(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
Springs and Curses
“It’s wonderful how different the world you know can look just by viewing it through another’s eyes.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
Harriet groaned. She’d been up talking to Sirius until three in the morning, catching him up, in blow by blow fashion, of her life until his escape.
“You okay?” Tori Hoffman asked as Harriet slid out of bed.
“Yeah, ‘m’fine,” Harriet said sleepily as she fumbled around for her glasses.
She put them on and sat on the edge of her bed. She promptly turned her new jewellery box to face her and opened it, smiling into the mirror. Sirius wasn’t there, but he’d said he would always have his mirror on him in case she ever needed him. She picked up her comb and set to work taming her hair.
“What had you up so late?” Hermione asked, putting down bowls of food and water for Crookshanks.
Harriet shrugged. “Just had to clear my head.”
She didn’t know why she wasn’t telling her friends about the mirror yet. Somehow she just felt that it was supposed to be something private, something secret shared only between her and her godfather.
“Well cheer up because you’re in for a blast,” Hermione said, beaming. “Muggle Studies this morning!”
“Ugh, that’s no fair,” AJ groaned. “Iff’n I’da known Professor Spring was gonna be so fun I’da signed up for that class too.”
“Well, even if the Professor is not so fun, that does not mean the class is not very important,” Basheera chimed in.
“Yeah, but a lame teacher can make it hard to take a really important class seriously, which can really hamper learning,” Parvati said.
“Heh, like Quirrell,” Harriet said.
“Or Lockhart,” Ronnie chimed in, giving Hermione a teasing grin.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, we had Professor Lupin last year to make up for it.”
“Wonder how Moody’s going to be,” Harriet mused, remembering the incident in the Entrance Hall the previous day.
“Well, we can be sure he’ll be strict,” Tori said.
“Yeah, that was pretty harsh yesterday, even if it was Malfoy,” Rachel agreed.
“Well, we won’t have him until Thursday,” Hermione said reasonably. “That should be some time to prepare.”
There were general murmurs of agreement. They finished getting dressed in silence before heading down to the common room. The boys were waiting and together they all went to breakfast.
As they ate, Dora nudged Harriet’s elbow and nodded to the staff table.
“Hm?” Harriet grunted through a mouthful of porridge.
“Check out Snape,” Dora said.
Everyone turned and followed Dora’s gaze. Professor Snape was no longer sitting in his usual chair. Now, he was sitting at the far end of the table. Every now and then, he would steal cold, yet anxious glances down the table towards Moody, who was sitting in the same spot he’d been sitting since he arrived. Moody, however, was paying Professor Snape no mind whatsoever as his eerie magical eye whizzed around observing the students and staff.
“Wow, must have had a hell of a row over Malfoy,” Marcus said, scratching his cheek in thought.
Harriet glanced over at the Slytherin table. Malfoy wasn’t there.
“You don’t suppose Malfoy was expelled, or suspended?” Scott asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Dora said. “That’d be an irony wouldn’t it…? All the horrible stuff he’s done and it’s the one thing he did right that gets him in trouble.”
“Tried to do right,” Marcus said.
“Better than not at all,” Hermione added.
“True…” Marcus said, sighing.
The bell rang. Harriet, Hermione, and Ronnie grabbed up their bags and headed off to Muggle Studies. Harriet felt her apprehension over Malfoy and Moody ebbing away. Excitement bubbled in her chest as they got closer to Muggle Studies. Professor Spring had seemed very fun when she escorted Harriet and her friends during their first trip to Hogsmeade. It helped that Hermione always spoke glowingly of Professor Spring’s knowledge.
They waited outside Professor Spring’s class. Hermione kept checking her watch impatiently. Harriet was surprised to note that this class, unlike most, was not just a one or two house class. There were students from all four houses waiting outside.
Jeremy Owen (Harriet flushed slightly when Jeremy greeted her), Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbot, and Susan Bones from Hufflepuff were there. From Ravenclaw Harriet noted Terry Boot, plus three refugee students, Sasha Brewer, Nicole Green, and Kelly Werner. There were only two Slytherins present, Damien Mallory and Thomas Wright.
“Well, it’s not a very popular class,” Hermione whispered in Harriet’s ear. “Not yet, anyway. Apparently the number of third years who signed up this year set a record.”
The bell rang. Professor Spring stepped out, giving everyone a glowing smile. “Mornin’, all!” she said and stepped aside. “C’mon in!”
“Good morning, Professor Spring!” Hermione said and hurried into the room first.
Ronnie rolled her eyes at Harriet and they followed Hermione inside with the rest of the class. Harriet felt her eyes widen as they took in the sight of the room. It was a complete mess.
The walls were plastered from floor to ceiling with technical diagrams of everything from children’s toys to watches to what looked like a nuclear reactor. All of the shelves were littered with muggle artefacts: car engine components, a dismantled bicycle, several telephones of varying eras, and an old diving helmet.
Hermione quickly went to the front of the class. Harriet and Ronnie followed. They sat and Harriet looked at Professor Spring’s blackboard. Her heart sank. Beside her, Ronnie’s jaw fell open.
The word “Springs!” was written exuberantly across the top. Underneath were a series of drawings of springs and several complex looking equations. Harriet and Ronnie exchanged a look. Harriet could tell that Ronnie, like her, was starting to wonder if she’d made a mistake.
“Right!” Professor Spring said, moving behind her desk and smiling around at them all.
Kelly Werner gasped and Harriet noticed it too. On closer inspection, Professor Spring was covered in scratches and there was a dirt smudge on her forehead. There was also a leaf and bits of tree-bark in her short, spunky blonde hair, and her robes were covered in mud.
“Professor Spring!” Nicole Green exclaimed. “What happened?”
“What?” Professor Spring asked, looking at them all with confusion before looking down to take in her appearance and laughing. “Oh! This! Oh it’s nothin’. It was that mad car running about the Forbidden Forest. I almost had it this time.”
Harriet and Ronnie gave each other another uncomfortable look that quickly turned into sheepish smiles.
“Cool!” Terry Boot said.
“Why are you after it?” Hannah Abbot asked. She didn’t sound sure whether she should be impressed or shocked.
“Well it’s int’restin’, isn’t it?” Professor Spring said. “Goin’ feral like that. Never seen the like before. Anyway, trust yeh all had good summers?”
“Excellent!” Professor Spring said. “Now, we ended last term discussin’ pulleys and levers and how Muggles use them to lift heavy objects without magic. This term, we’re moving on to, well, if you don’t mind me bein’ a bit immodest, my favourite Muggle subject: Springs.”
Professor Spring smiled around at the class. “So, who can tell me what a spring is?”
True to form, Hermione’s hand shot in the air.
Professor Spring laughed. “Ah, of course Granger, but I hope yeh don’t mind maybe someone else answerin’? No one else’ll learn if they just ride in your wake. Promise, I had little doubt you already had some idea.”
Hermione flushed a little but looked pleased with herself all the same.
“Potter,” Professor Spring said, making Harriet jump. “How about you?”
“Uh…” Harriet felt her face draining of colour and her mind went blank. She’d grown up in a muggle house, why couldn’t she think of what a spring was? Suddenly, her mind jumped to the broomstick kickstand that Charlie had made for Kieran. That had a little spring on it.
“Uh, it’s one of those little coiled metal things,” Harriet said.
Professor Spring smiled. “Aye, yeah that’s the most common form of them and what most people think when they hear the term ‘spring.’ Very good, five points to Gryffindor.”
Harriet felt the colour return to her cheeks rapidly.
“Yes, that is the most common form of a spring, but what most people don’t know is that lots of things are considered springs,” Professor Spring went on and she stepped up to the blackboard.
There was hurried rustling around the room as everyone got out quills and ink to take notes; except for Hermione who already had hers out.
“Now, the spring that Potter described is what’s known as a coil, or helical spring. The most common material they’re made from is steel. In a more general sense, however, springs are any object that stores mechanical energy.”
Everyone wrote feverishly. Harriet felt her mind going a bit blank. She didn’t know what exactly she’d expected, but it wasn’t this.
“The first use of the coil spring came about in the early fifteenth century,” Professor Spring continued. “But humans have been using them since almost the dawn of civilisation. Can anyone else think of a simpler spring?”
Hermione’s hand shot in the air, but so did Jeremy’s.
“Let’s give Owen a try this time,” Professor Spring said, smiling at Hermione. “I’ve got a better question later that you can tackle.”
Hermione put her hand down again though she still looked just as eager.
“Well, would a bow—like a bow and arrow—count?” Jeremy asked.
Professor Spring beamed. “Very good, Owen! Yes, five points to Hufflepuff. Yes, a bow is a form of very rudimentary spring.”
Jeremy smiled looking pleased with himself.
“The term for the type of spring a bow is, is a leaf spring,” Professor Spring went on. “Now, don’t want to overload you all on your very first day, because it is a big subject, and a couple of us are new to the class.”
Harriet felt some of her own tension ease off.
“So instead we’re going to talk about the many objects that springs are used in. To help you study up, next lesson we’ll be talking about the different types of springs in more detail. The lesson after that, we’ll get into the real meat of the matter and discuss the physics behind springs.”
“Physics?” Terry Boot asked, sounding quite taken aback.
Looking around, Harriet noted most of the faces had gone a little pale.
“Oh yes, Boot,” Professor Spring said. “No good just learning the uses of Muggle artefacts without learning the theory behind them. Like we talked about first term of last year, just learning about how Muggles do things won’t help you really appreciate why they do.”
Professor Spring surveyed the room impressively.
“It’s easy enough for all of us to look down on Muggles and how they can’t do things without magic but that diminishes their genius incredibly. Muggles noted that a stick, when bent, sprang back when released. Eventually, they figured out that by attaching a string to each end of such a stick, it could launch a projectile.
“With that, they could hunt larger game more safely from further away. They were better able to defend themselves against predators and other tribes. Much later, they figured out how to use springs to power watches and clocks. Those comfortable beds you sleep in every night? Springs. The smooth ride of the Hogwarts Express? Springs. Trampolines? Latches in doors and locks? All springs.”
The class was very quiet as Professor Spring finally stopped talking. She hadn’t been reprimanding them. Instead, her face was bright with passion.
Slowly, Ernie Macmillan raised a hand.
“Yes, Macmillan?” Professor Spring said.
“So, we really have two weeks until we have to learn that physics bit?”
Professor Spring laughed.
* * * *
“You know why Snape’s been in such a foul mood,” Ronnie said the night before their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson of the new term.
“Yeah, Moody,” Harriet replied.
They were sitting in the common room reading for Professor Spring’s class. Neville had melted his sixth cauldron in Potions earlier in the day. Professor Snape, who was being even nastier than ever before, had given Neville a detention. Neville had just returned, twitching a little. Professor Snape had made him disembowel a barrelful of horned toads.
At present, Hermione and Basheera were sitting quietly with Neville in a corner. Basheera was patting Neville’s shoulder calmingly while Hermione was teaching Neville a scouring spell to remove the toad guts from his fingernails. Harriet wondered, a bit apprehensively, if she should be worried about Professor Moody. The thought was somewhat distracting, and she shook her head refocusing on springs for the time being. Finally, Thursday and their first Defence Against the Dark Arts class arrived. The interest amongst the students was palpable. While many were still leery of Moody after the incident in the Entrance Hall, the stories that the fourth years had been regaled with from other students about Moody’s expertise had made even Harriet excited to see just what Moody had to offer.
It wasn’t just the testimonials either. Much of what had Harriet excited was just the knowledge that Moody had once been an Auror. Harriet had taken a keen on the subject of Aurors ever since Remus had told her last year that she would make a good Auror herself. There was what Charlie had said the morning they’d left for Hogwarts, how Moody and Professor Howe had once been good friends while they worked at the Ministry. And lastly, there was the knowledge that Daniel had once been Moody’s protégé at the Ministry of Magic.
And yet, in spite of all of the excitement, and not even because of what had happened in the Entrance Hall between Moody and Draco on their first day back, something kept nagging at the back of Harriet’s mind. What it was did not occur to Harriet until they arrived at the door.
Defence Against the Dark Arts
It should still be Professor Lupin, Harriet thought; a tiny wave of resentment washing across her mind.
The bell had just rung as Hermione came hurrying up to them.
“Been in the—”
“—library,” everyone finished for her at once.
Dean looked into the room. “He’s not in, let’s get seats,” he said excitedly.
The class filed in and took seats. Everyone took out their books, The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection, and waited. The room was unusually quiet, but Harriet could feel the excitement in the air.
Barely a minute later, the class turned towards the door. They could all hear the clunking of Moody’s clawed wooden foot coming down the corridor, growing steadily closer. The door opened and Moody stumped in, leaning heavily on his walking stick. Harriet’s eyes moved from his ever moving blue eye, to the clawed foot just visible under his robes.
“You can put those away,” Moody growled as he passed them all one his way to his desk. He grunted as he sat. “Those books. You won’t need them.”
There was excited shuffling as everyone hurried to put their books away. No books meant practical lessons, and practical lessons almost always spelled fun.
Moody took out the list of students, brushed his long, grizzled hair out of his face and began reading off the names. Harriet noted that his normal eye read from the list, while the magical one swivelled about, taking in each student as they answered.
“Right then,” Moody said putting away the register after roll call was done. “I’ve had a letter from Professor Lupin about this class. Seems you’ve had a pretty thorough grounding in tackling Dark creatures.”
The mention of Remus, and Professor Moody’s seemingly positive appraisal of his lessons went a long ways towards warming Harriet to Professor Moody at once.
“You’ve covered Boggarts, Red Caps, Hinkypunks, Grindylows, Kappas, and Werewolves, is that right?”
There was a general murmur of assent.
“Excellent. However, you’re all behind—very behind—on dealing with curses,” Professor Moody said, curtly. “Though from what Dumbledore tells me, that’s no fault of your own. So, that’s why I’m here. To bring you all up to scratch on what wizards can do to each other. I’ve got one year to teach all of you how to deal with—”
“You mean you’re not staying?” Ronnie asked abruptly.
Professor Moody’s magical eye spun around to stare at Ronnie. Ronnie swallowed and seemed to shrink a little. However, after a moment, Professor Moody actually smiled. It made his face even more twisted looking than ever, but as with Professor Stratton the year before, Harriet found it reassuring to note that he did in fact smile. A sentiment shared by Ronnie who slowly smiled back.
“You’ll be Arthur Weasley’s daughter then?” Professor Moody said. “Already had your brothers. And your little sister too, yesterday, good head on her shoulders, that one. Your father helped me out of a tight spot a couple days ago… yes, I’m only staying the one year. Special favour to Dumbledore. I’m retired you know, and rather liked it.”
He gave a sharp, scratchy laugh before clapping his gnarled hands together.
“So—let’s get straight to it then. Curses. They come in a great many strengths and forms. Now, according to the Ministry of Magic and the school governors, you’re not supposed to know what illegal Dark curses look like until your sixth year. They don’t think you’ll be old enough to cope with them yet. But Dumbledore’s got a higher opinion of your talents than they do, and I say the sooner you know what you’ll be facing, the better.”
Professor Moody grunted getting to his feet and leaning on the desk, looking around at them all with a narrowed normal eye. “Now, some students in other classes expressed their opinion that learning these aren’t necessary yet. Well, anyone who heard or saw what happened at the World Cup this summer knows otherwise.”
Harriet grimaced and everyone shifted a little in their seats, uncomfortably. Harriet glanced at Marcus. His jaw was set and he was looking at Professor Moody though not as though he really saw him. Hermione set a hand gently on his arm and he jumped but seemed to relax.
“So, even in today’s peace, you can see that Dark forces are still everywhere. How can you defend yourself against a curse you’ve never seen? How can you be prepared for it? A Dark witch or wizard isn’t going to tell you politely what they’re about to do before doing it. You need to be prepared. You need to be alert and watchful. You need to put that away when I’m talking, Miss Brown.”
Lavender jumped and blushed. She had been showing Parvati her completed horoscope under the table. Everyone stared at Professor Moody in disbelief. Had he noticed them talking quietly, or could his eye see through not just his head, but solid wood as well?
“So, do any of you know which curses are most heavily punished by wizarding law? As a hint, there are three. They’re known as the Unforgivable Curses.”
Several hands rose around them. Hermione’s hand was no surprise, but Harriet noted with surprise that both Ronnie and Neville put their hands up. Professor Moody pointed at Ronnie first, though his magical eye remained fixed on Lavender and Parvati.
“Well,” Ronnie said. “I remember my dad talking about one called the Imperius Curse?”
“Ah, yes,” Professor Moody said, nodding. “Your father would know all about that one. Gave the Ministry quite a lot of trouble back in the day.”
Professor Moody opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out a jar. Inside were three large, black spiders. Harriet heard Ronnie give a quiet whimper. Ronnie’s greatest fear was spiders.
Professor Moody scooped out one of the spiders and held it up so the whole class could see. The spider attempted to scuttle off Professor Moody’s hand but his wand was quicker.
“Imperio!” Professor Moody said, almost lazily.
The spider froze for a moment, then it sprang into the air. Harriet could just see a thin, gossamer thread of silk connected to Professor Moody’s hand. The spider hung from it, swinging back and forth like an acrobat only inches above Professor Moody’s desk. It then performed a backflip, broke the strand and landed on the desk. It sprang up at once, its spindly legs held straight out, cartwheeling in a circle around the desktop. Then it stopped and hopped up on its back two legs and began tap-dancing.
Most of the class was laughing at this point, with the exception of Ronnie who was still watching the spider with horror. Professor Moody wasn’t laughing either.
“Think it’s funny, do you?” Professor Moody snarled and the class fell silent at once. “You’d like it, if I did it to you?”
No one moved or made a sound as Professor Moody surveyed them all with both eyes.
“Control,” he growled and the spider rolled itself into a ball, rolling around the desk. “Total control. I could make it jump out the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of you throats.”
Ronnie whimpered louder.
“Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse. Kept the Ministry in knots, it did, trying to find out who was being controlled by it or not.
“Fortunately for you lot, unlike the other two Unforgivable Curses, the Imperius Curse can be fought, and I’ll be teaching you how. However, it takes real strength of character, and not everyone’s got it. The best defence is not being hit by it at all. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”
Everyone jumped as Professor Moody barked the last two words. He scooped up the spider and returned it to the jar.
“Anyone else know another Unforgivable Curse?”
Hermione’s hand punched the air once more, but once again, Neville raised his hand as well.
“Yes?” Professor Moody asked, turning to Neville.
“The… the Cruciatus Curse,” Neville answered. His voice was just loud enough to be heard.
Professor Moody gave Neville a searching look before his magical eye swung down to look at the register once more. “You’re Longbottom, right?”
Neville only nodded. Professor Moody reached into the jar once more and pulled out another spider. He set it on the desktop and drew his wand again.
“The Cruciatus Curse…” Professor Moody said studying the spider. “Needs to be a bit bigger for you to get the idea.”
Professor Moody pointed his wand at the spider. “Engorgio.”
The spider grew at once, growing larger than a tarantula. Ronnie actually slid her chair back from the desk now. Tori reached forward from her seat behind Ronnie to put a comforting hand on Ronnie’s shoulder.
Professor Moody looked around the room once more, making sure everyone was paying attention before he pointed his wand at the spider yet again.
The spider began twitching immediately. It curled up its legs and rolled on its back. Its legs and abdomen were flailing now, rocking back and forth. It didn’t make a sound, beyond the skittering of its legs hitting the desktop, but if it could have, Harriet was sure if it could, it would be screaming.
Two people had called out at once. One was Hermione, and the other was Basheera. Harriet looked around at them both. Neither Hermione nor Basheera were looking at the spider. Instead, both were looking at Neville. Neville was gripping the edges of his desk, his knuckles white. His eyes were as wide as they’d go as he watched the spider, full of horror.
Professor Moody finally relented. The spider stopped writhing but its legs continued to twitch intermittently.
“Reducio,” Professor Moody said and the spider shrank back to normal size before he replaced it in the jar.
“Pain,” he continued. “You don’t need thumbscrews to torture someone if you can perform the Cruciatus curse. That one was real popular once too. Fear of it was so rampant that often neither it nor the Imperius Curse were necessary to bend people to your will, simply the threat of it was often enough to coerce people into carrying out your wishes.
“Right then, anyone know the last one?”
No one moved or spoke. Everyone was looking at the jar with a sense of foreboding. Finally, hesitantly, Hermione raised her hand again.
“Yes?” Professor Moody asked.
“Avada Kedavra,” Hermione answered. She was even quieter than Neville had been.
“Ah yes,” Professor Moody said. “The last, and worst. Avada Kedavra… the Killing Curse.”
Professor Moody reached in for the last spider. It scuttled away from his hand as fast as it could, but with nowhere to go Professor Moody finally caught it and set it on the desktop. The spider spun and shot straight away from Professor Moody, directly at Ronnie. Professor Moody’s wand was quicker.
“Avada Kedavra!” he roared.
The room was lit at once by bright green light. A horrible, ominous, and all too familiar rushing sound filled Harriet’s ears. The spider collapsed and skidded to a halt, tumbling a few times before rolling onto its back, its legs curled up, unmistakably dead. Ronnie screamed as the spider skidded towards her. Marcus had also cried out and actually fallen out of his chair.
Professor Moody stumped around his desk and swept the spider off his desk and into the bin.
“Not nice, not pleasant,” he said solemnly, wincing as he leaned back on his desk. “And there’s no counter-curse. There’s no blocking it. Only one person that anyone knows of has ever survived it.”
Both of Professor Moody’s eyes moved to Harriet. Harriet knew what he was going to say. He was far from the first person to have ever told her that fact.
“And she’s sitting right in front of me.”
Harriet could feel every eye in the room on her. She was staring at the blackboard behind Professor Moody though she didn’t really see it. Instead, her mind was going back to almost every nightmare she had ever had in her life. She was revisiting the clearing in the forest where she’d heard that horrible rushing sound and seen the blinding green flash.
She was starting to put together other images of her past in her mind as well from this. That was the last thing her parents had seen or heard. That roar and green flash before the end. Before their bodies crumpled, just like the spider.
“The Killing Curse needs a powerful bit of magic behind it. All the Unforgivable Curses do. You call all get your wands out right now, point them at me and shout “Avada Kedavra” and I wouldn’t even get a nose-bleed. You have to mean them. But that’s no matter, I’m not here to teach you how to perform them.”
Harriet was only half listening to Professor Moody. Her attention had drifted to Marcus who had retaken his seat and was wearing an expression much like hers, of forced determination, though his face and hands were both very white.
“Now, performing any of the Unforgivable Curses on a fellow human being will earn the performer a life sentence in Azkaban. That’s what you’re up against when dealing with Dark wizards. That’s what I’m here to teach you how to fight. You all need arming and preparing. But neither of those will help unless you practice constant, never ceasing vigilance. Now, get your quills and parchment out and take this down.”
The rest of the class was spent taking notes. They were all silent, except for the scratching of quills and the shifting of parchment, until the bell rang. Once outside in the hallway, the group all burst into speech.
Harriet grimaced as she listened. By the sound of it, most of the class had found the lesson entertaining, as though Professor Moody had put on a show for them. Harriet had to admit that she found the class informative, but it certainly had not been fun. Hermione and Marcus appeared to feel the same way.
“What was he on about… why did he have to actually kill something to show us?” Marcus was muttering.
“It was just a spider,” Ronnie said.
“And well… it was informative,” Kieran said. “And he had a point, how are—”
“Neville?” Hermione asked.
They came to a halt and followed Hermione’s gaze down a side-corridor. Neville was sitting on a bench, Basheera and Tori sitting with him. Neville was still wide-eyed, staring blankly. They made their way over to the three, concern on everyone’s face.
“Neville, are you okay?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, hello,” Neville said. His voice was much higher than normal. “Interesting lesson. When’s dinner?”
Basheera and Tori grimaced up at them.
“He’s… I don’t know,” Basheera said sounding lost.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Neville said. “Fascinating dinner. When’s the lesson?”
There was a tell-tale clunking noise behind them and they all turned to see Professor Moody making his way towards them. His expression was difficult to read from all the scarring but when he spoke his voice was much softer and gentler than Harriet had heard before.
“It’s all right, sonny,” Professor Moody said to Neville. “I know it seems harsh… I know it’s not pleasant… but you’ve all got to know… no point pretending. Now, Longbottom, how about you come up to my office? We can have some tea and I have some books that might interest you.”
Neville looked around at everyone with a slightly pleading look. However, no one spoke. What was there to say? Neville slowly rose and Professor Moody put a grizzled hand on his shoulder, guiding him off down the corridor.
Marcus shivered. “Don’t blame him… not sure how keen I’d be on being alone with Moody right now…”
“Yeah…” Harriet admitted.
“It was light being back there in the forest,” Marcus admitted. “Seeing Karkaroff dying all over again…”
Basheera’s eyes widened. “You saw that happen?”
“Yeah,” Marcus admitted. “Tried to warn him but I wasn’t fast enough…”
“Was it really him?” Tori asked, giving a little shiver herself. “Kinney…?”
Harriet could see the fear in Tori’s eyes. She thought back on the previous year, recalling their first boggart lesson with Professor Lupin. Tori’s boggart had taken the form of Kinney.
“Yeah,” Harriet said, solemnly.
Tori rubbed her arms. “Can’t believe no one’s caught him yet… How can someone be so…”
Basheera put an arm around Tori’s shoulder now.
“Well, I mean… that’s just it though,” Kieran said. “With Professor Moody and that lesson. People like Kinney are out there, and they use those curses on people. We have to be ready for them.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Harriet admitted, though she still couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of foreboding anyway.
* * * *
The common room was uncommonly quiet that night. The fourth years were all still rather subdued after Professor Moody’s class. Harriet was sitting with Ronnie, Marcus, and Kieran. Hermione had gone to the library once more. Kieran was working on some of his basic healing homework while Marcus was enjoying himself helping Harriet and Ronnie come up with ever more gruesome predictions for their Divination homework.
Harriet stretched and looked around the room. There was quiet conversation going on all around and other students were all starting to head to bed. Neville was sitting by the fireplace with Basheera, Tori and Rachel. They were all leaning over a book with interest. Harriet craned her neck until she could just make out the title: Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties.
“He said Moody gave it to him,” Kieran said, following Harriet’s gaze.
“Really?” Ronnie asked.
“Yeah, said Professor Sprout told him he was really good at Herbology,” Marcus said. He sounded at once disbelieving, and yet approving.
Harriet had to admit that she felt the same way. Especially as she saw the look on Neville’s face of distinct pride and excitement as he poured over the book. Hardly anyone ever told Neville he was good at anything. So for Professor Moody, who was so intimidating and so legendary, to have told Neville so was a touching gesture to Harriet, even if it made her even more confused about just what she thought of Professor Moody.
Harriet turned her attention elsewhere. She spotted Fred and George sitting in a corner by themselves. This confused Harriet slightly. She expected Lee Jordan and Erica to be sitting with them at least. The two were crouched over a piece of parchment, quills out and pondering it. She didn’t think it was homework, and she doubted it was Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, because if it was they wouldn’t be looking so grim, and they would have let Lee and Erica in on it for sure. Her only other guess was they were trying to figure out how to enter the tournament, but even that was something she was sure they’d let Lee Jordan in on.
As she watched, George scratched something out with his quill. “No—we can’t say that, that’ll sound like we’re accusing him. We gotta be careful…”
Fred was about to speak when George looked over and saw Harriet watching them. Harriet simply smiled at them and looked back to her homework. She didn’t want them to think she was listening in, though she couldn’t help but tilt her head more to try and do just that.
“Yeah, you’re right George… gah, this is bloody difficult… especially if he did stiff us.”
“Yeah, I just… I can’t believe it… someone like—”
Harriet jumped looking around. Hermione had returned and was beaming around at everyone. She was holding a cardboard box that was rattling as she shifted it in her arms to set it on the desk.
“What’s that?” Ronnie asked looking at the box with interest.
“My big project,” Hermione said excitedly.
She took off the box’s lid and slid it towards everyone else. Harriet leaned over and looked inside. The box was full of pin on badges, all made of many different colours, but printed on each badge was the letters: S.P.E.W.
“Spew?” Harriet asked, picking up and inspecting one of the badges.
“Not spew,” Hermione said irritably. “It’s S—P—E—W. It stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.”
“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t say spew,” Ronnie taunted.
“S—P—E—W!” Hermione snapped.
Kieran meanwhile had pulled over a sheaf of parchment which Hermione had also set down and read out loud.
“Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. Manifesto: Stop the outrageous abuse of our fellow magical creatures and campaign for a change in their legal status.”
Marcus whistled. “Well, not biting off more than you can chew at all.”
Hermione twisted her lips as though biting back more retorts.
“Well, every movement’s got to start somewhere, right?” said a voice nearby.
It was Erica who was getting up out of a chair by the fireplace where she’d been reading. She walked over looking on with interest.
“What you got here, Hermione?”
Hermione smiled to see Erica’s interest. “It’s a new club I’m starting, to help raise awareness about elf enslavement and how horrible it is.”
“But it’s not all horrible,” Ronnie said. “I mean, look at Dora and her family’s house elves.”
“It’s the principle of the thing, Ronnie,” Hermione said in a dignified way.
“Well, I think it’s cool,” Erica said. “If you do it right it could really go somewhere. I never understood having house elves anyway. There are spells that can enchant brooms to sweep on their own, dusters dust on their own, and everything. Having a house elf just seems like something rich people do to show off.”
“Quite right,” Hermione said, beaming. “Our short term aims are to secure house-elves fair wages and working conditions. Our long term aims include changing the law about non-wand-use, and trying to get an elf into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
Everyone stared at her.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“Um… isn’t that a bit, well… overly ambitious?” Marcus asked, sounding incredulous. “Maybe start just like… raising awareness of their mistreatment?”
“And… what do you mean ‘our’?” Ronnie asked.
“Well, I was figuring you could be treasurer, Ronnie,” Hermione said. “And Marcus, you can be our secretary.”
“What about me?” Harriet asked.
“Yeah,” Kieran asked.
“Well, Kieran, I was thinking you could handle membership, keep the roster of who’s in the club. Harriet, well, I was thinking you could be public relations.”
“Public relations?” Harriet asked, blinking.
“Well, people know you. If they knew you were in the group that would go a long way towards raising public awareness.”
“Soooooo you’re just preying on her fame?” Marcus taunted a little.
Hermione flushed. “No! I, well, not like that—”
Marcus laughed. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” he said.
Hermione kept blushing looking around. “So… you’re all going to help?”
Harriet and the rest all gave each other looks. Harriet felt a little whiplashed by it all and Ronnie still looked sceptical, but they all seemed resigned to the inevitable. And after remembering last year how Hermione had been so alone with all her work, Harriet supposed she couldn’t turn her back now.
“Yeah, we’re in,” Harriet said.