Disclaimer: Not the Rowling, not the Kanzaka.
Once again, thanks to everyone who is following, has favourited, or has reviewed this story.
Some dialogue by Rowling, because why reinvent the wheel.
“Hello.” : voice.
“Hello.” : voice over phone, radio, TV... or telepathy.
‹Hello.› : thought.
Hello. : spellcasting, or other invocations of power.
HORROR! Lina’s No Free Lunch!
At the end of dinner, the evening after Pettigrew’s escape, Professor McGonagall came over to the Gryffindor table. “Mister Potter, the Headmaster has asked to see you in his office.”
Harry glanced around his friends and shrugged. “He probably wants to talk about Pettigrew’s escape. I’ll see you in the common room.” He turned back to McGonagall and stood. “Lead on, Professor.”
McGonagall asked Harry a few friendly questions about how he was settling in as she led him up to the third floor. Once there, she went up to a large gargoyle in an alcove, and said with a grimace, “Ice mice.”
The gargoyle stepped to one side, and the wall behind it opened up to reveal a moving spiral staircase.
“This is handy,” said Harry as the staircase began to take them up several floors. “People would have no trouble getting to classes on time if we had these in the main stairwell, instead of stairs that actually try to make you late.”
“Hogwarts has been... improved upon many times through the centuries since it was first built,” said McGonagall. “Some of the changes were more frivolous than others... but the tradition is to leave them in place nonetheless. Unless they constitute an actual danger, of course.”
“Ah,” said Harry. “That explains why we have to actually climb through a hole to get to our common room, I suppose?”
“Indeed,” said McGonagall, thinning her lips. “Neither dignified nor particularly safe, but it is tradition...”
“I suppose it’s also a tradition to only sort fit, able-bodied people into Gryffindor?” said Harry.
McGonagall gave him an odd look, but the staircase stopped just then. It left them standing at a highly-polished wooden door, sporting a brass griffin knocker. McGonagall gave one solid knock, which was immediately replied to by a slightly muffled “Come in!” She opened the door and ushered Harry inside.
The Headmaster was sitting behind a large desk, but rose when they entered and offered them seats. Harry sat directly opposite him, and McGonagall took a chair off to one side.
“So Harry — may I call you Harry?” Harry shrugged. “It has been a rather exciting end to your first week, has it not?”
“Just a bit,” Harry admitted. “Finding out that the person jailed for betraying your parents was never given a trial was a bit of a shock.” Both Dumbledore and McGonagall raised an eyebrow at that, but didn’t comment, and Harry went on, “Discovering that someone who may have been their actual betrayer was sleeping not five metres away was something else again. As for being the target of a Killing Curse— again...” He shrugged. “We all talked it through though; I think we’re all right.”
“That is comforting to hear,” said Dumbledore. “Please do not hesitate to talk to Madam Pomfrey or Professor McGonagall if any of you have any lingering problems over this.” Harry nodded, and Dumbledore went on, “Now, I was hoping you might help me with a small problem. That most unusual house elf who came to assist you today was unable to tell me the name of your new guardian. Perhaps you would be so kind? It is rather important that I, and the Ministry, are made aware of the arrangements that have been made for you. We must ensure you are in a safe and suitable environment, after all.”
Harry sighed. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you there. As Mandy said, ‘sore wa himitsu desu’. And you misspoke earlier, by the way. Gringotts made sure that the correct people in the Ministry were told who my new guardian is, and where we’re living. They also made sure that they were sworn to secrecy, so I’m glad to hear you weren’t able to find out.”
Dumbledore sighed in disappointment, then caught Harry’s eye. “I really need to know where you’re living, Harry.” He pushed a Legilimency probe into Harry’s mind, but all he saw, for a brief instant, was a pair of angry green eyes, framed with red hair; then everything was consumed in fire and he was thrown out.
Harry had no real idea what had just happened, but he felt Lina’s anger spike and saw Dumbledore rock back in his chair suddenly, and guessed that some form of mind-reading was involved. He decided to use the moment to do some much-needed venting. “Really? I’m very glad to hear that you’ve finally realised the importance of a ‘safe environment’ for a child. Because you certainly didn’t appear to have a clue ten years ago, when you illegally blocked my godparents from taking up their responsibilities.” He turned to McGonagall. “Did you know that my first ever memory is of being beaten for burning the breakfast toast? That I thought my name actually was ‘Freak’ until I was five years old?” His head of house looked stunned, but Harry had already turned back to Dumbledore. “That, right up until my new guardian rescued me, I spent every night and large parts of most days locked in a cupboard barely big enough to crouch in? Trust me, Headmaster, I have absolutely no intention of you ever finding out my guardian’s name, nor where we live.”
“Mister Potter,” said McGonagall. “I think it would be best if you returned to your friends now.”
Harry turned to his head of house, and was astonished by just how angry she looked — fortunately, none of it directed at him. He nodded and stood. Turning to leave, he said, “Perhaps you could ask the Headmaster this: one child in a household turned up at school with every possible treat, perfect clothes, and was obviously well-fed, while the other had only the barest essentials, badly-dyed hand-me-downs, never seemed to have enough to eat, and didn’t even know to answer to his own name... given those details, just how were the teaching staff convinced to not call Social Services?”
As McGonagall’s eyes snapped back to glare at the Headmaster, Harry took his leave. As the door began to close behind him, he called out, “And stay out of my mind, Headmaster!”
The door closed on McGonagall’s outraged shout.
Harry quickly found an empty room in a deserted corner of the castle, and took turns with Lina in fireballing the walls black. Once the main chunk of their frustration and anger was worn off, Harry went back to the Gryffindor common room to join the others.
The rest of that evening, and the Sunday that followed, were mostly filled with talk for Harry and his friends. The Weasley twins explained everything they knew about the map, congratulated Lina over her exploration, and gave her some hints on how to wind Snape up further. Hermione led a discussion on Harry’s theory of how the Sorting Hat should work. Harry retold the story of his recent life, with Lina and Mandy’s participation included this time. When Mandy came to visit on the Sunday afternoon, she told Hermione everything about the nature of house elves and how they are treated; Hermione came away with another crusade to occupy her spare time.
Sunday dinner brought some unwelcome news.
“May I have your attention, please!” Albus (etc.) Dumbledore’s amplified voice overrode the students’ mealtime chatter. He waited for the last few to finish talking, then went on, “Dessert shall be brought out shortly, but first I have an important announcement to make.
“As you probably all know by now, yesterday saw the unmasking and escape of one Peter Pettigrew, long thought to be a dead hero of the last War. The Ministry of Magic have decided that he will be filled with thoughts of revenge against our own Harry Potter, and will stop at nothing to get back into Hogwarts to wreak that revenge. In light of this, an emergency order was signed earlier today, to move a contingent of the Guards of Azkaban from their posts at the prison, to take up watch around Hogwarts.” Dumbledore waited for the various gasps and cries to die down, then went on, “They will not be on the actual grounds. However, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises. It is not in their nature to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects to make sure that no student runs afoul of the dementors, and to pass the message on to anyone who may have missed this announcement.
“Now, let us all fortify ourselves against the dementors with something sweet!” He clapped his hands, and the dessert courses appeared.
“Bloody hell,” said Ron, taking an entire swiss roll for himself. He ignored Hermione’s annoyed glance and went on, “Dementors? Someone at the Ministry has gone nuts.”
“I’m sure they have our best interests at heart,” said Hermione, looking in vain for some fresh fruit.
“Even so,” said Neville, “it seems a bit extreme. Not to mention rather daft. If Pettigrew wanted revenge, surely he’d have done something during the week? Why wait until he’s been exposed, driven from the castle, and lost half a leg?” He took a slice of apple pie, and offered one to Hermione.
“Good point,” said Harry, reaching for a small treacle tart. “Not to appear thick or anything, but what’s a dementor?”
“I have no idea,” admitted Hermione, giving in and accepting the pie slice. “I was going to look them up later.”
Ron mercifully emptied his mouth before responding. “I doubt you’d find much,” he mumbled.
“It’s one of these things that everyone knows, but no-one talks about,” explained Neville. “They’re... some sort of spirit. All you ever see of them is a dark, ragged cloak. They bring out your worst memories to feed on them, and if they get too close...” He shuddered.
“They suck out your soul,” said Ron, shuddering himself.
“Pardon?” said Hermione. “Your actual soul? You have empirical proof of this?”
“Wot?” said Ron dumbly.
“I don’t know about ‘empirical’,” said Neville, “but someone who’s had the Dementor’s Kiss... well, their body’s fine, heart beating and all, but there’s no person left in there. Something gets sucked out, and what’s left is just a shell.”
“That’s awful,” said Hermione. “And wizards use these things to guard their prison? Why?”
Neville shrugged. “Well, no-one would risk getting past them. Also... it makes sure the prisoners are truly being punished.”
Hermione almost went off on a tirade at that point, but she remembered just what some of those prisoners had done to Neville’s parents, and gave him a bye on that one.
Her self-control didn’t survive Ron pointing out that the Kiss was used as a method of execution.
Wincing at Hermione’s viciously logical shredding of the concept of capital punishment, Neville turned to Harry. “You’re awfully quiet. Are you all right?”
Harry shrugged. “I’m fine. Just thinking about those... things. I’ve a feeling that something bad is going to happen...”
He stayed in this quiet mood until the Headmaster left the hall at the end of dinner. Harry excused himself from his friends at that point, went to the staff table, and approached McGonagall.
“Professor, could I have a quiet word with you?”
“Certainly Mister Potter. Do you want to come up to my office?”
Harry shrugged. “If you want, but I’m happy enough here.” He gestured around the hall, indicating the remaining students and staff, who were making their way out.
“As you wish.” She came down from the staff table and sat at the end of the Gryffindor table, gesturing for him to join her. “What can I do for you?”
“I—” Harry stopped and blushed. “I need to talk to my House head, not my Transfiguration teacher or the Deputy Head. Is that all right?”
“Of course,” nodded McGonagall.
“Well... are you able to tell me anything about the rest of your meeting with the Headmaster last night? I understand if it’s private, or if you’d rather write to my guardian...” He trailed off, putting on a slightly pathetic mien in the hope of wheedling something out of her.
“There really isn’t much to tell,” she sighed. “He believes you’re exaggerating about how bad your life with the Dursleys was. I must admit I was shocked by what you said, but having met them briefly, before you were born, I have to say I’m not surprised. I am truly sorry, Harry,” she said, allowing her ‘stern teacher’ mask to drop momentarily.
“I was with the Headmaster when he left you there. I argued against it, but I was not able to convince him of how inadvisable it was. I should have tried harder.”
“At least you tried, Professor,” said Harry kindly. “What about my other... accusations?”
“At the time, I felt that he had explained them away as coincidence, but looking back on it... he was very evasive.” She frowned. “Mister Potter, if I wrote a letter to your guardian, how would I have it delivered?”
Harry smiled. “Muon would take it for you. I’ll ask her next time I see her; once she knows it’s all right she’ll probably take it from you. She’s very smart.”
“I had noticed,” said McGonagall with the hint of a smile at the corner of her lips. “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”
Harry got up. “No thanks Professor, that was all. Unless you have any advice regarding the dementors?”
Standing, McGonagall looked him in the eye. “Stay well away from them.”
“Yeah...” mumbled Harry. “I definitely have a bad feeling about this...”
It didn’t take long for Harry’s foreboding to be proven correct. The first three days hadn’t been so bad; the dementors’ influence was restricted to a slight heaviness in peoples’ minds, and an almost imperceptible chill in the air. The Thursday after their arrival started very well indeed: Muon had woken Harry up with a letter from Mandy, letting him know that Sirius Black’s trial had been set for the following Monday — and he had already been moved to a Ministry holding cell that Tuesday. As a bonus, they were due to have their first flying lesson in the afternoon.
Hermione and Neville found Harry’s enthusiasm for the prospect to be rather odd: Hermione because she wasn’t that fond of the idea herself, and Neville because, “Well, you’ve already flown yourself, haven’t you? Surely that’s more fun?”
Harry had of course demonstrated Ray Wing to his friends; very briefly, in case they got caught. It had been deemed ‘wicked’ by Ron, but in his expert opinion a broom was probably faster, and maybe a bit more manoeuvrable. Harry enjoyed flying, but rarely got the opportunity to for fear of being seen, so he was definitely looking forward to the chance to do it out in the open.
Admittedly, they had been paired with the Slytherins. However, Harry hadn’t got very far with his promise to at least try to make friends in other houses, so on the way to the grounds he led his three friends over to the four Slytherins that weren’t Draco’s immediate clique (the girl that followed him everywhere and their three bodyguards). He was about to strike up a conversation when Neville put a restraining hand on his arm, and approached the blonde girl.
“Good morning, Miss Greengrass. I’ve been most remiss in not paying my respects before now. I hope you have been keeping well since we last met?”
Daphne Greengrass held out her hand to Neville, who shook it gently. “Well enough, Master Longbottom. And yourself?”
“As you say, well enough. May I introduce my friends?” At the girl’s acquiescence he introduced each of his friends, making a point of using their titles and surnames, then introduced her to them. She in turn made the introductions for her three companions. Theodore Nott merely grunted “Longbottom, Potter... Weasley... Miss,” when it was his turn, but Blaise Zabini shook each of their hands, lingering slightly over Hermione’s and giving her a most charming smile. The redhead girl also shook their hands, and immediately asked them all to call her Tracey (somewhat to Miss Greengrass’ exasperation), to which they all responded in kind. Ron had hesitated to take a slimy Slytherin’s hand, but Hermione glared at him until he did, and the others didn’t appear to take any offence. The seven (excluding Nott) chatted about trivial topics — the unseasonably cold weather, recent classes, and so on — until they reached the lawn where stood a rather intimidating woman by the name of Madam Hooch, surrounded by broomsticks.
“Well, what are you all waiting for?” she barked. “Everyone stand by a broomstick. Come on, hurry up.”
They had been warned by the Weasley twins not to expect too much from the school brooms; Harry decided that they hadn’t gone far enough. His looked like it was ready to fall apart.
“Hold your right hand over your broom,” called Madam Hooch at the front, “and say ‘Up!’”
The students all shouted the command. Harry’s broom responded at once, as did Draco’s, Miss Greengrass’, and a couple of others. The rest twitched or rolled over. Ron, and most of the rest of the class, managed to get theirs up on the second attempt, just leaving Neville, Hermione, and the larger Slytherin girl.
“Don’t worry you two,” whispered Harry. “I’ll catch you if you fall.”
Hermione smiled at him, then whispered back, “What if we fall at the same time?”
“Try not to,” said Harry with a smirk.
Somewhat reassured, they both said “Up!” This time, their brooms responded.
Madam Hooch made her rounds of the class, checking everyone’s grip. She had to spend some minutes convincing Draco that he was not in fact the second coming of Neil Lament (her wording), and needed to listen to her instructions. She then spent a few moments in discussion with Miss Greengrass, pointing out that while indeed a lady does not straddle the broom, Miss Greengrass was as yet a girl, and had best learn to fly the easy way before attempting side-saddle (and that if she wished, she could sign up for the deportment class in a year’s time). Finally she was tentatively satisfied with their performance, and had them do a few simple take-off-and-land exercises. Neville and Hermione’s apprehensive grimaces soon changed to grins as they discovered there was nothing to be afraid of.
After a few repetitions of the exercises, Madam Hooch declared that the class was ready to try a few circuits. Carefully, like a row of wobbling ducklings on their first trip to the pond, the class took to the air and started around the lawn’s perimeter. They were only half way around when disaster struck.
First, Seamus’ broom let out a deafening »crack« and a shower of sparks, then plummeted to the ground. Madam Hooch immediately ran over to him, and missed seeing what happened next. Draco, who had been immediately behind Seamus, pulled up sharply, and something failed in his broom. Rather than plummeting, it took off at its highest speed. Harry caught sight of Draco’s face as he zipped past: there was no sign of a sneer now, as Draco desperately fought to turn his broom. Harry immediately brought his own broom round and shot after him.
Perhaps Harry’s broom was overpowered by his magic, or it was simply in better condition than Draco’s. Either way, he managed to catch up after only a few moments of headlong flight. “Draco!”
Draco risked a quick glance towards Harry. “What do you want, Potter?”
“You’ve lost control, you’re gaining height—”
“Yes I had noticed that Potter, thank you—”
“—so I was wondering, do you want a lift back?”
Draco turned to glare at Harry for a moment, but saw only sincerity in his expression. “All right. Do you have a plan?”
“I get in close, but a bit lower; you hook your right leg over my broom and grab hold of my shoulders. Then I’ll pull up, and you just let your broom fall away.”
Draco thought for a moment, then called, “All right. That should work.”
Harry slid a bit forward on his stick, then flew in as he had described. Draco managed the transfer to Harry’s broom without too much trouble, but the added weight had it dropping rapidly. Harry fought to pull it up as Draco’s broom headed off into the mountains, but the best he could manage was a controlled descent to a paltry two metres altitude, where it toddled along at perhaps half its previous speed. “Still better than walking, eh?” he called back to Draco. Draco declined to answer.
By the time they were about half-way back to the castle, they could see the rest of their class standing in a group, waving and shouting. Madam Hooch had a firm grip on Neville’s arm — holding him back. Harry was wondering why, when he noticed that it was getting very cold all of a sudden.
“I don’t want to worry you Potter,” said Draco through chattering teeth, “but—” Suddenly, Draco’s voice was drowned out by a rushing noise in Harry’s head.
“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
“Stand aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now...”
“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead—”
Faintly, another voice intruded into Harry’s head. “Wake up Harry, I’m not taking over with this poncy git’s arms around me!” Then it was submerged again.
“Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy...”
Evil, high-pitched laughter filled Harry’s mind, and with a remembered flash of green, he blacked out.
“Mister Potter! Mister Potter!”
Harry came to. He was lying on the grass, staring up into the sky, which was partially eclipsed by Madam Hooch’s head. “What happened?”
“Two dementors almost caught you on your way back. I’ve never seen such an idiotic display... nor such a brave one. Five points to Gryffindor, for rescuing your classmate.”
Harry shook his head. “I’m not sure that I did. I think I passed out on the way back.”
“That you did. Fortunately, Mister Malfoy was able to keep control of your broom, and got you inside the wards safely.” She turned; Harry followed her eyes to see that Draco was sitting beside him. “Three points to Slytherin, for your quick thinking.” She turned back to Harry. “Do you think you can stand, Mister Potter?”
Harry tried raising himself onto his elbows. “Probably.”
“In that case, the two of you should probably pay a visit to Madam Pomfrey. I’m sure your friends will see you safely there.” She stood up and turned to the rest of the class. “I think, under the circumstances, we shall finish up here. Well done everyone.” She added over her shoulder to the two boys, “You may want to consider joining your houses’ Quidditch teams next year.”
Harry and Draco got up together. As their friends started towards them, Draco hissed, “This doesn’t make us friends, you know.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” said Harry. “But you know us Gryffindors; any chance to show off our bravery...”
Draco grunted. “I don’t like the idea of being in your debt, either.”
Harry grinned. “Well, you sort of saved me too. Call it even?”
Draco gave him a sceptical look. “It isn’t really, but if you want...” He moved closer and whispered, “What happened to you there? I could feel their darkness, but you passed right out.”
“Not sure,” said Harry. “Maybe I’ve just had more bad things happen to me.” Draco and Harry’s friends came up, all saying variations on the theme of “Are you all right?”
After being reassuring, the two groups began to make their separate ways back to the castle. Harry called over, “Oi Draco! How’s the laugh coming?”
“Ha ha,” Draco dead-panned back.
“Well if you’re not even going to try...” Harry sighed loudly.
Once Madam Pomfrey had looked them over, she presented the two boys with giant chunks of chocolate, then sent them away. With a couple of hours still to go before dinner, and nothing to fill them with, Harry led his friends out into the sunlight again, away from the other students.
“All right. First off: Lina, I know you would have taken over if Draco hadn’t got control of the broom, so I’m not angry with you for not doing it. Also, I actually heard you there. Can you try again?”
Harry got a feeling of warmth, which he associated with Lina being comforting, but no actual words. “Sorry Lina... looks like I have to be in a near-death situation to hear you properly. Fantastic...” He turned to the others. “I expect Lina has things she needs to say; can you keep an eye out for anyone coming?” When they all nodded, Harry sat back against the castle wall, and let Lina take over.
“All right, first off: can we please stay away from the soul-suckers from now on? I mean, I like the whole ‘two meals for the price of one’ idea, but I’d rather not be one of them!” She giggled. “Anyway, that was really brave of you. If you keep saving him like that, he’ll turn out to be a really good rival.” The others rolled their eyes at this. “Seriously though. I could see what you were remembering there. Whatever they actually are, those dementors knocked something loose in your head: a memory from when... well, you know. I don’t think you saw it all; you passed out when you reached the point baby-you was hit. But baby-you didn’t pass out, so the memory kept playing. Aside from a certain rat coming in and dragging Big V’s wand away, nothing happened for a while; your memory seemed to skip forward a bit. Last thing I saw, just before the hawk lady woke you up, was a big hairy bloke picking you up and taking you out. A very distinctive, very big hairy bloke.”
“Hagrid?” said Hermione.
“Yep. He certainly seemed to be familiar with the house, and with Harry’s parents. So, maybe you should all go have a chat with him, about the old days. Maybe he could tell you some stories?” Lina started to release control back to Harry, then grabbed it back and added, “Oh, while I remember: on the off-chance you do run into dementors again, and you can’t get away: try Blast Ash on them. I don’t know if they count as having a spirit, but it’s your best shot. Of course, the Ministry might be annoyed with you for bumping off some of their employees, but...” she shrugged, “the heck with them. We should try to practice Assha Dist, Ra Tilt, and Elmekia Flame. I suspect Elmekia Lance would just piss them off.” She grinned at Hermione, who was bouncing up and down on her toes. “I’ll hand back to Harry now, so you can go see Hagrid. He can explain those spells for you.”
“So?” asked Hermione when Harry came back.
“They’re all Spirit Shamanism spells — Spirit is the fifth element.” The four started to walk down the hill towards the hut that they had heard belonged to Hagrid. “Assha Dist is a general undead-killing spell. Elmekia Lance is the one Lina and I am most familiar with; it’s a low-powered attack spell that can hurt minor spirits and knock people unconscious. Elmekia Flame is a much stronger version of it, and Ra Tilt is stronger still. In the story, Lina’s friends used those two much more often than she did.”
“What about Blast Ash?” asked Hermione.
Harry shuddered slightly. “It’s different. It’s black magic, for one. It can cover a pretty wide area if you want, or a single... target. It blasts anything living, or anything with a spirit, into a pile of ash.”
“That’s horrible,” said Neville. The others voiced their agreement.
“It is,” said Harry. “I still have nightmares about it. But sometimes, people leave you with no choice...”
Neville and Hermione both threw an arm around Harry, and they walked the rest of the way to Hagrid’s hut in silence.
When Harry knocked on the hut door, there was a short silence, then the sound of someone stumbling around and knocking things over. After a not-particularly-muffled bout of swearing, which had Hermione turning red and Ron taking mental notes, the door opened a crack and Hagrid peered out suspiciously. “Oh! Afternoon, kids. What can I do for you?”
“Good afternoon, Mister Hagrid,” said Harry politely. “We were just talking about the school, and how (except Hermione) our parents met here, and Ron remembered that his dad had mentioned you as a good friend. So Neville and I were wondering...” He tailed off, feigning a little sadness.
“Arthur Weasley an’ Molly Prewitt, o’course. Good friends, them; we still meet up now an’ then.” He came out of the hut, keeping the door tight against himself, but even so letting out a blast of extremely hot air before getting it shut. Gesturing to the four to follow him, he went over to the nearby wood-pile, where there were several conveniently-sized stumps to sit on. “And o’course I remember Lily Evans an’ James Potter, young ‘Arry... an’ you’ll be Frank Longbottom an’ Alice Fortescue’s boy, then?” Neville nodded. “Good kids, the lot of them, though James could be a right scamp at times, ‘im an’ the others he ran about with. Right shame what ‘appened to them... ‘eroes, they were.” Hagrid looked like he was about to cry, but he sniffed and went on, “And I ‘ear now that Sirius Black, ‘im who we all thought ‘ad betrayed ‘em, was innocent all along? Dark days they were, an’ terrible things ‘appened. Azkaban’s no place for an innocent man, let me tell you.”
Hermione glanced at the others, and got subtle nods from them all. “You were in Azkaban, Mister Hagrid?”
“None of the ‘mister’, please — ‘Ermione, right?” She nodded. “Just ‘’Agrid’, if you would; it’s what your parents called me — not yours o’course ‘Ermione, but the others’.” He shivered. “Aye, I was there. Long time ago, durin’ the war against Grindelwald. Bad things ‘appened then too, an’ the Ministry found it easier to blame me than to look for the real cause.” He shook his head. “Like your godfather, I suppose... while all along it were quiet little Peter who’d done it.”
“We’re still not sure what happened,” said Harry, “although it’s starting to look that way. After Sirius’ trial, we’ll know for certain.”
“What else could it be though?” said Hagrid. “Everyone thought ‘e was an ‘ero, ‘e could ‘ave come forward any time an’ no-one would ‘ave thought the worse of ‘im.” He sighed. “Maybe I should’ve passed you on to Sirius that night, but Dumbledore said you ‘ad to come to ‘Ogwarts for safety, an’ then he left you with Lily’s kin. Best place for you, I suppose.”
“Not exactly,” said Harry diplomatically. “But I used to dream about a being carried by a giant hairy man on a motorcycle, flying through the clouds. Was that you?”
“Merlin, ‘Arry, you weren’t but a little tyke back then! An’ you remember? Aye, that were Sirius’ bike; ‘e gave it to me when I told ‘im I ‘ad to take you to ‘Ogwarts. Said it would be safer. I wondered about that, when ‘e were caught later on.”
Ron broke the brief silence that followed. “Dumbledore must trust you a lot, getting you to pick up Harry like that.”
“Oh, I’d do anything for Dumbledore. Great man. ‘E got me this job, after that business back in the war. Weren’t no-one else would take me on after that. So o’course if’n ‘e ‘as to pick up somethin’ valuable, whether it be young ‘Arry ‘ere, or Mister Flamel’s stone from Gringotts — good thing that, given the break-in — ‘e always comes to me.”
“Or if he needs a Cerberus to help guard the third-floor corridor?” said Ron quickly.
“What do you know about Fluffy?” asked Hagrid.
“‘Fluffy’? Seriously?” said Harry. “Anyway, everyone knows about that monster. Dumbledore practically begged us all to go look in that room, the way he announced that it was off-limits.”
“You kids should learn to be told, though why I’m botherin’ to say that to the son o’ James Potter an’ the brother o’ the Terrible Twins I don’ know. An’ anyway, Fluffy’s no monster. ‘E’s big alright, but ‘e wouldn’t ‘urt a fly, so long as it stayed away from what ‘e’s guardin’. An’ don’ you try askin’ what that is, ‘cause it’s Dumbledore’s secret, all right? Only folks who know are me an’ the perfessers who helped protect it.”
“We won’t,” said Hermione dutifully, followed by a chorus of agreement from the others.
“You lot ‘ad better be gettin’ back up to the castle now,” said Hagrid. “It’ll soon be time for dinner.”
“If we come back,” asked Harry, “could you tell us some stories about our parents?”
“Be glad to, boys. An’ I’ll see if’n I can find some stories just for you, ‘Ermione.”
“Actually, I’d like to hear about Harry’s mum,” said Hermione. “She sounds a lot like me, from what I’ve heard.”
“I’ll do that,” said Hagrid with a smile. “You might try askin’ Perfesser Flitwick as well; she were somethin’ of a favourite of ‘is. An’ o’course she were great pals with Perfesser Snape... ‘til it all went wrong.”
“I don’t think I’ll be asking him about her,” said Harry. “He doesn’t seem to like me much.”
“Lot o’ ‘istory there, an’ some bad blood,” said Hagrid. “Two men wooin’ the same girl, it’d never work out ‘appy for all three. An’ o’course your dad an’ ‘is friends were never very kind to Perfesser Snape when they were boys.” Hagrid fell silent, lost in his memories.
“Well, we’d best be off,” said Neville, after the silence started to become uncomfortable. “We’ll make sure to visit again soon.”
“You do that,” said Hagrid as they all got up. “Maybe I’ll ‘ave some tea for you next time.”
“Oh!” said Hermione as they were walking off. “The dementors... surely there’s some way to fight them?”
“Can’t fight ‘em as such,” said Hagrid, “but you ask Perfesser Flitwick about the Patronus Charm. ‘E’ll tell you all about it.”
“Thanks Hagrid!” said Hermione, as the four headed back towards the castle.
Once out of earshot, Hermione started to collapse in giggles.
“What’s so funny?” asked Neville.
“Oh— oh,” Hermione pulled herself together. “It’s Hagrid. He’s like a giant sack full of exposition; you just poke him with the right questions and it all comes flooding out.”
“It was rather spectacular,” said Harry. “How did you know to ask about the monster dog, Ron?”
“My brother Charlie was always going on about how Hagrid loved big dangerous creatures. He got Charlie interested in dragons in the first place. Anyway, I thought: monster dog in the castle; surely he would be involved? Plus, I had to say something to distract him.”
“Why?” asked Neville.
“Because he’d just dropped a massive clue to what’s hidden in the forbidden corridor,” said Ron. “That Gringotts break-in was just a couple of months back, so if anything valuable was moved from there by Hagrid, stands to reason it’d be whatever Fluffy was guarding.”
“How very Slytherin of you,” commented Neville.
“Stuff it, Hufflepuff,” said Ron with a grin. “Anyway, now all we have to do is figure out what this Flamel bloke’s stone might be.”
“I think Lina’s just figured it out,” said Harry, as wave after wave of excitement crashed through him. “Quick, over here...” He led the others to the gate tower corner, which was rapidly becoming their go-to place for easy concealment. As he let Lina take control, Hermione gave her little epiphany-gasp.
“The Philosopher’s Stone!” chorused the girls. “Dibs!” added Lina emphatically. “I’ll share, of course,” she went on. “I mean, infinite gold; you can’t spend it all yourself!”
“Calm down, Big Sis,” said Neville. “You’re drooling.”
“Can you blame me?” said Lina. “I knew Fumbletore was hiding treasure here, but this is the absolute jackpot! Endless wealth, eternal youth... who knows what else that rock can do? Maybe—” she stopped suddenly and went white. “Maybe,” she went on, very quietly, “it could even give me my own body...” She staggered, almost fainting, but Neville caught her and wrapped his arms around her. With Hermione’s help, he eased Lina down to sit with her back to the wall.
“I have to get that stone,” Lina mumbled.
“I think the Flamels will want it back,” Hermione pointed out.
“But I’m sure we can talk them into letting you borrow it,” said Neville quickly.
“I’m more worried about who else is after it,” said Ron. “I mean, mental enough to try stealing it from Gringotts, good enough to get in and out again without getting caught, strong enough that Dumbledore sticks it behind a Cerberus as the first line of defence...” He nodded to himself. “Can’t be too many who’d fit that description...”
“Well, there’s me...” said Lina, recovering enough to grin wickedly.
“Other than you,” said Neville, giving her a hug.
“We’d better get inside,” said Hermione, “or we’ll miss dinner.”
Ron jumped to his feet. “Come on then!” he said.
“Take over, little brother,” said Lina. “I need a bit of a rest.”
Harry stood up and held up a finger, calling for everyone’s attention. “Just one thing.” He cleared his throat. “Snape. My mother. Wooing. EWWWWWWW!”
Rather than ganging up on the Charms professor, it was decided that Hermione should ask him about the anti-dementor spell. He was happy to meet with her in his office after dinner.
He started by describing the incantation and wand movements, and confirmed that Hermione’s attempt to copy them was correct. “However,” he said, “though it is simple to cast, this is a very difficult spell to master. Many NEWT-level students are incapable of producing even the slightest effect, since the key to casting a successful Patronus lies in the emotional component. What have you discovered about the nature of dementors?”
“They feed on negative emotion, and drive away positive thoughts. Also their ‘kiss’ has an... adverse effect on a person.” Hermione couldn’t quite bring herself to use the word ‘soul’ without more evidence.
“Precisely,” said Flitwick. “The charm relies on the caster bringing up the strongest possible memories of happiness, security... even love. They must suffuse their magic with those feelings, and embody them in the Patronus. As you can see, this is most difficult in the face of a creature which is suppressing every positive thought. Once manifest, however, the Patronus will drive away the dementor, and shield its caster against its effects.” He went on to describe the mist shield, and the concept of the fully corporeal Patronus.
Hermione thanked the professor, and went back to join the others.
The four tried their hand at the Patronus charm that evening, but without success, and so were somewhat disheartened when they went to bed. Lina took over once Harry was asleep, but before going out on her nightly Snape-bothering session, she called Mandy, and after a quick discussion gave her some instructions for the next day.
Snape had prepared for her, arriving in the main stairwell much earlier than usual, and finding a dark corner to watch from. However, Lina had been expecting this for the last few nights, and had already perfected her counter-strategy: she flew straight up from the corridor entrance, and tucked herself in to the shadows in the vaulted ceiling four floors above Snape’s usual route, with a perfect view of almost the entire stairwell. She settled in for a waiting game.
Snape eventually showed himself, striding into view with his robe billowing around him. Lina cast her illusion, producing her lookalike in Snape’s mind, at the very edge of his vision.
Snape was ready for this. “Homenum Revelio!” His eyes lit with vicious satisfaction as a glowing aura appeared in a doorway one floor up. “Come out! If you make me chase you now, it’ll go hard on you!”
“Bad enough having to put up with the little brats, now the staff are at it as well,” grumbled a voice from the doorway. “Do you mind, Professor Snape?”
“Filch? What are you doing here, man?”
Filch hobbled out of the corridor and glared down at Snape. “My job. You know, looking for kids sneaking about, that sort of thing. Glowing like a novelty Christmas ornament won’t make it any easier either, so if you don’t mind...?”
Snape cancelled his spell with an impatient gesture. “And have you seen any miscreants tonight?”
“Only the one,” sniggered Filch, “but he’s a bit big to be a student.”
Snape was about to retort, but Lina decided that was the perfect moment for her phantasm to drift into view again, head bowed. Snape whipped around and cast Incarcerous at the vision, to no effect.
“What are you doing, Professor?” Filch asked in surprise.
“Can’t you see her man? She’s right there!” Snape gestured wildly at the illusion, which was now crossing right in front of him.
“I think you’ve been leaning over your cauldrons a bit too closely,” said Filch. “There’s no-one there.”
“What are you talking about? She’s right there! She might be a ghost or an illusion, but Lily is standing right there!” Snape lunged at the illusion, but instead of allowing him to pass through it, Lina had it side-step neatly.
“Ah,” said Filch wisely. “Maybe it is potion fumes, maybe it’s a guilty conscience... maybe a bit of both? Either way Professor, Lily Evans is dead and buried, and she’s not haunting Hogwarts either. Something’s haunting you though... maybe you should give old Pomfrey a visit?”
Snape only sneered in response, though it was somewhat weaker than usual, and with a swirl of his robes stalked off to the dungeon.
Feeling the satisfaction of a job well done, Lina sneaked back to Harry’s dorm. She wrote a quick summary of her night’s work, and went to sleep.
Harry and friends were pleasantly surprised by their Potions lesson the next day. Professor Snape seemed to be somewhat withdrawn: the biting sarcasm of the previous week was reduced, mostly replaced with an introspective gaze and occasional instructions delivered in a distracted monotone. All in all, a vast improvement: Ron, Neville, and Harry all whispered their thanks to Lina after the lesson.
Harry was looking forward to dinner, having been primed to watch out for an announcement by Lina’s overnight note. So when Dumbledore stood and asked for everyone’s attention, he listened with interest.
“I am very pleased to announce that, due to an unfortunate incident yesterday, the Ministry has had their eyes opened to the dangers of posting dementors near our school. Thanks to the protests of some of our leading citizens, the Minister has been convinced to order them back to their usual haunts at Azkaban.”
There were cheers and a round of applause at this news, from both students and staff. Harry looked for Draco at the Slytherin table: he was whispering with his friends and preening. When Harry caught his eye and gave him a nod of acknowledgement and thanks, Draco replied with his trademark smirk. Then Dumbledore tapped his glass with his fork, getting everyone’s attention again.
“I should also let you know that our own Harry Potter’s mysterious guardian has donated a full two score of Comet T90 training brooms for the use of the school—”
Dumbledore didn’t stop there, but the rest of his words were drowned by a sudden whoop of delight from Madam Hooch, backed up by a rousing cheer from most of those currently relying on school brooms. Harry glanced over at Draco again; when he saw the blond Slytherin’s face frowning in frustration, he gave him a salute with his glass and a smirk of his own. Draco turned red, and may well have exploded in anger if Dumbledore hadn’t spoken again.
“Well said, Madam Hooch,” he commented, ignoring the raging blush she had developed. “As I was saying, I hope that this most generous gift will mean our flying lessons are safer and more comfortable for many years to come.”
He resumed his seat, allowing the dessert to be served, and leaving Harry to be bombarded with congratulations on having a seriously cool guardian... who was preening smugly inside him the entire time.
To be continued...
Oh dear... even one such as Lucius Malfoy cares for his son’s safety. Or at least, he understands that he needs to give the appearance of doing so. So, the dementors come, the dementors go. And hopefully we’ll have Sirius on the loose soon...
A handful of the teachers at my secondary school wore their academic robes as everyday wear. I can remember the deputy head in particular, who would stride along the corridors with his robes flaring out behind him, never breaking step as the kids dodged out of his way. We called him Batman behind his back... Although he was a much nicer character than Snape, being stern but completely fair, my mental picture of the Potions Professor has always been based on him.
terryie: You’re welcome. And all sorts of people are going to be using that phrase to him for a while yet...