plan, but we're going to need help. However, there's something we need to do first."

Harry smiled at their anxious looks before shouting, "Dobby!"


The tiny elf appeared, looking happily at Harry.

"You called for Dobby, Harry Potter sir?" said Dobby, bouncing.

"Yes, Dobby." said Harry smiling. "I have a job for you."

The following morning, Hermione waited anxiously for Harry in the common room. She was nervous about going to the Ministry with him today, knowing the chaos that awaited them. She was worried whether Harry could handle seeing Pettigrew again, but she also understood closure. What troubled her was why Sirius, now a free man, wasn't seeking the same thing; to see the man that sent him to prison, tried and punished for his crime.

"But does Sirius still blame Pettigrew for Azkaban?" said a tiny voice in the back of her mind. "Or does he now blame someone else? Someone – like Dumbledore."

Hermione pondered that thought for a moment, wondering if Sirius had now began to see things differently. It would explain his sudden departure from, not only Grimmauld Place but, the Order as well. Did he now truly blame Dumbledore, and if so, was he wrong to?

"Waiting for me?" asked Harry, jerking Hermione out of her trance.

"Yes." replied Hermione. "Thought we'd go down and get some breakfast before we head to Dumbledore's office."

"Going to harass me again about Dobby?" asked Harry, smirking at her as they exited through the portrait hole.

"I don't understand why you had to whisper your request to him." said Hermione crossly. "If you wanted to ask him privately, why have an audience? I swear you have a mean streak, Harry Potter."

"I told you, I changed my mind at the last second." said Harry, unable to keep from smiling. "The twins have already threatened to test some new product of theirs on me the first chance they get, but Dobby even agreed it was best."

"That house elf would agree to anything you say, Harry." said Hermione, rolling her eyes.

"You don't know him as well as you think you do, Hermione." said Harry. "He's an independent sort."

Hermione heard something above them as they passed the third floor landing. She looked around but didn't see anything moving.

"What's the matter?" asked Harry, looking at her.

"Thought I heard something above us." said Hermione, still scouring the ceiling above.

"Probably just Peeves making a pest of himself." said Harry, glancing up.

"Not Peevesie, Harry Potty." said the sing-song voice of Peeves the Poltergeist.

Peeves cackled madly, rolling through the air, rising from the floor below. He was wearing a manic look of someone who'd just done something awful.

"Hello Peeves." said Harry. "Whom are you torturing now?"

"PEEVES!" screamed the voice of Argus Filch from the first floor.

The mischievous Poltergeist zoomed away cackling merrily. Filch came heaving up the stairs; a look of dyer retribution on his face.

"Where did that pestering Poltergeist go?" shouted Filch.

"That way." said Hermione, pointing upward.

Filch snarled at her before continuing on in pursuit of his prey. Hermione just laughed, shaking her head at the antics of the caretaker. Then, she thought about Hagrid and wondered where he might be. Professor Grubbly-Plank was good but she did miss Hagrid and his unorthodox ways.

After eating breakfast, her and Harry made their way back up to the third floor and to the stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the Headmaster's office.

"Password?" asked the gargoyle.

"Taffy." said Harry.

The gargoyle leapt to one side, admitting them passage. They stepped onto the spiraling staircase as it rose up to the landing outside the office door. Just as Harry was about to knock, the door opened and a stunned Professor Flitwick stood looking at the two.

"Morning, Professor." said Hermione, nodding to the tiny charms professor.

"Ah, good morning, Ms Granger." said Professor Flitwick. "I trust that you two are here for a visit and not in anymore trouble?"

"Correct, Professor." said Harry. "We're just –"

"Ah, Harry – and Ms Granger, how nice of you to come so early." interrupted Professor Dumbledore.

Hermione immediately began practicing Occlumency the moment his piercing blue eyes fell upon her. Professor Flitwick excused himself, then stepped onto the spiraling staircase.

"Please do not linger in doorways." said Dumbledore, motioning for them to enter.

Hermione followed Harry into the Headmaster's office, knowing that he would be quite familiar with the office. Pictures lined every wall and there were trays of tiny silver instruments sitting on small tables all about the oval room. Fawkes the phoenix, sat perched on a stand that looked very much so like a small knotty leaf-less tree. Dumbledore did not offer them a seat but merely stood beside the fireplace waiting for them.

"I think I must warn you, Harry," said Dumbledore "that this trial will be quite intense. Are you sure that you are up to it?"

"I really don't feel as though I have a choice, Professor." replied Harry. "I'll regret it if I don't and yet I hate myself for going."

"Indeed. The healing process is a painful thing, whether it be physical or emotional." said Dumbledore, taking a handful of floo powder and tossing it into the fireplace.

"Will you be staying, Professor?" asked Hermione, trying to sound warm and friendly.

"Alas, no." replied Dumbledore sadly. "My relationship with the Ministry is still strained at the moment, so Arthur Weasley will be seeing to it that you both return safely to Hogwarts."

Hermione felt relieved that their time with Dumbledore would be short. At the moment, she had no desire to be near him. He was being extremely kind and grandfatherly, which bothered her immensely. Dumbledore explained that they would be going to the Ministry of Magic Atrium, then be escorted to the trial from there.

Harry did not waist any more time, as he took a handful of floo powder then stepped into the fireplace, threw the powder into the flames, and shouted, "Ministry of Magic Atrium!" With a blast of green flames, he was gone.

"After you, my dear." said Dumbledore kindly, bowing to Hermione.

Hermione stepped forward, took a pinch of floo powder, then stepped into the fireplace, tossed the powder into the flames, and shouted, "Ministry of Magic Atrium!"

Flames roared around her as she spun violently on the spot. When she came to a halt, she stumbled out of a large fireplace into a massive area behind Harry. The ceiling was arched and nearly twenty meters tall at its center; a grand fountain stood in the center depicting a beautiful witch and a handsome wizard, surrounded by an elf, a centaur, and a goblin. The fountain seemed to infer that the elf, goblin, and centaur were beneath the witch and wizard, thus subservient or lesser beings. Hermione wondered what the goblins of Gringots thought of the fountain. The fireplace roared again as Dumbledore stepped out into the Atrium behind Hermione.

"This way, please." said Dumbledore motioning them towards a desk and what looked like a guard.

"I can take them from here, Headmaster." said Mr Weasley, walking up behind them.

"Arthur, there you are." said Dumbledore pleasantly. "Excellent timing. Please see that they return promptly back to Hogwarts immediately following the proceedings."

"Will do, Professor Dumbledore." said Mr Weasley, smiling. "Come on you two. You'll need to check in at the visitors station."

Mr Weasley pointed towards the desk with the guard. Hermione turned around to look at Dumbledore but he was already gone. She just caught a glimpse of him as he disappeared into the green flames.

"He's a busy man, Professor Dumbledore." said Mr Weasley, seeing Hermione looking back.

Hermione smiled and nodded then proceeded forward with Harry to the visitors desk.

"Please state your name, business here today, and present your wand –" said the guard, breaking off as he looked up into the face of Harry.

"Mark, this is Mr Harry Potter and Ms Hermione Granger." said Mr Weasley. "They are here for the Pettigrew trial."

"Y-Yes. W-Well, I'll just need to issue you name badges and check your wands in. You can retrieve your wand when you leave today." said Mark, the guard.

"We have to leave our wands?" asked Harry incredulously.

"Yes, Mr Potter." replied the guard. "Only Ministry workers are allowed to retain possession of their wands while at the Ministry. New policy due to heightened security. Present your ticket upon leaving and we will give you your wand back."

Mr Weasley nodded encouragingly and Harry reluctantly handed over his wand to the guard. She knew how Harry felt. The idea of handing over her wand made her feel sick. The guard handed Harry a ticket and a name badge. Hermione stepped forward and withdrew her wand to hand it to the guard. As she did, her wand suddenly turned red, evaporating into smoke. Hermione just stood there, not sure what just happened. Her heart was rapidly sinking into her stomach.

"What just happened?" asked the guard.

"I-I dunno." replied Hermione breathlessly. "Where's my wand?"

"What's going on here, Mark?" demanded Mr Weasley.

"I have no idea, Arthur." replied the guard. "Miss, what did you do with your wand?"

"Nothing!" said Hermione, starting to tear up. "I was handing you my wand when it just disappeared!"

Mr Weasley and Harry both glared at the guard; Harry's eyes growing darker. The guard stood up and signaled for his superior to join them. A burly looking man with gray hair and a sour expression walked over to the desk.

"What's the meaning of this, Arthur?" asked the burly man.

"That's what I would l like to know, Foley!" shouted Mr Weasley.

"Sir, Ms Granger was handing me her wand when it disappeared into smoke." said the guard.

"Obviously a fake." said the burly man. "Accio wand!" shouted the burly man, pointing his wand at Hermione, but nothing happened. "Huh." scoffed the man. "Miss, when was the last time you used your wand?"

"Last night!" replied Hermione. "I was practicing some spells!"

"Someone has swapped out your wand with a fake one." said the burly man seriously. "There are magical enchantments that prevent fake wands from being submitted by visitors. That is why your wand evaporated."

Hermione just stared at Harry, who looked as dumbfounded as she felt. Who could have taken her wand, thought Hermione, and why?

Mr Weasley sighed loudly then asked, "Were you near my sons last night, Hermione?"

"Not since I used it last." replied Hermione, thinking hard.

"If you're here for the Pettigrew trial, Arthur, you need to hurry." said the guard. "Here is your badge Ms Granger. You'll have to sort this out afterward."

Hermione took her badge absent-mindedly and pinned it on her robes. She just could not comprehend that her wand was missing. Mr Weasley pressed a hand into Hermione's back, nudging her forward, as he thanked the guards and moved the two teens towards the lifts.

"We'll find your wand later, Hermione." said Mr Weasley. "Right now, we need to make sure we do not miss what we came for."

Hermione just nodded, Harry grasping her hand as they entered the lift.

"Arthur," called out a wizard, moving towards them swiftly "what was all the commotion about at the visitors station?"

"Ah, excellent timing, as always, Perkins." said Mr Weasley seriously. "Please send an owl to Headmaster Dumbledore at Hogwarts and inform him that Ms Hermione Granger's wand is missing. Ask him to advise as what to do as quickly as possible."

"Will do, Arthur." said Perkins smiling, then looking completely dumbfounded as his eyes fell upon Harry.

Mr Weasley nodded, then closed the lift. They immediately began to descend into the Ministry, the lift banging as they passed floor after floor until it clattered to a halt and a female voice said, "Level Nine; Trial Office and Public Entrance to Trial Chambers." They stepped out of the lift, following Mr Weasley to the right, down a long dimly lit hallway. Mr Weasley opened a door at the end, motioning for them to enter. A wave of sound assaulted her ears as a hundred voices talking rang inside the court room. It reminded her of an auditorium; circular seating with an open area in the middle; a single chair stood in its center. Mr Weasley lead them down towards the front, taking seats near the banister. Many people greeted Mr Weasley and shook Harry's hand, though she was sure he didn't know them. Hardly anyone acknowledged Hermione, as she naturally expected.

Hermione saw Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, sitting behind a podium, deep in conversation with another wizard. A witch sitting behind him tapped him on the shoulder, pointing out Harry and Hermione to him. Immediately Fudge called the court to order, apparently he had been waiting for Harry's arrival.

"The trial of Peter Pettigrew will now come to order." said Fudge in a magically magnified voice. "Send in Mr Pettigrew."

Hermione felt Harry take hold of her hand again as the congregated Wizengamot fell silent and the door below the podium opened. Two guards escorted a whimpering Pettigrew into the courtroom, his right wrist bandaged up where his hand once had been. He struggled only momentarily as the guards placed him in the chair in the middle of the room. Chains snaked out of the chair, binding him tightly.

"Peter Pettigrew," said Fudge in his natural voice "you are accused of mass murdering twelve muggles and the assisted murder of James and Lillian Potter. Do you deny these charges?

"YES!" screamed Pettigrew, struggling against the chains.

A woman stood up and Fudge nodded then said, "The court recognizes Madam Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

"Thank you, Minister." said Madam Bones, before turning her attention to Pettigrew. "Mr Pettigrew, earlier this week, in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, you admitted in front of six witnesses that you knowingly and willingly murdered twelve muggles after betraying the whereabouts of James and Lillian Potter to the known war criminal, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named; capable of doing so because you were their Secret-Keeper. You then confessed to being one of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Death Eaters. Do you deny this?"

Pettigrew struggled, then cried loudly, "YES! SIRIUS BLACK KILLED THEM, NOT ME!"

Mumbling broke out through the assembled Wizengamot. Harry gripped Hermione's hand tighter.

"Mr Pettigrew, might I remind you that Lord Black's wand was recovered earlier this week and every spell cast by that wand was extracted by my department." said Madam Bones her face like stone. "You were then caught attempting to steal Lord Black's wand from my department. That wand never killed any muggles in 1981, did it Mr Pettigrew?"

Pettigrew sobbed loudly, shaking all over. He was mumbling incoherently to himself; his eyes darting all over the courtroom. Suddenly, his eyes fixed on Harry and he screamed, "HAVE MERCY ON ME, HARRY!"

Fudge stood in outrage, pointing his finger at Pettigrew, then shouted, "ENOUGH! YOU WILL ONLY ADDRESS MADAM BONES, MYSELF, OR MEMBERS OF THE WIZENGAMOT!"

Above the commotion of the courtroom, the shouting of the Minister, and the sobbing of Pettigrew, Hermione clearly heard Harry whisper, "No."

Immediately, Pettigrew began to scream, his face contorted in pain. He pulled hard against the chains binding his arms, causing them to cut into his skin, blood pouring from the fresh wounds. Fudge was silenced, clearly in shock from what he was witnessing. The entire courtroom seemed to be holding their breath, watching the spectacle before them. Hermione felt Harry's grip tighten until it hurt, causing her to jerk her hand free from his. At that moment, the screaming ceased and Pettigrew slumped, breathing hard.

"Well," said Fudge, searching for words "this is completely irrelevant. The evidence is irrefutable. We have twenty-four witnesses to your attempted theft of Lord Black's wand, six witnesses to your confession at the Department of Law Enforcement, and the sheer fact that you faked your own death fourteen years ago to cover your betrayal of the Potters."

Pettigrew began to sob lightly, not speaking a word. All eyes were on Pettigrew, his sobs the only sound in the courtroom; only Hermione looked another direction. Her eyes were fixated on Harry, as she pondered what had just possibly happened. Finally, when it seemed that Fudge had waited long enough and was about to continue, Pettigrew spoke.

"I told the Dark Lord where to find the Potters. I was their Secret-Keeper!" he sobbed, as whispers began to run wild. "I then killed those twelve muggles in order to cover my escape from Sirius! I even cut off my own finger, so that all would think that Sirius had murdered me!"

"Very well," said Fudge harshly "thank you for your honesty, Mr Pettigrew. Now, before we pass judgment, I am going to do something highly irregular because this is a highly irregular case." Hermione watched as Fudge turned to look their direction. "Young Mr Potter, is there anything that you would like to say to Mr Pettigrew?"

Hermione could smell the politics Fudge was playing at, as whispers exploded throughout the courtroom. He was trying to use Harry, the very person he had been attacking, to bolster his own standing by playing the sentimentalist. Hermione wanted to shout; to lash out at Fudge, however, she held her peace and waited for Harry to respond.

"I have only one question for Mr Pettigrew." replied Harry and the courtroom fell silent.

"Go ahead Mr Potter." said Fudge kindly.

"Mr Pettigrew, or should I call you Scabbers," said Harry, watching Pettigrew shiver "you told us you cut off your finger. When did you cut off your hand?"

Pettigrew's eyes went wide with fear, unable to look away from Harry as Fudge exploded from behind his podium.

"This court hereby sentences Peter Pettigrew to the Dementors Kiss to be executed immediately!" bellowed Fudge.

The entire Wizengamot broke into uproar, as two Dementors floated in from the doorway beneath the podium. A dozen wands were drawn all throughout the courtroom but it was Harry that got there first. He withdrew Mr Weasley's wand from inside Mr Weasley's robes, pointed it at the two Dementors, then shouted, "Expecto Patronum!"

A large silver stag burst from the end of his wand then charged down the Dementors, which fled from the silvery beast back into the doorway from which they came. Chaos reigned as Hermione saw the chains restraining Pettigrew fall to the ground. Pettigrew immediately made a break for the door, then there was a flash of green light and Peter Pettigrew fell to the floor, dead.

Harry's patronus disappeared in a wisp of vapor. Stunned silence flooded the courtroom like a tidal-wave. Two Aurors leapt down to the floor from the upper seating and ran to where Pettigrew laid. They examined him closely before looking up at Fudge, shaking their heads.


Everyone in the courtroom took a seat, including Harry and Hermione. Hermione noted the shocked look on Harry's face as he stared at Pettigrew's body. No matter how much he hated the man, and justly so, he had tried to save him. She watched Harry hand Mr Weasley his wand back, who was looking at Harry the same way she felt; amazed and impressed. Fudge and Madam Bones were having a discussion that seemed to be growing more intense by the second. One of the Aurors waved his wand, levitating Pettigrew's lifeless body, then quickly the two of them removed him from the courtroom.

Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped down behind Mr Weasley and whispered something in his ear then left the courtroom. Mr Weasley motioned for Harry and Hermione to to follow him. They got up and walked down to a side door that led into an adjoining chamber. Mr Weasley closed the door behind them and motioned for them to take a seat at the table.

"What's going on, Mr Weasley?" asked Hermione in a shaky voice; that surprised her when she heard it.

Before he could answer, Madam Bones and Minister Fudge entered the chamber by way of another door, arguing loudly.

"You had no right to order an immediate kiss!" shouted Madam Bones.

"As Minister of Magic I have every right to do so!" shouted Fudge, looking pompous.

"You had no more right to do so in a Wizengamot Hearing than you did last year at Hogwarts!" shouted Madam Bones.

"And you!" shouted Fudge, ignoring Madam Bones and rounding on Harry. "You had no right interfering in an official Ministry setting! Not forgetting that you are an underage wizard and a visitor here today!"

"Where did you get that wand, Mr Potter?" asked Madam Bones calmly.

"Where did he get the wand?" repeated Fudge incredulously. "That's all you have to add?"

"I took it from inside Mr Weasley's robes." replied Harry solemnly, ignoring Fudge.

Mr Weasley looked away, either ashamed that a fifteen year old boy was able to disarm him so easily or not to look so guilty if he allowed Harry to do so; Hermione still was not sure which was true.

"I see – well, I'm sorry you had to witness such today." said Madam Bones. "Arthur, you can go ahead and escort them back to school."

"He most certainly will not!" shouted Fudge. "I'm not done with you yet, Mr Potter! I invited you to this courtroom today so that you might finally receive some closure. I allowed you to speak to the accused, so that you might make peace with what happened to your parents. And you repay me by – by pulling such a stunt? Tell me, did Dumbledore put you up to it?"

"Minister, how is it that you are more concerned about what question Mr Potter asked of Pettigrew and not that someone, still sitting in the same courtroom, JUST MURDERED PETTIGREW WITH THE KILLING CURSE?" demanded Madam Bones loudly.

"How do you know that the murder isn't in this room right now?" asked Fudge hotly.

"Now see here, Minister!" exclaimed Mr Weasley.

"Mr Potter was using Mr Weasley's wand to produce that magnificent patronus and Ms Granger had no wand with her at the time." said Madam Bones in a loud but even voice. "So are you accusing me of killing Pettigrew or is this a confession?"

Fudge snarled, twirling his bowler hat in his hands. Hermione could tell he was thinking hard, glaring at Madam Bones, when Kingsley Shacklebolt entered the room.

"Minister, Madam Bones," said Shacklebolt "members of the Wizengamot are becoming quite restless. What would you have me tell them?"

"Tell them that we will be in momentarily." sighed Fudge.

"Very well, Minister." replied Shacklebolt. "We have moved Pettigrew's body into an empty chamber until the DMLE is ready to examine it, Madam Bones."

Fudge and Madam Bones both nodded and Kingsley left the chamber, glancing at Mr Weasley.

"Madam Bones, after we deal with the matter at hand, meet me in my office immediately." said Fudge harshly.

"I will meet you in your office, Minister, once I find out who just murdered Peter Pettigrew, so you may have to wait awhile." replied Madam Bones. "If we could administer veritaserum or extract memories, it would make things go much faster, however you saw fit the moment you stepped into office to abolish both as legal ways to obtain evidence." Madam Bones broke her glare from Fudge and looked at them kindly. "Mr Weasley, please escort Ms Granger and Mr Potter back to Hogwarts."

Mr Weasley nodded to Madam Bones, twitched his head in the direction of the Fudge, then motioned for Harry and Hermione to follow him as he made to leave the room. Hermione rose then made to follow Mr Weasley but as Harry stood, he did not make to leave.

"What of the patronus that I cast in the courtroom?" asked Harry coldly.

"Well –" began Fudge.

"In light of all that has transpired here today, Mr Potter, your patronus is the least of my concerns." interrupted Madam Bones sternly.

"The statute for underage wizardry clearly states –" began Fudge again.

"Yes, yes," interrupted Madam Bones again "but the statute also states that under conditions of life threatening circumstances, any witch or wizard may defend themselves. In my opinion, Minister, you placed all of us in danger today."

"Those Dementors were completely harmless to all but the accused!" bellowed Fudge.

"What about the Dementor that attacked Harry on the Hogwarts Express two years ago while looking for Sirius Black, or the ones that attacked him again during a Quidditch match while protecting the school?" asked Hermione defensively.

"Thank you, Ms Granger, for validating my point." said Madam Bones, nodding to Hermione. "Dementors should be confined to Azkaban, as they have proven time and time again to be highly unpredictable in nature."

Fudge stormed from the chamber without another word, slamming the door behind him. Mr Weasley sighed loudly, Madam Bones looking stern as she turned to face Harry and Hermione; her facial features softening as she looked upon the teenagers.

"You may go now, Mr Potter," said Madam Bones "and do be careful. Regardless of the Minister's position, the fact remains that someone just murdered Peter Pettigrew in that courtroom. Until I find out whom it was, they will more than likely walk free today, understand?"

Harry nodded then joined Hermione and a very harassed looking Mr Weasley as they exited the chamber into a long, dimly lit corridor, Harry reaching over and taking Hermione's hand in his. They quickly made their way down the corridor behind Mr Weasley, until it joined the hallway that led to the lift.

"Incomprehensible." muttered Mr Weasley, opening the lift. "Who would have imagined such."

"What's so hard to imagine?" asked Harry. "The fact that Fudge tried to have Pettigrew kissed or that Pettigrew is dead?"

"Both – actually." replied Mr Weasley, looking at Harry oddly.

"I'm not surprised." whispered Harry, stepping into the lift with Hermione. "Fudge would do anything to protect his position, I'm sure of it."

"But murder?" whispered Mr Weasley, stepping into the lift and closing it. "I'm not fond of the Minister either, Harry, but surely not."

Hermione wasn't surprised by Mr Weasley's refusal to believe the worst of someone. If he was willing to accept that people like Fudge, in positions of great power, were capable of such, he would be less trusting of Dumbledore.

"Do you believe that the Dementors' Kiss is less than death?" asked Harry coldly.

"The Dementors' Kiss is a far worse fate than death." replied Mr Weasley with a shudder.

"Fudge has attempted to use the Kiss as punishment three times in the last three years, accomplishing it once with Barty Crouch Jr." said Hermione coldly.

"All, so that he could cover up his mistakes." whispered Harry.

Mr Weasley just sighed as the lift clattered upwards towards the Atrium. The lift stopped twice; once at the third floor and once at the fifth floor, though no one dared get on, before the disembodied female voice said, "Atrium". It was obvious that word of what had happened in the courtroom had spread throughout the Ministry. People in the Atrium were huddled together, talking rapidly; many began staring as they stepped out of the lift.

"Arthur!" called Perkins, who was seated at a nearby table. He rose quickly and made his way towards them. "I have news."

"Yes?" asked Mr Weasley, still looking rather harassed.

"Headmaster Dumbledore responded to the owl I sent." replied Perkins. "He said to take Ms Granger to Ollivanders to acquire a new wand before returning to the school."

"I haven't got that much money with me!" exclaimed Hermione, feeling flustered and confused.

"Not to worry, Hermione." said Harry reassuringly. "I have enough."

Mr Weasley looked even more harassed than before, but nodded and thanked Perkins for his help. Hermione didn't want a new wand, she wanted her wand. She followed Harry and Mr Weasley as they headed to the nearest available fireplace; trying to ignore the growing stares. One-by-one, they climbed into the fireplace, tossing floo powder at the flames, and shouting, "Diagon Alley!"

They arrived in Diagon Alley, not far from Ollivanders wand shop. Normally, it would be a real treat to visit Diagon Alley, but today it made Hermione sick at her stomach. Mr Weasley was in quite the hurry and she figured that he was rushing to get them back to Hogwarts before anything else bad happened. They entered Ollivanders Wand Shop, to find Mr Ollivander dozing slightly in his chair near the counter. He sat up immediately upon realizing that he had company.

"Mr Potter, Ms Granger, and Mr Weasley – what a pleasure." said Mr Ollivander, standing up. "How might I be of service today?"

"Ms Granger has lost her wand." said Mr Weasley, friendly but business-like in his approach.

Hermione frowned at the words, for they made her sound careless. She hadn't lost her wand; it had been taken from her by someone or something. This thought made her feel ill.

"Ah, my dear – ten inches – cherry and unicorn hair, if I remember correctly." said Mr Ollivander, looking at Hermione who nodded. "So sorry to hear that – but I'm quite sure we can find you another."

Mr Ollivander began pulling wand boxes from his shelves for Hermione to try. For nearly an hour, Hermione tried wand after wand, feeling that this experience was far worse than the first time she had come for a wand. Back then, she had thought it was quite distressing that it had taken her ten whole minutes to find a suitable wand. Through her frustration, she felt something warm inside her robes. She reached inside and felt the phoenix feather, which was unnaturally warm. Mr Weasley stepped outside, looking a bit flustered.

"Mr Ollivander," said Harry, as he watched Hermione "how long does it take to make a wand?"

Mr Ollivander stopped and studied Harry for a moment, scratching his chin. "Why do you ask?" he asked.

"Natural curiosity." replied Harry politely.

"Well, if I had the right materials and the time – I would say – less than a day." said Mr Ollivander thoughtfully.

"Show him, Hermione." said Harry, eying her robes.

"Harry, I really don't think –" began Hermione.

"He gave it to you for a reason, Hermione." interrupted Harry. "And while this might not be exactly what he had in mind – the purpose is sound."

"What is it that you have, my dear?" asked Mr Ollivander, looking extremely intrigued.

Hermione pulled the phoenix feather from inside her robes and Mr Ollivander's eyes widened dramatically, glancing at Harry.

"Ms Granger! Where did you ever get a phoenix feather?" asked Mr Ollivander, completely in awe.

"Fawkes, the phoenix, gave it to me." replied Hermione.

"So, Mr Ollivander, would this feather work as a core for Hermione's new wand?" asked Harry.

"If the phoenix gave you this feather, it does create a magical bond that would make it an excellent core property." replied Mr Ollivander.

"Can you do it then?" asked Harry, glancing at Hermione.

"Yes, Mr Potter, I believe I can." replied Mr Ollivander, smiling. "If you will just leave that feather with me, Ms Granger, I will have you a suitable wand by this evening. I will send it to the school once it is ready."

Hermione handed the feather to Mr Ollivander, who bowed then glanced at Harry.

"What type of wood will the wand be made of?" asked Hermione.

"Oh, that will be my surprise for you." said Mr Ollivander, smiling. "I have just the supple piece in mind."

"How much do we owe you Mr Ollivander?" asked Harry.

"Well now, normally I charge twenty galleons for a custom made wand however, in your case I'll make an exception." said Mr Ollivander. "For you, Ms Granger, ten galleons."

Harry withdrew a black pouch from inside his robes and placed ten galleons on the counter. Hermione did not like Harry paying for her wand and made a mental note to pay him back as soon as she could.

"Ah, the proper gentleman." said Mr Ollivander, smiling at Harry. "A lady never paid for anything in my presence when I was younger. Such things are rare amongst today's generation."

Harry smiled then, taking Hermione by the hand, nodded to Mr Ollivander before leaving the wand shop to join Mr Weasley.

Hermione sat at dinner that evening, wondering what had happened to her wand. Dumbledore hadn't seemed too concerned about what had happened to her wand, nor did he seem surprised that Ollivander was making her a new wand. Harry reasoned that Dumbledore must think that Ollivander is simply making a duplicate of her old wand.

Of coarse, they had been thoroughly questioned by both Dumbledore and McGonagall, upon arriving back at the castle, about details of the trial and Pettigrew's death; none of which Harry was willing to discuss. Instead, Hermione had merely given a general overview of the events, pausing only once when depicting Pettigrew's death. She had never witnessed anyone die before; the closest coming when Harry had brought Cedric back with him from the graveyard.

Tale of what had happened at the Ministry spread through the school like dragon fire. Rumors varied from Pettigrew committing suicide after attempting a daring escape, all the way to Harry finishing him off in the middle of the courtroom. The idea that Harry had tried to save Pettigrew was, by most, a truly mental notion.

"I think this one's for you, Hermione." said Harry, pointing up towards the ceiling in the Great Hall.

Hermione looked up to see a large brown owl soaring overhead in a spiraling motion, carrying a small thin package. It took one final sweep before landing in front of her, as she pulled her goblet out of the way. Strapped to the owl's leg was a note, accompanying the package. Hermione removed the note from it's leg and gave it a sip of pumpkin juice. The great bird nodded then flew up into the air and out of the Great Hall.

"Go ahead and open it." said Harry, looking eagerly.

Hermione unscrolled the note and read it first.

Dear Ms Granger,

Enclosed is your new wand. It is ten inches, willow, and of coarse, phoenix feather. I believe that you will find the combination quite satisfactory.


Garrick Ollivander

Hermione unwrapped the package and removed the wand from it's box. She felt an immediate warmth in her hand, followed by a small shower of green sparks from its tip. She smiled as she handed her new wand to Harry for examination, wondering how well it would perform later. Harry twirled it between his fingers, giving an admiring nod, then handed it back to Hermione who pocketed it inside her robes.

That nights detention went rather well. Many of them were glad that the week was finally over, including Hermione who felt that the detention had proven, in whole, to be quite the distraction from her goal of finding her parents. Yet for Harry, she knew that another week of detention loomed and she wondered if this time it would be with Snape. The thought of someone stealing her wand was truly nagging at her for there were only a few that could have possibly done it; none of which she would even consider as suspects.

Malfoy was very moody during detention. His demeanor was not of one that was happy to be done with detention, but of one that was dreading something. Harry was studying him hard and Hermione was sure that he was trying to use basic Legilimency on him. Harry had been studying the art with Hermione's aide, though he hadn't yet been able to make even the slightest headway.

After detention, the Alliance convened at the vacant office on the seventh floor, waiting for Harry to give the all clear before proceeding to the Room of Requirement for another training session. Seamus was already in the office waiting for them when they arrived. Hermione noted that Seamus was much more relaxed than the night before, so she really felt bad when her stunning spell blasted him into the nearby wall. Harry had to bite his lower lip to keep from laughing; covering by pointing out that her new wand must channel her magic better than the old one. Truthfully, Hermione thought so as well, as every charm, hex, and jinx she cast seemed to have an extra authority.

After the first full hour of training, she could tell that Harry was very impressed with the group, especially Neville and Seamus. Seamus was picking up spells with ease and Neville's confidence was growing dramatically throughout the hour, resulting in stronger wand work by the end of the night. After watching Luna, Hermione wondered how powerful she might truly be if she used some emotion when she cast spells, rather than simply reciting them in her dreamily tone.

Harry used the map to guarantee safe passage at the end for the new Alliance members, until it was just the twins, Hermione, and himself left in the room. They then sat down and had a brief meeting, discussing the likelihood of Charlie and Hermione's parents being at Malfoy Manor and the trial. Harry said that he was waiting for Dobby to validate something, but swore that he had not sent the tiny elf into danger. As for the trial, unlike earlier when he had refused to expand on anything with the group other than that he had not attempted to kill Pettigrew, he went into detail with the twins. They all weighed in on who might have killed Pettigrew, each with a different opinion, but all agreed that it was probably on Fudge's orders.

Saturday morning, as planned, Hermione headed up to the Owlery to mail what would be possibly a confusing letter to Victor Krum. She found Hedwig perched asleep on a lower rafter, obviously tired from a night of successful hunting, judging by the pike of tiny bones on the floor beneath her. She was therefore a little grumpy when Hermione awoke her to take a letter such a long way. The beautiful snowy owl ruffled it's wings before extending a leg for the letter. Hermione attached the letter, then stroked the owl's feathers. Hedwig nipped Hermione hard but affectionately before soaring up and out into the morning sun.

Hermione heard a noise behind her and turned to see Cho Chang standing in the doorway carrying a letter of her own. The two girls made eye contact as Cho entered the Owlery to send her letter. Cho walked over to a brown school owl and attached the letter to its leg. The owl barked before taking flight out a nearby window.

"Do you like Harry?" asked Cho, no longer looking at Hermione.

Hermione was shocked by the question, thus it took a moment for her to answer, "Yes. Of course I do."

"Then why do you keep meeting up with Draco Malfoy secretly?" asked Cho, as she turned and looked at Hermione.

"Cho," sighed Hermione "I know it looks bad to you but there is an explanation that has nothing to do with romance!"

"I saw you two kissing on the train." said Cho, raising an eyebrow.

"He kissed me!" growled Hermione. "I did not kiss him! I threatened to hex every bone from his body if he ever did it again!"

"If you don't like him, why do you keep meeting Malfoy secretly?" asked Cho, sounding a little annoyed.

"It's complicated." replied Hermione. "Just rest assured that if I had any other choice right now, I'd much rather curse him into oblivion!"

"HERMIONE!" screamed Cho pointing towards the doorway.

Hermione turned in time to see a hooded and masked individual point their wand and mouth an inaudible curse at her. Hermione dove to her right, as a jet of red light flew past striking the wall, as several owls fell to the floor, dead. She quickly pulled herself behind the stone plinth in the middle of the room, as another jet of red light struck the floor where she had just laid. Withdrawing her wand, she quickly shot a stunning jinx over the top of the plinth. Cho had dove behind a stone bench near the window and was firing jinxes as well at their assailant, who was darting in and out of the doorway to avoid their spells. Hermione waited until another jet of light hit the empty wall, most of the surviving owls having fled the Owlery, then fired a blasting jinx towards the doorway.

As she made to duck down again behind the plinth, when she saw it. Cho was rising to cast another spell, when a jet of red light struck her square in the chest. She toppled backwards, the back of her legs striking the base of the window, as she fell out the window, arms flailing, eyes wide.

"CHO!" screamed Hermione before ducking to avoid a jet of green light.

Harry was sitting in the common room, waiting for Hermione to return, when his wand burned on his arm like fire. He immediately grabbed it from its holster, feeling it burn within his grasp, as he heard Hermione screaming inside his head. A chill shot up his spine as he bolted from the arm-chair near the fireplace.

Neville and Seamus were continuing a game of wizard chess in the corner of the common room from the night before. Harry heard the chess board and all its pieces tumble to the floor as he burst through the portrait hole. Footsteps behind him let him know that Neville and Seamus were running to catch up as he rounded the seventh floor corridor, past the Room of Requirement, in a dead sprint for the Owlery.

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL, HARRY!" shouted Seamus, catching up.

"HERMIONE!" is all Harry could shout, fear spreading through him like wildfire.

Harry saw, from the corner of his eye, Seamus withdraw his wand as they reached the stairs, Neville hot on their heels. They ascended the staircase, taking two steps at a time until they reached the top, skidding to a halt, as a jet of red light flew over their heads.

"Stupefy!" cried Harry, firing a stunning jinx as a hooded and masked figure hurdled past them towards a door leading onto the battlements.

Harry jumped again as Hermione hurdled herself past him, not following the figure, but down the staircase, a look upon her face that made his blood run cold.

Seeing Hermione safe drained his fears at once. They were immediately replaced by waves of anger, as he hurdled onto the battlements, firing more stunning spells. Neville and Seamus joined him firing hexes of all kinds towards the masked figure. Before Harry could shout, the figure darted through a window back into the Owlery. Harry knew at once that they had made a crucial error, jerking Neville and Seamus to the floor to avoid the jets of green light flying through the open windows. The masked figure made a run for the stairs, as Harry pushed himself to his feet to pursue.

Harry, Neville, and Seamus dodged jets of purple light as they fired jinxes of their own while descending the spiraling staircase. When they reached the bottom, Harry had to push Neville and Seamus backwards onto the steps to avoid jets of red light.

"Stupefy!" cried the voices of Professors McGonagall and Sprout in unison.

The masked figure was battling like a person possessed, shooting curses in all directions. Harry watched as the figure aimed a blasting curse at the ceiling, causing it to crack and fall. Professors McGonagall and Sprout both turned their attention to the ceiling, allowing the figure to dart past them, sprinting for the staircases. Harry leapt up and made to go after the figure but turned rigid as he heard the most horrible sound he had ever heard coming from the window behind him.

Hermione was at the base of the tower, wailing at the top of her lungs. The sound sent chills through Harry once more, before he sprinted down the corridor; not to catch the figure but to get to Hermione as fast as humanly possible. When he reached the main floor, he bolted for the courtyard that adjoined the base of the tower. There, he saw something that made him fall to his knees. Hermione was on her knees, holding a lifeless Cho Chang in her arms, blood covering Hermione's arms and torso. She was wailing, her head thrown back, tears pouring down her face into her hair and ears. The sun was shining brightly now, yet all was dark and cold.

Harry heard the shuffle of feet behind him; shouts of shock from Seamus and sounds of retching from Neville. Professors McGonagall, Sprout, and Flitwick walked slowly past Harry, approaching the scene before them. Professor Flitwick reached down and gently took hold of Cho's body while Professor McGonagall knelt down beside Hermione, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

"What on earth!" shouted Professor Umbridge from behind Harry, her girlish tone not present.

The sound of hundreds of feet thundered behind him, followed by shouts, screams, and even more retching. Professor Dumbledore walked past Harry, as though he didn't even notice him; his eyes fixed upon the horror before him. Harry slowly pushed himself to his feet and forced his legs to move; unable to tear his eyes away from Hermione's face. He felt a mixture of sorrow and joy; the loss of Cho Chang was wrenching his stomach apart while Hermione still being alive was filling his heart with close to phoenix song.

How close had he come to losing her, he thought as Professor McGonagall helped Hermione to her feet. Professor Sprout, with a very shaky wand, removed the blood from Hermione's clothes and body. Professor Flitwick conjured a white sheet and gently wrapped Cho's body in it, then slowly began to levitate her lifeless form onto a stretcher that Professor Dumbledore conjured up.

"Filius, please take Ms Chang to the hospital wing and send word to the Changs to come at once." said Dumbledore softly.

"What happened, Dumbledore?" demanded Professor Umbridge.

"I do not know." replied Dumbledore firmly. "However, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss such things."

The finality in his voice silenced Professor Umbridge, as Harry grabbed hold of Hermione, who was clearly unable to stand any longer. Without care or regard for what anyone else might say, Harry scooped her up into his arms and began to carry her out of the courtyard. She wrapped her arms around his neck, as she sobbed into his shoulder.

"Harry, please take Ms Granger to the hospital wing and see that Madam Pomfrey tends to her." said Dumbledore softly.

Harry just nodded, as he walked out of the courtyard. He wanted to just keep walking; out of the castle; out of the country. He wanted to get as far away from the wizarding world as possible. Not sure who he passed or which way he went, Harry arrived at the hospital wing. He pushed the doors open to find a completely overwhelmed Madam Pomfrey, leaning against her office door, sobbing with her hand over her mouth. The moment she laid eyes on Harry and Hermione, she snapped to at once, ushering Harry to place Hermione in a nearby bed, then ordering him to sit down when he refused to lay down in another bed.

"You're both in shock." said Madam Pomfrey kindly. "The whole school's in shock by now, I'm sure."

Harry did not answer, just merely sat there. He held Hermione's hand while Madam Pomfrey gave her a calming draft, refusing her offer to him. He remembered telling and retelling Professors McGonagall, Dumbledore, Flitwick, and Umbridge what had occurred that he was aware of, omitting what his wand did and hearing Hermione scream. Everyone agreed, even Umbridge, that Hermione could tell her part another day.

Harry remembered the Chang family's arrival; their sobs of grief, eventually silenced by a privacy charm placed upon their portion of the ward. He remembered the argument that ensued outside the hospital wing, when Dumbledore refused to allow Minister Fudge access. He remembered the talk of how could a Death Eater have possibly entered the school. He remembered his godfather arriving in the middle of the night to comfort and be with them.

For all that he remembered of what happened in the hospital wing that day; the one thing he never forgot was the feel of Hermione's hand, as he held it through it all.

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