Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Luna's Hubby

Of Mice and Madwomen

by Meteoricshipyards 13 reviews

Harry and Luna go to Hogwarts for their second year. Quidditch, study groups, and animagus training. Oh, yes, and there's a mad woman out there, too.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG - Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance - Characters: Bellatrix, Cho, Harry, Luna - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-01-14 - Updated: 2007-01-14 - 9858 words - Complete

Disclaimer: Nope, I'm still not JKR and Harry Potter still doesn't belong to me. Gracious thanks to Meg and Kaetti for saving you from my mistakes by being excellent beta readers.

Chapter 12
Of Mice and Madwomen

The party was Saturday, and the train to Hogwarts would leave Wednesday. Preparations for the upcoming school year kept them busy the last few days at home. They went to Diagon Alley to get their books and materials, as well as new robes since both children were growing. The mood on Diagon Alley felt tense. Everyone seemed to be looking over their shoulder, expecting something to spring up behind them.

They did notice a new book in the window of Florish and Blott's. Luna pointed it out to Harry, and they had a good laugh. It was called Stolen Heroics: The stories of the people who actually did the deeds claimed by Gilderoy Lockhart.

"Everyone is trying to get into the Gilderoy Lockhart club!" Luna laughed.

The night before they left for Hogwarts, Selene sat Harry and Luna down for a talk. She explained that the Tom Riddle trophy, being the least protected of the dark objects connected to Harry, had been destroyed. Luna looked at Harry carefully and confirmed it. They were still trying to get past the protections on the other two objects, and at some point would use Harry to find the last two connections. Selene tried to impress on them the danger involved in these objects. The diary and the trophy were probably the earliest horcruxes made, and that's why they were able to get past the protections to destroy them.

The other thing she wanted to say involved the escaped prisoners. They would probably try to kill Harry if they knew he was still alive, so she reminded them to be very careful about Harry's true identity. She also told them to be very careful around Neville, as everyone seemed to think he was the target of Bellatrix Lestrange. They discussed that Pettigrew probably wouldn't seek revenge; that wasn't his style. But they were still to be very careful, and get help if either of them saw anything unusual. Despite asking her repeatedly, she refused to tell them what Lestrange had done to Neville's parents. She also forbade them from asking Neville.

"It's going to be bad enough for him. If you are really his friends, then don't pressure him, don't pester him, but be there for him if he needs you. Often, the best thing you can do for a friend is to be quiet."

With that bit of advice, they went to bed.

- - -

The wizard had drunk way too much by the time he decided to go home. He staggered out of the bar, and weaved his way down Diagon Alley. There was more of a presence of Aurors in the Alley since the escape, and the wizard smiled and waved at one of the red-robed officers. He passed a dark opening between two shops, and stopped when he heard a voice.

"Hey, buddy, can you spare a few Knuts for a wizard who's down on his luck?"

He looked into the small alley, but it was too dark. He fumbled for his wand, and got it out eventually. Holding it in front of him, he cast a /Lumos/. He squinted. The alley ran about four meters with a couple of doors in it. There was miscellaneous garbage on the ground, and a rat scuttled out of the light into the larger street. But he saw no sign of whoever had spoken to him. He stepped into the alley and moved his wand around to make sure that he didn't miss anything. He even looked up. There was no one there. He shrugged, and that's when he was hit from behind.

It was less than an hour later when the Aurors found him unconscious and with cracked skull. By morning the news was in the paper: escaped prisoner Peter Pettigrew was now thought to have a wand.

- - -

On September 1st the Lovegoods floo-ed to platform Nine and Three Quarters. They got there early, having packed the previous night, and said their goodbyes on the platform. Harry and Luna entered the last car and were surprised to see someone they knew sleeping in a compartment.

"Uncle Remus! What are you doing here? You better wake up, before the train starts going, or you'll end up in Hogwarts!"

"Harry! Luna! What a surprise. I thought I'd be out of the way back here. I certainly didn't expect anyone I knew to find me."

"The back of the train is closest to the fireplaces, and we just floo-ed here," Harry pointed out.

"I should have thought of that. Anyway, are you all ready for your second year?"

They continued talking while the train filled up.

They saw the Weasleys arrive at the last minute, and Harry went to invite Ron and Ginny to their compartment. When he came back, Hermione was with them. They spent a lot of time exchanging stories about their summer. It took Hermione to ask the obvious question.

"Mr. Lupin, why are you on the Hogwarts Express?"

Harry stared at her open mouthed. "Yeah, you never told us why you're here."

Luna answered for him. "Because he's our new Defense instructor."

This time it was Remus who stared open mouthed. "How did you know?"

"Because Uncle Sirius told us last year that he wasn't returning as our instructor, and your bag says 'Prof. R. J. Lupin.'"

Their new professor smiled. "Now we know why the Hat put you in Ravenclaw. Too bad school hasn't started. I could award some house points."

"Hey!" Ron cried. "No fair! You have an uncle who can give you points."

Remus asked, "Did you notice Professor Black being unfair last year?" Ron shook his head. "Well, he's their uncle, too, and Harry's godfather. I think I can be as fair as he was."

"Sirius Black is your godfather? How come you never mentioned that?" Ron asked.

"I was rather young when it happened, and I didn't know you at the time. And I don't think I could even talk, then."

Ron rolled his eyes. "No, you prat! I mean before now."

"It's never come up. I didn't even know until after he got out of Azkaban, and by then I had a family, so he's just a friend. I suppose if something were to happen to the Lovegoods it might be important, but as Uncle Remus said. . . ."

"Sorry, Harry. Once we're off the train, it has to be Professor Lupin," Remus interrupted.

"Oh, right. Just like it was Professor Black all last year. Anyway, as Professor Lupin said, to be fair, we thought it best to not mention it to anyone."

Shortly after, Draco and Neville came in, and the discussion returned to the events of the summer. Ron asked about the escaped prisoner, and Draco closed his eyes and took a big, melodramatic, breath.

"Oh, please! Not you, too! Everyone has been asking me, 'Have you seen your escaped aunt yet?' Doesn't anyone have brains? If we had and didn't report her to the Aurors, do you think I'd just blab it? And as you haven't seen anything in the paper about it, then we haven't reported it, so there's no way to know if we haven't seen her, or if we have and are just keeping it quiet."

Luna didn't even look up from her copy of the Quibbler as she said, "In other words, he hasn't seen her, and he's tired of giving the same answer."

As Draco smiled and nodded, the train began to slow until it came to a complete stop. Inexplicably, the lights went out.

"What's happening?" "We're not at the station." "Why did the lights go out?" was heard up and down the train. The air in their compartment grew cold, and the door opened to a large, shrouded creature. Somebody gave a little scream, someone else fell down, but Remus stood and pointed his wand at the creature.

"Neither Pettigrew nor Lestrange are here. Begone!" The creature drifted down the train.

"I'll be right back. Help whoever fell." Remus left the compartment. Soon the lights came back on, and the train started moving again. The children found that Harry had fallen down and looked frightened. Draco sat on the bench looking paler than usual, his gaze unfocused and shivering. Neville also sat on the bench, curled into a ball, with his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. He flinched when Ginny touched his arm as she asked if he was alright. Harry shook his head as they helped him off the floor.

"Who screamed?" he asked.

"I think I yelped," Neville confessed, shuddering. "I think I remembered. . . ." his voice faded off, and he didn't look at anyone.

"No, it was a woman. And there was someone laughing at her. I don't know. . . ." he shuddered again.

Luna whispered to Harry, as if she was afraid what she was saying would make it real, "I remembered when Mum almost died. I saw her lying on the ground, not breathing. . . ." Harry wrapped his arms around her and gently rubbed her back.

"I felt like I'd never be happy again," Ron said. Ginny and Neville nodded. While they were talking, Draco started following the conversation with his eyes, but made no other movement. Harry noticed and went over to him.

"You alright Draco?" The blond just nodded.

Remus came back and handed out chunks of chocolate to everyone. He explained that they had just encountered Dementors, the Azkaban guards. The chocolate seemed to help relax Draco, but he still looked haunted. Remus left the compartment to check on the rest of the students. The children talked quietly among themselves about what happened and how they felt -- all except Draco. He just sat quietly, occasionally closing his eyes and taking deep shaky breaths.

Remus returned as the sun was setting and they were still a ways from Hogwarts. Remus suggested that Draco go to the Hospital Wing once they arrived, but he insisted that he was fine. Remus accepted his assurance skeptically, got down his trunk, and said he'd see them at Hogwarts.

"What? You're moving to a different compartment? You don't have to do that!" Harry insisted.

"Oh, no. I need to go on to Hogwarts now. I will see you lot in class." He then Disapparated with a little pop. They figured he was going to report on the Dementors.

They arrived shortly in Hogsmeade, and disembarked the train. As they were getting into the magic carriage that would take them from the train station to the castle, Luna broke away from them, and did something near the hitches.

When she got into the carriage she said, "I think it's the same one that took us to the station at the end of last year."

"Same one what that took us to the station?" Harry asked.

"Winged horse-thingie." The discussion continued, and Harry wasn't sure if this was one of the dubious creatures that Luna read about in the /Quibbler/, or if it was really there. He was inclined to believe her, since she didn't give the name of the beast. Draco came out of his shell enough to ask why she was the only one to see it. The guess that only girls could see them couldn't be disproved, because there was only the three of them in the carriage. Harry asked Luna if she could help him try to feel it when they got out. Harry and Draco could feel the creature. It was weird, feeling something, but seeing the full moon rise right through it. They found that other girls couldn't see it, so they were still not sure why Luna could. The only other person they talked to who could see it was Neville. Harry and Luna escorted Draco to the feast to make sure he was fine.

The feast was similar to their first feast, but since they weren't being sorted, they spent the time waiting for the sorting walking around and visiting friends. The sorting was similar to the previous year, and each table cheered as they got a new group of first years students. Professor Dumbledore said some silly words that signalled the food to appear. After eating, he got up and welcomed everyone. He also introduced Remus as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor even though Remus was absent from the feast. There were two other new faces at the teachers table, though, and Dumbledore introduced one of them as Wilhemina Grubbly-Plank, the new Care of Magical Creatures instructor. She was an elderly witch with closely cropped, gray hair and a prominent chin. She rose from her chair and nodded to the children. The other unknown figure at the head table was a man who had been talking with Professor Snape. He had brown hair streaked with gray, a very wrinkled face that looked like it spent a lot of time outside, and a somewhat disdainful expression on it, but that could be explained by the fact that he was talking to Snape.

"And allow me to introduce Sir Giles Tumulty, our new History of Magic professor." Sir Giles turned to the students, giving them an appraising look, and nodded. The announcement got a big applause from the Ravenclaws. They may have been the best at staying awake in Binns class, but that didn't mean they liked it.

"And finally, this year we have some of the guards from Azkaban outside the gates. They will be protecting Hogwarts from the escaped prisoners. Stay out of their way, and stay out of the forbidden forest." He seemed to look at the Gryffindor table. "The Dementors are extremely dangerous, and should they make a mistake you for those they seek, it would mean your soul and your life." People were glancing at each other as he said this.

As they were filing out, Harry mentioned to Luna, "I think I'll try out for Quidditch this year. Dumbledore said two weeks, right?"

- - -

Minerva McGonagall, having executed her duty to get the first years sorted, sat down beside the Headmaster. She looked over the tables carefully starting with her own. Ron Weasley she rejected out of hand. The seven children of Arthur and Molly were too well known for it to be him. Seamus Finnigan? No, she knew Mary and remembered hearing when he was born. Dean Thomas? Skin color could be changed. And it would be easy for him to hide there in an all-Muggle environment. But magical exhaustion when he was 9 and in St. Mungo's -- that didn't fit. Thomas' family wouldn't know about magic until he got his letter. She rejected him.

Hufflepuff? Not Longbottom or Macmillan -- too pure blood, and known to be in those homes before the mysterious disappearance of Potter. Not Finch-Fletchley for the same reasons as Thomas -- just too Muggle to fit the clues.

Ravenclaw? She knew the least about those students. Corner, Boot, Goldstien - the Ravenclaw golden boys? Only Corner had dark hair, but there was a little red in Boot's -- influence of Lily, maybe? Entwistle? He's a half blood, and while smart, didn't seem particularly magically powerful. Cornfoot? A little pudgy; didn't look like James or Lily. Blond hair might not be the original color, either. Hmmm. Potter had saved his guardian and magically exhausted himself? She looked at Corner again. Maybe.

Slytherin? She shuddered. Not Malfoy, or Nott -- their births had big announcements she remembered; pure blood nonsense. Goyle or Crabbe? She shuddered again. To mangle a phrase, they didn't have two brain cells to rub together. Zabini? Quiet, good wizard. Again, changing skin color wouldn't have been difficult. His famous mother, though -- if she had "acquired" a child about six years ago, there would have been mention of it in one of the rags, the Quibbler or /Witch Weekly/, at least. But she didn't remember anything like that.

She had one more thought. What if he was disguised, either magically or otherwise, as a girl? She didn't even want to contemplate /that/. She hoped the enchantment on the girl's stairs would protect against that, but with magic, you never knew. She shook her head and headed towards her rooms near the Gryffindor Tower. She would have to watch that Michael Corner.

- - -

Up in the Ravenclaw tower, they were having their usual "These are the rules according to Ravenclaw" meeting. After they got their traditional introduction, Harry got up.

"Hi! I'm Harry Lovegood, I'm a second year. Last year I tried an experiment where the Muggle-raised got together and practiced wand movements that the magically-raised had already seen or tried. It worked really well, and from the sound of it, the whole class got off to a better start than previous years. This isn't limited to Ravenclaws, nor is it limited to Muggle born, either. We'll meet in the Great Hall after dinner on Friday. Hopefully, I have friends also making this announcement in the other common rooms."

Tom Towey, one of Harry's roommates, spoke up, "Hey, Harry. What about our study group?"

"I figured we'd start up over the weekend, or on Monday. By that time, the first years should be up to teaching each other. That's something else we did -- after we learned the wand movements, it just sort of became an inter-house study group. We have members from all four houses, and it's a pretty good way to make friends outside your house, and make good grades, too."

There were a few questions about the group, and then the first years were sent to bed.

Penelope Clearwater, seventh year Prefect, took over the meeting.

"Alright! What do we know about the new instructors?"

Harry raised his hand. "Remus Lupin is a good guy. I've visited him."

"Yes, yes, but what about his credentials?"

Roger Davies, a fourth year, spoke up. "He's done a few articles on dark creatures in /Transfigurations Today/. They were pretty good. One on Vampires, and one on Werewolves."

"Anyone one else? Grubby-Plank substituted several times last year. Kettleburn did not have a good year last year. No surprise he quit. Alright, what about Sir Giles Tumulty?"

Hermione raised her hand, "I read his book /Historical Vestiges of Sacred Vessels in Folklore/. Published in the '30's, if I recall correctly. From what I remember it was well-researched, but rather dry."

"Anyone else?"

Bob Min, the seventh year prefect, spoke up. "I've got something upstairs." He raced up the boy's stairs and was soon coming down with a book.

"1986's The Raider's Journal, an Autobiography of Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., Archaeologist, (The Non-Libelous Parts.) He's mentioned as being good, but not publishing much." He was quickly flipping though the book. "They encountered each other while searching for the Spear of Longius. Jones figured that Tumulty would have gotten there first if he didn't have such an abrasive personality that sources wouldn't talk to him."

"Was Jones a wizard?" someone asked.

"No. Seems to have encountered some magical items, though, and avoided the Obliviators."

No one had much more to add, so they called it a night.

They received their class schedules the next morning.

"Who makes up these schedules?" Harry groaned. "Nothing like starting the term with our worst day. Well, off to Herbology!" They had double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. That was followed by Transfigurations, lunch, then Remus -- Professor Lupin's -- class, Defense Against the Dark Arts. However, once they got there, they found a note that class was cancelled that day. That did give them a period off before they had to go to Double Potions with the Slytherins. Harry smiled and said hello to Mike Daly and got to work avoiding getting into trouble with Professor Snape. They usually didn't have any trouble, and that held true for this class, too. The Ravenclaws knew that the best way to get along in Snape's class was to read ahead and know the material. Careful following of the potion directions also helped. Plus, Snape still seemed to be on his best behavior as he was last year.

And then they were done.

Remus appeared in the Great Hall the next day for Friday dinner. He stayed around and helped the second years teach the Muggle-raised first years the basic wand motions. He was impressed with Harry's teaching style and the fact that a Slytherin was helping him. They sat around with the first years after the formal lesson and discussed wizarding culture. As they were leaving, Remus asked if he could sit in on some of their study groups. They had no problem with that, but warned him that he had to pull his weight like everyone else. He laughed, and they said goodnight.

They didn't have Sir Giles' class until Monday afternoon. They shuffled into class full of anticipation. Professor Tumulty swept in like a whirlwind.

"I've reviewed the sorry excuse for history that you've been fed. In this class we are going to think, if it's not beyond your capacity. Goblin wars are all fine; they make for excellent reading, what with all that blood and destruction. Lots of fun. But what did we learn from it? Take the Goblin Rebellion of 1682. Anyone remember that one? What were the chief lessons from it?"

Some of Harry's house mates put up their hands. Tumulty picked Larry Pohlen.

"Davdar the Bloody began it after the tariff of 1680 started being enforced."

Tumulty replied with a sneer, "That's what happened, and you contradicted yourself. If he started it after the tariff was passed, then you could say the tariff started it. But that's not what I asked. One point from Ravenclaw. What did we learn from the Goblin Rebellion?"

Luna was the only hand that went up after his reply to Larry. Tumulty nodded at her.

"The lesson that should have been learned was don't interfere with the goblins' commerce. But I don't think that lesson was learned, as there have been numerous rebellions since with different specific causes, but the same basic one."

"Exactly, Miss. . . ." He checked his class list, "Miss Lovegood. If you don't learn from it, what's the point?"

Everyone thought it was a much better lesson than any that Binns had taught. The cutting replies if you answered wrong weren't fun, but they had to admit they were seeing history in a new light. Of course, getting a new teacher rendered Ed Benvenuto's history notes obsolete. Ed had been a Ravenclaw in the 1950s, and everyone agreed that his notes on Binns' classes were the best anyone had ever produced. They were copied and had been used by forty years of Ravenclaws. Now it was every man and woman for themselves.

- - -

They didn't have Professor Lupin's class until Tuesday. The introductory class was mostly review.

He finished up with, "I see that you actually learned from Professor Black. It's a shame he couldn't return this year. I'll try to teach as well as he did, and I ask you to try to learn from me as well as you did from him. This year we'll concentrate on more defensive spells, and even try a little dueling." There was a murmmer of excitement about that. "I must warn you that it would be the very rudiments of dueling. No one will get out of this class and be ready for the international circuit. However, even a champion like Professor Flitwick had to start somewhere.

"Oh, yes. There will be, from time to time, classes when I introduce you to various dark creatures. That's mostly what you study in 3rd year, but since I'll have the creatures here, there's no reason not to give you an introduction and a break from the routine."

- - -

"Professor Lupin?"

"Hello, Harry. I mean, Mr. Lovegood. And I'm sorry, I know we met this summer at the Longbottom's and you're in my second year Ravenclaw class, but I cannot remember your name. It might be because I have over 150 new students whose names I have to learn."

"Elisabeth Ericson, sir."

"Ah, yes, Miss Ericson. What may I do for you?"

"Last year Sirius, Professor Black, that is, was instructing us on how to become Animagi. . . ."

"Good Lord, that wasn't on the curriculum, was it?"

"No, sir. Luna detected that we could do it, and Harry got Professor Black to teach us."

"Hmmm, yes, and who knows he was teaching you?"

"Just Luna and Professor Black," Harry answered.

"Well, good, because what he was teaching you was very dangerous magic, and shouldn't be attempted by unsupervised students."

Harry grinned, "Like the Marauders did?"

"Exactly unlike the Marauders. It was very dangerous, and could have led to serious consequences. It's much better to do it this way with supervision."

Harry and Liz grinned at each other, and answered, "Yes, sir."

"Now, why don't you fill me in on what you've been doing about it?"

"Sirius gave us the formula for the potion that allows us to find our animal. We've been brewing it up in the Ravenclaw potion lab."

"The Ravenclaws have their own potion lab? Gryffindor never had anything like that!"

"Then how did you do any practical potion homework?"

"I don't remember getting any. Have you?"

"No, but the upper levels are always brewing things. We just assumed it was homework."

"Maybe Professor Snape is different from old Slughorn. But no matter, you have the potion done?"

Liz answered, "Yes, sir." Harry nodded.

Lupin quizzed them a little on the potion and its preparation. He examined the vials, and determined, to the best of his ability, that they were the correct potion correctly made.

Very well, if you are sure. . . ." He waved his wand, and an area in the front of the classroom was covered with cushions. "Sit down. It's best to do it on the floor, as you are likely to fall over."

The two second years sat on the cushions. They opened their own bottles, and drank.

Lupin watched as they closed their eyes. They started to wobble, and first one, then the other fell over.

They lay there a few minutes, sometimes rolling their heads around. Finally, they straightened out their bodies and opened their eyes only to close them immediately.

"Why is the room spinning?" Harry asked.

Liz didn't answer his question. "A mouse? I can turn into a mouse? Is this all worth it for a mouse? What if I don't want to be a mouse? What if I want to be a lion or eagle? Do I have to be a mouse?"

Lupin answered, "Unfortunately, yes. You only get one Animagus form, and it isn't selectable by you. There is a lot of work ahead of you, still, so you might want to try to figure out if you want to put all that work into becoming a mouse."

They opened their eyes again, and the spinning must have stopped. However, their attempts to sit up failed dismally.

"Better give it some more time. How about you, Harry? What is your animal?"

"I don't believe it!"

"What? Worse than a mouse?"

"I don't know about worse, but it's strange."

"What is it?" Remus had a flashback to their fifth year when his friends had told him they became Animagi to keep Remus company during the full moon. They had drawn out telling him what their forms were, too.

"I'm a rhinoceros!"

"You're kidding!" Liz exclaimed.

"Unbelievable," Remus muttered.

"My thoughts exactly. Does anyone have any idea how these things happen?" Harry complained.

"No one knows. You, too, will have to decide if it is worth the effort, and I emphasize effort. It will still probably take you years. You will have to learn to transform each part of your body and then try to put it all together. Let me tell you, the tail hung up the Marauders for almost a year. It's one thing to change your hand into a paw; it's another to create a body part that didn't exist. I'm not sure I even want to think about your horn, Harry."

They were able to sit up and soon were on their feet.

"Let me know if you want to continue."

As the two students left Lupin heard Miss Ericson again say, "I'm just not sure if it's worth it for a mouse!"

- - -

The second Saturday of the school year dawned cool and slightly overcast, yet there was an excitement in the Great Hall that morning at breakfast. Each house had the Quidditch pitch for two hours that day and the next for Quidditch tryouts. Ravenclaw had their tryouts starting at 10 AM. There were a lot of hopeful students anxiously waiting their turn including Harry. He wasn't sure what position he would play, but he knew he loved flying. The Slytherins had their tryout right before.

Once on the pitch, Harry waved at Draco. The Slytherin third year flew over.

"Hi, Harry."

"Hi, Draco. Make the team?"

"Yes! You are looking at the new Seeker!" He looked around and lowered his voice. "You'll never guess what my father tried to do. He was going to buy the whole team new racing brooms if they would put me on the team."

Harry had some trouble believing it.

"I was able to talk him out of it," he smiled, "and got this great racing broom out of the deal."

"How'd you do that?"

"Partially appealed to his pride -- if he bought the whole team brooms everyone would say that I bought my way on to the team, with the implication being that I wasn't good enough to make it any other way. He accused me of being Gryffindorish in my attitude that a proper Slytherin would do whatever it took to win, or, in this case, get on the team. I told him that a Slytherin picks his battles, and Quidditch wasn't important enough to accept the sort of rumors that it would generate. We kept going around about winning verses losing the respect of people I'll have to interact with the rest of my life. I think it was the phrase loss of respect that finally convinced him. He walked off saying something about /in his day/. . . ."

They both laughed at that.

"So, going to try out for the Ravenclaw team?"


"Got a good broom?"

"No, I'll have to use one of the house brooms."

"Borrow mine. It's a Nimbus 2001 - fastest broom on the market!"

"Wow! That's great, but I'd be afraid of breaking it. I know brooms are really expensive."

"I insist. It will give me an excuse to stay around and scout out your team."

"All right. I'll be careful."

Roger Davies, the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain, had everyone organized quickly into positions they wanted to try for. Harry was one of the "anywhere" hopefuls. He tried for Beater first. It was the least glamorous, but probably the most difficult position. They had to protect the Seeker and the Chasers while trying to disrupt the other team with the Bludger. While Harry had the eye to hit the Bludger, he didn't have the skill to get it to go where he wanted it. Nor did he have the knowledge of the game to know where to be to protect the chasers, or get the Bludger to a position where it would help them in the future. Besides, he just wasn't that strong.

The Chaser position was more glamorous. He did reasonably well with maneuvering with the Quaffle on Draco's Nimbus 2001, and he was fair at throwing it to his teammates, but he was rotten at catching it. Or, more accurately, being in the position where the Quaffle was thrown for him to catch. He just didn't have the experience with inverted Vs, double-back tosses, Narley's pitch, and other formations.

He didn't try out for keeper. He wanted to fly, not hover.

When the Seekers turn came, he joined the other three hopefuls and Cho Chang the current seeker. Roger had released the Golden Snitch while the tryouts for Keeper had been going on. Now the five of them had to find the Snitch. They all flew to the Seeker's usual area above the height of the goals. Most Seekers kept to that area, watching down at the game and looking for the Snitch. Harry joined the group up there, but decided that if everyone was up there they would all see the Snitch at the about the same time, and be about the same distance from it. So he sped up his broom and started searching from a lower altitude, also getting the chance to really see what Draco's broom was capable of. At first the other Seekers thought he had seen the Snitch, but when he changed directions just to feel how the broom handled, they returned to the higher elevation to search. Suddenly he banked, dove, changed directions, used the extra speed of the dive to give the broom a quicker altitude gain, and had the Snitch before any of the others had even seen it. His maneuver had unintentionally thrown everyone's attention off the actual location of the Snitch. Harry landed with the Snitch, yelling praises about the broom to Draco.

Roger came over to him. Harry noticed Cho standing near where Roger was, smirking.

"Good job, Lovegood. But is that your broom?"

"No, Draco lent it to me."

"Do you have your own broom?"

"If I get on the team, I'll get one. But I'll probably have to use one of the school brooms at first."

Roger took the Snitch and released it.

"Why don't you get one of the school brooms now, and see how well you do."

Harry shrugged and returned Draco's broom. He was back from the broom locker a few minutes later.

The five potential seekers took off, and again Harry stayed away from the crowd. He still flew to take the measure of the broom he was on but was disappointed by its sluggishness. Someone above yelled, and the pack was off. Harry pulled the broom around towards the area where everyone else was aiming. He was closer, but the broom lost power while in the sharp turn, and Harry wasn't able to get it up to speed to beat the other seekers. Cho ended up getting it.

"Good job, everyone. Thanks for coming. Cho, you keep the position. Harry, I liked your moves. Get yourself a good broom, and you're the reserve Seeker. You'll be practicing with the rest of the team, and be ready to go at the games."

As Harry walked away, he ignored the smug look on Cho's face. It was only a game!

- - -

"Larry, Harry and Luna wrote a letter."

"What's it say, dear?"

"Hmmm, they must not be teaching them enough. They're getting into other things to keep themselves busy."

"Really? What did they do this time?"

"Harry got himself into something called, uh, oh, here it is. /Quidditch/."

"WHAT! Harry got on the team! That's great!"

"He's the reserve Seeker. But it says he needs a broom. Oh, well." She sighed, "He was only the reserve, anyway."

"This could be said to fall under education expenses. Harry could, essentially, buy his own broom."

"I don't know, Larry. That money was set aside for Harry's schooling and upkeep."

"You know as well as I do that James Potter was a Quidditch fanatic. He'd buy his son a broom in a moment."

"That's true, but he had the whole Potter Trust. Harry doesn't get it until he's seventeen. But we'll get him a broom. I just don't think we should get him the latest, greatest model. Can you check around for the best deal?"

"Of course. I have contacts through the Quibbler that might come in handy."

"Thank you, Larry. I know how much Quidditch means to most of the kids at school."

"Now, what has our daughter gotten herself into?"

- - -

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Magic, called the teacher's meeting to order.

"Headmaster, they're doing it again this year!" the Potions instructor complained.

"Doing what, Severus?" Dumbledore said quietly. He loved doing that, knowing it would just rile up his irritable friend more.

"They're /cheating/!" That got some reaction from the other teachers.

"That's a serious charge Severus. Care to fill us in on whom?" Minerva McGonagall asked.

"The second and third year classes, and now they've got the first years doing it, and some of the fourth years are doing it, too. They meet every evening after dinner in the Great Hall and cheat!"

The diminutive Charms professor spoke up, "Really, Severus, they aren't /cheating/. They're just studying together. It's no worse than what they do in the common rooms."

"But now they have the whole class to cheat off of. In the past I could count on Hufflepuffs coming up with an answer, and the Gryffindors finding someone to give them an answer. . . ."

"I say!" McGonagall tried to interrupt, but Snape just kept going.

"The Ravenclaws were the only ones who would come up with all their own work, because they were so egotistical they wouldn't accept an answer from someone else and so fixated on trying to have the highest score that the only answer they would share was a wrong one."

He also ignored Flitwick's protest at his stereotyping of the Ravenclaws.

"Even my Slytherins are joining in! They say it's the Slytherin thing to do so as to get the best grade! Albus, I demand you put a stop to it!"

McGonagall gave Snape a withering look which he ignored, then turned towards the Headmaster. "Albus, all they are doing is studying together. Not only are the students doing better than any classes I've seen in a long time, but the inter-house rivalry that results in so many accidents during the year is virtually non-existent in the first three years. And it seems to be spreading."

"But they're /cheating/!"

Flitwick got his chance to glower at Snape, which was as effective as McGonagall's look. "As was already said, they are studying together, and seem to be doing a good job of it. But the simple solution to your concerns is to reduce the effect of homework on their grade, and have more quizzes. If they are really learning the homework, then they will do well in the test. It's what I do, and it does show that most of the students are really learning."

Pomona Sprout, head of Hufflepuff house, flashed Snape a dirty look. Even though he didn't really insult her students, his general feelings for Hufflepuffs were well known. She said, "And if you've observed these study sessions like I have, you would know that they try to explain things to each other, not just copy from each other. They're very organized, try to keep to the topic, but don't forget to have fun, too. I really don't see any downside to this."

"I don't see why we don't encourage this," Remus Lupin said, which brought a surprised gape from Snape, and gave Remus an opportunity to glare at the head of Slytherin house.

"I agree," said Professor Vector, the Arithmancy instructor, regarding Snape disparagingly. "We could even stop by and answer any questions they might have."

"What! As if teaching them all day wasn't enough!" Snape protested.

"It's not as if it's going to help in the long run," Sir Giles said, giving Snape an angry look (but to be fair, he did that to everyone). "Most will grow up to be sheep, going to their little jobs and never give most of what they learn another thought. If it helps them even a little, let them do it. It wouldn't take much time to show up at their evening sessions every now and then, either."

Professor Grubby-Plank frowned at Snape, then said, "And I must say, that the third year double classes are noticeably lacking the tension of the other years where houses share the same class."

"I must say that I foresaw this, which is why I accepted the Headmaster's invitation to this meeting," the Divination professor Sibyll Trelawney declared. Snape and McGonagall made snorting noises. Trelawney gave the evil eye to Snape before continuing. "If I may be of any assistance, I will gladly give up some of my evening mediation time."

Dr. Ransom, Professor of Ancient Runes, said, "If we do attend their study groups, we have to be available to answer questions on any subject. As far as encouraging these study groups, this might even give the upper levels reason to study together. If there's a teacher available to answer any questions, then it would be incentive for them to study together, too." He favored Snape with a contemptuous look, because he didn't want to be left out, and continued, "However, if they already have four groups meeting in the Great Hall, adding three more years might make it too noisy. Is there anyplace else they can meet? Maybe create a common room for each year?"

Victor Cameron, the Muggle Studies instructor, added, "If we are going to have a faculty assistant for the study groups, the study rooms would have to be close together so as to make the teacher available to them all." Snape started sputtering at this, which earned him a dismissive look and rolled eyes from Cameron.

Dumbledore decided to bring the meeting to a close. "That will probably be required if the other years want to study together. I shall look into it. Which students are in charge of these study groups?"

McGonagall answered, "Third year has Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger. Second year has Mike Daly and Harry Lovegood. I don't know about first or fourth years."

"No matter, I shall find out. Before setting anything up, I shall talk to the students who are in charge and find out what they want and need. Meanwhile, if you so desire, you may attend the study halls in the Great Hall. This meeting is adjourned."

As they were walking out, McGonagall addressed Flitwick quietly.

"Filius, have you noticed anything unusual about Michael Corner?"

"Unusual? In what way?"

"Oh, anything, really. I was thinking about a certain missing student that Albus has been obsessing over, and thought that if he was hiding in plain sight, he'd be in our third year. I've eliminated most of the students, and he's one I haven't."

"Ah, you mean Potter. He doesn't look like James or Lily."

"I wouldn't expect him to. Just trying to figure out how to tell if he is."

"I'm not sure. If he doesn't look or sound like James, without digging into their family life, we'd never know."

"I think I agree. But if they are trying to hide him, then the family won't be very forthcoming. And if there are still people after him, then it wouldn't do to draw attention to anyone with our suspicions."

Flitwick nodded and said, "Agreed. We should just watch and wait."

They separated. Flitwick went off thinking, "Michael Corner, hmmm. Maybe I'll invite the Ravenclaw golden trio to tea some time."

- - -

Roger Davies gave Harry pointers on being a Seeker and got him the Library's copy of Quidditch Through the Ages as an introduction to the game. Cho would hardly speak to him. Harry, coached by Luna, didn't let Cho's snide remarks and gloating when she caught the Snitch in practice get to him.

But Harry was happy! He got to fly, and did things that weren't allowed in the flying classes they had had first year. He loved the speed and the sudden changes of direction.

Roger's comment on his flying was: "You're crazy, Lovegood!"

Almost three weeks after making the team Harry and Luna were at breakfast. A large owl swooped into the Great Hall and dropped a long package right on Harry's eggs. It didn't wait for any food but just flew away.

The broom shape had Harry excited, but Luna insisted he read the note first. By this time the rest of the team was gathered around.

Dear Harry,

It's nice to have friends in low places. My expert on the Chudley Cannons Jinx, their locker room maintenance man, told me that the Cannons Chaser was going to replace his broom with one of the new Nimbus ones. Which meant that some of his old brooms might be available. This may not be top of the line, but it has got to be better than school brooms.

Use it in good health. Don't let Quidditch interfere with your schoolwork.

And tell Luna to have fun with her friends.

Uncle Larry

"Well, go ahead an open it!" Jack Bradley, one of the Chasers said.

Harry, with a bit of help from his team, soon had the broom unwrapped.

"A Fireball 45!" exclaimed Eddie Carmichael, the only seventh year on the team. "But it's still a lot slower than the Nimbus 2001 that the Slytherin's Seeker has."

"Well, the broom can help, but it's the flyer that really makes the difference." Harry rejoined. Cho snorted in a very un-ladylike way, and stomped off. She had a Cleansweep 6, the current top of that line, which was also slower than the Nimbus 2000, let alone the 2001.

"Want to try it out this evening, Luna?" Harry asked.

"I'm busy tonight. How about after lunch before History?"

"Can't. I have to finish the History essay at that time, and tomorrow's Thursday, our busiest day."

"Then tomorrow evening?"

"Quidditch. How about a short lunch and do it then?"

"Sure. But now we need to finish that Potions Essay. Really, I don't know why they don't use Puffskein hair instead of Doxy wings."

"Because Puffskein hair has no magical properties?"

"That's just what they want you to think!"

The two walked off to the tower to put away the broom, and get their books, discussing what they wanted, and why.

- - -

It was Halloween and the castle was relatively empty. Most of the students (third year and above) were at the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year. Harry and Luna were having a late breakfast as it was Sunday and they had no classes that day. The Great Hall was almost completely empty. Sitting alone at the Gryffindor table was Neville Longbottom. They headed over to him.

"Hey Neville!" Harry said, brightly.

"Hello, Neville."

"Hi, Harry, Luna."

Luna looked at him with her wide, silvery eyes and asked, "Why so glum?"

"My Gran didn't give me permission to go to Hogsmeade. She thought it was too dangerous."

"She's always been protective of you, hasn't she?" Harry asked.

Neville grunted.

Luna said, "We're stuck here too, so why don't you spend the day with us?"

Neville made a non-committal sound. Harry and Luna ate breakfast, and made small talk. As they were finishing up, Neville seemed to come to a decision.

He asked, "Do you think Lestrange will really come to Hogwarts?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't see why she would. She's escaped Azkaban, so she's obviously smart. If she's smart, she'd avoid the Dementors around here. It's not as if they're a secret or anything. After meeting them on the train, I want to be as far away from them as possible."

Neville nodded. "What was it like for you?"

Luna closed her eyes and said, "I remembered when my Mum almost died. I heard the thunder and smelled the burnt flesh and saw her with that terrible burn and she was so still she wasn't even breathing." She shook her self. "That's probably my worst memory."

Neville looked at Harry, and after a moment Luna did, too. Harry didn't look at either of them as he said, "I heard someone screaming. It may have been my mum. Then there was someone laughing. I think it was her murderer. I was only one at the time, so I'm not sure."

Luna put her arm around Harry and gave him a half hug. He smiled at her, and then looked at Neville.

Neville looked at his shoes, took a deep breath, "I heard screaming too. Mine and my parents. They were tortured into insanity by Lestrange. Gran thinks Lestrange is insane, too. You would almost have to be after so many years in Azkaban. But the other thing is, they found a page from the Daily Prophet in her cell. It had my picture on it, from when I won the Prophet's essay contest. They think that was the driving force for her to escape. They think she's coming after me."

"That's rather flimsy evidence," Harry said. "How did she get the paper? Do Azkaban prisoners routinely get the /Daily Prophet/? If so, then maybe. If not, then someone had to have either given her that paper, or left it when they let her out."

"Let her out? What makes you say someone let her out?"

"There's been nothing in the paper about how she got out, so either she's been able to get out the entire time, or someone let her out. If she could get out at any time, why didn't she? The paper said that she was catatonic from the Dementors, so we can assume she didn't like them either, and would want to leave. So if she wanted to, and could, she would have left. Therefore, I think that someone helped her escape. But I can't see why your picture would cause her to want to escape."

"If she blamed me for being captured then it might. After all, she was captured in our house."

Harry persisted, "I don't know, Neville. It still doesn't make sense that she'd break out to come after you."

"She did," Luna said, in a slow, breathy voice. Harry looked at her, but she didn't seem to be looking at anything in particular, just staring off into space. She seemed to regain focus, and turned to Neville. "When she comes, we'll stand with you, Neville. You won't be alone."

"How do you know?" Harry asked.

"I just know," she said in an offhand way. "Want to come to the library to study with us? I know you're not in our classes, but I'm sure there's studying you could be doing, too. I can't think that the teachers would stop assigning essays just because you're in third year."

"No, they still give homework."

"I suppose if they were all attacked by Wrackspurts at the same time, but what are the chances of that happening?"

"Pretty small," Harry answered, as Neville looked between the two as if they just lost their minds.

"Wrackspurts?" he asked.

Harry just shrugged, and Luna began describing the invisible creatures that cause people to forget things if they get in their ears.

- - -

It was a fairly normal looking kitchen, which made it a fairly un-normal kitchen for a witch. The owner of the kitchen put the coffee in the percolator and plugged it in. She turned on the gas stove and fried a couple of eggs, made toast in a toaster, and had it all on a plate when her husband came down the stairs already dressed for work. He normally didn't go to work on Sunday, but there was a project he just had to finish before tomorrow and with the Halloween party tonight, well, not being around to help with the set up would be unthinkable. He was married to a witch, after all. He quickly ate, kissed his wife goodbye, and Apparated away. She cleaned up, poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table with Sunday Times. She never heard a thing before the incantation: "/Incarcerous/."

She was wrapped in ropes before she knew what was happening. A hand removed her wand from her housecoat pocket. She was completely at the mercy of her captor, which terrified her. A silencing spell later, and she couldn't even scream. She couldn't hear anything either, and sat for long minutes wondering what was going on, as her captor didn't appear.

Finally the silence spell was removed from her. A figure moved around the table, and she saw Bellatrix Lestrange, her hair hanging down wet.

"Is that my dress you're wearing?" She asked.

The gaunt, raven haired woman looked down, and said, "Yes. I had to adjust it a bit. I've seem to have lost a bit of weight. I think it looks good on me."

"You were always borrowing my clothes without asking."

"You were always so easy to rile up, Andy."

Andromeda Tonks looked at her sister. The years in Azkaban hadn't been kind to her. Her eyes looked shrunken, and they darted around, not looking at her. She would tremble every now and then.

"What are you doing here, Trixie?"

"Do I need a reason to visit my little sister?"

"Considering that all the Aurors in the country are searching for you, as well as the Muggle police, then yes, I would think you would need a reason to visit me."

"Well, it's just a social call. Sorry about the ropes, though. I can't be too careful."

"I guess I can understand, as long as you don't hurt me."

"No, I won't hurt you. There's only one person I hurt now-a-days. But I won't go back. You can't make me."

"Considering you have me tied up, no, I can't make you. Why did you escape?"

"You need to ask why? Then you obviously have never been around them before! I'm sure after being around just one of them you'd try to escape, too." She closed her eyes, and the tremors ran through her whole body for several minutes. She sucked in her breath as if in pain and her eyes opened. She looked around, as if expecting someone or something to be there.

"No, there's only one person to hurt now," she murmured. She focused on her sister, "Where's Nymphie?"

Andromida felt a chill of fear run through her. "She's not here Trixie. She doesn't live here any more. She's in Auror training."

Bellatrix looked surprised. "Impossible. She was knee high to a kneazle! She wasn't even in Hogwarts."

"You've been away for a long time, Trixie. And even before you went, you never visited."

"No, Father said we weren't to see you again. You left! You left the family!"

"I fell in love, Trixie."

"You disobeyed Father. You were supposed to marry Nott! I married Rodolphus even though I wanted to marry Potter. But I obeyed!"

"I love Ted. Did you love Rodolphus?

"No. He was an animal. He hurt me! Why did Father do that to me?" She seemed to revert to the whiney child she had been.

"He didn't care about us, Trixie. He never cared about us."

"He hurt me too. But no more!"

"No, he won't hurt us any more. He's dead now, Trixie. He's gone forever."

"Good. No more hurting. Only one. . . ." She seemed to drift off, and shuddered again. She snapped out of it.

"Help me, Andy."

"How can I help you, Trixie?"

"There's so much I don't remember. All the good things are gone. But there's something I remember. There was a boy. I remember the boy. It was his name in the newspaper. Neville Longbottom. Do you know where he is?"

"Trixie! Stay away from Longbottom. They know you're after him. He's protected."

"But it's important, Andy! You have to help me! I have to get to the boy!" She brought up a wand and screamed "Crucio!"

Two things happened at once. The china cabinet that the wand was pointing at, which was no where near Andromeda, blew apart, as did all the plates, cups, and wine glasses stored in it.

And Bellatrix screamed with all the power of her lungs, and fell off the chair. She curled into a fetal position, twitching and whimpering. She slowly got up.

"It's got to stop. I have to find Longbottom. If Nymphie is out of school, then the boy's probably in Hogwarts. He is! I can see it in your eyes!"

"Don't, Trixie! He's guarded. You won't get to him!"

"Good bye, Andy. I'm sorry." Bellatrix left Andromeda's wand on the table in front of her, and left the house. Andromeda thought she heard the sound of an Apparition.

Several hours later she would be released by her husband, and spend a long time being interviewed by an intimidating Auror named Kingsley Shacklebolt. She would go over the whole event in excruciating detail several times. They would threaten her with Veritaserum, the most potent truth potion available, and she would agree to take it, but they didn't use it so she assumed it was a bluff. They asked the same questions multiple times with different wording, until she couldn't take it any more. Finally it was over, and they worked on cleaning up the house, and having their Halloween party. Ted kept looking around nervously.

There was one thing she didn't tell the Aurors. She did tell them what Trixie has said, but she didn't add her interpretation of the tone she said it. Andromeda sighed. That final "good bye" sounded so, so /final/.

- - -

"Hey, Bob! Why didn't you tell me about the new exhibit?"

"What new exhibit?"

"Our new friend in the Big Cat house."

"What are you talking about, Jo? There's no new exhibit."

"Right. I suppose you didn't put up the sign, either."

"Enough playing around, we have work to do."

"You mean you didn't put our new resident in Leo's old cage?"

"No one is in Leo's old cage; although I'm thinking you might be a good candidate for a room with bars and lots of padding."

"Come on, take a look, then you explain it."

"Damn! She wasn't there last night when I checked."

"Then where did she come from. And what happened to Leo's sign? They don't make cast iron signs like that any more. Except for this one and it looks as old as Leo's!"

"Same style, too. Someone went to a lot of trouble to give us this animal."

"Look what followed me home! Can I keep her? I promise to take care of her, and give her milk, and everything!"

"Oh, shut up! I want to know where she came from, how healthy she is, and how the hell they snuck her in here without anyone noticing. You don't just hide a big cat under your coat!"

"But can we keep her? Can we afford it?"

"Leo was budgeted through June. With his not-quite-unexpected demise I thought we'd have a little extra, but we can afford her. Where the hell did they get sign just like Leo's?"

They looked at the cast iron sign that replaced the one that used to identify the old lion that lived here. The old sign had read:
Panthera leo
The new one proclaimed:
Panthera onca

- - -

Albus Dumbledore, Chief Warlock, etc., liked to read the Muggle news papers to watch for clues to Voldemort's return. He diligently searched for suspicious deaths and other events that might be Voldemort or Death Eater activity.

He completely overlooked the mysterious appearance of a new animal at the Surrey Zoo.
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