Author's note: This story is a sequel to "Drastic
Measures". Other episodes will follow, although perhaps not as
If you’ve enjoyed these ones, please keep an eye out! Many thanks to
Gamgee for her infallible red quill.
"Then, all stand still. Or those that think it is unlawful
I am about, let them depart."
The world was cloudy. A kind of gauzy mist hung in the Great Hall.
was the dancing that gave away that it was a dream. Harry's feet
their place every step. It was the first dance at the Yule Ball, and
was leading Harry around the dance floor effortlessly. Harry was
a wonderful time. He swung past a table where Ron and Hermione sat,
at him and looking a picture together. He turned back to Cho, whose
were shut, her expression blissful. He shut his own eyes, and gave
over the rhythm, and the warmth of Cho's embrace.
There was a bump and a "Sorry, Harry." Harry opened his eyes and
and there was Cedric Diggory, sweeping Ginny- Ginny?- away round and
across the dance floor. Something struck Harry as being out of
He knitted his brow.
"Something wrong, Harry?" Cho asked.
The song ended and the couples returned to the champions' table.
sat to Harry's left, and Ginny to his right, and Cedric next to her.
was warm from the dancing. He realized that his forehead was aching
and he reached for his glass of water. Next to him he saw Ginny,
herself and reaching for her own glass. Cedric was absently reaching
the same glass.
There was a flash of violent pain in Harry's forehead as he watched
and Cedric's hands simultaneously drifting toward the glass. He did
know what made him do this: he jumped across Ginny's place, yelling
and knocked the glass off of the table fiercely. Ginny and Cedric
back, startled. Harry watched the glass arc toward the floor, but
it hit, it was not the glass that shattered but the floor
The scene dissolved, and Harry felt an acute conscious awareness
it had been illusory. That was not how it was at all, he thought.
silly. He found himself in a room, or looking at a room, because he
not seem to be there himself. There was no him but the pain in his
There was nothing gauzy and sentimental about this scene- it was
and real. A group of men and women sat silently on grotesquely
wooden chairs, their hands open in their laps. The room itself was
and very cold. A voice, colder than the room itself, repeated slowly
wait... be vigilant... be patient..."
Harry was not aware of when this scene faded and his silent sleep
At six-thirty his wristwatch began dancing softly on his forehead.
opened his eyes before the watch began slapping at him with the
clasp the way it would when he came to insufficiently quickly.
Six-thirty! he thought to himself. What was I thinking? Then
remembered, he was going for a walk with Cho this morning. Not
*Ginny*, his mind shot back. His mind was a muddle of murky
emotions and morbid dreams as he trudged off to the showers.
He went down the stairs, freshened somewhat but still sick at
He thought he should tell Dumbledore about his dream at breakfast.
did not know if Dumbledore would care that he had *dreamed* of his
hurting, but Dumbledore's watchword lately was better safe than
Meanwhile, there was Ginny. He still could not shake the feeling
he was doing something horribly wrong, and kept telling himself that
was just a bit of a walk. Against his will, he thought about Cho and
made the feeling even worse. One thing was for sure, he decided-
in the morning was a rotten time for a date.
Ginny was there, waiting. If she had had a troubled sleep, she
wasn't showing it. She was smiling widely as she watched Harry come
the stairs and cross the room. "Good morning!" she said so brightly
it could not help but banish some of Harry's melancholy.
"Hi," Harry said. Here was a funny thing, Harry thought. Ginny used
run out of the room whenever he showed up, or would babble when he
to her. Somewhere in the last year or so she had turned the tables
him. Now she was cheerful, amicable, placing herself squarely in his
while he found it hard to speak to her. Harry was deep in unfamiliar
Ginny is pretty, he said to himself as they walked, trying
think like a man on a date. Ginny is pretty. Ginny is pretty.
was hard to make this thought connect. Guiltily Harry thought of
whom he adored but who always seemed half-imagined, a billion miles
But Ginny adores me, Harry thought, she's here, she's
and blood, she's a dear friend...
They walked out onto the grounds, where the air was damp and the
was hidden in a low, rolling mist. The grass was dewy and squelched
"My feet are soaked," Ginny announced. Harry suddenly realized that
had walked about a hundred yards without saying a word. "Perhaps
wasn't such a brilliant idea," Ginny said sadly.
"No, it's great, Ginny," Harry said. "Sorry, I can't think of much
say this time of the morning." He smiled. "Let's keep walking,
"Yeah, all right," she said. They continued walking, and the lake
through the mist.
"Ron and Hermione were funny last night, weren't they?" Ginny
"Yeah," Harry smiled. "He really likes her, you know."
"I know. You didn't have to hear him whinging about her all summer.
her, last year-"
"Oh yeah?" Harry stopped walking.
"Yeah," Ginny said, grinning. "Well, she was just infuriated at
of course, but she wouldn't shut up about it. She told me once-
kill me if she knew I told you-"
"What? I won’t tell," Harry whispered, smiling and leaning in. He
now having a great time.
"She told me once how she used to follow Ron around, bothering him,
first year. Thought he was cute, with the red hair and all."
"No- when-" Harry grinned, thinking of how Hermione used to always
up at unexpected moments before they became friends with her. "Ha!"
"Ron always thought she just wanted to be seen with Harry Potter,"
said. "Imagine if he knew."
"Sounds like if he did, it might have saved you and I a lot of
Harry said. He and Ginny were giggling. "Why would she tell you
Ginny stopped laughing. "Oh, I was just upset about something," she
Harry took the hint.
Harry looked back, and the castle, for all its mass, was invisible.
mist was rolling across the grounds in great clouds, and now the
was obscured again. "Look," Ginny said. "You can't see a thing.
the school isn't even there anymore."
Harry gulped. He was alone with Ginny, quite alone. Harry took
hand, which was pleasantly warm. I think she would like that,
thought. "This is great, isn't it?" he said, and meant it.
Harry thought Ginny began to act very oddly. She turned to face him
began rocking on her heels, eyes closed. Harry raised his hands to
her as she appeared to be toppling slowly toward him, and he
why she didn't right herself.
Ginny's lips were pressing firmly on Harry's before Harry caught
Her hands gripped his shoulders. This must be a kiss, he
He had imagined a few in his time, and always expected some sort of
cloudy, tickly sensation. Ginny's lips felt dry and rubbery on his.
obligingly tried to press back and bumped one of his front teeth
hers, which banged uncomfortably. His hand lifted to her waist then
itself away immediately once he had found it, startled at its own
They simultaneously pulled back, and stood about five feet
Ginny's chest rose and fell. Her eyes were wide. "Blast, I'm sorry,
don't hate me, that was so stupid. Do you hate me now?"
Harry was so busy staring at her in amazement that he did not
her words for a few seconds. "Uh, no, of course not, uh, Ginny."
"I feel so stupid. Harry, I like you, you know."
"Yeah, I knew that," Harry said, touching his fingers to his lips,
sure what he expected to find there. He kept thinking about the
her teeth made.
"Don't hate me! I thought I could make you-" Ginny said, looking
Harry had the impression she was about to run away. "Don't go away,
"Er, what do you want to do?" she said, still cringing.
"Um, we could have another go..." Harry made himself smile, and
he must have looked stupid. He and Ginny walked slowly toward each
as if each expected the other to suddenly pull out a wand and Stun
Harry put his hands on Ginny's waist, and clumsily pulled her to
He felt, there was no other word, really weird. She was rigid and
through layers of jacket and lumpy old wool sweater. Harry tried to
Ginny's lips again, his eyes closed this time, the way he thought it
supposed to be, but her nose got in the way and bumped his glasses.
hand, trying to be helpful, grasped Harry's right ear- "ow!"- but
found Harry's misguided mouth finally. Harry tried to keep his teeth
of it this time.
There was an odd sensation, as in a dream, of watching himself
from the outside. Harry had always imagined kissing a girl (like
there was that thought again...) he would be swept up in some kind
blissful trance. He realized that the fun of it was something else-
aware of every bit of the stiffness and breathlessness and teeth and
and lumpy wool and funny-smelling breath, and *not minding*. He
himself hoping Ginny wasn't disappointed. He certainly wasn't.
Ginny finally released Harry's lips and allowed herself to speak.
planned this, you know. Silly of me. I was sure I wouldn't have the
"Umm..." Harry said. "Does this make you my girlfriend now?"
"There's an idea!" Ginny said, smiling.
"Well, Ron and Hermione are taking so long-" Harry muttered.
"That's because they're stupid. Harry, tell me honestly, is there
you like better?"
Harry did not answer right away, and Ginny caught his silence.
say 'no' just to make me happy," she said. "I know you asked Cho to
ball last year, and you've looked at her a lot..."
Harry swallowed hard. "I like Cho a lot. But I haven't spoken to
at all since..." Harry stopped.
"Right," Ginny said, and her arms slackened but did not let him go.
this is all very sudden for you I suppose."
"Ginny, I..." Harry had a hard time with this one. "I really
kissing you. You're like me, I mean you're one of my best... you
wonderful... and I feel wonderful, when you... you're kind of pretty
you... Cho is, like, not like you, well... I think I want to keep on
"Only if you're sure," Ginny laughed. She hugged Harry close one
time then let him go. He was slower to release her, and when she had
from him it was as if all the cold in the world had closed in on
Everything became cloudy and uncertain again.
"What's so great about me anyway?" Harry said, but Ginny's eyes had
and looked suddenly quizzical. A cloud of fog swept past behind her,
her smile seemed to be swept off her face on the same wind. Harry
a glimpse of the castle behind her- the mist was breaking up.
"What's that," she said dully.
Harry turned. The clouds of mist were being brushed away by the
About forty feet away, there was a crumpled heap lying on the
Then another, a few feet further on.
They walked toward the heaps, and several more appeared. As they
Harry realized that his forehead had begun to ache again.
"Not today," he whispered. He stopped in his tracks, and Ginny
and looked at him. "Oh, come on, not today. NOT TODAY!" He grabbed
forehead and stomped his foot hard on the ground. Ginny grabbed his
and pulled his arm away from his head. "Oh no, Ginny!" He felt tears
in his eyes and shut them hard.
"Come on," she said, and they continued to move forward. Each heap
a body, clad in dirty yellowed linen robes, apparently dropped
on the ground not far from the lake. The scene looked like a
"They're robes from Azkaban!" Harry said, recognizing them from the
photo of Sirius Black. "How many are there?"
They walked from one to the other and counted seven. Harry could
tell their ages- their faces were wasted and worn in a way only
could make them. At the end of the row, there was a wooden post
in the ground, and piece of parchment tied to it.
THESE ONES WERE INNOCENT - BAD LUCK
Harry looked around him at the bodies, thinking of the vicious and
trials of Voldemort's suspected accomplices he had learned about the
before. Were these falsely convicted prisoners?
"Look, this one's breathing," Ginny said, kneeling by one of the
as Harry looked at the morbidly facetious sign. There was a sudden
in his forehead, a flash of intense pain, that disappeared as
as it came. Harry put his hand to his forehead.
A sensation of terror came over him. He turned and saw Ginny
over the body, her hand stretched out a little ways. Harry lunged
and grabbed her arm, yanking her violently away from the body.
"DON'T TOUCH HIM! DID YOU TOUCH HIM?" Harry shouted.
Ginny's eyes were wide with surprise. "H-Harry!" she said.
"Did you touch him! Tell me!" Harry demanded.
"No, of course not!" Ginny protested. "No! Let go!"
Harry did not let go. He continued to look at her furiously. "What
you doing! Five minutes ago, where were you. What were you
Ginny looked at him blankly, her jaw opening and closing randomly.
we were out, walking-"
"Come with me!" he interrupted, pulling her up by the wrist and
toward the castle.
"Harry, let go, I didn't-- you're hurting me!" Ginny protested.
"I'm so stupid. I'm so stupid," he repeated viciously, running up
hill with Ginny barely able to keep up. A couple of students were
to come out the entrance. "Go back in!" Harry shouted at them. "Find
Ron and Hermione ran down the stairs in to the Entrance Hall. Harry
grasping Ginny's wrist and watching her, while shooing off anyone
was heading out to the grounds.
"What's up, Harry?" Ron said. "Dean says he saw you down here,
for Dumbledore. Hello, Gin. Harry, why are you doing that?"
"Hi, Ron," Ginny said weakly.
"I'm not letting go of her. I want Dumbledore to see her. There are
of Azkaban prisoners down by the lake, and Ginny touched one of
"I said I didn't!"
"-and this is not Ginny!" Harry finished.
"Eh?" Ron said.
"Let go of me!" Ginny continued to protest. "This is stupid-
this is ridiculous, I keep telling him I didn't!"
"Why do you say that, Harry?" Hermione asked, looking at Ginny.
"She couldn't tell me what she was doing before she touched the
"I didn't!" she interrupted. "We were out walking, and we found
bodies, and Harry started acting wild like this!"
It seemed somebody had finally alerted Dumbledore, because he
into the Entrance Hall. "Harry, what is happening?"
"Come here, sir," Harry said, still holding on to Ginny's wrist,
Dumbledore outside and down the hill. Ron and Hermione followed
"Ginny and I were walking, and we found these bodies- I think
from Azkaban, but I don't think anyone should touch them! Ginny did,
Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted. "Let go of Ginny, please," he said,
his wand out of his robes. "This won't hurt, Ginny."
A faint halo of orange light appeared around Ginny. "You must be an
student," Dumbledore said, "to be able to throw off that charm in
your fourth year."
Ginny was not protesting any more. She was silent, and her lips
set firmly. "Harry, thank you for keeping the other students away
here. You may have foiled Voldemort's first attack. Expelliarmus,"
said matter-of-factly, and Ginny's wand flew out of her pocket and
Dumbledore's hand. "Not that I expect you needed this. Please watch
carefully, all of you, wands out. We are bringing her to the
wing." He pointed Ginny up the hill toward the castle, and followed
behind her. The others trailed behind.
"What's the problem with Ginny, sir?" Ron asked.
"I have some examination to do to be certain," Dumbledore said.
I suspect that your sister is in Azkaban now. Get away from there!"
cried out suddenly and fiercely, to a group of curious students who
begun venturing down the hill to the lake.
Harry, Ron and Hermione sat quietly in a corner of the hospital
staying out of the way. Ron's hands were balled tightly, and
was twisting a strand of her hair. Alastor Moody was there too,
one of the bodies with his wand. All the bodies had been levitated
to the hospital wing by a group of teachers, while Dumbledore
the rest of the staff to round up all the students and keep them in
Great Hall. He had, however, allowed Ron and Hermione to stay with
in the hospital wing, perhaps for comfort, perhaps to keep an eye on
who could spread word about the morning's events.
Moody seemed to come to some conclusion, and there was a muttered
Dumbledore called over. "Harry, come here. Yes, you two also, over
The three of them stood and obediently walked over. Moody began to
a complex series of spells in the background, most of which Harry
never heard. Even Hermione was craning her neck to listen, looking
"You may have guessed this," Dumbledore began. "These seven people
inmates of Azkaban. What you see here is what happens when you are
by a Dementor. If, as we suppose, Voldemort's supporters have taken
in the prison, I expect this was the reward for the Dementors'
I knew several of these people-" he went on, waving vaguely toward
beds. "I was very surprised to see some of them convicted. I suppose
have been vindicated," he said with morbid irony.
"Alastor is at present trying to determine what sort of hex is at
It appears that somebody, a powerful Dark wizard, has exchanged
with Ginny. These bodies were simply used as conduits. This is...
hateful magic," Dumbledore spat. "It requires... hollow souls...
sacrifice... Alastor really knows much more about this area than I
Dumbledore fell silent.
Moody called gruffly. "Come over here. All of you. But stay quiet.
Moody continued quietly when they had arrived by the bed where the
Ginny had found lay. "I'll have to use Imperius. No alternative. We
be able to speak to the girl."
"To Ginny?" Harry said. "Speak to Ginny?" Moody glared at Harry,
Harry shut his mouth.
"Alastor, that's-" Dumbledore began.
"Illegal, yes, yes, you'll have to send me to Azkaban, good luck,"
chuckled grimly. "This man has no soul, Albus."
Dumbledore stood still a moment, then nodded assent.
Moody turned to the breathing corpse, and held out his wand.
he called out. Harry winced.
The body shook. Harry, Ron and Hermione shuddered and stepped back
its eyes opened. Moody began to mouth words, and the body mimicked
words simultaneously. A voice emerged croakily from the body.
"GINNY WEASLEY. THIS IS MOODY. DUMBLEDORE IS WITH ME, SO IS YOUR
THINK A WORD CLEARLY AND WE MAY BE ABLE TO HEAR YOU-"
The body suddenly started to gag and twitch, and Moody closed his
Somehow this stopped the gagging, and the body spoke distinct words
"QUIET. QUIET. SOMEBODY HERE SPEAKING. PLEASE."
Moody waited a moment, then mouthed. The body spoke again.
"ARE YOU GINNY?" A pause, then: "YES. QUIET. JUST A MINUTE."
All of them stood tensely. Harry could not tell how much time
as he waited, desperate to hear the voice speak again. He had to
down an irrational urge to shake the body and beg it to speak.
"WHO'S THERE?" the body croaked suddenly, startling the whole
Moody held up his wand, and once again began to mouth words
the body obediently speaking his words.
"GINNY?" the body mimicked. A pause, then: "YES. WHO'S THERE?"
"THIS IS MOODY. I HAVE DUMBLEDORE WITH ME. ALSO YOUR BROTHER, AND
GRANGER AND HARRY POTTER."
Another silence. "HELLO," the body croaked, seemingly of its own
this time. "Hi," Harry, Ron and Hermione all said uncertainly. Moody
"WHAT DO YOU SEE, GINNY? AND WHO WAS SPEAKING? ARE YOU SAFE?"
"NOBODY KNOWS I'M HERE," the body said now on its own, with
clarity. "I AM IN SOME KIND OF CHAMBER, WITH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE-
ARE ALL SITTING AND WAITING. THEY THINK I AM STILL WAITING TOO- WE
NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK. A MAN JUST TOLD US THAT IF NOBODY MAKES THE
IN THIRTY MINUTES THEY WILL CLOSE THE PATHWAY. I THINK THEY WERE
"Good work, Ginny," Ron whispered. Harry was suppressing a lump in
throat. Ginny was displaying unimaginable courage and
"SIR, DO YOU KNOW WHERE I AM?" the body asked.
Moody looked over at Dumbledore. "No," he whispered.
"She should know!" Harry said suddenly. "Sorry, sir. I think she
be allowed to know everything we can tell her. If she--" Harry
could not find words, and to his fury and embarrassment his hands
shaking like leaves. "--and she didn't know where or why--"
Ron and Hermione looked at him in horror, and he drew a deep breath
try to still himself.
"Go ahead," Dumbledore said to Moody. Moody began to mouth words
"WE AREN'T SURE," came the voice again. "WE BELIEVE YOU MAY BE IN
A pause, then: "I THOUGHT SO." A few moments more, then: "CAN YOU
Moody's face was dark. "WE ARE LOOKING FOR A WAY," he pronounced
"I'M FRIGHTENED!" the voice spoke forcefully. "SOME
"You're doing great, Ginny," Harry muttered.
"HARRY THINKS YOU'RE DOING GREAT," the voice said. Harry looked at
whose face remained a blank.
Moody tugged at the sleeve of Dumbledore's robe, and the two of
walked over to a corner of the room, once again to confer in hushed
Harry, Ron and Hermione stared at the body, blank-eyed but tensed,
on the bed.
Hermione spoke, softly. "Do you suppose there are really students
who would take part in something like this?"
"I'm sure of it," Ron muttered icily. "Malfoy would love it,
he? Let some dirty powerful Death Eater borrow his body for a
Harry was straining to hear what he could of Dumbledore and Moody's
"...must have planned on a way to get them back," he heard Moody
Then some inaudible words, then Dumbledore: "...negotiate for
Not their style."
Then Moody's voice, speaking words which chilled Harry's heart:
risk the few resources we have, for one student..."
"They won't do anything," Harry said absently.
Hermione looked at him. "What, Harry?"
Harry turned to her. "They won't try to rescue her. They know
stopped the attack. She's not important enough."
Ron's lips were thin. "Don't be ridiculous," Hermione said, but her
was without conviction.
Ron called to Dumbledore. "You're going to try to get her back,
Dumbledore turned. Moody had a fierce look on his face. Dumbledore
over. "Ron, of course we will do everything we can-"
Ron crossed his arms. "Don't give me Fudge's answer, sir!" he said,
pleading and fierce at once. "Give me yours!"
Hermione's hands flew up to her mouth. Harry saw something which
him as much as anything he had seen in his life. Albus Dumbledore's
flushed red, and he raised an open hand, which twitched, shaking,
intention to strike Ron hard barely suppressed. "Don't speak to me
that tone, young man," Dumbledore's voice whistled coldly and thinly
his throat. "You are not the first to face losing someone dear. Not
all. If you have found an infallible way of choosing the right thing
do, I give you leave to take over my job. With utmost PLEASURE!" On
last word, he swept his arm back down to his side, but Ron,
the blow, reeled and put his hand to his cheek anyways. Hermione
a deep sob. Her eyes were shut tight. Dumbledore raised his hand
and Harry saw him rub his eyes for a moment, teeth gritted, before
adjusted his glasses on his nose and took a deep breath.
"ARE YOU STILL THERE?" came the croaking voice, cutting through the
"YES, GINNY," Moody mouthed. "SIT TIGHT, WE'RE NOT GOING AWAY."
"This is a waste of time," Ron said, tearful and annoyed. "I
you're not going to sacrifice any bloody great wizard to rescue my
when you'll need them to fight You-Know-Who. I know that. I'll go!"
eyes were wide.
"You'll do no such thing," Dumbledore said, calmer but still
"I am responsible for seeing that every student returns home safely
the end of the school year. There is nothing you can do, and in any
we don't need any more Dark wizards showing up in our hospital
"Knock me out!" Ron said. "Give me the strongest sleeping potion
got, just before I go. Look, sir, with all due respect, you're
about responsibility. I've got my mum to answer to, if I come home
tell her I couldn't do anything for Ginny, when all I had to do-"
arm was raised toward the next hospital bed.
"ACCIO!" Hermione called out suddenly. Harry jumped, startled.
pose was comical as he skidded on one heel, and slammed backwards
into Hermione, who threw her arms around him clumsily. "Don't do
you stupid git!" she cried.
"Let go! I wouldnt've, really!" Ron protested, shaking Hermione
She grasped Ron's hand, not in a gesture of affection, Harry
but to prevent him from going too far away from her. Ron seemed
by this but did not pull away. Harry understood exactly how Hermione
Dumbledore had returned to normal. "Ron, that is admirable. Please
my outburst. But I repeat, there is nothing you can do for her."
"Sir," Hermione said. "Nobody knows what has happened yet except
you and Mr Moody. For all anyone knows we touched the bodies
Ron looked over at Hermione, his eyes wide. "No you don't,
"Shush, you," was her reply.
Harry came forward. "I know the Patronus Charm," he said. "I can
with Dementors. And I can resist Imperius."
"Harry, Ron, Hermione, all of you," Dumbledore said. "We have no
what you would have to deal with once you're there. We still don't
what happened in Azkaban, or who is in control."
"We'll be able to tell you," Ron said. "That will be worth
Moody looked at the three of them, shaking his head. "You're damned
he growled. But Dumbledore was silent, considering.
"You know, sir, don't you, you know that about us?" Harry said
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "Yes, Harry, I do know."
"Know what?" Ron asked.
"That we'd go anyway," Hermione said. "Even if he said no."
Harry continued to look at Dumbledore, who simply nodded.
Moody filled Ginny in on the plan. Ginny carefully described the
as well as the place she occupied in the row of waiting wizards.
prepared three vials of a powerful sleeping potion, which would
anyone taking over the bodies of the three students. Harry, Ron and
could do nothing but wait, nervously rehearsing useful spells as
and Moody went about their preparations. Harry's stomach was in
Moody repeated the instructions to Ginny, reviewing every point.
"YOU WILL ALL SLUMP DOWN WHEN THEY APPEAR," Moody mouthed.
TO STAY ON THE FLOOR AND KEEP YOUR EYES SHUT."
"YES," came the voice again.
Dumbledore nodded to Moody, then to Harry, Ron and Hermione. The
stood up. Ron put his hand on Hermione's shoulder. "Hey," he
"Yes?" Hermione turned to him, looking impatient.
"Uh... happy birthday," Ron said, then leaned over and pecked her
on the cheek.
Hermione smiled weakly. "Oh right. Thanks."
"Yeah, happy birthday, Hermione," Harry said, and kissed Hermione
the cheek nervously in imitation of Ron. A look of consternation
fleetingly on Ron's face, but he apparently thought better of making
issue of it just at that moment.
"Many happy returns, indeed, I hope," Dumbledore said wryly. "Are
ready to take your places?"
The three students took up their positions next to three of the
"Drink this, and you will have seven seconds of consciousness in
to act," Dumbledore said, handing each their vial of potion. We will
to work to find a way to reverse the transference," Dumbledore said,
in the meantime, use any opportunity you may have to find safety. Do
pick any fights."
"No, sir," they all said in unison.
"THEY'RE COMING," Moody mouthed. As Harry tossed back the potion,
saw Ron and Hermione do the same, a set look of determination on
faces. Only then did he realize exactly what he was doing, and the
of sheer terror was so strong that his knees gave way beneath him.
vial shattered on the floor, and it felt like someone else's hands
reaching up to touch the breathing corpse on the bed.
Harry recognized the room immediately- he had seen it in his dream.
knew the faces, he knew the walls. He knew exactly where the master
waiting, enforcing silence and vigilance.
He cried out and swooned, exactly as planned. Just as he was
his eyes, he saw at least one, maybe two others doing the same. "At
came the cold voice of the master.
*Eyes shut*, Harry reminded himself.
"PHOSPHORO!" cried a deep male voice, and there was an achingly
light that shone through Harry's eyelids. Hermione certainly had the
of the draw, Harry thought.
"What is-" came the cold voice. Harry opened his eyes, facing the
who was staggering blindly. "Stupefy!" he cried, and the cry was
by others behind him. The master reeled. Harry's hand- an eerily
sort of hand- rooted around in the thick robes. A wand! Harry pulled
out and repeated the spell, his voice booming in a way that startled
The master was blown back against the wall, unconscious. Harry
wand out, ready to aim again. Three others, he thought, there should
three standing, four down.
"I'm Hermione," said a tall man, almost in Hagrid's league, with a
"Ron," said an emaciated woman.
"Ginny," said a taller woman, equally wasted-looking.
"Harry," Harry said, and looked down at himself. He was small,
shorter than his usual self, but had broad, hairy hands.
Hermione found the wand in her new robes, and began uttering a
Charm on each of the five stunned bodies.
"Weirrrd," cooed the she-Ron.
"Tell them we're okay, Ginny," Harry said. She had had the most
at enunciating her thoughts through the conduit.
"Already have," Ginny said. "They're glad to hear it. I can't
you're all here," she said, her voice breaking.
"Yes, I expect it is pretty hard to believe," said the imposing
"We should get moving," she/he said. "We don't want to be found here
they start wondering what's happened."
"Wait," Harry said, although he felt suddenly apprehensive about
Hermione. "Everybody remember to watch for Dementors. We have to
on positive thoughts, to avoid waking their appetites. Everyone take
minute to think back and imagine the happiest times of your
"Won't have to think back too far, any of us, I expect," Ginny
and anyone watching at that moment would have been treated to the
of four prison-hardened Dark wizards blushing and shuffling
They were silent a few moments. She-Ron sighed, which caused giant
Hermione to chuckle, which caused Ginny to snort and Harry to splurt
at the overwhelming absurdity of the scene. "I think we're ready,"
said, and they filed out of the door and tiptoed stealthily down the
The students climbed a stairway at the end of the corridor,
hoping nobody would be coming down at the same time. The little
there was came from faint glowing lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
cast a sickly blue light that seemed designed to maximize the dank,
cold of the halls of Azkaban. Great gargoyles stood at the end of
corridor, every one with its face blasted off. As they went, they
everything they saw back to Moody and Dumbledore, practising their
of silent speech through the bizarre conduit back to Hogwarts.
At the top of the stairwell there was a window. They had reached
level. The windows were heavily barred, but there were more than
bars keeping the window sealed, as rain pattered and ran down an
surface. There was an open yard outside, then a fortress wall. Harry
corpses in the yard. Some were human- some wearing the robes of
some wearing heavy purple cloaks. There also appeared to be corpses
Dementors. Harry had never imagined one could be killed- they seemed
like living things to begin with.
"There's been fighting recently," Ron said. "That's good- maybe
find friends here."
Beyond the wall the fortress went on. Towers rose in the distance,
they were not visible in the rain and mist.
"Can we get outside?" Harry whispered.
"I don't know if I want to," Hermione said. "Who knows what's
out from those towers."
"Well, we look like we belong here, don't we?" Ron said.
"HOW MANY TOWERS DO YOU SEE, HARRY?" said a voice from the center
"Three," Harry reported back.
"WHAT DIRECTION ARE YOU FACING?"
Harry took out his wand and performed the Four-Point spell. "West",
enunciated in his mind.
"YOU ARE AT THE FAR EASTERN END OF THE FORTRESS. THERE ARE FOUR
YOU ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EASTERNMOST. THE NEXT NEAREST TOWER IS
THE WARDEN'S CHAMBERS ARE. CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING THERE?"
"No," Harry thought. "All the windows look dark."
"TRY TO GET TO THAT TOWER. WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET YOU OUT THROUGH
WARDEN'S FIREPLACE. DUMBLEDORE'S CONTACTED ARTHUR WEASLEY, AND HE
BE ABLE TO RE-OPEN THE FLOO."
"You didn't tell him about-"
"WE JUST TOLD HIM SOME STUDENTS," Moody reassured him. "NO NAMES.
Moody went on. "IF YOU CAN'T GET THERE, WE'VE THOUGHT OF TWO WAYS TO
YOU OUT. THE FIRST ONE REQUIRES A VERY EXPERIENCED WIZARD. IF YOU
ANY AURORS ALIVE THERE, THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT."
"What about the other one?"
"LAST RESORT," Moody said. "DUMBLEDORE'S DEAD SET AGAINST IT."
"IT WOULD ONLY GET TWO OF YOU OUT."
"Well, let's do that one, at least there'd only be two of us."
"NO," Moody answered. "IT'S A DARK SACRIFICIAL SPELL. LIKE THE ONE
GOT YOU THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. THE OTHER TWO WOULD DIE."
Harry didn't report this exchange to the others.
The group climbed to the next floor. There was another corridor.
one appeared to be a cell block. There were about a dozen great
all of which were wide open and blasted, but the block appeared to
deserted. The four moved quietly and warily through the dark
Here all the torches had been extinguished- light came only from the
at either end.
At the other end was a blessed sight- a great entrance hall, fifty
across, with a great vaulting entranceway at either end. The high
doors were wide open to the wind outside. They moved toward the
then Hermione put her great arm out and stopped the group in their
She shooed them into the mouth of another corridor.
Four Dementors were entering through the gateway. Harry felt a
chill at the pit of his stomach, but he held up. "No fear," he
to the others. "No fear, and they won't smell us. I won't use a
unless I have no choice left. Think only good, and they won't notice
think only good."
The four students walked as close to casually as possible out of
mouth of their corridor, and made their way toward the arch that the
had just passed through. The Dementors, many yards away, expressed
interest in them. The four passed through the archway and out into
They were outside the fortress walls, but this was hardly a
as there were only a few meters of rocky ground before the island
into the turbulent, crashing sea. The cold was biting as the four
against the outside of the fortress walls and trudged westward along
"GOOD," Moody's words came through Harry's consciousness. "YOU ARE
FOR THE LANDING, AND THE MAIN SEA-GATE. THE WARDEN'S TOWER IS
THROUGH THE MAIN GATE AND ACROSS THE GREAT YARD."
The sea-gate was a great, vaulting archway over an inlet, easily
enough for a sizable boat to pass under. There was a large iron
that kept the inlet closed to boats, but on the shore on each side
was a small man-sized arch that allowed entry on foot to the landing
Harry, the smallest of the four, peered through the archway. The
had many mooring-posts and at the end another great gate, blasted
like the others. Taking deep breaths, the four marched with as much
as possible toward the gate.
"Hey!" came a hissing voice. "Fools! Over here!"
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. There was an open passage that
with the walkway of the landing. A worn-looking old man, clearly an
beckoned them to the passageway. They obeyed, remaining silent.
"Damn you!" he said in a stern whisper. "Who knows how many could
watching up there?" he said, indicating the tower. "Stay back here,
keep yourselves quiet." The old man peeered nervously around the
"What block are you from, anyway? Never mind," he interrupted
"Here they come."
Out the main gate came a troop of Dementors, keeping some kind of
formation. The old man, amazingly, jumped out from the hiding-place
waved to them.
"Cum mortuis in lingua mortua," the old man uttered, touching his
apple with a wand. He then began addressing the Dementors.
the old man shouted, and at that sound, Harry felt a searing cold
from inside his bones. He saw the others shuddering too, with each
"Friends! I am your new commander!" the old man shouted, walking
the troop of Dementors, who had stopped in their tracks. "His
will reward you like your masters never could! Follow us! Join your
in the East Tower. See how they have fed well-"
"STUPEFY!" called another voice, a woman's voice this time, but
vigorous than the decrepit inmate. The old man suddenly froze and
Across the inlet, Harry saw a woman tap her own throat, and again
the searing cold that spiked through his marrow with every
"Go to it then," said the new voice. "Feed, if you want!"
Horribly, the Dementors broke their formation and began to swarm
inert corpse of the old man, pushing each other aside to get at his
The sight was too much for Harry. His head was swimming in the
fear and cold that the Dementors inspired in him. Ron, Hermione and
were slowly retreating down the passage.
"STUPEFY!" came the voice again, and Harry was horrified to see
fall to the ground. Ron and Ginny fell to their knees, trying to
her. The cry came again, and now Ginny fell.
"You are fortunate indeed," the death-cold voice came again.
for everyone today. See, loyalty is advantageous."
"EXPECTO PATRONEM," Harry called as the Dementors began to advance
the alley. There was a great white light, and the Dementors
The great stag gambolled up the alleyway, and the Dementors
Harry caught a clear glimpse of the woman, who was now advancing
them, ignoring the fleeing Dementors rushing past her. She was not
in the inmates' robes. She wore a heavy purple cloak.
she cried, causing Harry's wand to fly out of his hand. "Avada-"
"STOP!" Harry screamed. "STOP!"
The woman stopped in her tracks, but kept her wand out. "If you
want to make nice and be a treat for the guards, then you die right
That's the rules. You were warned."
"I WASN'T!" Harry yelled, grasping at whatever words he could find.
NOT WHO YOU THINK! I'M FROM HOGWARTS!"
The woman's eyebrows rose, but her wand was still out. "Explain
"Are you with Voldemort?" Harry said, breathing hard.
"Filth," she said, and swung her wand aside and stunned Ron.
"Don't," Harry said, pleading. "We are here by accident. There were
at Hogwarts... we touched them and appeared in these bodies. We are
"SHE'S AN AUROR. IT'S HECATE DURELL," said the voice at the centre
"You're Hecate Durell?" Harry said, surprising himself. The name
nothing to him.
The woman smiled unpleasantly. "Every prisoner knows that. Try a
"FORGIVE ME, HARRY," came the voice. "IMPERIO."
"Katie," Harry found himself saying, enitirely involuntarily. "This
The woman blinked, and her wand arm slackened just a little.
"Nobody calls me that."
"I do," Harry spoke again, in Moody's words. "Take these people to
He is not lying. They are from Hogwarts."
There was a silence. "You're from Hogwarts, are you? Have you
Harry waited, then realized he was free to speak himself. "Uh-
"Carry the women. I'll take the big one. Be double-quick about it,"
woman said impatiently.
"You know her?" Harry thought. "YES", came Moody's voice. "I USED
"Welcome to the officers' mess," Hecate Durrell said bitterly as
entered a chamber, three floors up in the gate tower, where perhaps
purple-cloaked Aurors were gathered. Some dozed on the floor. Others
eating small meals of prison rations. On the way up, Harry relayed
from Moody, no longer holding him under Imperius, and reported
Durrell's answers back.
"There are about forty of us officers left," she informed Harry.
been holding the gate tower against the inmates for over a month.
we've got the rations store. Some of the Dementors have turned. Not
of them. We can still keep some of them happy," she said wryly, and
thought of the mob that swarmed on the old man.
"Is Voldemort here?" Harry asked, for once from his own
"No," Hecate said. "We don't think so. But we have no doubt that he
on his way. A rumour of his rebirth somehow got to the inmates. That
them courage. They hadn't tasted that for years. That was half of
it took for them to break out. Some of the stronger ones got some
on their side, and they rose up. We had no defense against that.
won't fight each other, whether they're with us or with the inmates.
go with whoever feeds 'em better. That's our one advantage. There
fewer of us, but there are more of them to feed on!" She grinned
"But when he arrives..." She trailed off.
Harry explained how he and the others came to the prison. Hecate
only once during the story- "Nobody in Azkaban was innocent!" she
asserted in a hate-filled whisper.
"Wait here," she instructed when Harry had finished, and went over
confer with a knot of Aurors. Harry didn't like the way they looked
the four of them. Their looks alternated between spiteful and
Hecate came back and reanimated Ginny, Ron and Hermione, under the
eye of a half-dozen of the prison officers. The officers relaxed
guard some when they saw the weakened and confused expressions on
faces as they looked around.
"Where are we?" Ron muttered groggily.
"We're okay, for now," Harry said. "These are the officers of the
They've been holding out here, in this tower."
"Do you know how to get us back?" Hermione asked.
"Would have left ourselves, if we knew, don't you think?" Hecate
with unpleasant sarcasm. "Not exactly the sharpest lot Hogwarts has
The four looked stung by this. "There is a way," Harry said
"There's a spell that can reverse the transference. Moody says you
have the ability to do it."
"He's figured that one out, has he?" Hecate said. Harry was really
exasperated by her tone. "Yes, I know the spell."
"Well... can we go, then?" Ron asked timidly.
The four were sitting on the floor, and Harry noticed that the
had been looking at them appraisingly.
"No," Hecate said finally. "Not yet."
"What's the-" Harry began.
"Four nice young wizards that look just like Dark wizards," Hecate
"That's handy. Just the kind of spies we need. You can find us a way
the warden's tower. Well, you can try, anyway."
Harry relayed these words back to Moody. "FORGIVE ME AGAIN, HARRY",
the voice, then Harry felt his mouth moving again, forming Moody's
"Katie," Harry parrotted. "Don't hold our students hostage. They've
"Don't presume to tell us about trouble, Alastor," Hecate shouted,
if Harry were a wall through which she was trying to make herself
"We've been abandoned here."
"You chose to do this job, Katie," Harry mouthed. "You knew the
These children are innocent. They came to save their fellow. They
do anything for you. Let them go."
"They can still earn their way out," Hecate said. "They may do
"Katie," Harry said, his voice involuntarily adopting a patient
"One of them's Harry Potter."
Hecate was silent a moment. "All right, then," she said finally.
can go. The others stay."
"That's him," Harry said, pointing at Ginny. Thinking at first that
voice had echoed, he was amazed to look over and see Ginny pointing
"He's lying, that's him," came the voice and the echo once
Hecate smiled with hateful irony. "So it's one of those situations,
it? Can we just get on with it then. You'll have plenty of
for heroics. Let's march."
"Damn you to hell, Katie," came the words from Harry's mouth. She
smiled. "Too late, Alastor," she said. "I'm already on my way
The four students shivered with cold and despair as the Aurors
them. A gruff man, looking like an even less affable twin of
laboriously rehearsed with the four the identities of the bodies
occupied. They each learned the names of their corporeal landlords,
well as their biographies, associations and prison records.
"When you don't know something, just act sick and confused," he
"Most of 'em are anyways, after all those years with Dementors."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny simply repeated the Auror's instructions
It seemed ridiculous to Harry that they should be rehearsing like
for what was essentially a pointless suicide mission, undertaken
to satisfy the vindictive desperation of the abandoned Aurors.
that the students knew their parts as well as they would, Hecate led
down the stairs toward the bottom of the tower.
Harry saw Hermione grasp Ron's arm, and they hung back a few steps,
in an urgent whisper, until one of the Aurors went back up and
them forward. Ron nodded to her as they rushed down to catch up with
others, Hermione's great bearded face twisted and near tears. Harry
bother to ask what was wrong.
There was a great expanse of open yard between the gate tower and
warden's tower. Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny peered around the
of the archway, into the yard. Behind them in the shadows Hecate and
two colleagues were standing, silent and hidden. There was not a
moving. It was a great no-man's-land between the Aurors' last
and the high tower held by the mutinous inmates. There were corpses
too, a couple of Aurors caught running one way, a couple of inmates
running the other. Some of them, Dementor-kissed, were still
belabouredly in the rain and cold while their bodies slowly froze to
death to which their minds had already departed. Others simply lay,
staring in the manner Harry recognized as the mark of the Avada
"Now we'll wait for you back here after nightfall. Find out how
are still alive in there, whether there's an unguarded way to the
You'll run across there," Hecate said. "We'll throw curses at you as
run. But we'll miss. Unless any of you turn around to come back,"
added, glaring. "Then you'll see our aim is actually quite
Harry had an urge to turn a stunning curse on Hecate, just for the
of it. Each of her sadistic threats made him angrier and angrier.
you," Harry muttered. "This isn't fair."
Hecate scowled. "Welcome to the war," she said. "It ain’t fair to
Four deep, deep breaths, then a desperate run. Out of the gate
came bolts of purple, blue, green. Curses came echoing off the great
walls around them. They were under open, raining, watchful sky,
stupidly across the yard toward the hold of the Death Eaters. The
missed, but not all of them missed by a lot. "Hey!" came voices from
warden's tower. A gate at the base of the tower was opened. Might
folly actually work? Harry thought. The four ran at the open gate,
passed under the arch. A couple of inmates were waiting there.
one of them said admiringly. "You made it! Just in time, too!"
"Uh huh," Ron said, winded.
"Come up here, quick," the man said, leading then to a stairway,
mirror twin of the one they had just descended on the other side.
the stairs came a wizard that Harry recognized as the cold-voiced
from the chamber. "You're alive!" the master said, eyes wide. "We
sure we'd lost you. Looks like the bloody Aurors must have found us.
Lordship will be disappointed about the plan," he said. "Hope he's
*too* disappointed, if you get my meaning," he said with a
Harry breathed an inward sigh of relief. Hermione's memory charm
clearly done its job.
"He'll expect a briefing when he comes," the first inmate said.
When he comes? Harry thought. He looked over and caught Hermione's
"Well, the bloody Aurors can have their fun, anyways," the master
"They've not got long now. Looks like they got Haskell with their
Following the group up the stairs, they soon found themselves in
hall, a richly-decorated one this time, probably used for official
and Ministry visits. It was occupied by dozens of inmates, some
civilian robes over their uniforms, obviously plundered from the
quarters. They wore bits of jewellery and fancy silverware as crude
and badges of rank. A very old-looking wizard stood on a raised
at the front of the room and tapped his throat with a wand. He wore
prawn-forks pinned on his lapel. He spoke, and his voice rung out
"Brothers! Sisters!" he announced. "The time is upon us. The
is all but ours, and his Lordship is ready to take possession. I
just had words with him, and he will be coming this very evening, to
us again, his *true* disciples! Let us prepare the way for him.
with his Lordship's help we'll finish off the Aurors. Shall it be
for them?" He was smiling. The assembled inmates roared approval.
came the voice, trilling with rhetorical flourish, "shall it be
damnation? Torments equal and commensurate with every one inflicted
us?" The assembly roared even louder and longer. Harry suddenly
that it would be wise to join in and he punched Ron and Hermione on
arm as he started to whoop enthusiastically.
"Whhooohooo!" Ginny shouted, suddenly perking up.
"Bloody right!" Ron yelled.
"Hooray!" Hermione boomed out.
"To his Lordship, and life everlasting!" the announcer called out,
his arm high, and displaying the mark on his wrist. The mob repeated
words, as well as the eerie salute, and the four students followed
The master, appearing so menacing before, was clapping and
like an overexcited Quidditch fan. Tears were in his eyes. He leaned
to Harry and whispered. "Bloody brilliant, ennit? Never thought I'd
to see the day," he said.
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Look!" the announcer cried now. "Look, out to sea, past the
There was a rush toward the few windows. Only Hermione stood high
to see over the crowd pressing toward the windows. "What is it?" Ron
"Shh, don't know," Hermione said.
"He is coming!" the announcer called, his voice rising in
"Oooh!" Hermione said. "There's... there's a great big wave!" She
Harry and lifted him up, with startling ease. He could see now: a
white swell was rising up, and driving toward the sea-gate. Harry
that as the wave grew out at sea, a pain was intensifying in his
Voldemort was there; and he would surely know Harry was near when he
"Let us meet him!' called a voice. "We will lay the bodies of the
at his feet!" There was a frenzied rush toward the doors. The
were struggling with each other to be the first down the stairs.
swept her arms across Ron, Ginny and Harry's shoulders and
them through the bustling crowd. "This way," she hissed, pushing
along one edge of the corridor, trying to keep them from being
They held themselves back as the crowd pressed past them. Hermione
them upward along the stairs, one at a time, as the inmates jostled
In the excitement they managed to get themselves one whole storey
up, where the crowd was thinner. Moody's voice came into Harry's
explaining that he was trying to guide Hermione to the warden's
With any luck, the office would be abandoned in the excitement. "SO
FOR NOW, PLEASE," he added.
Hermione led them down a corridor. A few inmates ran past them,
at them and laughing as if it were a New Year's party. At the end of
corridor was a great oak door, cracked and half off its hinge. They
the door, and beyond was... nothing. The entire back wall had been
away. There was no trace of a fireplace, only a vast charred hole
the rain and wind came in, soaking the rich carpet and
There was a great CRASH. The four ran back along the corridor,
At the other end, there was a small arrow-slit. Harry peered
The wave had crashed against the sea-gate, causing the iron gate to
Below, in the yard, a battle was in progress. The Aurors had
their tower as the wave crashed against it, and Harry could see
wave and then another forming out to sea, ready to batter the gate
to a heap. Water was flooding into the yard, while the desperate
and the emboldened Death Eaters fought an almost comical-looking
ankle-deep in green water.
"What'll we do?" Ginny cried. "We're caught up here."
Hermione swallowed, and spoke. "Two of us are going back," she said
Ron turned his head suddenly to look at her. She nodded at him, and
Harry was startled. "Moody told me-"
"He told me, too," Hermione said. "And he told me the spell. You
Ginny are going back."
Harry's heart seized in his chest. "NONSENSE!" he shouted.
"What are you-" Ginny began.
Ron spoke up. "Hermione and I worked it out, Gin. There's a spell
will get someone back, but there's got to be somebody to do the
"And the one who says the spell dies," Harry said quietly, staring
Hermione. Ginny's eyes were wide. "Ron, no-" she said, but her voice
Hermione spoke. "We can't let them get Harry Potter, can we? You're
hope. And Ginny, you're the one we came for in the first place," she
with a sadly ironic smile.
"Don't talk rot, Hermione," Harry muttered unevenly. "We're not
you here to be-"
"That's the beauty of it, Harry," Ron said. "You won't be."
Harry suddenly began gasping. There was a commotion filtering up
stairs from the lower floors of the tower. "Don't make us do
ridiculous like Stun you, Harry," Hermione said. "We want to say
Harry slumped down to the floor, unable to speak, barely able to
through his clouded eyes. He sat, back against the wall, and Ginny
down next to him, speechless and numb.
"Goodbye, Harry," Hermione said with forced evenness. "Thank you
In front of them Hermione and Ron knelt, in their laughably
forms. Harry watched Hermione, her great clumsy hands fussing
delicately. Ron was looking over at her, his eyes dry but wide.
hell, Hermione," he said to her. "I just wish I could see you proper
You're so pretty."
Hermione's composure suddenly broke. She smiled but a baritone sob
from her throat. "I- I love you, Ron," she said, not able to look at
"Yeah," Ron said. "Me too, you, I mean." His voice was strangled
his small hands were starting to shake. "We have to do this or I
be able to speak," Ron said, inhaling deeply.
"I love you both," Harry said. When he said it, he thought it
weak and stupid.
"Happy birthday, Hermione," Ginny barely squeaked. "I love you,
"Tell Mum..." Ron whispered. Ginny nodded.
There were shouts approaching from below. Harry watched Hermione
over him, intoning. His eyes were so obscured that he could not have
the great bearded giant she was now from the sleeping girl waiting
vain back in the Hogwarts hospital wing. Nor could he distinguish
pain in his forehead from the stinging of his eyes. He did not want
blink away the tears- hearing alone was bad enough.
"No Ron, that's wrong," he heard her say. "Neque luna per NOC-tem.
The incantation started over again, and this time, Harry felt a
feverish chill wash through him. The noise and shouting from
swelled louder. He shut his eyes tightly.
And opened them again.
"Harry." A very gentle voice. He tipped his head up. It was Ginny.
was smiling. "You were asleep."
Had there been a dream-? No, this was the hospital wing. But how
"Come here," she said. Harry got up from the bed, a heavy
insistently trying to pull him back down. Moody was over there.
came upon him like a stone wall collapsing. "Oh-" his breath
"No, Harry, no!" said Ginny, grabbing Harry's arms. "Come
This must have been the dream. Across the way was Hermione- actual
sitting straight up in a chair, next to a bed where Ron- actual Ron-
eyes closed but breathing. Ron's left arm was flopping off the bed,
Hermione was grasping his hand tightly in both of hers, clutched in
"We're all right, Harry," she said weakly. Harry was speechless. He
by her chair and threw his arms around her shoulders, finally
why she did that all the time. Harry barked loudly into her upper
It took a couple of minutes to regain his composure enough to lift
face out of the sleeve of her robes.
Harry saw that her face was blanched and drawn. "I was dead,
she said, smiling ironically. "I'm doing better now, thanks,
I'm still a bit cold."
"How can you-"
"Hecate found us. The Aurors fought their way... She, and another,
did the spell on us. They took..." Hermione broke off.
"Tell me about it later," Harry said.
"Yeah," Hermione nodded.
Harry turned. Through all this, Moody was sitting silently in a
deep in thought. Harry thought better of plying him with questions
at that moment. Ginny sat patiently on the bed next to Hermione and
Harry sat down beside her. The three sat in silence, watching Ron,
for his eyes to open.
If you are young enough, you can travel to hell and back and then
and smile and gossip again only a few hours later, as if nothing had
Moody had left the hospital wing some time before, carting the
of the unfortunate innocent prisoners away with Madam Pomfrey's
Madam Pomfrey seemed to understand enough of what had gone on to
off from shooing the students away.
Harry could tell something had changed. For one thing, Hermione and
sat together, cross legged on Ron's bed, not three inches apart, but
not touching either. Harry wondered if he and Ginny looked any
together. He thought not, but he was sure Ron would deny he was
any differently too if he were to ask. The enormous good fortune
had in being together that evening, even the very words they had all
to each other that day, seemed much too big and strange to mention
that they were safe.
Dumbledore came into the ward. "Good evening," Dumbledore said. "I
been having some interesting discussions with representatives from
Ministry. The bodies were brought through a sort of passage that was
by the Durmstrang ship last year," Dumbledore explained. "Somebody
Durmstrang seems to have, er, neglected to close it. So we have a
involving Azkaban inmates, Hogwarts students, a faculty member at
and apparently Voldemort. I think we will be having some visits and
lot of questions soon. Er, in any case, I imagine this sort of thing
not on your mind tonight," he added. "I wanted to advise you that I
arranged to have the four of you excused from classes for the
of the week. And, Ron, Hermione, if you have any questions, please
free to see me..."
"What sort of questions, sir?" Ron asked.
Dumbledore was silent a moment, scratching his chin. "You were
dead for approximately a minute and a half. It was the most obscure
Dark magic that brought you back here. Hecate Durrell obviously
up some extraordinary knowledge in Azkaban. Mercifully, your...
was brief, but I'm not altogether sure how that will affect
Ron and Hermione looked at each other a moment. "We feel fine,
"Well, that's excellent then. I... if in the morning, after a
sleep... Well, take all the time you want here, before going back to
dormitories. Madam Pomfrey will let you alone. Professor McGonagall
covering for you tonight, Hermione."
"Thank you, sir," the four muttered. Dumbledore turned to go.
Harry said, stopping him.
Harry looked over at Ron and Hermione, aware suddenly that it was
his business to ask, but went on. "We've been taught that you can't
dead and come back. How did they-" Harry trailed off, regretting
he had spoken just now. Hermione was biting her lip.
"Hm," Dumbledore said. Harry could tell he was considering his
carefully. "This is the heart of the Dark Arts, Harry. No, you
come back from death. But magical death is a little different from
sort of death that happens if a boulder falls on you. It's just as
but... more malleable. Hecate and her fellows took on your deaths,"
went on, now speaking to Ron and Hermione. "Having nothing else to
Dumbledore was quiet, but looked as if he still had words to add.
believe that it is justifiable to use the Dark Arts, to save lives.
my opinion, that is the first step toward Voldemort's error, in
to erase death. Voldemort survives because we all, to varying
will compromise with evil. I am... in the minority in this opinion.
among my associates." Dumbledore looked away, and began to shuffle.
was strange to see this adolescent mannerism in Dumbledore, and
realized that even the wisest have troubles in their hearts they did
like to expose.
It was Hermione who asked the question. "Sir, is it compromising--
it had been you rather than Hecate there, would you have saved
Dumbledore inhaled deeply, and faced Hermione square. "No," he
"Please try to understand-" He stopped speaking. He held her eyes
a few more seconds. "It is complicated. All of us wind up with
hands," he said finally. "Please see me if anything happens." He
and walked out of the room.
Hermione looked blank for a few moments, then slumped sideways
Ron, who caught her and held her. He made an awkward face but did
let go. Harry felt Ginny grasp his hand. Hers was cold. With the
hand, he took off his glasses and stuffed them in a pocket of his
The world was cloudy. He didn't want to see any more.
THE END – to be continued in "Feather