This story follows the events of Sixth Year Showdowns and The Gift and is set
in Harry & Co's seventh year.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to JK Rowling, except
for a couple I've added.
* * * * *
"What're you looking at, Hermione?" Harry Potter asked,
coming up behind her. Students were thronging the crowded Hogwarts corridor,
jostling in all directions, but they moved aside to give Harry and Hermione
some space by the noticeboard, out of deference to their status as Head Boy
and Head Girl.
Hermione Granger turned from the noticeboard. "There's
a notice up about a new series of tutorials for seventh-years. A new subject."
"What? Another new subject? Aren't we doing enough work
already?" Harry ran his hand through his unruly black hair in a gesture of mock
despair. Although they were only half-way through their seventh and final year
at Hogwarts, he and Ron Weasley were constantly complaining about the amount
of work which was being piled on them with their N.E.W.T. exams in mind. Hermione
didn't take their complaints very seriously, although she worked harder than
anyone else in their year. She was hoping to get a scholarship to a college
of witchcraft. However, although she took her work and her prefect duties seriously,
she wasn't quite as obsessed with work as she had been when she was younger.
She and Ron had been an "item" for just over a year now, and Harry thought the
relationship had done her good and made her less serious.
Harry leaned over Hermione's shoulder to read the new
notice. "A new series of tutorials are offered to seventh-year students who
are interested in furthering their knowledge of Musical Enchantments. Tutorials
will be given during your Friday free periods, and we are pleased to announce
that the well-known musician, Charybdis Messina, has agreed to give the tutorials.
Please sign below if you are interested in attending the sessions. M. McGonagall."
"What a name...Charybdis Messina..." Harry said absently,
and then with a start he noticed what Hermione was doing. In her neat writing
she was signing up not only herself on the new list, but himself and Ron too.
"Hey! Hermione! What if we don't want to go?"
"It'll be interesting," said Hermione serenely, putting
away her quill. "And it may help us to gain insight into some other branches
of magic." She turned from the noticeboard and called a warning to some first
years who were pushing and shoving each other in their haste to get to Potions
Harry sighed. "All right - but don't blame me if Ron
doesn't like it."
Ron didn't like it. "Musical Enchantments?" he said incredulously
to Harry, as they sat at the Gryffindor table at supper time. Hermione was on
duty at the far end of the hall. "Girly stuff! Like that Herbology woman Mum
listens to on the radio - the one who sings to her plants to make them grow
better - whatshername?" Seeing Harry's blank look, Ron continued, "And in our
free period as well - about the only time we've got to catch up on our homework
essays - tuh!"
Knowing Ron of old, Harry kept quiet and ate his supper,
nodding from time to time in agreement, and as he expected, by the end of the
meal Ron's exasperation had subsided into, "Well, I suppose we'd better go to
the first session and see what it's all about, but if it's a load of rubbish
I'm chucking it in after that -"
When the seventh-years who had signed up for Musical
Enchantments assembled outside the classroom door on Friday, Harry found that
they were quite a large group. He suspected that most people had come out of
curiosity to find out what the subject entailed and to see the apparently well-known
Charybdis Messina. Harry himself had never heard of her, but Ron said he thought
he remembered his mum mentioning her name, Hermione had found a short biography
of her in "Who's Who in Modern Magic", and Parvati Patil was telling everyone
she knew all about Charybdis, and she was wonderful.
"She's supposed to know more than anyone else about the
use of music in witchcraft, and she's incredibly beautiful -"
Listening to Parvati, the seventh-years were taken by
surprise when a low, melodious voice spoke behind them. "Are you all here for
the Musical Enchantment class? Please go in."
They turned, and saw a woman looking at them, an air
of faint amusement on her face. Parvati had been right. Their new tutor was
a stunningly beautiful woman. She was very tall - taller than most of the seventh-years
and only an inch or two shorter than Ron, who was six feet four these days and
towered over most people at Hogwarts. She had a lithe, slim figure and wore
a floating midnight blue robe. A mass of black hair streamed over her shoulders
and down her back, and she had the most extraordinary eyes Harry had ever seen
- a deep, dark blue, with lashes and brows which looked startlingly black against
her white skin. She looked intently at the seventh-years as they made way politely
for her to sweep into the classroom. The students followed and sat down, waiting
for their new tutor to speak.
She walked to the teacher's desk, put down the shoulder
bag she carried, and stood facing the class. When she did speak, Harry noticed
again what a deep, musical voice she had.
"I'm very pleased to be here at Hogwarts and to meet
you all. Let me introduce myself. My name is Charybdis Messina. You may call
me Miss Messina." She seated herself gracefully on the desk top, her gauzy sleeves
falling away from her white wrists as she gestured. "We are here to study the
art of musical enchantment. Can anyone tell me what they think is involved in
A few hands went up, some doubtfully, some more confidently.
Hermione's hand, of course, was the first one up. "Yes? asked Miss Messina.
"It's the art of using chanting or singing to enforce
the power of an enchantment," Hermione said promptly, then added, "or you can
use the playing of an instrument."
"Quite right. Please tell me your name - I will try to
learn as many as I can." She smiled faintly as she looked around the class.
"Hermione Granger, Miss Messina."
"Thank you, Hermione. Yes, it will be valuable for you
to know that certain enchantments may involve the use of music. You already
know, I am sure, that the way in which one stresses magic words is crucial.
Words which are pronounced incorrectly can have no effect - or they may have
disastrous effects. Singing, or chanting, spells and enchantments can add even
more power to the magic being performed."
Harry's mind wandered back to his first year at Hogwarts,
when he, Ron and Hermione had encountered a giant three-headed dog known incongruously
as Fluffy. They had discovered that music would soothe him to sleep, but so
far that had been the only time Harry had found a use for music in his time
at Hogwarts. He looked sideways at Ron, to see if Ron was also thinking of the
Fluffy incident, but Ron was looking forwards, gazing attentively at Miss Messina.
"...It is very important, of course, to use music correctly.
In most cases, only the right notes will do. If the wrong notes are sung or
played, the enchantment may not take effect. I will demonstrate a simple musical
charm for you." Miss Messina cast another intent look around the classroom,
and her gaze alighted on Ernie Macmillan. "Perhaps you would like to help me
Ernie, an amiable, burly Hufflepuff who generally liked
to stay out of the limelight near the back of the classroom, got nervously to
his feet, gave his name and was directed to stand next to Miss Messina. She
opened her bag and removed a curious stringed instrument. Harry had never seen
one quite like it.
"This is a lyre. A very sweet-toned instrument. I am
going to perform a very simple charm to induce movement of the feet." She poised
her fingers over the strings, then struck three sharp, clear notes; two low
and one higher. Then she repeated the notes in groups of three, this time chanting
"Mo-tor-i! Ped-est-a! Rap-i-do!"
Ernie looked surprised, and slightly alarmed, as his
feet began to jerk and dance on the spot, tapping a rapid beat as the sound
of the lyre died away. The rest of the class laughed appreciatively. After a
few moments, Miss Messina raised her hand and struck one chord on the lyre.
Looking very relieved, Ernie stopped dancing and slunk back to the safety of
the back row.
"You see, quite a simple combination of notes and words
can be effective," said Miss Messina. "We have time for another demonstration..."
She looked around again. This time her intensely blue eyes rested on Ron. "Your
"Ron Weasley," said Ron awkwardly, tripping over his
feet as he got up.
"Thank you, Ron. Do stand there. Now, this is another
very simple charm. As you can see, Ron has red hair. I am going to use a charm
which will change it." As she spoke, she had raised her hand and ruffled the
top of Ron's hair. He looked embarrassed.
Miss Messina smiled brilliantly at the nervous Ron, and
struck more notes on her lyre. "Iridium - cortexta - iridium - cortexta -" she
sang, in time to the notes which rippled from her lyre. Harry thought she had
a very beautiful singing voice - deep, but sweet, and strangely powerful. The
room seemed to hum with the power of it. The seventh-years began laughing again
as Ron's red hair abruptly faded to white, then darkened to black, then went
through a spectrum of rainbow colours before Miss Messina struck a final chord
and Ron was red-haired once more, and looking rather sheepish.
"You see," said Miss Messina, looking smilingly from
Ron to the rest of the class, "there's really nothing complicated about the
use of music in enchantment." She patted Ron's arm. "Thank you."
Ron almost tripped over again as he sat down. He looked
a bit dazed. When Harry tried to catch his eye to grin at him, he couldn't,
because Ron was still gazing transfixed at Miss Messina. So Harry looked at
Hermione instead. She was looking rather disapproving.
The tutorial seemed to go very quickly, and soon Miss
Messina was bidding them farewell until the next week. "But I will see you before
then, because Professor Dumbledore has kindly invited me to stay as a guest
for the next two weeks. I shall look forward to exploring this beautiful countryside
- it will inspire me to write new compositions."
She left, and the class spilled out into the corridor,
discussing the lesson.
Harry caught up with Hermione. "What did you think?"
"Hmm, it seems quite interesting," Hermione said. "I'm
not convinced that everything she said was true - if one sticks to the principles
of Arithmancy -"
"No, please, Hermione, I need some food before we discuss
Arithmancy!" Harry said with a grin. "What did you think, Ron? Liked your hairstyles,
by the way!" He noticed that Ron wasn't with them, and looked back to see his
friend following slowly behind them, apparently deep in thought. "Ron?"
Ron looked up, slightly startled out of his reverie.
"What did you think of Miss Messina?"
"Oh! Er, yeah - she's very beautiful, isn't she?" Ron
said, rather vaguely.
Hermione gave him a Look. "Harry meant, what did you
think of her theories about magical enchantments?"
"Yeah. Interesting." Ron's mind still didn't seem totally
with them. They reached the Great Hall, and Ron and Hermione went off to find
seats together at the Gryffindor table. Harry, whose turn it was to do prefect
duty, went to supervise the first-years entering the Hall.
"I must write to Sirius tonight," he thought to himself.
Sirius Black was Harry's godfather, and had been his
guardian since Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. In the holidays they shared a
small house Sirius had bought near The Warren, home of the Weasleys. In term
time, Sirius liked to travel. When he had first been cleared of the crimes which
had sent him to Azkaban for twelve years, Sirius had travelled the world, trying
to get away from his bad memories. Now, he had some kind of job with the Ministry
of Magic, which also seemed to involve a great deal of travelling, although
he still wrote to Harry as often as he could. Harry often wished, however, that
Sirius would give him more details about where he was and what he was doing.
When they saw each other in the holidays Sirius was never very forthcoming about
"He'll be interested to hear about Miss Messina," Harry
thought. "Wish I knew where he was - but Hedwig will always find him. He's been
very mysterious about his new job - I wonder if he'll tell me more about what
he's doing when he writes?" And Harry hurried off to break up a fight between
some Gryffindor and Slytherin first-years.
* * * * *
Thanks for your letter, and the ten Sickles. The
money will come in handy next time I'm in Hogsmeade. Things are pretty busy
here, as usual. You remember I told you in my last letter about Miss Messina,
our new Musical Enchantments teacher? We've had two lessons with her now, and
they're quite popular. I think a load of the other boys signed up when they
heard how stunning Miss Messina was - unfortunately, Malfoy and a few other
Slytherins have joined the class. This week she taught some of us to play a
few notes on the lyre. Seamus is really good at it, but he says it's his Irish
blood that makes him musical. Most of us have trouble making the right notes,
though! There's something strange about Miss Messina - I don't know what. I've
never met anyone like her before.
Hermione asked me to say, if you should happen to
be anywhere near Diagon Alley soon, could you possibly look in Flourish and
Blotts for a copy of Miss Messina's book, "The Magic of Music"? She thinks it
would be useful background reading. We'll send you the money if you do find
it. Hermione and I are a bit worried about Ron. He's been acting strangely for
the last week or so - moping about, day-dreaming - not like his usual self at
all. I think Hermione's a bit upset because Ron keeps going off by himself -
it's almost as if he wants to get away from us. I think he's got something on
his mind. Well, I must go, I've got work to finish - as usual. Wonder where
you are now? Hope you're having an interesting time, anyway. I'll write again
Harry put down his quill, flexed his fingers, and folded
his letter into an envelope. The Gryffindor common room was very quiet - on
a sunny March Saturday, most Gryffindors had chosen outdoor activities. Harry
almost had the place to himself, except for a gaggle of second-years playing
a card game in the corner, who would not have dreamed of disturbing the Head
Boy. He leant back in his chair, thinking. There were two main problems bothering
him, and for different reasons he had not told Sirius about either of them.
The first problem weighing on Harry's mind was Charybdis
Messina. In their second Musical Enchantment tutorial she had looked at Harry
a lot, or so it felt to Harry. Every time he had looked towards her, it seemed,
he had found those startlingly vivid blue eyes fixed on him with a compelling
stare. It made him uncomfortable and, more alarmingly, it made the scar on his
forehead sting painfully. That was usually a bad sign. Usually, he would have
mentioned this to Ron, but his best friend was acting so oddly that Harry had
chosen not to. Since that first tutorial Ron had been strangely preoccupied
- zoning out of conversations, day-dreaming in class and unusually quiet. Harry
and Hermione were not the only ones to have noticed this. Harry had an uncomfortable
feeling that Ron's behaviour was related to Charybdis Messina. Ron had spent
the second tutorial gaping at Miss Messina as if hypnotized, and she almost
seemed to encourage this, smiling at him, picking him for demons trations and
patting his arm. A number of the other seventh-year boys, Harry knew, would
have been quite happy to sit and stare at Miss Messina all day, but Ron seemed
to be the worst affected.
The other problem weighing on Harry's mind was Ginny,
Ron's sister. She was a sixth-year, and, like Harry, a member of the Gryffindor
Quidditch team. Harry knew all the Weasleys very well, especially since he and
Sirius had moved to live near them in the holidays, but it was only since last
summer that he had begun to feel differently about Ginny.
Ginny had been injured in an accident on the Quidditch
field - luckily, she had made a full recovery - but when he saw her lying unconscious
Harry had realised that she had become very important to him. After the accident,
he had held her hand in the hospital wing and there had been a silent admission
that they both cared about each other, but Harry hadn't found the right words
at the time to tell her what he felt. Partly because he didn't really know what
His experience with girls was limited. In his fourth
and fifth years he had had a few dates with an older girl, Cho Chang, but they
had both known that was just fun, and there were no really deep feelings involved.
Harry hadn't met anyone else since then who made him want to have an exclusive
relationship. His friendship with Hermione had helped him to understand a little
more about girls, but he had only ever wanted friendship from her. In the last
few months, though, he had found himself envying what she and Ron had - it would
be great, he thought, to be so comfortable in someone else's company, to know
them so well. For the first time, he wasn't content to be odd man out. He wanted
something more. Someone of his own. And he thought that person might be Ginny,
but he didn't know what to say to her.
Since last summer, Harry and Ginny had spent quite a
bit of time together. Some people saw them as a couple, he was sure. But they
were still on the level of a friendship - they hadn't really spoken about deeper
feelings. Harry felt strangely nervous about messing up their tentative relationship.
He didn't want to hurt Ginny - he was very fond of her. And he was afraid that
if they did get together, and then fell out, it might damage his relationship
with Ron and the rest of the Weasley family, who had been so good to him.
There was a darker reason, too, behind Harry's silence.
Sirius hardly ever spoke of it, but Harry knew the Ministry of Magic were worried
that Voldemort was gathering his forces again. Sooner or later Voldemort would
try to come back, and when he did, Harry knew that he would be one of Voldemort's
targets. Did he really want to drag Ginny into the danger of being closely associated
"Harry?" A voice spoke, and Harry was startled out of
his reverie. He looked up, to see Ginny herself standing in front of him. She
grinned. "I wondered where you'd got to. Why are you in here when it's so lovely
"Just writing to Sirius. But I've finished now. Want
to come to the owlery with me?"
They walked through the corridors together, chatting
about nothing in particular, until they reached the owlery, where Harry's owl,
Hedwig, hooted her greeting as she saw them. Harry let her out of the cage and
she perched on his shoulder, nibbling his ear affectionately. Ginny reached
up to stroke the soft feathers on Hedwig's head. "She's so beautiful. So where's
"No idea. He won't tell me - all I know is that he's
doing something secret for the Ministry of Magic. But Hedwig will find him -
Hedwig gave a tiny hoot of agreement as Harry gave her
the letter. When she had soared out of the owlery, and disappeared into the
blue sky, Harry and Ginny followed her outside and walked across the grass towards
"So," said Ginny abruptly, "I hear my brother's making
an idiot of himself over the new Musical Enchantments teacher."
"Um - yeah, I suppose so," said Harry, surprised. "He
seems to like her a lot -"
"Harry, I've seen him, walking round with his mouth hanging
open! Mind you," Ginny added generously, "I've seen Miss Messina and she is
pretty gorgeous. But you'd think Ron would have more sense than to get such
a huge crush on her."
"He - um - he has been acting a bit strangely," Harry
admitted. "I think Hermione's getting a bit fed up with him."
"I don't blame her!" Ginny sounded exasperated. "If I
were her I'd tell him to pull himself together - I might tell him that anyway,"
she added darkly, clearly thinking it was her sisterly duty. She sighed, and
then looked at Harry with a flash of mischief in her eyes. "So, what do you
think, Harry? I don't see you following Messina round the school like a sheep
- or like my brother!"
Harry hesitated, then decided to tell Ginny what he hadn't
told Sirius. "You might think this is silly, but - there's something about her
that bothers me."
Ginny looked surprised, and more serious. "Like what?"
"Like the fact that every time she stares at me, I can
feel the scar on my forehead hurting," Harry confessed. "And that's usually
a warning that something bad's going to happen."
"You should tell someone."
"Who? Most of the teachers would think I was making a
fuss about nothing. I can just hear McGonagall telling me to go away and stop
wasting her time."
"I suppose so - what bad thing could happen, do you think?
She's a famous musician." Ginny paused, and bit her lip thoughtfully. "Did you
tell Sirius about this in your letter?"
"No. He's probably doing something really important -
I don't want to waste his time on something that might turn out to be nothing."
"Mmm." Ginny seemed to think it over for a few minutes
more, then looked up, changing the subject. "Look, there's Hermione."
Harry and Ginny walked more quickly, and came up to where
Hermione was standing alone by the lake. She looked upset, but was clearly trying
to hide it. She smiled quickly at Harry and Ginny when she saw them, but it
was not a real smile.
"Where's Ron?" asked Harry, and wished he hadn't when
he saw the look on Hermione's face.
"He's gone for a walk with Miss Messina," said Hermione
bleakly. "She said it was such a lovely day, she'd go and write some music in
the open air, and would Ron like to carry her bag for her? So he did."
Ginny put her arm through Hermione's. "Look, he's just
got a bit of a crush on her, that's all. It'll probably wear off as quickly
as it started, and then you can give him a good slap for being an idiot!"
"But it's more than that," said Hermione, looking more
upset than Harry could remember her being for a long time. "He's not acting
like himself at all - all the things he's been doing - going off alone, not
wanting to be with us, Harry, it's just not Ron."
"I know," Harry said, wishing he could think of something
more comforting to say. "I miss the usual Ron as well. But I'm sure he'll snap
out of it soon." He struggled to think of a different topic. "Hermione, what
did McGonagall want to see you about this morning?"
Hermione collected her thoughts. "Oh. Yes. You know I've
been applying for wizarding colleges? Well, she wanted to tell me about this
famous college - at Petrzalka - there's a scholarship -"
"Petrzalka? But that's really famous, isn't it?" said
Harry. "Wasn't Dumbledore a student there, or something?"
"Yes, years ago, of course. Professor McGonagall says
they give an annual scholarship to one English student, and she thinks I would
have a good chance and I should apply for it."
"Wow. But - Petrzalka - where is it? Isn't it a long
"Slovakia," said Hermione.
"Hermione! Would you really want to go so far away by
yourself?" Harry asked in surprise.
Hermione sighed. "Well, I wasn't thinking of going so
far. I was planning to go to college somewhere in this country - somewhere I
could see Ron often - and you, of course. But if Ron doesn't c-" Harry could
see she was now struggling against tears - "I told him about P-Petrzalka but
he - I don't think he was listening - he was just thinking about -" She really
was having trouble holding the tears back now.
"Let's go indoors," said Ginny, who, like Harry, knew
that Hermione would hate the younger students to see the Head Girl in tears.
Ginny led Hermione away, and Harry followed, worried.
He hated to see his friends unhappy, but he couldn't really believe that Ron's
infatuation with Miss Messina could be strong enough to make him hurt Hermione.
He knew just how much his friends cared about each other, even though they frequently
bickered and didn't display their real emotions much in public. "He'll snap
out of it," Harry told himself, trying to be convinced. "I'll have a word with
him. He can't realize how upset Hermione is about this."
* * * * *
Ron and Miss Messina had not arrived back in school by
the time supper began, and Hermione did not come to the meal at all. Harry looked
for her at the Gryffindor table when he had finished supervising the younger
students into the Hall, but she wasn't there. He saw Ginny though, and went
to sit with her. "Where's Hermione?"
"In her dormitory," Ginny told him, passing him a plate
of bread. "I think she wanted a bit more time to pull herself together before
she faced Ron or Miss Messina again."
"Well, they're not here, either. Must be still wandering
round the countryside."
But just as Harry spoke, he saw the door open again.
Miss Messina, wearing a sea-green robe today, her black hair streaming behind
her, swept towards the staff table, and Ron walked dreamily towards the Gryffindor
table. He walked straight past Harry and Ginny without seeming to notice them,
until Ginny said sharply, "Ron!"
Ron looked up. "Oh. Hi." He took the seat Ginny was indicating,
opposite her and Harry.
"Did you have a nice afternoon?" Ginny asked sweetly.
Ron's face brightened. "Yeah! We went up into the hills
and Charybdis said the countryside had given her some good ideas for her new
"*What* did you call her?" interrupted Ginny.
Ron blushed. "She asked me to call her Charybdis."
Harry and Ginny exchanged alarmed looks at this. Harry
glanced towards the staff table. Charybdis Messina looked very much at her ease,
leaning back gracefully in her chair, laughing at something Professor Flitwick
had just said. She seemed to be the centre of attention for most of the male
staff. Even Snape seemed to be hanging on her every word, his sallow face more
animated than usual. Only Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall seemed
to be immune to Miss Messina's charm. Professor Dumbledore was seemingly absorbed
in his meal, his usual expression of happy abstraction on his face. Professor
McGonagall was pursing her lips as she glanced sideways at Miss Messina and
her admirers. She did not seem to be overly impressed. Ginny had followed Harry's
look towards the staff table. Now, she looked at Harry, raised her eyebrows
quizzically, and sighed.
Ron, meanwhile, was picking at his meal with the same
expression of dreamy happiness. It was not until five minutes later that he
looked up and said, "Where's Hermione?"
"Oh, you noticed then," said Ginny, rather acidly. "She's
in her dormitory."
"She wasn't feeling very well," said Harry.
"Look, Ron -" began Ginny forcefully, but Harry nudged
her and gesticulated towards the other students at the table.
"Not here," he muttered in an undertone. "Let's not have
a scene in front of the younger ones."
"Mm, I suppose you are the Head Boy," Ginny agreed in
low tones. "OK, but when we get upstairs I'm going to give him a piece of my
Ron had remained oblivious to this conversation.
The Gryffindor common room was crowded that evening.
Too crowded for the Head Boy to have a showdown with one of his fellow seventh-year
prefects without attracting far more attention than Harry would like. Hermione
was still nowhere to be seen, and Ron had slipped away somewhere between the
Hall and the common room. Ginny said that if she couldn't have a word with Ron
she would go and write letters. She blushed slightly as she spoke, for no reason
Harry could see.
Harry left the common room through the portrait hole
and decided to go and look for Ron. He was not too much surprised to find him
in the Entrance Hall, in deep conversation with Charbydis Messina. That was
to say, she was talking, in her beautiful melodious voice, and Ron was hanging
on her every word. Harry lurked, trying to think of a good excuse for breaking
into the conversation - after all, she was a teacher. He was still thinking
when a harsher voice came from behind him.
"Potter, why are you hanging about here?" It was Snape,
his black robes billowing behind him, wearing the sour expression he usually
adopted when looking at Harry.
"I'm - er - I'm waiting for Ron, sir." Ron and Miss Messina
had both turned to look at Harry and Snape. For just a moment, as her intense
blue gaze fell on him, Harry felt a sharp twinge of pain across his scar.
"Are you indeed?" Snape turned his sour look towards
Ron. "Then it seems to me that you and Weasley should lose no time in getting
back to your common room where you belong."
"Yes, I mustn't keep you, Ron," said Miss Messina pleasantly,
smiling at Ron. "We've finished our conversation, Severus."
Snape waited as Ron reluctantly moved away from Miss
Messina and started walking back down the corridor with Harry. "I understood
that prefects and Head Boys were supposed to supervise what goes on in their
common rooms in the evenings," he remarked nastily.
Harry heard Miss Messina reply, "Oh, don't be too hard
on them, Severus." He looked back to see her patting Snape's sleeve and smiling
at him charmingly. In response, Snape's face twisted into an unaccustomed smile.
"Yuck!" thought Harry. "I think Snape quite fancies her
Ron was scowling as they walked back towards Gryffindor
Tower. "Who does Snape think he is, anyway?" Harry heard him mutter. Harry decided
it was time to speak his mind.
"Look, Ron, I know you like Miss Messina," he began.
The cloud cleared from Ron's face. "Yes, she's wonderful,
"Um - well, anyway, Ron, do you realise that Hermione's
quite upset about all the time you've been spending with Miss Messina?" Harry
"Yes! Do you realise," Harry persisted, trying to say
something that would snap Ron out of his dreamy trance, "she's been talking
about applying to this wizard college in Slovakia? We'd never see her if she
"What?" Harry was glad to see his friend frown, looking
more like his normal self. "She can't do that."
"Oh, can't I?" Both boys were startled to see Hermione
in front of them. She looked angry. "Go on Ron. Why shouldn't I go to Slovakia?"
Ron looked uncomfortable. "Well - it's so far away."
Hermione's face hardened. "Why should you care? You'd
rather spend time with your precious Miss Messina anyway! I suppose she's teaching
you to play the lyre - or maybe she's teaching you a few other things!"
"I don't understand why you don't like Charybdis, Hermione,
"CHARYBDIS!" Hermione shouted. "Ron, can't you see what
sort of person she is? She's flirting with a seventeen-year-old, at her age
"She is not flirting with me!" Ron shouted back, losing
his temper, and Harry realised with alarm that this was turning into a real
quarrel. He was used to the bickering of Ron and Hermione, but their arguments
were usually of short duration and ended amicably. This time they were both
deliberately saying things calculated to hurt the other.
"You and the other girls are just jealous that you don't
look like her!" Ron shot at Hermione. Hermione looked stunned at this.
"Fine! Well, I'd better tell Professor McGonagall I'd
love to go to Slovakia - I just can't wait to be as far away from you as possible!"
"Miss Granger! Mr Weasley!" Professor McGonagall herself
had arrived on the scene, and she looked furious. "This is not the way I expect
prefects of this school to behave! And for the Head Girl - " she glanced at
Harry "-and the Head Boy too, to be involved in such a scene -" Words failed
her. "You will each lose ten points for Gryffindor." At this, Harry opened his
mouth to protest that *he* hadn't actually been arguing, but catching Professor
McGonagall's eye he thought better of it and shut his mouth again. She continued.
"Now please go back to Gryffindor Tower, all of you, and try to behave in a
more responsible way."
She stood there, arms folded, nostrils flaring, mouth
set grimly, watching them leave, and they had no choice but to walk down the
corridor together. Harry could feel Ron and Hermione's hurt and anger simmering
in the air between them. None of them spoke on the way to the common room. When
they got there, Hermione stalked to the girls' staircase and went upstairs to
her dormitory. Ron went upstairs to the seventh-year boys' dormitory, and Harry
heard the slam of the door echoing down the stairs. He sighed, looked round
the crowded room, and saw Ginny beckoning to him.
Ginny was sitting by the window with Rosalie Little,
one of her fellow Chasers on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and Torquil de Lisle.
Torquil, thin, dark and dreamy, was Ginny's ex-boyfriend. He was brilliant at
Divination and was known for going off unexpectedly into trances, during which
he made predictions which were usually a lot more accurate than those of Professor
Trelawny, their Divination teacher. Although he and Ginny were no longer a couple,
they had remained friends. Ron had a low opinion of Torquil, but Harry found
him likeable in his odd way, and sometimes wondered guiltily whether he was
in any way responsible for Ginny and Torquil's break-up, although Ginny had
said that Torquil's Divination skills made her uncomfortable.
Rosalie got up. "You have this chair, Harry, I was just
going to speak to Tony." She smiled and left them.
Harry sat down. Ginny looked at him, and gestured to
the doors Ron and Hermione had disappeared through. "No luck?" she asked.
"It's got worse," said Harry gloomily. "They had a shouting
match in the corridor and McGonagall came across us. She's taken thirty points
off Gryffindor because she doesn't think prefects ought to behave like that."
"I'd like to slap Ron, I really would," said Ginny in
disgust. "Wish Fred and George were still here. They'd sort him out."
"I just wish Miss Messina would leave," said Harry. "I
met her tonight - with Ron - and she stared at me, and my scar started burning
"Harry, I hope you don't mind, but I've done something
about that," Ginny said, looking uncomfortable.
Harry was just going to ask what she meant when he remembered
Torquil, who was probably wondering what they were talking about. But when he
looked at Torquil, he saw him sitting stiffly in his chair, his eyes staring
into space. "Torquil? Are you all right?"
Ginny looked quickly at Torquil. "Oh, help, I think he's
- he's Seeing."
Harry had once seen Professor Trelawny go into a trance
and make a real prediction. She had spoken then in a voice quite unlike her
own, and Torquil, when he spoke, sounded curiously distant.
"*Beautiful...but deadly...There is a dark danger...a
dark danger...don't listen to the music of the Siren...*" There was a pause,
then Torquil's eyes seemed to come back into focus. In his normal, rather reedy
voice he said, "What happened? Did I See something?"
"Ye-es," said Ginny, looking shaken. Harry knew that
she had been very nervous of Torquil's abilities since an incident in their
fifth year. "You said something about 'dark danger' and 'don't listen to the
"Did I?" Torquil looked surprised. "I wondew what all
that was about." He yawned. "I'm weally tired now. Think I'll go to bed. Goodnight
Ginny - Hawwy." He nodded at Harry as he got up to leave. Left alone, Ginny
and Harry stared at each other.
"What was that about?" Harry asked.
"It's obvious," said Ginny. "It's Messina. She's beautiful
- and dark - maybe she's deadly and dangerous too!"
"Well, the bit about the music would fit in," Harry agreed.
"But what's a Siren? And what could she do? I know there's something wrong somewhere
- or my scar wouldn't be hurting - oh." He had just rememembered what Ginny
had been saying when Torquil went into his trance. "Yeah. What were you saying
about my scar, before, Ginny?"
Ginny looked uncomfortable again. "Um - well, don't get
cross with me, Harry, but I was worried when you told me about Messina making
your scar hurt. You didn't want to worry Sirius about it - but I thought, if
something bad did happen, he'd be furious we hadn't told him about it. So I
- well, I wrote to him. Do you mind?"
Harry looked at her anxious face. "Not really. I don't
suppose it matters. Maybe I should have told him. He might be able to give us
some advice." He yawned, suddenly tired. "I'm going to go to bed. Hope Ron and
Hermione wake up in better tempers tomorrow, or it's going to be awful."
Ginny grimaced. "I think it's going to take more than
a night's sleep to get things back to normal."
* * * * *
The next few days were very difficult. Harry had been
dreading going down to the Great Hall for meals, and his fears were justified.
Everyone seemed to have heard about the rift between Ron and Hermione, and,
since Harry was their closest friend, naturally everyone thought he was the
best person to get details from. People kept sidling up to him and asking him
questions he really didn't want to answer. It was the best topic of gossip Gryffindor
House had had for ages.
Nobody dared to ask Hermione anything. She went about
her Head Girl duties as normal, her head held high and her lips pressed together
- Harry suspected this was to stop them from trembling. But to anyone who didn't
know her quite so well, she seemed more or less as usual, although she did snap
rather bad-temperedly at some first-years who were pushing and shoving each
other in the corridor.
Outwardly, Ron looked more affected by the break-up.
His face was pale, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He snapped at anyone
who tried to start a conversation with him, until they gave up and left him
alone. The only times he looked happy were when he was shadowing Miss Messina,
like a faithful dog. Harry didn't know which was worse - the slack-jawed, Charybdis-worshipping
Ron who didn't seem to care about Hermione at all, or the miserable, bad-tempered
Ron who clearly cared very much. On the whole, he preferred the latter, but
both were hard to live with. Dean, Seamus and Neville had all started complaining
about Ron being a pain to share a room - or a class - with these days.
On Thursday afternoons the Gryffindor and Slytherin seventh-years
had Care of Magical Creatures together. Harry followed Hermione out of the Great
Hall after lunch. She hadn't been talking much in the last few days, but he
and the others had been doing their best to chat to her in a friendly way, as
if nothing was wrong; to let her know she wasn't alone. As the seventh-years
reached the front steps, heading out into the grounds, Harry looked across at
Ron, who was walking several feet apart from the rest of them, looking gloomy
again. Harry wondered if it would be any good having another go at talking sense
into Ron today.
"Potter!" Professor McGonagall's voice startled Harry
and made him turn round and look back towards the castle's front doors. He wasn't
the only one who turned round to look. "A moment of your time, please, I need
to speak with you."
Draco Malfoy was nearby with his hulking sidekicks, Vincent
Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, also on their way to Care of Magical Creatures. "Oooh,
Potter, what have you been up to now?" Malfoy smirked. "Don't tell me the Head
Boy's in trouble again - really, I'm shocked." Crabbe and Goyle sniggered appreciatively.
Harry gave Malfoy a withering look.
"Yeah. Ha ha." It wasn't worth wasting more time on Malfoy,
particularly not with Professor McGonagall standing by the front door, tapping
her foot impatiently. Harry turned to Hermione and Neville. "You go on. I'll
be along when she's finished with me."
Hermione and Neville nodded, and set off again with the
others. Harry ran up the steps towards Professor McGonagall. As soon as he reached
her, she beckoned to him and set off briskly, walking back through the Entrance
Hall. "You have a visitor, Potter."
"A visitor?" Harry asked politely, speeding up to walk
"Yes. Your godfather. Sirius Black." Professor McGonagall
sniffed. "He is in my office. He seems to think that what he wishes to discuss
with you is important. And, since he now works for the Ministry of Magic -"
She did not finish the sentence.
"Oh." Whatever Ginny had said in her letter to Sirius,
had it been enough to make him come straight to Hogwarts? Still, Harry reflected,
with the atmosphere as it was, he would be quite glad of the chance to ask Sirius
for his advice. He looked sideways at Professor McGonagall, and decided that
this might be a good chance to ask her about something else. "Professor - can
I ask you something?"
"You may ask, Potter. Whether I choose to answer or not
is another matter," said Professor McGonagall, regarding him astringently, but
"The college in Slovakia Hermione was thinking about
applying for - Petrzalka? Do you think she'd get in? And do you think she'd
be happy so far away from - from all her friends?"
Harry half expected Professor McGonagall to refuse to
answer him, but instead she said consideringly, "Well, that's really Miss Granger's
business. But yes, I think she has a good chance of being accepted. She gave
me her application form yesterday."
"She's already applied?" Harry said in alarm. But they
had reached Professor McGonagall's office. She opened the door, said "Perhaps
you'd like to take your godfather for a walk around the grounds when you've
finished in here, Potter," and walked away.
"You know," said Sirius's voice, "even though I'm a respectable
employee of the Ministry of Magic these days, I have the feeling Professor McGonagall
still isn't very keen on me."
"Sirius!" Harry grinned at his guardian, who was lounging
in Professor McGonagall's own armchair. Sirius Black smiled back at him. More
than three years had gone by since Sirius had escaped from Azkaban, the wizard
prison, and he looked a different person to the gaunt skeleton Harry had first
met. He was still thin, but his skin had a healthy colour, and his intense dark
eyes were alight and alert. He wore his dark hair clipped very short, having
once told Harry he'd had enough of looking like a Yeti during his time in Azkaban.
He was tall and wiry, and -
"You're wearing Muggle clothes," said Harry with interest.
"Part of my job," said Sirius nonchalantly. He waved
Harry to a chair. "I had a letter from Ginny."
"I know. She told me she'd written to you." Harry sat
down. "What did she tell you, exactly?"
"That you have a very glamorous new teacher, and that
your scar bothers you when she looks at you," said Sirius. "And that Ron seems
to have developed a crush on her."
Harry sighed. "Developed a crush? He's besotted! He follows
her around and he won't listen to anything I say."
"What does Hermione think about that?" asked Sirius with
"She's miserable. Ron's miserable. They won't even speak
to each other now. They had a big row but it didn't stop him from going around
with Miss Messina. Oh, and *she* asked him to call her Charybdis." Harry pulled
a face. "Now Hermione's applied to go to wizard college in Slovakia. And the
rest of us have to live with the terrible atmosphere."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm more concerned
about this scar business, Harry. Didn't you tell me once that it was usually
a warning of danger?"
"Yes." Harry looked round Professor McGonagall's office.
Although she was not there, her influence seemed to fill the room and it made
him uncomfortable discussing his problems with Sirius in there.
Sirius, sensing this, suggested, "Shall we go for a walk?
Then you can finish telling me your troubles."
As they walked down the front steps, Harry remarked,
"I'm supposed to be in Care of Magical Creatures now, I'm surprised McGonagall
let me off the class to talk to you."
"I told her it was important Ministry of Magic business,"
Sirius confessed, looking slightly guilty.
"So what exactly *have* you been doing for the Ministry?"
Harry asked him, as they walked towards the herb gardens. "You've never told
me what your job involves."
"That's because I'm not supposed to tell you all about
it, Harry," Sirius said. "You know Ron's dad has to keep some of his work secret
from his family, don't you? Well, some of the things I've been doing are - let's
say - confidential."
"But you have been travelling a lot again, haven't you?"
"Yes." Sirius stopped walking and turned to face Harry.
"Look, Harry, I appreciate that you don't like being kept in the dark. You're
not a child any more. I'll just tell you that I've been doing some - undercover
- work for the Ministry. I have contacts in various places, and I've been trying
to find out from different sources what Voldemort and his followers are planning
"You mean you're a spy?" asked Harry. "Wow."
"Well, yes, technically, I'm a spy," agreed Sirius, looking
sheepish. "But keep it to yourself please, or my cover will be thoroughly blown."
They walked on, and he added, "Luckily, most of those who practice the Dark
Arts don't recognise me these days, and those who do don't suspect that someone
with my dubious past would be trusted to do a top-secret job for the Ministry."
"I wouldn't mind being a spy," said Harry thoughtfully.
"It's not as exciting as you probably think," Sirius
assured him. "And let me remind you that everyone in the wizarding world knows
who Harry Potter is, so your chances of going undercover successfully would
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Harry said. "Anyway,
I'm quite glad Ginny wrote to you. I could do with some advice about all this."
"Ginny seemed very worried about the scar business,"
said Sirius. "I think she cares a lot about you."
Harry coloured. "Um. Yeah."
"Does that mean you don't feel the same way about her?"
asked Sirius, amused by Harry's embarrassment.
"No - I really like her - it's just - I'm never quite
sure what to say -" Harry stammered. He really didn't want to discuss this with
"Oh, the joys of being seventeen," said Sirius, and then
decided to change the subject and spare Harry's blushes. "Anyway, I must pass
this on to you." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a package.
"The book Hermione wanted."
"Oh, yeah." Relieved, Harry unwrapped the sheet of paper
which was loosely covering the book. He read the title aloud. "*The Magic of
Music, by Charybdis Messina.*" Harry grimaced as he looked at the photograph
on the back of the book - Charybdis Messina, in a flowing white robe, strumming
her lute and smiling enchantingly at the camera.
Sirius looked at the picture over Harry's shoulder. "She's
pretty stunning, I have to admit."
Harry had just remembered something. "Sirius - I haven't
told you yet - the other night, Ginny and I were there when Torquil de Lisle
went into one of his trances. You remember him?" Sirius nodded. "He said something,
and Ginny and I think it might be about Miss Messina."
"What did he say?"
Harry screwed up his face, trying to remember the exact
"*Beautiful but deadly...There is a dark danger...don't
listen to the music of the Siren...*"
"The Siren?" Sirius asked, looking suddenly alert. "Are
you sure that's what he said?"
"Yeah, I think so."
He looked from Harry back to the smiling photograph of
Charybdis Messina. "The Siren...I wonder, now...that would explain a lot."
"What?" Harry was getting frustrated. "What is a Siren,
Sirius was pacing up and down. "A Siren, Harry, is a
woman with special magical powers. She can use music to enchant people and make
them do what she wants. And - " Sirius paused, and gave Harry a meaningful look
" - a Siren can bewitch men to be hopelessly in love with her, so that they
will carry out her orders."
"You mean," said Harry slowly, "she may have bewitched
"It seems quite likely."
"But what orders would she want him to carry out?" Harry
"I'm worried that she may be taking orders herself, from
someone else," said Sirius, frowning. "I've heard a few rumours lately that
there are Sirens among those practising the Dark Arts, among the followers of
"Voldemort!" gasped Harry. "You mean, she might be here
doing something for Voldemort?"
"It's possible," said Sirius. "In which case, Ron is
in bigger trouble than you thought. Let's get back to the school - I need to
speak to a few people, and then - I want to meet Miss Charybdis Messina."
Harry nodded, and together they hurried back towards
the main entrance to the castle.
* * * * *
When Harry and Sirius reached the Entrance Hall, Sirius
said tersely, "I think we should speak to Dumbledore first," and they hurried
through the corridors towards the gargoyle which concealed the entrance to Professor
Dumbledore's office. They were brought up short by the sight of Professor McGonagall,
who was striding down the corridor from the opposite direction.
"Professor - we need to speak to Professor Dumbledore,"
said Sirius. "It's urgent."
"I'm afraid that's not possible just now," Professor
McGonagall said briskly, "Professor Dumbledore has gone to a meeting at the
Ministry of Magic." She looked at Sirius through narrowed eyes. "Since you're
here on Ministry business yourself, I'm surprised you didn't know that."
"Different departments," said Sirius hastily. "Look,
Professor, this really is an urgent matter. Perhaps I could speak to you about
it - in confidence?"
Professor McGonagall sighed and motioned them to step
into an empty classroom just down the corridor. "Go on," she said, folding her
arms, and looking slightly impatient with them.
"I have reason to believe, Professor, that one of your
teachers, Miss Messina, may be a Siren," said Sirius. "She may also be working
for Lord Voldemort -"
"And she's probably enchanted Ron!" Harry broke in anxiously.
Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows sceptically.
"Do you have any proof of this?"
"Not that she is actually working for Voldemort," Sirius
admitted. "But -"
"Professor, you know that Ron's been acting very strangely
around Miss Messina," Harry said eagerly. "If she's bewitched him, that would
Professor McGonagall sighed and looked at him with a
touch of pity. "Potter, I am aware that your friend has developed something
of a crush on Miss Messina, but that does not necessarily mean she is an exponent
of the Dark Arts." A twinge of distaste passed over Professor McGonagall's face.
"She is, after all, a very attractive woman - "
Harry thought of telling Professor McGonagall about what
Torquil had said in his trance, but then he remembered that she was known to
have a very low opinion of Divination and people who practised it.
"Perhaps you could send for Miss Messina, Professor?"
asked Sirius. Harry could tell he was trying to remain polite. "I would appreciate
the chance to speak with her, and then, if there is no truth in my suspicions
Professor McGonagall sighed. "Very well. But please bear
in mind that she *is* one of our staff, and I would appreciate it if you would
refrain from creating a scene in the middle of the school."
"Of course," Sirius said quickly.
Professor McGonagall had heard footsteps approaching
along the corridor. She looked out of the classroom door. "Ah - Miss Weasley
- a moment please," they heard her say. "Would you find Miss Messina for me
- she may be in the staffroom now - and ask her to come here? Tell her that
there is a representative of the Ministry of Magic here who would like to speak
Harry and Sirius heard Ginny murmur an acknowledgement,
and her footsteps hastening off along the corridor. Professor McGonagall turned
back towards Harry and Sirius. "You will excuse me if I don't wait with you
- I have a great deal to do." As she turned to leave, she fixed Sirius with
a look which suggested to Harry that she was thinking of Sirius not as he was
now, but as the rather troublesome boy she had once taught.
When she was gone, Harry and Sirius waited uneasily in
the empty classroom. "What are you going to ask her when she gets here?" Harry
"I'm not sure," said Sirius. "But if she really is a
Siren, I may need your help."
It seemed like a long time, although it could only have
been about ten minutes, before they heard someone hurrying back down the corridor.
Harry went to look, but it was not Miss Messina approaching, but Ginny, rather
out of breath. "Harry!" she said in surprise. "Is Professor McGonagall - ?"
"She's gone," said Harry.
"Where's Miss Messina?" asked Sirius abruptly, coming
to the door. Ginny's eyes widened at the sight of him.
"Sirius! I wondered if it was you!" She smiled. "I'm
so glad you came, I hoped when I wrote to you -"
"Yes, but never mind that, Ginny," Sirius interrupted
her. "Where's Miss Messina?"
Ginny looked surprised. "Isn't she here yet? I gave her
Professor McGonagall's message, and she said she would go at once. Then I thought
that perhaps the Ministry person was you, Sirius, so I came back to look -"
"She hasn't come here," said Sirius. "I was afraid of
this. She may have taken fright when she heard the Ministry were here to speak
to her. Let's get downstairs, quickly."
Harry, Sirius and Ginny made their way back down to the
Entrance Hall without meeting Miss Messina on the way. In the Entrance Hall
they met Hermione and Neville, back from Care of Magical Creatures. It looked
as if Neville was trying to cheer Hermione up, without much success. They both
looked curious when they saw Harry, Sirius and Ginny.
"Harry, what happened to you? You never came back to
the class," said Neville.
"Sirius! What are you doing here?" Hermione asked in
"It's a long story," said Sirius. "Hermione, we need
you." He glanced at Harry, and jerked his head towards Neville, indicating that
he didn't want Neville to be in on this conversation. Harry thought quickly.
"Neville, if you're heading back to Gryffindor Tower,
could you dump this on my bed for now?" he asked, pulling out the paper-wrapped
book by Charybdis Messina and thrusting it into Neville's hands. Neville looked
slightly suspicious, but nodded good-naturedly, and set off. When he had gone,
Sirius turned to the other three.
"Hermione, I need to find Charybdis Messina, and we don't
know where she is. We need to split up and search the building."
Hermione nodded, but her face had darkened at the mention
of Miss Messina's name. "Why do you want to see *her*?"
"Because I think she may be working for Voldemort," said
"Voldemort!" Hermione looked staggered. "Really?"
"Even if she isn't, we're pretty sure she's a Siren and
she's enchanted Ron," said Harry quickly.
Hermione stood still for a moment, thinking. "A Siren?"
she said at last. "I've read about them - but that would mean -" She looked
up, and Harry was surprised to see hope on her face, and a brighter expression
than she had worn for several days. "I'll check the ground floor," she said
quickly. "Meet you back here in a quarter of an hour?"
"Right," said Sirius. "You check the first floor, Harry,
Ginny the second and I'll go up to the third. If we haven't found her by the
time we meet back here, we'll search the rest of the building."
They separated quickly. As Harry and Ginny ran up the
first flight of stairs together, Harry said, "Hermione seemed quite pleased
to think that Miss Messina might be a Siren. I wonder why?"
Ginny gave him a pitying look. "Oh, come on, Harry. Don't
you think Hermione would like to know Ron was under an enchantment, rather than
that he just prefers Miss Messina to her?"
"Oh. Yeah." When they reached the first floor corridors
Harry left Ginny and began to search along the rows of rooms. In some rooms
there were classes still in progress; others were empty, but there was no sign
of Miss Messina anywhere. "Maybe she's left the building?" he wondered as he
reached the end of one corridor. "If she thinks the Ministry are on to her,
she might have made a run for it."
The last room at the end of that corridor was the room
in which they normally had their Musical Enchantments tutorials. Harry pushed
the door open cautiously, but when he looked inside, the room was empty. He
was about to close the door again when he noticed something lying on the teacher's
desk, and went to have a closer look. To his surprise, it was an envelope, addressed
in flowing curly letters to "The Ministry of Magic Representative."
Harry hesitated before picking up the envelope. He pulled
out his wand and tapped it carefully, but it did not seem to be booby-trapped
or bespelled. It was just an envelope. He tucked it into the pocket of his robes
and hurried back to the Entrance Hall, where he waited impatiently for the others
to join him. Hermione and Ginny arrived, shaking their heads and looking worried.
"No luck," said Ginny.
"I found this," said Harry, showing them the envelope.
"It's addressed to Sirius, I think." At that moment, Sirius hurried towards
them, and Harry held the envelope out to him. "This was in the Musical Enchantments
Sirius raised his eyebrows as he took the envelope. "It's
not bespelled," Harry assured him quickly. Sirius still opened the envelope
with caution, and pulled out a piece of parchment which was covered in the same
writing. Harry recognised the flowing hand as Miss Messina's - it was the same
writing she used to make notes on the board in their Musical Enchantments tutorials.
Harry, Hermione and Ginny clustered around Sirius to
read the note he held.
"To the Ministry of Magic Representative.
I am told that you wish to speak with me, but unfortunately,
I don't wish to speak with you at this time. I wondered if someone would be
bright enough to start asking questions about my activities. I feel my mission
at Hogwarts may be coming to an end.
Before I go, however, I would like to speak with Harry
Potter. It will be necessary for him to come to the furthest dungeon as soon
as you inform him of this request. I'm sure he will agree to speak with me -
once you tell him that I have his friend, Ron Weasley, with me. A sweet boy,
very easily influenced, I must say. Sadly, however, if Harry doesn't come to
meet me very soon, or if you summon assistance from the Ministry first, I fear
I may have to do something rash - and you may not see that nice boy, Ron, again.
Alive, that is. I will await Harry impatiently.
Sirius looked rather grim when he had finished reading
this. Ginny and Hermione looked at each other, open-mouthed. "She's got Ron?"
"And I have to go and get him out," said Harry slowly.
"NO!" said Sirius, Hermione and Ginny together. Sirius
continued, "Who knows what she's planning to do to you if you go in there alone?
It's too dangerous, Harry."
"But she's got Ron!" Harry said desperately. "I *have*
to go. She says she'll kill him if I don't go to meet her."
Without discussing it, they had all started hurrying
towards the entrance to the dungeons. "There must be a way we can get him out,"
said Hermione. She looked anxious, but more determined than she had looked for
days - like the old Hermione, before things had started to go wrong. "I've read
about Sirens - they use magic to make themselves beautiful, if you make them
show themselves in their true form, you can defeat them and break their enchantments."
"Yes, that's true," said Sirius. "What worries me is
that Ron is probably acting under her orders. You might have to deal with him
as well as her, Harry."
"Ron wouldn't hurt Harry! Would he?" said Ginny in horror.
"There's no telling what he might do if he's enchanted,
Ginny," said Sirius, throwing her an understanding look. They had plunged into
the darkness of the dungeon corridors, where flickering torches gave a weird
light to their progress. The furthest dungeons were some way away, past storerooms,
classrooms, doors, more doors -
"I don't think you should go in there alone, Harry,"
said Sirius, who seemed to have accepted that Harry was going to confront Miss
Messina whatever he said.
"There's nothing in her letter to say we can't come with
you," Hermione pointed out. "I'm going to, anyway."
"So am I," said Ginny.
"We can't all go," Sirius said firmly. "At least one
of us should wait outside - in case - in case something goes wrong. We may need
to send for help."
They had reached the door of the furthest dungeon; a
heavy, dark, wooden door. It was closed. They stopped and looked at each other.
"I shouldn't really be letting any of you go into danger,"
said Sirius reluctantly, "but -" He looked at their faces. "I'm going with Harry.
Who's going to wait outside?"
Hermione and Ginny looked at each other. It was clear
that they both wanted to go with Harry and Sirius. "Ron's my brother," began
Ginny, rather defiantly. But her expression changed, as she looked, stricken,
at Hermione's face, and dropped her gaze. "No - you'd better go, Hermione."
Ginny turned to Harry and Sirius in anxiety. "Oh, I'm
going to hate waiting. You will be careful, won't you?"
"Don't worry, Ginny," said Sirius. "We'll get Ron out
of there if we possibly can."
But Ginny had turned to Harry. "Harry - take care - "
she said awkwardly.
Harry looked at her and wished again that he could think
of the words to tell her all the things he really wanted to tell her. But he
couldn't, and he was half-embarrassed to try, with Sirius and Hermione waiting
and watching. Instead, he took her hands, as he had done once before, and squeezed
them reassuringly. "It'll be all right, Ginny, you'll see."
She looked pleased and shy as she let go of his hands.
"I hope so," was all she said.
If we get out of this - *when* we get out of this - I
really am going to tell Ginny how I feel, Harry promised himself, as he turned
towards the door.
"Ready?" Sirius asked.
Harry and Hermione nodded. The door to the dungeon creaked
open, they stepped inside, and Sirius closed it behind them.
* * * * *
When the dungeon door closed behind them, it seemed very
dark indeed. Harry realised that he, Sirius and Hermione were standing in a
flagged passage. The flagstones beneath their feet were wet, and he could hear
water dripping from the walls. A drop fell on Harry's ear, and he wiped it away.
There was a corner ahead of them, around which glimmered a slightly brighter
Sirius, Harry and Hermione exchanged looks. "Tell me,"
Harry whispered to Hermione. "How do we get her to show herself in her true
Hermione, her face very serious, whispered the words
"Don't use them yet," Sirius cautioned them in low tones.
"Wait for me to give you the signal, then we must all act together. If her magic
is powerful enough, it might take all three of us."
Harry and Hermione nodded, and they walked forward, their
wands in their hands. Harry moved a few paces ahead of the others, reminding
himself that it was him Charybdis Messina really wanted to see. He turned the
corner - and stopped, motioning behind his back to indicate that Hermione and
Sirius should wait where they wouldn't be seen yet.
In front of him, Harry saw a stone chamber, almost as
dark and dank as the passage had been. Against the far wall stood a heavy stone
chair, in which Charybdis Messina was sitting gracefully. She wore the midnight
blue robes in which Harry had first seen her, her black hair fell over her shoulders,
and she looked more beautiful than ever. Her lyre was on her lap. Ron was standing
beside the stone chair, gazing at Charybdis as if hypnotized. He did not look
up, or even seem to notice that Harry had entered the room. But Charybdis Messina
"Ah - Harry Potter!" she exclaimed, sounding delighted.
She gazed at Harry with an expression of mocking triumph in her deep blue eyes.
"I felt sure you would be joining us soon."
"Yes, I'm here," Harry said, trying to sound unconcerned.
"What do you want?"
Charybdis clasped her hands together. "Why, the pleasure
of your company, Harry dear." Her gaze was making the scar on Harry's forehead
burn again, but he tried to keep his face from revealing this.
"You said that if I didn't come, you'd kill Ron," Harry
said loudly, hoping this statement would shock Ron into reacting, but Ron still
seemed oblivious to him.
Charybdis put a finger to her lips. "Harry, please! I
don't like to resort to such drastic methods - so unladylike - but I knew you
would come to help your friend." Caressingly, she wound the hem of Ron's sleeve
around her finger, smiling at him. Ron smiled back at her adoringly, and Harry
"You're working for Voldemort, aren't you?" he demanded.
"Why did he send you here?"
A small frown creased Charybdis's perfect brow. "Really,
Harry, I expected better of you. Haven't you guessed? He sent me here to enchant
you. We thought it would be so useful for the famous Harry Potter to be in my
power. Unfortunately, you proved more resistant to my charms than I thought
you would be. So I had to try another approach - and your friend Ron was most
receptive." She lifted her lyre from her lap and sent a gentle, rippling chord
across the strings. Ron lifted his head. He looked rather as Torquil did when
he was in a trance.
"Ron dear, your friend Harry is here," Charybdis said
in her low, musical voice.
Ron looked dreamily towards Harry. "Hullo, Harry." Even
his voice sounded wrong.
"Ron, listen to me," Harry said urgently. "Whatever she's
told you, it's all lies. She's enchanted you. D'you understand?"
"I'm afraid he doesn't," said Charybdis sweetly. "He's
quite in my power now. He would do anything for me. Really. Anything." She turned
to Ron again. "Would you like to help me, Ron dear?"
Ron nodded, his eyes still curiously blank. Harry hated
seeing him like this.
"Then kill Harry," said Charybdis, her voice suddenly
Unbelievingly, Harry saw Ron reach into his robes and
pull out his wand. He moved forward, eyes focussing on Harry, yet his face still
"No. Ron. Listen," Harry said, holding his own wand at
the ready, trying to keep his voice calm. "You wouldn't -"
Ron lifted his wand.
"NO!" Hermione and Sirius shouted, rushing from the shadows
to stand level with Harry, one on each side of him.
"Ron - stop!" Hermione pleaded, her voice breaking. "Don't
you know who we are?"
Ron paused. He looked confused, as though he was struggling
to wake from a dream.
Charybdis had drawn in her breath sharply when she saw
Hermione and Sirius, and her face had darkened. She rose to her feet, lyre in
hand. "Ron!" she said sharply. "Do it. Kill him."
Ron looked from Charybdis to Hermione, then back to Charybdis
again. She nodded at him. He lifted his wand again -
"Expelliarmus!" Harry, Hermione and Sirius shouted together,
aiming their wands at Ron. There was a bang and Ron was thrown backwards against
the wall, then fell to the floor in a tangle of lanky arms and legs, and lay
there, apparently unconscious. His wand had flown into the air, and Sirius stepped
forward to catch it.
"Oh, Ron," Harry heard Hermione whisper. There were tears
in her eyes. She raised a trembling hand to her mouth and took a step towards
the place where Ron lay, but Harry caught her sleeve and pulled her to a halt.
He nudged her warningly, and they both looked at Charybdis.
Charybdis looked furious. She drew herself up to her
full height, her eyes blazing. "A foolish thing to do, Harry," she hissed. Then
she seemed to recollect herself, narrowed her eyes at Hermione and said nastily,
"And I don't remember including you in my invitation, Miss Granger. Really,
I despise people who push in where they aren't wanted." She looked at Sirius.
"And you are?"
"Sirius Black," said Sirius, sounding, Harry thought,
Charybdis obviously recognised his name. Her eyes widened,
before she said, "Really? I wish I could say I was charmed to meet you, but
alas, I can't. Since my tool has failed to carry out his orders -" she nodded
at the unconscious Ron, " - I will just have to see to you myself." She struck
another chord on her lyre, opened her beautiful mouth and began to chant.
With each note, each chord, Harry felt the dungeon fill
with the humming power he had noticed the first time Charybdis had sung for
them in class. The power seemed to build and build, and with each repetition
of the chant Harry felt a strange lethargy filling his arms and legs. He looked
at Hermione and Sirius and saw that they were feeling the same effects. Hermione's
eyes were closing, and Sirius's knees seemed to be buckling. Harry was starting
to feel very, very sleepy...
He forced his eyes open and looked at Charybdis. She
gazed back at him triumphantly, and as their eyes met, Harry felt a searing
pain across his scar which jolted him into wakefulness. Realising the danger
they were in, he turned and shook Hermione.
"Hermione! Cover your ears!"
She blinked drowsily at him. "What?"
"Cover your ears! Don't listen to the music!" Harry grabbed
her hands and forced them over her ears. He held them there for a few moments
until he saw the alertness begin to return to Hermione's face, then he turned
and quickly did the same for Sirius, before pressing his hands to his own ears.
As soon as their ears were covered, Sirius and Hermione
started to recover from the effects of the music. Seeing this, Charybdis's beautiful
face twisted in a furious snarl and she sang more loudly. Even with his ears
covered Harry could feel the throbbing of the music shaking the dungeon as the
power of Charybdis's magic increased. "They must be able to hear this all over
the castle," was a thought which flitted across his mind, before he turned to
exchange urgent looks with Sirius and Hermione. Surely now was the time to make
the Siren show herself in her true form?
"Now?" Harry mouthed at them, unable to make himself
heard over the music.
Sirius nodded, his face set, and they all held their
wands at the ready. Harry saw Sirius's mouth form the word "NOW!"
Standing shoulder to shoulder, Harry, Hermione and Sirius
aimed their wands at Charybdis and muttered the same magic words. The words
were inaudible, but they recoiled as three flashes of dazzling light erupted
from their wands and joined into one blinding bolt of lightning which was aimed
straight at the Siren.
As the light hit her, Charybdis's lyre fell from her
hand and her singing turned into a agonised shriek, so terrible that they all
fell to the floor, covering their ears in pain. Harry, his hands still pressed
to his ears, dared to look up, and his eyes widened as he saw an extraordinary
sight. The Siren was flailing about and screaming in pain as a terrible transformation
took place. Her lovely face was twisting and changing...into the grey mask of
a hideous, lined old woman. The beautiful dark blue eyes were fading and becoming
cloudy; the long black tresses of hair were becoming grey and straggly. Her
slim body was writhing as she became stooped and bent with age. Curses were
pouring out of her mouth - her wonderful voice had become quavering and cracked.
She was sinking to the floor in a tangle of floating blue robes. Beside him,
Harry felt Hermione sitting up to look, and he heard her gasp as the wizened
hag who had been Charybdis fell in a crumpled heap on the floor. She writhed
for another moment, then lay still, and silent. Silence fell over the dungeon
which had been throbbing with noise a few moments earlier. There was a very
Harry let out a long breath he hadn't realised he'd been
holding, and looked at Sirius and Hermione. They were both looking rather stunned.
There was a moment when none of them could move, before Sirius climbed rather
unsteadily to his feet and moved across to examine the fallen Siren. He knelt
beside her, then looked up, straight at Harry. "She's dead."
Harry nodded. He had guessed as much, and though it shocked
him to think they had been involved in killing anyone, somehow he couldn't be
very sorry in this case. He stood too, and went to look down at the thing that
had been Charybdis Messina. "How old do you think she really was?"
Sirius shrugged. "We'll never know for sure - but my
guess is that she'd been around for a long, long time, under one name or another.
Sirens are very long-lived creatures, but this one was at the end of her time."
A sudden groan startled them. Ron, still lying in a heap
by the wall, was stirring at last. Harry started towards him, but Hermione got
there first, plunging across the room and dropping on her knees beside him.
Her tears were falling on to Ron's face as she touched it gently.
"Charybdis is dead - so the enchantment should be broken,"
Sirius remarked quietly to Harry.
Ron blinked and opened his eyes, looking completely dazed.
"Ron, are you all right?" Hermione asked anxiously.
"H-Hermione? W-What happened?" He looked past her and
saw Harry and Sirius regarding him with worried faces. "W-Where are we?" Then
he winced, and put a hand to his head. "Ouch! My head's killing me. Why are
you crying, Hermione?"
But by this time, Hermione was hugging him so tightly
he couldn't find the breath to say anything else, and after looking very confused
for a few more moments, Ron hugged her back.
Harry looked away from his two friends, and became suddenly
aware that there was a lot of banging and shouting going on from outside the
dungeon. "Harry! Are you all right?" That sounded like Ginny.
"We'd better go and explain," said Sirius. "Come on."
Harry nodded, and looked round to beckon to the others,
but Ron and Hermione were still wrapped around each other, quite oblivious to
him or Sirius and murmuring in tones inaudible to anyone else. He decided to
leave them for now, and followed Sirius out into the short passage and then
to the door.
Ginny was not the only person waiting outside the dungeon
door. There was quite a crowd assembled as Harry and Sirius emerged wearily
into the corridor. Ginny flung herself at Harry. "You're safe! What did you
do? Where's Ron?"
"He's fine - Hermione's looking after him." Harry opened
his arms to her, and hugged her tightly. He buried his face in the top of her
red head and breathed in the smell of her hair. It felt good to be hugged, and
not many people had embraced Harry in his life so far. When Mrs. Weasley hugged
him, he almost wanted to cry because it made him think about the mother he didn't
have. When Hermione hugged him, he felt a warmth of friendship towards her.
But when Ginny hugged him now, he suddenly wanted very badly to get her alone
and kiss her. However, looking over her head he saw all the people around them
and he decided that might have to wait until a little later. Professor McGonagall
was heading for himself and Sirius with a glint in her eye that said, "I want
a full explanation of all this." Madam Pomfrey was close behind her, obviously
hoping that there would be some casualties who needed treating. And a lot of
students, drawn by the noise, were clearly longing to find o ut what had been
going on. Harry released Ginny gently, exchanged glances with Sirius, and opened
his mouth to start explaining. By the look on Professor McGonagall's face, the
explanation would have to be a good one.
Several hours and a great deal of explaining later, Harry
looked around the group which was gathered in a small sitting room that led
off Professor Dumbledore's own office at the top of a tower. Professor Dumbledore,
summoned from London by an urgent owl from Professor McGonagall, was sitting
in his own armchair, nodding and stroking the golden feathers of his phoenix,
Fawkes. Sirius, Harry and Ginny were sitting in other armchairs, feeling grateful
for a chance to relax after the events of the day. Ron and Hermione were sitting
close together on a small sofa, Hermione with her hand on Ron's arm as if to
make sure he didn't run off with any other passing Sirens. Madam Pomfrey had
wanted to keep Ron in the hospital wing overnight, but Professor Dumbledore
had told her he wanted Ron present when they talked about what had happened,
so she had contented herself with putting a bandage on his head. Ron had been
totally confused at first. He didn't seem to remember much about the days during
which he had been enchanted, but now he had found out about the way he had behaved,
he was inclined to be very ashamed of himself. Much to Hermione's pleasure,
one of the first things he had done was to throw Charybdis Messina's book into
the common room fire.
"Interesting," Professor Dumbledore nodded, as Harry
told him about Torquil's trance and the warning he had given them. "Very talented
young man. I wonder if he would be interested in the Divination job when Professor
"Well, it was lucky he did warn us, Professor," said
Harry. "I remembered what he said about not listening to the Siren's music -
if we hadn't covered our ears we might all have been in her power."
"Lucky you were so quick-witted, Harry," said Sirius.
"I'm afraid Hermione and I were succumbing pretty fast."
"My scar kept hurting, and it stopped her from hypnotizing
me," Harry explained.
"And lucky for you, Mr. Weasley," Professor Dumbledore
said to Ron, "that you have friends who were willing to risk themselves to save
Ron blushed scarlet with embarrassment. "I must have
looked like an idiot," he mumbled.
"You did," said Hermione firmly. "A complete idiot."
Then she gave him a little smile. "But we forgive you."
"Well, well, enchantments can be powerful things," said
Dumbledore, smiling faintly. He turned to ask Sirius another question, and while
everyone else was listening to them, Harry leaned sideways towards Hermione.
"Are you really going to go to Slovakia?" he murmured,
not loudly enough for anyone else to hear.
Hermione pulled a face at him. "There are closer colleges
I can go to," she whispered back. "I asked Professor McGonagall this evening
to throw away my Petrzalka application."
"What's that?" asked Ron, becoming aware that they were
Harry and Hermione exchanged glances. "Nothing," they
said in unison, and grinned. Not for the first time that day, Ron looked confused.
Dumbledore turned his attention to the younger members
of the party. "It's getting late," he said, looking at them over his half-moon
spectacles. "Madam Pomfrey won't be pleased with me if I keep you up talking
after such a busy day. Sirius, I suppose you will have to report back to the
Ministry on all this tomorrow, but I hope you'll be our guest for tonight. Would
you care for a drink?"
The four students recognised their cue to leave, and
got up from their seats. They made their way down the spiral stairs and walked
towards Gryffindor Tower. "Are you sure your head isn't hurting still?" Hermione
"It's fine, don't fuss," Ron told her. "But I must say,
I'm pretty tired," he added, yawning and leaning against her shoulder.
Harry and Ginny were walking behind them. "Are you tired?"
Harry asked her.
"Not very," said Ginny, "but then, I didn't have to go
into that dungeon and deal with that horrible - Thing." She looked affectionately
at Ron's back. "I'm so glad he's back to his old self again - even if he does
drive me mad sometimes."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. He took a deep breath and continued
awkwardly, "The thing is - if you're not too tired - would you like to go for
"Yes," Harry said firmly. He signalled to Hermione to
go on without them, then took Ginny's hand and started towing her back in the
other direction. "You see, I've got something very important to say to you,
and I don't want to wait any longer."