Demons of the Past
The gleaming red steam engine released hisses of billowing hot vapour as students and parents clamoured and thronged on platform nine and three quarters. Mrs Weasley had given all of her children hugs and kisses - including Harry and Hermione whom she was very fond of - and was now passing out sandwiches for the long train-ride to Hogwarts.
Harry flinched when Mr Weasley touched his arm and guided him gently to a nearby pillar.
“Harry...” said Mr Weasley quietly as he glanced around to make sure nobody could hear, “I need to tell you something before you go...”
“Er... it’s alright Mr Weasley,” said Harry. “Minister Fudge already told me about Sirius Black - that he’s out to get me...”
“Really?” Mr Weasley looked stunned, he hadn’t expected that.
“Yeah! That’s why he emancipated me...”
“He did...?” gasped Mr Weasley.
“Er... yeah!” Harry nodded. “He did it so that I don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with the Ministry if I have to use a bit of magic outside of school to protect myself.”
“My goodness!” said Mr Weasley, still looking quite bewildered. “Well... I suppose - after the business with the Basilisk and the Philosopher’s Stone - he must have realised that you’re made of stronger stuff...”
“Arthur - the train...” Mrs Weasley called out.
“Just a moment Molly dear,” Mr Weasley replied before returning to Harry in even more hushed tones. “Harry... I don’t have time to explain - and it’s not really my place... maybe Dumbledore - If Fudge thinks you’re man enough to look after yourself that’s one thing, but be careful... please don’t go looking for Black yourself!”
“What?” Harry stared in shock. “Why would I...?”
A loud whistle echoed across the platform as the engine began to chuff and clank, wheels screeching. Mrs Weasley called out again. Harry peered at Mr Weasley questioningly, but all Mr Weasley had to offer was an anxious expression. Harry didn’t have time to wheedle any more information out of Ron’s father. In exasperation he ran for it and leapt up to the open door of the carriage as Ron and Hermione reached out to haul him aboard.
“Well that was weird...” Harry gasped at Ron. “Your dad... er... maybe we should talk in private.”
Ron nodded and the three of them managed to find an empty compartment further down the narrow passageway as the train pulled out of the station. Harry told Hermione and Ron what Ron’s father had said and they both appeared to be as bewildered as he was.
“Honestly Harry,” said Ron. “I don’t know what my dad’s on about!”
“I wonder why he’d think you’d go looking for someone who's trying to kill you?” said Hermione, frowning pensively.
“There’s more to this...” Harry muttered. “Fudge said more or less the same thing about it not really being his place to tell me everything. I think Dumbledore knows too. Fudge and Ron’s dad both seemed to think he might tell me.”
“Oh... well that’s alright then isn’t it!?” Ron shrugged dismissively. “What’s to worry about then? Dumbledore’ll tell you...”
“Yeah... I suppose he will,” said Harry, nodding stiffly at Ron. “I’ll just ask him about it later then. Forget about it Ron!” Harry concluded with a slight frown.
“Anyway, at least you’ll be able to go to Hogsmeade.” Ron’s features brightened as he changed the subject. “Now that you’re emancipated I mean - you won’t even need a note from your guardians.”
“Don’t be silly Ron!” Hermione snapped crossly, having noticed Ron’s dismissiveness of Harry’s worry. “Of course Harry could go if he wanted to - but there’s a maniac after him! He’s much safer at school...” she glanced at Harry, discerning an ambivalent expression on his face.
“...er... you don’t really want to go, do you Harry?” said Hermione, suddenly anxious. “I mean I know you do... but you told Fudge...”
A battle was going on in Harry’s mind. He really did want to go to Hogsmeade. Ron had told him all of the good things he’d heard about Hogsmeade from his brothers last night. And there would be loads of wizards there, so he should be safer than in Muggle London. But somehow Harry didn’t think that a mass-murderer who had killed over a dozen people, and who had escaped from a wizard prison, would really be put off by a village full of wizards.
Harry looked back and forth between Ron’s eager face, and Hermione’s worried one. Suddenly the proverbial light clicked on in Harry’s head.
“I don’t want to go if Hermione can’t go...” said Harry.
Harry clapped his hand to his mouth, horror-stricken when he realised what he’d just said. He peered apologetically at Hermione who was looking crestfallen.
“Whaddya mean Hermione can’t go?” asked Ron, utterly flabbergasted.
“My... my parents... they wouldn’t sign my form,” Hermione said in a small voice.
“It doesn’t matter!” Harry said loudly, drawing Ron’s attention back upon himself. “Hermione’s right! I’ll be safer at Hogwarts if there’s a mad killer on the loose after me!”
“But what about Zonko’s, and Honeydukes...?” Ron moaned. “And the Shrieking Shack? It’s supposed to be the most haunted house in Britain! Besides, I’ll be with you!”
Harry had to struggle not to roll his eyes.
“Ron, d’you seriously think a mass-murderer is going to care who’s with me? You’d be killed too!” he muttered in exasperation.
“Fine... whatever!” Ron fumed, wondering if Seamus and Dean would let him tag along on Hogsmeade days.
Just as Ron thought his mood couldn’t get any worse, the door of the compartment flew open and he was staring at Draco Malfoy, flanked by his knuckle-dragging henchmen, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.
“Well... if it isn’t Weasel-boy, Scarface, and the Mudblood,” sneered Malfoy. “I heard your father finally landed a few galleons this summer Weasleby! Did he upgrade your house from a chicken coop to a pigsty yet?”
Harry badly wanted to hit Malfoy and push him out the window of the train for calling Hermione a Mudblood, but he found himself holding a struggling Ron back instead while Crabbe and Goyle sniggered loudly.
“And what about you Scarface? What are you doing on the train... thought you’d be hunting down that escaped maniac by now! I know I would be if it was me,” Malfoy snorted derisively. “But maybe you’re too scared to risk your neck for a bit of revenge! Going to leave it up to the Ministry are you?”
Harry’s mind whirled chaotically, and he almost lost his grip on Ron. Malfoy obviously knew something he didn’t. But Harry wasn’t about to let Malfoy have the satisfaction of knowing that.
“Well... Sirius Black seems like small potatoes to me, Malfoy,” Harry said coolly, “I thought I’d start with your daddy first, seeing as he was one of Voldemort’s best mates and all!”
Harry couldn’t tell who was more frightened, Ron by the mention of Voldemort’s name, or Malfoy by the fact that Harry wasn’t afraid to threaten his father. Harry didn’t really know if Lucius Malfoy was a good friend of Voldemort - but it seemed like a reasonable assumption as the elder Malfoy had possessed Voldemort’s diary - and the accusation seemed to have struck a nerve.
Harry noted Malfoy’s ashen features with satisfaction, and he felt cheered by hearing Hermione’s nervous giggle at his witty retort. Malfoy recovered his usual vindictive expression quickly and was about to make another rejoinder when a familiar presence loomed in the narrow corridor of the train behind him.
“Is there a problem here boys?” asked Professor Lupin, his eyes narrowing at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.
“No... sir!” Malfoy responded, with more than a hint of disdain as he peered at the shabbily dressed professor. “We were just leaving... come on Crabbe, Goyle!” Malfoy spun around and stalked away from the compartment followed by his goon-squad.
“Is everyone here alright?” Lupin glanced at Ron and Hermione, but his expression of concern seemed most directed at Harry. “I believe I heard someone mention Sirius Black!”
Harry nodded, swallowing apprehensively as the professor entered the compartment and shut the door behind him. Scabbers poked his nose out of Ron’s pocket, then gave a squeak of fright and quickly burrowed down as far as he could go. Ron was still seething, but he patted the quivering bulge at the bottom of his pocket sympathetically.
“Harry...” the professor began haltingly. “I... I think there’s something I need to tell you... You may want to sit down for this!”
As he sat, Harry suddenly realised that Professor Lupin was as nervous as he was, and that he had used Harry’s first name. Hermione sat right up next to Harry and took his hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. Ron took a seat on the other side of the little table by the window, feeling more bewildered than cross now. Lupin started to speak again, raising his eyebrows.
“Harry... this may be difficult to hear! I... I’m not sure... your friends...”
“It’s alright sir... you can tell me whatever you like in front of them,” said Harry quickly, eager for information.
“Very well then! Harry... Sirius Black was a close friend of your parents, and a good friend of mine as well. We all went to school together... Sirius...” A pained expression crossed Lupin’s features as he paused. “...He betrayed your parents to Voldemort...”
Hermione bit her lip in an unsuccessful bid to stop herself from crying as Professor Lupin left the compartment with the promise of returning soon, after he had filled Harry in on some of the details. Her own problems seemed so insignificant compared to Harry’s.
“I’m so sorry Harry,” she whispered in a shaky voice as she clung to Harry, trembling in his arms as her tears dripped onto his shirt.
Ron was utterly flummoxed; a number of emotions roiled within as he peered awkwardly at his best mate and Hermione. He didn’t know what to make of his feelings. The only one which seemed clear at the moment, was that he knew Malfoy was right - anyone would want revenge if it was them. Harry had to be hurting, but he just sat there woodenly - comforting Hermione of all things.
“Yeah... me too! Sorry about that mate...” Ron uttered hoarsely, not sure what else to say.
Harry nodded curtly in response. For his part, Harry wasn’t sure what to make of his own perplexing cauldron of feelings. Something seethed inside of him which he’d never really felt so deeply before. All Harry knew was that as long as he held onto Hermione, the world somehow still made a bit of sense.
The awkward silence continued for about ten minutes, only broken by the occasional sniffle from Hermione and the clickety-clack of the wheels of the train. Crookshanks began to yowl mournfully. Hermione let go of Harry and reached for the basket.
“What are you doing? Don’t let that thing out!” snapped Ron.
“Poor Crookshanks needs a cuddle too. He’s very sensitive,” said Hermione as she clumsily opened the basket with shaking fingers. Crookshanks jumped out and curled up on Harry’s lap, his eyes fixed on the lump trembling in Ron’s pocket.
“Fine!” Ron muttered angrily as he stood up. “I’ll see you both later then. I’m going to find a safer compartment for Scabbers.”
Crookshanks began to purr and stretched out across Harry’s and Hermione’s laps, and they both began to feel better.
Professor Lupin seemed surprised that Ron had left when he returned. In the calmer environment, Harry and Hermione finally noticed that the professor appeared to look a bit drawn and haggard. Lupin smiled at them anxiously - hoping that he hadn’t said too much.
“Thanks for telling me what happened Professor!” said Harry quietly, returning Lupin’s smile. “I won’t go looking for Black... I promise!”
“Thank you Harry!” Lupin let out a great sigh of relief. “That’s a worry off my mind. I am only sorry that I never told you sooner how close I was to your parents. They meant a great deal to me... But I wasn’t sure...”
“It’s alright sir... really! I’m just happy to know now,” said Harry, his smile broadening into a grin.
Lupin settled in at the end of the seat-row and soon fell into a slumber, feeling greatly cheered. Harry and Hermione chatted in whispers and watched the countryside pass by. The sky grew darker as the train trundled northward and rain began to pelt at the windows.
When the plump witch with the food trolley appeared shortly after midday, Harry purchased some cauldron cakes, ginger lemon fizzes, and a few pasties, setting some on the table for Lupin when he woke up. They munched happily, and drank their fizzes. Once full, Harry and Hermione began to doze peacefully themselves as the rain became heavier and the occasional peal of thunder could be heard over the clattering of the train.
Harry woke with a start. The lamps were all lit; it was black outside and the train was slowing down as the rain continued to hammer on the windows.
“Are we there yet?” he asked in puzzlement.
“I don’t think so,” Hermione yawned as she peered at her watch.
Finally the train jerked to a halt as the brakes shrieked. Suddenly everything went dark as the lamps flickered out. Harry started when the door to the compartment rattled open. He put his arm protectively around Hermione as several shadows, silhouetted by the lightning outside, stumbled in.
“Is Ron here?”
“Ginny, is that you?” asked Hermione.
“I expect Ron’s with Dean and Seamus,” said Harry.
“Yeah... that’s where I saw him last!” said a voice which sounded like Neville’s
“Can we come in too?” asked a frightened voice which was surely Lavender’s
“Of course!” said Harry and Hermione together.
“Who’s that?” asked a voice which obviously belonged to Parvati.
“Professor Lupin’s with us,” said Hermione. “He’s not well though, so try not to disturb him.”
Ginny, Neville, Lavender, and Parvati, all huddled together on the seat-row opposite Harry, Hermione and Professor Lupin, shivering as it grew colder. Ice crawled across the window-panes of the compartment door and Lavender squealed when a tall forbidding Shadow appeared on the other side.
“Be very quiet,” whispered Lupin, who had just woken.
The compartment door screeched like fingernails on a blackboard as it slid open. A scabrous, rotting skeletal hand appeared, followed by the wraith-like figure which it was attached to; its cloak seemed to billow, undulating as if in swirls of liquid as it hovered in the doorway.
The wraith drew a hissing, rattling breath and Harry felt an intense cold which chilled him to his very bones. For some reason, the wraith seemed fixated on Harry and drifted like smoke towards him.
Harry heard the bloodcurdling scream of a woman in the distance - drawing nearer - there was a flare of green light - and Harry tumbled into blackness.
“Harry... Hermione... are you alright?”
Harry blinked, wondering what had happened as the world came back into focus. He suddenly realised that he was staring up at everyone from the floor. The lamps were all back on and several concerned people loomed over him. He felt a clutch of fear when he realised that Hermione was on the floor next to him, also seemingly stirring back to consciousness. The gentle hands of Parvati and Lavender helped lift Harry and Hermione off the floor and back into their seats.
“Wh...what was all the b...banging and sh...shouting?” stammered Hermione as she trembled.
“And the screaming? Who was screaming?” muttered Harry as he looked at the pale quaking forms of Ginny, Neville, Parvati, and Lavender.
“There wasn’t any banging or shouting,” said Parvati.
“And nobody screamed,” added Neville.
“Did any of you faint then?” Harry asked.
“No, just you and Hermione,” replied Neville. Harry frowned, wondering anxiously if he and Hermione were especially delicate.
“Here, eat these - you’ll feel better.” Professor Lupin passed everyone large bars of chocolate from his bag.
“What... what was that thing?” asked Harry as he took a bite of the chocolate, feeling awkward. Why had only he and Hermione heard things and fainted?
That was a Dementor - they are among the foulest creatures to walk this Earth!” Lupin replied, looking alarmed and perplexed. “They guard the wizard prison of Azkaban and have clearly been employed to assist in the hunt for Sirius Black.”
Professor McGonagall met Harry and Hermione when they arrived at school and marched them straight to the Hospital Wing where a number of other students were already being looked at by Madam Pomfrey who was bustling about trying to get to everyone. They both felt really sorry for a fragile looking little girl with dirty-blonde hair and big silvery grey round eyes who was still sobbing as she waited for the school nurse to look at her.
Harry still had half a bar of his chocolate left and he offered it to the girl.
“Professor Lupin gave us some chocolate on the train. He said it would help relieve some of the effects of the Dementors,” Harry said to the girl. “It was a Dementor, right?”
“Y...yes!” the girl sniffled, nodding as she took the piece of chocolate and bit into it. “Th...thank you! I don’t usually f...fall apart and g...get so upset about things - really! B...but I saw my M...Mum die a few years ago in a horrible spell accident. And I... I saw it happen again when the Dementor searched our compartment - and I f...fainted.”
“That’s so sad! I’m sorry,” squeaked Hermione; she had a sudden urge to hug the girl who looked small enough to be a First Year.
“It... it’s alright to still be upset.” said Harry, suddenly feeling not so alone and delicate. It occurred to him that maybe the blonde haired girl would feel a bit better if he told her how he’d felt too. Swallowing nervously, he began,
“I... I think the same thing happened to me. Now that I think about it, I think... I think it was my Mum I heard screaming when she was murdered. I... I was too little when it happened to really have a proper memory of it until the Dementor made me relive bits of it.”
Hermione gasped in horror and her grip on Harry’s hand tightened. He turned to peer at her anxiously, seeing a flush of shame across her cheeks.
“What happened to you Hermione?” Harry asked gently.
“N...nothing so d...dreadful really!” Hermione stammered and cast her eyes down as tears streaked her reddening cheeks. “I d...don’t understand! The w...worst thing that’s ever happened to m...me, was the night Daddy tried to b...break down my d...door, and s...snap my wand! That’s n...nothing compared to w...what happened to you two! I don’t know why I fainted.”
“Oh!” Harry’s eyes widened as it struck him that Hermione must have been much more frightened than she’d let on by her terrible experience.
Hermione had just made it sound like she was more angry and upset than anything else. But then Harry remembered the brief flicker of fear he’d seen in Hermione’s eyes when she had first told him. Harry suddenly didn’t care that the Hospital Wing had over half a dozen students in it. He wrapped the tearful Hermione in his arms and cuddled her as the blonde girl with big round eyes watched.
“That sounds dreadful enough to me,” the blonde girl murmured sympathetically. “That’s very scary! I can’t imagine my Daddy ever being so mean to me. Did you get enough chocolate? There’s a bit left...”
The blonde girl with big eyes held out what was left of Harry’s bar of chocolate as Hermione looked up gratefully. Hermione gave the blonde girl a teary smile and took the chocolate.
“Thank you... er...”
“It’s Luna. I’m Luna Lovegood.”
“I’m Hermione, and this is...”
“Harry Potter,” said Luna with a sudden grin. “Everyone knows who Harry Potter is. Thank you both very much for being nice to me. It’s almost like having friends!”
“Er...” Harry was nearly overcome with bewilderment. “Don’t you have any friends then?”
“No!” Luna replied bluntly. “Most people call me Loony Lovegood and try to avoid me. Even after being in Hogwarts a whole year, people still didn’t want to sit with me on the train.”
Hermione couldn’t help herself now that they’d been introduced properly. She let go of Harry and flung herself on the startled Luna.
“We’ll be your friends Luna,” said Hermione earnestly as she hugged the younger girl. “Harry and I both know what it’s like not to have any.”
“Thank you Hermione!” beamed Luna. “By the way, your hugs work even better than the chocolate Professor Lupin gave you...”
Harry grinned for the first time since the Dementor attack. Madam Pomfrey couldn’t help overhearing as she approached with three large bars of chocolate and she turned to look at Professor McGonagall who was standing nearby.
“I hope Remus lasts, Minerva!” Madam Pomfrey said quietly to McGonagall. “It’s nice having someone competent as Defence Professor for a change.”
“To mention nothing of not being a dangerous criminal,” Minerva McGonagall added tartly with an arch of one eyebrow.
The twinkles vanished from Dumbledore’s eyes as he listened to Professor Lupin describing the events on the Hogwarts Express. The Sorting and the start of term feast would have to wait a short while longer.
“You are absolutely certain of this Remus?”
“There is no question in my mind Headmaster. The Dementor would have attacked Harry and administered the ‘Kiss’ had I not been there to prevent it.”
“This is disturbing news indeed!” Dumbledore nodded, accepting Remus’s accounting on his word. “All indications are that Voldemort is still out of the country, licking his wounds and biding his time until he finds some other means of return...”
“But who else could it be?”
“A very good question Remus. The answer to that question is what worries me most. It can only be someone of authority within the Ministry itself.”
“Are you serious?” gasped Lupin.
“I am afraid so,” Dumbledore replied wearily. “Given Fudge’s recent emancipation of Harry per my request, I can only presume that this is some sort of retaliation by those within the Ministry and the Wizengamot who surreptitiously continue to promulgate a pureblood agenda - and there are many such who escaped prosecution after the last war.”
“It is very likely someone associated with - possibly bribed by - Lucius Malfoy as revenge for the loss of his House-Elf and the near exposure of his role in the Chamber of Secrets. Had Lucius been brought up on charges, it could have resulted in his further exposure as one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters and resulted in a lengthy stay in Azkaban for him.”
“Of course!” Lupin groaned, growing paler. “That must be it. Well... thankfully we can rule out Amelia and Kingsley.”
“Indeed!” agreed Dumbledore as he stroked his long silvery beard thoughtfully. “I do have concerns about others within the DMLE who are close to the Minister though. However, there is little we can do for the moment except keep a close eye on things. In the meantime, it would be best to get the Sorting and the start of term feast underway. Poppy should have finished administering aid to those who succumbed to the effects of the Dementors on the train by now.
“There you are! Are you alright?” gasped Ron, looking very pale and apologetic when Harry and Hermione finally both appeared at the Gryffindor table. “I’m sorry I was such a prat on the train...”
“It’s alright Ron, forget it,” said Harry as he sat down with Hermione. “I know you’re just worried about Scabbers.”
They were some of the last to arrive from the Hospital Wing. Parvati and Lavender both jumped up and gave Hermione hugs. Snorts of laughter and hoots of derision from the Slytherin table caught Harry’s attention and he spied Draco Malfoy grinning at him malevolently.
“Is it true Potter?” called out Malfoy across the Hall. “You actually fainted?”
Harry flushed angrily, but then he remembered how frightened Draco Malfoy had briefly looked when he’d threatened Malfoy’s father and felt a bit better. He peered down the table and spied Ginny still shivering violently. Certain that she was reliving her experience in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry left his seat to give her a piece of his chocolate bar.
“Here Harry, give Ginny a bit of mine too,” said Hermione as she snapped her second bar of chocolate in half and passed it to him. “She really ought to have come up to the Hospital Wing too, even if she didn’t faint.”
“It was horrible,” Harry heard Neville telling Ron as he got up. “I almost thought I was going to pass out myself.”
“I just felt a bit cold and clammy, like I’d never be cheerful again,” said Ron as Dean and Seamus nodded sympathetically. “I hope they hurry up with the Sorting though. I’m bloody famished!”
Once the Sorting was finished, Ron groaned in hunger as the Headmaster launched into his start of term speech, warning everyone not to stray past the gates of Hogwarts and give the Dementors a reason to accost them. And though Ron was pleased when Dumbledore announced that Hagrid had attained the Care of Magical Creatures teaching job, he wished the feast would just hurry up and start already.
For his part, though he enjoyed the rest of the feast, Harry was very thankful when dessert arrived on the golden platters and saw a lot more items featuring chocolate than usual. He grinned when he spied Luna across the hall with smudges of chocolate cake on her face.
After dinner when they reached the Common Room, Hermione gave Harry a quick hug. Neither one of them wanted to part, but it was getting late.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Harry,” Hermione whispered in his ear before darting up the stairs to the girl’s dormitory.
For the first time since he had started Hogwarts, Harry felt extremely unsettled as he clambered into his bed alone. He had got used to Hermione’s company at night and hadn’t had a single nightmare the few weeks that they had shared in Diagon Alley together. Harry didn’t want to spoil things for Ron though, who looked much more cheerful now that he had a full stomach and Scabbers was safe.
“G’night Harry!” Ron grinned sleepily. “Good to be back isn’t it!?”
“Night Ron,” murmured Harry, returning Ron’s grin. “Yeah... it is!”
Harry shivered with cold as the whispers surrounded him in the freezing darkness. He groaned with pain as feeling began to return. Every bone in his body felt like it was broken. Harry felt as if he’d been beaten within an inch of his life, but he still couldn’t see, and he had no idea where he was or how he’d got there.
The whispers grew louder and Harry tried to make sense of them.
“I thought he was dead for sure...”
“But his glasses didn’t even break.”
“That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen!”
Scariest thing... hooded wraith-like figures like smoke on the wind... screaming... freezing cold...
Harry’s eyes shot open as he gasped. The Gryffindor Quidditch team surrounded his bed. He was in the Hospital Wing again.
Hermione was tightly gripping his hand, her face white with terror, her eyes puffy and bloodshot. Strands of her normally bushy hair clung to her face and lay plastered to her head, rivulets of water streaming from the wet and bedraggled ends straddling her shoulders. She looked like she’d been swimming in the Black Lake fully clothed.
Ron’s face was equally wet and white next to Hermione’s, and Harry noticed that he appeared equally drenched. In fact everyone did. He could see Neville, Parvati, Lavender, and Luna dripping as they jostled for position with the mud-spattered Gryffindor team and his memory began to flood back with a vengeance.
Lightning had brought into sharp relief the Dementors which had been swarming him as he flew high above the stands looking for the Golden Snitch. They had been playing against Hufflepuff. The wind and rain had been whipping at his quidditch robes when he first felt the sting of hail and the freeze in his bones which indicated the presence of the wraiths.
Now that he remembered, Harry could still hear the screams of his mother which had been echoing in his brain before he fell into darkness.
“Not Harry, please! Not Harry... kill me instead! Please... have mercy!”
He recalled the large black dog which he’d seen below during another flash of lightning, and began to wonder if there was really something to that rubbish about the Grim. Maybe he should have given Divination more of a chance. Another memory of Hermione muttering “impervius” and handing him back his glasses so that he could see the Snitch better in the rain appeared and his brief regret vanished as he decided that he didn’t miss Divination one little bit.
“What happened?” Harry finally managed to croak.
“You fell mate,” muttered Fred. “Must’ve been over fifty feet...”
“More like a hundred,” George interjected.
“We... we thought you were dead,” said Alicia Spinnet who was still shaking. Hermione uttered a little squeak and squeezed Harry’s hand even tighter.
“But the match... are we doing a replay?”
“Diggory got the Snitch... after you fell,” said George. “He didn’t see you fall... He wanted to do a rematch...”
“But even Wood thinks Diggory caught the Snitch fair and square,” snorted Fred, who clearly thought not. “He refused to accept the rematch offer and now he’s trying to drown himself in the showers...”
Harry groaned loudly.
“You have nothing to feel guilty about Harry,” said Hermione, a bit shrilly. “It’s thanks to you that Wood has a trophy for last year.”
“She’s right about that,” said Fred. “You’ve never missed the Snitch before. C’mon Harry - cheer up mate - it’s not over yet...”
“Alright then... that’s quite enough!” Madam Pomfrey came bustling over to Harry’s bed waving her arms and speaking very sharply. “It’s time for you lot to leave. Mr Potter needs some peace and quiet. Yes, Mr Weasley - that means you too...”
“But not you dear, of course,” Madam Pomfrey said in much more kindly tone as she put her hand on Hermione’s shoulder and watched everyone else depart the infirmary, trailing mud and water behind them. “Harry does much better with you here...”
Madam Pomfrey tipped a pain potion and a calming draught into Harry’s mouth, and placed several large bars of chocolate on the bedside table before heading back to her office muttering something about dangerous sports and Dementors. A horrible thought occurred to Harry as the potions began to kick in.
“Did anyone get my broom?” he asked. His hopes sank when he saw Hermione look even more dejected than before.
“Oh Harry - I’m so sorry! Your broom...” she said haltingly as tears began to mingle with the rainwater on her face. Harry was more than certain that they weren’t the first tears that Hermione had shed. “When you fell off... it... it blew away... and...” Hermione heaved a sob.
“...And it hit... it hit the Whomping Willow!” she concluded tearfully as she lifted a bag from the floor and showed him the splintered remains of his Nimbus 2000.
Harry sighed miserably and reached for another vial of calming draught from the bedside table, passing it to Hermione. She peered at him quizzically.
“It’s for you,” he said quietly. “Go on then - I’ve already had a vial. You need it more than I do now... Don’t worry about the Nimbus - It’s only a broomstick. I can order another one if I have to... but you’re the only Hermione I’ve got.”
Hermione’s heart began to race as she melted into Harry’s green gaze, and she swallowed the vial without a second thought before flinging her arms around him.
“Thank you Harry,” she said, as she settled next to him on the hospital-bed, an arm across his chest and her wet bushy head on his shoulder.
Despite everything that had happened since the Dementor on the Hogwarts Express, Harry felt a warm glow inside himself which had nothing to do with the pain potion, calming draught, or chocolate. He was just happy to have the first chance for a proper cuddle with Hermione since Diagon Alley.
Harry pressed his lips to Hermione’s wet hair and wiped the tears from her wet face with a linen cloth from his bedside table. Then he kissed Hermione’s now dry cheek before he began to peacefully drift as the tumultuous term so far flickered before his mind’s eye...
The first day of lessons had got off to a dismal start. He’d had to endure Malfoy’s impressions of Harry having a fainting fit and the roars of laughter from the Slytherins at breakfast time. Though there was a bit of satisfaction to be had as Ron joined with Hermione in shooting daggers at the Slytherins with their eyes. It had been nice to all be as one again for a short while at least.
But then had come the first Divination lesson. Hermione had appeared breathlessly out of nowhere, startling Ron as they made their way to class.
“Where’d you come from? The bathroom? You’re almost late,” Ron had said. “And we still have to find the bloody classroom.”
Hermione had blustered a bit as Harry suddenly seemed interested in his shoes and Ron quickly put it out of his head. Eventually, they had received some help finding the classroom from the portrait of a slightly deranged knight named Sir Cadogan.
The Divination classroom had been stuffy, with purple velvet curtains covering all of the windows, lit with melting candles. The shelves were lined with tea cups and crystal balls; the air thick with a haze of smoke and the pungent spicy smell of burning incense.
Harry had felt a bit dizzy and plonked himself in a chintz armchair at the first little round table he’d seen. Ron and Hermione had sat around the table with him. Lavender and Parvati had taken a little table on one side of them; Seamus, Dean, and Neville had taken the little table on the other side.
A tall thin woman festooned with scarves, beads, necklaces, and charms had entered the class. Her round glasses were bigger and thicker than Harry’s, magnifying her eyes many times. She had reminded Harry a bit of a gaudily dressed praying mantis.
“Welcome children!” the teacher had begun. “My name is Professor Trelawney. How lovely it is to finally meet you in the mundane reality we call the physical world. In this class you will learn to use your inner-eye to see beyond the illusion of this reality to the Great Beyond, and there, together, we shall discover the truth of our inner-selves and our futures...”
Hermione had made an effort not to roll her eyes, but Parvati and Lavender had looked slightly awed. Ron and Seamus had begun chuckling while Dean and Neville looked slightly uncomfortable. Harry had just tried not to fall asleep before class even got properly underway.
The professor had passed around sheets of parchment which contained an overview of the course. The first thing Professor Trelawney had had them do, was mock up a quick planetary chart based on their birthdays.
“Oh,” Harry had heard Lavender say, “My planet is Uranus.”
“Can I see Uranus, Lavender?” Ron had sniggered loudly as Seamus guffawed.
Lavender had gasped in outrage and Parvati had glared at Ron. Harry and Hermione had both shot Ron reproachful looks as well. Professor Trelawney had snatched up everybody’s parchments, her dreamy expression changing, briefly looking remarkably like Professor McGonagall’s.
“MOVING on...” she had said sharply, “We will begin with the rudiments of reading tea-leaves...”
Everyone had taken a cup of tea and drunk them down until all that was left in their cups were soggy tea-leaves. Hermione, Harry, and Ron had helplessly stared at the bottom of their cups, trying to find some sort of pattern in the sludge.
“I dunno Harry, I think yours is a sheep,” Ron had muttered as Trelawney sidled up to their table.
The Professor had taken one look at Harry’s cup and shrieked, waking up the entire class.
“My... my dear boy, I am so sorry, you have the GRIM!”
“The what?” Harry had asked, bewildered and suddenly concerned.
“The Grim dear... A Black Beast from the Underworld which takes the form of a large Canine! It is a Dark Omen of Doom. Death stalks you Mr Potter and I am afraid you are not long for this world...”
“I don’t think it looks like a Grim,” Hermione had said flatly, her nostrils flaring as she stared coldly at the professor. “And everyone knows that Harry has deadly enemies.”
Professor Trelawney had regarded Hermione with increasing dislike.
“You’ll forgive me for saying so, dear, but I perceive very little aura around you. Clearly you lack the necessary receptivity to pick up the subtle resonances of the future.”
Harry’s cheeks had burned, and his face had darkened in fury. Not even twenty four hours had passed since he’d had to deal with a hideous dark creature which had dredged up memories of his mother being killed. And Harry had hardly needed a reminder that an escaped mass-murderer was hunting him down.
It was bad enough that he actually had to face death without someone pretending it was some great riddle which could only be divined through mystical means. And to top everything off, Trelawney had belittled Hermione in front of the entire class after Hermione had simply stated known facts.
The rest of the students in the class had shuffled uncomfortably in their seats, and even Ron had avoided Harry’s eyes. Harry stood up suddenly, and instead of addressing the shocked Professor directly he had turned towards Hermione.
“Hermione, I reckon you were right. This class looks like rubbish. I’m going to see if I can still switch to Arithmancy.” Harry had angrily flung open the hatch-door to the ladder, and left the classroom.
Hermione had been stunned. The last thing in the world she had expected was that Harry might actually want to switch to Arithmancy. She had swallowed nervously and glanced around at the gaping flabbergasted expressions on everyone’s faces, not sure what to do. Hermione had never before considered dropping a class - not even one which she thought might be ridiculous. But Harry was already gone, and that had decided her.
Picking up her things, Hermione had quickly run after Harry.
“Harry,” she had hissed under her breath when she caught up with him. “You know I’ve already been to Arithmancy today don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Harry had muttered. “But I didn’t want to give away your secret - and I just had to get the hell out of there. I’m really going to need your help in Arithmancy Hermione. I’m dreadful at maths.”
“Of course I’ll help you Harry!”
Professor McGonagall had noticed the tension in her classroom when everyone had been too distracted to pay much attention to her transforming into a cat before their very eyes.
When Harry told McGonagall what had happened, he had been very relieved that he wasn’t going to get into trouble for storming out of Trelawney’s class. Professor McGonagall had expressed her own distaste for the “imprecise discipline" of Divination and regaled her students with the fact that Professor Trelawney was very fond of making dubious death prophecies.
“I quite understand, Potter,” Professor McGonagall had said to Harry after class. “And knowing what an industrious student you are, I shall speak to Professor Vector on your behalf and explain the situation. But I am certain that with Miss Granger’s help, we can eventually bring you up to snuff in Arithmancy.”
Harry had been very glad for McGonagall’s support, because Ron had been moody at lunchtime again.
“What’d you have to ditch Divination for?” Ron had asked crossly.
“You’re joking right?” Harry had responded. “You saw what Trelawney was like...”
“Cheer up Ron,” Hermione had said calmly. “You heard what McGonagall told us.”
“You haven’t seen a big black dog have you, Harry?” Ron had said in a worried voice.
“Yeah... I have actually,” Harry had replied. “But so what...?”
“I’m sure it was just a stray...” Hermione had added.
“But that’s really bad... Grim’s are serious business. My Uncle Bilius saw one and died 24 hours later.”
“That’s just coincidence Ron,” Hermione had tried to say reasonably as she poured herself some tea.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Ron had started getting really angry. “Grims scare the living daylights out of most wizards!”
“Well we’re really lucky that Harry isn’t as stupid as most wizards then, aren’t we?” Hermione had snapped, finally having had enough. “Instead of seeing a big black dog and thinking ‘right, well I might as well kick the bucket then,’ Harry’s actually brave enough to soldier on and keep trying to live - never mind that he’s faced Voldemort three times, a big bloody snake, a horrid Dementor... and let’s not forget that now he’s got a horrible maniac after him...”
“Honestly! What’s Harry supposed to do? It doesn’t make any difference whether he saw a stupid Grim or not. Or are you saying that Harry should just give up and die just because he saw a big black dog?”
“Professor Trelawney said you didn’t have the right aura. You just don’t like not being good at something!” Ron had snarled.
Hermione had glared at Ron and snatched up her book bag, storming away.
“Bloody Hell Ron! This has nothing to do with Hermione,” Harry had fumed. “It’s obvious that Trelawney is a right old fraud.Everybody already knows that ‘death is stalking me’...”
“Fine, take Hermione’s side... just like you always do!” Ron had said bitterly.
And the day hadn’t improved much after lunch. The first lesson had been their first-ever Care of Magical Creatures class, and they had all marched down the hill to the edge of the Forbidden Forest in silence, only to discover that they were taking the class with the Slytherins.
Hagrid had introduced everyone to some really interesting creatures called Hippogriffs, half-giant eagle, half horse. Harry had actually enjoyed himself briefly flying around on the fascinating and beautiful animal. But then Draco Malfoy had deliberately insulted the creature and it had slashed at his arm with its steely talons.
The only good thing that had come out of the lesson was that by the end of the day, Harry, Hermione, and Ron were all friends again as they all felt badly that Malfoy had ruined Hagrid’s first day as professor.
Malfoy had milked his injury for all it was worth - even though Madam Pomfrey had healed it almost instantly. Though things perhaps hadn’t gone quite as well as Malfoy had planned when he had finally wandered into potions halfway through class on Thursday morning.
“Sir,” Malfoy had called out to Professor Snape, “I’ll need some help cutting up these daisy roots, and I’ll need my shrivelfig skinned... because of my arm.”
“Crabbe, cut up Malfoy’s daisy roots for him, Goyle you can skin Malfoy’s shrivelfig!” Snape had said without looking up.
“Wait... what?” Malfoy had sputtered, “But... sir...”
“Or you can do it yourself if you’re feeling better...” Snape had retorted.
“Er... no... thank you sir! Crabbe, Goyle, you heard him!” Draco had snapped, shooting the Gryffindors a malicious look as they all chortled, knowing that he’d hoped that Snape would make some of them do Malfoy’s work for him.
Neville had actually managed a passing mark on his potion for once.
Harry and Hermione had both been disappointed that Thursday afternoon during the first DADA class of the term. Lupin had been giving a practical lesson in dealing with Boggarts, and ended the class before either of them had had a chance to perform the Boggart banishing spell.
“I wonder why Lupin wouldn’t let us have a go?” Harry had said.
“I’m not sure Harry,” Hermione had responded after giving it some thought. “Maybe he thought ours might be Voldemort or the Dementors... and that they might have frightened everyone a bit too much.”
“Oh, I suppose that makes sense - still, I hope that doesn’t mean he thinks that we’re too feeble!” Harry had concluded with a frown.
Harry had managed far better than he’d hoped to in Ancient Runes as the weeks went by. Professor Babbling had been quite impressed with his calligraphy, and he’d been much better at working out the translations than he had thought he would be.
Hermione had the edge in translating, but Harry’s skill with a calligraphy brush had put him in the same ranking. And one day, Harry had been extremely surprised to receive better marks than Hermione on one of his papers.
“Harry, that’s beautiful! ” Hermione had said admiringly. “I had no idea you could draw or do calligraphy.”
“Me neither,” Harry had responded, amazed with himself, “The Dursleys never got any art or calligraphy materials for Dudley, so I never really got a chance to try anything like this before.”
“See here Miss Granger - the boldness of Mr Potter’s linework - and yet he instinctively knows when to add a subtle touch. Any Runes he draws or paints will be that much more potent for his artistry!” Professor Babbling had gushed, thrilled with her new prize pupils.
But Harry had done just about as poorly as he had imagined he would in Arithmancy. Though Professor Vector was being as patient as her rather strict nature would allow after Professor McGonagall had explained Harry’s situation to her.
Hermione had found a spare Fourth Year Charms book, and to Ron’s dismay, much of Harry’s free time was taken up the first few weeks of the term practicing Summoning Charms with Hermione. Harry had offered Ron a chance to join them, but it seemed too much like homework to Ron and he had declined. By the end of the third week, Harry and Hermione had managed to perform the Summoning Charm perfectly. As the weeks had progressed, Defence classes had moved on to Red Caps and Kappas.
When October had begun, Oliver Wood had become more obsessive about Quidditch practice, and Harry once again had been forced to remind him that his studies came first. Soon, everyone in Third Year had been talking about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend.
“I wish you’d come too Harry!” Ron had grumped when he remembered that Harry didn’t want to leave Hermione behind because her parents hadn’t signed her form for some unknown reason that Hermione wouldn’t discuss. “Maybe McGonagall would let Hermione go just this once...”
“She won’t - I already asked her...” Harry had sighed.
“You did?” Hermione had squeaked, half-pleased and half-concerned. “That was really sweet of you. But I thought we’d already discussed - you know - Sirius Black!”
“Yeah, I just thought... well, he hasn’t been seen for a bit, and it would be nice to have a look around the town,” Harry had replied. “I know you’ve really been dying to see it yourself.”
Hermione had flushed in embarrassment at being so transparent, and Crookshanks had jumped up on her lap.
“Oi, watch that cat... Scabbers is asleep in my bag!” Ron had said warningly.
Crookshanks had seemed to take Ron’s warning as an invitation, because the next thing Harry remembered was a furious row after Crookshanks had pounced on Ron’s bag. Ron had had a shouting match with Hermione in front of the whole Common Room and stormed off to bed after rescuing Scabbers. Hermione had been left on the verge of tears by the whole affair and Harry had tried to comfort her.
“I don’t think it’s Crookshanks fault! There’s something weird about that Rat, Hermione,” Harry had muttered darkly after Ron left. “It shouldn’t even still be alive according to the pet-shop owner in Diagon Alley. And Crookshanks gets along with everyone else’s pets just fine - it’s only Scabbers he wants to get - and the shop owner said that Crookshanks is a good judge of character.”
But Hermione had still tried to apologise the next day during Herbology, and Ron had angrily refused to accept.
Finally Halloween had arrived and Ron had ended up going into Hogsmeade with Seamus and Dean. At the last minute Hermione had felt really guilty about holding Harry back and tried to make him go too.
“No,” Harry had been adamant on the way back to the Common Room. “I said I wasn’t going anywhere without you, and I meant it Hermione....”
“Er... let’s go to the library and study,” Harry had continued, spying the over-eager Creevey brothers in the Common Room.
They had been wandering through the drafty corridors of the castle trying to avoid Filch on the way to the library, and a voice had called out to them.
“What are you two doing here?” Lupin had asked in surprise.
“Hermione can’t go to Hogsmeade,” Harry had answered matter-of-factly as she reddened and cast her eyes down.
“Ah - well why don’t you two join me!? I’ve just taken delivery of a Grindylow...”
“That’s a type of water-demon isn’t it?” Hermione’s eyes had lit up as Lupin nodded.
They had all had a good look at the ugly teal horned creature as Lupin told them all about it. Afterwards, they had all had a cup of tea together and Lupin sensed that something was bothering them both.
“Anything worrying you then?” the professor had asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes,” Harry had said, but Hermione said, “No,” simultaneously, thinking that had been what Harry was going to say. They had peered at each other and reversed their answers
“No,” Harry then said as Hermione said “Yes.” Lupin had grinned at the pair of them.
“Okay... spill! What’s up?” Lupin inquired.
“Alright...” Harry had begun, taking a deep breath as Hermione squeezed his hand comfortingly. “Why didn’t you let us fight the Boggart?
“Ah... I should have thought that was obvious.” Lupin had responded. “I expected it would assume the shape of Voldemort when you got to it Harry, and I wished to avoid a panic.”
“That’s what Hermione said you might have thought,” Harry had told Professor Lupin. “But honestly, I wasn’t really thinking about him - not directly anyway...” Harry had swallowed, afraid that Lupin would think him a coward, and revealed the truth. “I... I was thinking about that Dementor.”
“I see,” Lupin had looked at Harry thoughtfully, reading between the lines, and nodded. “Well, that would have been equally problematic in terms of causing a panic. But that is very wise indeed Harry - it suggests that what you fear most, is fear itself. However, I do not think you need worry. From what I know of you, you show more courage than anyone has a right to expect...”
“You tackle the things that you fear head on... You are no coward Harry. And I daresay you are equally courageous Miss Granger,” Lupin concluded, causing Hermione to blush and smile shyly.
Snape had entered Lupin’s office with a goblet full of some sort of steaming potion for whatever was ailing Lupin, arching an eyebrow inscrutably at Harry and Hermione as Lupin drank it. Harry had almost grinned at Snape, nearly feeling brave enough to ask the potions master why he hadn’t been treating him and Hermione so horribly since First Year.
Though he had still been quite strict, Snape had even started treating some of the other Gryffindors a bit better Harry had noticed - like Neville. Though Ron and Seamus had still frequently found themselves under fire.
After visiting with Lupin, Harry and Hermione had strolled through the peaceful grounds of Hogwarts and come across Luna, playing barefoot near the Forbidden Forest by herself, and spent the rest of the afternoon with her.
At the end of the afternoon, Ron had arrived in the Common Room with Seamus and Dean and armfuls of goodies, beaming happily. Ron tipped a bag of sweets onto one of the Common Room tables.
“Help yourself,” he had said to Harry and Hermione with a grin. It had felt good, all three of them being friends again during the Halloween feast.
Not even Malfoy shouting through the crowd, “The Dementors send their love, Potter!” could put a dent in Harry’s mood. He had almost thought that nothing dreadful would happen on Halloween for a change.
But of course, something terrible had happened while everyone had been at the feast. The Gryffindors had all been crowding around the portrait of the Fat Lady by the time Harry had arrived after the feast’s conclusion with Hermione and Ron; Parvati, Lavender, and Neville trailing behind them.
“What’s going on?” Harry had asked just as Dumbledore appeared.
“Oh my...!” Hermione had grabbed Harry’s arm, squealing when she saw the frightful occurrence.
The Fat Lady had vanished from her portrait, and long ribbons of tattered canvas hung down down to the floor from the gaping rips and gashes in the painting. Peeves had hovered nearby cackling gleefully.
“Nasty temper that one has, Sirius Black!” Peeves had chortled.
All of the students had spent Halloween night in sleeping bags in the Great Hall while the professors searched the castle from top to bottom for the escaped mass-murdering maniac, but to no avail.
The weeks that followed had been anxious ones for everyone as the first match of the Quidditch Season had approached, and Harry spent most of his time studying diligently with Hermione or practicing with the team. Ron had seemed resigned to things, and had been spending more and more time with Seamus and Dean.
And then today had arrived, wet and stormy - the day of the match which was supposed to be against Slytherin. But Slytherin had canceled due to Malfoy pretending that his arm was still bothering him, and Gryffindor had played Hufflepuff in the thunder and the lightning, and the wind and the rain, instead.
Harry recalled the freezing fear when he had realised a hundred Dementors were swarming around him in the storming sky and his eyelids fluttered open.
Harry felt Hermione’s gentle breathing and relaxed again. Hermione was fast asleep in the hospital bed, her arm still lying across Harry’s chest, head on his shoulder, her now dry and frizzy hair tickling him under his chin. Harry grinned as he felt a surge of happiness he’d not felt this strongly since their nights together in Diagon Alley.
Harry almost thanked the Dementors. He’d face a hundred of them again if that was what it took to spend his nights cuddling Hermione.
Sign up to rate and review this story