13: Another Horrid Halloween
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
NOTE NOTE NOTE: FFdotNet ate my last upload somehow. This is a re-upload.
Quick Author's Pre-Note: Back to this one again, I suppose! Sorry about the severe delay. In response, here's almost 11,000 words, more than usual!
Thanks again to my beta, working even through sickness on the other side of the world.
Harry and the Mysterious Curse of the Girl-Who-Lived
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: ANOTHER HORRID HALLOWEEN
Professor Lockhart looked around the room, nodding approvingly at the many copies of his books sitting on desks. "Excellent, excellent," he said and chuckled. "I see you lot have bought my set of books - well done, all of you. I hope you found them quite illuminating and educational. I've prepared a short little quiz - quite easy, mind you, just to see how well you've absorbed the material."
Harry raised an eyebrow, wondering about this, and Lockhart caught the small motion.
"Ah, Miss Potter." Lockhart looked almost nervous as he met eyes with Harry. "Did you have some confusion about the books?"
"Well," Harry said slowly. "I suppose I'm a bit confused about this quiz. Is it testing us on all the books?"
Lockhart nodded and smiled, although this particular smile was quite a bit smaller than his best efforts. "Naturally, my dear. It is my duty as an educator to properly assess the current capabilities of my students, isn't it?"
Hermione beamed at the Professor and nodded in agreement.
"Sure, that part makes sense," answered Harry. "But I thought the books were meant to cover all year - actually all the years, since you have the same books for every year. So I didn't even know which were specifically meant for our second year."
"I see," Lockhart replied in a worried tone, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "So you haven't read all of them?"
Harry shook his head.
The Professor turned his gaze to the room. "Class, has anyone else read all the books?"
Hermione instantly shot her hand up, but no one else did. The bushy-haired girl seemed shocked, and she looked over at Parvati. "You haven't read the books?"
Parvati looked a bit uncomfortable at the scrutiny, and tried to look at her and Lockhart at the same time. "I think I was thinking a bit more like Harriet. I've read two or three of the books over the last few months, but I didn't think to read all of them. I mean, I haven't read all of our other books either."
"I'm so sorry, Professor," Hermione proclaimed sadly. "I would have pushed them to read if I knew they were being so irresponsible." As she said this last part, she turned her glare on her friends.
Ron rolled his eyes and looked over at Neville to make a face, who seemed more taken aback by Hermione's vehemence than hurt by it.
"No, no, no," Lockhart held up a hand and then laughed softly. "My dear, what is your name?"
"Me?" Hermione suddenly began to tremble slightly. "Um, Granger, sir. Hermione Granger."
Lockhart laughed a bit loudly this time and shot Hermione a friendly wink. "No need for all that, Miss Hermione Granger. 'Professor' is certainly more than acceptable. But it seems to me that although you may have read ahead, perhaps Miss Potter has the right of it." He gave Harry a shrewd look. "Yes, although I may be a world-famous adventurer and best-selling author, I will admit that this is the first time I have taught. I'm happy to hear a little friendly feedback so I can properly teach the wonderful students of Hogwarts! In short time, I expect I'll be the finest teacher Hogwarts has ever seen!"
Harry nodded in approval. This seemed like the proper way to think about things, and if they could ensure Lockhart wasn't the sort of berk who couldn't teach at all, so much the better. It was far preferable to have a decent Professor, after all.
Lockhart patted the stack of unfilled quizzes on his desk. "Perhaps this will be better suited for the upper years. Although now that I think on it, part of the problem is lack of good Defense books. Merlin knows how frustrated I was at our ever changing parade of different Professors, each with their own idea on what the proper sort of textbook ought to be assigned."
"You had different Professors?" Parvati asked hesitantly.
"Oh yes indeed," replied the Professor with a rueful grin. He sighed dramatically. "It is a well known rumor that the position of the Defense has been cursed since old Professor Merrythought retired nearly forty years ago or so. Since then, not a single consecutive term has been held, although there have been a few repeated instructors here and there." Lockhart chuckled. "Nonsense, of course. As if an actual Hogwarts Professorial position could be affected by magic."
He looked over at the students, all of whom were paying close attention. Lockhart smiled happily, pleased to see the response. "Now, you will learn, my students, that although magic is capable of great and terrible things, even Magic has its limits. But here's a little secret for just you." The Professor looked around a bit surreptitiously, as if expecting someone to attack at any moment. "The key to success isn't power, it's ingenuity. Good old fashioned wizarding cleverness. You can overcome just about any obstacle by thinking about it the right way. In fact..."
Lockhart walked behind and his desk and picked up a covered cage. "I have a little surprise for our first class. Not too difficult, but not for the faint of heart either. As a Professor of Defense, it is my solemn duty to arm you against the foulest creatures in the world! Naturally, I'm not about to face you off against a nundu or a quintaped anytime soon, not that the Headmaster would likely allow such beasts in these walls. But remain calm, students... no harm shall befall you while I am here."
With a flourish, he whipped off the cloth to reveal a cage filled with tiny faeries colored an electric blue. As soon as the cloth had been removed, they began to chirp loudly and flying about the cage.
"Anybody recognize these little blighters?" Lockhart asked with a satisfied grin.
Hermione's hand shot up immediately, of course, although a few others also seemed to recognize the creatures.
"Um, yes, you there," Lockhart pointed at Seamus Finnegan. "You have an idea?"
"They're pixies, ain't they?" Seamus answered, leaning back in his chair. "Seen 'em before when we went on holiday to Devon few years back. Mum said they weren't dangerous but were a nuisance."
Lockhart chuckled and shook his head. "It is a dangerous thing to underestimate the dangers of the world, lad. They can be frighteningly strong at times, I can assure you. So the question becomes..." He put a hand near the cage door, causing the pixies to move about even more erratically. Lockhart glanced at Harry and seemed to be considering something. He chuckled once more and stood back.
"The question, students is simply this: How might you subdue these devilish little creatures? Any ideas? Yes, Miss Granger, right? What do you think?"
"Well," Hermione said slowly and a bit nervously. "Perhaps one could use one of those disorientation hexes to prevent them from flying. Legs-Locking or something like that."
"Not a bad start, not bad at all," beamed Lockhart. "Ten points to Gryffindor for the excellent reasoning. But what if it wasn't just one or two pixies, but a mess of them, like we have here? You'd be hard pressed to cast so many hexes, wouldn't you?"
Hermione frowned, tapping her desk with her quill as she did when she was thinking something through.
Harry raised a hand and the Professor nodded to him. "Maybe you could use something to blow a bunch away? Like a wind spell or something like that? Are there any spells to do that?"
Lockhart tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Interesting, interesting. I should point out, though, Miss Potter, that any sort of, well, elemental spell of that nature tends to be difficult for younger years. Its possible, though quite unlikely, that any second year could successfully cast such a spell." He looked over the class with a discerning sort of gaze. "Anyone else? Another idea?"
The class was silent for a minute, looking at each other.
"Wait, hold a moment," Ron said suddenly. "So there's a horde of 'em little blighters, right? There's a bunch of us too. What if each of us used an easy spell on a few of them. Divide it up, like."
"Ooh, I like it!" Lavender enthused. "But it'd have to be to be a fairly simple spell."
"What do you think Hermione?" Parvati asked.
"Hmm?" Hermione seemed a bit startled at the question. "Oh, well... now let me think. How about using the Freezing Charm?"
Neville frowned. "The Freezing Charm? But that's not really for living creatures, is it? It's like to prevent something from moving, right?"
"Ah, but wait," Hermione began to excitedly write out notes on her parchment. "Derigesce falls under that Scalable Charm class of spells, which means we ought to be able to modify the spell using a relevant post-fix. Like Maxime or Dilata. Right, Professor?"
Lockhart blinked, then nodded regally. "Why yes, Miss Granger, that sounds about right. Ten points to Gryffindor!"
Hermione beamed proudly.
"But..." The Professor waved a finger in warning. "Do you think you can pull it off?"
Harry raised a hand. "Can we practice a bit first?"
Lockhart laughed and then nodded in agreement. "I suppose there's no harm in it this time around. First class and all that, right?"
They spent the next few minutes practicing Hermione's modified spell, freezing rolling quills and ink-pots until each student managed it at least once.
"Are we sure about this?" Ron asked nervously. "What if it doesn't work on them?"
"It was your idea, Ron," Hermione pointed out.
"And your spell," Ron retorted.
"All right, all right," Harry said in annoyance. "Calm down, both of you. We don't want the Slytherins to beat our time, do we?"
"Our time?" Parvati looked over at Lockhart. "Professor, is there some sort of contest?"
Lockhart raised an eyebrow and then began to smile. "Yes, yes indeed! Although I'm a touch taken aback Miss Potter has figured it out so quickly. I have your fellow second years later today - do you fancy you can disable the pixies fastest in Hogwarts?"
"Of course," scoffed Ron. "We're not letting the Slytherins beat us!"
"Well, I don't know," Hermione worried. "The Ravenclaws might solve it quicker than us."
"Don't be silly," said Parvati with a sly look. "They'd spend most time reading how to do it and forget to just do something."
"And don't forget about the Hufflepuffs," Neville said thoughtfully. "They'd want to share all the credit with each other - spend so much time complimenting each other's technique they'd forget to do anything at all."
Ron laughed loudly. "That's mean, Neville!"
Neville shrugged. "I learn from the best."
"Thanks, Nev!" Ron said with a smile.
"Oh no, I meant Snape," Neville corrected him.
Hermione made a coughing sound, and looked like she was hiding a laugh.
"Anyway, I think we're ready," Harry said, knowing if he didn't jump in, this could go on for ages. "Professor, let out the pixies!"
Professor Lockhart walked a bit behind the cage and gestured to it. "Ready, everyone? Three... two... one! Have at them!" With a smooth motion, he unlocked the cage magically, and about two dozen electric blue pixies burst into the air with high-pitched screeches and shrieks.
"Okay!" Harry yelled. "Everyone do like we practiced. Derigesce Maxime!" His hex hit one of the pixies straight on, immobilizing it place before it fell to the ground.
Hermione eyed a few darting near her desk. "Right! Derigesce Maxime!" Shaken out of the sudden shock, the other Gryffindors burst into action, tossing their hexes into the air. The pixies darted in circles in the air, screeching loudly and trying to evade the sudden burst of spells. But after only several moments, all but one of the pixies had been immobilized and stuffed back into the cage. The remaining faerie sped around the room, dodging hexes from the Gryffindors before leaping through the window - but Neville's spell caught it at the moment, locking it in place before it fell.
Everyone rushed over to the window to see if the pixie had hit the ground. The pixie smacked into a wall with an impressive sound, which jarred it out of its cursed state. With ever fading screeching squeaks, the little pest flew off into the distance.
"Oops," said Neville belatedly. "Sorry for losing your pixie, Professor."
Lockhart laughed loudly in amusement. "Nonsense, Mister Longbottom! Ten points for excellent aim under difficult circumstances! Perhaps one fewer pixies will make it a tad easier for the other years, but I rather doubt they'll beat your excellent time."
"So what will we get if we do win?" Hermione asked excitedly.
"You mean when we win," Parvati said in a dramatically arrogant tone.
Ron laughed. "That's the spirit, innit?"
"Whoever does the best at the end of the day will get a few bonus points," Lockhart told them. "Hardly sporting if we don't even allow them a chance, is it?"
Harry nodded and grinned at his friends. It seemed fair enough.
"I'll see you guys at lunch," Harry said as they left the classroom. "I just need to run to the lavatory."
"Need some company?" Parvati asked with a knowing smile. "Or would you prefer to be by yourself like usual?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "We don't need to go over that again. Just don't let Ron eat everything."
"Hasn't happened yet!" Ron proclaimed cheerily.
"But the closest lavatory is... well, you know," said Lavender in a worried tone. "Occupied."
"Huh?" Neville looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"Never you mind, Neville," Hermione instructed firmly. "It's not important."
"Right," Harry said with a nod and raced off, calling back over his shoulder. "See you in a bit!"
Later, Harry was washing up when he heard a familiar sob.
"How have you been?" Harry asked the hovering translucent girl. Myrtle tended to haunt this particular bathroom with frequent disturbing moans and cries, leaving it ideal for Harry - as more often than not, no one else was there. And Myrtle really wasn't so bad once you got past her thin, easily shattered emotional barriers. Although there was the gossip to contend with... but Harry had developed a foolproof way of handling this: pretending he was listening.
"Oh, I'm miserable as per usual!" Myrtle said with a grin, then she looked around surreptitiously. "But I've heard all sorts of rumors about you lately. Murdering a Professor last term! Building some crazy harem of boys and girls! But a harem that excludes the Slytherins!"
"A what?" This wasn't the typical sort of gossip Myrtle delighted in sharing, which tended to be how terrible other girls were looking or what terrible things they were saying to and about each other. To Harry, it was all a bit boring, but this talk of murdering a Professor...
Harry shook his head and sighed. "Listen, Myrtle, I didn't murder anyone. Professor Quirrell was possessed by Volo... You-Know-Who, and we had a bit of a scuffle. When You-Know-Who ran away, she killed Quirrell, not me."
If anything, Myrtle seemed even more keen at this clarification. "Really? That's almost as good as some of the stories I've heard! And what about your snubbing of the Slytherins? Pansy, Daphne, and Tracey all were complaining you had left them out of your secret group because you hated Slytherins and were totally jealous of them!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Are those Slytherin girls? I don't even really know them - I think I recognize Pansy's name, but I don't even remember the other two. Short girls, right? Sort of plain?"
Myrtle giggled. "Oh, the very plainest, Harriet. And sometimes they throw things at me to shut me up, the beasts!"
"Well, that just goes to show you we did right leaving them out," Harry said with a smirk. "Although to be honest, I didn't intentionally try to exclude them... really, I just don't know them. Hard to shun someone if you forget they exist."
The ghost let out a shriek of laughter. "Brilliant, Harriet! I'll be sure to pass that message along!"
Harry frowned - that sounded like it might lead to problems down the road. But then again, perhaps not. "Do you talk much with any of the girls, Myrtle?"
"Not really," Myrtle shook her head. "Nobody cares about poor Myrtle." Her eyes began to brim with tears.
"Don't say that," Harry said in exasperation. "Obviously I do - wouldn't be talking to you otherwise, right?"
Myrtle gave him a watery smile. "Thank you, Harriet! You're the nicest girl I've ever met in all my time at Hogwarts. Even more than the girls back before I died." She scowled. "Actually, especially more than those bints. Tarts and scarlet women, the lot of them. At least some girls these days pretend not to hate you before talking about you behind their backs."
"I'd never do that," insisted Harry honestly.
"Oh, I know you don't, Harriet," Myrtle agreed. "But back when I was still alive, girls didn't even bother with that. Just insulted me to my face."
Harry made a sound of annoyance and shook his head. "Awful." He looked up at the ghost and thought for a second. "You know," he said in realization. "I don't think you've ever really spoken about your life before... you know, before..."
"I died?" Myrtle asked with relish.
Harry couldn't help but chuckle a bit at that. "Exactly. Would it be weird if I asked, you know... how it happened?"
Myrtle seemed surprised and flattered. "You want to know how I died? I don't think I've ever been asked that before. Not since right after, anyway." She grinned at Harry. "I can tell you exactly what happened, if you aren't too scared!"
"I supposedly murdered someone last year," Harry pointed out. "I think I can handle it."
Myrtle nodded with a smile. "Good point. But there's not much to tell, really. I was here in the washroom, crying in my stall after that horrid Olive Hornby teased me about my glasses."
Harry scoffed. "Ridiculous. Spectacles are great. Couldn't see a lick without them."
"Well, you look so pretty with them," Myrtle said warmly. "Not like me, I was often teased by girls for wearing glasses."
"You look fine," Harry said, used to complimenting Myrtle. "I've often said so."
Myrtle beamed. "Thanks! Anyway, back to the chilling mystery of my death! I was in the stall, crying like always, when I heard somebody come in. It was a boy, speaking something in a foreign language. Well, crying or no, I wasn't about to let that go, so I unlocked the door, to tell him to go and use his own toilet, and then —" Myrtle swelled importantly, her face shining. "I died."
"How?" said Harry.
"No idea," said Myrtle in hushed tones. "I just remember seeing a pair of great, big, yellow eyes. My whole body sort of seized up, and then I was floating away…" She looked dreamily at Harry. "And then I came back again. I was determined to haunt Olive Hornby, you see. Oh, she was sorry she'd ever laughed at my glasses."
Harry chuckled despite himself. "Sounds like she deserved it."
Myrtle joined in with her own shrill laughter. "Oh, she quite certainly did!"
"I gotta grab some lunch," Harry told Myrtle suddenly, feeling his stomach grumble a bit. "But I'll see you later, right?"
"Bye Harriet!" Myrtle waved, and then floated back into her usual stall.
Harry raced off down the halls to the main hall, where it seemed all the students were finishing up their meals.
"Harriet, that took forever!" Parvati said worriedly. "Is everything... okay?"
"Yes, yes," he replied, reaching past her and grabbing a few rolls to stuff in his mouth. He chewed quickly before swallowing and cleared his throat. "Just ran into Myrtle, that's all."
"Oh dear," Lavender bit her lip. "Did Moaning Myrtle try to scare you?"
"Eh?" Ron perked up from his somehow still full plate of food. "Who's this Moaning Myrtle?"
Harry scowled. "I've told you, that's not a nice name. Myrtle's all right."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harriet, it never ceases to amaze me how you can befriend even the most difficult people."
"Like you?" Parvati quipped.
Hermione glared at her. "That's enough out of you!"
"But who is Moaning..." Ron glanced at Harry. "I mean, Myrtle. Who is she?"
Harry nodded in approval, leaving Ron to grin triumphantly and elbow Neville, who was reading a Potions book.
"What?" Neville asked crossly. "Potions is hard enough as it is without you constantly being such a... Ron!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron asked in a wounded tone. "Being a Ron is a great thing!"
Down the table, the sound of laughing could be heard, and Ron glared at his older brothers. "Shut it, you two! Stop being such... Fred and Georges!" He nodded and nudged Neville again. "Right, Nev?"
"I'm leaving," Neville said in exasperation. "Otherwise I might blow up another potion, and I'd rather not Snape murder me this term, if you don't mind." He got up and stormed away from the table.
"Neville!" Ron seemed shocked. He looked back at the table. "He left some food."
"Don't you dare eat that!" Lavender instructed him harshly. "That's foul!"
"But it'd just go to waste otherwise," Ron whined.
"How much time do we have before next class?" Harry asked, stealing Parvati's cup of pumpkin juice.
Parvati clucked her tongue in mock disapproval. "That's disgusting, Harriet. Although I suppose you did that sometimes back at home, too."
"We have twenty-five minutes," Hermione informed Harry, rolling her eyes.
Harry nodded to her. "Thanks. That leaves me enough time to go say hi to Luna. Haven't spoken to her since before the Sorting. Be back in a bit."
"Say hi to Padma for me," Parvati instructed. "I haven't spoken to her in a day or so. And maybe even pass on a message from Hermione."
Hermione winced. "Um, no, that's not necessary. Don't worry about me."
Harry yawned a bit then nodded. "Right, message received. Hi and not hi it is." He walked over to the Ravenclaw table, which was still mostly full, heading near to where Luna was sitting.
Luna spotted him as he walked over and waved. "Hi, Not-Harriet! I didn't forget you aren't a girl!"
"Glad to hear it," Harry told her with a grin. "Hello, Padma," he said to the twin sitting nearby engrossed in a book while still eating..
"What was that?" Padma asked with a blank look.
"Just saying hello. Oh, and Parvati says hi. You guys should probably speak soon."
Padma blinked. "Very well."
"How's Hogwarts going?" Harry asked Luna, not really expecting much more from Padma.
"Oh, Hogwarts is great!" Luna beamed. "I'm learning all sorts of things."
The sound of a throat clearing caught Harry's attention, and he turned to see a girl looking crossly at him. It was someone in his year, he knew that... but he couldn't quite recall her name.
"Yes? Did you want something?" Harry asked politely.
The girl scowled. "Don't give us that nonsense. What are you doing away from your table?"
"I was just talking to my friends, if you don't mind," Harry said, getting a bit annoyed at the girl's confrontational tone.
"You can't do that," the girl told him. "It's against the rules."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm sure that's not right. Padma, you know the rules of Hogwarts, right?"
"Yesh," Padma said with her mouth full of something, then she swallowed audibly.
Harry asked. "Is going to other House tables not allowed?"
"The only rule that might imply something like that is the one that says that each House is assigned its own table," Padma recited while dabbing her mouth with a napkin. "There is nothing explicitly stated about co-mingling or visiting other tables. I would expect it's more practice than a legitimate rule."
"There you go," Harry gave the now quite furious girl a triumphant look. "So kindly mind your own business."
"Just because you're bloody Harriet Potter you think you can do whatever you want." She gestured at the girl sitting next to her, another one in their year. "Lisa, why aren't you supporting me on this?"
Lisa looked back and forth between the girl and Harry. "Mandy, it's not a big deal. No need to yell about it."
"I'm not yelling," Mandy hissed. "You always say that. And maybe I think there is a need to yell about it."
Harry took a deep breath to calm himself. "So I don't think we've been formally introduced. I'm Harry Potter, although I expect you may have already known that."
"Um, I'm Lisa Turpin," Lisa said, looking nervously at Mandy. "This is Mandy Brocklehurst."
"Stop that, Lisa!" Mandy spat angrily. "Don't play her stupid games. I don't know her motive is for supposedly befriending Padma and Lovegood, but it's certainly not actually friendship."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry asked, now getting quite mad, but managing to keep from shouting. "Padma and Luna are my friends. I'm sorry that's too difficult for you to understand. I thought Ravenclaws were supposed to be smart." He turned to Luna. "Have these two been bothering you or Padma?" Although Harry was pretty sure Padma wouldn't care, Luna was a different story.
Luna seemed taken aback at the question. "Why, no, I wouldn't say that. They say mean things, but most people do."
"What do you mean 'most people do'?" Harry found himself clenching his fist without realizing it, and forced himself to calm down... slightly.
Mandy made a scoffing sound. "Listen to this preachy condescension! First Padma, now Looney Lovegood. Harriet Potter, Defender of the Daft!"
"Don't you call her that!" Harry hissed. "Her name is Luna. Maybe I should call you Manly Brocklehurst since you look like a boy."
Mandy threw her drink at Harry, catching him in the face. "You bloody tart!"
Lisa paled, looking mortified.
"Well, this has been fun," Harry said, his face dripping with pumpkin juice. "Padma, nice seeing you. I'm sure we'll talk more at the next study group. And Luna, let me know if anyone is misbehaving." He looked pointedly at the first-year girls sitting next to them, who all looked they were desperately trying to not pay attention. "Or better yet, tell a prefect too."
"I hate you!" Mandy said, her face red. "You are the worst." She jumped up from the table and stormed off.
Lisa smiled shakily at Harry and jumping out her seat, running to catch up to her friend.
"Studying will be fun," Padma said, closing the book she had been reading and getting up from the table. "Is Anthony also coming to the next session?"
Luna handed Harry a napkin, which he used to clean his face. "Thanks, Luna. And I don't know. Anthony, are you?" He addressed this to the Ravenclaw boy who seemed even more mortified than Lisa had been.
"Um, sure, I wouldn't mind," he said, glancing at Padma. "But maybe not every time."
"That's fine," Harry assured him. "It can get a bit crowded sometimes, after all. See you soon, then." He walked back to the Gryffindor table in as dignified a manner as he could manage.
"What was that all about?" Parvati asked, biting her lower lip. "I was about to come over there when Mandy and Lisa ran off. What were you arguing about?"
"It's not a big deal," Harry said dismissively. "That Mandy just has some odd problems. She's clearly angry at the world. I just don't want her to be mean to Padma or Luna."
Parvati scowled. "What did that little girl say?"
"Wait, who was mean again?" Ron asked. "Who were those girls that ran off?"
"Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst," Lavender told him. "But was Lisa being mean too?"
Harry shook his head. "No, she seemed rather embarrassed by Mandy's stupid awfulness. As well she should've."
"Oh dear," Hermione said worriedly, biting on her finger in a nervous fidget. "I hate the idea of all this unpleasantness. It reminds me of... well, you know."
"How you were last year?" Parvati asked knowingly.
"Exactly," Hermione replied with a frown. "We're almost teenagers. We should be more mature about such things."
Professor McGonagall had walked over while they were talking, looking quite cross indeed. "Miss Potter, what in the world was all that about?"
Harry sighed. "Just a few people unable to believe I might have friends in Ravenclaw."
McGonagall frowned. "That seems difficult to believe as the lone cause. Why did Miss Brocklehurst throw pumpkin juice at you? I can assure you, Professor Flitwick will be speaking to her about it as well."
Harry rubbed his head, feeling a headache about to come on. "She used a very mean name for Luna. And Padma too, now that I think about it."
"What did she bloody say?" Parvati asked angrily.
"Miss Patil!" McGonagall scolded. "Watch that language. And Miss Potter, what exactly was said? And I will know if you aren't telling me everything."
"She called Luna 'Looney'," Harry explained, still feeling mad about it. "And something about being 'Defender of the Daft'."
"Why that..." Parvati stopped and glanced at Professor McGonagall. "That... girl."
McGonagall looked distressed. "It seems acrimony is sometimes unavoidable, I'm afraid. I'll speak to Filius and we'll deal with this - but please do not retaliate in any way. It is admirable to stand up for your friends, of course, but we can't have fighting in Hogwarts. People get hurt, Miss Potter, as you know."
"I know," Harry grumbled and collapsed on the bench, feeling tired all of a sudden. "I just don't like bullies."
The Professor had an odd glint in her eye. "Well, then, I think ten points to Gryffindor for not retaliating in kind. Do not make me regret that decision."
Harry shook his head. "I won't. I don't start trouble... it just comes looking for me, that's all."
McGonagall sighed then checked her watch. "You had better pack yourselves up. It's time for your next class."
The Gryffindors quietly gathered up their things and walked to the classroom. All the while, Harry was quiet, just thinking about nothing much at all. But somehow deep in thought, nonetheless.
The next few days went by in a blur, with Harry only talking when necessary and feeling slightly off center. The argument with the Ravenclaws left him feeling out of sorts - like he wasn't sure he was handling everything well. The study group met once with Padma and Anthony, and the chatter was enough so that Harry didn't think he needed to contribute anything. Until he was directly asked a question.
"Is that all right with you Harriet?" Lavender asked.
"Eh?" Harry sat up, having not really been paying attention.
"She asked if you wanted to visit Hagrid on Saturday," Parvati said, looking concerned. "Are you okay, Harriet? You haven't really seemed yourself lately."
Harry shook himself. "No, no, I'm fine. Just dealing with being back at Hogwarts, homework and all that. But, um, yeah. It'll be nice to see Hagrid."
Padma nodded eagerly. "I can't wait. Have you spoken to Hagrid yet, Anthony?"
The Ravenclaw boy seemed a bit taken aback at Padma's sudden but expected enthusiasm. "Oh, no I haven't. Isn't he the gamekeeper?"
"Yes," Hermione said with an arch look. "But he's also our friend and a wonderful person - if a bit naive at times."
Anthony chuckled. "I can understand that, certainly. Naivete has its charms and unique appeal, doesn't it?"
"Certainly," Hermione agreed with a raised eyebrow. "But there's something to be said about rationality and logic in the face of nonsensical circumstances."
"Makes a great deal of sense to me," Anthony said with a smile.
"Enough," Ron groaned. "If it isn't debates about nothing, it's nothing about nothing."
Lavender giggled. "That doesn't make sense."
"Well I'm not in Ravenclaw, am I?" Ron teased.
Anthony laughed. "That's probably a good thing. You'd hate it."
"Oh I don't doubt it," Ron agreed with a nod. "Ravenclaw is for crazy brains. No offense."
"None taken," Anthony shrugged. "I fancy myself as a bit of a crazy brain. Although I often wonder why Hermione wasn't placed in Ravenclaw."
"Simple," Harry put in with a small yawn. "She's a brain, but not a crazy brain."
Hermione giggled through her hand. "No need for that, Harriet. You know, the Sorting Hat actually said I'd do well in Ravenclaw."
Ron blinked in surprise. "Really? What happened?"
Hermione shrugged. "I told it I wanted to go to Gryffindor and it did what I asked."
"Can you do that?" Lavender wondered.
"That's the same thing that happened to me," Harry told them. "For the most part."
"You were almost in Ravenclaw?" Anthony asked curiously. "You don't really seem the type, either. No offense."
Harry laughed. "None taken either. It actually said I could do well in any of the houses, even Slytherin."
"No!" Ron gasped in horror so loudly Neville began to laugh.
"Calm down," Harry glared at them. "I said I couldn't be in the same house as Malfoy. The Hat agreed."
Parvati nodded with a grin. "Makes perfect sense to me!"
"Harriet!" A sudden shout made them all turn to see Oliver Wood, the Quidditch captain. He was then instantly hushed by Madam Pince, and bowed in apology.
Pince looked at him suspiciously and went back to her desk.
"Sorry about that," Oliver said at a more reasonable volume. "Harriet, I was told you were probably down here. I needed to tell you about Quidditch practice - we're starting Saturday morning, right after breakfast! We need to ensure a victory this year, don't we? Keep up the streak, right?"
Harry looked at his friends. "You think we can visit Hagrid after I'm done?"
"That's fine," Parvati said quickly before a suddenly annoyed looking Padma could say anything. "Can we watch the practice?"
"Sure," Wood said with a smile, then he glanced at Padma and Anthony. "Wait... you two are Ravenclaws, aren't you? Well you can't come."
"Oliver, don't be ridiculous," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "It's not like they're spies. And Padma doesn't like the Ravenclaw team, anyway."
"Really?" Oliver asked her suspiciously.
Padma nodded. "Yes, the Ravenclaws are mostly useless. The only exceptions are Anthony and Luna Lovegood, but neither of them are on the team."
"Well, okay..." Oliver said slowly. "I suppose we won't do any of her super secret stuff until later." He looked meaningfully at Harry. "Right, Harriet?"
"Yes, yes," Harry said, seeing Ron's questioning look and shaking his head. "I won't share the secret of how to win at Quidditch."
"All right then!" Oliver beamed. "See you Saturday!" He began to whistle as he left, and seemed to miss Madam Pince hushing him again before he exited the library.
Lavender giggled. "Super secret stuff?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Don't ask."
Sure enough, come Saturday morning, Oliver Wood stood, tapping his foot impatiently, while everyone else finished breakfast.
"You need to calm down, Ollie," Fred said sagely. "And have you even eaten anything? You were standing there like that when we came down."
"I was first down of anyone - except Oliver was here, not eating," Katie Bell snickered. "I don't know how he does it."
Oliver rolled his eyes. "Why am I surrounded by such irresponsible... what's the word again?"
"Gadabouts?" Hermione offered. "Or maybe layabouts?"
"I like both of those!" Oliver said with a grin. "So stop lazing about like gady-layabouts and meet me at the pitch when you've finished stuffing your clearly already filled mouths." He stomped off from the table without even a look back.
Fred sighed and shook his head. "That poor boy will never grow up big and strong at this rate."
"It's a shame," George agreed. "He could beat Hagrid with just a simple daily meal or two."
"I think we had better go," Harry said, getting up from the table. "Oliver might go spare out there if we don't start practicing."
"Bu' you wo' las' year," Ron pointed out through a mouthful of food.
Lavender smacked him on the back of the head. "Don't talk with your mouth full!"
"I suppose you can't be too careful." Harry said, and turned to his other teammates. "You guys coming?"
"Yes, I suppose we had better," Angelina replied with a groan.
"We'll meet you out there," Parvati promised with a smile. "It'll be fun to watch the practice."
"More fun for you, I think," Harry mumbled to himself.
A sudden high-pitched voice startled him. "Hey, are you guys going to play Quidditch?" It was Colin, the small, excited boy. "Can I watch?"
"I suppose," Harry said slowly. He looked around the table and frowned. "Say, where's Ginny? I'm surprised she's missing breakfast."
Colin shrugged. "Want me to go look for her, Harriet? I can do that! Although I would like to watch you play so much!"
"It's not really a game," Neville told him. "Just practice. You'll have plenty of time to watch the team throughout the year."
"Okay!" Colin agreed with a happy nod. "I'll go find Ginny then! See you later, Harriet!"
Harry sighed and mouthed "Thank you" at Neville, who grinned knowingly.
The team practiced for several hours, led by a determined Oliver Wood - planning to keep his perfect captaining record a solid streak. Harry's friends yelled out both insults and cheers in sequence, including one from Ron that almost sent Harry off his broom in laughter. But about an hour before they were scheduled to stop, there was quite an unpleasant surprise indeed.
"What in Merlin's filthy underthings?" Fred looked down in annoyance. "Is that the Slytherin team?"
Oliver Wood's face contorted in fury. "We still have the pitch for another hour! Are they here to spy on us? Or worse, sabotage us?" He sped down in a flash, straight for the Slytherin Quidditch team.
"We had better go after him," Angelina said with a sigh. The other girls nodded in agreement.
"Good point," George said. "We should back up Ollie so he doesn't do something stupid. We still need him for the Keeper position." He flew down and the rest of the team followed past.
Oliver was already yelling at a very smug looking Slytherin team, and Harry's friends had come down from the stands at the commotion.
"Calm down!" Hermione hissed loudly. "Do you want to get in trouble?"
"Listen, I don't expect civilians to understand," Oliver told her. "These fools think they have the pitch now. We are scheduled until noon. That is not up for debate."
"This little paper says otherwise," Marcus Flint, the bulky captain of the Slytherin team, was holding a piece of parchment with a sort of sneering grin. He smacked the paper into Wood's chest fairly hard, although Oliver seemed more concerned about the note, which he scanned quickly. His face began to form into a snarl.
"This is nonsense," the Gryffindor Keeper said, throwing the paper on the ground. "Special dispensation by Professor Snape so you can train your new Seeker? Ridiculous!"
"Wait a minute!" Ron said, narrowing his eyes and pointing into the Slytherin group. "What's Malfoy doing here?"
Harry began to laugh. "Come now, you can't seriously be expecting us to fall for that one. Nice try, Flint."
Flint's mouth quirked up a bit and he grunted. "Not a joke, Potter. Malfoy is quite the skilled Seeker. And besides, his father made a most generous gift to the team." He made a gesture and each member of the team pulled out a new broom emblazoned with the words Nimbus Two Thousand and One. "Quite impressive, aren't they? Rather outstrips your own by more than a bit - puts it completely to shame."
"Oh, I get it," Harry said with a grin. He winked at Flint very obviously, making sure Malfoy could see him. "Very clever of you. How very Slytherin indeed. Well, I'll leave you to 'practice' - you'll assuredly need it if you want to stand a chance."
"What are you babbling about?" Malfoy snarled, his face pale with anger. "Are you saying I'm not good?"
"Well it is rather obvious," Parvati put in with a smile of her own. "Though I can't say I'm surprised you haven't spotted it."
Malfoy looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Spotted what?"
But Parvati just shook her head, and sighed, looking at Flint, who seemed to be in some sort discomfort, considering how he was clenching his lips closed. "Seems they let anyone into Slytherin these days," she said. And then Ron burst into laughter.
"I get it now!" he crowed triumphantly. "Malfoy, you git. You're not even good enough for the Slytherin team."
"Careful now," Flint said softly. "Don't want to be saying something you can't take back."
Malfoy glared at his team captain. "What are you trying to say, Flint?"
Flint's eyes glinted dangerously. "Watch your mouth, Malfoy. Or it'll take far more than brooms to pay for it."
"When I tell my father about this," Malfoy threatened the much larger Slytherin student.
"Enough!" Flint said vehemently and turned to Wood. "You had the pitch already for most of the morning. You really think one measly more hour will keep you from losing this year?"
Oliver's eyes narrowed and he grunted. "Fine," he spat. "We'll go. Good luck with your precious brooms and your adorable new Seeker. Hope his bloody hair doesn't get out of sorts from all that wind." Without waiting for a reply, he turned and stormed off to the changing rooms.
Harry turned to his friends and shrugged with a weak smile. "All right, I'll meet you guys where we planned." He looked meaningfully at the Slytherins, whom had already started to set up, looking like they were pretending they were the only ones there.
"Right," Parvati agreed with a nod. "See you there."
When Harry arrived at Hagrid's hut a little while later after getting cleaned up and being forced to listen to Oliver rant for several minutes rabidly about "those sneaky slimy snakes!", he was ready for a little bit of peace and quiet. And hopefully no dragons this time.
"Yer bein' silly," Hagrid was saying as Harry walked through the open door. "Eh? Oh, hallo there Harriet. Good ter see yeh. Got some fudge an' tea waitin' for yeh."
"It'f weally chewy," Ron said, working his jaw quite vigorously.
"I'll just take some tea for now then," Harry said with a small smile, wedging himself between Parvati and Neville. The hut was fairly crowded, but it wasn't so bad. "Now what's this about being silly?"
"It's not really that important," Hermione said dismissively with a wave of unconcern. "Padma's being ridiculous again. And Hagrid doesn't like Professor Lockhart for some reason."
"Yeh don' need ter go that far," Hagrid mumbled into his tea. "He just keeps tellin' me things I already know. Or he gets it wrong and tells me some Leprechaun gold about how I'm gettin' it backwards." The large caretaker shook his head. "No point in arguin' abou' it, I say. Dumbledore hired him, s'pose he can' be all that bad."
"So have you met the new Ravenclaw in the group?" Harry asked, gesturing at Anthony, who was standing next to Hermione and Padma instead of sitting squashed between them. Perhaps that might've been a wiser choice, but Harry thought it'd be rude to stand up now.
"Sure, sure," said Hagrid with a great grin. "I've seen all of yeh come in last year, of course. Plus I knew yer parents a bit, not that well, mind yeh, but I remember 'em. Smart kids, bit shy though."
"That doesn't surprise me," mumbled Anthony.
"Anyway, it's gettin' a bit stuffed in here," Hagrid looked around with a nod. "I wanted ter show yeh lot somethin' outside." After a bit of careful maneuvering, the group made their way outside to see the patch of pumpkins Hagrid had been growing for Halloween. Most were quite simply enormous, far bigger than any Harry had ever seen in the Muggle world.
"These are huge, Hagrid!" Harry exclaimed. "Are these some sort of magical pumpkins? Or did you use some sort of magical dirt?"
Hagrid chuckled nervously and scratched the back of his head. "Sure, sure, somethin' like that."
Hermione inspected the pumpkins carefully and turned to Hagrid with a small smile on her face. "It looks more like the work on an Engorgement Charm. Expertly performed, as well."
"Brilliant!" Padma enthused, poking at a pumpkin. "Are you going to turn them into an enormous, monstrous pumpkin headed beast?"
Hagrid rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Now there's an idea. Can' say as I don' like it, though I'm no' sure how it could be done."
"Oh, Hagrid," Parvati shook her head, although she was clearly hiding a smile. "We had a monster at Halloween last year - the troll, remember? Do we really need another one?"
"Yes!" Padma said with the slightest touch of anger. "Why are you always hexing down my ideas? Anthony agrees with me, don't you?"
"Um, well," Anthony stammered a bit nervously. "Maybe it'd be better suited as a project for next Halloween. Only two months left this year until the holiday, after all."
"There you are, Padma," Hermione said. "A quite decent compromise, isn't it? Normal pumpkins this year, horrific violations of magic and morality next year."
Padma sighed. "Fine, I suppose that makes just a small amount of sense."
For a little while, the group stood around outside Hagrid's, just chatting mildly. Of course, a concerned Ron suddenly informed them that they hadn't eaten lunch yet. So they bid farewell to Hagrid and headed back to Hogwarts. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful; even Hermione admitted there wasn't enough classwork yet to require a session of their study group.
Soon enough, it was time for bed, and after a quick change by himself in the washroom, Harry slipped readily under the covers. Parvati and Lavender had already fallen soundly asleep, although Hermione was reading a book to help her relax, as per usual.
But just as Harry was beginning to slip into blissful slumber, he heard something pierce his ears, a voice of coldness and venomous all the same.
"Let me find you... Let me rip you... Let me kill you... I will find you. I always find you..."
Harry shot up in bed. "What?" he screamed. "What was that?"
Parvati and Lavender looked up, startled awake.
"Harriet, what's wrong?" Hermione asked, not yet asleep herself.
"Didn't you hear that?" Harry demanded. "That voice?"
"What voice?" Lavender asked blearily. "I heard you scream, but that's all."
"I didn't hear anything," Hermione informed him. "And I wasn't even asleep."
"But..." Harry stopped and tried to listen for the voice again... but nothing could be heard. "I know I heard something. A horrid voice, saying it wants to kill someone."
"Was it You-Know-Who?" Lavender clutched her pillow fearfully.
Parvati walked out of her bed and walked over to Harry, putting an arm around him. "It's okay, Harriet," she soothed, patting him on the shoulder. "Do you think maybe it was a nightmare?"
"Um, I don't think so," Harry said slowly, a bit taken aback at the physical contact. "I'm sure I heard it - I don't think I had fallen asleep yet."
"Are you sure?" Hermione asked skeptically. "It's hard to know when one has crossed the boundary into dreaming."
"Well, I suppose it's possible I dreamed it," Harry allowed. "But it seemed so real. So cold and angry."
Parvati hugged Harry. "I think it was just a nightmare, Harriet. But if you hear it again while you're awake, and not snoozing in History class, let us know. It'll be okay." She smiled at him. "Are you going to be okay sleeping by yourself?"
"Yes, yes," Harry said quickly. It didn't seem appropriate for him to be in the same bed as a girl his own age. "I'm fine by myself - favor it, actually. No offense, just how I prefer things."
Parvati nodded and squeezed his shoulder, then slid off the bed and went back to her own. "In that case," she said with a yawn. "I say we all just get some sleep. As Hermione is surely aching to say, we do have class tomorrow morning."
Hermione glared at her roommate. "Stop that." Then she snickered. "Although you're actually precisely right."
Harry sighed. "Okay, okay. I am pretty tired, anyway." Although Harry kept his attention on the sounds as he began to asleep, he heard nothing else, and slipped completely into a deep sleep.
The rest of the month sped by in a fairly consistent manner to the prior year, with the only significant change that Anthony often joined their study groups. Lockhart continued to teach in his odd but innovative style, always helping the class in coming up with their own solutions to battle various Dark creatures. The other classwork was just a bit harder than the first year's, but it wasn't anything too difficult - although several professors promised that would change soon enough.
It was in the middle of October when a typical study session was interrupted by an unexpected, but familiar face.
"Hullo everyone!" It was Susan Bones, the friendly Hufflepuff girl their year. After that first bizarre Herbology lesson, the Hufflepuffs had been nothing been friendly, and Harry had almost forgotten all about their odd overtures.
Parvati perked up and waved. "Hi Susan! What are you doing here?"
Hermione rolled her eyes for some reason, but Susan seemed not to see it.
"Oh, do you remember when we were talking about your study group a few weeks ago?"
"Do I?" Parvati exclaimed just loudly enough for Pince not to hear her. "Of course! Are you saying you want to try studying with us?"
Huffing a bit, Hermione rolled her eyes again.
Susan jumped up and down a bit. "Ooh, I would love too. Harriet, is that okay with you?"
"Um," Harry looked over the rest of the group. Ron had a suspicious look on his face while Lavender seemed quite bored, and Neville looked like he was refusing to listen to them at all. Odd.
"Well, I don't mind," said Harry carefully. "We do get a bit crowded here, but if it's okay with everyone else..."
"Of course it is," insisted Parvati, glaring at everyone else.
"Pff..." Lavender scoffed. "I suppose so. Maybe just this once."
Harry blinked in surprise at this uncharacteristic unpleasantness.
"Yes, I agree with Lavender," Ron said, still looking bizarrely annoyed. "Just this once."
Neville grunted. "Just leave me out of this."
"What's going on here?" Harry asked in confusion. "Why are you all acting so strangely?" He turned to Susan. "Sorry, I'm not sure why they're acting so... weird."
"Oh, don't worry about it," Susan said hurriedly. "Maybe another time."
Parvati cleared her throat. "Nonsense. Everyone is perfectly okay with it, aren't you everyone?" The other Gryffindors made various sounds of agreement, although not exactly very pleasant ones.
"I do not care at all," Padma said with a very bored tone. "Just don't be too stultifying if you don't mind."
For his part, Anthony just shrugged with a confused smile.
"Great!" Susan said, and pulled up a chair next to Harry. She smiled at him. "So what are you studying?"
"Potions review," Hermione said immediately, then blinked as if this answer had surprised her. She shook her head. "Sorry, but yes that's what we've been reviewing."
For the rest of their study session, things proceeded fairly typically, with Susan trying to interject when appropriate. She seemed to Harry almost desperate for his approval, although he couldn't be sure. But of course, Harry didn't dislike the girl at all, and she seemed pleasant enough - he just couldn't figure out what she seemed to want.
The next study group was just the core group again, although Harry wouldn't have particularly minded someone else... although nine people was a bit much even in the Hogwarts library. At one point, Harry asked Parvati why the other Gryffindors had been kind of mean to Susan.
"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing at all," Parvati had said dismissively. "Susan's a lovely girl, don't you think? Bright, but not too bright, if you follow me."
"I guess," Harry had replied, although he didn't get it at all. But in the scheme of things, it wasn't such a big deal. And so life continued without any additional Hufflepuffs, although Harry wondered if Susan would ever return. But considering how rude most of his friends had been, he wouldn't blame the Hufflepuff for not trying again.
Before he knew it, October had sped by and Halloween had arrived. Considering the exciting troll drama of their first year, everyone wondered how this year could possibly top a vicious monster attack.
"I say, it'll be two trolls," Ron insisted as they all walked to the Halloween feast.
Neville snorted. "You're limiting your imagination quite a bit, aren't you? Why not three trolls?"
"Why not indeed?" Ron proclaimed pompously.
Lavender burst into giggles. "I don't think we'll be attacked - I think someone will prank the Slytherin's hair to a different color, like Gryffindor red!"
"That's silly and barely a prank at all," Hermione scoffed. "If I was pranking the Slytherins..." She stopped as everyone looked at her.
"Go on," Parvati encouraged with a bright smile.
"Never mind," Hermione grumbled.
Harry shook his head and clucked his tongue. "You'll never be the Prank Queen of Hogwarts with that attitude, Hermione."
Hermione bit her lip and shook her finger at Harry, looking as if she was trying not to laugh.
But as they sat down and enjoyed a delicious Hogwarts repast, it seemed nothing out of the ordinary would occur. Eventually, Harry finished his food first and stood.
"I think I'll go visit our Ravenclaw gang. Probably Luna too. Anyone interested?"
"Sure," Parvati said. "I'm basically done, anyway."
"Not me," Lavender said. "I haven't even had dessert yet."
"That's the spirit!" Ron grinned cheerily.
"I suppose I'll come as well," Hermione said slowly, getting up as well. "Perhaps I can prevent you from getting into another fight with Mandy Brocklehurst."
"You can try," Harry said in an overly serious tone. "But some things are just meant to be."
Hermione rolled her eyes but still smiled at the silly antics.
At the Ravenclaw table, Luna was sitting next to Padma, who was sitting across from Anthony. Mandy and Lisa were nearby, and Mandy stiffened when she was the Gryffindors walking over. She glanced over at a Ravenclaw prefect and frowned deeply.
"Hold on, hold on," Harry said, raising up his hands. "I'm not here for anything nutty. Just talking to some friends."
"That's nice, Not-Harriet!" Luna beamed. "I have a napkin ready for when Mandy throws pumpkin juice at you again." She waved a clean napkin like a small flag.
Mandy groaned. "Morgana..."
"So how's Hogwarts as a first year?" Parvati asked quickly to Luna. "Making lots of friends?"
"Not really," Luna answered with a smile. "But I've kept the friends I had before Hogwarts!"
Hermione frowned and looked over at Mandy, who glared back at her. "Has anything... oddhappened lately, Luna?"
Luna tapped her chin thoughtfully for a moment. "I don't think so," she said finally. "Although the Nargles have been around lately - they've stolen my socks again."
"What are Nargles?" Parvati asked curiously.
"Don't encourage her," Mandy hissed. "You all act so high and mighty, like you actually can stand her. All this talk of rackspluts and nergals. Nonsense!"
"What?" Harry blinked in confusion. "I thought they were called Nargles."
"They are," Padma informed him. "Mandy is mispronouncing the creature's names due to her inferior memory skills and crippled capabilities of general retention."
"Hey! You don't need to insult her," Lisa Turpin said with a frown.
Padma blinked and looked confused. "I wasn't being insulting. I was being honest."
"It's not honest to call Mandy stupid," Lisa seethed.
Mandy snorted. "Don't bother, Lisa. It'll never penetrate that thick skull of hers."
Padma turned to Harriet with a look of mild exasperation "Do you see how all the Ravenclaws make no sense at all? My skull is entirely within the standard bounds of deviation."
Anthony cleared his throat. "That's not entirely fair."
"Oh, I meant the Ravenclaw girls," Padma clarified. "But other than you, the boys as well."
"Stop that!" Mandy said angrily, her face starting to turn red. "Stop it right now!"
"Um, Harriet," Hermione tugged on Harry's sleeve. "Perhaps we ought to head back to our table. You'll have time to talk to Luna later."
"Hmm," Harry grunted. "I suppose."
"I'll keep the napkin safe for you, Not-Harriet," Luna said cheerfully.
"What is she even saying?" Mandy muttered.
But as they walked back to Gryffindor table, each of them with a frown on their face... Harry heard it.
"… rip… tear… kill…"
It was the same voice, the same cold, murderous voice he had heard weeks earlier.
Harry stumbled a bit, and stopped short, looking around wildly. He listened with his all of might for anything else.
"Harriet, what is it?" Parvati said in concern. "Are you -"
Harry held up a hand. "Hold on. It's that voice again — shut up a minute —"
"… soo hungry… for so long…"
"Listen!" said Harry urgently, and Parvati and Hermione froze, watching him.
"… kill… time to kill…"
The voice was growing fainter. Harry was sure it was moving away — moving downward - or maybe upward? What could it be? Was it some sort of ghost?
"This way," he shouted, and he began to run out of the entrance hall and up the marble staircase to the first floor. Parvati was close behind him, and Hermione was just a bit further, having grabbed their other Gryffindor friends.
Harry stopped short and looked around.
"Where... are we going?" Parvati panted as she leaned against a wall.
Ron walked over, looking very confused. "Harriet, what're we —"
"SHH!" Harry put a finger on his lips and Harry strained his ears. Distantly, from the floor above, and growing fainter still, he heard the voice: "… I smell blood… I SMELL BLOOD!"
His stomach lurched —
"It's going to kill someone!" he shouted and bolted again.
"What's going to kill what?" Ron yelled as they ran after Harry again, but Harry ignored them as he ran completely around the second floor until he reached a deserted passage.
"Harriet, what was that all about?" said Ron, wiping sweat off his face. "I couldn't hear anything…"
"Did you say you heard a voice?" Parvati asked in concern. "The same one you thought was a dream? I didn't hear anything... maybe a faint whistling, I suppose."
But Hermione gave a sudden gasp, pointing down the corridor.
Something was shining on the wall ahead. They approached slowly, squinting through the darkness. Foot-high words had been daubed on the wall between two windows, shimmering in the light cast by the flaming torches.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.
ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE
Lavender shrieked. "What is that?" She pointed at a bizarre, frozen figure standing in a puddle of water.
"Oh no, oh no!" Parvati screeched. "That's Filch! Is he dead?"
By now, the other Hogwarts students had come, following the commotion. The passageway began to crowd quickly, as everyone pushed to get a better view at the caretaker, who looked completely stiff with an expression of horror on his face.
And then someone began to laugh and then a shout rang out through the crowd. "Enemies of Heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!" It was Malfoy, who pushed his way to the front of the students. He sneered at the Gryffindors.
"Watch your bloody mouth, Malfoy!" Ron shouted. "Don't you dare say that!"
"Say what, Weasley?" Malfoy said languidly. "Mmm... mudbloods?" He drew out the word for a few seconds.
Ron moved to jump forward, but Neville grabbed him before anything could happen.
"What was that word?" Harry whispered to Parvati. "I don't remember what it means."
Parvati's lips tightened and she looked quite furious. "It's an awful word, Harriet. I'll explain later."
"Would you two stop your nattering?" Malfoy said with another sneer. He snorted at Neville holding Ron. "And look at you two... Ridiculous. But maybe it won't just be the Mudbloods. After all, Filch was first - a Squib! That means you're next Longbottom! You can finally go to St. Mungo's for a family reunion!"
Suddenly there was a loud crack, and Malfoy was on the ground, holding a bloody nose. Neville stood over him, looking extremely angry.
"Way to go Neville!" Ron said vehemently as Crabbe and Goyle came forward, brandishing their enormous fists.
"What is going on here?" It was Professor Dumbledore, so everything quickly settled down. He looked at the still form of Filch and his eyes became quite worried. He walked over to the still figure of Filch and pulled out his wand, carefully scrutinizing the caretaker.
McGonagall and several other teachers arrived then. "Albus? What is all the commotion?"
Dumbledore frowned. "Prefects, please escort students to your Houses immediately. Further instructions will follow as soon as the staff finishes discussions. Go on then! Everyone, now!"
The crowd dispersed slowly, although a palpable sense of curiosity was in the air.
"I don't understand," Hermione said worriedly. "What happened?"
Parvati shook her head. "I don't know. I suppose McGonagall will tell us later. Hopefully."
"But what was that word Malfoy used again?" Harry blinked as he remembered something. "I think Dumbledore told me it was a very offensive word for muggleborns."
Ron scowled. "It's about the worst thing you can call them," he said. Then he grinned and patted Neville on the back. "But I have to say, I did quite enjoy seeing Neville break Malfoy's nose."
Lavender laughed. "That's a silver lining if I've ever heard one."
Inside the Gryffindor Common Room, everyone waited impatiently for any word from the Professors. Finally, McGonagall arrived, looking quite exhausted.
"All right, is everyone present?" She asked a nearby prefect, who nodded. "Good. This is going to be a simple explanation. I'll answer what questions I can. Mr. Filch is not dead, but he was petrified with an unknown spell. We are still investigating the cause, and I am sure we will figure it out quite soon. Luckily, Professor Sprout has been growing mandrakes, as many of you know, which can be used in a restorative potion. In a few weeks, Filch will be completely recovered."
"A shame," Ron muttered.
"Watch your mouth, Mr. Weasley!" McGonagall snapped. "This is serious business. There will be no changes in any standard practices - you will all attend classes as normal. Detention goes on if already assigned, all homework due, and so on. Are there any questions?"
Instantly the students began to barrage the Professor with questions, and the room began to get into a bit of an uproar.
Suddenly Harry realized he was too tired to deal with the hassle and slipped quietly up the stairs to his room. But there was a surprise waiting for him - Dobby the house elf was sitting on his bed, looking very worried.
"Harriet Potter!" Dobby burst into tears. "Oh, Harriet Potter is safe! Dobby was so worried."
"Dobby..." Harry blinked his eyes and then shook his head to clear the cobwebs. "Okay, well I guess I'm glad you're here. Is this attack on Filch related to the danger you warned me about?"
Dobby winced and smacked his head against the wall.
"Stop!" Harry shouted and then sighed. "Okay, let me think for a second."
"Harriet Potter is still in danger," Dobby said sadly. "She should leave Hogwarts."
"I can't do that," Harry told the house-elf, shaking his head. "Besides all my friends are here. Are they in danger too?"
Dobby his his face and whimpered.
"Dobby, I need your help," Harry pleaded. "Think about what's already happened!"
The house elf twitched and he seemed about to burst into tears.
Harry sighed. "Okay, okay, I get it Dobby. But how about this: just keep an eye on things and if you need to give me or my friends a warning, just tell us somehow - in a way that isn't disobeying your Masters."
Dobby looked up. "Dobby will try," he said slowly. "It will be hard, but Dobby will try his best. Please, Harriet Potter, be careful!"
"I will, I promise," Harry told him sincerely, entirely meaning it. "Now, you probably should head home before anyone noticed, right?"
"Harriet Potter is correct," Dobby said with a small smile. "Dobby is glad Harriet is so smart. Dobby must go - be safe Harriet Potter!" He waved a finger at Harry and then vanished.
Harry collapsed on his bed and sighed. "Great. Just great."
Next time, a mystery and another mystery.
"That's gotta be it!" Ron said angrily. "It's gotta be Sirius Black!"
"Um," Harry began slowly. "Who's Sirius Black again?"
Author's Post Note: I just want to say thank you to everyone who's still keeping up with this story, even through the long delay. I hadn't forgotten about it, but you know how things go sometimes. I'm always grateful when people enjoy my stories, so thanks again.