Hermione and Ron stared at Harry for a moment,
peculiar expressions on their faces. Hermione seemed to regain her calm
"We donít know that You-Know-Who has
got Snuffles," she said evenly. "It says right there that they
just disappearedÖhe might have escaped."
"Blimey, it might not even be Sirius,"
Ron interjected. "We donít know for sure that he was anywhere near
Africa. It could be any dog."
Harry did not seem convinced. He gave Ron
a look of disbelief, his green eyes flashing.
"And you havenít had any dreams, have
you?" Hermione asked. "Donít you always dream when You-Know-Who
Ron smiled at this, relieved. "Yeah,
you wouldíve dreamt it!"
"No, I didnít dream about Bertha Jorkins,"
Harry mused. "We have to help Sirius!" he yelled suddenly, unable
to stand still any longer. His face had gone red and he was pacing the
floor of Ronís room recklessly. "No wonder I havenít heard from him.
Weíve got to do something!"
"Harry, be reasonable. What can
we do?" Hermione asked, carefully keeping her voice even. "We
have no clue where he might be, or even if itís true. The Ministryís involved.
Theyíll make sure Sirius is safe andÖ" She was cut off by a snort
"Hermione, the Ministry is after
Sirius, remember? And they donít know heís an Animagi anyway, so they
wonít know itís him," he said crossly. "Maybe my dadís heard
something," he finished worriedly.
"Do you think heíd tell us?" Hermione
questioned, dropping to sit on Ronís bed. "If he does know anything,
itíll probably be secret Ministry business."
The three continued to talk about the article,
trying to figure out the best way to learn what they could and reassuring
Harry that his godfather was safe. The discussion didnít end until Mrs.
Weasley finally called them down for dinner.
Dinner passed pleasantly, with the nine
of them crowded around the small table. Harry and Hermione offered to
help Mrs. Weasley clear the plates when they had finished, but she would
hear nothing of it.
"I just got an owl from Bill,"
Molly Weasley said as she placed an exquisite chocolate pudding on the
table. "Heís such a good boy Ė been writing me every week this summer.
He knows how I worry so." Mrs. Weasley sniffed as she spooned a very
large helping of pudding onto Harryís plate.
"How is Bill?" Harry asked politely.
"Heís as well as anyone can be nowadays,"
Mrs. Weasley answered, her eyes full of worry. "Very sweet of you
to ask, Harry. Youíve always been such a sweet boy Ė polite, too. Just
Harry flushed at the praise, keeping his
eyes focused on his plate. Mrs. Weasley continued, speaking to no one
in particular. "I do enjoy having a full house. Time just flies by,
though; another week and youíll all be back at Hogwarts," she sniffed.
"Iíll still be here, Mum,"
Percy said, looking affronted.
"Yes, yes, of course dear," his
mother said, patting his hand reassuringly. "But youíre away at the
Ministry so much lately. I worry."
"Mum, you know I canít help that,"
Percy said. "The Ministry needs everyone it can getÖ"
"Yeah, Percyís job is very important,"
Fred whispered sarcastically to George. Unfortunately, the whisper wasnít
quiet enough, as even Harry heard it rather clearly from the other side
of the table.
"You should look up to your brother,"
Mrs. Weasley said, her voice rising. "I notice he didnít have
any problems picking up Harry at his uncleís, did he?"
"Everything went fine, dear,"
Mr. Weasley interrupted. "I even saw a man delivering the post. Remarkable
that they do it themselves, isnít it? How do they find everyone? Can you
send messages over long distances? It must take a very long timeÖ"
"Not now, dear," Mrs. Weasley
said wearily. "I noticed none of my children got any packages from
Hogwarts this year," she added, glaring at Ron.
"Whatís that supposed to mean?"
he asked, confused at his motherís look.
"I only mean that there will be no
Weasley prefects again this year. Oh, we did get a package today with
a beautiful new prefectís badge, only it wasnít for any of my children,"
Mrs. Weasley said casually, beaming at Hermione.
Ronís head immediately snapped to his side,
and he glared down at Hermione, who was slinking down into her seat.
"Hermione?" he asked, an eyebrow
"I did get a letter today,"
she said slowly as her cheeks turned pink.
"CongratÖ" Harry began, but his
best friend cut him off.
"Why didnít you tell me?" Ron
demanded of Hermione, his eyes boring into hers.
"I was going toÖlater," she said.
Percy rose from his chair and crossed over
to offer his congratulations. Ron rolled his eyes and Harry snickered
as they watched him very formally shake her hand, saying, "Welcome
to a very prestigious group of wizards, if I do say so myself. Iím sure
youíll live up to the great responsibilities the position holds."
"Yeah," Ron cut in, "make
sure the first years donít have too much fun. After all, it would be a
pity if the library doesnít get enough use." Hermione turned red
"Well, I certainly hope youíll be putting
the library to good use," she sniffed. "The O.W.L.s are
this year, you know. Iíve already begun studying."
"Hermione! The O.W.L.s arenít ítil
June! Thatís ages away," Ron looked exasperated, but his mother shot
him a stern look.
"Youíd do well to get a leg up on your
studies," Mrs. Weasley huffed. "I donít want a repeat of the
twinsí performance." She then glared at Fred and George, who suddenly
wore identical wounded looks on their faces. Mrs. Weasley ignored these
and continued, "What with you taking your O.W.L.s and these two taking
their N.E.W.T.s, youíd think youíd all be paying a bit more attention
to your spell books and not setting off explosions or flying around the
"See what you started Hermione,"
Ron glared at her. "Just because you canít get enough studying doesnít
mean you have to ruin it for the rest of us!" Hermione opened her
mouth to protest, but luckily for Ron, dinner was cut short as one of
the twinsí inventions blew up overhead, sending plaster falling onto the
"Canít have one quiet night with my
family, can I?" Mrs. Weasley yelled. "If I find youíve ruined
the rug, IíllÖ"
Ron motioned to Harry and Hermione, and
the three fifth year students took the opportunity to sneak back upstairs
amid the confusion, leaving behind a very angry Mrs. Weasley waving her
wand threateningly at the twins.
A week later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione settled
onto the Hogwarts Express for the ride to their school. They had found
an empty compartment in the back, and were just about to continue their
conversation about Sirius when the compartment door swung open. Ginny
walked in looking extremely embarrassed, followed by an even more embarrassed
looking Neville. Neville Longbottom, a forgetful, though pleasant, boy
in Harryís class, looked happy nonetheless, and beamed even more as he
saw the three.
"Hi everyone! How was your summer?"
he began eagerly. "I canít wait to get back to Herbology. Iíve been
reading the new book and thereíre a lot of interesting plants weíre going
Ginny ignored him and sat across the aisle
from Harry. She was about to put her cloak on the seat beside her, but
Neville sat down before she could. Ginnyís face turned even redder if
that was possible. Harry noticed Neville smiling at Ginny, and whispering
something in her ear. Ginny mumbled a reply looking down at her hands;
Harry couldnít hear what either said. For some reason, this bothered him.
He wasnít sure why, but he suddenly felt very irritable.
Before long, Harry had a very apparent reason
to be irritable. The compartment door opened again and in walked a tall
blonde boy with a pointed face, followed by two large dim-looking thugs.
"Well, well, well, it looks like Potty,
Weasel, and Mudblood managed to survive the summer. I was rather hoping
you bumped into your old friend again."
Ron jumped out of his seat, but was pulled
back as Hermione grabbed his robes. "You shut up Malfoy, or IíllÖ"
"Youíll what?" Malfoy sneered
at Ron, dismissing him and turning to Harry, "I warned you to get
on the winning side years ago, Potter, but now itís too late. Aw, look,
the Squib has got himself a girlfriend too!" Draco was looking over
at Ginny, who while still blushing furiously, now looked angry. "Potter,
whereís your girlfriend? Even the Weasel and Granger found each other,
it seems. I guess fame isnít everything."
Hermione, who had been sitting rather close
to Ron, shifted away from the tall redhead and kept her eyes down. Ron
was reaching for his wand, but Harry beat him to it.
"Pollolingus!" he shouted,
as a yellow beam shot from his wand and hit the pale boy at the door,
whose face betrayed his fear.
Nothing seemed to have happened. Draco,
realizing this, smirked and began to say, "Cluck...cluck, cluck,
cluck!" Every time he opened his mouth, the only sound that came
out was the clucking of a chicken. Malfoyís hands shot to his face, and
he kept his mouth covered as if horrified of letting any sound escape.
Crabbe and Goyle, Malfoyís thugs, seemed frightened and unsure without
their leaderís instructions, and ran out of the car, followed by a clucking
Draco. Everyone began rolling with laughter at the sight (or sound) of
The Gryffindors were still laughing when
the compartment door opened again, this time revealing the two identical
faces of Fred and George Weasley.
"All right, who do we have to thank
for a memory which I will treasure forever?" George asked. "I
always thought that pointy nose of Malfoyís was slightly beaky! I think
Iíve even got an idea for a new gag!" Fred and George were constantly
coming up with tricks and pranks for the joke shop they hoped to open
after leaving Hogwarts. They were now rubbing their hands together with
the manic look in their eyes they normally got when thinking up a new
"It was Harry," Ginny said, her
face still red in anger. "Malfoy was being his usual charming self
and Harry defended us."
"Well, then Harry, we promise to name
our next joke after you," Fred said, grinning from ear to ear, "and
itíll be a beaut!"
Fred moved to sit in an empty chair, but
Ginny immediately jumped up and offered her seat.
"You can sit here if you like,"
she said rapidly. Fred was about to decline, but Ginny had already gotten
up and moved up to the front of the car, near George. "I, uh, needed
Georgeís help with something," she stammered, as she saw Nevilleís
confused look. Harry watched all of this with interest, wondering what
exactly was going on with Ginny and Neville. He made a mental note to
ask Neville about it later.
The rest of the train ride passed pleasantly,
and before they knew it, they had arrived at Hogwarts and zoomed through
the Sorting ceremony. All the new Gryffindors were gaping at Harry in
awe, especially after the latest rumors about the Triwizard Tournament.
Harry spent a lot of time examining his gold plate. He was grateful when,
after what seemed like a very long time, the plates filled with food magically
and they were digging into a scrumptious feast. Just as the last of the
pumpkin juice and pudding disappeared from the plates and mugs, leaving
them as sparkling clean as when they began, Albus Dumbledore rose to speak.
The Headmasterís long white beard glowed in the light of the stars from
the enchanted ceiling as he stood silently until the chatter died away.
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts,"
Professor Dumbledore began. "As the returning students have already
heard, at the end of the last term, we lost one of our own at the hands
of Voldemort. Yes, he has returned once again to our midst. You will all
be pleased to know, though, that we have not heard of any harm done by
him over the summer," at this Harry let himself get slightly hopeful,
"and while the Ministry of Magic has chosen not to make any official
announcements, rest assured there are many brave wizards and witches working
day and night to ensure Voldemort does not regain the power he once held.
That being said, we have strengthened the charms protecting Hogwarts.
The trips to Hogsmeade will now be restricted to fourth years and above,
and there will be chaperones. Inside the school, the Defense Against the
Dark Arts curriculum will be expanded to better help you all protect yourselves.
I have the pleasure of announcing the appointment of two new teachers
this year. First, Mundungus Fletcher will be acting as a substitute Potions
Master, while our own Severus Snape is working on a special project for
me. Second, Arabella Figg will be your new Defense Against Dark Arts professor.
Welcome them to our school, and have a safe and prosperous year!"
As he spoke, the two new professors walked
up next to Dumbledore from the side room. Harry had never seen the man
before, but the woman looked oddly familiar. She was short, with large
green robes and a tall pointed hat with flowers on top. As he stared at
her, she caught his eye and gave an odd smile. Suddenly, Harry knew where
he had seen that round face before. He turned to Ron and whispered, "Thatís
my old babysitter, Mrs. Figg!"