An AU of a Sixth Year AU Story: What would have happened if two liberal American druids had taken Harry to America, before returning with him to Hogwarts? In this chapter, the quartet meet Fluffy ...
"I really don't think we should be doing this."
"Shhh" Ron hissed.
"Don't shush me, Ron Weasley!"
"Hush both of you," Neville whispered. "We don't want to get caught!"
The quartet had snuck out of their rooms a little after 11:30. They were lucky that there were no upper years still down in the common room. They sometimes lingered until midnight.
Hermione had been nervous from the start. When they had left the common room, she had been startled to see that the Fat Lady wasn't in her frame. This meant that if they had to make a quick retreat, they could still be caught outside their own common room.
The group walked as quickly and as quietly as they could, taking turns peeking around corners to see if Filch or a teacher was near by. They finally got to the trophy room around 11:55.
"I don't see any of them," Hermione said unnecessarily. Ron rolled his eyes. Neville eyed the trophy cases, since the various trophies, cups, shields, plates, and statues were sending off light at odd angels, catching the eye and disturbing all their peace of mind.
"They're late," Ron whispered. "Maybe they chickened out."
Harry shrugged. He pulled his wand out and made a move towards the next room, in case they were hiding there. Then they heard a voice coming from the room, which made them jump. The quartet looked at each other in horror when they realized who it was.
"Sniff around, my sweet," Filch said to Mrs. Norris, "they must be lurking around here somewhere." The quartet quickly left the room. "They must be here somewhere," Filch said again. "Maybe they're already heading back."
The quartet instantly veered off in a different direction, heading towards a set of moving side stairs just past the Charms classroom, instead of the back stairs. That should take them to the Third Floor, near the main stairs leading from the entrance hall.
They paused for breath before entering the area where the main stairs were. "I told you," Hermione panted. "Malfoy tricked you. You realize that, don't you? They were never going to meet us -- Filch knew someone was going to be in the trophy room. Malfoy must have tipped him off."
"Probably," Harry agreed.
"That doesn't matter right now," Ron snapped at Hermione.
Neville peeked out. "This isn't the place the stairs usually lets us out. We're across from the usual door."
"Are you sure?" Ron demanded.
"Shhh," Neville whispered. "Someone is coming down the main stairs. I think it's Snape."
"Snape to the front us, Filch behind us, and here I am, stuck in the middle with you," Hermione nearly growled at Ron.
"Shhh," Harry said. "What about that door there?"
"Locked," Ron said, giving it a try.
"Oh, move over," Hermione snarled. She tapped the lock and said, "Alohomora." The door clicked and swung open. "Standard Book of Spells," she said simply. "Third year."
The quartet heard a noise coming at them, so they hurried in and shut the door. Listening, they heard Peeves laughing as he flew by, followed by an irate Filch. As they heard Filch run through the door leading to the main stairs, they all breathed a sigh of relief.
A second later, Ron said in a tiny voice, "Oh, shit."
"Ron!" Hermione scolded, "language!" turning as she did so. "Oh," she said in a strangled voice. "Shit."
This caused Harry and Neville to turn around as well. As he did so, the thought went through Harry's head that they were on the wrong side of the third floor -- exactly where Dumbledore had warned students not to go.
They were in a very large, high chamber, looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog that filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling mad eyes that were all turning in their direction; three noses, twitching and quivering as they picked up their scent; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from the large yellowish fangs.
Harry quickly opened the door and pulled his three friends out, just as the three throats started to growl. Hearing the growls coming close to the closed door, Hermione led their escape back in the direction they had come from. It was a little longer route, but finally, they managed to make it to the Gryffindor entrance on the seventh floor.
"Where on earth have you four been?" the Fat Lady demanded.
"Never mind that," said Harry, since he was the least out of breath. "Pig snout." The four went into the common room and collapsed on the large sofas that were usually the territory of the Seventh years.
"What do they think they're doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school?" Ron demanded.
"You don't use your eyes, do you?" Hermione snapped. "Didn't you see what it was standing on?"
"Just the floor," Harry said. "I was worried about the heads, not the feet."
"No, not just the floor. It was standing on a trap door. It's obviously guarding something." She stood up. "I hope you three are pleased with yourselves. We could have all been killed, or worse, expelled. I'm going to bed."
As the three boys did the same, Harry realized something. Hagrid had taken something small from the otherwise empty vault back on his birthday. He had said something . . . that the only place safer than Gringotts was Hogwarts.
Something else niggled at the back of Harry's mind. Just before he fell asleep, he remembered. In early August, there had been that report that a Gringotts vault had been broken into sometime the night of July 31 or the morning of August 1.
Harry thought it almost certain that whatever Hagrid had fetched, it was now being guarded by a three-headed giant dog.
Unknown to anyone at Hogwarts, as the sun rose the next morning, the ancient circle of power near Hogwarts was reactivated with a blood sacrifice. The Hidden had hoped to use Lucius Malfoy, but he was moderately well protected. While monitoring Malfoy, they had uncovered a web of connections, however. The person they had finally chosen, a rather brutal and solitary worker at the Ministry named Macnair, proved to be a Death Eater with a very bloody past.
The ancient powers were revived.
Malfoy was scowling at the quartet later that morning, as they came to breakfast tired but happy, instead of depressed and punished, perhaps even expelled, from getting caught. A glance at the tokens which measured House points confirmed that the quartet had not been caught. All four waved happily at Malfoy, which made him even angrier.
Harry's three friends were interested in the story of Hagrid, the small package, and the Gringotts robbery. There was, however, a problem.
Ron and Hermione had been sniping at each other for weeks. For whatever reason, they had both taken the events of the night before as primarily the fault of the other. The pair now refused to talk directly to each other, although each was muttering insults about the other all morning.
By lunch, the two had declared war.
Over the next five weeks, Hermione and Ron kept up their fight, growling and sniping at each other half the time, and coldly ignoring each other most of the rest of the time. Harry and Neville tried to talk the pair of them into declaring a truce, but neither seemed willing to make the first move, especially Ron.
Whenever possible, Harry and Neville took turns sitting with the other two. Both boys liked both of their warring friends, and wanted to keep them as friends.
In class and at meal times, this wasn't terribly difficult. Ron took to sitting at the very end of the Gryffindor table at meal times, and whenever they were eating or studying in the great hall, Hermione would sit three seats up. Harry and Neville would sit in between, again taking turns as to who sat next to whom. The other First years filled in around them and across from them.
Things were tenser in the common room, especially by mid-October. The quartet had claimed a table in the furthest corner of the room from their first day. Ron and Hermione had to sit across from each other, since they refused to sit next to each other. Things were tense, because Harry was sometimes at Quidditch practice, leaving Neville alone to keep the peace.
Things were also tense because Percy had caught on to what was going on after the first week. Percy loved his youngest brother, but was very worried Ron might be following in the twin's paths of mayhem and frivolity rather than his own example. While he was a little leery of Harry Potter's influence on Ron, he approved of Ron's friendship with Neville, who seemed to be a very steady fellow. He had especially approved of Ron's friendship with Hermione, whom he saw (somewhat incorrectly) as a feminine version of himself.
Percy therefore started to nag at Ron to mend his fences with Hermione. This, of course, was exactly the wrong way to go about getting Ron to do anything. Fred and George had tried pointing that out, and had been well-snubbed by everyone except Harry and Neville in the process. They had also tried a few pranks on Hermione, but quickly found that once she was on her guard she was a very hard target.
Worse, after the third attempted prank, Harry had very skillfully embarrassed them very thoroughly at a practice. Wood had worked them to a frazzle over the next three days. Harry told them that he was sorry, but he thought Ron and Hermione needed to work things out on their own.
The twins got the message, and left Hermione, and Harry, alone.
Ron wasn't certain why Neville and Harry put up with Hermione. He knew they were his friends, and therefore they must dislike the bossy, buck-toothed know-it-all as much as he did. Ron figured the two other boys must just have a lot more patience and tolerance than he did. Granted, she did help them a bit in class. Perhaps that's why they could tolerate Hermione; they had adopted her, partly as a surrogate sister and partly as a pet and note-taker.
"A pet hamster," Ron muttered one afternoon to his rat, Scabbers.
Ron was a little worried about the rat. It seemed very intelligent, but had exhibited no magical tendencies other than a long life. Since the end of September, however, the fat rat had lost weight, and had started to shred Ron's sheets as the result of what could only be nightmares of some kind. The only time Hermione had spoken to him politely in weeks was when she suggested he ask Hagrid if he had any medicines that might work on rats. The grounds keeper was always doctoring strays.
Ron had grudgingly agreed it might be a good idea, but was waiting until he could see Hagrid alone. That way, he wouldn't have to hear the Hamster brag about what a good idea it had been if Hagrid could help.
Hermione wasn't sure why Harry and Neville put up with Ron. The red-head was the most childish First year in Gryffindor as far as she was concerned. She didn't know much about actually having friends, as she had really had none in the Muggle primary school she had attended. It was nice having Harry and Neville as friends now.
Perhaps the pair put up with Ron because he was in their dorm and could talk about Quidditch. That was the only explanation she could think of that sounded even remotely reasonable. Granted, the two boys weren't nearly as keen on doing extra research and homework as she was, but she accepted that.
Harry and Neville just wished the two would go back to being friends and hoped there wouldn't be a big blow-up.
Unfortunately, there was a blow-up. It was Halloween, and therefore many of the students were on edge, anticipating the feast that evening. Ron seemed the most anxious of the First years.
Harry was a bit off that day, in part because there had been very tiring practices both the evening before and that morning before breakfast. Harry disliked Thursdays on principle, since he had to deal with Snape early in the morning. On the way to Charms, Harry had been half-listening to Neville go on and on about some semi-magical cactus which he hoped to grow some summer, and the two accidentally sat next to each other for the first time in over a month. As everyone else was paired up by Professor Flitwick as usual, that left Ron and Hermione paired towards the back of the classroom.
Hermione hated being in the back almost as much as she hated being paired with Ron. Ron liked sitting in the back, but felt even more strongly about pairing with Hermione.
The First years had spent most of the first month learning about wands in general, learning about wand movements and safety, and then learning the basic movements and why they were used when they were used so far during the second month. They had only learned a few basic hygiene charms. Today, they were going to learn their first active charm -- levitation.
The class was very eager to finally learn something that was basic, necessary, and fun. After a lecture on proper movement and pronunciation, Professor Flitwick stood well-back and let them at it.
Neither Harry nor Neville were having any success. Swish and flick as they might, the feather they were supposed to be levitating just lay on their desktop. Of course, after Seamus prodded his feather, which sent it up in smoke at the table to their right, it was perhaps understandable they were having some difficulty concentrating. Having Ron, to their left and behind them, waving his long arms like a windmill while shouting the incantation ("Wingarium Leviosa!") repeatedly was also distracting.
Hermione finally got Ron to stop shouting by snapping, "You're saying it wrong! It's Win-gar-dium Levi-o-sa. Make the 'gar' nice and long, not the 'win'!"
"YOU do it, then, if you're so clever," Ron snarled. Harry and Neville looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
Hermione rolled up her sleeves, flicked her wand, and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" The feather rose off the desk, and Hermione made it hover about four feet above their heads.
"Oh, well done!" cried Professor Flitwick, clapping. "Everyone see here, Miss Granger's done it!"
Ron was in a very bad mood for the rest of the class. At the end of class, Ron grabbed his books and tried to rush for the doorway. He found himself stuck there for a second with Harry. "It's no wonder no one can stand her," Ron said loudly. "That hamster is a nightmare, honestly."
Before Harry could tick Ron off for saying such a thing, Hermione pushed past them, and Harry could see she was in tears.
"Why did you say that?" Harry hissed angrily.
"It was really uncalled for," Neville agreed from behind. The other Gryffindor girls each went past Ron with a sniff.
"But the Hampster is. . . ."
"Don't you ever call her that again!" Harry told Ron. "I know you don't like her. Fine. You don't have to. And you're our friend. That doesn't mean we can't be her friend, too!"
"So don't ever call her that," Neville stated forcefully. "We like her. We aren't going to choose between you."
"All right," Ron grumbled.
"We're sorry we sat together," Harry said. "We'll try to keep that from happening again."
Hermione didn't show up to lunch or the final class of the day, flying, which made Ron feel a little guilty. Later that afternoon, when Harry was at Quidditch practice, Parvati Patil made certain Ron and Neville heard her tell Lavender Brown that Hermione had been crying in one of the girls' lavatories all afternoon, and was still crying.
Ron felt awful. He had teased his sister almost as often as she had teased him. Never once had he made Ginny cry like this. Ron felt awkward walking with Neville towards the great hall a while later. He felt worse when Harry joined them and Neville told Harry what they had overheard.
That night, the school gathered in the great hall not just for dinner but for a feast. A thousand live bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling while a thousand more swopped over the tables in low black clouds, making the candles in the pumpkins sputter. The feast appeared, and the students applauded.
Harry was just reaching for the only potato Ron had left on one of the serving dishes when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the hall, his turban askew and terror on his face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore, slumped against the table, and gasped, "Troll -- in the dungeons -- thought you ought to know."
Quirrell then sank to the floor in a dead faint.
There was an uproar even as Quirrell collapsed. It took several purple firecrackers exploding from the end of Professor Dumbledore's wand to bring silence. "Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately!" He then organized the teachers to go to the dungeons.
Percy was in his element, taking charge even though he was just a junior prefect. "Follow me!" The other prefects rolled their eyes and left the First years in Percy's eager hands. "Stick together, First years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders. Stay close behind me, now. Make way, First years coming through! Excuse me, I'm a prefect!" He never noticed Hermione was missing.
"How could a troll get in?" Harry asked Ron. They had somehow ended up at the end of the line, while Neville was stuck walking next to Percy.
"Don't ask me. You know they're supposed to be really stupid," Ron answered. "Maybe Peeves let one in for a Halloween joke."
As Percy and a Hufflepuff prefect led their two groups into each other at an intersection, Harry grabbed Ron's arm. "I've just thought -- Hermione!"
"What about her?"
"She doesn't know about the troll."
Ron bit his lip, and then saw Percy hurrying off. "Oh, all right," he snapped. "Let's go."
They slipped around the Hufflepuffs, down a deserted corridor, and hurried towards the girls' lav. They had just turned the corner of an intersection when they heard quick footsteps behind them.
Fearing it was Percy, the boys hid behind a large stone griffin. To their surprise, it wasn't Percy, but Snape, who headed down the corridor that led to the lavatory.
"What's he doing?" Harry whispered. "Why isn't he with the other teachers down in the dungeons?"
"Search me. Let's get this over with."
They followed Snape, who quickly veered off up a usually-locked staircase. "He's going to the third floor," Harry whispered.
"Never mind that. Can you smell something?"
Harry frowned and sniffed. He wrinkled his nose. It smelled awful, like very old, very dirty socks and stopped-up plumbing.
The two took another step each, and then stopped, hearing something approach. They backed into the shadows. Ron pointed to where a low grunting and loud shuffling was coming from. Harry saw something large was slowly moving towards them.
It was a horrible sight. Twelve feet tall, its skin was a dull, granite gray. Its large lumpy body was like a boulder with a small bald head perched on top. It had short thick legs and flat, horny feet, and the smell coming from it was incredible. It was holding a large wooden club, which dragged along the floor because its arms were so long.
The troll stopped in front of the first doorway and peered inside. It waggled its long ears, as if hearing something, and made up its tiny mind. It ducked and slouched into the room.
"There's a key in the lock," Harry muttered. "We could lock it in."
The boys edged towards the open door, then Harry leapt towards it, slammed it shut and locked the door.
"Yes!" Ron cried out.
Happily, the boys turned to run and get help. After a just a few steps, however, they heard the high scream of a petrified girl coming from the room they'd just locked up.
"It must have been the girls' lav!" Harry said.
"What idiot would put a key in the door of a girls' loo?" Ron asked.*
"Never mind that! Hermione!" Harry turned and ran back as Hermione screamed again. Ron followed.
Harry fumbled with the key and pulled the door open. Hermione was standing at the far wall, while the troll was bashing the last of the sinks on the way towards her.
Harry grabbed a few pieces of rubble and went to the left side of the chamber. "Confuse it!" he told Ron, throwing a tap at the troll.
The tap hit the troll right on the back of the head. It stopped, and spent a few seconds trying to figure out what had happened. The troll turned and saw Harry. It made an angry noise and took a step towards him.
"Oy! Pea-brain!" Ron shouted from near the reamins of the sinks. He also threw a piece of pipe, which hit the troll's shoulder. It didn't seem to notice the pipe hitting it, but it now turned towards Ron.
Harry seized the chance and ran behind the troll and grabbed Hermione's hand. "Come on, run, run!" Harry yelled. Hermione was stiff with terror, however, and couldn't move.
The troll was getting confused from the yelling and the echoes in the large lavatory. It roared in anger, and took another step towards Ron, cutting off his escape.
Harry, not being able to think of anything else to do, ran and jumped on the troll's back. Another step brought his arms around the troll's neck, and he tried to choke the troll.
The troll was far too strong for this to work, but as he struggled, Harry's wand got shoved up the troll's nose. It roared with anger and started stumbling around, dropping its club.
Ron took a deep breath and hoped. "Wingardium Leviosa!" The club flew into the air, and Ron dropped it on the troll's head. The troll blinked, and then collapsed.
Harry stood up, shaking and out of breath. Ron was as stunned as Hermione. The three looked at each other.
"Is it . . . dead?" Hermione finally asked.
"I don't think so," Harry said. "I think it's just knocked out." He bent over and pulled his wand from the troll's nose. "Urgh!" He wiped the snot off.
At that moment, the door slammed open. Looking up, they saw Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Quirrell staring at them. Quirrell started to hyperventilate and sat on one of the toilet seats. Snape stood there, seemingly favoring one leg.
"What were the three of you thinking of!" McGonagall shouted. "you . . . you. . . ."
"Please Professor McGonagall, they were looking for me," Hermione said.
Harry jumped in. "We knew she hadn't been feeling well, and was likely still in here. She was here all evening," Harry said, then realized that he really should have told someone rather than going off to get her.
Ron realized that, too, and added, "We tried to get Percy's attention, but when we couldn't, well, someone had to come, right?"
"If they hadn't found me, I'd be dead now. Harry distracted it by sticking his wand up its nose and Ron knocked it out with its own club. They really didn't have time to come and fetch anyone. It was about to finish me off when they arrived."
Snape gave Harry a penetrating look. Harry frowned and batted away what he knew was an attempt at subtle Legilimency. He glared at the startled Snape, who averted his eyes.
"The fourth member of the little group is missing, I see," Snape said, to cover up his surprise.
"True. If they had planned this, no doubt Mister Longbottom would be with them," McGonagall said. She glared at Hermione. "Next time you feel unwell, go to the Infirmary. You are very lucky, Miss Granger. That's a point from Gryffindor."
She turned to Harry and Ron. "Not many first years could have taken on a full-grown mountain troll. You each win five points. Now, hurry back to Gryffindor. The feast is being concluded there."
"No," a new voice said, "it is not." Professor Dumbledore strode in. "The guardian of the Gryffindor entrance was attacked during the feast. Please escort the students back to the great hall, Professor Quirrell. Professor Snape, dispose of this troll. After that, search your areas of the castle for the perpetrator."
"Who was it, sir?" Snape asked, eyeing Quirrell.
"Peeves said it was Sirius Black."
Quirrell fell off the toilet from the shock.
*Why indeed? Either it was bad writing on Rowling's part, or else it was Dumbledore working behind the scenes. I prefer the second.