Viktor Krum arrives with unexpected help for Harry and Ginny in their quest to
revive Ron and Hermione, and Neville is drawn deeper into the the shadowy Order
of the Phoenix. Fourth in a series.
note: This story follows from “Feather and Flame” and is the continuation of my
series that I began a really long time ago- after Goblet of Fire, in
fact, so many of the assumptions are anachronistic, especially about the nature
of The Order of the Phoenix. I like to think that the books have confirmed that
I’ve kept to the spirit of HP even if I have branched off of the continuity. If
you haven’t read the series, cast your mind back to the aftermath of the
Triwizard Tournament, start with “Owls Over Bulgaria” (a short prologue to the
plotline), then “Drastic Measures”, “The Innocents”, “Feather and Flame”, then
this. I promise romance and thrills a-plenty! If you have enjoyed the other
episodes and can remember back to when you might have been curious what
happened next… well, here it is.
was a different sort of place on a cloudy weekday morning. When Harry went
there on weekends, it was bustling and busy and merry, like the seaside town he
used to visit with the Dursleys on bank-holiday weekends, although with a
different sort of clientele. On a grey and chilly Tuesday morning like this,
however, Hogsmeade was a drowsy place. The specialty shops, like Zonko's and
Honeyduke's, did a desultory business. Honeyduke's kept a skeleton staff on
Tuesdays. The proprietor liked to enjoy a day off after the busy weekend, and
the skeletons were sufficiently alarming to deter shoplifters. The shopowners
who stayed open expected a quiet morning, interrupted by nothing more than one
or two tourists dropping in to spend a load of Sickles and leave.
certainly did not expect the noisy approach of the entire Hogwarts student body
that descended toward the town that morning like a storm front on a clear day.
the midst of that storm front, Harry Potter walked side-by-side with Ginny
Weasley. A second-year Slytherin carelessly bumped into Harry without so much
as a by-your-leave as he and his friends bore down on the village. “I’m not
worried,” the Slytherin declared to his knot of friends. Harry had seen this
student before. He was a pinched-looking boy who was already reputed for
terrorizing the first-years. “Not at all. My dad’s taught me a spell or two to
deal with those Order of the Phoenix types.”
bollocks,” his friend said with a laughing sneer, making no effort to keep his
voice down. “Yer dad’s as good as a Squib! Bet you you’re the first one they
get.” The assembled knot of second-year bullies all laughed.
they won’t get you, that’s for certain,” the bully answered. “Your mummy’s
going to cart you away any day now.” This witticism really brought the house
down. The bully’s friends oooohed appreciatively and the friend scowled. Harry
and Ginny moved away from the gang as they all started noisily hitting each
other with ill-willed jollity.
let’s move on over here,” Ginny said, tugging a sleeve of Harry’s robe. He
picked up his pace to keep up with her, leaving behind a shapeless group of
Gryffindors whose numbers were slowly shrinking as they passed between the rows
of shops in the main street.
supposed to stay with our houses,” Harry protested weakly.
Ginny said, grinning. “Teacher’s pet.”
stuck out her tongue as she walked ahead. In fact the teachers had given up on
their efforts to keep the students in ordered groups, and after a few
imprecations to the students to behave themselves, the staff seemed to be
content simply to make sure they stayed within the town limits until this
unexpected holiday was over. The students would not be able to do very much
harm, in any case, as all their wands had been confiscated. The Magical Law
Enforcement Squad had been called in to do a sweep of the school, and the
students were told to clear out for the day. Wands were to be left in
dormitories for tests, under pain of suspension. All classes were cancelled.
After breakfast the teachers had busily herded the surprised students into
groups and led them out toward Hogsmeade.
on,” Ginny insisted. “I know you’re worried and all. Everyone is.”
don’t seem very worried,” Harry said, indicating the boisterous mob of students
they were leaving behind.
course they are,” Ginny said. “Listen to them all. It’s all they’re talking
was right. Underneath all the clamourous cheer over the unexpected day off,
Harry could tell there was tension. It seemed like a long time since there had
been a normal day at Hogwarts, and every day that Dumbledore was gone things
felt a little more dangerous. The sight of Percy and his dour Governing
Committee at the head table in Dumbledore’s place every day did nothing to make
Hogwarts feel like a welcoming place. For Harry, who knew better than most just
how bad things were, it was worse. Every day Harry fended off questions about
the “illness” that had kept Ron and Hermione out of classes for over a week,
while at the same time trying to comfort a nervous Neville, who seemed to spend
most of his time following Harry around like a shadow silently wringing his
hands. Harry had finally persuaded Neville that there was safety in numbers,
and that his cover was better kept by hanging around with Seamus and Dean and
their crowd of friends. Only this way could Harry have managed to have a moment
alone to corner Ginny on the way out of the Great Hall that morning and
suggest, his voice a bit shaky, that they could maybe go to Hogsmeade together.
Ginny looked like she had won a million Galleons.
worried too,” Ginny went on. “But maybe we can try to have a good day?”
looked over and saw that as they walked Ginny had her bright brown eyes fixed
on him. She’s always looking at me, Harry thought to himself. It’s
so weird. Lately Harry had taken to
looking back. It wasn’t so bad.
Ginny said. “D’you want to go and do something?”
her face went beet-red and Harry imagined his must have too, because it felt
hot like the sun had suddenly come out, and it definitely hadn’t. “Oh,” he
said that- you know, before, when we talked-”
erm, right,” Harry said.
well, never mind-”
er, I’m sure there’s a better place to talk-”
Ginny said nodding in agreement, and veered toward a small side street lined
with cottages that intersected Hogsmeade’s main street. Harry followed her. The
silence between them, if possible, seemed to increase in volume. Harry tried to
think of things to say, but all of them seemed silly, and he began to feel
foolish and terrified all at once. They walked some way along the street lined
with cottages, each of which had a dozen or so people lined up at the windows
to peer out at them, or that was how it seemed.
stopped walking, and turned to face Harry. “Er, I, really I just wanted to
know, what you said the other day, did you mean it?”
sort of felt his mouth open and shut. His throat had gone utterly dry.
sound of Colin Creevey’s voice pierced the air like a gunshot. Ginny started
then backed away from Harry, looking at the ground. He realised they had been
standing quite close.
Colin,” Harry finally managed after a difficult swallow.
never guess!” Colin said breathlessly, stopping short. “Hi, Ginny,” he added.
up, Colin?” Harry said. He felt almost relieved for the interruption, and yet…
how he would regret it if he missed a chance…
you’re right,” Harry said.
was just coming out of the bookstore, when this big fellow in a cloak and hood
stopped me and asked if I’d seen you. Do you know who it was? Eh?”
felt his heart sink. Colin seemed to be under the impression that Harry would
be glad to be looked for by strange people in cloaks and hoods. “Did you tell
him where I was?”
seemed to miss the point of the question. “I can’t be sure but I think it was Viktor
Harry said. Colin had his interest now. “Here? Did you say where I was?” Harry
added as Colin rocked excitedly on his heels.
I mean, I only just found you now. Come on! I’ll show you!”
Colin, I’m not so sure Harry wants to be found right now…” Ginny said. Right,
Harry thought. That’s exactly it.
looked over at Ginny. His excitement paused in mid-fidget. “Oh,” he said,
looking back to Harry. “I’m intruding, aren’t I?”
really-” Harry said
bit, yes,” Ginny said, smiling widely.
so sorry!” Colin declared. To Harry’s amazement, he winked at Ginny. “So sorry!
In your own time, then,” he said, turning and heading down the street, breaking
into a run as he went.
all right, you know,” Ginny said. “He’s a little bit impressed with you, that’s
all. I suppose we should go see if Krum is really-”
yes,” Harry said, startling himself. “I did mean it.”
Ginny said faintly. “All right then.”
really sorry… If Viktor is really here… we’d better…” Harry trailed off.
Neither he nor Ginny moved right away. In a minute they would be back in the
crowd of students. Harry took a breath and held it, then leaned in, eyes closed
and quickly kissed Ginny’s cheek.
Krum, with his awkward gait, wasn't hard to recognize, if you knew you were
looking for him. His face was hidden under his cloak and hood, and he walked by
dozens of Hogwarts of students who would have clustered around him for
autographs or Quidditch talk if they had only known. But Harry and Ginny
spotted him right away, down the main street of Hogsmeade, walking with a
mysterious companion, an old wizard whose grey, wiry beard emerged from under
spotted Viktor tapping a young student on the shoulder, and asking "Haff
you seen Harry Potter?" with his cloak pulled over his face like a bad
cinema vampire. The student shook her head and veered away nervously.
go say hello," Harry said, taking pity on the awkward visitor. Harry and
Ginny shouldered their way through the flowing and chaotic throng of students.
Viktor's eyes rose to meet Harry's as he approached, and Harry spotted visible
relief on Viktor's face.
Viktor said somewhat stiffly. "Is there somewhere ve can talk in
private?" Viktor's companion stood watching, remaining unnervingly still.
"This is Sergios," Viktor explained, noticing Ginny's nervous glances
at the older man. "He is... a very great wizard, where I am from."
Bulgarian?" Harry asked the old wizard, who shifted his eyes to Harry but
remained impassive and silent.
shook his head curtly. "Greek," he explained. "He speaks no
muttered a string of words to Sergios, out of which Harry recognized only his
own name. He saw, in the background between Viktor and Sergios, something quite
extraordinary. Lucius Malfoy was craning his head in their direction curiously.
Harry knew Malfoy was in the area. He had seen him at the school several days
before, trying to get his son out of school, where the Governing Committee was
holding onto him as one of the intended victims of the Order of the Phoenix.
had the impression that Lucius Malfoy was trying to get a good look at the
visitors. It was too absurd to imagine that the elder Malfoy was a starstruck
Quidditch fan working up the courage to ask Krum for an autograph. The picture
did not fit.
Lucius Malfoy appeared to come to some sort of decision, and he strode up to
the visitors, haughtily ignoring Harry and Ginny's presence.
me," Malfoy drawled. "Are you, by any chance, Sergios of
Adrianople?" Malfoy was smiling widely, his hand extended. "Lucius
Malfoy," he added. Sergios stared at the hand with bemusement.
for Merlin's sake, translate, won't you, boy?" Malfoy said testily to
Viktor. "It's what you're here for, isn't it?"
face darkened, and he muttered another string of incomprehensible words to
the old wizard uttered laconically, and shook Malfoy's hand with due courtesy
and no more.
beg your pardon," Harry intervened. "They're here for me, not
looked down the line of his nose at Harry and Ginny. "Ah yes," he
whispered icily. "Mr Potter. And if I'm not mistaken," he went on,
turning his gaze on Ginny, "you're the little brat who caused me so much
trouble a couple of years ago."
caused you--?" Ginny spluttered,
her face suddenly going very red. Harry grasped her hand tightly. Sergios
raised one bushy eyebrow, watching what must have seemed to him an intensely
cannot imagine what kind of business Sergios would have with you," Malfoy
said with a dismissive smile. "He is a great wizard! He is over seven
hundred years old. He deserves your respect!"
respect him," Harry muttered.
"It's you I want to sod bloody
Malfoy's smile fell for a moment, then reappeared, more condescending than
Well," Malfoy said, turning back toward Viktor. "Please tell Sergios
I honour him, and I hope to have the privilege to discuss some matters with him
while he is in Britain."
I vill tell him," Viktor said. Lucius Malfoy walked away as Viktor
translated Malfoy's words. Sergios watched Malfoy saunter away with one eyebrow
remaining cocked in amusement.
can we go where it is quiet?" Viktor reiterated. "I do not vant to be
and Ginny led the two visitors along the main street, then off and up the hill
to where they had gone before in hopes of being inconspicuous. They walked in
soon as the village had disappeared behind a clump of trees, Viktor pulled off
his hood, although Sergios chose to remain covered. Viktor reached under his
cloak, and pulled out a sheet of parchment.
this true?" he said gruffly, extending the parchment to Harry.
took the sheet and examined it. Ginny peered over his shoulder. It was a
letter, handwritten in a neat but hasty hand- Hermione's.
I wish I had more time to
I was in Azkaban, and was
killed, no I'm not joking, by a Dark spell. An Auror used a sacrificial spell to
revive me, and now it seems that I am in danger if anyone should be killed near
me, so they are giving me a potion shortly to put me into a long sleep. Sorry,
I do not altogether understand this myself. But I thought it was only fair to
let you know since you may not hear from me for some time.
I am so sorry everything
didn't work out. I am seeing somebody else, you’ve met him, Ron, my friend with
the red hair. He is very kind to me, and we're happy, well, except for this, of
course. I am sorry.
spoke with difficulty. "Yes."
knows about these things," Viktor explained, indicating his companion.
"My uncle has known him. He will see Hermy-o...nee," he concluded.
looked at Ginny then at Sergios, then back at Viktor.
asked the question. "Is he a... Dark wizard?"
looked uncomprehending. "Vot do you mean?"
Malfoy knew of him," Harry said. "Seems to think the world of
looked puzzled. "The man in the village? I do not know about him."
a mate of Voldemort's!" Harry said. At the mention of this name, all three
listeners started. Sergios looked quickly to his right, then his left.
"And he seems to think very highly of your friend," Harry concluded.
light of understanding dawned on Viktor's face. "Ah! You want to know if
he does what you call the Dark Arts."
Harry nodded emphatically.
took a moment, and began speaking slowly. "Ve do not haff what you call
Dark Arts. At Durmstrang it is called Death Magic-"
that makes me feel loads better!" Harry exclaimed.
listen!" Viktor said loudly and impatiently. "Where I am from, this
is something you learn only when you are a very good person. Master Sergios is
a very moral man! Death is a part of magic. It is only in the West that
somebody learns this and becomes corrupt."
narrowed his eyes. Viktor's words did not square with what Harry had heard
from Durmstrang, then?" Harry asked.
Viktor said. "Sergios has studied many, many years by himself. He does not
travel. Nobody at Durmstrang would know about this kind of thing."
was confused. Viktor took a moment to bring Sergios, who had been watching all
this patiently, up to speed. Sergios at one point seemed to become angry, and
gesticulated wildly. Viktor made placating gestures, but the conversation was
looked from one to the other. Viktor seemed to be as much as admitting that
Sergios practiced the Dark Arts. Yet there were wizards like Snape, Moody,
Hecate Durrell and the Aurors at Azkaban who seemed to live in very grey world
between legal magic and the Dark Arts. Even Dumbledore, who eschewed Dark magic
altogether, trusted and worked with some of these people. Maybe only this kind
of wizard could really help Ron and Hermione.
obviously thinking many parallel thoughts, leaned in and whispered to Harry.
think it's okay, Harry," she said. "Viktor would only do what he
thought was right. Especially for Hermione."
nodded. Viktor turned to Harry and spoke.
is offended. It is a very, very great honour that Sergios has travelled here
for her. He does not like Vestern vizards. He does not travel for any reason.
It vas hard to convince him to come, and he is only here because he vants to
sorry," Harry said to Viktor. Then, turning to Sergios, he repeated:
"I am sorry." Sergios nodded his head. He seemed to understand this.
Harry turned back to Viktor. "Are you going to be here a while?"
Harry asked Viktor. "It will be hard to be able to get in to see them. Ron
is... asleep, too."
muttered a few words to Sergios, then turned back to Harry.
vill be at the inn. Ve cannot stay many days. Master Sergios will help Ron,
too. If he can."
the morning after Hogsmeade was noisy and undisciplined. Harry knew it was
because Dumbledore was not there. Without his quiet, unspoken authority
emanating from the head table, there was no way for the staff to enforce
respect for the rules of conduct, laid down fruitlessly by the Governing
Committee members. Percy Weasley looked day-to-day as if he was just barely
managing to hold off a nervous breakdown.
own nerves were on edge, sitting among this riotous crowd of Gryffindors whose
agitated playfulness was bordering on hysteria. All through the meal Harry
dodged irritating teasing over his frequent absences the previous day.
see hide nor hair of you or Ginny yesterday," Seamus said with a wink.
"You wouldn't happen to know where she was off to, would you?"
up," Harry said by way of explanation.
think it's marvellous," Lavender Brown said from a few seats away.
"The poor girl's suffered long enough. Good for you, Harry!"
just talked, all right?" Harry said tetchily. Harry left the table, off to
a morning of classes, preoccupied and distinctly annoyed by his companions.
the teachers were falling victim to the malaise. Professor Flitwick had lost
all his zest, and most of his classes were simply quizzes and rehearsals of
previously-learned charms. Herbology had degenerated into a clockwork feeding
routine for the Bloodweeds. Madam Hooch announced that Quidditch trials were
suspended "indefinitely", depriving Harry of one of his few
pleasurable distractions. Only Professor Binns' lectures rolled on unchanged,
ploughing forward with the dull, plodding inevitability of continental drift.
the other hand, Professor Figg's Defense Against the Dark Arts class had
suddenly gone into overdrive. Her
appearance had been a real surprise on the first day of classes. Professor Figg
was Harry's old babysitter. He understood now that that was no coincidence. She
had been there to watch Harry all those many years. It turned out that being
taught by her was not unlike being babysat by her. She was amiable, meandering,
and often distracted by her cats. Yet her insights were sound, and she would
occasionally spring a curse on an unsuspecting student, who would then struggle
to shake it off while she innocently poured milk into Mr Paws' dish. But after
Dumbledore's dismissal, she had suddenly acquired the air of a disciplined
Quidditch captain, running vigourous drills of curse-breaking for the full hour
every day, as if she expected an attack at any moment. Harry understood that
she probably in fact did, and he knew she was not wrong.
came Potions. This was to be the day the fifth-years were to be graded on their
term project, a potion several weeks in the making, the class working in pairs.
Neville had been paired off with Harry ever since it became clear that Ron
(Harry’s partner) and Hermione (Neville’s partner) had stopped attending
classes. For the first few days Snape had been content to let Neville slowly
ruin the brew that he had so carefully prepared with Hermione’s help, and
indeed he took no small pleasure tormenting Neville with snide, cutting
criticism as Neville tried to work alone. However, the previous week it became
clear that Professor Snape would have to take action, when Neville’s cauldron
suddenly dissolved, and the contents ate quickly through the table and then
began to etch a hole in the dungeon floor. The steaming glop had gone a good
six feet down before Snape managed to throw a neutralizing potion down the hole
after it. Snape paired him off with Harry for the remainder of the project.
was afraid he would not have Hermione’s exceptional patience for Neville’s
work. But Harry was surprised- as he drew Snape’s hostility toward himself and
away from Neville, Neville really began to shine. He had a knack for handling
herbal ingredients that he must have acquired in Herbology, his best subject,
and the one place where Neville really excelled above all others. In Neville’s
hands, Harry and Ron’s potion was actually coming along very well.
Snape swooped from table to table, examining the sickly, pale yellow potions
that roiled slowly in their cauldrons over the burners. Draco Malfoy and Goyle
stood with hands behind their backs as Snape arrived at their table and bent
over the cauldron. Harry could see that his potion had turned to a thick, green
jelly. Snape shook his head slightly.
is unfortunate,” Snape pronounced, lifting his head. “It’s a delicate, volatile
brew. Eight on ten, but I expect better next time.”
sir,” Malfoy nodded seriously.
too soon, it was Harry and Neville’s turn.
Snape grumbled as he hovered over the cauldron. His eyebrows were raised, his
upper lip coiled into a sneer, as he prodded the surface of the liquid with the
tip of his wand. “Yes,” he said finally. “You see how a skin has formed on the
surface? That’s no good. And the colour is off. No. Three on ten.”
began to walk away toward the next table. Harry couldn’t contain himself.
do you mean, no?” Harry said. Next to him, Neville gasped.
turned, his glare ugly. “I beg your pardon, Potter?”
has gone all funny, and you’re failing ours?”
Snape advanced on Harry, all but breathing fire. “Potter, it is abundantly
clear that you are a long way from knowing a good potion from bad. Until you
have an ounce of skill or understanding, you will kindly keep your mouth firmly
shut. And we’ll make that a zero on ten, shall we?”
as you like,” Harry muttered under his breath. Snape turned away, his robes
making a snapping sound as he whirled.
came a sharp voice suddenly. Harry turned, startled to see Neville with a
determined look on his face. This was not the same determined look he had back
in first year, when with characteristic bad timing he had tried to stop Harry
from breaking curfew the night Voldemort tried to take the Philosopher’s Stone.
This look was determination born of rage.
not as you like. What- what sort of teacher are you anyway,” Neville said. Eyes
popped wide around the classroom. Hands flew up to faces. Draco Malfoy wore a
stupid half-smile. “You think you’re clever, but you’re just a nasty brute!
You- you’ll- how dare you- you’ll find out!” To Harry’s horror, Neville had
produced a wand from within his robes. Snape was fast. Hardly had Neville
stopped speaking when Snape’s wand-arm was extended, and a blue bolt flew
across the room and knocked Neville’s wand up into the air, glancing off the
ceiling and into the furthest corner. Neville’s hand snapped back. Harry had
the impression he smelled smoke. But Snape was not finished. Another blue bolt
shot out and propelled Neville backwards against the next row of tables,
sending a cauldron onto the floor, its contents soaking Dean Thomas’ shoes.
Snape bellowed. “WHAT. WHAT. WHAT WILL I FIND OUT, YOU STUPID BOY!” Neville was
struck again and then again by the bolts from Snape’s wand. Harry leapt back
and grabbed the shaking, shocked Neville’s arm. Snape’s wand came down, but
Snape himself still came forward.
escort that foolish boy to the hospital wing!” Snape commanded, his voice gone
from fire to ice. “And neither of you need return to class. You will both
repeat next term. Use the intervening time to acquire some sense. Yes, yes,”
Snape went on, now addressing the entire room. “You all stay where you are. We
are continuing with the grading.” The students down Harry’s row looked
mortified- Snape had not yet graded them, and he was sure to be in a foul
temper when he came to judge them.
made no argument. He ran to the corner where Neville’s wand lay, then caught up with Neville who was already
staggering wordlessly out of the classroom. Harry took his robe by the sleeve
and they scampered along the dungeon hallway, Neville half-stumbling on his
weak legs until he angrily threw Harry’s hand off.
go of me!” Neville snapped. “I’m coming, I’m coming.”
could not get away from Snape’s
classroom fast enough. “What did you do that for?”
do deserve it, after all, don’t they?” Neville said. “They’re brutes! It’s
Harry hissed, grabbing Neville’s sleeve once again and pulling Neville around a
corner of the echoing, cavern-like corridor. “What are you talking about?”
come to me,” Neville whispered. “They’ve told me I have to kill.”
Neville swallowed. He started to shake again, not from the
shock of Snape’s spell this time, but from blind fear. Whatever fit of
misguided courage had come over Neville seemed to melt away. “I got another
message,” Neville began. “But this wasn’t just a letter, it was like a sort of-
well, I fell into the letter, I…” Neville broke off.
“Yes,” Harry said. “Yes, I know what you mean. What did they
show you?” Harry remembered the eerie dark spell that had enchanted Tom
Riddle’s diary. Neville seemed relieved that Harry did not think he had gone
Neville looked at Harry and nodded weakly. “My father’s
memories!” Neville said, shuddering. “The torture. The Death Eaters torturing
him. Snape was- I’m sure it was him! He was there! He was a Death Eater before!
He was standing behind a man who-”
“Okay,” Harry said. “it’s okay. You don’t have to tell me
that part. You said they told you to kill.”
Neville paused, then went on with a steadier voice. “If I
kill one of the students,” Neville said, “one of the ones I named to them,
they’ll take me away. They’ll protect me. They’ll initiate me. They’ll teach
me. I’ll be able to fight the torturers.”
Harry did not like the way Neville was speaking. Was he
under some sort of charm? “Neville, you won’t do that, though, will you.”
“What they’ll do, Harry, you have no idea-”
“Yes I do,” Harry interrupted. Neville’s words caused Harry
almost physical pain. How many times had Harry thought, yes, to hurt them just
once, that would be enough-
“We have to stop them, Harry! If we’re not against them, we
might as well be with them! Or let them take over-”
“Listen to me!” Harry broke in again. “You won’t do that.
Promise me. You won’t kill for them.”
Neville was silent a long time. His cheeks went red, and his
eyes watered up. “I’ll have to!” he said, his voice cracking. “Or they’ll kill
me. I have to do it by Saturday. They made that quite clear,” he said,
Harry did not press the point. “Come on,” Harry said. “Let’s
go upstairs. We’ll think of something. We will,” he added insistently, before Neville could speak
in the afternoon, Harry left his Divination class, which was one of the classes
after which Harry was sure to run into Ginny on the landing, heading up from
her Potions lesson. She grasped him by the elbow as they passed in the bustling crowd, and with a couple of
apologies to passing students, they found their way to a quiet side corridor.
got to kill somebody," Harry said. These rendezvous were short, and it was
necessary to get to the point quickly. "To prove his loyalty. Any of the
ones who got the Phoenix Mark. Or they'll kill him."
eyebrows rose in dismay. "Poor Neville!"
Harry agreed. "I've got no idea what to do. I don't dare ask anybody for
help. Who knows who's working for them."
me back here just before lunch. I've got Divination next, so I've got loads of
time to think.," Ginny said before disappearing back into the crowd.
hour and a bit later, Harry, who, coming from Professor McGonagall’s
Transfiguration lesson, had not had loads of time to think, went up the stairs
toward Gryffindor Tower. Harry spotted the bright splash of orange above the
heads of the bobbing mass of students heading up the stairs that indicated that
Ginny was waiting at the top. Harry caught her eyes as she raised herself on
tiptoes, looking out for him.
she called out, spotting him. "Come here!"
reached the top of the flight of stairs, and Ginny grasped his elbow to pull
him into the corridor. She seemed to be quite excited about something.
is a brilliant place to get barmy ideas," Ginny began. "It might
Harry said. He was desperate to hear any kind of idea at this point.
can kill Draco Malfoy!" Ginny said smartly.
had to smile. "Sure. That would be satisfying, but I'm not sure Neville
would go for it."
Ginny said. "That's not all of it. Malfoy's innocent, but only we know
that. We'll fake Malfoy's death. Then Neville will be initiated into the Order,
and we can trap them. Nobody would suspect that Malfoy would help
know I wouldn't," Harry smirked. "Exactly why would Malfoy help
could tell Ginny was saving the kicker for last. He hoped it was a good one,
because so far he found the thought preposterous, and suspected Ginny still had
Professor Trelawney's incense fumes clouding her head.
have something Lucius Malfoy wants," she said, winding up. "Sergios.
If Sergios puts it to him, he might agree. Anyway, we'd be saving his son's
life, to boot."
right, it's barmy," Harry said. "Who says Sergios would agree?"
right, then, let's hear your better idea," Ginny said crossly, folding her
stayed silent, looking at her. There were, of course, a dozen things that could
go wrong with Ginny's plan.
there were no things that could go right with anything else he thought of.
Harry said, nodding slowly. "But I never said it wasn't brilliant. I can
go find Viktor and Sergios tonight."
seemed deserted, as Harry carefully emerged from the Shrieking Shack into the
October cold. He held his cloak tight around him as much for warmth as for invisibility,
as he made his way down the hill and into the village. A lamplighter walked
along, pointing his wand at the lanterns that hung on the walls of the stone
buildings that lined the main street. The lamplighter was whistling merrily.
sneaked quietly past, heading in the opposite direction.
mate," the lamplighter said jauntily as he passed Harry. Harry jumped and
whirled around. There was nobody else there. The lamplighter continued moving
down the street. Harry made a small gap in his cloak and looked down at
himself. Sure enough, he was quite invisible.
continued along, decidedly unnerved. He waited outside the door of the Three
Broomsticks and let a couple of patrons emerge and pass him by before
persuading himself that it would be safe to go in.
Three Broomsticks was warm, cozy and inviting in the light of the great fire
that burned in the hearth. The pub was not crowded on this Wednesday evening,
but Harry still had to maneuver carefully to avoid any collisions with other
patrons or with furniture. He narrowly avoided knocking a tray out of Madam
Rosmerta's hand as she ran past him toward the kitchens.
and Sergios were in a corner of the pub, hunched over their evening meal.
Lucius Malfoy was there, too, talking animatedly while the others ate. Harry
found a spot not far from their table, conveniently at a corner of the hearth
where he could savour the warmth of the fire while overhearing the
writings are banned in Britain," Malfoy explained. "Our blinkered
Ministry considers them dangerous!"
muttered a translation. Sergios' eyebrows were knotted in irritation as he
spoke curtly. Viktor turned to Lucius Malfoy.
says they are dangerous," Viktor
explained patiently. "They are not meant for everybody."
laughed knowingly. "Well, absolutely, of course they are not for just
anybody! The simple-minded will often fail to understand them. Your thinking's
much too advanced for most. Now, you see, I was fortunate enough to obtain
through my contacts a copy of your Hesychasion,
and I had always wanted to ask about the seventh scroll, where you discuss the
'shadow paradox'. I was wondering if I could trouble you for a
watched Viktor translate this, obviously hesitating over the technical words.
Sergios' eyebrows rose, revealing bright blue eyes beneath his craggy features.
Sergios exclaimed, and uttered a few words in Greek. Harry leaned in and
vill demonstrate right away," Viktor explained. "You must sit very
course!" Malfoy said, failing to conceal his eager excitement. He sat up
in his chair. Harry watched fascinated as Sergios began to chant softly,
raising his right hand, and staring intently into Malfoy's face. Sergios' eyes
were round and chilling. Harry wondered what sort of strange Dark spell he
could be uttering. Lucius Malfoy stared in rapt silence.
Sergios' fingers, raised level to Malfoy's left ear, snapped loudly. Malfoy
started. Sergios moved his hand to a spot between Malfoy's eyes, where he
showed off a shiny new silver Sickle coin that had materialized between his
had to cover his mouth. He thought he might be sick, trying to suppress the
laugh that was bubbling inside. A grin had broken through Sergios' thick beard.
Viktor snickered and coughed.
expression on Lucius Malfoy's face as he sat staring dumbly at the coin, left
far, far behind, was better than the best Riddikulus charm Harry had ever cast.
ha ha, that's quite funny," Malfoy said, trying to appear in on the joke.
"You had me quite convinced there, I must admit. Well, I suppose I won't
keep you from your meal any further."
Malfoy stood, a bit wobbly, and pushed his chair in before walking away.
took a bite of his meat, and chewed, a very satisfied expression on his face.
He muttered a few words to Viktor, who looked startled.
Harry..." Viktor said to the air in front of him. Harry sat up in
surprise. "Sergios says to go vait at room four."
Gryffindor common room was buzzing, as it was most evenings after dinner,
especially with the restless atmosphere that prevailed in the school. Ginny had
spent a half an hour waiting in a wing chair, her knees drawn up and a piece of
parchment on her lap. She tried to appear absorbed thoughtfully in thinking and
writing, as if composing some class essay or love letter, the better to be left
alone. In reality she was waiting for
Neville to descend the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. She began to despair of
it, and tried to think of some plausible reason why she could go up to the
boys’ rooms herself, when Neville finally did make a nervous and unassuming
appearance at the bottom of the staircase.
Ginny called out, surprising herself with the force of her utterance.
head swung around in some surprise. Ginny saw that she had genuinely startled
him. “Come here,” she continued. “I need your help.”
Ginny had hoped, nobody in the common room took any notice as Neville walked
over towards her.
yeah?” Neville said, puzzled.
you have a look at my Herbology notes here?” Ginny said, extending the sheaf of
parchment pages toward Neville.
Neville took the pages from Ginny, Ginny whispered sharply, “I know Harry’s
helping you. I know all about it.”
raised his eyes from the random scribbles on the sheet, wide with surprise.
got an idea,” Ginny went on. “Act like we’re talking about something herbal.”
no, it’s the one with the sort of spiky red leaves,” Neville began, a bit stagy
for Ginny’s comfort. “What sort of idea?” Neville squatted next to the wing
Malfoy is going to pretend to be dead. Is this the one that’s good for
That’s absolutely cracked. Why would he help us?”
not to explain. We think he’ll do it. He’s got to protect himself, too, after
happens then? They’ll still want me.”
Ginny said, now looking straight at him. “That’s when they’ll show themselves.
That’s when we’ll find out who they are. It’s- it’s not much. All I can say is
you’ll need to be very brave.”
not my strong point, obviously,” Neville said, surprising Ginny with an ironic
have friends,” Ginny said. “There are people trying to help you. But I mustn’t
tell you too much.”
it’s Harry’s idea, it’s probably good,” Neville said, with a resigned shrug.
Ginny decided not to tell him that it was in fact her idea. Best he should
believe whatever made him feel safest.
waited, silent and invisible in the narrow corridor on the upper floor of the
inn. There was a low ceiling, crisscrossed by wooden beams, and rows of doors
made of dark wood. Harry heard sounds of chattering and clinking pewter
drifting up from the pub downstairs.
were delicate and tentative steps up the staircase Harry had climbed minutes
before. Harry watched down the corridor, ready to pull himself out of the way
if the new arrival were to walk past him. A surprised voice, Viktor's,
interrupted the steps.
came Viktor's voice. Harry was startled. Hermione, here?
sorry?" a soft, well-spoken woman's voice said.
me," Viktor said. "You look like-"
Hermione's mother," the voice said. Harry, intrigued, slowly moved down
the hall, the better to hear the voices around the corner.
Viktor said. "I am happy to meet you. I am Viktor."
came Mrs Granger's voice. "Look, Rupert," she said as new pair of
feet was heard coming up the steps. "It's that chap Viktor, from
man's voice. "How extraordinary! Viktor, I am so happy to meet you.
Hermione's told us so much about you. What on earth brings you to
I’m sure he's here about Hermione, of course," Mrs Granger said quietly.
well, that's most touching..." Mr Granger said. "Can you tell us
exactly what's wrong with her?"
heard Viktor introduce Sergios, and there was a round of translations and
greetings. "Ve hope ve can help. Sergios is very glad you are here. It
vill be much easier with her parents here."
well, of course we want to help in any way," Mr Granger said.
vill come with us?" Viktor asked.
Mr Granger said. "We're just waiting for our friends. They drove us up
here, just as soon as we got Hermione's letter. Where did Arthur and Molly get
us in, I expect," Mrs Granger said. The
Weasleys! Harry thought. He was delighted they were here, and yet... things
would be very complicated to explain...
was now a new set of feet tromping up the stairway.
they are," Mr Granger said.
came Mr Weasley's voice. "Saw someone downstairs, that I, er... never
mind. Merlin's beard! Are you Viktor Krum?"
came Viktor's voice.
to meet you! You're- you're here about Hermione, of course?"
son told us all about you," Mrs Weasley explained. "I understand you
and Hermione have become quite close."
said Mr and Mrs Granger in unison.
said Viktor. There was a pause which allowed time for Viktor’s face to redden
said Mr Weasley and Mrs Granger.
was clearly flustered to have his love life discussed by strangers.
"She... she has told me she is with somebody named Ron."
was a silence the length of two blinks.
did?" said Mrs Weasley and Mr Granger.
Arthur, I told you-" Mrs Weasley
said breathlessly, then clammed up.
your boy!" Mr Granger exclaimed. "Well, you think you know what your
children- er, Viktor, I'm frightfully sorry. It's quite sporting of you to have
made an indistinct grunt.
I must say, this staircase is becoming a bit cramped," Mrs Weasley said
with forced cheerfulness. "Shall we go on up?"
seems Viktor and his friend can clear things up for us," Mr Granger said.
"Shall we all hear him out?"
decided there was nothing for it, and unwound the cloak, waiting at the top of
the steps, as twelve feet tromped up.
Mrs Weasley called out, dropping her case and scooping Harry up in an embrace.
"My goodness, what a lot of surprises in one day! I'm so happy to see
Viktor said curtly. "Ve vill talk."
was a group Harry could not have expected to see gathered in one little
inn-room. Mr Weasley, unnerved by the presence of Lucius Malfoy in the pub
downstairs, charmed the door with a Silencing spell. The Grangers were
intimidated by the surroundings, and darted glances around the cramped room.
All turned to Harry to explain the reason for their being assembled in the
first place. Harry felt sick and uncomfortable, recounting once again the story
of the day in Azkaban.
was Ginny that got sent-?" Mr
Weasley interrupted in shock. Harry winced. Dumbledore had enlisted Mr
Weasley's help, but had never told him exactly which students had vanished into
Azkaban. Harry decided that there was nothing for it but to plough on with the
story, no excuses. He went on,
explaining how he, Ron and Hermione had voluntarily gone after Ginny. The
Grangers' and Weasleys' faces contorted in alternating expressions of
confusion, rage and desperation as Harry described the horrible chain of
events. Viktor softly mumbled a translation to Sergios, sitting quietly with
arms folded in a corner.
was difficult, under the pressure of their horrified gazes, to tailor the story
for the two pairs of parents. The Weasleys understood with sick horror all the
implications of what Harry was saying, whereas the Grangers were bewildered and
confused, knowing none of the history or the names Harry drew in, and only
understanding the terrible and obvious wrongness of it all. Harry explained the
circumstances of their return, and what little he had been told about
Harry. It is unforgivable that none of you told us," Mrs Weasley whispered
harshly. "We found out from the Grangers. I am shocked that even
Dumbledore would hide..." She trailed off.
much happened so fast, Mrs Weasley," Harry said. "Dumbledore is gone
now. We didn't want to worry you."
Weasley just shook her head, her cheeks red.
Granger had stood, and was pacing in a tight circle. "Unbelievable.
Unbelievable. I had no inkling. We told Hermione to stay away from anything, anything even remotely dangerous... we
had an understanding... Viktor, will
Sergios here be able to save Hermione?"
think so, yes."
enough. Pats, let's go."
me," Mr Weasley said, an uncharacteristic hardness in his voice.
"Excuse me. Is this Sergios, Sergios of Adrianople?"
and Harry nodded.
Weasley laughed hollowly. "I don't believe this! I was worried about
Lucius Malfoy, and we have one of the most powerful Dark wizards in Europe
right here in this room!"
are you talking about?" Mr Granger said. "What do you mean, Dark
inhaled, suppressing a growing anger. He could not permit everybody's emotions
to run away with them. He had to speak up. "Mr Weasley, Viktor and Sergios
have come to help!"
Weasley started to shake his head, his own face reddening. "Harry,
I-" He stopped, gathered himself, and began again, gritting his teeth.
"Harry, you have been through a great deal. But there are some things you simply do not understand yet. If
Dumbledore was able, he would have seen to it that Sergios didn't come within a
hundred miles of Hogwarts. His work is illegal in Britain!"
spoke up, almost shouting. "Sergios is good! He never vorked for
You-Know-Who! Only British vizards follow him!"
that's sanctimonious Durmstrang rubbish. How about Karkaroff?" Mr Weasley
spat back acidly.
trust Viktor!" Harry shouted.
ALL OF YOU!" Mr Granger shouted suddenly, causing everybody to jump.
"If this man can save my daughter, that is my one and only concern, and to
blazes with all of your foolishness! Patty, let's go," he reiterated with finality.
Granger and Mrs Granger picked up their cases and exited the room without
another word. The tension in the air diminished not one bit, however.
Mr Weasley said. "I, unfortunately, can't speak for the Grangers. But you
are to keep this man as far from Ron as possible. I must insist on this. I am
going to see to it he does not enter the Hogwarts grounds. We must wait for a
word from Dumbledore.”
there is no Dumbledore-“ Harry interrupted.
“And think carefully before you allow anything to happen to Hermione," Mr
Weasley persisted, louder and angrier than Harry had ever heard him.
was silent, his mind full of thoughts, and of anger at the position everyone
seemed always to put him into. Mr Weasley left the room. Mrs Weasley stood, and
kissed Harry on the forehead wordlessly before following her husband out the
door, closing it firmly behind her.
turned to Viktor and Sergios, who remained silent. Viktor looked a bit winded
from the effort of explaining all these events to Sergios.
could see me before? In the pub?" Harry asked.
sat up in his chair, listening to Viktor's translation, then answering.
does not need to see you," Viktor explained. "Sergios feels all
people everywhere always. He says they are like smoke to him. He sees
breathing. It is his magic."
saw that he would have no chance of understanding what Sergios' magic was, even
if he asked a thousand questions.
vill you do?" Viktor asked. "Sergios vants to know."
snorted and shook his head. "I have no idea," he said.
vill not wait forever," Viktor explained.
know. I know," Harry said. "Please, give me a day. It's not just up
to me now. I have something else I need to talk to you about."
explained Neville's situation, leaving out names, and their hope of getting the
Malfoys involved. Viktor's eyebrows knitted in annoyance.
cannot do everything!" he said, throwing his hands up. "I am here to
help Hermo-i-one only. Sergios vill never agree. He cannot be concerned with
Viktor," Harry said, "ask him for me. He just needs to talk to
Malfoy, nothing else."
sighed heavily, and spoke to Sergios. His explanation was accompanied by many
apologetic hand gestures. Sergios watched Viktor impassively, then he turned
and addressed Harry.
vants to know, these Death Eaters want to kill people so they can live forever.
These Order of the Phoenix vants to kill them. You don't like the silly man
Malfoy downstairs, but you want to save his son. What do you vant? Sergios is confused," Viktor said.
looked from Viktor to Sergios. "I just want people to stop killing,
period," Harry said.
was another exchange of Greek. Sergios nodded as Viktor spoke.
says," Viktor explained, "that if you have fought You-Know-Who four
times, you vill be a very interesting vizard. He is a bad vizard, but very
Harry said, with some exasperation. He had already cottoned on to the fact that
Voldemort was bad. "Is that a yes or no?"
is a yes," Viktor said. "But Sergios thinks you are all crazy."
wound his way carefully down the stairs and through the pub. To cap off his
annoyance and distress, he saw Lucius Malfoy seated at a table where the
Grangers, still looking shaken, nursed glasses of white wine. Unable to resist,
he edged over, and heard a few words over the hub-bub.
Your daughter called you Muggles to
your faces?" Malfoy laughed and shook his head sympathetically.
"Pardon my surprise. I don't expect you'd have any reason to know about
these things, but that is something of a term of abuse among our kind. Hogwarts
under Dumbledore isn't known for teaching... the best manners. I am quite sure
she meant no disrespect by it- of course not!"
was a swell of noise and laughter from a nearby table that obliterated the
sound of their conversation. Harry moved in as close as he dared.
of course, I understand perfectly,"
Malfoy was saying. "We wizards are not like everybody else. We went into
hiding for a reason, after all. Some irresponsible folk of our kind don't think
twice about raiding Mu-, er, non-wizarding families to increase our dwindling
numbers. A blemish on our race, I've always felt. I sympathise utterly."
moved away quickly. Another second of listening to Lucius Malfoy's poisonous
comfort and Harry was liable to throw off the cloak and stun him. More
excitement was bound to unnerve the poor Grangers even further, however. Harry
left the pub as quickly as he could manage.
classes let out for the midday meal, the corridors filled up with students.
Ginny trotted down the stairs, adjusting the ribbon that tied her hair back.
Ginny wondered what colour it was flashing now. She had much cause to use it
lately. It was an enchanted item she had seen advertised in a silly witches'
magazine ages ago, promising that it made the wearer appear astonishingly,
irresistibly beautiful, and Ginny, in a low moment, had guiltily sent away for
it with her handful of Sickles. It had, of course, turned out to be a fraud.
Fred and George saw it and teased her about it for weeks. "Oldest trick in
the world," they said. All it contained was some twinkly fabric, and an
Emboldening charm that would induce the wearer to say or do things they were
normally too shy to indulge. But Ginny had discovered that, used creatively and
with discretion, it could be very handy.
Malfoy was a few feet away, emerging from the archway that led to the
Slytherins' dungeon compound. She was looking forward to this moment. Earlier
that morning, during her brief appointment in the quiet corridor, she had asked
Harry if she could make the arrangement with Malfoy. It made sense to involve
Harry as little as possible. Harry had agreed, reluctantly. Ginny, far from
feeling shy, was almost shivering with the excitement of performing this
Draco Malfoy said, smiling. "If it's not the Baby Weasel. Got herself a
boyfriend, I hear. Are we expecting another great litter of little Weasels
it, Malfoy," Ginny said with great satisfaction. "Have you heard from
your father lately?"
nodded and narrowed his eyes. "Yes, I did, just this morning, in fact.
Tells me Potter actually crawled up to him on hands and knees begging us for
his help. Funny world, eh?"
don't think that's exactly how it happened," Ginny said. "But yes, it
he's got a message you can bring to Potter," Draco drawled. "He's
agreed but he has one condition. Sergios has already agreed to it. He wants to
watch your Weasel brother and the Mudblood being revived. It's a shame that
Sergios is bothering but Father's professionally curious."
I see, saving your useless neck wasn't reason enough," Ginny said, and
felt a joyous thrill.
face darkened. He had exhausted his quiver of sneering wit.
tell Potter this," Draco said, lowering his voice. "I've got a potion
from Father. At four-thirty today, I will be found cut down in the bloom of
youth on the far side of the lake, my own wand lying uselessly by my side, last
used to cast a Phoenix Mark. Potter can make his arrangements. Father will take
me away tomorrow. The rest is your problem."
suits me fine," Ginny said. Draco disappeared up the stairs.
Harry whispered harshly. "Marzipan. Marzipan!"
gargoyle did not so much as crack a smile. The entrance to Dumbledore's office
remained shut. Harry cursed, wrapping the cloak tightly around himself. Had
they discovered that Dumbledore had been visited, and changed the password?
moved down the corridor, the way he had come. Suddenly the great door of the
Governing Committee's office swung open, nearly smacking Harry in the face, and
he hoped that nobody heard the breathy exclamation of surprise he uttered.
Committee members were talking too fast and loudly to hear, however. Ekers was
in a storming rage, his face red, his silver whiskers standing out like an
angry hedgehog. Harry padded behind the three wizards, following them down the
are you playing at, Weasley, keeping a thing like that from us!" Ekers
shouted. "There's no way we can stop the girl's parents, if they want
keeping Draco Malfoy-" Percy said pleadingly.
different. We're protecting
him," Throng pointed out, starting to huff and puff from the effort of
keeping pace with Ekers.
was unstoppable. "Weasley, it's unconscionable that you concealed their
condition from us. I'm dismissing Madam Pomfrey effective immediately. And I'm
calling a vote. All in favour of dismissing Weasley from the Committee, say
Percy shouted. "I brought you this information in good faith, sir!"
once you couldn't hide it any longer! The girl's parents are at the gate right
now. Weasley, if you aim higher than scrubbing the Ministry owlery floor from
now on, you'll bring the girl to her parents forthwith."
Ekers was hearing no more of it. They had nearly reached the Entrance Hall.
Percy's pace flagged and he fell behind his now-former Committee colleagues.
Harry ran ahead, ducked behind a corner and unwound his cloak. Across the
Entrance Hall, he spotted Ginny.
Ginny called out.
started, staring at Ginny as if unable to recognise her. Harry caught up.
Harry puffed, stopping short where Percy and Ginny stood.
sacked me!" Percy said to nobody.
you did the right thing," Harry said breathlessly.
attained a position of trust and I violated it!" Percy said, a panicked
edge in his voice.
going on?" Ginny asked, eyes going from one to the other in confusion.
parents are outside. They're taking her away," Percy explained, still not
looking at either of them. "Father told me I mustn't allow her to be taken
out, that the Grangers have been hoodwinked by a Dark wizard. So I had to own
up to the Committee. It's no good! I've been sacked! I have a frightful
get a grip on yourself!" Ginny urged.
seemed to snap back to the here and now. "Thanks to all of you!" he
yelled at Ginny. She clamped her eyes shut as Percy shouted into her face.
Harry said, grasping Percy's arm. Percy wheeled around, eyes wide. "You
did the right thing," Harry said slowly. "Your father got it wrong.
There's a wizard in Hogsmeade who's come to help
Hermione and Ron."
am I going to do!" Percy said.
blew out an exasperated breath. "Percy, do what Ekers said. Bring Hermione
out. It will be all right."
stared at Harry for a few seconds.
Dad said not to," Percy said.
Merlin's sake, Percy!" Ginny shouted. "Listen for a moment, can't
you? Hermione will be fine." Ginny grabbed Percy's arms and turned him
bodily toward the main staircase. "Go up and get her," she
enunciated. Percy started to climb the stairs.
they heard him mutter as he walked up.
spoken to Malfoy," Ginny whispered to Harry. She hastily explained Draco
Malfoy's message, and Harry nodded. Good. The plan was in place.
follow Percy,” Harry said. “Tell Neville what’s happening- he’ll have to go
look suspicious. It won’t do any good if Malfoy’s killed while Neville’s
hanging about in sight of two dozen people.”
Ginny said, and hurried away. Harry thought she almost seemed to be enjoying
Harry decided it would be best to follow Percy
at a safe distance. The plan he and Ginny had concocted depended on too many
people behaving correctly, and Harry didn’t want to count on that. He wasn’t
sure what he could do to help, but it seemed best to watch what became of
Hermione. After the story Harry told them the previous night, he could easily- easily- imagine the Grangers would
simply take her away, never to let her be seen at Hogwarts again.
He found a discreet corner where he could put
his cloak back on, and hurried down toward the hospital wing just in time to
find Percy levitating Hermione’s inert body out a discreet exit at the back of
Percy held his wand out in front of him,
pointed at Hermione, who floated in a drooping, helter-skelter sleeping pose,
robes loose and tangled, above the stone staircase in a rarely-used stairwell
that led to a back exit of the castle. Harry had never gone this way, despite
all of his experience exploring the strange nooks of Hogwarts. There was
nothing remotely mysterious or interesting about this exit- no magic statues
concealing secret levers, portraits or gargoyles who demanded passwords. It led
out to a yard with patchy grass then out a gate that led into a small wood that
was not particularly dark, overgrown or eerie.
Nevertheless, Harry had to step carefully to
avoid giving himself away. The ground was littered with twigs and once or twice
Harry had to carefully unsnag his cloak from a branch. A light rain started,
and this helped Harry stay unnoticed as the trees started to rustle and
Percy stopped, and Hermione drifted to a stop,
and her fuzzy mop of hair, getting heavier in the rain, flopped over. Harry
froze. “Can’t have you looking like that for your mum and dad,” Percy said.
Harry was startled to hear Percy speak.
Percy knelt beside Hermione’s suspended body
and took her right hand, which had been dragging on the ground, and rested it
on her stomach, then took her other hand and put it on top of the right. Her
pose was much more dignified, if disconcertingly funereal.
Harry felt a stab of guilt at skulking behind
Percy, who, annoying and self-absorbed as he could be, was after all a Weasley.
Percy and Hermione, Harry now remembered, had always seemed to have an
understanding. Maybe there was more to it than the common interests of two
fussy overachievers. “You and Ron will be all right, won’t you?” Percy said,
and stood watching her as if to wait as if for an answer. “I’m certain of it,”
he added. Harry felt himself blushing slightly with shame for spying on this
Percy stood, and assumed his businesslike
composure again. The wood came to an end, and there was a grassy slope that led
down toward the Hogsmeade main road.
The Grangers were there, clearly unsure of what
exactly they were waiting for. Mr Granger glanced around furtively like he was
living in an incomprehensible hallucination, while Mrs Granger simply stood
still with her arms folded, in a posture eerily like an angry, disapproving
Hermione. Harry saw the Grangers turn their heads and spot Percy shepherding
Hermione down the slope toward where they stood.
Harry had been told once that if a Muggle came
near Hogwarts, all they would see was ruins. He pictured how this scene must
have looked to the Grangers, two dentists from Milton Keynes: a grey autumn
afternoon spitting rain in front of a ring of tumbled ancient stone Their daughter, lifeless and drifting out of
a wood followed by a man in blue robes pointing an oaken wand at her head. For
a moment Harry had an inkling, just an inkling, of how the Dursleys could come
to hate wizards with such ferocity. Mr Granger inhaled deeply, and Mrs Granger
began fussing with her hands as Percy arrived before them.
“Mr and Mrs Granger, what an hon-“ Percy began,
but he was not allowed to finish.
“Will you stop doing that, please,” Mr Granger
Percy looked lost. “I’m sorry, pardon?”
“WILL YOU PLEASE PUT HER DOWN. ON THE GROUND!
SHOW SOME RESPECT.”
“This madness is over now. You just leave her
be,” Mr Granger practically spat. Percy looked like he had been struck. Harry
felt fiercely sorry for Percy now. He was trying to do his idea of the right
thing, and he met rejection and anger at every turn. Percy was silenced by the
look the Grangers gave him, and obeyed. He guided the hovering Hermione down to
the ground with his wand, until the levitation spell broke and she went limp.
The Grangers bent over to pick her up, Mr Granger delicately lifting her from
the shoulders while Mrs Granger took her by the ankles.
“She’s so much bigger, Rupert…” Mrs Granger
puffed, with a momentary sad smile, as she struggled to lift her daughter.
They struggled to carry her down the hill
toward the village road.
“Really,” Percy said. “Allow me to help-”
“Thank you,” Mr Granger said curtly. The
Grangers struggled down the slope while Percy stood, watching them struggle
their way along the path. Finally Percy turned away, back toward the wood and
the castle beyond it. Harry watched Percy go away alone, then he went on,
following the Grangers toward the village.
Viktor Krum waited along the road, a discreet
distance from the school where he would be sure to be recognized. He stepped
forward, then shuffled an awkward step away from Hermione.
“I vill… help? To carry her?” he said
uncertainly, and Harry noticed that he blushed slightly.
“That would be very kind, Viktor, thank you,”
Mrs Granger said, and Viktor stepped up and propped up Hermione’s sagging back.
The three of them together made much easier work of bearing Hermione into the
Harry followed the procession through a back lane,
expecting to be led toward the Three Broomsticks. However, they were met along
the lane by Sergios and Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy beckoned to them.
“I’ve taken rooms at a much better inn,” Malfoy
explained. “That Arthur Weasley’s hanging about the Three Broomsticks, and he
is liable to be… well, he can be tiresome. Come with me,” he went on, leading
the group down the quiet lane. “We’ll get this sad mess taken care of, then we
can get you all on the next train to London,” Malfoy said to Mrs Granger, with a
smile that Harry found as attractive and winning as sour milk. Mrs Granger
looked at her husband, puzzled. Malfoy certainly seemed to believe he had made
great friends with the Grangers by now. The Grangers did not seem so sure.
Harry felt distinctly uneasy watching
Hermione’s parents putting any kind of trust in Malfoy. He followed close
behind, hoping to nip in behind the party and witness Hermione’s revival- and
ensure, in whatever way he could, Malfoy’s good faith. It was unfortunate that
though he was invisible, Harry was still solid, and it would be difficult to
follow them into the room.
Malfoy certainly did not cut corners on his
lodgings. The Hotel Tintagel was the only stone building in Hogsmeade other
than the Scottish and Northern Office Ministry building. It was as different
from the Three Broomsticks as could be, all gold and brass and marble inside.
Harry had never met anyone who had stayed there, except perhaps for some
dignitaries who had been there for the Triwizard Tournament the previous year.
It was mostly used by high Ministry officials and wealthier parents of Hogwarts
students. Harry followed the group into the hotel, which they entered by a side
door. They were greeted by a house-elf, clad in a dirty red cloth potato-sack
with solid gold buttons sloppily sewn down the front. The elf bowed deeply and
stayed stooped, eyes down, as he followed the group toward the hotel’s lobby.
“See that the way to the lift is clear, won’t
you?” Malfoy said curtly to the elf.
“We don’t want attention.” Mrs Granger shook her head unconsciously
watching the strange little creature run ahead. Harry knew as he followed that
things were about to get more difficult. The door to the lift was tiny. There
was no way he could possibly squeeze himself into the lift with the others.
Sergios muttered something in Greek, which
prompted a momentary look of puzzlement on Viktor’s face. Harry saw Sergios
wave at Viktor in a ‘go on, then’ gesture.
“Sergios does not vant to take the lift,”
Malfoy looked at the old wizard, who uttered
another string of words in Greek. “He is very old,” Viktor explained. “He does
not trust those machines.”
Malfoy smiled. “I’m sure they are quite
reliable,” he said. “But I bow to your wishes, master,” he added to Sergios,
smiling his aren’t-we-great-friends smile again.
A thought struck Harry so forcefully it stopped
him in his tracks. Sergios can see me!
His heart jumped into his mouth for a moment, imagining that Sergios would give
him away… in front of Malfoy… imagine the trouble… but then he took a breath
and settled himself down. He knows I’ve
been following ever since they met along the road. He dared to hope that
Sergios’ newly-confessed fear of lifts was contrived to allow Harry to keep
The group made their way to the third floor of
the hotel up a marble staircase. A couple of frescoes gazed curiously at
Hermione as she floated past.The party emerged at the end of a white-and-gold
hallway, curlicued with mouldings and accented with candelabras. The stooping,
obsequious house-elf magicked a door open, and the others entered one by
one. Harry made his way toward the
room, desperate to make a breaking run but held back by caution. Sergios held
the door open while Viktor relayed a request for water to the house-elf. With a
plink sound, a jug of water on a
silver tray appeared in the house-elf’s hand, and Harry stepped
ever-so-gingerly over the threshold as the elf walked in and set the water
down. Harry did not even dare to breathe a sigh of relief as Sergios closed the
The Grangers settled their daughter on the bed
and carefully untangled her robes, which had become wrapped around her like a
strange shroud. Viktor nervously sat down, watching Mr Malfoy looking intently
at Hermione. Mr Granger kept casting uneasy glances at Lucius Malfoy, and
Malfoy suddenly seemed to notice this.
“Excuse me,” Malfoy said, his voice at its most
honeylike. “I have something of a professional interest in your daughter’s
condition. Sergios has invited me to observe. I do hope you don’t mind.”
Mr Granger made a less-than-heartfelt grunt of
assent. But Mrs Granger spoke up. “We’re grateful for your help, Mr Malfoy, but
if it’s all the same to you we’d rather not. It’s something of a family-”
“Surely it’s a little thing to ask,” Lucius
Malfoy added, still smiling but starting to blink.
“We’re grateful for your help, Mr Malfoy,”
Patty Granger went on, a little steel in her tone. “This is a private matter
Malfoy’s courtesy seemed to have reached the breaking
point. “Mrs Granger, it is not all
the same to me,” he said testily. “I would rather you did not compel me to
Mrs Granger looked like she had been slapped.
“Oh, bother,” Mr Granger said. “Let’s have it
over and done with!”
Sergios spoke, and Viktor stood up. Viktor
walked over to Hermione and, obviously following instructions from the old
wizard, he reached over and opened her eyelids. Harry saw that his hand shook.
The Grangers stepped back, as if to stay out of the way of their daughter’s
blank, lifeless stare. Mr Granger made a choking sound. Sergios stepped in and
peered into Hermione’s face, and Malfoy leaned in as if to see what it was that
Sergios was looking for.
Malfoy asked Sergios a question, but his words
sounded to Harry like nonsense. He was asking about something like “gates of
hod” and the moon and “emanations” and all sorts of words Harry did not know.
Viktor was slow to translate, but Sergios nodded and began speaking before
Viktor had finished, clearly understanding what Malfoy’s confusion was.
“Then my master- then I had been wrong all
along!” Malfoy whispered. “But surely it’s different with Mudbloods?”
A burst of translations. Harry wondered what
strange information Malfoy was gleaning. He hoped fervently it was nothing of
use to Voldemort. Harry tried to think of what Memory Charms he had learned.
Just in case.
“There is no difference with Muggles,” Viktor
expained. “They just have no… paralda, but that is not important.”
“Er, excuse me, is all this going all right?”
Mr Granger interjected from the background.
“Yes,” Viktor said. “But ve are not finished
for a long time.”
Harry was almost falling asleep crouched in his
discreet corner of the room, where Sergios’ soft voice uttered chanted spells,
occasionally interrupted by an excited Lucius Malfoy, for whom this
excruciating ritual seemed to be better than Christmas morning.
“Here it comes,” Viktor said. He beckoned to
the Grangers. “Please come here. You vill be able to help Sergios. You vill
have to not be frightened.”
The Grangers clearly did not like the sound of
that, but they obeyed, stepping forward as if invited to examine a ticking
parcel. Sergios looked over and addressed Lucius Malfoy directly, his voice
severe. Viktor was not forthcoming with the translation. His eyes grew wide as
he listened to Sergios’ words. Harry could not tell if he was frightened,
puzzled or annoyed. Perhaps he was all three at once. But Sergios then turned
to Viktor with an expectant look.
Lucius Malfoy’s eyebrows were raised toward
Viktor, who inhaled and spoke. “You do not love this girl,” he said. “Her
parents, me and the other do.” Harry nearly choked at the mention of “the
other”, and Malfoy instinctively turned his head, but the next words clearly
won back his attention. “Sergios says that you must not interfere, and if you
do cause her harm Sergios will completely destroy you. This is what he said,”
Viktor concluded, as if in apology.
Mr Granger had had enough. “This is mad,” he
said. “Can any of you explain to us what is going on? It’s been over two hours
and she’s still just lying there!”
“She is not just lying there, you fool,” Lucius
Malfoy interrupted suddenly. His voice was eerily even and calm. “She is
banging her fist on the edge of the universe, pleading to be allowed in. I can
hear her infantile shrieking. Sergios has performed a spell that has banished
her soul from her body. He is trying to repair her.” Harry saw a cruel, cold
smile break Malfoy’s lips apart. “I’m aching to see how you will take it when
you see it. I expect you won’t have the courage. I’ve pledged to Sergios not to
interfere or I would show you hatred,
not an idea of hatred but the real thing. But love should be enough to destroy a couple of silly Muggles’ minds.
Yes, I’m sure it will do.”
“Shut up!” Viktor shouted to Malfoy. Sergios’
head momentarily turned in annoyance, but then he resumed his chanting. “I vill
tell Sergios what you say, and then you will see what he vill do!” Mr Granger
stared at Malfoy with a look of wild confusion. Mrs Granger covered her face.
Sergios’ chant briefly rose in volume,
betraying annoyance. Malfoy appeared to have had enough of baiting the
Grangers, and went back to watching Sergios work. Viktor watched Malfoy a few
seconds more, then turned back and continued to watch Hermione, who looked
quite serene now that her eyes, accusing in their blankness, were closed. Harry
tried to quietly straighten himself up so he could see better.
Hermione suddenly took in a deep sharp breath.
An explosion could not have startled the people in the room more. Only Sergios
did not jump back. Hermione expelled the breath in a sustained low, throaty
cry. The Grangers stumbled, as if pushed, against the wall. Hermione crumpled
into a foetal ball and rolled over on her side.
A burst of words came from Sergios as he kept
his eyes locked on Hermione, his hands held over her. Viktor knelt down beside
the bed, and he made a beckoning motion toward the Grangers.
“Come now! Ve must make sure she does not hurt
Hermione began to thrash about madly, her eyes
shut tight. Before he knew what he was doing, Harry stood up and moved to the
bed, then remembered himself and stopped dead in his tracks. Everybody was too
focused on Hermione’s anguishing throes to notice him. The Grangers bustled up
to the bedside and held their hands out, not daring to touch their daughter but
restraining her from rolling off the bed or whanging into the furniture. Mrs
Granger’s face was contorted in a pained mask, as if she was unsure whether she
should simply go mad and start running right now.
Hermione settled down gradually until she
simply lay, breathing hard. Sergios held up a hand to all present, indicating
silence. He then beckoned to the Grangers and stepped away, whispering.
Viktor whispered his translation. “You stay
near. It is better for her to see you
Harry could not resist stepping closer, and he
saw Hermione’s face gradually become calm and… human. His heart rose. He had
butterflies in his stomach- could she really be all right? Could it be over
The butterflies seemed to settle and become
leaden. Something, something was not right. The Grangers must have seen it,
too. Harry perceived them receding away from Hermione, just by an inch, as they
caught her eye. Hermione looked at her mother and father in turn but said
nothing. Her eyebrows rose. She looked confused, watchful.
“Pet?” Mr Granger whispered.
“Pe-” Hermione pronounced. “Bloody hell!” she
called out suddenly. The Grangers jumped back. Harry blinked. Never in her
life, Harry was sure, had Hermione said either “bloody” or “hell”. Even
Viktor’s eyebrows went up. Harry’s heart sank into the floor. He remembered the
sneering tone, from Azkaban. Hecate Durrell had not saved Hermione and Ron
after all, she had used-
“You,” Harry said dully. The way everybody
(other than Sergios) jumped would have been comical in any other setting. Harry
dropped the cloak and walked up to the bed. Mr Granger’s eyes were practically
protruding from his head, for the rage and confusion that must have been
“Oh! You’re Harry Potter, aren’t you?” Hermione
said, lifting herself onto her elbows. “You’re a lucky one! Good friends,
“Pet?” Mr Granger whispered again, lower this
time. His daughter ignored him.
Spots danced in Harry’s eyes as he fought down
a swell of anger. “What have you done?” he asked weakly.
“I’ve survived,” Hermione said, a smile breaking
on her lips. “I’ve survived! I can’t bloody believe it. I’ve been waiting for
the girl to get out of my way.”
“Hecate,” Harry said slowly. “Where is
“Is that what she was called? Funny sort of
name. Off to my rotting corpse in Azkaban, I’ll wager,” she said and started to
giggle. “Sorry, really! This is quite a moment for me, you understand.”
Mrs Granger grasped Hermione’s arm. “Darling-
what are you playing at? Hermione?” Hermione shook off her mother’s hand.
“Mad!” Mrs Granger hissed, eyes clenched shut.
Lucius Malfoy, on the other hand, was beaming.
“Am I to assume something has not gone according to plan?”
For the first time Hermione noticed Malfoy, and
her morbid mirth vanished.
“A trap!” Hermione cried out. She began to kick
out again. “Bastards!” There was a bright flash that momentarily blinded Harry.
There was a series of thumps. When his eyes recovered he saw a faltering Malfoy
gripping the wall, a dancing electric glow fading around him. Malfoy was pawing
“Don’t!” Harry cried out at both of them, and
jumped between Lucius Malfoy and Hermione.
“Finish him off, for Merlin’s sake,” Hermione
hissed, her voice clearly drained of all energy by the effort of the spell.
“This is Hecate Durell! Is this your joke,
Potter!” Malfoy shouted. “Treacherous imp!”
Malfoy brandished his wand. Sergios, too,
raised a hand high above all the others in the room. Harry guessed he needed no
wand. Harry stood between Malfoy and Hermione, reaching into the pocket of his
own robes. Hermione’s face was twisted in a panic. “He’s a murderer!” Hermione
shrieked. “You must-“
“Out of the way, Potter. You’d best not tempt
me,” Malfoy hissed as Harry held his wand out toward him.
“No!” Viktor cried out. “Remember what Sergios
“Do you want the Mudblood alive or not! Sergios
knows perfectly well what it will take to bring her back. Tell Potter to get
out of my way!”
Harry’s eyes darted from Malfoy to the
Grangers, to Malfoy then to Sergios, to Malfoy then Viktor. The Grangers stood,
backs to the wall, shaking, eyes shut against the scene. There was a fast
burble of Greek words. Sergios was nodding, and Harry saw Sergios’ raised arm
slacken as he stepped away from the melee. Viktor’s grim face looked away. How
could you all let this- Harry thought, but then he thought of Hermione, as
the voice so unlike hers began to utter indistinct pleas, and she clawed the
walls like a cat wanting to climb to safety.
“Let me kill her,” Malfoy hissed with
cold relish. Only Harry stood in the way of the execution of an Auror by
Malfoy’s eyes travelled down to Harry’s
wand-hand. Did Harry feel his hand slacken? Harry did not flinch. He simply
watched his wand clatter on the floor as the bright green bolt arced harmlessly
over his shoulder.
Silence, then a deep intake of breath. “The
water - I- Dad?” came a weak whisper from behind Harry. Lucius Malfoy’s eyes
met Harry’s. A slight smile. Harry was startled to hear Malfoy’s voice, close
and intimate, but his lips did not move.
You did marvelously, the voice said. Don’t worry. You have your friend back, and
everyone will pat you on the shoulder and convince you that you did the right
thing. Cheer up.
“Go,” Harry hissed. “You saw what you wanted.
Lucius Malfoy’s smile widened. “I beg your
pardon, these are my rooms, as a matter of fact. Nevertheless, as you wish. You
have five minutes to get out.” With that, Malfoy strode over to the door and
left the puzzled and exhausted group.
“Pet,” Mr Granger whispered. “You’re all right.
She is all right isn’t she?” he added, looking up at Sergios. Sergios nodded
“There was cold water - I was sure I was going
to drown…” Hermione whispered. Harry walked a few feet ahead as Hermione
followed, Mr and Mrs Granger close on either side of her. Viktor and Sergios
hung back a little ways. Viktor’s walk seemed even more awkward than usual.
Harry observed him occasionally shuffling forward to catch up with Hermione and
the Grangers, then suddenly stopping and dropping back to where Sergios walked.
They walked along the track that led uphill to the gates of the school.
Hermione had spoken very little on the walk back, and Harry suspected she was
still in shock. Mrs Granger kept
repeating “You’re all right, it’s all right,” as much to herself as to her
Harry spotted Ginny up ahead, appearing at the
grand entrance gate and running along the track toward them. The Grangers
started suddenly. Harry realized that they would not have seen her coming. She
would have simply materialized in front of the gate, which to Muggles appeared
as a ruined stone farm wall.
“Harry! Hermione!” Ginny called out. “You’re…
you’re back!” Hermione seemed to snap into the present at the sound of Ginny’s
“Ginny!” Hermione uttered as Ginny fairly
collided with her, throwing her arms around her. Hermione hugged her back, and
the group stood still for a few seconds. Harry stared at his feet.
“You’ve got to come quickly, Harry,” Ginny
said, out of breath, turning toward Harry. “Something’s happened.”
Harry was puzzled for a moment at Ginny seemed
to be staring at him significantly. “Oh!” he said.
“Draco’s been…” Ginny looked over at the
Grangers. “All the students have got to get back to their towers right away! If
they don’t find you there, there could be trouble.”
“Right,” Harry said. “Er, Mr and Mrs Granger, I
don’t think you can come with us,” Harry said uneasily.
“Why not?” Mrs Granger said.
“I don’t think, er, non-wizards can get into
the school grounds.”
Mr Granger’s face darkened. “Really,” he
finally said. “Pet, I think you’d better come with us.”
Hermione looked at her father. “Dad, I’ve got
to go back to school, I’ve missed days –”
“We’ll have to talk about your schooling back
at home,” Mr Granger said, cutting Hermione’s words short. “Come along.”
“No, Dad! I’ve got to go back! There’s… there’s
work to do… R- Ron’s… I’ll come back
later, I promise!”
“Darling,” Mrs Granger said, stepping forward.
“I think your father’s right. Come back with us. You need to be away from this
for a while.”
“No! Mum, I absolutely have to stay here!”
“We’ll talk about this back at the inn, dear.
Come on,” Mrs Granger said.
Hermione looked over at Harry, silent. She
brushed back some hair that had blown into her face, then she turned and
started to walk, toward the gate.
“Sorry, Mum,” she said, marching determinedly
up the path. “I’ll call, soon.”
“Hermione!” Mr Granger called. “You come back
here right away!” He followed her, then broke into a jog as Hermione moved
toward the gate. Harry and Ginny started to follow.
“Viktor!” Harry called back over his shoulder.
“Don’t go yet! Stay in Hogsmeade!” He saw Viktor nod and wave them off
“Darling, this isn’t like you at all!” Mrs
Granger called out. Harry, Ginny and Hermione passed through the gate. Glancing
over his shoulder, Harry could see the Grangers stop dead in their tracks as
the three vanished from their sight. Hermione was not looking back, though.
THE END for now.