Rita's big scoop in the Daily Prophet causes trouble.
She was about halfway through her opening paragraph when a very familiar black owl landed on her table. ‘Today keeps getting better and better,’ she thought to herself, as she untied the note from the owl’s outstretched leg. The now familiar, loopy, handwriting was clearly visible on the front of the envelope.
With a smile, she tore open the note from her anonymous source and began to read. When she finished memorizing the note, it burst into flames. All of her attempts to save prior notes had ended with them destroying themselves in some fashion as well.
Quickly grabbing her cloak, quill, and notepad, she rushed out of her house and Apparated to Hogsmeade. She took shelter behind a building and when she was sure that no one was watching, she transformed into her Animagus form.
The tiny water beetle made its way to the Great Lake next to Hogwarts unnoticed. When she reached the shore, she settled onto a branch to wait.
Her source said that something big was going to happen down by the shore in the early afternoon. After waiting for fifteen minutes, she saw the Headmaster heading towards the shore with a worried look upon his face.
She flew down to the water’s edge and landed on a rock near Albus Dumbledore so she could hear what was going on.
Dumbledore bent down and to Rita’s surprise, he stuck his head in the water. A few seconds later, he stood back up and dried his face and beard with a casual flick of his wand. He appeared to be waiting for something.
A moment later the water rippled and four merpeople surfaced a few feet from shore with something floating in between them.
There was a flash of a spell from Dumbledore’s wand and then he spoke, “Greetings, Elder. Thank you for coming to the surface.” He said politely before continuing to speak. “One of your people mentioned that you had some grave news for me?”
The Elder looked up at Dumbledore before speaking in a solemn voice, “We have risked, and lost, too much Dumbledore.”
With a small hand gesture, she waved the two guards that were each holding something forward.
When they reached the water’s edge, they removed the cloth that was covering their bundles.
If Rita had been able to scream, her shriek would have sounded up at the castle. Floating between the two mermen was a body, a body in two separate pieces.
Dumbledore peered down at the body over his half-moon spectacles. ‘A Severing Charm,’ he thought as he examined the wounds. After a few moments, he asked the Elder, “What happened?”
The Elder turned to the guard on her left and waved him forward so that he could speak.
There was a frightened look in his eyes as he moved forward to speak to the wizard on the shore. He was understandably wary after what he had witnessed down in the lake. Being around someone that could end his life with a thought and a flick of a wand was not a pleasant experience.
His voice had a raspy quality to it as he spoke. “The smallest boy arrived just after the hour mark and we had already moved the girl from the dais and into a hut. He blew open the door and demanded that she be released. I wanted to let him take the girl and leave, but my partner refused.”
His gaze shifted to the Elder for a moment, when she nodded to him, he continued speaking; “The boy slashed his wand once, and before my partner could move, he was cut in half.”
The look on Dumbledore’s face was one of regret and resignation. He bowed his head to the Elder and said, “I apologize for your loss. Young though he is; Mr. Potter has a certain disregard for life if he feels threatened. Is there anything that I can do to help his family?” Dumbledore indicated to the deceased merman with a casual wave of his hand.
The Elder knew that there was more to this entire situation than Dumbledore was revealing to her. Deciding that her people’s best interest was putting this mess to rest quickly, she replied, “No thank you. The village will manage, we always do. Thank you for your time.” Before Dumbledore could reply, she gestured to her guards and they all disappeared beneath the surface of the water, eager to put as much distance as possible between them and the games that the land-walkers were playing.
Stepping back from the water’s edge, Dumbledore sighed and wearily said, “Where did I fail you Harry?”
Rita watched, transfixed, as Dumbledore conversed with the Elder. She couldn’t believe her ears! The Boy-Who-Lived had killed a merman when he tried to retrieve his hostage late. This was such a huge event that she couldn’t wait to get the story to the Prophet.
When Dumbledore turned to go up to the castle, Rita flew from her spot as quickly as she could. As soon as she reached the edge of the wards, she transformed and Apparated back to house so that she could write down everything that she had just witnessed.
While Rita was franticly writing her articles, Dumbledore was relaxing in his high backed chair. He was congratulating himself for a job well done. His plan to use Rita Skeeter to drive Harry back under his influence was proceeding as he had figured.
Rita was so predictable and Dumbledore was using her to get what he wanted. Now, he had to find a way to bring Remus and Sirius back into the fold. Popping a lemon drop into his mouth, he leaned back in his chair and began thinking up ways to bring them under his control.
Harry and Hermione were reluctant to part when it was time for bed. Their emotions were still a bit raw but the day’s events. Their time away from Hogwarts had done a lot to help them along, but only time would truly heal their wounds.
They awoke the next morning after a fitful nights sleep. They stayed noticeably closer than usual during their walk to the Great Hall for breakfast.
Just as they were sitting down to eat; the post owls began delivering the mail and the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.
A feeling of dread welled up in Harry when the students all around him began to murmur, some even had the audacity to point. With trepidation, Harry reached over and pulled a copy of the Prophet towards him.
The headline and accompanying picture that greeted him was enough to make him want to bang his head on the table in frustration.
There, above his picture, were the words ‘The-Boy-Who-Kills.’ The first words out of Harry’s mouth upon reading the headline were, “Oh, bugger.” Glancing over at Hermione, he said quietly, “We have to get out of here,” when she did not move right away he grabbed her hand and said, “Now.”
They left the Great Hall quickly. People were openly pointing, and gossiping, about them now. Just as they reached the doors, they heard someone shout out “We don’t want any murderers in our school.”
Hermione cringed when she heard what the person had shouted at Harry. She had felt him flinch at the parting accusation.
They reached their spot down by the lake and Harry threw up Silencing and Notice-Me-Not Charms as a precaution. Too angry and upset to think rationally, he took to pacing around the garden.
Hermione was thinking furiously. She knew that Remus wouldn’t tell anyone about what had happened down in the lake. That left on y one person alive that had witnessed the events, the other Mermish guard. The question was how had Rita Skeeter found out about him?
The only, and very disturbing, answer that she could come up with was that Dumbledore had somehow talked to the merpeople and spoken with the guard. The fact that he told Rita worried, and puzzled, Hermione.
Standing up, she walked over to Harry and pulled him into a hug. While she was holding him, she whispered, “It will be okay. You were protecting me.”
“I know. I’m just upset that people will think of me as a murderer. What if the ministry agrees and tries to arrest me?” He asked worriedly.
“Well, one thing about the Wizarding world’s views on non-humans is that they aren’t considered worthy of having rights.” she said bitterly before continuing in a harsh tone. “I mean, look at the way my parent’s wishes were ignored and I was placed into the lake?”
“I know, and that bothers me too, but it still worries me because so many people don’t see a problem with that belief.” He sighed in frustration before speaking again, “If it weren’t for you, I would probably do my best to disappear forever from the Wizarding world, consequences be damned.”
“Me too.” she agreed softly. “If I wouldn’t miss using magic so much, I mean. What about going to a different school or something next year?”
Harry drew in a sharp breath; this was something that he had been considering for a while now. He was just a little reluctant to broach the subject because he knew how much Hermione loved learning about magic, and if he really thought about it, he was the same way. “I would miss Hogwarts terribly. This was the first place that I can remember ever being happy.” he whispered.
“I know. It’s just a thought, but it is something that we should at least discuss with my parents, Sirius, and Remus when the year is out. You can’t say that Hogwarts has provided us with the best educational experience possible.” Hermione said slowly, as if she was trying to convince herself of the truth of her statement at the same time.
Harry paused for a moment, lost in thought, before he replied, “I know what you mean. One teacher tried to kill me in my first year and in my second, another tried to wipe my mind clear.”
Their current issues with the headmaster and a good portion of his staff really didn’t lend themselves to returning to Hogwarts for their OWL year but neither of them wanted to voice that opinion just yet. However, they were both thinking about it.
Changing the subject to one that was just as uncomfortable, Hermione said, “What really bothers me is that Dumbledore found out what happened in the lake somehow and let Rita Skeeter know too.”
Harry’s face took on a truly horrible countenance as he thought through the ramifications of what Hermione had just said. His mind had been turning over the article in his subconscious while they were talking and he knew, without a doubt, that Hermione was correct. His voice was full of loathing as he practically spat out, “What is he playing at? Did I do something to deserve all of this?”
Hermione clung to him tighter as she felt his anger burst through their bond. She tried to pour feelings of serenity back to him, but because she was just as angry as he was at the situation, it was almost impossible for her to do so. The anger lacing her voice as she spoke was frightening, “If I ever find out how that horrible woman is getting those stories, I will make her pay.”
“Thanks. The same goes for me too.” Harry said as hatred burned in him towards that miserable shrew, Rita Skeeter. Her antics were quickly launching her to the top of the list that he had been compiling of the people that needed to be taught a lesson, or two, or three, in humility.
Harry and Hermione spent the rest of the morning outside, talking about the pros and cons of Hogwarts. By lunchtime, they had quite the list on both sides of the issue.
Feeling that they were not going to make any more headway without talking to the adults, Hermione stood up and pulled Harry to his feet. “Why don’t we eat in the kitchens?”
“Sounds good to me. We could eat with Dobby and Winky too.” Keeping an arm around Hermione, he guided them up to the castle and towards the kitchens.
They had just rounded the corner to head down towards the kitchens when a spell hit Harry from behind, knocking him down. Since he was unprepared for the assault, he didn’t have time to break his fall. There was a loud cracking noise and pain flared in Harry’s right wrist.
Hissing in discomfort, he pushed himself up to a sitting position in time to watch Hermione turning her wand on his attacker.
Hermione had been quietly contemplating what they were going to do about the situation in school when she felt something hit Harry. She spun around in time to see Pansy Parkinson putting her wand back into her robes.
Through the bond, there was a flash of pain and anger, followed by resignation, as if he had accepted the situation as normal. A rage began to burn in Hermione, white hot in its fury, and it needed an outlet.
She gave it one a few seconds later.
Pansy saw the look upon Granger’s face and began to pull her wand back out of her robes. Before her wand could clear her sleeve, she saw the tip of Granger’s wand glow for a second before her world exploded in pain.
Hermione stabbed her wand at Pansy, hot fury over-charging her spell. The Bone Breaking Hex connected with Pansy’s leg with a sickening snap that led to a shriek of pain from the foolish Slytherin student.
Sweeping her steely gaze across the remainder of the assembled crowd, Hermione snapped, “Does anyone else want to take a shot at us?”
Receiving no response, she turned to check on Harry, only to find him already standing off to the side and with his wand pointed directly at the gathered crowd.
Pansy’s shrieks had drawn the attention of a passing professor, one Severus Snape. He stepped into the midst of the chaos and surveyed the scene. Potter and Granger both had their wands drawn and pointing at the group of students surrounding Pansy Parkinson.
Looking directly at Harry and Hermione he said “Wands away. Turning to face the group by Pansy, he said, “What is going on here?” He casually waved his wand and conjured bandages that wrapped themselves around Pansy’s injured leg.
When no one felt brave enough to answer, Snape turned his attention back to Potter and Granger. “Detention tonight, for fighting in the halls and twenty points from Gryffindor.”
Before Snape could continue with his tirade against them, Hermione turned away from him and said to Harry, “Let’s get you up to the Hospital Wing. I’m sure that your wrist is broken.”
Angrily, Snape said, “Where do you think that you are going? Twenty more points for walking away from a teacher. Now get back here.”
“Hermione replied in a voice that was calm and collected, “No. Please feel free to have Professor McGonagall meet us in the Hospital Wing since you don’t seem inclined to provide Harry with any medical care.”
Harry noticed that Professor Snape was having a very hard time controlling his temper. Deciding to see if he could take advantage of the situation, he asked, “Are you going to take any points and assign a detention to Parkinson for attacking me from behind?”
When he finished speaking, he looked directly into Professor Snape’s eyes. He knew that if Snape were a Legilimens, this would be a temptation that he could not pass up. There gazes locked, and after a couple of seconds, Harry felt the probe begin. ‘Gotcha!’ he thought happily before pulling his wand and shouting, “Get out of my mind you Greasy Git!”
His voice low, and dangerous, Severus said, “Detention, Potter. Be in my office at seven tonight.”
Politely, Harry replied, “No thank you, sir. I’m afraid that I’ll be unavailable this evening.”
Students were openly gaping at the scene unfolding in front of them. No one had ever stood up to Professor Snape before. Their mutterings was getting louder as they whispered back and forth to each other about what Harry had meant about Professor Snape reading his mind and his rejection of reporting to detention.
Deciding that discretion was the best tactic right now, Harry said, “If you will excuse me, I really need to get my wrist fixed. Perhaps you should send Parkinson up to see Madam Pomfrey too. It looks like she passed out from the pain. It’s not good to deny students proper medical attention.”
Snape was seeing red by this point. He had just been played, by Potter no less, he was sure of it. “You two will report to the Headmaster’s Office as soon as your arm is fixed. Take Parkinson up to the Hospital Wing with you.” He spun around and headed off towards the Headmaster’s Office in a towering temper.
“Come on, Harry. I’ll bring the pug.” Hermione said as she levitated Pansy in front of them.
They both knew hat the entire school would know of both encounters by dinnertime.
When they reached the Hospital Wing, Madam Pomfrey was nowhere in sight. ‘How backwards are these people?’ Hermione fumed angrily to herself. Seeing the portrait watching them again, she walked over to it and said, “Go fetch Madam Pomfrey. Harry Potter is injured and needs assistance.”
Without a word, the portrait walked out of the frame, leaving it empty, to find Madam Pomfrey.
Turning to Harry, Hermione said, “Watch that painting and the door please. I would like a quick word with our friend here.”
Harry nodded and leaned his back against the empty canvas, effectively blocking its view of the room, and kept his eyes on the door. He stretched his senses out to their maximum to warn him if someone was coming and wondered what Hermione had in store for the Parkinson bint.
Hermione Ennervated Pansy, after taking her wand, and quickly clamped her hand over the girl’s mouth. The fear in Pansy’s eyes gave Hermione a bit of a rush. She leaned in and whispered in a harsh tone, “If you so much as look at either of us again, I will make this broken leg seem like a vacation.” Not seeing the response that she was looking for, she grabbed Pansy’s broken leg with her other hand, and squeezed as hard as she could, before hissing, “Do you understand?” Pansy’s muffled squeals were like music to her ears.
Pansy nodded her head in agreement, willing to do almost anything to make the pain stop.
“Good.” Hermione stepped back and stunned the pathetic girl in front of her.
Harry had watched the scene with a sense of pride. He thought to himself ‘Was this how Hermione felt when I took out Malfoy?’ He stepped over to her and said. “Thanks you. You were brilliant.” Tilting his head slightly to the side, he focused on something far away and said, “Someone is coming.”
The return of the portrait to its frame preceded Madam Pomfrey’s arrival. In an officious voice, the portrait said, “She should be here in a moment.”
When the matron finally arrived, she was a bit more businesslike in her treatment of Harry than usual. Harry knew that this was because of the article in the Prophet, but it still hurt.
When she was finished fixing Harry’s arm, she asked, “What happened to Miss Parkinson?”
Hermione looked into Madam Pomfrey’s eyes and said, “She picked on the wrong person.”
There gazes locked for a second but Madam Pomfrey did not seem to want to ask who Miss Parkinson had picked on.
“Thank you for fixing my arm, Madam Pomfrey.” Harry said sincerely before they turned to leave.
“You’re welcome, Mr. Potter. Do try to be more careful in the future.” As she was mending Pansy’s broken leg, she wondered what Miss Granger had meant when she said that Miss Parkinson had ‘picked on the wrong person.’ She decided that she would find out what happened when the girl awoke in a couple of hours. She busied herself tidying up the Hospital Wing until her puttering interrupted when two students came in seeking medical care, causing her to forget her plans.
As Harry and Hermione were making their way to Professor McGonagall’s office, Harry asked her, “Do you know how the second task finished?”
Surprised by his question, Hermione said, “Oh. Yes, I do. Parvati and Lavender filled me in last night before bed. Viktor finished first in just under one hour and received forty-eight points. Cedric came in next just over the one-hour mark and earned forty-five points. Fleur retrieved her hostage but was waylaid by the Grindylows and had to be rescued. She received 25 points. You received thirty points for making it back late with me.”
“So, I’m in third place then?”
Yes, just above Fleur. Krum is in first, followed closely by Cedric.”
Harry said quietly, “I’m just happy that you are okay and that I’m still alive. I could care less about the points, but I think that I wouldn’t mind winning this blasted tournament if I can. That would really tick whoever put my name into the Goblet of Fire if I did that.”
They finally arrived, and knocked on Professor McGonagall’s office door. When they heard their head of house call out, “Enter.” They stepped into the room to ask her to attend the meeting with Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor Snape.