Disclaimer: JKR owns Harry Potter, etc. I am not JKR. Honestly.
Note: Fixed the formatting. Sorry!
"Hello, Liz. How are your Animagus lessons going?" Liz had just entered the Ravenclaw common room, and saw that Luna was sitting alone, doing some homework.
"I don't know. We took the potion that lets us see what animal we change into, and I'm a mouse." She answered, a sorrowful note in her voice.
"Oh," Luna said, a little sorrowfully. "I didn't know. You could continue, anyway?"
"I don't think so. It's just so /small/!" She plopped into the next chair over and put her elbows on the table and her head in her hands. "If I wanted to spy or sneak around, maybe, but that's not what I want to do. Almost anything else would have been better. I guess being a bug would have been worse."
"I am sorry. If I could change it, I would."
"Me, too. I guess it's just one of those things. But anyway, can I ask you something?" She sat up, and her voice dropped in volume.
"Sure," Luna answered, but her voice made it sound like she wasn't sure.
"What's going on between you and Harry?"
"Not much, lately. He seems to spend every free moment practicing Quidditch, so I've joined the Charms club. It's not bad. We practice all these charms that are actually taught in the sixth and seventh year elective, Household Magic. So far I know about a third of them from helping my mum around the house."
"But what's with the hair, and the kissing? Isn't he your cousin or something."
"Distant relative, yes. That's about the only time we get together these days. And we've even missed some of those if he has too much homework backed up because of Quidditch. I like the game as much as anyone else. . . . Actually that's not true. I'm getting to hate it because Harry is spending all his time at it. But it is a fun game, and exciting to watch, don't you think? I don't know how it would be if they still used golden Snidgets instead of the Snitch for the Seeker to capture. Do you think it would be more difficult catching a real bird than the Snitch? I don't know if I could have done that -- fly full speed at a little bird and grab it out of the air -- I'd be so afraid of hurting the little thing? Have you ever seen a Snidget? We saw one in an aviary in France a few years ago. It was a magic aviary and they had the most interesting creatures. Ever hear a Fwooper? The song is quite nice, but I hear it can drive you insane if you listen too long. Well, I have to go look up some spells for the Charms club, so I'll see you later, Liz."
"But, Luna. . . ." she said to the back of the blond. She felt rather dizzy, and thought that that might be why some people called her Looney. She'd have to ask another time.
- - -
It was the first Ravenclaw Quidditch game of the year. They were playing against the Hufflepuff team. The previous week the Slytherins had crushed the Gryffindors with a combination of rough, illegal play, and Draco catching the Snitch. It was a cold, rainy day, and Harry didn't think any of the players, or very many of the spectators, had enjoyed the game.
He couldn't say that it was any warmer today, but it wasn't raining and the sun was shining. It just /felt /better, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Last year the Ravenclaws had lost to Hufflepuff. It was Cho Chang's first game, and Cedric Diggory had caught the Snitch, clinching the game. Cedric was still the Hufflepuff's Seeker, but they had replaced two of the three Chasers and one of the Beaters. The Ravenclaw team had a lot more experience.
Harry and the other reserves suited up in their Ravenclaw Blue Quidditch uniforms and watched the game from just outside the changing room. Harry thought it was a different perspective from below.
The Ravenclaw team did overwhelm the Hufflepuffs. In a game that was about skill rather than physical strength, the 'Claws proved they had the skill. They were up seventy-ten when the Seekers spotted the Snitch near the base of the Hufflepuff goals. Unfortunately for Cedric, he was above the Ravenclaw goals at the time. He raced after Cho, who started near the center of the pitch, but there was no way he could catch up. As Cho swooped in, she lost concentration, and slammed into the goal post.
The reason for her accident became apparent as dozens of Dementors made their way on to the field, from every entrance, spreading gloom and despair. Harry dropped to his knees as he heard the screaming woman, and then her voice saying, "Not Harry, please not Harry!"
The high pitched voice answered, "Stand aside you silly girl!"
But the woman -- his mum? -- wouldn't, "Kill me instead --"
The other voice -- Voldemort's? -- laughed and said, "/Avada Kadavra/!" and, suddenly there was a visual component to the memory -- a flash of sickly, green light. His eyes cleared and he found himself on the ground, as were the other reservists and the players from both teams. Dumbledore was in the middle of the pitch with a face unlike any he had ever seen the headmaster wear. Dumbledore was furious.
Harry looked around; there were no Dementors on the field now. Madam Pomfrey was by Cho, and Remus was going around to the downed players. Harry smiled as he noticed their defense professor handing out what he assumed was chocolate. A house elf appeared next to Remus and handed him some more bars. The professor then walked over to the changing room.
"Here you go, Mr. Lovegood, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Bixler. Eat this, you'll feel better. I'm not sure what will happen with the game, but Professor Dumbledore has sent the Dementors off the school grounds. You're the last of the players I have to take care of. I need to get to the stands and help hand out chocolate up there. You're alright, you three?" Harry nodded. The chocolate was making him feel better. Professor Lupin headed to the stands. The three reservists got up, brushed themselves off, and headed to where the rest of the team was collecting.
They watched as Pomfrey conjured a stretcher and levitated Cho off the field. Roger checked with Pomfrey. It looked like he got a curt reply, and then he came jogging back to the group.
"Cho's out, whether we restart the game or not. There must have been fifty or sixty Dementors on the pitch. I noticed a lot of students in the front seats dropping. It will probably be a few minutes until we hear if the game is going on. Lovegood, you're in. Remember what you practiced."
Harry nodded. It had been drilled into him that the Seekers stayed above the rest of the players for a reason. Besides giving a good view of the whole field, it kept them out of the way of the Chasers (although there was a tactic for disrupting the other side's Chasers, but they hadn't practiced that enough and felt he shouldn't use it in a game.) They waited, and eventually Madam Hooch called the two captains together. Roger and Cedric Diggory both claimed their teams were ready to resume, so they took to the air.
Harry loved this.
One option he had was to dog the other Seeker, in the hopes that if either of them saw the snitch, he might out fly Cedric and get to the Snitch first. But Cedric's Cleansweep 6 was considered slightly faster than the Fireball, so Harry would have to spot the Snitch first. He set up a quick figure eight pattern near the middle of the pitch. Cedric did a more leisurely oval near the middle. Neither was going to make Cedric's earlier mistake of being too far to one side.
Suddenly a shout went up from the crowd. Harry wasn't sure who saw it first, but he and Cedric both started after the Snitch at almost the same time. It looked like a forgone conclusion that Cedric would reach it first because he was closer. But Harry was flying faster in his search pattern and was already at full speed before Cedric could get lined up with the Snitch, which was hovering near the ground.
As they dived, they started getting close to the players. A Bludger flew past Harry; he barely modified his angle of descent to avoid it. Cedric almost ran into one of his own team's Chasers and lost speed. Harry aimed low -- if the Snitch changed directions, as it was likely to do, he would be following it. If it changed directions towards him, he wouldn't overshoot it.
As Harry predicted, it did suddenly change directions. It headed off at a right angle, and he saw Cedric struggling to change course. Harry angled his broom and snatched the little golden ball out of the air as he sped past it. He stopped his broom and held up the Snitch. His teammates were around him, pounding him on the back and congratulating him.
Cedric came over, "Excellent flying, Lovegood! Good game."
"I was lucky. If it had gone up or down out of my reach at the last moment I would have missed, and you would have been in an excellent position."
"If you say so. I'm looking forward to next years re-match." And he shook Harry's hand.
That evening at the victory party, Luna approached Harry.
"We should bring some of these treats to Cho."
"To Cho? After the way she teases you?"
"Yes, because that's what she does. That shouldn't change what we do. And what about that golden rule you were telling me about."
"He who has the gold makes the rules?"
She hit him playfully. "No, the one about /doing to others/."
Harry's classics reading, which Selene insisted they keep up even during the school year, now consisted of the Vulgate. It was about a third the length of the Old Testament, but the main narrative was repeated four times. Each one was different, though, and Mike Daly said that each had a different emphasis and target audience. He thought the letters that made up most of it while full of good advice, weren't too cohesive. But he had found the Golden Rule in it.
"Alright, I'll bring her some."
- - -
The evening study hall was breaking up. There was some milling about as the people who knew each other from different years and different houses took the opportunity to visit. Harry was talking with Neville, Draco, and Hermione when Professor Lupin walked over. He had sat at the staff table and any students that had questions would go up to him and ask. He was one of the more popular teachers who took turns in the Great Hall in the evening.
Things had changed again. The studying students hung out in the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, while the Hufflepuff table (especially near the rebuilt fireplace) had become the center of games between people of rival houses. Chess, gobstones, and quieter games of exploding Snap would take place over there. Those groups were usually, but not exclusively, by age. It usually depended on the amount of homework as to which age groups would gather there.
With the next Quidditch games scheduled for April, the teams wouldn't be practicing as much, and Harry would be able to join his classmates at the study group more often. Luna hadn't been there, though, and he wasn't sure where she was. But at the moment, he was rehashing Quidditch experiences with Draco and picking up a bit of what the third years were studying.
Professor Lupin said, "Alright kids, you should head back to your own common rooms before curfew. By the way, Harry, good game. You fly just like your father -- like you were born on a broom. Of course, he was a chaser, but you get the idea."
Harry answered, "Thank you, Professor Lupin." Then the group headed to the Entrance Hall where they went their own ways. Hermione looked at Harry funny as she followed him up to the Ravenclaw tower.
- - -
Harry stopped in Remus' office off the DADA classroom and said, "Professor Lupin?"
Remus looked up from the papers he was grading and answered, "Ah, hello, Harry. Here for another Animagus lesson? We usually have those on Mondays."
"No. Actually I was wondering if there's something to protect us from the Dementors."
"Yes, there is a spell that can drive them away, but it's quite advanced magic. I'm talking beyond N.E.W.T. level, Harry. And even if I taught you, you might not be able to perform it in the presence of a Dementor."
"I'd like to try to learn it."
"Very well, Harry. We'll begin with the basic spell and if you master that, we'll see what we can do about exposing you to the Dementor's influence under a controlled environment.
"Now, Harry, the wand movement is just a flick, and the incantation is Expecto Patronum. However, just doing that won't help. You have to power it with good emotions, the same emotions that a Dementor drives out of your mind so it can revel in the feelings associated with your worst memories. Now, think of a good memory, and try the spell."
- - -
"Come on, Harry." Luna grabbed his arm as they were leaving the Great Hall after dinner.
"What? Where are we going?"
"Someplace we should have visited a long time ago."
"Shouldn't we be getting our stuff for the study group?"
"Later. And you've missed so many why are you worrying about it now?" She kept taking him up stairs.
"But that was because of Quidditch practice. I've never been here before."
"That's because we don't have any classes up here."
"Where are we?"
"In the North tower. Come on."
"How high are we going?"
"All the way to the top."
"Well, what now?" Harry asked when they reached the top of the spiral staircase they had been climbing. They were in a room without doors but Luna pointed Harry at a sign on the ceiling next to a trap door.
"'Sibyll Trelawney, Divination teacher,'" Harry read. "And?"
"Aunt Sibyll!" Luna yelled. The trap door opened, and a silver ladder came down.
"Aunt Sibyll?" Harry asked, following Luna up the ladder.
"Yes, Daddy's sister." They climbed through the opening to a room filled with little tables and chintz armchairs. The room was hot, and a fire blazed in the fireplace. There was a smell of incense in the air, and the few lamps that were lit were covered in red scarves.
"Hello, children. What can I do for you?" 'Aunt Sibyll' appeared at a door. She was covered in chains and beads, and had thick glasses that made her eyes appear very large. They were brown with flecks of gray like her brother's. Her hair was long and stringy, like Luna's when Harry didn't brush it. She was very thin, and entered with a swaying motion.
"Hello, Aunt Sibyll. I'm Luna!"
Trelawney peered at the blond. "I know, dear. I've was expecting you to show up tonight. I seem to be a little off with my timing, though. I had planned on having tea with you. Just one moment."
She quickly filled a kettle with water and put it over the fire, which she banked down. Harry noticed that Luna kept looking around with a concerned expression. They sat at one of the little tables, and Harry thought he smelled wine on Professor Trelawney's breath.
She turned to Harry and said, "I apologize dear, the crystal shows faces, of course, but not names. However, I do see a long and happy life for the two of you. You aren't interested in politics, are you? I think I see you in the office of Minister of Magic. You are?"
"This is Harry, Aunt Sibyll. Surely you've talked to Daddy since he came to live with us?"
"Your father? Aunt? Oh, you're little Luna! My, how you've grown! I remember your second birthday. And now look at you! A first year Hogwarts student! Where does the time go?"
"Second year, Aunt Sibyll."
"Of course, dear. When you have an inner eye as active as mine, these little details sometimes become blurred. It's so nice to see you again."
"Daddy and Mum wanted me to ask you if you would come to our house for Christmas Eve dinner."
"I'm sure I have nothing going on. I shall certainly be there, if the auguries say so. That is so nice of you to invite me."
"Dad has been inviting you for years. He says you always have something else going on. He was starting to think you didn't like him."
"Not like Larry? He's the sweetest man! No one could have a nicer little brother. Did I ever tell you about the time. . . ." They spent a nice tea listening to tales of Sibyll's and Larry's childhoods. It meant more to Luna than to Harry, but he enjoyed it too. Finally the tea ran out and they were getting ready to go.
Harry asked, "Professor? If you're Uncle Larry's sister, why isn't your name Lovegood too?"
She looked confused for a moment then smiled. "Trelawney was our mother's name. When it turned out that I had the sight, it was useful to go by an established name. You do know that I'm great-great-granddaughter of Cassandra Trelawney, the celebrated Seer? It was mostly name recognition, you know. It's a hard, cruel world out there, and you need every advantage to make it though. Do come back! I enjoyed our chat immensely!"
Harry and Luna went down the steps.
Harry commented on their way back to the Ravenclaw tower, "She seems nice. A little. . . ."
"Looney?" Luna asked with a smile. "Maybe it runs in the family, after all Dad and you are too."
"Me!" His protest was cut off by Luna's laugh. He joined in. "Ok, maybe I inherited some craziness from Uncle Larry. But I don't think so. If I got it from anywhere, it was you."
"Harry, did you notice all the magic up there?"
"No. But then I'm just a rhinoceros, not someone in possession of mage sight."
"There's mind magic up there."
"You said the whole castle is filled with magic."
"Yes. For example the room was magically expanding to be bigger than the area of the North Tower."
"Even I noticed that."
"But there's other magic up there. Can I borrow your book on Wands and Enchanting?"
"Sure. What're you going to do?"
"Try to figure out what I saw up there."
- - -
Harry and Luna were walking into the Great Hall for dinner.
"I'll see you in a few minutes, Harry."
"OK, I'll save you a seat."
Luna waited by the door for a few minutes until she saw the person she wanted to talk to.
"Did you want to come to Charms Club tonight?"
"Oh, yes! Do come, Neville," Lavender Brown put in. She had been just a little behind Neville, walking with several other Gryffindors.
"My, Luna, you're a fast worker," teased Parvati Patil.
Neville turned red, and started to stammer something.
"Oh, be quiet, you. You're embarrassing Neville. And I'm just inviting him as a friend. After all the Charms club meets on Hogsmeade days, and Neville might like something to keep himself occupied during those. Neville, Parvati and Lavender are both in Charms Club, so don't let them talk you out of it. If they didn't enjoy it, they would have quit a long time ago.
"She's right, Neville," Lavender said. "It is fun. Why don't you join us."
Neville wasn't feeling so embarrassed now. "OK, I'll try it."
Luna left the two Gryffindors telling Neville about the club and went to join Harry for dinner.
- - -
Harry and Luna were sitting in the Ravenclaw common room between classes in early December.
"Luna, can I get my wand book back?"
"Of course, Harry. Is there something specific you need from it?"
"Yes. How to make a wand. Hagrid is getting me some more sticks from the Forbidden Forest, and I was going to try to create the core hole in them. I ruined the entire first batch of sticks he got for me. Stupid Dementors I could go and get my own materials."
"It's called forbidden because your not supposed to go out there."
"Yeah, well. . . ."
"What do you have for cores?"
"Just potion ingredients. And my own hair and blood. I can't wait to start Ancient Runes and get real help doing runes. . . ."
"Yeah, the runes section of your book doesn't give much practical help in engraving them." She held up her wand. "I don't know how Uncle Ollie does it. There are no runes visible at all."
"We'll have to ask him."
"I'll go get the book."
- - -
"Aunt Sibyll?" Luna called. She was alone at the moment. Harry was at the study group in the Great Hall. The ladder descended and she went up. Sibyll wasn't in the room, so she looked around. There was something here -- something like a ward, but not quite. It was right around here, but she couldn't see it. She wished Harry was here. But she had come straight from Charms Club, and Harry wasn't with her. She sighed.
"Helloooooo! How lovely that came to visit me, dear." Sibyll entered the room, weaving a bit.
"Hello, Aunt Sibyll. How are you?"
"I'm just fine! I must say, I wasn't expecting any visitors tonight. I get so few visitors, you know." She fell more than sat in one of the overstuffed chairs. "It's very quiet up here. That's so important for the inner eye. Do you have the gift, my dear?"
"I'm Luna. And I don't think so."
"Pity. But it's quite a burden, you know, knowing what coming, and never being able to do anything about it. I've known all day that you were coming. Still, events transpired so I wouldn't be out here when you showed up."
"Aunt Sibyll, you don't have to pretend with me. I'm family."
"What are you implying?" Sibyll asked, a little coldly.
"When you first saw me, you said you weren't expecting any visitors. You don't have to pretend that your gift foresaw me coming. I know it doesn't work all the time. It's alright to just be Aunt Sibyll when we're alone."
"Like all gifts, if you don't use it it will attro. . . uh, attra . . . it will go away."
"That's fine, but don't make things up for me. Just be yourself. If you can't be yourself in your own family, where can you do it?"
"I'll . . . I'll try."
"Are you still planning on coming to our house Christmas Eve?"
"Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world."
After talking for a little while, Luna finally had to go to be back in the Ravenclaw tower before curfew. They said their goodbyes, and Luna looked around the room, once more. It was there, but she just couldn't see it!
- - -
On Christmas Eve they eventually gave up waiting for Sibyll, and sat down to eat. Luna kept insisting that Sibyll had promised, but she didn't show up the whole evening.
Uncle Ollie was there, and Harry and Luna (to a lesser extent) discussed wand making. He had perfected a method of putting the required runes on the inside of the wand, where the wand core went. Harry and he discussed Harry's problems with wand making. Part of the problem turned out to be Harry's work area -- it was almost impossible to magically carve a straight wand while holding it in your hands. The best way is to clamp it down, and carve it slowly. And carving out the hole through it for the core -- well Ollie went so far as to say it was impossible to do freehand.
"Really? I didn't try to make the core hole but my third attempt was pretty good, if I say so myself. But I've never gotten such good results since."
"May I see it?"
"Sure, Uncle Ollie, I'll be right back." Harry ran off towards his room. He came back a minute later holding a wand. Ollivander took it and looked at it with a critical eye. He gave it a wave.
"Number three? The larch. Eleven and three quarters, slightly springy. Yes, I can see that doing such a good job on your third attempt would have raised your expectations. You certainly did a good job shaping and smoothing it. But as I said, it is almost impossible to get such results without using the proper tools. Look," he said, putting the wand on the table. Using one finger near the point to roll it, they could clearly see that the wand wasn't straight. "Fifteen hundred years ago, this would have been an excellent wand. However, the craft has advanced a little since then. I can see that the book I gave you didn't describe many of the practical aspects of making a wand. You must come to my shop soon, and I will show you the modern tools of the trade!"
They talked wand making until it was time to go home. Harry thought Uncle Ollie could have talked wand making all night.
- - -
The annual Boxing Day party at Sirius' had grown by a few more people. Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Hestia's parents were also there. Harry didn't think anything of it, but heard several other adults commenting on Sirius and Hestia "getting serious;" usually that was followed by a joke about Uncle Sirius' name. Even he was getting tired of that joke by the end of the night.
Draco took Neville, Harry, and Luna aside for their annual "pure-blood" persuasion speech. Harry brought up the fact that Hermione was considered one of the smartest witches in the school, and she was a Muggle born.
Neville countered, "But you have to admit that she works harder than the rest of us."
"That's true," Luna put in. "She studies almost every night after the study groups. Of course, most Ravenclaws do."
"But there's at least two other Muggle-born second years in Ravenclaw, too." Harry said.
Neville added, "And after Hermione left Gryffindor, they have no Muggle born second year students. Yet they probably get the lowest grades."
"If you ignore Crabbe and Goyle," Draco said.
Harry finished his argument with, "But if blood mattered that much, then you'd expect the pure-bloods to be at the top of the class."
"Unless the whole school system is biased," Neville suggested.
Ron showed up about then, and he and Hermione, whom he tolerated at these gatherings, joined the others.
Luna got the last word in, since they knew they couldn't discuss this around Ron. "If we're going to overthrow the school system, let's do it for something important, like getting rid of the drafts. Those corridors are /cold /when the wind blows."
Ron asked, "Are you going to overthrow the school."
Luna answered, "Probably not. To get something changed at the school we'd probably have to overthrow the whole government. Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!"
Hermione put in, "Viva la revolution!"
"Huh?" Ron looked confused.
They other students laughed, and Harry said, "Don't worry Ron. When we overthrow the government, we'll put you in charge of Quidditch." Ron still looked confused, but went along with the joke, proposing sweeping changes to the Quidditch rules to help the Chudley Cannons win.
Later, Harry got Neville alone.
"Neville, I know why Draco says what he says about pure-bloods, but I don't understand why you seem to support him?"
Neville smiled, and said, "I think it's the Hufflepuff in me."
"I know Draco's father questions Draco. If he knew that Draco wasn't getting anywhere with us, what do you think his father would do?"
"I don't know."
"He'd probably stop him from coming to these parties. This way he can tell his father that he's getting through to at least one person. Maybe. It doesn't cost anything to say almost supportive things when he tries to convince us. If you listen to what I said, I didn't really support him. I just didn't disagree with him."
"Don't worry, Harry, I'm not a pure-blood bigot."
"No, but I think you're a Slytherin in disguise."
"Naaa! Probably just Draco rubbing off on me."
- - -
Among his gifts, Harry received a knife from Sirius that was supposed to open any lock. The lock picking ability, however, was whispered later. Harry thought the knife would come in useful for carving runes.
- - -
At one point during the party Hermione caught Sirius away from the crowd.
"Sirius, please. When you call me Mr. Black, I feel old. What can I do for you, Hermione?"
"Can you tell me about Harry's real parents? I know that Mr. and Mrs. Lovegood aren't his parents, and he never talks about them."
"They were killed in the war against Voldemort. Have you studied that?"
"I've read Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century, Modern Magical
History. . . ."
"Then you know how dangerous it was and how many people died. Harry's parents were among the many killed at that time."
"But can you tell me about them?"
Sirius looked at Hermione for a minute. "No," he finally said. "The stories are Harry's to tell, or Harry's to not tell if he doesn't feel like it."
"But you knew them well enough to be his godfather!"
"But it's not my stories to tell. And if you're really Harry's friend, you'll leave him alone about this."
"But. . . ."
"No." And he walked away.
The party finished up with the traditional game of exploding snap. Harry noticed that Luna won the first and last hands. She smiled at him when she did. He smiled back.
- - -
Harry spent two days with Ollivander in his shop during the holiday. He got to see the workshop, work with the tools a professional used, and a practical introduction to the materials used in a core. Harry found it fascinating, and started looking forward to the summer when Uncle Ollie would help him go through the process of creating a wand from start to finish.
- - -
As such things happen, the Christmas break came to an end, too soon and too slow. Parents and students were already missing each other as they said their goodbyes on platform nine and three quarters. They were also looking forward to a little quiet (the parents) and getting back with their friends (the students).
The Lovegoods were no different in that respect than any other group. They hugged and kissed their children goodbye, and started talking with friends. Larry, but mostly Selene, conversed with Augusta Longbottom. Harry and Luna greeted Neville and exchanged stories about the break when suddenly there was a flash of light.
A woman in bright green robes rushed up to the children, and exploded with questions, a quill and parchment floating beside her.
"Neville Longbottom? May I call you Neville? How does it feel knowing that a Death Eater is out there, biding her time, waiting for the chance to get you?"
"I, uh. . . ."
"How do you think your parents would handle this situation? Would they pull you out of Hogwarts. . . ."
Suddenly, the parchment beside her burst into flame.
Larry had his wand in hand, pointing at the woman in green. "His parents were Aurors, and would throw you into jail for assaulting his son."
"Lovegood. How nice to see you. Still publishing that rag?"
"Get out of here, Skeeter. Considering how hard the Ministry is trying to keep Neville safe, do you think they'd appreciate you taunting Lestrange with the fact that she's unable to get at him?"
"I'm doing no such thing."
"I doubt that the Ministry would see it that way," Selene added. She had joined her husband after getting the children on the train.
"And if that photo ever sees the light of day," Augusta added, "I doubt the paper will be very happy with the lawsuit I would bring if Lestrange was given a current photo of her target."
Skeeter left in a huff. Her photographer followed.
- - -
"Hi, Jo. It's me, Bob."
"Hi, Bob. What's up."
"Warriorette is missing."
"The cage is empty."
"Is this some sort of joke?"
"No more a joke than her mysterious arrival."
"Hang on. I'll be right there. Damn. Like we need this kind of publicity."
- - -
"Bellatrix!" Sirius found himself tied to a chair in the first floor parlor. The escaped prisoner, his cousin, stood in front of him, wand ready.
"Hello, Sirius. All those years, and I didn't know you were in Azkaban with me. We could have talked about old times, before the Dementors stole them from us."
"I was innocent, Bellatrix. There was nothing to say to any of you Death Eaters."
suppose. But do you remember when we were children, Sirius? I don't. Not really. We were taught that the Dementors feed on all the bad memories, but I don't think that's right. I remember all the bad times just fine. I think that they feed on the good ones, because they seem all gone now."
"Are you here to kill me, Bella?"
"Oh, Sirius! You know I hate that name. Why didn't you ever call me Trixie like my sisters did?"
Sirius remained quiet, glaring at the gaunt, black haired woman in front of him.
"What do you want, Bella?"
She gave a snarl, and yelled, "/Crucio!" /while pointing to the case that once held so many dark objects. The case blew up, and Bellatrix fell to the floor of the parlor, screaming as if the curse was cast on her. Sirius had talked to Andromeda. Bella must really be insane, he thought. The woman got back on her feet.
"I want it to end, Sirius. I want it to stop hurting. It was a bad idea to come here. You make me so mad I do that. No more. It was a mistake to come. I see that now." She pointed her wand at the bound Sirius.
"I came for my locket, but it doesn't matter. Give it to Cissy."
"I already did. I must say. . . ."
"/Stupefy/! I don't need to hear what you have to say about our picture."
When he woke up, he was untied. As far as he could tell, except for the broken display case, there was no other damage to the house.
- - -
"She was gone! I swear!"
"Have you been drinking, Bob?"
"Honest, Jo! I was in there! The cage was empty!"
"Good night, Bob."
- - -
Peter Pettigrew was not having a good trip. The attempt to rob that drunk Parisian wizard had netted him a few Galleons, but had also got his arm sliced with a cutting curse. It was slowly healing. His face was too well known to go to any reputable healer. He had eventually gone to a Muggle doctor who sewed his arm up like a piece of cloth, and gave him a paper to take to a chemist. He was given a small bottle of pills to help avoid gangrene and other problems he didn't quite understand. He ate them all after leaving the shop. As bad tasting as a potion. His arm wasn't feeling much better, though.
And then with his limited Apparation ability, general ill health, and weakened condition after being in Azkaban, it had taken him several weeks to reach Albania. He had had to stop for over a week in Greece because his arm was too bad. He had awoken in a Muggle hospital. With a couple of days of care he was feeling better and left before the magical community realized he was there. At least the sewing was out of his arm.
Once in Albania he was more relaxed. The independent kingdoms of various wizards -- living, undead, or dead but with such legends that everyone just leaves those areas alone -- were not going to be on the lookout for him. Especially as he was being referred to as Voldemort's henchman. Most of the other overlords would either ignore him out of fear of Voldemort or indifference to the demands of the British wizarding government. It was nice having a powerful master. He hoped, with a shiver.
He was getting close. It had been many years, but some things don't change -- the shapes of rocks, the surrounding peaks. The trees were different, the trail gone, but the signs were still there. He reached the cliff. In the cool of the Albanian winter night he shivered again. He wasn't dressed for this nor was he in good enough shape for wandering around in the wilderness. How did a whole mountain range get an anti-Apparation field around it? No wonder no other magical government thought it worthwhile to take over this forsaken bit of the world.
He searched. This was the third cliff he thought was the right one. Something flew overhead. He reached in his pocket for the crucifix. He held it up, knowing that to a vampire it would be a blinding light that they couldn't approach. After a few minutes, he resumed his examination of the cliff.
He found it! He removed the rock to reveal a hole big enough to put his arm into. He rolled up his sleeve as far as he could and stuck his arm in almost to the shoulder. It was an awkward position. It had been designed so. His dark mark on the arm flared with pain. He clenched his teeth and kept quiet. A moment later the pain started to fade and a door opened in the cliff. He quickly replaced the rock and entered Voldemort's hide out.
He ignored the
snake-motif of the hall and moved quickly to the throne room. The large room, reminiscent of the Chamber of Secrets, although Pettigrew didn't know that, was empty. Worse than empty -- which he had expected. It was -- he groped for a word -- /empty. /It was missing the presence he was expecting. He searched the complex and could not find evidence of Voldemort anywhere. He ended up back in the throne room. His master was gone. Could he consider trying to live on his own? He had spent ten years as a rat. It was possible.
He pondered his options as he stood next to the throne. There were definite advantages. The lack of the pain curse was one. He had gotten used to not being tortured. If his old master wasn't around, that wasn't his fault. But where could he go? He was a wanted wizard. He sat to plan his next move.
He jumped from the throne and looked around.
"Master?" he cried in fear.
"Come to Riddle Manor, now!"
"Yes master!" he was frantically looking around.
"Then you will make me a homiculus."
There was no further communication. He never did find out that sitting on the throne caused an old spell to activate, allowing Voldemort to know who was sitting on his chair, and allowed him to speak to that person. Or kill the fool who would dare sit on Lord Voldemort's throne.
Pettigrew wearily made his way to the entrance of the hideout. He now had to journey across Europe again and return to the country most interested in capturing him. He shivered.
- - -
"Aunt Sibyll!" Luna yelled, once more below the Divination classroom. The silver ladder magically extended to the floor, and she and Harry climbed up.
Professor Trelawney wasn't in sight. They got to work quickly.
"Mind magic, doesn't seem to affect us. Sort of flows right around you," Luna said.
"Specific to certain conditions, or a certain person, maybe. Flowing from where?"
"That direction, but there's something else with it, and I'm sure I'm being affected by it. I can't see the source of either of them."
"Lets move in. From the fireplace?"
"I'd have to say, yes. But I can't get a fix."
"Not a ward?"
"Similar, but not."
"An anti-notice charm?"
"That's it! That has to be it. Whatever it is is right here, but we can't notice it!"
They were interrupted by their aunt's voice, "Hello dears! How wonderful of you to come visit me!"
"Aunt Sibyll! Are you feeling well?" Luna asked, moving away from the fireplace.
Harry stared at it for a moment. Candle holders and candles, a deck of Tarot cards, a shaw, an eyeglass case. If the object was unnoticeable, it wouldn't be any of those. He put his hand to left of the candle holder on the right side of the mantle.
"Of course I'm well. Why wouldn't I be?"
He started moving his hand slowly to the left, gently touching each object as he came to it.
"We were worried when you didn't show up at the Christmas Eve dinner."
"Oh! I was going to go, wasn't I? I think I may not have been feeling well that night. I was so looking forward to it."
Harry's hand reached the other candle stick, but he was sure something strange had happened in between. He was sure he hadn't moved his arm straight across, but didn't remember -- or notice -- moving it around anything. He cursed under his breath, and turned back to Luna and Aunt Sibyll. Luna was talking about the holidays. Harry went over to her, and gave a little shake of his head. She nodded and continued talking.
"Will we see you at a meal in the Great Hall?" Luna asked, changing the subject.
"Well, the noise and activity, it's so hard on the inner eye. . . ."
"Aunt Sibyll! Remember, 'family'! Is there a real reason you don't eat in the Great Hall?"
"I just don't like leaving the tower. I almost never do it. The last time I did was. . . . Goodness gracious! The last time was last summer when the Headmaster took me to dinner in Diagon Alley, and I did some shopping afterwards. No wait, I've been to some teacher's meetings, too. I almost never go, but sometimes when the Headmaster asks me personally, I attend."
Harry and Luna tried to get her to agree to come down for a meal some time, but she resisted.
"We'll be back to visit you, Aunt Sibyll," Luna said. After they left she stopped Harry on the stairs of the tower.
"I'm sure it's a spell to keep her in the tower."
"Who would do that to her?"
"I think she told us."
"When was the last time she left her room?"
"Teacher's meetings. Last summer. . . ."
"And who was she with?"
"Dumble. . . . But why? Why would he lock her in?"
"I don't know, but we have to rescue her. She's family."
"We'd have to rescue her even if she wasn't family."
"Oh, of course, Harry."
- - -
January brought with it the return of Quidditch. Roger Davies kept vacillating between Cho and Harry as the Seeker. Any good will Cho might have had for Harry for his kindness after the first game was quickly worn away as they competed for the Seeker spot. It wasn't until the morning of the game that Roger decided to go with Cho. He wanted Harry suited up as the reserve, though, and warned Cho that he would wouldn't hesitate to replace her during the game.
Harry decided that the match against Slytherin seemed to go the way many matches against Slytherin went: painfully for the other team. Lacking finesse, they tried to bully themselves to victory on the field. The Ravenclaws kept the score slightly in their favor, despite the physical nature of the Slytherin play. They played to their strengths, and knew a lot more Quidditch formations than the other teams. They would switch with a signal, and suddenly a Forward Slash would become an Eagle's Dive. They were up by thirty points, but it was all for naught.
From what Harry could see, Cho saw the snitch first. She didn't move directly at it, but tried to position herself better. Something in her demeanor gave the game away, though, and Draco sped off after it right before she did. His Nimbus 2001 was faster, and he reached the Snitch first. Unfortunately, it zigged when he zagged, and flew towards the ground. Cho followed it down, while Draco pulled into a tight turn to aim at the snitch again. The snitch dropped even lower, and doubled back. Cho made a grab for it, missed, and plowed into the muddy ground. Draco flew at the little golden ball, and got it.
- - -
Harry became really busy after that. Even though they didn't have another game until April 30th, they practiced hard three times a week. With Slitherin having won two of it's matches, they would have to beat Gryffindor, their last match, to have a chance at the Quidditch cup, provided that Hufflepuff beat Slytherin. It was a long shot, but Roger was an optimist, and a task master.
He also had an evening a week with Remus working on his animagus transformation, and another working on the Patronus. The first was going slowly. He had transformed his left hand into a rhino's foot. He was still having problems with his right hand. Remus thought it was psychological -- his right hand being the one he wrote with and did magic with. Without it, he'd really be handicapped. His Patronus activity was going better.
It was a couple weeks after Christmas break that he achieved a corporate Patronus.
"/Expecto Patronum/!" He yelled, thinking of a sunset in the Rocky Mountains that he had shared with Luna. He was imagining the feelings, reliving the moment, with more concentration than he had ever used before. And suddenly the silver mist flowed out of his wand and formed into a shape.
"Harry, what is that?" Professor Lupin asked.
"Wow! I don't believe it! Professor, you said that no one knows why people have specific Patronuses, right? I would have never imagined this one in a million years!"
"But, Harry. . . ."
"Let's make sure I can do that again! /Expectro Patronum!" /The animal formed again. "Yes! This is so neat, Professor! I have to tell Luna!" Harry raced out of the room.
"But, Harry. . . ." Remus tried one last time as the brown haired boy ran out of the Defense classroom.
He raced to the Great Hall, but a quick look showed that she wasn't with the study group. He ran to the library, but again, no there. Finally he headed back to the Ravenclaw common room. She wasn't there, but Cho and her friends were.
"Well, if it isn't the shrimp who thinks he can play Seeker," she said, as he ran into the room.
"Last I heard, the Seeker was supposed to catch the Golden Snitch. You should try it sometime." He looked around and saw Larry Pohlen, one of his dorm mates. "Hey, Larry. Have you seen Luna?"
Cho answered, "Oh, you finally realized that she's been seeing boys behind your back. I was wondering when you'd notice. Too bad she still doesn't know how to take care of her hair; her new boyfriend doesn't seem to either."
"What are you babbling about?" Harry asked.
"For a Ravenclaw, you're not very smart. She's been hanging out with that third year 'Puff, Longbottom, since before the holidays. And you're completely oblivious!"
"Sorry, Harry," Larry answered, "I don't know."
Harry ignored Cho, and thanked Larry, and headed out of the common room.
Harry collected his things from the now empty Defense classroom, and went to the Library to work on his homework. When he got back to the common room at curfew, he found Luna. Her hair was a mess. He felt guilty, because he had been too busy lately to brush it for her.
"Hello, Harry," she said, as he came up to her. He had been stewing about the situation since he left the common room earlier, and he was quite angry, now.
"Luna, where were you?" he asked, staring at the blonde. Luna heard the laughs of the fourth year girls in Cho's clique, and turned back to Harry. Observing his state, she got up, and gathered her things.
"Come, on Harry. We need to talk privately."
"Huh? Where are you going."
"Let's find an empty classroom. We don't want to have a fight here."
"What are you talking about!" he said, loudly. Luna noticed the Cho clique laughing some more. She just headed for the exit.
Harry found himself in the corridor, following Luna.
"Luna," he hissed, "it's after curfew!"
"It can't be helped," she said, taking one of the 142 stairways in the castle to the fourth level. She entered an unused classroom often used by Ravenclaws for spell practice, and sat down. Harry didn't sit.
"Where were you tonight."
"You know that I have Charms club on Thursdays. Just as you have private lessons with Professor Lupin."
"But what about Neville?"
"What about Neville?"
"Are you seeing him?"
"Of course I'm seeing him. He's in Charms club with me. I invited him so he'd have someplace to go on Hogsmeade weekends."
"But are you going out with him?"
"Don't be silly, who told you that?"
"I'm not being silly, and Cho said. . . ."
"Cho! I should have known. Harry, are you going to believe /her/?"
That stopped him.
"Oh, Harry, I married you. . . ."
But whatever else she was going to say was stopped by the gasp that was heard at the door. They turned and saw Penelope Clearwater, the Seventh Year prefect.
"Oh, my God!" she gasped. "You're married?"
Harry stood there, unable to come up with something to do or say.
"Technically, we're betrothed," Luna answered.
"With your cousin? How close are you?"
"More than nine degrees, not that it's any of your business."
"But only a very few purebloods arrange their children's marriages. Almost none, actually."
"Honestly, Penelope, it's no one else's business. And I would really appreciate it if you would just forget that you heard about it. You don't think we have enough problems without that, too? They don't tease us enough when Harry brushes my hair? This is no one's business but our own."
Harry finally found his voice. "Please don't tell anyone."
"Very well. But it's after curfew, and you can't be out here. I'll take you back to the tower."
"Thank you." Harry and Luna said.
As they walked back, Luna said, quietly, "I've missed you since you've been so busy."
Harry answered, quietly, "I'm sorry. I'll try to do better."
"That's all I can ask."
They entered the common room and saw Cho smirking. When they were all the way in the room, Luna asked, loudly, "Harry, would you brush my hair?"
"Of course, Luna."
Harry thought the the way the smirk disappeared from Cho's face was priceless.
- - -
Narcissa Malfoy found herself tied to a chair in her own dining room. "Trixie. I should have known. You've visited Andy and Sirius. Now it's my turn. How have you been?"
"Doing much better since I've been out of Azkaban. I've decided to leave the wizarding world all together."
"You're going to live like a Muggle?" Narcissa was astonished.
"I've already got a job, and a place to stay. I have to say I'm doing well."
"I don't believe it! You? With the Muggles?"
"I especially like the children. There are a lot of children where I work. If they get too annoying, I scare them a little, but not too much. I've grown to like my job."
"I'm glad for you. I really am."
"Thanks. Did Sirius really give you my locket?"
"Yes he did. We've become friends. And I've made up with Andy. Lucius hates it, but I don't care any more. And between Sirius, myself, and some friends his own age, we've subverted Draco. He's not going to be an arrogant creep like his father or our father. He might even marry a Muggle-born. There's one in his circle of friends that he gets along with. Of course he's too young."
"He's in Slytherin?"
"Yes. If we had started working on him earlier, he might not have been, but he has many friends in the other Houses."
"That's good. The houses were too confining. If I hadn't been in Slytherin. . . ." Her voice trailed off. "If I had been in Gryffindor would I have had enough courage to disobey our father?"
"I don't know, Trixie. Neither of us did."
"How about Jim Potter's son? He's Draco's age. Are they friends?"
"'Jim?' 'Jim!' I knew it. I knew you had a crush on him!"
"So what if I did? He was even a pure-blood and would almost have been acceptable to father. But Draco and Harry Potter don't get along?"
"Harry Potter disappeared. Years ago. No one's sure what happened. Many people think he's dead."
"That's so sad. Another old family gone."
"That wasn't so important when You-Know-Who was around."
"No. And we helped wipe out a number of families. I can't forget what we did. You know there are some things that saying 'sorry' doesn't fix."
"You seem to be doing better than when you talked to Sirius and Andy. No offense, but they thought you weren't quite right after being in Azkaban for so long."
"I think I am doing better. I'm sure of it. There are things that are really enjoyable now. At first, all I wanted was to be away from the Dementors and for it to stop hurting. They had ripped so much away from me -- well, a lot of it's still gone. But it's amazing how good dinner is after a long day of working; not that the work is that strenuous, mind you. But it's nice not to be on display and let myself be silly. I'm sorry, I don't remember what we talking about?"
"You're still not all better, are you?"
"I guess not. I still have problems concentrating. And sometimes I think I'm going to just lose it and tear someone to pieces. Luckily, I have some place to go when I feel that way." She laughed. "I wonder if our Master had had a time out place if he would have turned out like he did?"
"Do you want him to come back?"
"Merlin! No! That's where the memories of pain come from. Or at least their start. He Crucio-ed me! ME! I was his best servant! But no more. He won't hurt me again. Never again. Not him, not the boy!"
"What boy, Trixie?"
"Longbottom. Neville Longbottom. He won't hurt me again, either!"
"But Neville was just a baby. He didn't hurt you?" Narcissa realized that her earlier comments on Bellatrix's mental state were totally wrong. Her sister was still crazy.
"You don't understand, Cissy. It's all broken. It's all the same. It no longer matters what end of the wand you're on, the Cruciatus feels the same. I have to stop it. Every time I curse Longbottom, I curse myself. It has to stop. That's why I have to get to him, to make it stop. You understand. I have to make it stop.
"I'm sorry things worked out this way, Cissy. But I'm glad you got your sister back."
"I want you back, too, Trixie!"
"I can't come back. They won't let me. We both know that. And I won't go back to Azkaban. They'll have to kill me first. That might be best, anyway. It was good seeing you, Cissy. I don't know that we'll see each other again."
Narcissa nodded at her sister, tears in her eyes. Bellatrix also was crying. She shuddered, and ran from the room, leaving Narcissa tied to her favorite chair. She took a deep breath to get a hold of herself, then called for Kreacher to untie her. She ran towards the kitchen of Malfoy Manor, and looked out. There was no sign of her sister. She walked slowly to the entrance hall and threw some floo powder into the fireplace.
"Auror headquarters, please. I'd like to report a sighting of Bellatrix Lestrange."
- - -
February 5th found Harry and Luna sitting together alternately rooting for the Gryffindor's Quidditch team and the Hufflepuff's. He wanted the 'Puffs to beat the Slytherins on their final match, and hoped they were getting experience this game to do so. He also had friends in Gryffindor, though, including the Weasley Twins. They had gotten a sixth year to play seeker, but in the end, even though the Gryffindor Chasers (known both as the Gryffindor Hotties and the Gryffindor Harpies) scored more points than the 'Puffs, Cedric Diggory beat them to the snitch. Hufflepuff won.
"Now, all we have to do is have Hufflepuff beat Slytherin, and we beat Gryffindor, and the Quidditch cup is ours!" Harry exclaimed to Luna as they went down the stairs.
"But you're not going to get too busy at it, are you?" Luna asked.
Liz, who was next to them, said, "You sound like my parents."
Harry and Luna laughed at that, which left Liz a bit confused.
- - -
Selene sat at her desk in the Department of Mysteries, reading reports. She tried to keep her mind on her work, but these were particularly boring. When Algie stopped by her desk, she was glad for the break.
"Selene, got a minute?"
"Of course, Algie. What's up?"
"Come to my office for a moment." She locked up everything in her desk, and walked with him past all the other desks that looked exactly like hers. A lot of the witches and wizards were reading the same reports she was. Some of them looked at her enviously, wishing they had something else to do.
When they got to Algie's office (a private one with a door) he said, "Watch this." He performed a complicated spell over Slytherin's locket. "What did you see?" he asked.
"That's what I see, too."
"What does that mean?"
"Parseltongue. The spells cast on these were probably done in Parseltongue."
"But would that matter? If someone had cast the spells in Greek or Arabic, or quietly, even. Would it make any difference?"
"Actually, it would. But practically -- not really. The difference would be so small as to be non-noticeable. But if it were cast in Gobbledygook you'd notice. You'd still be able to get around or pass them, but it helps to know the language it was cast in. As far as I know, no one has ever studied the effects of a Parseltongue spell, though. So, while interesting, this may not be helpful."
"But if we had a Parseltongue speaker?"
"It's so rare that I doubt we could find anyone, and so associated with dark wizards that if there was someone out there who knew it, they probably wouldn't acknowledge it."
"How about one of the Hogwarts professors."
"One of them is a Parseltongue?"
"No, most of them. Harry and Luna taught them a spell that lets them speak Parseltongue. They learned it from a Dryad."
"No, let's give Hogwarts a call. . . ."
- - -
"Yes, Professor Flitwick?"
"Could you give me a few minutes of your time. That Parseltongue spell seems to have slipped my mind. I need a refresher, if you would be so kind."
"Yes, it is hard to remember. I'd be happy to help you. . . ."
- - -
"Hey, Ron! What's the problem?"
"Hi Harry, Neville, Draco. It's the Quidditch cup. With two losses, we're out of the running." The boys met on the way out of the Great Hall where they had been in the study group.
"Yes, but at least with that McLaggen off your team you did a lot better," Harry said, trying to cheer him up.
"He's been off for a year, and we still have to find a Seeker."
Neville put in, "Can't help you, but maybe you need to force everyone in the House, except McLaggen, to try out."
Harry said, "Hey, cheer up. It's only a game."
"Harry, are you crazy? It's not a game. It's Quidditch!"
A few minutes later, in the Entrance Hall, Harry was saying goodnight to Neville and Draco.
"I don't think Ron has his priorities right," Harry said.
"Ron's not so bad," Draco said. "Hermione said something once about 'getting killed, or worse, getting expelled.'" They laughed at that, and went their separate ways.
- - -
"Professor! I can feel them!"
"Don't worry, Harry. They're outside the boundary of Hogwarts. The Headmaster assures me that they can't cross the wards. However, that doesn't mean we can't feel them, as you found out. This is about as far away from the Dementors as we can be, and still be affected. Why don't you try now."
Harry and Professor Lupin were near the gates of Hogwarts to give Harry practice with the Patronus charm with Dementors around.
"Alright Harry, lets move a bit farther away, and try again."
"But if I can't do it now, when we're barely affected, what would it be like if I were in a situation where I had to cast this?"
"Don't worry so much about the future. You have this problem to solve now. Try again, and really concentrate on your happy memory."
After several more tries, Harry was able to produce a little silver mist.
"Very good, Harry. We'll come back next week and try again. You're making progress."
"It's like I'm learning it all over again."
"You're learning to cast it under the influence of the Dementors. You have the spell, but now you have to overcome the Dementors' effects. That is, indeed, something new you have to learn."
- - -
They were in the Great Hall. The group had just finished going over the material they thought relevant to the History of Magic essay on the development of wards spurred by the popularity of the game Quidditch. It seems that wards, which hadn't had any advancements in centuries, had to be modified, enhanced, and researched to meet the needs of the new game. It brought about a period of spell development that lasted about fifty years, then stopped. Several of the students were noticing that that was a recurring event in the History of Magic. Periods of spell advancement followed by periods without. Tumulty attributed it to the "basic, inherent, laziness of the average witch and wizard." Some students wondered whether that was true Cough-Gryffindor-cough. After the joking died down, most of the students at the second year table, which tonight was the Gryffindor table, started writing their essay or talking quietly among themselves about aspects of it that they didn't feel the need to share with the whole group.
Ginny asked, "You look deep in thought. Thought of something new for Tumulty's homework?"
"No. Trying to figure a way around some magic. If you knew that there's an unnoticeable object somewhere, but can't see it because it's unnoticeable, how do you get it?"
"Didn't Flitwick say that the unnoticeable charm eventually fades? Just wait and it goes away."
"That's true, but I think that the charm is probably renewed every so often, so that doesn't help."
"You're not trying to steal someone's stuff, are you?" The whole subject of the Unnoticeable Spell had come up in Charms earlier in the year when Margo Lane had complained about someone stealing some of her stuff from her dorm. The caster could see the object, but everyone else would avoid it. It helped Margo until someone cast Unnoticeablilty on her bed and she had to get Professor Snape involved. She shuddered when telling the story during a study group session. Snape was still acting in class as he had at the end of the previous year, and people felt they were actually learning from him. But he still had an unpleasant demeanor.
"No. Trying to help someone, and I think they're being affected by the object."
"Not another dark object that's going to blow up the school!"
Several other students heard that, and stopped their discussions of their homework, and started paying attention to Luna and Ginny. Luna acted as if they weren't there.
"No, nothing like that. I think it's a prank, and don't want the pranker or the prank-ee to know. Is that even a word, 'prank-ee?'"
"The word you want is prankster. You should talk to my brothers. If anyone knows pranks, it's them."
"Thanks, I will."
- - -
"Excellent, Harry! You've now got both back legs transfigured."
"Remus, this is so weird. And I get the strangest feelings where the animal legs attach to my body. I doubt I could walk, now."
They were in Professor Lupin's office, practicing Harry's Animagus transformation. He was lying on the floor, on his side, sort of curled, so he could look at his animal legs.
"No, I doubt you could. Your hips aren't designed for those legs. You'll have to transform them before you could walk."
"Yes, but I probably still couldn't walk, because a rhino is four footed, not upright."
"True. Now try to revert back. Once we get this done, I think we should go back to your right hand. You're going to have to transform that eventually."
"I know. I'm just worried that I still won't be able to change it."
"Nothing succeeds like success. After getting both your legs, I think you'll be able to do that hand. You're doing so well. It took your father several years to get it all done, and you've managed almost a quarter of the transforms in less than a year."
"How long did it take you?"
"I'm not an Animagus. I can't transform at will like you'll be able to."
"But Luna saw the animal magic in your aura."
"That was something else, Harry. Now lets get back to you. Try to change your legs as quickly as possible. . . ."
- - -
"Professor Flitwick, how nice of you to join us."
"Thank you for inviting me, Mrs. Lovegood. I'm always happy to help the Department of Mysteries. Not that I've ever been asked before, of course."
"Please, call me Selene."
"Only if you call me Filius. You're not my student any more. Now, how may I help you."
"We're trying to de-enchant an object, and we discovered that the protective spells on it were cast in Parseltongue. That's going to make it harder to remove them unless we counter them in the same language."
"Of course. Well, shall we get started?"
- - -
"Fred, George, got a minute?"
"For you, Luna. . ."
"Always. What can we. . ."
"Do for you?"
They were entering the castle after Quidditch practice. The match against Hufflepuff was over a month away, but both teams were practicing hard. Gryffindor so it wouldn't have a year of three losses, and Ravenclaw because if Hufflepuff beat Slytherin, they had a shot at the Quidditch cup.
"If someone had been pranked with an unnoticeable object, is there any way to find it?"
"Do we tell her?" George asked.
"I don't know. It's giving away secrets of the trade."
"True. Pranking is a noble profession, and we don't want just anyone knowing the deep secrets."
"But she did give us a new idea."
"True, brother. Unnoticeable pranks objects. There's possibilities there."
"Exactly. Everything from an unnoticeable bucket of water over a door. . . ."
"To an unnoticeable dung bomb in the middle of a classroom."
"Very well, we'll let you in on a secret. You need to talk to Colin."
"His very interesting Muggle camera doesn't seem affected by the Unnoticeable Charm."
"We discovered it one day when he had taken some pictures in the courtyard."
"You've noticed how sometimes classrooms move around. . . ."
"But you never notice it happening?"
"Well, he got two pictures that showed a window moving on the castle."
"Strangest thing you've ever seen. . . ."
"Or maybe not, you've seen our brother Percy. . . ."
"And, while there may be other ways of getting around it. . . ."
"That may be the easiest."
"Thanks, Fred. Thanks, George!"
"How does she do it?"
"I don't know. Half the time, I'm not sure if you're George or Fred, and I've known you all my life."
- - -
Mike Daly got everyone's attention at the second year table in the Great Hall (which was the door end of the Slytherin table that night). "I'm sorry to interrupt, but we have one more item of business to take care of, then we can get back to the Potions essay. As today is Saint Benedict's day, I thought we should take a moment to celebrate!"
As he said the pre-arranged codeword, a cake appeared in front of him. Or, as Harry and Luna were sitting right across from him, it could be said to have appeared in front of them. There were thirteen burning candles, and Mike read what was written on the cake.
"Happy Birthday, Luna."
There was some applause, and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" was sung. Luna blew out the candles to more applause, and a couple of house elves appeared and started serving the cake to everyone who wanted some.
Luna turned to Harry and thanked him, and whispered that she needed to see him privately after the meeting/party.
Later, on their way back to Ravenclaw tower, Luna led Harry into an empty classroom.
"What did you want to talk to me about, Luna?" he asked.
"I just wanted to thank you for the party, and the nice gift."
"I haven't thanked you yet."
She had him put down his bookbag, hugged him close, took his head in both hands, and kissed him hard on the mouth. After a moments confusion, Harry started kissing back. After a little while they broke the kiss.
"Wow!" Harry said. "Why weren't any of our kisses before like that?"
"I don't know. Maybe we were too young. But we can't do that in the common room. That's for private."
"Yeah," Harry sighed, with a glassy look.
"We should go up now. Or we'll be late."
"Also, Colin said that he finished the roll of film, and the pictures of the Divination classroom should be back in about a week."
"What? Pictures. Yes. Good."
"Time to go, Harry."
- - -
"Good morning, Headmaster."
"Are you still doing that job for the Department of Mysteries?"
"Yes I am."
"Why did they need someone who can speak Parseltongue?"
"I'm sorry, Albus, but I can't tell you. Secrecy oath and all that."
"What would they have done if you didn't know the Parseltongue spell?"
"Hired the Lovegood children?" he answered with a smile.
"Yes, that might be true. Of course, I wouldn't put it past the Weasley Twins going out and learning Parseltongue if it would help them with a prank."
"Uh, they might have attended one of the Parseltongue classes given last year."
"Oh dear! Well, lets keep the pranking potential of what they know as quiet as possible."
"Indeed, Albus. Indeed!"
- - -
April came and the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs fought in the air for honor, fame, and house pride. Or just because it was fun to play, and fun for everyone else to cheer. Harry watched with the other Ravenclaw Quidditch team while their chance of winning the Quidditch cup disintegrated as the Slytherins bullied their way to a win. It could have gone either way until the snitch was sighted closer to Draco. Harry was happy for his friend as he didn't make any mistakes and caught the snitch, guaranteeing the cup went to Slytherin this year. He wasn't stupid, though, and didn't cheer when Draco caught the little golden ball.
The next practice found members of the team acting halfhearted. Someone, Harry wasn't sure who, even went so far as to ask what the point was.
Harry piped up, "The point is to have fun. As my uncle Larry always says, if you can't have fun while losing, don't play the game, because you're not always going to win."
Roger picked it up the point, "Exactly. Sure it's fun to win, but the real reason we're here is because Quidditch is fun!"
Eddie Carmichael added, "And it's a great way to get to meet girls."
Lynn Chambers grabbed the Quaffle and threw it at him with a laugh.
Roger said, "Hormonal reasons aside, we still have the Gryff's to beat, so let's get flying!"
During practice, Roger flew to Harry. "Your the starting Seeker, Harry. Work hard or I'll give it back to Cho."
"I'll do my best."
"That's what I'm asking for."
- - -
Kingsley Shacklebolt sat in his office, the Lestrange file spread out all over his desk. At the top of the pile was Mrs. Malfoy's interview. Unlike Tonks, they had given Narcissa Veritaserum. It seems she was telling the truth. Her son really was a friend of Neville Longbottom, and she really didn't want him harmed.
The most disturbing thing was that all three witnesses said that Bellatrix was probably insane. At times she was lucid, and other times she rambled, saying things that didn't make sense.
His problem was you couldn't out-think a crazy person. Their thought process could add two and two and come up with five or three.
Any sane person would avoid Hogwarts. With the Dementors around it she should wait for either the train ride, the train station, or when Neville was back at home. Personally, Kingsley leaned towards the last one. That was where she was captured. That would probably be the most satisfying location for revenge. But if she wasn't casting with a working wand. . . .
The train was almost ignorable. It was warded five ways from Sunday, and they would have the Dementors search it before the students got on it. Once it was going there was no way to get on. Too much magic protected it.
The station? He had a very bad feeling about that. Both of Lestrange's sisters said that Lestrange indicated that she wasn't going back to Azkaban. If she was going for some sort of suicide/revenge it would be almost impossible to stop her from harming a lot of people at platform Nine and Three Quarters.
Another confusing aspect of this was the comment about her job and a place to stay. After the "attack" on Mrs. Malfoy they had published her picture again among the Muggles. It was hard to believe that someone would protect her, given the write up the Ministry had published in the Muggle press.
But her comments on her job were disturbing, too. If she had just said she had a job, he would have guessed a certain illegal activity. But she mentioned working with children, and having dinner after a long day of working. That didn't sound like a night job.
He came to a conclusion. They would have Longbottom leave the school by Floo, and publicize that fact. That would at least make the likelihood of an attack on platform Nine and Three Quarters become almost nil.
Still, Bellatrix Lestrange was crazy, and you couldn't always tell what a crazy person was going to do.
- - -
"Filius, I must say, this was harder than we ever expected," Selene said.
She, Algie, and Professor Flitwick were in one of the shielded workrooms of the Department of Mysteries. The Hufflepuff cup and Slytherin locket were sitting on the granite topped table in front of them.
"Whoever enchanted those things certainly wanted them protected. Now what are you going to do with them? These are quite unique items. You don't see golden cups and lockets every day. From the image on this, I'd say it belonged to someone from Hufflepuff house. And this one, definitely a Slytherin student."
Algie answered the question, "Sorry Filius, but we have to destroy them. All you've done is remove the protective spells. What's left is the blackest of dark magic."
"Such a shame, they really are beautiful. Oh, well."
"Would you be available to do this in the future?"
"I should be."
"We think there's one or two more of these objects out there. With luck we'll collect them this summer, and you'll get to do this all over again."
"Oh joy. But to be honest, the second one was easier than the first. Hopefully, we can breeze through any more you find."
"Your Ministry thanks you for your assistance, Filius."
"Always my pleasure, Algie, Selene."
The two Unspeakables watched Selene's former professor leave the area.
"How were you going to destroy them?" Selene asked.
"I was going to melt them down."
"And hopefully effective."
- - -
"Harry! Get to bed! It's our final game tomorrow!"
"This will take just a few minutes, Roger."
"It's OK Harry, if you don't do my hair tonight."
"No, Luna, it's not OK. I let Quidditch interfere with us earlier in the year, and I'm not about to make the same mistake again. Besides, if I didn't do your hair, I'd spend half the night worrying about Bollywoggles snarling it even worse."
Harry finished brushing Luna's hair. She turned around, and her wide, silvery eyes widened even farther, as she took in a quick breath. Harry turned behind him, whipping out his wand.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he asked, looking for whatever Luna had seen. She had been doing better most of the term; she hardly ever mentioned animals that no one else knew about. He turned back to her. She was smiling now. If it wasn't so unlike anything Luna would do, he'd think he was the victim of a prank.
"I'll tell you in the morning. It's good news, so don't worry."
"Alright, but I'll hold you to that."
"Good night Harry. I love you."
"Good night Luna. I love you, too." They shared a chaste kiss, and went to bed.
The next morning Harry met Luna in the common room, and headed to breakfast.
"Well?" Harry asked as they walked down through the castle.
"We need someplace private."
"How's in here?"
"Perfect! Harry, Mum's succeeded!" She gently touched his forehead. "Two more lines are gone. The darkness is smaller. Just two more to go."
Harry put his Fireball down, and hugged Luna tightly. They shared one of their "special", private kisses.
Luna soon pulled back, and said, "Now you have to get some breakfast, and go catch a snitch!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Harry almost shouted. And that's what he did. The teams seemed evenly matched, and both the Ravenclaw and the Gryffindor Chasers played well. The Gryffindor team played Ginny Weasley in the Seeker position. Unfortunately, she didn't have the broom (she was on a school broom) or the practice (she had only been on the team three weeks). Harry saw the snitch first and quickly caught it.
And they slipped away from the party for another of their special kisses. But Luna kept it to one. Almost.
- - -
"Goodnight Bob! It's Saturday. I wasn't supposed to be be working today. I'm not staying late. Goodnight Bob."
"You better see this before you leave."
"Goodnight Bob. See you Monday."
"Jo. . . ."
"Drat. I was hoping you would just explain it, and then you could go home. Come on. I better show you."
They entered the Big Cat building and Jo read the sign on the mysterious jaguar's cage.
/Temporarily off exhibit./
- - - - -
Author Note: Bollywoggles and their hair snarling propensity came from Michelle-31a, used with permission.
Bobmin (Bob and Alex) used a vase with the unnoticeable charm on it in their wonderful /Sunrise Over Britian. /While I wrote that part before they published their story (just ask my beta's :-) I thought I should point out where it was shown first.
And last, but not least, I want to thank my beta-readers, Kaetie and Meg who have had a lot happen in their lives over the last two months, and still found some time to help me. The file I gave them for this chapter was a lot bigger, so look for the next chapter soon, as it was once one big one.
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