The Sugar Quill
Author: Fab4Mum (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Gift At Christmas  Chapter: Chapter Three - 'Til Death Do Us Part
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N – Thank-you to my beta reader, Suburban House Elf, for helping me trim the fat off of this chapter and getting it into shape. It was pretty obese, so it really needed the trimming! And a Valentine thanks to my hubby for suggesting putting Dobby in.

A GIFT AT CHRISTMAS

Chapter Three – 'Til Death Do Us Part

January came and went and Harry became increasingly dependant on his mum's locket. He continued to speak to it whenever he thought no one was looking. At first he kept it tucked in his pants pocket while he went to classes, but later on he took to wearing it around his neck, hiding it underneath his shirt. It was weaving a web of sickness about him, drawing its strands tighter and tighter around his mind. It clouded his head with thoughts of morbid things, and he found himself daydreaming quite frequently.

Previously, the mental luxury of daydreaming had been reserved for such times as when Professor Binns droned on in one of his classroom lectures or Professor Trelawney glided between tables in her overheated classroom. Recently though, his mind would wander at the slightest notice. He obsessed on what it must have been like for Sirius falling through the veil, or how Moaning Myrtle felt when she died in the gaze of the Basilisk. He sought Myrtle out a few times to talk to her about it, which pleased her a little. But as she was a moody ghost and became offended easily, it was hard for him to learn much from her.

Up until the beginning of February, his distractedness had gone largely unnoticed, except for what Ron and Ginny had seen over the holidays. Things hadn't improved much with Ginny after they returned to Hogwarts, but with classes and Quidditch practices in full swing, Harry assumed that no one except Ginny was aware of it. However, his need to satisfy his curiosity about death and dark things led him eventually to seek out other students. This drew unwanted attention to the transformation his thoughts were undergoing.

Hermione had become concerned about a rather obvious development in Harry's habits. He had begun spending time with Cho, meeting her between classes and sitting with her in the library. Hermione grabbed Ron's arm one morning after breakfast to get his attention when Harry had left the table.

"Hermione, wha – " Ron exclaimed as she herded him past the flow of class-bound students to just beyond the door of the Great Hall. "What is it? What'd I do now?"

Hermione stopped in front of the broom closet. "Ssh – nothing! Honestly Ron, it's not always about you."

"Funny, I thought whenever you started pushing me about, it was always about me."

"It's about Harry," she said secretively.

"I take that back. Come to think of it, it's always about Harry."

"Sorry. I didn't want him to see us talking about him. Not that he'd notice lately, at any rate."

"You've lost me again."

"Don't be so thick. You have to have seen his odd behavior the past few weeks."

"Hermione. Odd is normal for 'The Boy Who Lived.'"

"Be serious, Ron. You mean you haven't noticed him spending a lot of time with Cho? I mean, a lot of time?"

"Sure. But 'The Boy Who Lived' is also 'The Boy Who Doesn't Want To Talk About It.'"

"Ron – "

"He's probably also 'The Boy Who Wants A Girlfriend.' So what's so unusual about that?"

"Ron – "

"Okay, alright, so I have seen him with Cho. So what do you want me to do about it?"

"I don't know. This means something, but I'm not sure what. Harry doesn't go after girls. Girls go after Harry."

"And you think that's a problem? Hermione, have you started writing that book yet about 'The Teenage Mind'? Because I don't see how his going after Cho again is anything to be worried about."

"I can't put my finger on it. After breaking up with Cho, it looked like he was beginning to like Ginny. Now he's obviously changed his mind about Cho, even though her behavior was so confusing last year. And it's as if he's flaunting it all in front of Ginny. It's just not like him. Just keep your eyes and ears open in case he says or does anything else unusual."

Ron rolled his eyes. "Right. How am I supposed to tell?"

Hermione sighed. "Harry would tell us if something was wrong, wouldn't he? I just don't understand it."

"Sometimes I think Harry doesn't understand, either." Hermione looked at Ron in amazement at his profession of insight. "What?" he responded. "C'mon, let's get to class."

As it turned out, Hermione and Ron hadn't been the only ones to notice Harry following after Cho. The next day Ron found Ginny and Hermione together in the common room after Gryffindor's Quidditch practice, their heads bent together conspiratorially.

"There you are, Ginny," Ron greeted them. "You took off so fast after practice I didn't see you."

"Well, you're not the only one who isn't seeing me," said Ginny bitterly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Hermione glared at Ron. "It means she's seen Harry hanging about with Cho, too."

"Oh." Ron flopped onto a chair by the fireplace facing them.

"I don't really mind so much," said Ginny resignedly. "Or I wouldn't mind if he would just come out and say something about it. But ever since Christmas he's been – very – well, different."

"That does it,” said Hermione. "Someone needs to say something to him. Soon. Tomorrow."

Ginny and Hermione turned and stared at Ron together.

"Me? Oh, no!" Ron got up and headed for the stairs to the boys' dormitory. "I'm not the one who thinks Harry's doing anything wrong. And talking to him about it won't help, either."

"Ronald – " Hermione began.

"That's okay, Hermione," Ginny interrupted her. "Ron's right. Harry would only be defensive and that would make things worse."

Ron turned abruptly. "Did I hear you – say – Ron is right?"

Hermione shrugged. "I suppose it was inevitable."

"I'm right," Ron repeated, shaking his head as he climbed up the stairs. "Cor, I must be dreaming . . . "

They didn't have long to wait before things took a turn. Ginny came running down the hallway after classes the next afternoon and nearly collided with Hermione as she was heading up the stairs towards the common room.

"Hermione!" Ginny exclaimed. "You'll never believe it – "

"What? Ginny, what is it?"

"I've got a note – Cho gave me a note – "

"What? Catch your breath and tell me."

Ginny held up a square of folded parchment. "Cho slipped me a note. She gave it to me just now as she was headed out to the pitch for practice. She wants to meet with us tonight. You and me. After practice is over."

"Where?"

"On the landing up in the Astronomy Tower." Ginny opened the note and Hermione looked over her shoulder at it. "It says she wants to go someplace quiet to talk. Someplace where Harry won't see us."

They gave each other wide-eyed looks.

Hermione and Ginny leaned on the wall at the edge of the Astronomy Tower, looking out over the front lawn towards the Quidditch Pitch. It was almost sunset and the shadows were stretching out in long, gray fingers across the clearing. Finally they saw what they had been waiting for. Cho and her teammates were emerging from the changing room. About halfway towards the Castle they saw Cho wave to her friends and break into a jog.

“Here she comes!” pointed Ginny, and the two of them lowered themselves to the stone floor and sat with their backs to the wall. Presently, they heard the quick tap of footsteps running up the tower stairs. Cho stepped out onto the landing, looking anxious. She joined them at the wall and sat down next to them.

“I’m glad you came,” she said. “I was afraid you wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure you would want to talk to me. I didn’t know if you would be mad at me – especially you, Ginny – “

“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” said Ginny, giving Hermione a quick glance.

“Well, you know, last year I liked Harry – a lot." She paused to catch her breath. "I think maybe I was trying to find someone to be with because I really missed Cedric. And I thought – I thought Harry liked me too, but it was really hard to tell.”

“Go on,” said Hermione, nodding encouragingly.

“Well, we broke it off, and I’ve been with Michael for awhile, so I hadn’t thought about Harry much.”

Ginny shifted her position a little. She appeared to be growing restless with Cho’s explanation.

“But then after everyone got back from the holidays, Harry started talking to me again. It really surprised me. I was really – flattered – at first.” Cho seemed quite embarrassed. She added hastily, “But it’s not what you think - I mean, it wasn’t what I thought, either. Harry hasn’t been talking to me because he likes me. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”

“Well then, why – “ Ginny started, but Hermione gave her a little nudge.

She looked at both of them with a serious expression. “It’s very strange, actually. Last year I tried to talk to Harry about Cedric, because he was the last one to see Cedric before he – you know – “

Ginny and Hermione nodded sympathetically.

“Whenever I tried to ask him about what happened that night, Harry wouldn’t say much. Or I should say, he didn’t want to talk about it at all. So the weird part about it is, now all of a sudden he wants to tell me everything. He wants to talk about how Cedric died, and what his last words were. At first it was helpful, and I was glad he told me. It sort of put my mind at ease, you know? But now that’s all he wants to talk about.”

“He wants to talk about Cedric?” Ginny asked.

“Yeah, he talks about Cedric. But mostly he wants to talk about – well – death.”

“Death?” Hermione and Ginny asked simultaneously.

“Well, yeah. Death and what it must feel like to die, mostly. It’s getting pretty irritating.”

“Ohh, poor Harry,” moaned Hermione.

“So I just thought you both should know. I feel silly for thinking he might like me again. And I don’t know why he’s so keen on talking about death and dying and all. It’s awfully creepy.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Hermione. “He hasn’t said anything to anyone else. At least not that I know of.”

“That’s not the last of it,” added Cho. “I think Harry’s been sneaking out to the Forbidden Forest at night.”

“What?” gasped Ginny. “Why?”

Cho shrugged. "I don't know. He’s been talking about wanting to visit the Thestrals, which would make sense if he likes dead things.” Cho shuddered. “Something’s really wrong with Harry. He’s behaving very peculiarly.”

“That’s an understatement,” said Ginny, exchanging a fearful look with Hermione.

The next morning Harry woke late and was hurrying to dress for breakfast. Ron had gone ahead and promised to save Harry a spot, leaving Harry alone in the room. He was thrashing about searching for socks and a missing shoe under his bed when he heard a familiar POP behind him and knew that someone had Apparated into the boys' dormitory. The sound gave him a start and he cracked the back of his head on the underside of the bed frame. He backed out on all fours and rubbed the spot as he rose up and turned to see who was there. Dobby the house-elf stood in the center of the room, his hands clasped together and his saucer-like eyes shining brightly.

"Dobby – " growled Harry, his head still smarting. "I wish you wouldn't do that!"

"Dobby is sorry, sir. Dobby had to see Harry Potter right away."

"Yeah, well, can't it wait? I'm late for breakfast as it is." Harry continued to search for his missing shoe.

Dobby approached him with two nervous steps. "But this is very important, sir. Dobby needs to warn Harry Potter. Harry Potter is in grave danger."

Harry opened his wardrobe and began digging about in its contents. "Dobby, I don't know what could be so important. I'm in grave danger of having nothing left but toast, if that's what you mean. Besides, didn't I ask you never to save me from grave danger again?"

"Sir asked Dobby never to save sir's life again. Harry Potter is in a very different kind of danger."

"Oh, yeah? And what would that be?"

"Harry Potter is in danger of being expelled from Hogwarts, sir."

Harry pulled out the errant shoe and headed back towards his bed. "And how do you figure that one?"

"Dobby has seen Harry Potter, sir. Harry Potter has been places sir is not supposed to be."

Harry finished wrestling on his socks and shoes and began unbuttoning the shirt of his pajamas. "What are you talking about?" he asked.

Dobby stepped closer to Harry and looked at him imploringly. "Dobby knows, sir. Dobby has seen sir heading into the Forbidden Forest at night, where sir is not supposed to be. Harry Potter must be very careful. If anyone sees sir going places where sir should not be, sir could be expelled, and then how would Harry Potter get his training for the war?"

Harry ignored Dobby and continued undressing hurriedly. He pulled off his pajama shirt and dropped it in a pile on the floor. He reached absent-mindedly for his white school shirt and Gryffindor tie, exposing his bare forearms to Dobby's view. Dobby gasped, horrified, and jumped back.

"What? What is it?" Harry glanced momentarily at the bed and then realized that Dobby had seen his arms. Dobby backed away, one hand covering his mouth in a frozen gasp and the other hand pointing a slender finger at Harry.

"Sir is hurt – " he managed to blurt out. "What has happened to Harry Potter's arms?"

Harry began shoving his arms frantically into his shirtsleeves to hide them, but it was too late. Covering his forearms from his elbows to his wrists were a dozen self-inflicted cuts in straight slashes, a few of them fresh and deep red. "Dobby, listen to me – " he began. "I'm fine. I'm not hurt. It was – it was an accident. You're right; I have been going into the Forbidden Forest. I just needed to get away. I've been scratched by tree branches, that's all. You can't tell anybody. No one must know. Please, Dobby."

"Sir is hurt," Dobby said, backing away slowly. "Sir is not well. Dobby must get help."

"No, Dobby." Harry knelt on the rug and grabbed Dobby by the arms. "Please don't tell anyone. Promise me you won't tell."

Dobby stood still and gave Harry a determined stare. "Sir is bringing great danger on himself. Dobby knows what tree scratches really look like. Dobby must help Harry Potter."

Harry felt a wave of rage surge over him. He squeezed Dobby's arms painfully tight and Dobby winced. Harry could feel his own pulse pounding in his ears.

"PROMISE ME – " he snarled through clenched teeth. He gave Dobby a vigorous shake. "PROMISE ME YOU WON'T TELL!"

A look of calm came over Dobby's face. He looked at Harry with pity in his large, round eyes. "Dobby promises. Dobby will not tell." And with a POP he Disapparated out of Harry's hands.

Harry sat on the rug, shaking all over and breathing hard. He grasped the locket hanging around his neck and held it tight with both hands. Slowly he felt the shaking subside. He pulled himself to a stand and tried to run a comb through his unruly hair. He finished buttoning his shirt and threaded his tie under his collar as he sprinted down to breakfast.

That afternoon as Ron and Hermione were headed to the stairway at lunchtime, there was a POP behind the suit of armor in the second floor corridor, and Dobby poked his head around from behind it. "Psst!" he called as he waved them over.

"Dobby! Ron, look." Hermione gave Ron a nudge and he followed her. "What is it, Dobby?"

"Oh miss, Dobby has terrible news. Dobby has something to tell sir and miss. Something very important." He began to hop restlessly from one foot to another. "But not here. Dobby cannot risk being overheard."

Hermione and Ron exchanged startled glances. "Where should we go?" asked Hermione.

"Dobby will meet sir and miss in the kitchens. We will be safe there. Dobby will be in the kitchens in ten minutes, waiting for sir and miss." Before they could reply, Dobby had Disapparated with a dramatic POP.

"Oh, what now?" Hermione agonized. "First Cho, and now Dobby. What could he possibly want to tell us?"

“Hold on, what do you mean, first Cho and now Dobby?” Ron asked. “What happened with Cho?”

“Yesterday Cho told Ginny and me what it is that Harry’s been talking to her about lately,” Hermione replied. They turned back to the stairs to continue down, but Hermione stopped abruptly. "Wait – I think we should bring Ginny. You go on down to the kitchen and let Dobby know and I'll be there in a minute. I'm going to go try to find her."

"Right," said Ron. He grabbed the banister and flew down the stairs, navigating the throng of students channeling towards the Great Hall. To the left of the bottom of the stairs there was a door that led to a corridor lined with large paintings hanging on either side. He entered the corridor and stopped in front of an enormous framed oil of a bowl filled with fruit. He looked around nervously before reaching up to give the pear a tickle. The pear giggled squeakily. It then shifted, protruded and transformed into a door handle. Ron twisted it and the painting swung open, revealing the huge kitchen area beyond. There was a noisy bustle of activity inside in preparation for the students' lunch. Kitchen elves scurried about carrying trays of different main dishes and pitchers of various beverages. Food was Apparating left and right to the Great Hall above from the massive tables in the center of the room. Ron stepped in and was distractedly watching a platter of desserts Apparate when he heard Dobby call to him from behind a stack of copper pots.

"Sir! Over here!"

Ron followed Dobby over behind the towering columns of pots to where there were stools setting next to burlap bags full of potatoes. "Here, sir can sit here," he said. Ron took a seat on one of the stools.

"Hermione will be along in a minute. She went to get Ginny. I hope that was alright."

"Ohhhh – " Dobby began to moan. He grabbed a wooden bowl filled with potatoes, swung it off the counter next to him and began to pound it on his head, sending potatoes flying.

"Dobby, stop that!" cried Ron. He grabbed the bowl from Dobby's hands and placed it back on the counter. He was crouching down to pick up the fallen potatoes when Hermione and Ginny peered around the copper pots.

"What's going on?" asked Hermione.

"Dobby is being very bad – Dobby must break a promise – Dobby promised not to tell, but sir and the two misses must know so they can help – aaaaargh!" He hurled himself at the wall and smacked himself against it several times.

"Dobby! Don't do that!" Hermione seized him by the shoulders and knelt beside him. "Listen to me, Dobby. You don't have to punish yourself any more. You're free now, and nobody is going to hurt you. You can tell us what the terrible thing is, and we won't tell anyone, will we?" She looked at the other two pleadingly.

"Oh, no! You can trust us, Dobby," said Ginny.

"Yes, but miss doesn't understand. Dobby promised, but if Dobby doesn't tell – oh, Dobby is very, very bad – "

"Alright Dobby, maybe there's another way," Hermione said quickly. "Maybe you can tell us without talking. Maybe you could – write it down?"

"No, miss, Dobby can't use words. Words would be the same as telling."

"How about charades?" Ginny offered. "Dobby, you could act it out for us! You wouldn't have to say a thing."

Dobby thought about it for a moment. "Dobby could try – "

"Great!" Hermione said. She and Ginny took seats on stools next to Ron. Dobby tapped his forehead and screwed up his face with concentration. Suddenly he opened his eyes and began to bounce anxiously, his face lit with enthusiasm.

"Hop! Jump!" Ron exclaimed, but Dobby gave him a scowl.

"No Ron, he hasn't started yet," said Hermione impatiently. "Just let us know when you're ready, Dobby."

Dobby grinned and held up a slender finger. He pointed to his forehead and began to trace an imaginary zigzag line above his eye.

"Forehead!" said Ron. "Zit! Dobby has a zit? That's the bad news?"

"Shush you!" snapped Ginny. "He means Harry. Is that it? Is it Harry?"

Dobby nodded vigorously.

"It's about Harry," Ginny repeated. "What's wrong with him?"

Dobby slowly waved his fist in the air, brandishing an imaginary knife. He pointed it towards his other arm and began to make drawn-out slicing motions across his forearm.

"What's he doing?" said Ron disgustedly. "Cut? Slice?" Dobby nodded frantically. "Chop? SOMEONE'S CHOPPED OFF HARRY'S ARMS?"

"Honestly, Ron," moaned Hermione. "Dobby. Is something wrong with Harry's arms?" Dobby nodded again. "Did he get in a fight? Did someone cut his arms with a knife?" Dobby paused and then shook his head slowly.

"Did Harry cut his own arms?" Ron asked incredulously. "Is that it?"

Dobby nearly collapsed with relief. "Yes, sir has said it. Sir is right. Dobby did not tell sir what happened with words. Sir has guessed it himself. Dobby did not break a promise."

"I'm right – I'm right again?" exclaimed Ron.

"But – why?" Hermione's voice trembled with emotion. "Why would Harry try to hurt himself like that?"

"Oh no," squeaked Ginny, choking back a sob. "Is Harry trying to – kill himself?"

Dobby trotted over to Ginny and placed his hand on hers. "Dobby does not know why," he said consolingly. "All Dobby knows is that Harry Potter is not well. Harry Potter is doing bad things, and going bad places where Harry Potter should not go."

"What do you mean? Where has Harry been going?" asked Ron. Dobby clapped his hands over his mouth and shook his head, looking panic-stricken. "You can't tell us that, either?" Ron moaned.

"Wait – " said Hermione, "I think I know. Cho said something about Harry going into the Forbidden Forest at night to be with the Thestrals. Is that it, Dobby? Is that where he's going?"

Dobby bounced up and down on his toes gleefully and clapped his hands. "Yes, yes! Miss has said it!"

"Whoa – " exclaimed Ron, a look of comprehension spreading over his face. "That explains it then. If Harry's going to visit Thestrals, that's why he cuts himself, to make himself bleed - "

"Because Thestrals are attracted to blood," Hermione finished in a horrified voice. "Oh Ron, we've got to help him. We've got to do something."

"Dobby, how do you know all this?" asked Ginny. "Did you see these cuts yourself?"

Dobby nodded. "Yes, miss. Dobby saw the marks on Harry Potter's arms with Dobby's own eyes just this very morning."

Ron breathed a weighty sigh. "Maybe I can get a look at them myself. I could try and see if I can get him to show me his arms."

"How do you expect to do that?" asked Hermione.

"I dunno, maybe when he changes his shirt, or - I might be able to get a look when we're in the changing room. We've got a match against Hufflepuff tomorrow."

"And then what?" Ginny asked. They all exchanged sober looks.

"Then one of us needs to go to McGonagall and tell her," Hermione said reluctantly. "We need to save Harry – from himself."

The next afternoon there was a tangible tension in the air as Ron and Harry undressed in the changing room before the Quidditch match. Ron appeared to Harry to be behaving with an overstated sense of nonchalance, while Harry was having difficulty hiding his feeling of skittishness.

Ron didn’t get a chance to catch a glimpse of Harry’s arms unawares as he had hoped. When Harry removed his Hogwarts robes he was already wearing his Quidditch red and gold team shirt underneath. He had wanted to ensure that nobody saw his arms the way Dobby had the day before. Harry flashed a self-conscious look at Ron and said, "Quicker that way. I was running late," without Ron even having to say a word.

"Right," Ron said, looking quite unconvinced.

They opened the stadium door and stepped out as a team onto the wide Quidditch pitch. It was a fine, sunny mid-February day with a pleasant breeze rippling the flags bearing each House standard. Madam Hooch blew her whistle, released the Quaffles and the teams kicked off into the air. They soared to their positions, a mixture of scarlet Gryffindor and yellow Hufflepuff robes. Ginny sat on a bench at the edge of the field with the rest of the second-stringers, fully suited up and ready for a chance to play.

Ron kept a wary eye on Harry from his position in front of the goals. He followed Harry's every move carefully when he could. After several minutes of play Ron had deflected a couple of Quaffles, but only just. He was nearly caught off guard more than once from watching Harry. Katie Bell called to him to watch what he was doing.

Harry circled the pitch a couple of times to get a better perspective. He wove in and out of harm's way of flying Bludgers and watched for the slightest shimmer of the Snitch's gold wings. The yellow uniforms of the Hufflepuff players were easy to spot while soaring above the lush green of the playing field and against the scattered team colors of the fans in the stands. He blocked out the sound of Lee Jordan's announcing and was only mildly aware that Gryffindor has scored a goal.

Harry barely noticed that Katie was calling his name above the noise of the crowd. She was trying to alert him that the Hufflepuff Beater had sent a Bludger speeding towards him. He dropped skillfully to avoid the iron ball as it zoomed over his head, narrowly missing him. Katie called to him again, and he turned his head just in time to see another Bludger hurtling towards him. Harry figured that the Beaters must have doubled their efforts and were focusing on him, so he must be on to something. The Snitch could be close by, he thought, and maybe they could see it. He instinctively raised his right arm to protect himself from the oncoming Bludger. At the last second he remembered its formidable iron content and went into an awkward dive instead. He spun out for a moment, losing altitude as he whipped around and lost his balance.

Ron leaned forward on his broom from his position in front of the goal and yelled, "Harry!" Hermione screamed from the stands at the sight of Harry's corkscrew plunge and Ginny jumped to her feet from her place on the bench. Harry righted himself and shook off a whirl of dizziness, unaware that his mum's locket had slipped out from under his collar when he flipped around. It was now hanging outside of his clothes. He leaned forward to speed his broom back over the stands in search of the Snitch. The locket dangled openly beneath his neck.

Harry heard a whizzing noise brush by his ear and turned to follow it. The Snitch whirred past him and over his head, then dipped and headed down towards the stands. He bent forward and urged his broom downwards. His speed increased as he gave chase. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the yellow robes of Summerby, the Hufflepuff seeker. Harry thought he must have seen the Snitch too. He angled his body forward in a parallel arch above his broom and shortened the gap between himself and the Snitch. He was only a short distance away and was positioning himself to reach it when he felt the locket swaying under his neck. While leaning forward, the locket brushed against the underside of his jaw.

Before Harry could decide whether to reach for the Snitch or stuff the locket back inside the neck of his shirt, Summerby overtook him with a sudden burst of speed. Flying close enough to touch him, Summerby reached out and stretched his fingers. He wasn't headed for the Snitch that was directly in front of them. He was reaching for the locket swinging underneath Harry's shoulders. Before Harry realized what he had done, Summerby had grasped the locket in his hand. He pulled it off Harry's neck with a jerk. The chain broke. Harry felt it dig into his neck and fly loose. An instant later he saw Summerby turn and soar away in the opposite direction, clutching the locket.

Summerby held his hand high over his head at first and gave a whoop of victory. The crowd began to roar, thinking the game was over and he had the Snitch. He dove towards the floor of the stadium and landed while his teammates above him cheered. Suddenly the expression on his face changed to a look of complete bewilderment as he opened his hand and saw Harry's mum's gold locket.

"What the – " he stammered. Summerby looked up as Harry descended to the field like a rocket. He stood there looking dumbstruck. Harry landed and dismounted, tossing his broom aside.

“What is this?” Summerby demanded, holding the necklace aloft. “What happened to the Snitch?”

Harry strode towards him, his lip curled in a snarl. “Give it back,” he growled.

“Look, Potter,” Summerby began apologetically, but Harry gave him a two-handed shove.

“Here, you can have it! I’m sorry, I thought - ” Summerby stumbled backwards as he held out the necklace to Harry, but Harry continued to charge at him.

“You broke it,” Harry hissed. “You broke my mum’s locket.” He grabbed Summerby by the neck of his robe and shoved him again, hard. A cry of outrage burst from the Hufflepuff fans in the stands. Summerby’s teammates called “Foul!” as they circled above the field, ready to come to his aid. Madam Hooch blew her whistle and hurried across the grass towards them.

“Potter!” she shouted. “Stop this at once! Unsportsmanlike conduct! Fifty points from Gryffindor!”

But they might as well all have been gnats buzzing about Harry’s head, for all he cared. He gave Summerby another shove, ignoring the broken chain in his outstretched hand. The locket flew aside and landed in the grass. Summerby lost his balance and fell backwards. Harry was on him in an instant, his hands gripped about Summerby’s throat. Harry felt white-hot fury flooding his veins, and tears were blinding his eyes. He was choking the Hufflepuff seeker with almost supernatural strength. Summerby’s face turned a hideous purple, and a gurgling sound escaped from his lips. He gripped Harry’s wrists in self-defense, trying to pull him off. Harry was undeterred, like a man possessed.

Ron took off from his position in front of the goal, streaking straight through the air towards Harry like a bolt of lightning. “HARRY, NO!” he bellowed. Fans and faculty poured onto the field from the stands. Ron got to him first and dismounted his broom, hitting the grass at a full run. He tackled Harry from behind and tried to wrestle him away. “Harry, get off! Get off him,” he yelled.

Suddenly Harry’s grip slackened. His hands began trembling uncontrollably and he lost his hold. He let go of Summerby who gasped loudly. The shaking in Harry’s hands spread, traveling up his arms, across his chest and down through his legs. Ron was finally able to drag him off Summerby with some effort. He turned Harry onto the ground beside him. Harry lay there on his back convulsing as people began to crowd around. Hermione and Ginny pushed their way through the onlookers.

“Someone get Madam Pomfrey!” yelled Hermione.

“Harry – “ said Ron, bending over him. “Harry, can you hear me?”

Harry couldn’t answer. He had gone a deathly pale and beads of perspiration covered his face. He looked up at Ron and then at Ginny, helplessly. His teeth chattered and he made a shivering sound as his body continued to quiver.

“Coming through, coming through,” a voice called and an aisle quickly opened. “Let me pass.” Professor McGonagall appeared with Madam Pomfrey at her side, both looking gravely concerned.

“Step aside, everyone. Give us some room, now,” said Madam Pomfrey. She levitated two gurneys over the heads of the students and landed them on the grass next to the two boys. Hufflepuff teammates gathered to lift Summerby onto one of them, but Madam Pomfrey stepped forward to orchestrate moving Harry onto the other stretcher herself. Once she had carefully levitated him (although his violent twitching made it rather difficult) and placed him on it, she waved her wand and said a binding spell. Bands of cloth appeared and encircled the canvas stretcher, whipping around and wrapping Harry firmly to keep him from falling off.

“What is the meaning of this, Mr. Weasley?” Professor McGonagall asked Ron sternly. He looked at her over the gurney bearing Harry’s convulsing body and appeared lost for an answer. Professor McGonagall tapped her wand to her throat and said, “Sonorus.” She turned to face the gathering crowd and waved her other hand high in the air. “Attention everyone," she announced. "This Quidditch match is being called due to - unforeseen circumstances. Everyone is dismissed. Madam Hooch will meet with the team captains to discuss ending the game and awarding Cup points. Everyone move along now.” She turned back to Ron, said “Quietus,” reversing the spell, and pointed her wand away from her neck. “Mr. Weasley, Miss Weasley, Miss Granger,” she nodded at the three of them. “Follow me, please.” She set off with quick strides back towards the castle. Ron and Ginny started off alongside Harry’s stretcher behind Madam Pomfrey.

As Hermione turned to go, she noticed something small and gold shining up at her from the grass. It was the chain she had seen dangling from Summerby’s hand before Harry had attacked him. She bent down, picked it up and carried it with her, trotting to keep up.

Ginny walked swiftly beside Harry’s levitated stretcher, looking into his terrified eyes. She reached over and took his shaking hand in hers and squeezed it, but he was unable to squeeze hers back.

“Don’t worry, Harry,” she said. “Everything’s going to be okay now.”

//
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