Potter, his friends, enemies, and world, are not mine, and I make no claim to them.
The Prisoner of
Luna whispered, "Harry, wake up."
"Shhhh! You don't have to wake everyone."
It was Sunday morning and they had been up pretty late last night celebrating their Quidditch victory.
"If you don't want to wake anyone up, what are you doing to me?"
"We have to do something before someone wakes up. If you promise to get up and get dressed, I'll leave you alone. Otherwise, I'll be back in two minutes. Get up."
Harry got up, and groggily got dressed. He left the dorm room and met Luna in the common room.
"What's up?" he asked.
"I got the picture from Collin. Look." She handed him a Muggle photograph of the fireplace in the Divination classroom.
"There's a vase in the middle of the mantle."
"Yes. We need to get it, even though we ignore it when we're in it's presence."
"How do we do that?"
"I think we just try very hard. Let's get up there."
They left the Ravenclaw tower, and made their way to the Divination tower.
"Why are we doing this so early?" Harry asked, on the way over.
"We don't want Aunt Sibyll to see what we're doing until we're done. Unless someone suggests it, she probably won't think to leave the tower."
"What makes you say that?"
"I owled Mum. She says long term exposure to these sorts of compulsions can become habit forming, and live on after the magical compulsion is gone. She wants us to try to get rid of the vase as soon as possible, then we're to invite Aunt Sibyll to the house just before we leave."
"Did she have any idea why Aunt Sibyll is being kept locked in a tower?"
"As a matter of fact, she did. She said she had a number of ideas why, but that most have already been used in fairy tales, and didn't think her captor would be so derivative." They had, by unspoken agreement, decided to not mention Aunt Sibyll's jailer by name.
"Figures. She has guesses and didn't want us to know."
"She is an Unspeakable. Being quiet about her work is part of her job."
"But this is /family/, not her job."
"Don't get upset. She wrote that she'd talk to us about it after we got home. Aunt Sibyll! Let us up!" The last was spoken at the ceiling of the room below the Divination classroom. The ladder came down.
"I asked her to key us into the ladder so we could come visit. Be quiet when we get up there, though."
They climbed into the Divination classroom and checked out the mantle again.
"It should be right here!" Luna said, looking at the picture in her hand, and reaching for the mantle where the vase should be.
"I felt all across there, and didn't feel it. Or didn't notice it. How do you find something you can't notice? I moved my hand all across the mantle and didn't notice when I moved it out of the way. What would happen if you moved your hand across it, and I held your hand. You wouldn't notice moving your hand out of the way, but maybe I would."
"It's worth a try," Luna replied. They stood close to each other, Luna's hand over the mantle, Harry's hand against hers, palm to the back of her hand. They started to move slowly over the mantle.
Suddenly, Harry said, "Wait! You're moving your hand up. Push it gently back into my palm, and I'll move your hand forward."
They did so, and Harry felt a change in the pressure against his palm as he pushed Luna's hand across the space above the marble shelf.
"OK, I think you're touching it."
"I still don't notice anything. This is a very powerful spell. I asked Liz Ragingstorm, the prefect, to cast an unnoticeable charm on a book. If I knew what I was looking for, and where it was, I found I could notice it. But this charm is resisting everything."
"Yes. Now that we know where it is, what do we do with it?"
"Wait!" Luna said. She moved her hand away from Harry's and grabbed a folded scarf from the mantle. She unfolded it, and tossed it over the spot where the vase was hiding.
"I figured, if you could notice my hand when it encountered the vase, we could notice the scarf when it covered it." She wrapped the vase tightly in the scarf. "And we now can touch the scarf without touching the vase, which we wouldn't notice. All in all, a good mornings work!"
As they went down the ladder, Harry asked again, "But why did we need to do this so early in the morning?"
"Because every time we've visited Aunt Sibyll in the evening, I've noticed she'd been drinking. Mum thinks that's because she can't go anywhere or do anything, but what it means to us is early in the morning she'll still be sleeping it off."
"OK, but speaking of sleeping. . . ."
"Fine. You can go back to bed. I need to send a package to Mum. I think she'd like a vase, at least to examine."
"And you probably would have thought of it if you weren't always thinking about Quidditch."
"Well, that's over for the school year. I'll try not to get so wrapped up in it next year."
Luna answered in a dreamy voice, "You won't be playing next year. No one will."
"What? What makes you say that?"
"I don't know. I just know it."
Harry was noticing when Luna said things like that, that they were usually true. "If that's the case, then we should have lots of time together, because I'm almost done with my Patronus lessons, and hopefully I'll finish the Animagus lessons this summer. I'm still having trouble with my right arm. But about my Patronus! You'll never guess what it is!"
"What's going on here!"
They were being accosted by Argus Filch and Miss Norris.
Luna leaned over and stuck out her hand towards Miss Norris. "Awww, what a cute kitty!" Miss Norris hissed and backed away.
Harry said, "We were just taking a morning stroll. We wanted to have some private conversation before we went to breakfast."
Filch was not paying attention. "What are you doing? You leave my cat alone!"
"But she's such a sweet little kitty!" She advanced on Miss Norris, who bolted and ran.
"What did you do to my cat?"
"All I wanted to do was pet her."
"You leave my cat alone! Do you hear!" Filch stomped off in the direction that Miss Norris was going.
"Poor thing. Think that she's suffering a case of Kittipicks."
"What are Kittipicks?"
"Tic-like bugs that cause nervousness to the cats they attack. A good tomato juice bath would clean them up."
"Somehow, I don't see Miss Norris, or any cat for that matter, putting up with a tomato juice bath. From what I've heard about cats and baths, they just don't go together."
"Well, sometimes you just have to do things for the good of others."
"Is that why Sibyll was locked up? Someone thought it was for her own good?"
"That's a whole lot different, Harry. Sibyll, unlike a cat, can make up her own mind, and can decide what her own good is. Now, if society had locked her up, that would be a different story. But it's not what's going on here."
"No, it's not. Let's get back to the tower, get that wrapped up for mailing, then get to breakfast."
"I thought you wanted to sleep?"
"Not after meeting Mr. Filch. I think he frightened me awake."
- - -
The jaguar watched the children going from the greenhouses towards the castle entrance. Earlier, she had watched other children going from the Care of Magical Creatures class near the ground keeper's hut. She was fairly invisible in the tree near the castle entrance. She had been stalking this spot for several days. It wouldn't be long now.
- - -
"We got a package from the kids."
"Oh, what is it."
"There's a letter here. Hang on. . . . "
. . .
"I'll flay him alive!"
"Dear, 'Defeater of Grindelwald,' 'Head of the Wizengamot.' remember? How about, 'Most powerful wizard in our times'? Any of this ring a bell?" Selene said, trying to calm her husband down. She was trying to find the vase, which she had put on the kitchen table after taking it out of the package, and reading the letter to Larry. She knew it was here, she just couldn't notice it.
"I'll use the power of the Press!"
"Not to make too big a point of it, but most witches and wizards don't take the Quibbler seriously."
"First, we get your sister away from Hogwarts. If she's been under a compulsion keeping her there for so long, she probably isn't even thinking of leaving, so I'm having the children invite her here, and, for the first time since Luna's second birthday, she should be able to make it. Then we keep her from Dumbledore."
"But why would he keep her locked up? That doesn't make any sense. Unless. . . . Naw, he's three or four times her age. He wouldn't, would he? I love my sister, but, to be honest, she's not much of a looker, if you know what I mean."
"Neither are you dear. You know it's what's inside that's important. And, no. I don't think Dumbledore would keep her locked up for that. But why would he? What would Sibyll have that Dumbledore wants to keep." She was patting the table with her hands.
"Her cough gift cough."
"But she's never really shown much of a gift, has she?"
"Only that one time, at Luna's birthday party. I mean, she made all those other predictions, but that one in that strange voice. . . ."
"Yes, and you were very clever to decipher it and stop Luna from following that swift off the cliff. So maybe she's an Oracle. If so, that still doesn't explain why Dumbledore would keep her locked up." She was clearing the table of everything, even things that usually stayed there, like the salt and pepper shaker.
"Maybe she gave him an important prophesy, and he wants to keep it secret."
Selene thought for a moment. "That we can check up on. But until she's here, we might not know for sure. I'll write the kids." She was wiping the table with the washcloth. It had to be here -- somewhere!
Larry nodded, and said, "Give them my love."
"I will. And I'll have to ask them how to find that vase. I seem to have misplaced it."
- - -
"As Professor Lupin isn't feeling well, I will once again be teaching this class. According to his notes you are supposed to be learning the counter for the knee-reversal hex." Harry wished Remus wasn't ill so much. He was a much better teacher than Snape.
- - -
Remus slipped out of the castle. The sun was still well up, so there was no need to hurry. He made his way to the Whomping Willow, and kept looking around. He couldn't get over the feeling that he was being watched.
- - -
Warriorette watched from the bushes as the man poked the Willow with a long stick. Then he disappeared into a hole among the roots. She watched for half an hour, then ran to the opening. The Willow was dangerous, but it was a plant, and, in truth, except for the Venus Man Trap no plant could really move faster than most mammals. And she was a fast mammal. The tunnel was long, dirty, and dank, but eventually reached an end beneath a trap door. She listened and found that the man was probably in a chair about two meters to the right of the trap door. She changed back and cast a silencing spell on the ladder and the trap door. She still moved as quietly as possible up the steps. Wand ready, she knocked the trap door open, and stunned the man.
He had been sitting in a stuffed chair, reading, an empty potion bottle on a table next to him. She tied him up, and looked over the building. She nodded, this would do. She made sure that his wand wasn't anywhere near him. She tested it, but it was actually a worse fit for her compared to the stolen wand she was using. Oh, well.
She headed down the ladder, leaving the trap door open. This would be a good place for the final confrontation with the Longbottom boy.
- - -
The "new, improved" Snape finished up the Defense Against the Dark Arts class. His students no longer were subjected to arbitrary, verbal assaults, but without that overriding fear, his failure as an instructor was more apparent. Harry mentally made note of which students he would be tutoring tonight in the study group. It seemed that Remus was ill about once a month. He hoped it wasn't anything serious. His mind slipped in a Sirius joke, and he almost groaned out loud.
The class finally ended, and Luna took his hand and dragged him out of the room.
"I don't know, but something seems wrong. Lets put our things away, and go for a walk. We still have two hours until dinner."
They headed out and wandered around the grounds for a while until they heard the shouting.
- - -
Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones hung up their smocks as Double Herbology with the Gryffindors finished up. They were chatting with Neville about the African Stranglers that they had been feeding today. Parts of it could be harvested for poison antidotes. Other parts, Neville explained moving his hand quickly away from the mouth, were ingredients for poisons. But the main use was for certain muscle repair potions. Hannah and Susan, unbeknownst to Neville, had been spending a lot of free time talking about him. They were analyzing all the boys in their year, and felt that Neville might make a good boyfriend. They'd worry about whose boyfriend when the time came. Meanwhile, they knew that he could be enthusiastic and articulate, at least when talking about plants.
It was their last class of the day, and they had an hour before dinner would start. It was a beautiful day in May and many of the students were in no hurry to go inside. Neville, Hanna, and Susan walked slowly towards the castle, still talking. The girls had moved the conversation from plants to his home, and he was still enthusiastic and articulate as he talked about the manor and the lands around it. Hannah looked at Susan, and Susan looked at Hannah, and nodded.
"What do you think of the various girls in our year, Neville?" Hannah asked.
Neville was suddenly no longer articulate or enthusiastic but stuttering and tongue tied. Upon reflection later, it may have been caused by the surprise of a 100 kilo black cat running through the students, knocking them down, snarling, and biting. It leaped at the three of them, and the girls screamed. Neville pushed them away, and reached for his wand, but the beast knocked him down, too. It grabbed his leg in its mouth and started dragging him away. His leg was one mass of pain, but he still had his wand in his hand. He tried to bring it to bear on the black jaguar, but as he did it let go of his leg, and leaped at his arm. A clawed paw came down on his arm, and he lost hold of the wand as his arm broke. The animal leaped at Hannah and Susan, who were getting up and trying to get their wands out. It nipped their wand arms and they screamed and ran. Another group of students, Gryffindors, started throwing spells at her, but she dodged and scattered them. Some she bit on the arm, others she raked with her claws, lightly.
She raced back to Neville who was cradling his arm. She again grabbed him by the leg, and dragged him to the Willow.
Luna and Harry saw Neville being dragged to the Willow, but couldn't see where they went. They got to it, and avoided a swinging branch. They stepped back.
"We should go get help," Harry said.
"No, they're going to get help," Luna replied, pointing to the students running for the castle. "We have to help Neville."
"But where is he?"
"They disappeared near the trunk, so I think we have to run in there. Wait until the tree calms down. There, it's relaxing. Too bad Willow the Dryad isn't here. I'm sure she could calm the tree down."
"It's still swaying. I don't think we can wait any longer. Let's make a run for it."
Luna took Harry's hand, and they ran to the base of the tree. The branches started their movements towards them, but they found the opening before the branch got near them. They slid underground and looked down the dark tunnel.
"That's scary," Harry commented.
"It's only a tunnel." She started walking, still holding Harry's hand.
"/Lumos!" /he incanted, lighting up the tunnel. They started walking.
Inside the castle, the Entrance Hall was chaos as several teachers tried to get coherent stories from too many children who were helpfully recounting what had happened. Unfortunately, they were all trying to do it at the same time, so the signal to noise ratio was skewed towards noise.
Professor Snape had picked up "animal attack" and sent several bit children to the infirmary already. He was having trouble keeping his anger in check. Some of the wounds were just claw marks, but some were definitely bites. He counted four more werewolves so far. But he would make sure that there would be one less werewolf shortly. He headed for the door.
Hannah and Susan were the last to reach the castle. They encountered Snape right at the door.
"Professor! Some animal got Neville!" Susan said.
"It dragged him away!"
"Where?" Snape asked.
"I think it was towards the Whomping Willow," Hannah answered.
"I'll try to save him."
"It was like a black tiger or something."
"It was a werewolf," Snape replied, stalking away with his robe billowing behind him.
"A werewolf?" Susan gasped.
"No. It was a big cat, a black lion, or tiger or something," Hannah replied.
"Wonder why he thought it was a werewolf?"
"It is a full moon tonight."
"But there's no way that was a werewolf. Is there such a thing as a weretiger? Or wereleopard?" Susan watched as Snape stalked across the lawn and disappeared around the corner of the castle.
"I don't know, but I hope not," Hannah answered, looking at the bite marks on her arm. "But that was no wolf."
At that point, Professor Flitwick came up to them and seeing the bites sent them to Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing.
- - -
"There's something strange about this," Harry said.
"What? A secret escape tunnel from the school?"
"Well, that too. But if it were an escape tunnel, why didn't go all the way into the school? But what I was thinking is that we're walking pretty quickly and we have a light. Why haven't we caught up to the animal? It was dragging someone."
"It was dragging Neville? Are you sure?"
"Alright, it was dragging Neville. Why haven't we caught up to it?"
"We'll know soon."
- - -
In the building that she didn't know was the Shrieking Shack, Bellatrix Lestrange lifted Neville through the trap door. He had passed out shortly after entering the tunnel, and she had turned back into a human. Using a feather-light spell and a conjured lamp, she had quickly carried him through the tunnel. She transformed the chair into a bed and moved Neville on it. She cast some healing spells on his leg and conjured a splint for his arm. She woke Neville up with an /Ennervate. /He looked at her and his eyes grew wide as he realized that he was captured by the woman who had tortured his parents insane. It was true, she had escaped to finish the job. He looked around, and saw Professor Lupin tied up in a corner. His arm and leg still hurt, but appeared to have been treated. He wondered how that happened. That's when he noticed the movement.
Later, he figured that it was a change in the light near the trap door as Harry's Lumos spell came close. But he knew someone else was coming and he might get rescued.
He saw Harry pop his head up through the trap door and take a quick look around. Harry slowly moved his wand to aim at the woman who appeared to be threatening Neville. He hesitated and looked around the mostly bare, mostly trashed room, searching for the animal he had seen dragging Neville.
Bellatrix was an excellent fighter and her instincts were still true even after years in Azkaban. She knew something was happening behind her. She stared at Neville's face intently. The moment she saw the change in his expression she dodged, spun, cast "Expelliarmus" and caught Harry's wand before he had uttered his spell. He was thrown back, and fell down the ladder. She was at the trap door in a flash, and used the /Incarcerous /spell to tie up both bodies she found at the bottom of the steps. She floated them both up, and placed them on the floor, out of the way. She turned back to Neville.
Neville was shocked. His hope for rescue had turned out to be two second years, who had been tied up and cast aside as if they weren't worth thinking about. Lestrange turned back to him, and he knew it was the end. He had reached the point where he had nothing to lose.
"Are you here to kill me, Lestrange? To finish what you didn't do when I was a baby?"
"Kill you? Why would I do that? I came to finish this. It's always the same. First it's you, then it's him/, and then it's me. He's gone. I can't do anything about /him. That leaves you. I have to. . . ." She stopped and looked lost. Her words confirmed to Neville that he was dead.
Bellatrix was confused. She had been planning this for months. She was going to get the Longbottom boy somewhere and then stop the cycle that began with her using the Cruciatus on him, then Voldemort using it on her, and finally her using it on herself. The endless cycle that the Dementors caused her to re-live. But now that she was here, she had no idea how to carry out the plan.
She looked around, and saw the other two children, tied up. She recognized the boy. She couldn't believe it.
"What is he doing here?" She didn't realize it, but she had spoken out loud.
"He came to rescue me. Are you going to kill him, too?" Neville answered.
"/Ennerverate," /she said as she woke up Harry and Luna. "No one's going to die. No more. Especially, not you, and especially not him." Harry recognized Bellatrix from her pictures released by the Ministry. He had no idea what was going on, though. Why was she staring at him like that?
Neville noticed that she hadn't even turned to answer him. There were three wands on the table near the bed, Harry, Luna's and one that was there when he woke up. If he could reach one of them. . . . He jumped off the bed, and yelled in pain as his leg refused to hold him up.
Bellatrix spun and did something totally unexpected. Her eyes widened and she screamed. It wasn't a scream of rage, which Neville thought he might have caused her. It was a scream of pain. She started to shake, but got control of herself. She floated Neville back to the bed, and cast a numbing spell on his leg.
"Don't do that!" she hissed at him. "It hurts! Don't hurt yourself, again!" she said, angrily.
"What do you care! You used the Cruciatus on me! You used it on my parents until they were insane!"
"No I didn't! Your parents have a Colligpsych spell on them. I just wanted to stop the dream. . . ." She turned away from him, and looked at Harry again.
"Jim! Did Snape make all your hair fall out again?" She walked over to him, and gently touched his crew cut hair. "And he changed the color. I'll make sure he doesn't do that again. Don't worry."
Again, she spun and cast "/Expelliarmus" /at the trap door, where Snape was poking his head and wand through. He tried to duck, but the range was too small, and the spell too quick. She had his wand, and he was in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the ladder. She tied him up, and floated him into the room. When she got a look at him, her mood changed again.
"/Ennervate! Leviosa! /What did you do to his hair this time! And don't try to blame it on Sirius!"
As she spoke, she was magically slamming Snape into the wall. In those two sentences, she had hit his head against the wall about five times. She stopped levitating him, and he slumped to the floor.
Another change came over Bellatrix. She turned back to Harry, and said, tenderly, "I'm sorry, Jim. I'm sorry we never got to know each other better. I always fancied you, you know." She leaned in and kissed a very surprised Harry on the lips.
Luna spoke up, then. "Something's happening. Something not good." Harry turned away from Bellatrix' kiss, and looked at her.
"You're right. It's getting colder. It's the Dementors!"
"NOOOOOOO!" Bellatrix yelled. Neville's eyes widened, and she stepped away from Harry. She pointed her wand at a boarded up window, and yelled "Reducto!" The explosive curse blew the boards out of the window, which showed a crowd of Dementors gathering outside.
"No. No. No. No." Bellatrix kept repeating, over and over.
"Bella, let us out," Luna asked.
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" the black haired woman yelled, brandishing her wand.
"Then what may I call you? I'm Luna."
"Luna," Harry asked, quietly, "is this really the time for introductions?"
Once again, Lestrange's demeanor had changed totally. She was no longer upset, but totally calm. "Hello, Luna, I'm Bellatrix, but my friends call me Trixie. I'm in Slytherin house."
"I'm in Ravenclaw. Trixie, could you let us out before the Dementors get us, please?"
"Of course. /Finite." /The ropes disappeared from Luna and Harry, Harry walked to the table, and carefully picked up his and Luna's wands.
The room was rapidly cooling off. Unfortunately, that changed Bellatrix' personality again. She looked around quickly. "I won't go back!" she shouted. The Dementors were moving towards the window.
"/Ennervate," /Harry cast the spell on Remus, then Snape, and they started waking up.
"We have to save Longbottom!" Bellatrix yelled. She tossed Remus his wand.
She turned to yell out the window, "I'm not going back!" and cast some spells that had no effect on the Dementors.
Remus pointed his wand at her, and said, "Stupefy!"
Once again, proving how dangerous a foe she was, she dodged, and cast the disarming spell on Remus.
"If you try that again, I'll stun you and leave you for /them/! Don't make me do that!"
Holding Remus' wand in one hand, she said, "/Mobilicorpus!" /Neville gave out a squeak as he was suddenly floating. She directed him with the wand through the trap door. Luna was trying to get a groggy Snape to go the same way. He had been woken up, but he still had a concussion and was disoriented.
"Go! Go! Unless you want them to get you!" Lestrange handed Harry the wand that was controlling the spell floating Neville. Remus took Snape from Luna, and got the Potions Master to follow Harry down the stairs.
"We need to go!" Luna said.
"Yes, and we have to go now!" A Dementor had climbed most of the way through the window. Luna half climbed, half jumped down the ladder. Bellatrix was right behind her.
Harry kept the wand on Neville and tried to make it move as fast as possible, but it wouldn't go any faster than a walk. When he realized that, he didn't wait for the others, knowing they could catch up easily. He had moved from the bottom of the ladder, trying to get as much distance between them and the Dementors as quickly as possible. He kept an eye on the ladder, though, and saw Snape, Remus, and finally Luna and Lestrange get into the tunnel. The women soon caught up with Snape and Remus, and were rapidly catching up with Harry and Neville.
"Harry?" Neville asked. "What in the world just happened back there? I thought for sure that Lestrange was going to kill or torture me. But even though she didn't I think she still might. She's insane, Harry."
"I think you're right, Neville. But she doesn't want to hurt you. I think she wanted you to help her in some way, and when she finally got you, she didn't know what she really wanted. That bit with kissing me was freaky."
About that time the others caught up with them, and Harry felt that his analysis of the situation could wait for another time. Lestrange kept urging them to go faster. Snape was walking more on his own. Luna had lit her wand.
They hadn't gone that far when they noticed the temperature dropping. Harry handed Luna the wand controlling Neville.
"Professor, we have to stop the Dementors!" Harry said, to Remus.
"Idiot boy," Snape answered. "Dementors are immune from virtually all magic."
"Go ahead, Harry. I don't have a wand," Professor Lupin answered.
"Lestrange still has mine," Snape added, unhelpfully.
Harry turned toward the darkness behind the group, took a deep breath, and said, "/Expecto Patronum!" /in a commanding voice. Some silver mist flowed from the end of his wand.
"There's no way a boy can cast that spell!" Snape commented with a sneer.
"Remember Harry! It's not enough to remember the memory, you have to feel it! Like that Latin phrase you pointed out in that story of the Last Supper. It's not just a memory, it's a way of making it present and real! You have to feel the happiness you're remembering! OW!"
The last exclamation was accompanied by Remus bending over, and clutching his stomach.
"Stupefy him!" Snape demanded. "He's turning into a werewolf! We'll all be killed!"
Remus stopped groaning, and gasped out, "Only if you messed up the potion."
"Of course I didn't mess up the potion, you fool!"
"Then you're in no d. . .AY. . .ger from me!" He fell on the ground and the transformation started, accompanied by yells of pain that soon turned to howls of pain as his vocal anatomy changed. Snape moved as quick as he could down the tunnel, away from the Dementors, and perhaps memories of this tunnel and another encounter with Remus.
"What does that mean?" Harry shouted at Snape.
"He took the wolfsbane potion. He won't lose his mind, and shouldn't attack any of you. Me, however, he hates, so I'm leaving."
Luna came back to Harry. "Harry! The Dementors!" She had let Neville down gently.
Harry noticed Neville standing up, and using the wall for support, moving down the tunnel at a hop. Lestrange went over to help him.
"You dropped Neville?"
"None of us were going to get out of here if you don't stop them." There were shapes in the darkness behind them now.
"I need a happy feeling," Harry said, mostly to himself, as he tried to bring one up against the despair of the Dementors.
Luna leaned close to his ear, and whispered, "We're getting married as soon as I'm seventeen."
Harry smiled, and said, "Expecto Patronum!"
Harry's Patronus appeared, and hopped down the tunnel towards the Dementors. They had no way to go but back. It kept up chasing them, not letting a one get by it, although several tried.
"Oh! Harry! It's a Crumpled-Horn Snorkack! How come you never told me?"
"I tried, but it seems that every time I did something came up, and I'd forget."
"We should help Remus now."
They went to their honorary uncle and found they could do nothing for him. Professor McGonagall always started off her first Transfiguration class by changing from a cat back to herself. The Animagus transfiguration was like water flowing from one container to another. Not so the werewolf transformation. It was like forcing a round peg into a square hole. The body didn't morph into the new shape, it broke and reassembled. Even with the wolfsbane potion, it was a painful transformation. Luna and Harry were soon looking at a wolf, and the remains of Remus' clothes. Luna quickly collected those.
"You'll probably want these tomorrow," she said.
The wolf nodded wearily.
"Well, let's go. The others have gone ahead."
They headed down the tunnel much quicker. Remus, of course, could have gone twice as fast, but stayed with the children. They came upon Snape, still unsteady.
"Hello, Professor," Harry said. "Where's Neville and Lestrange?"
"She picked him up and ran down the tunnel. I take it you found your 'happy thought'?"
"Oh, yes. And if the Dementors come again, I'll drive them off again. Funny, nothing I read or was taught about the Patronus charm said anything about someone making you happy while you cast the charm."
"I'm sure that is more information than I want to know. If it's not something you can do in public, I doubt the books would mention it."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about, but all that happened was Luna said something to me to make me happy. Remus, you better go ahead and make sure Neville is fine."
Remus the wolf took off down the tunnel.
- - -
The chaos in the castle had taken a while to sort out. The confusion and general fear was increased when a rumor about students being bitten by a werewolf circulated. Dumbledore eventually arrived and sent the students to their respective common rooms. It wasn't until he was interviewing the wounded students in the infirmary that he found out about Neville and the animal. (Madam Pomfrey had already told the students that they were not bitten by a werewolf.) Leaving the students in the healers stern but expert care, he and Professor Flitwick hurried out towards the Whomping Willow. Dumbledore had a sinking feeling that it was too late, though.
- - -
She may have been crazy, but she wasn't superwoman. She ran for a while, then slowed to a walk. The tunnel was over a mile long, and she was no athlete. She once again magically reduced Neville's weight, and carried him as quickly as she could.
"Why did you do this?" Neville asked.
"I hoped you could help me, but you can't. No one can help me. If it means anything, I'm sorry."
"Sorry you tortured me?"
"Yes. I'm so sorry."
"And that's supposed to make my parents better?"
"No. Reversing the /Colligpsych /will make them better. Weren't you listening before? They're not crazy. They're just locked inside their own heads."
There was the sound of movement behind her. She turned to see the wolf running down the corridor. She wasn't sure what to make of this. She aimed her wand at the wolf and it stopped.
"Are you here to hurt Longbottom, wolf?" Lestrange asked. The wolf shook its head. "Are you here to hurt me?" Again, it shook its head. "Then go ahead of us."
It very carefully moved around them, and started trotting towards the exit.
A short time later they reached the exit. Remus jumped up through the exit and, unseen by Bellatrix, hit the knot in the wood that caused the tree to stop moving. Neville and Lestrange followed. She signaled the wolf to move ahead and stared at the unmoving tree, wondering why it didn't attack. She mentally shrugged and moved him out of reach of the Willow. She placed Neville on the ground.
"Get your parents healed, Longbottom. Then tell them that I'm sorry for them, too. I'm sorry for so much, but I guess it had very little to do with you. I've got to go. I have to work tomorrow. Give this back to Snape."
At that point two figures were making their way towards the Willow from the castle. Bellatrix tossed Snape's wand to Neville and started running away from the castle. Remus went to Neville and looked him over.
"Professor Lupin?" he asked, incredulously.
The wolf nodded.
Dumbledore, moving quickly for a man over 140, and Flitwick, moving quickly for a man with such short legs, were soon over to them.
"Is everyone alright?" Dumbledore asked.
Remus tried to answer but only got stares.
Neville decided to translate. "Well, I was mauled by that black leopard, and Professor Remus is a werewolf. Oh yes, Professor Snape was battered against a wall when Lestrange thought he had hexed Harry's hair off."
"Harry? Harry who?"
"Harry was dragged away, too?"
"No, he and Luna came to rescue me. And then Professor Snape showed up."
"So where are professor Snape and the Lovegoods?"
"Still in the tunnel."
Dumbledore looked over at the Willow in the evening light, and noticed it starting to move.
"Remus, can you stop the Willow, so they can get out safely?"
Remus ran over to the Willow and hit the knot again with his foot.
Which was a good thing, because Luna popped her head up from the opening among the roots.
"Hello Professor. We can probably use some help getting Professor Snape up. He's pretty tired."
Remus barked at Dumbledore and Flitwick, which got a wave, but no other reaction. Remus growled.
"That's alright, Professor, I'll go get them."
She walked over to the Headmaster and Charms instructor.
"We can use some help getting Professor Snape out of the tunnel," she said, calmly.
- - -
Later, in the Hospital Wing, after everyone had said everything about what happened (except for the name Lestrange called Harry), and everyone who was hurt was given the proper terrible tasting potions, Harry and Luna were dismissed.
As they were leaving, Dumbledore said, "Oh, Mr. Lovegood. Good work on casting that Patronus charm. How did you ever learn that?"
"Professor Lupin taught me."
"Why would he do something like that?"
"I asked him to."
"Why would you do that?"
"After I saw Cho fall off the broom because of them, I didn't want that to happen to me."
"Ah, Quidditch. The source of great inspiration among many of my students. And do you know why Lestrange thought you were someone else?"
Luna spoke up, "If you had heard her, you'd know that she was crazy. She went from yelling at Neville for hurting himself, to mistaking Harry for someone else, to beating up Professor Snape, to introducing herself to me -- wild mood swings in a blink of an eye."
"Yes, that matches her encounters with her family."
"Professor," Harry asked, "could the healers help Neville's parents with the information they have?"
"It's possible, Mr. Lovegood. That spell she mentioned, /Colligpsych, /you may not know, has both a Latin and Greek root. The Greek magical tradition was virtually lost during the Roman occupation. A lot was recovered from books in the middle ages, however, and this may very well be a dark merging of traditions. And being at least partially Greek -- a very different tradition -- that may have accounted for it not being detected before now. All we have is an avenue of research that we didn't have before, so I wouldn't hope for too much. It's too early yet. I haven't even passed the information to St. Mungo's. Good night."
They walked towards the Ravenclaw tower, until Luna pulled him into an empty classroom. Quickly casting her privacy charms she turned to Harry.
"Harry, do you know why Trixie did what she did to you?"
"I think she thought you were your father. If anyone figures that out. . . ."
"Oh, no! I hope not."
"I just wanted to warn you, so the less said about that, the better. I think we should just keep emphasizing that she was insane. Then people might not try to assign rational motive to what she did."
"One more thing. . . ." Luna closed the small distance between them, and kissed him very well.
"Thank you for saving us," she whispered, when they broke for air.
"Any time," he answered, going for another kiss.
- - -
"You're sure this is a good idea?"
"Trust me, Luna."
"If you say so."
"Fred! George! Got a minute?" Harry got the twins attention in the corridor outside the Great Hall. It was only a few days after the Lestrange incident, and the school seemed back to normal.
"If it isn't our neighbors. . ."
"Who blew up the Great Hall. . ."
"What can we. . ."
"Do for you?"
"We need a diversion," Harry said.
"This sounds interesting. . ."
"fun. . ."
"naughty. . ."
"against the rules. . . ."
"Just the sort of thing. . ."
"we like. But we need. . ."
"And especially, why?"
"Who are the teachers. When /is leaving day. /What /is for you to decide. And /why. . . ."
As Harry hesitated, thinking how to answer, Luna spoke up, "Why is to smuggle something out of the castle."
"Ooo! This does sound interesting, brother-of-mine."
"Indeed, and what would you need to sneak out of the castle?"
"You'd never believe us if we told you."
"Is it small?"
"No, that's the problem. There's no sure way to hide it, so that's why we need the diversion."
"Why is it that these two keep coming up with ideas that put us to shame?"
"I don't know. Maybe we should hire them?"
"We'll keep it in mind. But really, what are you smuggling out?"
"Sorry, guys, we really can't tell you. Someday. Maybe next school year. Alright?"
"We'll hold you to that, Harry."
"Thanks guys. Now here's what I was thinking. . . ."
- - -
It was a week and a half after Lestrange kidnapped, and mysteriously returned a student, the Friday before the last weekend before exams, that Neville intercepted Harry and Luna in the great hall at lunch.
"I'm going to St. Mungo's! They've cured my parents! They're still very disoriented, and don't know anything that's happened since the spell was cast, but they're cured!"
Luna said, "I'm so happy for you, Neville," and gave him a hug.
Harry grabbed his shoulder, and said, "Great luck, mate! Uh, Neville? Are you going to be able to do any studying for finals?"
"I'll be studying with my parents this weekend, and after my last final I'll be with them all the time. They should be home by that time."
"I'm happy for you, Neville," Harry said.
As Neville was about to go, he turned to them and asked, "What ever became of Lestrange?"
Luna answered, with that dreamy expression that Harry was coming to recognize. "I think she may have found what she needed when she found you. She's gone away, and you'll never see her again."
"Trust, her, Neville. She usually knows what she's talking about, even if it sounds strange."
Neville nodded, and left the hall.
"I don't sound strange."
"Sometimes you do."
And so on, all the way through lunch.
- - -
About a week and a half before the least interesting fight ever witnessed by the Ravenclaw table, Jo was in early to work at the Surrey Zoo. She discovered that Warriorette was back in the cage. She looked at the black jaguar, and asked if it was going to stay put now. The only answer was a snarl. Jo went to get the animal's food.
- - -
"Why are you so insistent that I pack tonight? How would you feel if I came to the girls dorm and helped you pack?"
"Because we're going to be busy tomorrow morning, and won't have time for it then. And you can't get into the girls dorm. Brighter minds, but worse morals, than yours have tried. Can't be done."
"Put this in, and stop complaining that you can't sneak into the girls dorm. Sometimes I wonder about you, Harry Lovegood."
"Hand me that pile. You know I'd only sneak in to see you, Luna Lovegood."
"Oh, give me a break!" Tom Towey complained from his bed where he was reading.
- - -
The ladder descended, and the two Lovegoods ascended.
Luna, who somehow never remember to put on her watch, asked "Time?"
"Train leaves in 60 minutes."
"I hope that's enough time."
"We have to get Aunt Sibyll to keep moving."
"OW! Don't yell. Do you know what time it is?"
"Yes, Aunt Sibyll. Eight O'clock, and the Hogwarts Express leaves in sixty minutes. We have to be on it, and you have to get dressed and packed and escort us to the train."
"What? Why am I packing? And why am I escorting anyone to the train?"
"Here take these, but don't chew them. Wash them down with this."
"Ugg, that's a particularly disgusting color potion. What is it."
"Orange juice. Don't look at it, drink it."
"Gag. And those white things?"
"Aspirin. Daddy says that aspirin and orange juice sits a lot better than any hangover potion he's tried. Now go get dressed and get packed. We don't have much time," Luna said as she led the teacher back to the living quarters of the Divination tower.
"Why am I getting packed?"
"Because you're visiting us. Daddy won't take no for an answer this time."
"Of course I'd love to. . . ."
"Good, then get dressed."
While she was helping Aunt Sibyll get ready, Harry left an envelope on the mantle where the vase used to be.
- - -
"Why aren't we taking the central stairways?"
Uncle Larry's hangover cure must be working, Harry thought. She's not whinging as much.
"We're running out of time. If one of the stairs swings the wrong way, we might have to wander through the castle for an additional ten minutes, and we don't have the extra time."
"Oh, very well. This all seems sudden."
"But it's well planned. Time?"
Harry checked his watch. "Eight-thirty-six. We have to pick it up. We have only four minutes."
"Aunt Sibyll? Would you mind if we went a little faster? We need to be at the entrance hall in four minutes."
"This is all very confusing. If I didn't have this headache, I'm sure my inner eye would show the whole situation to me."
"Everything will be explained when you see your brother Larry," Harry said, encouragingly.
"Wait! That way would get us to the Entrance Hall faster."
"But it would put us between the Entrance Hall and the central stairways. Trust me, you don't want to be there right about . . . now."
At 8:40 on that particular leaving day the central staircase was the site of one of the largest indoor fireworks displays that Hogwarts had ever seen. Students (mostly Gryffindors and Ravenclaws) went scattering in all directions on all sorts of levels. Teachers, including Professor Dumbledore, hurried there from the Entrance Hall. Luna reached the Ravenclaw Stair, the part of the stairway in the Entrance Hall that headed north, and the most direct route for students to go from the Great Hall to the Ravenclaw Tower. Across the way was the Gryffindor Stair, which headed south. She quickly surveyed the Entrance Hall, signaled Harry that it was clear, and they made their way down the stairs.
Once in the Hall, Luna told Sibyll to go get them a carriage. She and Harry pulled their trunks from the pile left by students getting a quick bite in the Great Hall. They hurried outside, and found the carriage (pulled by the creatures Harry couldn't see) and took off for the train station.
"We did it!" Luna exclaimed.
"We owe the Weasley's big time," Harry said, nodding.
"Can someone please explain why I feel like I just escaped from prison?"
"Daddy will tell you everything when you get there. Can you Apparate, or will you be taking the train with us?"
"I can certainly Apparate."
"Then you'll find out as soon as we say our goodbyes and you talk to him. Don't worry, everything will work out."
She still had a puzzled look on her face at the station as they said their goodbyes, and she Apparated away.
They were met at the door to the train by the Weasley twins. "How'd it go?"
"Did you get it out?"
Harry answered, as they accepted the Twin's help with their trunks, "Went perfect, and yes we did."
"We don't see it, though."
"All we saw was you being hugged and kissed by a teacher. What's that all about?"
"Aunt Sibyll is my father's sister."
"You're related to a teacher?"
"Luna is. Less me."
"How closely related are you?"
Harry told the truth, as Luna had looked it up that year after the incident with Clearwater. "Fourteen degrees."
"On the shortest path, and that's not even the Lovegood path. We're actually closer related through the Black family."
"So you share a great, great, what?"
"Five greats grandfather," Luna said.
"Ever think that wizards either spend way too much time worrying about that sort of thing, or are too inbred?" Harry asked.
"Wow, we're a lot closer to the Malfoys than that."
"Hey, you changed the subject," one of them said, helping the former second years into an empty compartment.
"Yeah, what does Professor Trelawney have to with this?"
"Did you see what was attached to her bag?"
"Harry!" Luna scolded. The twins looked at each other in confusion.
"You got her to smuggle it out! That's brilliant!"
"That's all the hints I'm giving," he told Luna. "I did promise that we'd tell, probably next year."
Luna added, "That's all the hints, then. Thank you for all your help."
"You're. . . ."
"Can I sit here?" Hermione asked entering the compartment.
"Sure," Luna answered.
About ten minutes later, the train left the station. They had a relaxing ride. Hermione was a little peeved when Harry and Luna didn't want to talk about grades. They were visited by many classmates and friends, and the ride went quickly. Harry and Luna refused to talk about their encounter with Lestrange any more -- they had recounted it twice to students, once in the Ravenclaw Tower and once in the Great Hall study group, where first through a few fourth years had been able to listen in. They did talk a little more with Draco, since it was his Aunt (who he had never met), but beyond that they refused to discuss it any more. Dumbledore had kept everyone's names, except Neville's, out of the paper. All the Prophet could report was that Neville and two students, a professor who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a Professor that was trying to rescue the others were captured by Bellatrix Lestrange, seemingly for the sole purpose of apologizing to Neville. It also said that she was quite insane, but didn't appear to want to hurt anyone. Professor Snape disagreed with that last statement, but only to Dumbledore.
As the train pulled into the Kings Cross the corridor was filled with students waiting to get off the train. Hermione looked out at the full isle, and closed the compartment door.
"Luna, can I talk to Harry alone."
"This is really personal."
Harry looked at Luna, and said, "Then tell us both."
Hermione, seeing that neither was going to give in, said, "OK. I figured out that you're Harry Potter."
"No, I'm Harry Lovegood. Check the records. Check the Hogwarts admissions. Try to send Harry Potter a letter, see if I get it."
"That doesn't work. Someone, probably the Ministry, has been intercepting all of your mail. It mentioned that in the Prophet about four years ago when all those stories about Harry Potter being missing or dead were published. And you have the same godfather as Harry Potter, and you never talk about your parents and Harry Potter's father was named James and Neville said that Lestrange woman called you Jim, so I think you look like him, as they were in school together. And he was a Chaser, and Professor Lupin said your father was a Chaser."
"Wow!" Luna exclaimed. "What breath control." Hermione just glared at her.
"Hermione, it doesn't matter what you think. I'm Harry Lovegood. Officially and legally, and every other way, I'm Harry Lovegood. But tell me about Harry Potter. What would the other students do if he came to Hogwarts?"
"I don't know. . . ."
"Did you know that Ginny Weasley has, or had, a crush on him when she arrived?"
"Would you expect that to be a fluke or would more girls also have crushes on him?"
"I don't know."
"Did you know that not less than three people accused of being Death Eaters tried to find Harry Potter the year after he was hidden?"
"No. How. . . ?"
"Do you think Harry Potter could have a normal life?"
"I don't see why not?"
"Then you're not listening and your not thinking, which could get you kicked out of Ravenclaw."
Luna chipped in, "Why does it matter to you, Hermione?"
"Because I like the truth."
"I don't think so. You didn't answer Harry's question about a normal life truthfully. Consider your own motives very carefully, Hermione. And consider how many other lives you could ruin with an accusation like that."
"It's not an accusation. . . ."
Harry answered, very coldly, "You want to keep being our friend? Keep out of my private life. It's not your plaything. It's /my /life. Come on, Luna." Dragging their trunks behind them, they left the compartment.
Hermione stood there, feeling like she was going to cry. But she hadn't done anything wrong!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
AN: The scene with Luna chasing Mrs. Norris away is very much like one from Michelle-31a. It wasn't until after I wrote it that I thought it seemed very familiar. I think it's from her novel /Luna's Year/.
I want to thank my beta-readers Kaetie and Meg. Unfortunately, due to real life, they were unable to give this chapter as good a review as they normally would, so don't blame them. But I am thankful for all the assistance they do give.
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