Moody Blues: Part 1
Ron scowled, wondering if it was his imagination, or was Hermione hanging all over Harry even more than she ever had before? Hermione seemed to be sitting even closer to Harry at mealtimes, if possible. And they seemed to have their arms around one another more often than he could recall, even when she wasn’t crying about something.
Ron had always thought that she was just one of those sorts of girls who was huggy-kissy - ick - and it had simply been another annoying Hermione Granger thing to him - like her bossy know-it-allness. Ron had been infuriated when she’d been all over Harry at Christmas. Harry was supposed to be his best friend, not Hermione’s.
It had been more than apparent that they’d grown even closer since the summer following the end of Second Year. They always seemed to take each other’s sides in arguments against Ron - though admittedly, Scabbers had ended up being a creepy murderous wizard and the “Grim” had been Harry’s godfather. But there was something else which was aggravating about it now which Ron couldn’t quite put his finger on. The way Harry’s arm had been around Hermione’s slender waist at the World Cup when she was wearing that clingy dress - Draco Malfoy’s taunts in the woods.
Ridiculous! As if Ron would actually like a bossy know-it-all with bushy hair and big front teeth. It’s not like she was a Veela.
Though, he had to admit, Hermione’s cleverness had come in handy - when she had deigned to climb off her high horse to help him catch up in time for final exams in the classes which they shared before the end of Third Year. Harry had offered to help Ron with his homework as he usually did, but Hermione had insisted that Harry had enough to be getting on with and that she would have more time to spare to help Ron as she was much faster at reading and writing.
And somehow, Hermione had always seemed easier to talk to than other girls - when she wasn’t being such a bloody annoying bossy know-it-all! And then that dress - Hermione had looked completely different...
Bloody Hell! What was wrong with him? Had Malfoy been right? All that Ron was sure of, was that he wasn’t sure what annoyed him more now: the fact that Harry seemed to like Hermione more than he liked Ron, or the fact that Hermione seemed to like Harry more than she liked Ron.
And even worse, Ron wasn’t even sure why, except that he felt sort of hungry every time he thought of Hermione in that dress... and angry when he thought of Harry’s arm being around her waist.
Harry heaved his and Hermione’s trunks onto the luggage rack in their compartment on the Hogwarts Express, oblivious to the expression on Ron’s face. The rainy weather seemed somehow fitting to Harry’s gloomy mood. He had a strange sense of foreboding which he supposed was due in part to the fact that Amos Diggory’s head had popped up in the Weasleys’ fireplace that morning.
Mr Diggory was Cedric Diggory’s father, and a Ministry employee who worked for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. And Harry had taken a dislike to the man when he had sensed that Mr Diggory harboured some sort of ill-will towards him, and when Mr Diggory had treated Winky the House-Elf so poorly. But that wasn’t what had stirred Harry’s ominous feelings.
Harry was concerned about Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody - the ex-Auror whom Harry and Hermione had both met at the World Cup; he had a very strong suspicion that Mad Eye would be taking the open Defence Against the Dark Arts position this year at Hogwarts. Mr Diggory had brought a message early that morning for Mr Weasley that the ex-Auror had got in a spot of trouble with the Ministry which only Mr Weasley could sort out. According to Mr Diggory, Mad Eye Moody had attracted the attention of muggle police when he’d caused a commotion over some sort of false alarm regarding a non-existent intruder at his house.
“I dunno Hermione...” Harry had muttered after Mr Diggory’s head had departed the Weasleys’ fireplace with a piece of toast in his mouth. “Mr Diggory thinks Moody was just being paranoid, but I don’t think I believe that. Doesn’t it seem a bit coincidental t’you that this would happen just after the Death Eater attack at the World Cup and just before Moody’s due to leave for Hogwarts? What if...”
“...someone really did try to attack him?” Hermione had continued, her eyes widening as her breath had caught. “I think you’re right Harry - If Mr Moody’s a friend of Dumbledore’s, and fought with him against Voldemort the last time, then the Headmaster very likely hired him to take the Defence of Dark Arts position this year to help keep an eye on you because...”
“...he believes that my dream is real - that Voldemort’s back and plotting again to kill me. Yeah, exactly!” Harry had gone on with a nod. “Maybe Voldemort found out about Moody somehow and sent someone to try and stop him from going to Hogwarts.”
“Harry... what if it’s something worse than that?” Hermione had gasped, a horrible thought suddenly occurring to her.
“What d’you mean Hermione? What could be worse than trying to kill Moody?”
“Harry, what if Voldemort tried to Imperius Mr Moody to kill you at Hogwarts?”
“Blimey Hermione! You’re right...” Harry had frowned thoughtfully for a moment. “But somehow I think Mr Moody would be hard to Imperius. If that book on curses we found in Number Twelve’s library is right, strong-willed people have a chance of throwing off the Imperius Curse. And Mad Eye seemed like a pretty tough-minded bloke. Maybe...”
Another horrible thought had niggled at the back of Harry’s mind, and Hermione had given voice to it.
“...Maybe Voldemort sent someone to replace him Harry ...” Hermione had gasped, “...with polyjuice potion. Oh Harry, we’ve got to have Dumbledore check Mr Moody thoroughly when we get to school - before he can do anything to hurt you!”
As his thoughts returned to the present, Harry took Crookshanks’ basket from Hermione and stowed it next to Hedwig’s cage and Hermione’s trunk on the luggage rack above their seats, he caught an odd expression on Ron’s face which put thoughts about Mr Moody out of his mind temporarily. Harry wondered if Ron was still upset about the second hand dress robes which his mother had bought for him in Diagon Alley.
Harry thought it was a crying shame how quickly Ron’s good mood had evaporated. Ron had seemed very happy the last few days of the summer holidays - showing off the quidditch moves that he’d been practicing from the book which Harry had given him as a Christmas Present, on the broom which Sirius had given him to make up for breaking his leg. Ron was very intent on making the Gryffindor quidditch team this year.
Ron had even bitten his tongue and stayed out of the furious argument that Hermione had had with Percy Weasley about Winky when Percy had insisted that a high ranking Ministry Official like Mr Crouch deserved “unswerving obedience from his servants.” Hermione’s enraged retort that Winky was a slave, not a servant, had been cut off when Mrs Weasley had brought Ron his “new” dress robes to pack yesterday.
The row between Ron and his mum had been epic when he’d seen the vintage maroon robes with lacy frills at the collar and cuffs. Hermione had hidden behind The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 4 - the 4th Year Charms book from which Harry and Hermione had both learned the Summoning Charm at the beginning of Third Year - trembling when Ron had thundered up to his room and slammed his door, bellowing about how everything he owned was rubbish.
The whistle blew and the Hogwarts Express lurched into motion with a hiss of steam as its wheels screeched, distracting Harry briefly from ruminating on Ron’s moodiness. Harry caught Hermione in his arms when she staggered, and they both quickly sat down. The heavy rain pelted at the windows as the train departed from King’s Cross.
Harry glanced at Ron again and considered telling him what he and Hermione had surmised about Moody before leaving the Weasleys’ house earlier that morning, when they were rudely interrupted and heckled by Draco Malfoy and his thuggish cronies, Crabbe and Goyle. Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. He was getting used to this little ritual exchange with Malfoy on the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of every school-year.
Ron’s mood went from bad to worse after Malfoy tormented Ron about the maroon dress robes - which Ron had thrown over his owl’s cage to shut Pigwidgeon up. And it didn’t end there. Malfoy seemed to have some inside knowledge regarding the upcoming event at Hogwarts precipitating the necessity for dress robes.
“...So what about it Weasel-boy? You planning on entering then? It’s your chance to show Potter up and get the girl... there’s gold involved too you know?”
“What are you on about Malfoy?” snapped Ron, his face reddening.
“What? You don’t know? Your father and brother work at the Ministry and you don’t even know? I suppose they’re too low level...” Malfoy chortled gleefully. “They’re probably not important enough to be told that sort of thing...” he continued as Crabbe and Goyle sniggered sycophantically.
“Clear off Malfoy...” Harry growled warningly, unwilling to admit that he didn’t know something that Malfoy did. Unfortunately, Malfoy seemed to know exactly which card to play to really get Ron’s goat and he barreled on, talking loudly over Harry.
“I expect Potter will enter though - he never misses a chance to show-off! I’m surprised Potter didn’t tell you though, Weasleby - considering that he’s such good chums with the Minister after all....”
“...Though I suppose Scarhead’s worked out what a worthless peasant you are and decided he’d rather hog all the glory to himself!” Malfoy concluded, smirking malevolently as he beckoned Crabbe and Goyle to depart.
“Bloody git!” fumed Ron, his face purple with rage. “I wish he really had been sent to Durmstrang.” Ron slammed the compartment door so hard that all the glass shattered, and he shot Harry a dark look.
“Reparo,” muttered Hermione.
Harry was taken aback and speechless, momentarily uncertain who Ron’s look of fury was directed at. Hermione must have had an inkling though, because she jumped in as soon as the shards of glass had become whole windowpanes and returned to their proper places.
“Ron,” she said quickly, her voice full of concern, “You know Malfoy was full of rubbish don’t you? Obviously some sort of event must be happening at Hogwarts this year, but Harry doesn’t know any more about it than you do.”
“Er... yeah... sure,” said Ron uncertainly, not meeting Hermione’s eyes. “Yeah... I mean you would’ve told me... right Harry?”
“Of course I would’ve Ron!” said Harry. “Malfoy’s just a liar!”
Harry was extremely relieved when Ginny and Luna found their compartment and joined them. When the witch with the lunch trolley showed up, Harry purchased a pile of meat pasties and cauldron cakes, and drinks for everyone, hoping some food would cheer Ron up. Ron did lighten up somewhat, but his moodiness seemed very persistent.
When Seamus, Dean, and Neville ambled by after lunch had been demolished, and poked their heads in to say hello, Ron followed them back to their compartment. Luna and Ginny glanced at Harry and Hermione, then peered at each other knowingly.
“Thanks for lunch Harry,” beamed Luna. “It was lovely.”
“Yeah... thanks Harry,” said Ginny, smiling. “We’ll see you both later Hermione. You may as well make the best of the peace and quiet the rest of the day,” she finished pointedly.
Hermione pursed her lips into a funny little half-smile; Harry turned slightly pink and grinned. As soon as Ginny and Luna had gone, Hermione drew the curtains across the windows to the narrow corridor and locked the door.
“Just for now,” said Hermione as she snuggled under Harry’s arm.
“No arguments here,” Harry let out a huge sigh of relief as the residual tension drained away, leaning in to meet Hermione’s lips with his own as he gently stroked Hermione’s cheek.
They spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling, occasionally sharing humid kisses, and eventually dozed off peacefully in each other’s arms, feeling safe in the knowledge that Hermione’s windup alarm clock was set to wake them an hour before they reached Hogwarts. Crookshanks purred on their laps and Hedwig hooted softly as the rain grew heavier and the train trundled ever northward.
Ron left it until the very last minute to return to their compartment as the Hogwarts Express rounded the last bend. He seemed to be in a much better mood. For his part, Harry was feeling much happier as well, though he was still anxious about what would happen when Mr Moody reached Hogwarts.
After the Sorting, everyone dug into the feast. Harry kept peering up at the Staff Table at the empty seat which was surely Mr Moody’s, barely touching his dinner.
“WazzamatterHarry?” mumbled Ron cheerily through a huge mouthful of steak and kidney pie and mashed potato as Parvati and Lavender eyed him with horror.
“Er...” Harry wasn’t sure exactly what to say, as he still hadn’t had a chance to reveal his and Hermione’s suspicions to Ron, then he decided to just make a bit of a joke out of it. “...Just hoping the new Defence teacher isn’t another one of Vol... er... You-Know-Who’s minions out to kill me this year.”
Ron nearly snorted his mashed potato out of his nose in laughter. Hermione picked at her own food for a bit, before turning to Harry looking troubled. But Hermione’s lack of appetite appeared to be due to a different reason altogether.
“Harry, Sirius said that that he’d sent his house-elf Kreacher to Hogwarts, and Winky said that Dobby works here too. Do you think that house elves made all of this food?”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up. He hadn’t really thought about it before. But the idea that his dinner had been made by slaves began to make the few bits of roast beef and mashed potatoes - which he’d only just managed to get down - churn in his stomach.
“Er... I don’t know Hermione... I... I suppose perhaps they do though!”
“They do indeed,” proffered Nearly Headless Nick, who had been eavesdropping silently behind them and peering longingly at the feast. “Hogwarts has well over a hundred house-elves you know.”
“But... but Dumbledore pays them right?” said Hermione, “Like Dobby? And surely they get sick leave and pensions and... and paid holidays?”
Nick chortled at the hilarious notion of house-elves getting holidays.
“Of course not! And they’d be very offended if anyone offered,” the ghost responded, guffawing with great amusement.
Ron began to snigger loudly, accidentally spraying Harry with bits of Yorkshire Pudding. Hermione’s face turned livid, and Ron quieted to a grin. But Fred chuckled, and spoke up.
“They like it Hermione...”
“...they live to serve...” continued George.
“You KNEW? ” gasped Hermione, quivering in outrage.
Fred and George looked at each other uncomfortably, realising suddenly that they had just stepped into a mine-field, not to mention that they were on the verge of inadvertently exposing one of the secrets of their successful parties.
“Well... yeah! But...” Fred started to say before quickly shutting up again.
Harry could see steam beginning to come out of Hermione’s ears, and he put his hand on hers.
“Hermione, why don’t we look into it later. I’m not very hungry anymore either, but let’s not spoil everyone else’s dinner, alright.”
“Maybe it should be spoiled...” she muttered angrily, glaring at all of the Weasley brothers, “slave labour.”
Neither she nor Harry ate another bite. Ron tried to tempt them both with the delicious looking desserts, chortling wickedly, but gave up trying when Harry glowered at him.
“Give it a rest Ron...” Harry growled when Ron waved a delicious smelling apple crumble under his nose.
“Suit yourself then, more for me,” Ron smirked.
After the feast, everything else was put out of their minds. Dumbledore had made his usual speech, but this year he had a bit more to add. Ron’s face fell when the Headmaster announced that the school’s Quidditch season had been canceled.
“But I’ve been practicing all summer to get on the team,” Ron moaned angrily.
Fred and George looked equally appalled. Harry peered at Hermione and raised his eyebrows, knowing that this must have something to do with whatever Malfoy had been on about. But the furious murmurs filling the Great Hall morphed into noisy excitement and cheers when Dumbledore pronounced that the Triwizard tournament would be occurring this year for the first time since 1792, having been reinstated by the Ministry’s departments of International Magical Cooperation, and Magical Games and Sports.
“D...d...death toll?” Hermione sputtered when Dumbledore got around to explaining why it had been canceled centuries ago, glancing at Harry with alarm and squeezing his hand under the table.
Harry grimaced and rubbed his forehead. Most of Hogwarts seemed unfazed though, and Fred and George were positively thrilled... until Dumbledore proclaimed that the rules had been changed to prevent students under 17 from participating.
“Still, I reckon we could work out how to get past whoever the impartial judge is,” said Fred.
“Perhaps a couple drops of Aging Potion?” George proposed.
“Yeah... that’d be brilliant,” Ron murmured, a distant look in his eyes. “A thousand galleons...”
Ron’s daydream was interrupted by a flash of lightning from the enchanted ceiling and a loud of peal of thunder. The buzz of excitement faded into gasps of shock and surprise at the intimidating and thoroughly drenched figure who had just limped into the Great Hall with heavy thumping footsteps.
Harry’s heart began to thud a bit harder and faster, and Hermione clutched his hand a bit tighter. Harry swallowed nervously, but took some comfort in the fact that Dumbledore had promised to check Alastor Moody thoroughly for Imperius Curses and Polyjuice Potion.
Several girls and First Years squeaked with fright as the carved out features of the ex-Auror’s heavily scarred face stood out clearly in stark relief with every flicker of lightning. Moody lurched and clomped his way to the Staff-Table, dripping all over the marble floor. Harry frowned when Dumbledore introduced him to the school as if nothing were amiss.
“I expect Dumbledore doesn’t want to tip him off just yet, until the students are safely out of the way, and until he’s sure that there’s no way Moody can escape - just in case, Harry,” Hermione whispered.
“Oh, yeah... I suppose that makes sense,” murmured Harry.
Harry couldn’t think of anything else all the way back to the Gryffindor Common Room. Everyone was talking about the Triwizard tournament, but Harry didn’t hear a word that anyone else but Hermione said. She hugged him as long as she felt safe to in the Common Room without raising anyone’s eyebrows before saying goodnight.
The aching emptiness in Harry’s gut as he changed into his pyjamas and clambered into bed had nothing to do with lack of food, and everything to do with the lack of his Hermione to cuddle. Harry rubbed at his twinging scar again, steeling himself for a wretched night of tossing and turning.
“Earth to Harry...”
“Oh... er... Sorry Ron! What were you saying?”
“A Thousand Galleons Harry!” said Ron, yawning sleepily, “I think I might enter - if Fred and George work out how to do it... You’re going to give it a go, aren’t you?”
“Er... honestly Ron, I’m really not that interested in competing...”
“Yeah...right!” Ron sniggered, “Sure you’re not...”
“No, really,” Harry muttered. “I don’t know enough spells for one thing. I don’t need the money, and I’ve already got more fame than I care for. I’d just like a nice peaceful year at school for once...”
“Whatever you say Harry...”
Harry felt as dismal and grey as the clouds floating across the Enchanted Ceiling of the Great Hall the following morning. Hermione peered at him sympathetically as they dug into breakfast.
“Did you have nightmares again Harry?” she asked quietly. Harry reluctantly nodded, hating to seem needy and pathetic.
“Moody’s not up at the Staff Table though,” said Harry pensively. “I wonder if that means anything...”
“I see you’re both eating again,” said Ron with a grin. “Is the Hunger Strike for House Elves over then?”
Hermione gave Ron a withering glare and Harry rolled his eyes, but neither one of them was in the mood to take the bait. At the end of breakfast, Ron departed with Seamus, Dean, and Neville for Divination. Harry and Hermione both got up, ready to leave for Arithmancy when Professor McGonagall approached them, bearing a grave countenance.
“Potter, Granger, the Headmaster would like a word with you both in his office,” McGonagall’s features softened slightly. “I have already informed Professor Vector that you shan’t be in class today. Not to worry though... she assured me that she would not be assigning any homework today.”
“Oh no!” said Hermione, sounding disappointed.
“What’s this about Professor? Does this have anything t’do with...?” began Harry.
“Not here Mr Potter!” McGonagall interjected. “It’s best that Dumbledore explains everything in private. Though... I suppose it would be remiss of me not to say at least how very proud and grateful I am to have you both as my students. Now run along... don’t keep the Headmaster waiting.”
It was with utmost trepidation and anticipation that Harry and Hermione made their way through the castle to Dumbledore’s office.
“Cockroach Cluster,” said Harry to the gargoyle statue guarding the Headmaster’s office.
The gargoyle leapt aside; Harry and Hermione stepped onto the foot of the stone spiral staircase which carried them up like an escalator to the entrance of the office. His heart pounding in his ears now, Harry took the brass door knocker in his hand and knocked three times on the glossy oak door. Harry and Hermione both gasped in shock when it opened to reveal two unexpected visitors already in Dumbledore’s office.
“Ah... welcome Harry, Miss Granger! Please, do not be alarmed,” said Dumbledore calmly. “This is the real Alastor Moody... and you are both well acquainted with Cornelius Fudge of course.”
“Hello Harry, Miss Granger!” Fudge smiled wanly at them both; he had the air of defeat about him.
“Potter, Granger... Good to see you both again!” growled Moody, who looked more than a bit exhausted and out of sorts. “Can’t thank you two enough, really!”
Dumbledore conjured two poofy chintz armchairs for Harry and Hermione, and they both took a seat next to each other. Hermione reached out and took Harry’s hand, biting her lip.
“Well, perhaps the good news first,” began the Headmaster, his eyes twinkling. “Though it is no doubt quite apparent as Alastor is now with us, and none the worse for wear...”
“Except for a bit o’ wounded pride perhaps,” the scarred ex-Auror grumbled.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore continued, looking slightly abashed himself. “And it is all thanks to Harry’s apparent prescience and the ingenuity of you both. Last night, based upon your cogent analysis of the situation, after the feast professors Flitwick, McGonagall, Snape, and myself confronted the imposter - for indeed he was polyjuiced - and apprehended him with little struggle, having caught him unawares. Alastor was released from confinement in the bottom of his own trunk...”
“Who was the imposter?” Harry interjected, unable to help himself.
“Ah... There is quite a tale to tell regarding the identity of the imposter, but to begin with, I must say that I find myself humbled by you both. I daresay that the imposter may have gone on for quite some time before discovery, as I had not considered the possibility that Voldemort could have learned of Alastor’s appointment here at Hogwarts and sent an agent to capture and impersonate him.”
“And as it turns out - as unthinkable as it was - the imposter was none other than Bartemius Crouch’s son - Barty Crouch Junior...”
“You’re joking! ” gasped Harry.
“The son of the head of International Magical Cooperation?” squeaked Hermione.
“The very same - yes!” Dumbledore nodded. “And believe me, his story is even more remarkable than you can imagine - as it was believed by all that he had died in Azkaban. And as incredible as his own personal tale is - given the elder Crouch’s history - the story of how Barty Crouch Junior came to be discovered in the home of his father and recruited by Voldemort is even more convoluted - and his plan to kidnap you stretches the very boundaries of credulity...”
Having been given the rest of the first day back at Hogwarts to themselves, relieved of their classes by Dumbledore, Harry and Hermione found themselves sitting on boulders by the edge of the Black Lake, still processing the shocking information revealed in the Headmaster’s office as fat raindrops began to fall again.
“I know I should be happy Hermione, but it’s a bloody shame that Crouch Jr couldn’t reveal where Voldemort and Wormtail are hiding right now,” said Harry bitterly as he picked up a pebble and threw it in the lake with a plunk, not caring as the rain began to splatter his glasses and pepper his robes with wet spots. “...I suppose Voldemort must’ve obliviated him - or maybe used some sort of secret-keeping spell - to keep his location secret until it was the right time for Crouch Jr to kidnap me to minimise the risk of being caught.”
“I still can’t believe that the Wizengamot passed a motion of no-confidence and sacked the Minister this morning,” Hermione fumed. “What happened at the World Cup wasn’t his fault at all! And there’s absolutely nothing in the Daily Prophet this morning about Crouch Jr’s capture. It’s almost like the new Minister is trying to cover things up... but why? ”
Harry picked up a bigger rock and hurled it into the water with a splash.
“I dunno Hermione - maybe Minister Umbridge is trying to protect Crouch Senior?”
“Perhaps so...” Hermione nodded, brushing a wet lock of hair from her face. “That almost makes sense. I remember Percy saying that Crouch Senior and Minister Umbridge - when she was still the Senior Undersecretary - saw eye to eye regarding Cornelius Fudge being incompetent... but still, there’s something missing...”
“Yeah - tell me about it!” Harry muttered darkly, rubbing at his painful scar. “Dumbledore and Moody don’t seem to like her very much... maybe she’s got connections to Voldemort somehow, but they can’t prove it. All I’m sure of Hermione, is that things aren’t over yet...”
“Voldemort’s going to try something else to get to me which will put everyone in danger. I just know it - we need to learn some proper fighting spells. I don’t want to just rely on Moody to protect us - he can’t be around both of us 24/7.”
“I... I agree Harry. I think we should be able to find some good spells in the Fifth and Sixth Year Charms books...”
Hermione sneezed. Harry turned around and saw her shivering, rivulets of water running down her cheeks and dripping from her sopping hair. He suddenly realised that he was as wet as she was, and that it was pouring again, but she hadn’t said a word. Harry swallowed guiltily. He felt extremely agitated, and had no desire to be inside the castle around hundreds of other students, but he knew it would do neither of them any good to catch their death of colds.
“Er... Sorry Hermione! I suppose we’d better get back and...”
But before Harry could say another word of apology, Hermione wrapped herself around him, kissing him deeply as the rain grew heavier. She slipped her arms inside his robes and pressed herself against him as tightly as possible. Harry felt a surge of heat fill him from the tips of his toes to the top of his head.
The limbs of the willows and birches began swaying as the wind picked up, and curtains of rain were sweeping across the surface of lake by the time they both fell apart gasping for breath, but neither of them felt the cold and damp as they trudged up the muddy hillside back to the castle with grins on their dripping faces.
Everyone was still in classes when they got back, as it wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and they hung up their robes to dry by the fire in the Common Room before heading off to their respective dormitories. Back in her own dorm, Hermione breathlessly stripped off her wet things and found clean, dry clothes in her trunk as Crookshanks purred at her. Hermione bit her lip as she peered at her fresh uniform, considering her options.
She had kissed Harry outside in the rain as passionately as she could, knowing that it would distract him from his darkening mood. Hermione had felt her success as she pressed up against him in the downpour, stirring herself in the process. Decision made and still unclothed, Hermione yanked her crimson curtains all the way around her four-poster bed, her heart racing. Sensing his human’s need for a moment of privacy, Crookshanks jumped off her bed and curled up by the fireplace instead.
Harry smiled wryly and turned a bit pink when Hermione finally came back downstairs to the Gryffindor Common Room looking relaxed. Hermione grinned and blushed to see Harry appearing much calmer himself, sitting there in clean dry clothes; she snuggled up beside him on the sofa nearest to the crackling fire in the hearth. Harry put his arm around Hermione and kissed her forehead.
“Thanks Hermione... I feel loads better now. So what say we head to the library and start looking up fighting spells... and the history of house-elf slavery?”
“That’s an excellent idea... but I think that can wait till after lunch Harry,” Hermione said softly, fluttering her eyelashes as she leaned in for a proper kiss.
Harry and Hermione gave up looking for information on house-elf slavery after a while, unable to find anything about it in any of the history books - not even a single word in Hogwarts, a History. They spent the rest of the afternoon reading up on stunning and shielding charms, as well as a variety of concussive and incendiary explosive spells.
“Where’ve you two been all day?” groused Ron, eyeing Harry and Hermione suspiciously when he found them both in the common room studying after classes. “I didn’t see you in Herbology or Care of Magical Creatures...”
Harry grinned at Ron and began to quietly fill him in about Professor Moody with Hermione’s help. It was nearly dinnertime by the time they finished telling Ron everything.
“Blimey! No wonder Dumbledore gave you the day off! ...” Ron gaped at Harry. “Another bloody nutter trying to kill you...”
“Yeah... anyway we both skipped lunch, so I’m famished now,” said Harry.
“That miserable old bat Trelawney gave us a load of extra homework too,” Ron griped moodily as they queued in the entrance hall behind the horde of students heading for dinner.
“Maybe you should lay off the Uranus jokes when Trelawney does Astrology,” Neville muttered, frowning at Ron.
Sure enough, Harry spotted Lavender Brown in the crowd shooting Ron dirty looks again. Parvati turned around to see what Lavender was looking at and rolled her eyes. Harry heard someone shouting behind him.
“Potter, hey Potter!”
Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Ron turned to see Malfoy chortling gleefully as Crabbe and Goyle stood beside him sniggering. Malfoy held up the Daily Prophet for all to see the headline.
SENIOR UNDERSECRETARY SWORN IN AS NEW MINISTER
“How does it feel to be friends with a loser Potter?” sneered Malfoy. “Of course MY father is good friends with the NEW Minister. I told you that changes were coming...”
Harry peered at the black and white picture of the squat, toad-like woman on the front of the wizarding newspaper and shook his head. Draco Malfoy was slightly taken aback to see a smirk creeping to Harry’s lips.
“Is that the best your daddy can do Malfoy? He must be really getting desperate since your mummy stopped putting out for him!”
Harry felt a surge of satisfaction as Malfoy’s pallid features flushed angrily.
“I warned you to watch your mouth Potter. How dare you insult my family?” snarled Malfoy.
“Hark who’s talking. Maybe you should keep your own big fat mouth shut then!” said Harry, turning his back towards Malfoy.
A white-hot spell sizzled, singing Harry’s cheek as it barely missed him and exploded a bust near the entrance of the Great Hall, scattering shrieking students as burning shards rained down upon them. Harry whirled around, reaching for his wand. But before he could retaliate, Malfoy shriveled up and turned into a lizard.
Crabbe and Goyle turned and ran for it when they saw the mangled wizard with the large spinning blue eye bearing down on them.
“That’s quite enough outta you, sonny boy!” Moody growled as he scooped up the lizard with his bare hand.
“Professor Moody!” gasped McGonagall as she fought her way through the crowd of frightened pupils. “Is that a student?”
“Too right you are,” said Moody. “Looked like Malfoy’s boy...”
“We never use transfigurations as punishments,” Professor McGonagall began, “Point losses and detentions....”
“...Are bloody useless for teachin’ cowards a lesson!” Moody snapped. “That could be Potter or some other student lyin’ in pieces on the floor instead of a statue.”
Professor McGonagall paled when she saw the damage and glanced around at the faces of the students, many of whom looked terrified.
“Point taken!” she muttered, her nostrils flaring as her eyes narrowed at the lizard in Moody’s clutches.
The next few days passed with much less stress for Harry and Hermione, but Malfoy shot Harry venomous looks all through Potions. Not only had Malfoy been sentenced to sit detention disemboweling a barrel full of horned toads by hand, he had also been suspended from broom flying privileges for the rest of the term, and he had been restricted to wand usage in classes only.
Harry found that Arithmancy was becoming slightly less of a struggle, finally having achieved barely passing marks on all of his homework now; though it was clear to him that he’d still be lucky to get even one Exceeds Expectations on a piece of homework or a test. And Harry was very pleased that he continued to excel in Ancient Runes. Hermione had beamed at him proudly when his parchment on warding against dangerous magical creatures had earned him the highest marks in class once again.
“Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the best translator in class by my side,” said Harry, grinning at his girlfriend.
Care of Magical Creatures was a bit less enjoyable than he’d hoped though. Hagrid had some rather ugly looking little creatures which looked like a cross between a crab and a scorpion without shells. Apparently they were just hatchlings, but that didn’t stop them from being rather painful to work with.
The males had stingers, and the females had prickly suckers, and they would occasionally blast off, emitting hot sparks - hence their name: Blast Ended Skrewts. But the lesson wasn’t entirely bad. Several females managed to latch themselves onto Malfoy’s face and he had to be sent up to the hospital wing after Hagrid removed them.
Most of the class, even Malfoy’s fellow Slytherins, had a good laugh when they saw Draco’s face emblazoned with blistering hickeys. Hermione couldn’t help smirking either. The creatures were too small to have done any real harm - and she felt that he quite deserved it for trying to attack Harry the other day.
Defence Against the Dark Arts with Professor Moody on Thursday proved to be intense and disturbing. Moody demonstrated the three “Unforgivable Curses” in class. Harry and Hermione felt well prepared, having read up about them already in the book about curses which they had discovered in Number Twelve’s library. But seeing the spells performed on a hapless spider was another thing altogether.
Many people giggled when the spider was forced to do tricks under the Imperius Curse, until Moody made it nearly drown itself. Hermione grew more anxious with each demonstration. The horrified expression on Neville’s face when the Cruciatus Curse had been demonstrated was gut-wrenching enough, but seeing Harry stare almost blankly when Moody had killed the spider with the Avada Kedavra Curse was even worse somehow.
There was barely any indication that Harry felt anything at all until Moody had pointed out that Harry was the only person known to have survived the Killing Curse. Harry’s nostrils flared, and he turned slightly pink. Tears sprang to Hermione’s eyes, sure that Harry must be thinking about his parents, and she had to bite her lip hard to keep herself from losing it completely.
“That was a bloody brilliant lesson!” said Ron, grinning as he followed Harry and Hermione to the Great Hall after class, “He really knows his stuff, Moody does! The way that spider snuffed it when Moody did the Avada Kedavra...”
Hermione spun around furiously and nearly launched herself at Ron. Harry clutched her around the waist, afraid that she might actually hit Ron.
“What is WRONG with you?” she shouted at Ron, hot tears scalding her cheeks.
“It’s alright Hermione...” Harry muttered, his own face reddening as other students turned around to see what was going on. “Ron didn’t mean anything by it.”
Ron gulped, looking half-ashamed and half-angry at Hermione’s sudden outburst. His eyes darted to Harry’s arm around her waist, then he shrugged and stalked away in the opposite direction.
“He’s such an insensitive prat!” Hermione sobbed as Harry led her into an empty classroom. He held Hermione and stroked her hair as she let it all out.
“I’m s...sorry Harry! I try to be nice to him because he’s your friend, I do! B...but I just c...can’t stand Ron sometimes! He’s alright too... sometimes... I suppose. I thought things were better again between us all after he got an owl and a new broom. And I know he just says things without thinking, but he’s just been so obnoxious about everything lately...”
“Don’t apologise Hermione,” sighed Harry, giving her a gentle kiss. “Ron is a bit thick! There’s an alright bloke in there somewhere though - he’ll grow up sometime...” Harry trailed off, wondering if it was true, uncertain of his own breaking point.
As the weeks wore on, Ron seemed in a reasonably good mood, and appeared to have forgotten all about Hermione shouting at him. Though truth be told, as Harry and Hermione had been so busy studying to keep up with their classes, he had been hanging out with Seamus and Dean more again. And even when they weren’t studying, Harry and Hermione always seemed busy with other things which either seemed too much like homework, or which Ron thought were completely ridiculous.
They had found little information in the library about house-elves beyond the fact that house-elf slavery went back centuries, but they discovered one sunny Friday afternoon that Luna’s father was apparently a treasure trove of information on the subject.
“Not many people know that wizards enslaved house-elves after a horrible war,” Luna proffered as they strolled along the shore of the lake. “It’s not in most history books. I only know because Daddy did a lot of research for an article about the cruelty of wizards towards other magical creatures once.”
Hermione’s ears perked up. “Luna, can I contact your father? I want to find out more about it and do something. It’s not fair how house-elves are treated.”
“Absolutely Hermione!” Luna said, her silvery-grey eyes growing bigger, thrilled to be asked. “Maybe we should start an organisation to help them...”
“Harry and I’ve already been thinking about that,” Hermione interjected excitedly. “We can call it the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare...”
Harry chortled and shook his head. “Hermione, that would be a terrible acronym: S.P.E.W. I think we should try and work on that...”
Hermione frowned pensively for a moment as Luna giggled.
“You’re right Harry,” said Hermione, turning a bit pink and giggling herself. “That wouldn’t really be very conducive to eliciting sympathy for house-elves would it!?”
“Anyway, we should probably talk to Dobby first,” Harry added. “If other house-elves are more like Winky, we’ll have to rethink how to go about this...”
Harry waited until Luna went off to send a letter to her father, asking for some of his archived articles about house-elves, then he pulled a small package wrapped in sparkling gold paper out of his robes and handed it to Hermione.
“Happy Birthday Hermione!”
Delighted that Harry had remembered her fifteenth birthday, Hermione carefully unwrapped the parcel; she unclasped the emerald velvet covered box inside and gasped at the elegant pearl necklace within. Hermione had never been one for wearing jewellery, as it hadn’t been something that her parents had ever indulged in. Jewellery had never before caught her fascination beyond the intellectual aspects of how precious gems and such were formed. But this was different.
Hermione’s heart began to race; her whole body tingled. This was the first piece of jewellery ever given to her by someone she loved, and the opalescent sheen of the white pearls gleaming in the afternoon sun caught her eye.
“Oh Harry... it’s gorgeous!” said Hermione, as she fluttered her glistening eyelashes and bit her lip to stop herself from crying.
Harry let out a huge sigh of relief. He’d never seen Hermione wearing jewellery, but he had taken the risk nonetheless.
“I thought it would match your evening gown and dress robes,” Harry said softly.
“Thank you Harry! I’ll always treasure it!” Hermione responded breathily.
Hermione carefully stowed the little green box in her robes and put her arms around Harry’s neck, drawing him in for a kiss. Their lips met tenderly and Harry’s hands encircled Hermione’s slender waist. The kiss deepened, growing more heated as they embraced under the willow tree by the edge of the shimmering blue lake, the afternoon sun catching the golden highlights of Hermione’s hair.
Sign up to rate and review this story