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Headache

By Nate Ronan

Mystery / Adventure

Chapter 1

With devastating force, my head slammed against something cold and hard.

I groaned, peeling my face off of the slightly moist surface and exhaling slowly, the sting above my temple making my closed eyes water slightly. I sniffed, realizing that my nose was running, and quickly wiped it. Forcing my eyes open, I found that I had to blink a small amount of tears resulting from the impact to the side of my head.

I glanced around. It was dark, the only light source coming from the window. Two figures sat with me in what seemed like a small, enclosed space with a short line of seats opposite of me. Looking outside, I was met by a dark landscape flying by at a considerable speed, trees and lakes and rolling hills all a blur. The moon hung low in the sky, almost full, casting a white glow into the room. Unable to fully comprehend what was happening, I jumped when I felt something touch my leg.

One of the figures scooted into the light, her hand resting on my knee. Undeniably pretty, she had fiery red hair, freckles across her nose and cheeks and concern in her blue eyes. When she spoke, her voice was small but filled with confidence and authority, especially for her small stature and apparent age, seemingly her late teens.

“Are you alright? Bloody conductor. Looked like a nasty knock to the head.” She observed, tilting her own head to the side slightly, studying my expression. I opened my mouth to answer, but at that moment my head throbbed in pain, and I winced. The concern didn’t leave her eyes, but she snorted in amusement and reached into her - the best way to describe them would be robes. They were long and black and opened at the front, a small red and gold crest depicting a lion on her breast. Underneath, she wore a long grey skirt and matching sweater, a red and gold tie at her neck. Her hand appeared once again, holding something indistinguishable from a stick in the dark light. I jerked back when she held it inches from my face.

Seeing my hesitation, she lowered the tool and the smirk disappeared from her face.

“Harry? Are you okay?” The obvious concern in her eyes made their way to her voice, and I shivered.

“I - I’m sorry.” I stammered. My voice sounded lower than usual, and I had an English accent to match the girl across from me. “I don’t know what’s - what’s happening.”

Confusion replaced concern, and the red-headed girl looked to my left. She addressed the person there. “I’m not sure what’s happening either. Why haven’t they fixed the lights?”

In response, I heard a rustling of clothes next to me, and the unknown person in the shadows muttered, “Lumos.”

White light filled the train compartment as the floor beneath us vibrated and shook slightly. Instinctively, my eyes narrowed and I once again reevaluated my surroundings, getting more confused by the minute. The girl was bent away from me, her hands buried in an old-fashioned trunk, and next to me was a boy about the same age as the girl, with dark hair and rather large neck - perhaps signalling past weight problems. He was dressed similarly to the girl, though he had black slacks rather than a skirt. In his hand he held a stick - rather, something that could only be classified as a wand now - and at its tip, a ball of light seemed to float, like a flashlight projecting light in all directions. Beyond him, there was a small set of sliding glass doors that led out to the rest of the train (as I had assumed), which consisted of a long hallway lined on both sides by more compartments.

I winced again, my hand coming up to tenderly touch my head, and I found that I was wearing the same sort of outfit as the two strangers. The girl straightened and looked me up and down as the boy next to me poked his head out into the dark hallway, now coming to life as similar lights to the boy’s appeared down the row.

“Harry, you’ve hit your head. Let me take a look.” The girl said, reaching towards me and raising her wand. Instinctively, I turned my head slightly towards the boy to display the bruise already forming above my temple to the ginger teen. Forcing myself to stay still, she touched my injury lightly and said, “Episkey!”

I sucked in air suddenly as a feeling of cool water washed over my face. The dull throbbing in my head disappeared, and when I reached up and touched my temple, I found that the large bruise beginning to form had gone as well. I let out a long deep breath of relief, shock and a little fear as the boy exchanged quick words with someone in the hallway.

“Ron and Hermione are still gathering up the first years.” The boy said, his voice sounding somewhat childish in relation to his body, turning back towards us and sliding the doors close. The names he mentioned seemed to ring a bell in my mind, but I was too disoriented to try and figure out where I was or what was happening. Seeing my expression, the girl touched my leg again, as though she’d done it a million times before.

“Harry, what’s wrong? You hit your head and now you’re acting weird.” She said. The lights above them flickered back to life, filling the compartment with a warm orange glow. In the hall, other lights began to come on, and in response the white conjured lights went out. The boy pocketed his wand and took his seat again, occasionally glancing outside as silhouettes of other people flew past our door.

“I’m sorry.” I repeated. Panic began to rise in my chest, and my throat seemed to close up slightly as a very uncomfortable feeling pooled in my stomach. “I - I don’t understand. I don’t remember anything.”

The boy leaned forward and looked me in the eyes with concern and a little suspicion as the ginger began to show obvious signs of confusion and stress. “What - Neville, do you think he hit his head so hard he lost his memory, or something?”

The boy - Neville, whose name also rang a bell in my head - knit his eyebrows together. “Harry, are you just taking the mickey, or . . .?” He trailed off uncertainly.

I shook my head rapidly, and I felt an uncomfortable amount of messy black hair on my head bounce about. “I just - woke up when I hit my head.”

The panic continued to rise and I took a deep breath as Neville looked towards the girl, whose hand still rested on my leg. Through my fear, I took this as a hint that this girl must be romantically attached to me, or could be a close friend. Either way, I took this as no comfort and desperately tried to recall what happened before I’d hit my head, but nothing came up. It was as though someone had erased everything I’d done before then.

As the two seemed to share a very concerned look with each other, I glanced down and stared at myself, curiosity temporarily overtaking my panic. I raised my hands so that my sleeves dropped to my wrist and studied them: I had extremely pale skin and was very skinny, given the structure of my wrists. I shifted slightly in my seat and did find the rest of my body was rather by Deal Top"> slim, my robes very loose-fitting. After I had realized what I was doing, I shivered slightly at the sensation of getting used to my own body as though I was just borrowing it.

“Do you even remember your name?” The boy asked suddenly, making me jump a bit. With my panic arose annoyance at my ignorant position, and I snapped, “No, of course not, but according to you lot, it’s Harry.”

The girl took her hands back and began wringing them together. I noticed when I had said ‘you lot’, it had come instinctively but still felt unnatural when I said it. She let out some worried breaths. “Your name is Harry Potter. We’re 18 years old. Last year, you ran around the country destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes and you killed him in the end. We’re on the Hogwarts Express to finish up our last year at Hogwarts. That’s Neville, one of your best friends and I’m Ginny, your girlfriend, Ron and Hermione are prefects and preparing the first years -”

The girl became more and more flustered as she continued to ramble. The boy, Neville, touched her gently on the shoulder in consolation, and I felt a pang of jealousy as she stuttered to a halt. He looked at me. “Harry, we’re almost at Hogsmeade. We’ll take everything slowly; maybe once you’ve eaten at the feast, you’ll feel a bit better. If not, we’ll talk to Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey.”

None of those names meant anything to me, but he said it with such confidence that I nodded in agreement; I wasn’t in a very good state to be making plans and figuring out what was happening. Ginny calmed down after a few minutes, and Neville spent the next couple minutes orientating me with where I was - we are deep in Scotland on a magic train to a magic school where I had been learning magical things since I was 11. I was famous for killing some bad wizard as a child, and ended up thwarting him several times in years before. By the time Neville had finished explaining my background, I felt the train begin to slow and found that I was just as confused - if not more so - as before. Although, it couldn’t have been healthy for me to criticize what was apparently my own past.

Outside the compartment, doors were sliding open and students began filing out, talking and chattering excitedly, all dressed the same as us. To my right, I looked out into the night and saw a lively little village, shining in the darkness, people milling around to different low-level buildings. I stood with as Neville and Ginny did, and we made our way out of the compartment.

Once we had entered the hallway, I felt something brush against my hand and stay there. Looking down, I saw that Ginny was now clutching my hand; gently, I pulled away. I didn’t know who this girl was, no matter what they’d told me. The hurt in her eyes made my heart sink, but I just turned and followed the boy down the hall, Ginny trailing behind.

I couldn’t help but notice that those who hadn’t come out of their compartments yet watched me closely as I passed. Glancing at some of their expressions, I saw awe, loathing, and indifference, to name a few. My apparent celebrity status held true.

We stepped out of the train. The cool, late summer night air washed over me, and I sighed in relief, only just realizing that my tie and ‘dress robes’ had made me feel hot and uncomfortable in the crowded locomotive. I instinctively unbuttoned my dress shirt once and loosened my tie slightly as I heard a booming voice shout, “Firs’ years! Firs’ years, over ‘ere!”

I looked down the sidewalk that led into a forest, surrounding us on all sides, a low grey brick wall separating us from it. A great brute of a man lumbered his way towards the crowd of mildly terrified first year students. He had a massive, scraggly brown beard that hung down his huge torso, and he wore a large, many-pocketed overcoat. Despite being no less than 11 feet tall, the older students around him looked up at him without fear. The same couldn’t be said for the younger, who were fixedly staring at his boots, which were the size of baby dolphins. One of the man’s hands - each the size of a garbage lid - was wrapped around the handle of an equally massive lamp that glowed a pale yellow.

“‘Ullo, little firsties. I’m Hagrid. I’ll be bringing yeh down to the boats this evening. Firs’ years, follow me!” The man’s beady eyes shining, he turned and stomped off, first years following with a mixture of fear and excitement.

As they left, the older students all moved into the forest, through a large gate. Carriages lined a wide dirt path, and pulling the carriages were black, skeletal horse-like creatures, batlike wings curled up to their sides. I shivered. They seemed to give off an unpleasant feeling of death. Seeing my concern, Neville approached me as the other students all began to pile onto the carriages, four or five to each. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who was uncomfortable; many other students seemed surprised to see the dark horses pulling them up the path.

“Thestrals.” Neville explained, leading me to a carriage. He climbed in, me and Ginny following suit.  We took a seat, and I looked warily at the creatures when one whinnied silently and tossed its head. “You can only see them if you’ve seen death, in person. Mostly every student who was at the Battle of Hogwarts last year is back again. They wanted to retake their seventh year; some complaint about having Death Eaters teach classes.”

Ginny smiled faintly, but she caught my eye and it dropped from her face. Death Eaters didn’t ring any bells either, but the name did seem a bit gloomy. The carriage abruptly started rolling, the thestrals pulling us up the path. Neville continued, “And since most of us were at the Battle, almost all of us have seen death - so this is their first time seeing them.”

The ride took ten minutes, weaving through the dark forest. Occasionally, I would hear a growl or howl or bark or chirp, and I would look nervously from side to side, but Neville laughed it off and told me not to worry, as the path was ‘warded’ - whatever that means. Finally, we pulled out of the forest and were able to look through the thick foliage.

Towering in front of us was a massive castle, looming hundreds of feet in the air. Though the night was dark, the moon shone brightly and cast magnificent shadows across the many parapets and towers of the stone structure. Tiny windows lining each tower glowed warmly, and owls circled as they pleased. Before us was a long stone bridge leading into a courtyard, which led into a massive set of open double doors. We hopped off the carriage and followed the crowd of excited students across the bridge and into the castle.

The inside was as impressive as its exterior. The doors opened up into a cathedral-sized room, four tables lining the inside vertically, with a horizontal table several feet higher than the rest. Hundreds of candles were magically suspended in the air above us, rising all the way to the ceiling. A lone chair stood in the middle in front of the head table, and a pointed black hat sat on a table beside it. Lined behind the head table sat a dozen or so strangely-dressed men and women alike, most looking to be well past their prime. The tall brute of a man was just taking his seat, and when he did so his stomach shook the entire table. At its center sat stern-looking older woman, a tired look on her face.

I followed Neville and Ginny and and we took our seats at a table where everyone else had the same red-gold colored lion badge on their robes. I assumed that signified these ‘houses’ that all the students were in, and saw that there were three others. Just as Neville turned to me to speak, someone sat down across from me, next to Ginny. He had every characteristic that the girl had, except he was tall and gangly. He grinned widely.

“How you doing there, mate?” He said, clapping me on the shoulder. I flinched, but he didn’t seem to notice and continued,  “Sorry, me and ‘Mione got caught up with a first year who got confused and followed everyone else up the trail. She’s trying to catch up with Hagrid, but she’ll be here soon.”

He chuckled to himself for a few moments, but when he saw the serious look on his friend’s faces and the worried one on mine, he stopped. “Did I miss something?”

Quickly and quietly (some other students who had been ogling me earlier seemed intent on listening in to our conversation), Neville explained to the boy what was going on. Ginny just watched me with a mixture of worry and sadness and a little bit of panic.

“What do you think, Ron?” Neville asked the redheaded boy, who was now scrutinizing me in a concerned fashion.

“Reckon it’s a Memory Charm.” Ron decided. From the way his sibling - or, at least I assumed they were related -  let out an exasperated sigh, she didn’t agree. Ron narrowed her eyes at her. “What do you think it was, Gin?”

“Not a Memory Charm.” Ginny said irritably. “No one else was with us in the compartment.”

“Could have just been hitting his head.” Neville said. “Maybe he’ll start recalling things once we’ve eaten. If not, we’ll talk to Madame Pomfrey.”

I awkwardly glanced around as the conversation about me continued. I noticed that the length of the tables didn’t seem very proportionate to the students - I posed this question to Neville. He seemed surprised that I noticed - I guess that this Harry he was used to wasn’t the most observant.

“Lots of kids were killed during the Battle of Hogwarts.” Neville said darkly. “And lots of the kids who weren’t were pulled out of Hogwarts by their parents - mostly Muggleborns. They didn’t want their child exposed to the dangers of the magical world, and I don’t blame them.”

The mood around the table got considerably more somber. Ginny looked to Ron. “What about Hermione, Ron? What do her parents think about this?”

Ron grew quiet and pink-faced as a brown-haired, pretty girl sat next to me. “‘Ullo, ‘Mione.” He said quietly. Neville fought off a smirk and Ginny just sighed. I could see why - the awkward tension was almost palpable between them.

“Hello, Ronald. Neville, Ginny, Harry.” She greeted each of us, setting down an old tome on the table. Although she used Ron’s full name, she said it with a strange fondness. The occupants of the table reciprocated the greeting with a few murmurs. “Where’s Luna?”

“Suspect she’s with the ‘Claws.” Ginny said, her sad mood still apparent. Hermione picked up on this, but before she could ask, the girl was quietly and tearfully reciting the story to the newcomer. Ginny’s voice was masked by the sound of the double doors being reopened, a lone teacher leading all of the first years through. Being the closest to the middle aisle, I turned and watched as they past. They were whispering amongst each other in fear and awe, pointing at the floating candles. Some of them saw me and gasped and pointed.

I jumped when I felt a hand on my arm. Hermione was watching my eyes with a deep concern. I suspect I must have been good friends with this girl before I forgot - well, everything.

“Harry, we’re going to get you sorted out.” She said confidently. Across the table, Ron was awkwardly comforting a tearful Ginny, and I felt a pang of guilt in my chest.

“Thanks.” I said weakly, but that sickly feeling in my chest stayed rooted where it was. I swallowed thickly, but it felt as though something were stuck in my throat. At that moment, a real feeling of unease settled on me, making my hair stand straight up on my arms. I shivered, and I could feel the color draining from my face. A strong sense of nostalgia suddenly appeared in my mind, and apprehension seized me just as the woman at the center of the head table stood and began to give a speech.

Those at the table noticed and were about to ask me if I was okay when I whispered, “Something’s wrong.”

With that, there was a sudden sound coming from the closed double doors; a loud, foreboding and resounding, boom.

The door shook, and the woman speaking faltered as all eyes turned on it.

Boom.

Blood began pounding in my ears, and I instinctively rose up, my friends doing so as well. I noticed that two dozen or so students about our age also stood as everyone else just watched.

Boom.

A single crack appeared in the middle of set of double doors.

Neville took action as the students sat in a fearful silence. “Hogwarts staff and Dumbledore’s Army! Front lines!” He screamed. A feeling of dread overtook me, but I automatically knew what to say.

“First through fourth years! Get to the back of the hall!” I roared. My friends all drew their wands. “Fifth and sixth years, protect them! Seventh years and Dumbledore’s Army, get your arses up and defend your school!”

My voice was still echoing when the students all began shouting at one another, following Neville and my orders. The teacher surged forward and my friends and I approached the door.

Boom.

In a space of thirty seconds, the first through fourth years were huddled in the far corner,  several lines of upper year students making a semi circle around them. I noticed with pride that some were levitating the head table to form a barricade around themselves. Not questioning exactly how I knew it, I drew my wand - which I hadn’t touched until then - from within my robes and pointed it at the table we’d sat at.

“Wingardium Leviosa!” I said, the words forming by themselves in my mouth. A tingling went down my arm and suddenly, the table was wobbling several feet above the ground, cups and books on top of it shaking and sliding. ‘Dumbledore's Army’, a phrase that I vaguely recognized, all followed suit; in seconds, with the teacher’s help, we had formed a barricade of table around the door, high enough for us to crouch behind and attack without being hit by whatever the intruders decided to throw at us. The woman who had been speaking touched my arm as we crouched down. I looked at her, and she said nothing, instead just giving me a determined look, and I nodded in unspoken agreement.

Boom.

Neville crouched next to me as we kneeled down behind the table barricade. The Great Hall grew deathly silent as splinters formed, as though it was being hit by a battering ram. He looked at me.

“Harry, do you remember how to - fight?” He asked, the first time today that he betrayed any nervousness. I exchanged a glance with him, and he let out a deep breath.

“Let’s hope you do.” He said simply. I shivered in anticipation and fear, but the presence of Ron, Hermione and Ginny next to me calmed me somewhat for inexplicable reasons. I gripped my wand harder and breathed deeply again as a long lull followed.

Then a final boom rang out, the doors collapsed in on themselves, splinters of wood flying. Several students screamed, and suddenly there were a couple dozen black-robed masked figures rushing into the Great Hall. In unison, we stood from the barriers and flashes of lights flew back and forth across the entryway. Words flew from my mouth in a steady stream, words that I had never heard before. From our side, the students screamed mostly, ‘Stupefy, reducto, and expelliarmus.’ From the opponent, we heard, ‘Cruciatus, sectumsempra, and avada kedavra.’

I was pulled down in the pandemonium by Neville as a green beam flew above me, almost touching by Deal Top"> my hair. He was breathing heavily. “Death Eaters!” He cried as a spell collided with the table in front of us. “I thought they were running from Aurors in France!”

“Shut up and fight!” I hissed, a sudden heroic feeling erupting in my chest. “Doesn’t matter who they are, they’re trying to kill us and we’re going to bloody well stop them.”

I stood and pointed my wand at the nearest target and bellowed, “Stupefy!”

A black-robed figure was thrown back several meters, I ducked a killing curse and I kept on firing. I heard a scream from my left, and saw that there was a pale Ron being cradled by a weeping Hermione just behind the barricade. My breath hitched, and for several moments I could only watch Ron’s mouth and unfocused eyes before a searing pain hit my shoulder, and I was tossed on the floor from the force of the spell. I growled and got up, grabbing Hermione by the shoulder and dragging her away from her nearly deceased friend. She screamed and kicked, and I cursed as I lost my grip. As my friends began to retreat around me, a Death Eater hopped the barricade and stalked towards the weak Ron and hysterical Hermione. The masked figure almost lazily fired off a green jet at the redhead, who slumped back lifelessly as Hermione stopped screaming, instead watching in horror at her now deceased friend. Anger blossoming in my chest, I growled my own curse and the man exploded into a mess of gore. I grabbed Hermione and pulled her back, this time meeting no resistance as she stared at a dead Ron and a pile of innards and blood

I then noticed the strategy we’d used. The headmistress had ordered us all to retreat to trick them into coming out in the open; now we had free range on the dozen or so Death Eaters still standing. Unfortunately, Hermione and I were caught in the middle.

The next few minutes were a blur. I stood over Hermione as I slashed and cursed and yelled and fought. I took several spells directly to my torso and I began bleeding heavily, fighting off the urge to faint. This paid off; within minutes, our strategy combined with our ferocity saw the last Death Eaters either dead or incapacitated. But there was no cheering when the last one had fallen.

The teachers surged forward towards the fallen students and faculty alike, saying healing spells and re-stupefying those Death Eaters who still had consciousness. I swayed lightly on my feet as the headmistress tended to Hermione and cast a calming spell on her. Neville limped towards me from behind and touched my shoulder.

“You alright, Harry?” Neville said. I turned and saw a gash on his head and his mutilated leg. But as I did, he looked down at the rest of my body and his eyes widened at the sight of my injuries. I grinned weakly at the situation before falling backwards, fatigue overcoming me.

Neville quickly knelt beside me, and Ginny appeared and knelt on my other side. I breathed out and blinked slowly as Ginny began to cry. I teared up just at the sight of her sadness and reached up, wiping some of her tears to the side of her face. I chuckled weakly, convulsions wracking my body as I did so.

“Well, I didn’t last very long.” I observed mildly. “I’ve only been your Harry for a few hours, and here we are.”

Ginny opened her mouth to laugh or smile or both, but instead sobs came forth.

“Don’t leave me like this. I can’t lose both you and Ron.” She whispered, her tears falling from her face to mine. “Please, please, please. You didn’t kill the snake-faced bastard to end up dying from a couple of bloody criminals. Don’t go.”

Oddly enough, I felt no pain as my vision began to turn black. Ginny opened her mouth again, but this time a horrible screeching sound erupted from her lips. After several seconds, she did it again. As I faded into darkness, I noticed that she sounded similar to a bird, or a . . .

With devastating force, my head slammed into something cold and hard.

My eyes flew open, and I cradled my head for several long moments before I looked to my left, silently cursing the bunk bed above me. My clock read 6:00 AM, and the alarm was blaring. I groaned and looked down. On my chest laid Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Light flooded my room as my mom poked her head in. She looked at the book and clicked her tongue. “Don’t be reading in the dark, you’ll get a headache. Get up and get ready for school. And haven’t you read that book already?”

Stepping in, she picked up my alarm clock and fiddled with it until it finally stopped blaring as i stared at the inside of my eyelids, wondering if the pain in my head would ever go away, mentally swearing at the bunk bed above me again. She continued, “Honestly, hurry up. You’re going to be tired if you keep reading at night. Weren’t you reading that book last week? You should really try reading new books . . .”

As she continued to ramble, I sighed and turned over on my stomach, letting the book fall off me. As I held my head tenderly, I squeezed my eyes shut and grumbled hopefully, “Silencio.”

Suddenly, my mother’s voice went quiet. I froze. Not daring to believe it, I rolled to face her only to find that she had left, leaving my list of chores to do before school on my nightstand. Once again, my head throbbed, and I cursed mothers, bunk beds and Harry Potter.
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