(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
Match and Missing
“There are few surer signs that someone is in great emotional trouble as when they begin to give over to apathy. When they are finally so overwhelmed by life’s troubles, or a massive shock, they fail to be able to register any emotion at all.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
“Goodness, you’re being affectionate this morning,” came Hermione’s voice from beyond the bed curtains.
It was two hours until the match according to Harriet’s clock. Harriet had managed to drift back into a fitful sleep the rest of the night, but she did not feel tired. Indeed, she still felt quite on edge after the strange incident she had seen out the window. The only way she managed to fall asleep was reminding herself that the Forbidden Forest was full of big, dangerous animals. Wasn’t that why it was forbidden in the first place? And the big cat, which Harriet now took to be a panther, certainly wasn’t as terrifying as Aragog and his horde had been.
“Ugh, and shedding…”
Harriet pulled back her bed curtains. Hermione was sitting on the edge of her own bed, holding Crookshanks on her lap. The sight of the large, fluffy feline filled Harriet with relief. Crookshanks was nuzzling Hermione’s cheeks while Hermione was grumbling trying to blow a large tuft of ginger fur off her hand.
Crookshanks continued to purr. Harriet couldn’t be sure, but something about the way the cat was acting seemed like relief, as if Crookshanks knew how close to danger he’d been and was just as grateful to see Hermione again as Harriet was to see him. Harriet then remembered Scott’s assessment that Crookshanks was probably part-Kneazle. She supposed this behaviour would be further evidence of Scott’s hypothesis.
Harriet took her Firebolt from her trunk and headed down to the common room with Ronnie and Hermione. It seemed as though most of the house was already awake and waiting. The excitement in the room seemed to make Harriet’s skin tingle, as if the air was electrified. Harriet turned to the fireplace as she heard Percy’s voice call above the din. She saw him standing there with Wood and AJ’s older brother, Ben.
“Okay everyone, we’re going down to breakfast as a whole house.”
“We might have Aurochius with us as we head down,” Wood said as the crowd of Gryffindors gathered, “but we’d rather not to take chances, and there’s safety in numbers.”
“Right,” Percy agreed. “So come on everyone, time for breakfast!”
“What about Kieran?” Harriet asked, looking to Hermione and Ronnie. “We can’t let him leave the hospital wing all by himself.”
“Well, let’s see if Aurochius will take us?” Ronnie suggested as Marcus came over.
“You lot talking about Kieran?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Harriet said, adjusting her Firebolt on her shoulder.
“I hope Miss Momori lets him go,” Marcus said. “He’ll be devastated.”
Harriet shifted uncomfortably, remembering Angelina’s words from the night before.
“Well, we’ll pout Aurochius into letting us go,” Ronnie said.
“‘Pout’ him?” Marcus asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Yeah, works on Dad all the time,” Ronnie said matter-of-factly.
Marcus scoffed. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
Ronnie sniffed and tossed her hair before turning to Seamus Finnigan. “Seamus? My bag’s kinda heavy, would you mind holding it for me?” she asked giving him a very convincing pout.
“Oh, uh, s-sure, no problem,” Seamus said, reaching for the bag enthusiastically before blinking. “Wait… you don’t have a bag.”
Ronnie’s pout vanished in an instant and was replaced by a very smug grin indeed. “Nope, but you did help me prove a point, so thank you!” she said smiling.
Seamus blinked looking confused but didn’t get time to respond before the line for the portrait hole had moved enough that they could start forward.
“Okay that was good,” Marcus admitted, making Ronnie’s smug grin widen.
They made their way, as a house, to the Great Hall. Harriet wanted to break off for the Hospital Wing but Marcus assured her that Madam Pomfrey was unlikely to let Kieran go until the very last minute. Harriet sighed and agreed as they entered the Great Hall.
A wave of sound hit them as everyone at the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables rose to applaud the entering Gryffindors. The other houses were so eager to see Slytherin finally fall that they were cheering the Gryffindors as though they were all in the same house.
“Nice to see a little school unity,” Hermione said before glancing at the Slytherin table. “Though not exactly perfect, is it?”
“Who cares?” Ronnie said, as the Slytherins made their presence known by booing and hissing.
Harriet managed to catch sight of Malfoy. He was sitting next to Flint, who was talking to him in a hushed voice. Malfoy’s eyes were on Harriet’s Firebolt, his skin the colour of porridge. Further down the table, Harriet saw Kenley stabbing at her eggs with her fork a bit more maliciously than required. Kenley glanced up and caught Harriet looking at her. She gave Harriet a little smile and wave before returning to eating her breakfast with a bit more decorum.
As was the custom before Quidditch matches, Harriet sat with the team. Wood made sure that everyone ate, though Harriet noted he wasn’t eating anything himself. Harriet was only halfway through her own breakfast when Professor McGonagall came hurrying over to her. Harriet looked up at Professor McGonagall with trepidation. Most times Professor McGonagall had wanted to speak to her personally this year, it had been to convey bad news. However, this time Professor McGonagall was actually smiling.
“Potter, there’s a surprise for you and your friends in the Entrance Hall,” Professor McGonagall said, smiling enigmatically.
“What is it?” Harriet asked.
“Did I not say, a ‘surprise,’ Potter?” Professor McGonagall replied, curtly, before looking down the table. “Granger, Weasley, McIntyre, Van Der Lakk, Flamel, you come along as well.”
Harriet and her friends rose. Harriet hoisted up her Firebolt once more and they headed off after Professor McGonagall.
“Make sure you’re on the pitch by 10:30, Potter,” Wood called after her.
Harriet waved her acknowledgment as they followed Professor McGonagall, ignoring the jeers of the Slytherins. However, as they passed the Ravenclaw table a cheerful voice called her name.
“Hey, Harriet, good luck!” Harriet paused and saw that it was Cho Chang who was smiling at Harriet warmly. Harriet flushed but smiled back.
“Thanks Cho,” she replied.
“Yeah, show the boys how it’s done!” another of Cho’s friends said.
Harriet flushed brighter but nodded, feeling even more confident than ever. Cho was a worthy opponent as a Seeker, and somehow knowing that Cho was willing to put that aside to support her touched Harriet.
She hurried after her friends into the Entrance Hall. There, Harriet saw something that made her heart jump in a very good way. There, talking to Aurochius, was Kieran’s parents. But they weren’t alone. They were also talking to Professor Lupin, Mr Dusk, and Professor Sinistra, who was joined by her twin daughters, Nanette and Rosie, who still attended Rathlin. There was also a third girl who looked to be the same age as the twins who Harriet did not recognize.
“Ah, there she be,” Mrs O’Brien said, waving to Harriet.
Harriet beamed and hurried over, giving Mrs O’Brien a big hug, feeling lighter than she’d felt in months.
“What are you doing here?” Scott asked, smiling too.
“Well, we’re alumni are we not?” Mr O’Brien chuckled. “Can’t pass up the chance to see Gryffindor take back the Quidditch cup after so long, can we?”
“Plus we’re checking on Kieran, but don’t tell him that,” Mrs O’Brien added, winking.
“And in the meantime catching up with familiar faces,” Mr O’Brien said smiling at Professor Lupin, Mr Dusk and Aurochius.
Professor Lupin chuckled in his good natured way. “Well, it is a small magical world we live in, is it not?”
Harriet beamed and introduced Mr and Mrs O’Brien to her other friends. Mrs O’Brien then introduced them to the girl Harriet didn’t recognize.
“And this here’s my niece, Niamh*,” she said.
Niamh beamed at them all. “Hello! I’m Niamh, Niamh Droobles!”
“Droobles?” Ronnie asked. “As in the gum?”
“Yep!” Niamh replied eagerly.
“Niamh’s my roommate, so I invited her to watch the match with us!” Rosie Sinistra chimed in.
“And it gave us the chance to meet their lovely mother,” Mrs O’Brien said smiling at Professor Sinistra. “We simply must invite you for tea over the summer.”
“That would be marvellous,” Professor Sinistra said smiling.
“Perhaps we can invite Daniel and Remus along too,” Mrs O’Brien said, a twinkle in her eye.
Mr Dusk laughed a bit more heartily than usual. Harriet noticed that while he was standing next to Professor Sinistra, he did not seem as casual as he usually did. He kept running a hand through his hair awkwardly and fussing with his clothes. Nanette, Rosie, and Niamh were giving him and Professor Sinistra very knowing looks and giggling, whispering to each other behind their hands.
However, Harriet noticed something else about Mr Dusk. He looked very tired, with noticeable bags under his eyes. Harriet remembered how Scott had looked after his night of musing over the guilt or innocence of Sirius Black, and realized Mr Dusk looked much the same.
“Well, let’s go spring our surprise, shall we?” Mr O’Brien suggested warmly, calling Harriet’s attention back to the group.
As a group, they made their way to the Hospital Wing. Harriet couldn’t help but smile. Kieran looked at once embarrassed, yet touched and pleased to see his family and younger cousin. They sat with him and chatted until Miss Momori came to give Kieran his last check-up.
While they waited, Harriet glanced around the room. Most of the Slytherins from the fight in their common room had been released it seemed. Wendy Aarons was one of the few who remained. She was still alone, lying on her side. At first Harriet thought she was staring into space, but she realized that she was looking at a single get-well card propped up on her bedside table. Harriet wondered who it was from, as she doubted it was Pansy and Pixie.
“Very well, O’Brien, you’re cleared to go,” Miss Momori said.
“Harriet, aren’t you supposed to head down to the pitch?” Dora asked, looking at her watch.
Harriet checked her own and saw she only had ten minutes. “You’re right!” she gasped. “See you all at the match!” she said and ran for the door.
She ran down to the pitch, Aurochius keeping pace with her easily on his long legs. She came to a stop next to Katie Bell, leaning heavily on the older girl’s shoulder, panting.
“Made it,” Harriet said catching her breath.
“Good, with two minutes to spare,” Wood said. “The wind’s not so bad down here but that’ll be different at altitudes over fifty feet everyone, so watch for it. No clouds and a mid-day sun can impair vision, so keep that in mind too when keeping an eye-out for Bludgers, though that’ll be a plus for you Harriet, as it’ll light up the Snitch better.”
“Well, it’ll light it up better for Malfoy too,” Harriet replied.
“Yeah, but you have the faster broom, so you can keep him off it easier than he can keep you off it once we get sixty points up.”
“You really think we can do that though, Wood?” Alicia Spinnet asked.
“Damn right, I do,” Wood said, his voice brimming with conviction. It was the same fervour and confidence that gave Harriet butterflies in her stomach, as it did now. “A broom’s only as good as its flyer. Our practices over the last couple of weeks have been flawless. The weather’s perfect. We’re going to do it. I don’t care if this match goes on for a month, we’re going to win.”
Wood’s confidence was so strong that even Fred and George seemed unable to come up with their usual sarcastic wise-cracks as they made their way to the changing room. As they changed, Harriet could hear the stands filling up. By the sound of it, the whole school had come to watch the match. Not surprising, Harriet thought. The chance to watch Slytherin fall had the school buzzing.
Finally, they made their way onto the pitch. Harriet’s eyes were hit by a wave of scarlet as both the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws waved pro-Gryffindor signs and flags. However, Slytherin was definitely making their own presence known, waving their own green flags, filling a quarter of the stadium behind the Slytherin goal posts.
“And here come the Gryffindors!” came the voice of Lee Jordan, amplified many times through the magical megaphone from the commentator's box. “Bell, Johnson, Potter, Spinnet, Weasley, Weasley, and Wood. This is Wood’s final match and no one can doubt he’s put together the best team Hogwarts has seen in years—”
A wave of boos from the Slytherins drown out the rest of Lee’s comment.
“And here come the Slytherins, led by Captain Flint. Looks like he’s made a few changes in the line-up since the last match, a gutsy move, considering it looks like he’s opted for size rather than skill…”
Another wave of boos rose up from the Slytherin end. Harriet, however, thought Lee had a point. Malfoy looked only half the size of his other teammates as he stood amongst them, clutching his Nimbus Two-Thousand One and looking as though he felt as jittery as Harriet did. Harriet took a breath and decided that even if she was nervous too, she would use Malfoy’s own nerves to her advantage.
“Captains, shake hands,” Madam Hooch said as the teams came together.
Flint and Wood shook. As usual, it looked as though each were trying to crush the other’s fingers.
“Mount your brooms!” Madam Hooch declared. “On my whistle: three, two, one!”
Harriet heard her whistle only briefly through the roar of the crowd and the rushing of the wind as she kicked off. Her ponytail whipped in her slipstream as the exhilaration of flight finally chased away all the butterflies. She shot higher than everyone, scanning below for the Snitch. She couldn’t catch it yet, but knowing where it was would help her keep Malfoy off of it until necessary.
Harriet glanced back, catching sight of Malfoy tailing her. By the looks of it, he was going to copy Cho’s tactic of tailing Harriet and letting her look for the Snitch. Unfortunately, while still not as fast as Harriet’s Firebolt, Malfoy’s Nimbus was still faster than Cho’s Comet 260. Malfoy’s face was set as he followed, and Harriet couldn’t help but give him a quick smirk and lean forward, rocketing away from him. As Harriet slowed down, she could hear Lee Jorden commentating again.
“—Gryffindor is in possession, Alicia Spinnet with the Quaffle, heading straight up the pitch toward the Slytherin—nope, intercepted by Warrington of Slytherin and heading straight back towards the Gryffindor—ooooooooo that looked painful but nice Bludger Fred or George Weasley—don’t look at me like that, you know your own mother can’t tell you apart—Johnson now with the Quaffle heading back to the Slytherin end, dodging Montague with a skill seldom seen—look out for the Bludger! –SCORE! SHE SCORES! GRYFFINDOR LEADS BY TEN TO ZERO!”
Harriet watched as Angelina punched the air and gave George a high five as they passed each other. The crowd below was screaming with delight and waving their scarlet flags in the air when Angelina gave out a shriek and was nearly thrown from her broom as Marcus Flint smashed into her.
The crowd gasped and booed angrily.
“Sorry, didn’t see her,” Flint called, though there was undisguised maliciousness in his eyes. This only lasted a second however, as Fred actually hurled his Beater’s club at Flint, hitting him in the back of the head. Flint was knocked forward, smashing his face into the handle of his broom, causing his nose to bleed.
Madam Hooch’s whistle sounded and she flew up between the two as Flint rounded on Fred. “That will do!” she shouted coming between them. “Penalty to Gryffindor for an unprovoked attack on their chaser. Penalty to Slytherin for deliberate damage to their chaser!”
“Oh come off, Miss!” Fred protested but Madam Hooch blew her whistle once more and Alicia flew forward to take the penalty shot for Gryffindor.
Silence fell over the crowd and Alicia streaked forward. Harriet watched as she deftly passed the Slytherin keeper and put it neatly through one of the hoops.
“YES! TWENTY-ZERO TO GRYFFINDOR!” Lee cried out.
Harriet turned to watch Flint come forward to take the Slytherin penalty. She crossed her fingers as she watched Wood tighten his grip on his own broom.
“Of course, Wood is an excellent Keeper, one of the best Hogwarts is seen in years so it’s going to be difficult for—YES! I DON’T BELIEVE IT! HE SAVED IT! SCORE REMAINS TWENTY TO ZERO!”
Harriet gave a sigh of relief and resumed her search for the Snitch. She kept listening to Lee, needing to know exactly when they were sixty points ahead. Below her, Malfoy was doing some of his own searching for the Snitch, though he was certainly keeping an eye on Harriet as he hunted.
“Gryffindor in possess—no Slytherin in possession—no! back to Gryffindor as Katie Bell stealing away the Quaffle and my heart—”
“Jordan!” barked Professor McGonagall.
“Just adding human interest,” Lee said. “Katie Bell closing in—that was DELIBERATE!”
One of the Slytherin Chasers, Montague, had dived on Katie and instead of grabbing the Quaffle, had grabbed her head instead, nearly pulling her from her broom. Katie was forced to drop the Quaffle as she cartwheeled in mid-air and grabbed on tight to her broom handle.
Madam Hooch blew her whistle again and began shouting at Montague before awarding Gryffindor another penalty. Like Alicia, Katie was successful in slipping past the Slytherin Keeper.
“THIRTY-ZERO!” Lee shouted. “TAKE THAT YOU DIRTY, CHEATING—”
“Jordan, if you cannot be unbiased I will take over commentary!”
“But they are, Professor!”
Harriet felt a kick in her guts as she finally spotted the Golden Snitch, zipping and zig-zagging around the Gryffindor goal posts. They were only thirty points up now, and if Malfoy saw the Snitch…
Harriet spun her Firebolt around and faked a look of deep concentration as she shot for the Slytherin end instead. Malfoy bought it and gave chase. Harriet heard a whistling sound she recognized instantly as an incoming Bludger and managed to duck just before it hit. By the looks of it, it had been hit by one of the Slytherin Beaters, Derrick. Another Bludger came tearing after her, this one sent by the other Slytherin Beater, Bole. Now, the two were bearing down on her, their clubs raised.
Harriet rolled and dived at the last second and Derrick and Bole both gave out cries of pain as they collided hard.
“HAHA!” Lee taunted as the two lurched away from each other, rubbing their heads and diving down to pick up their Beaters’ bats, as both had dropped them in the collision. “Nice try boys, Potter’s a catch no doubt but you’re gonna have to try harder than that! There’s way more about her than the Firebolt that puts her out of your league!”
Harriet rolled her eyes and resumed her circling of the pitch.
“Gryffindor back in possession, Angelina Johnson with the Quaffle, Flint pulling up alongside her, poke him in the eye, Angelina!—a joke, Professor, it was a joke—oh no! Flint in possession! Flying toward the Gryffindor goal post! Come on Wood, you can—”
Flint scored. Cheers rang up from the Slytherin end matched by boos from the rest of the crowd. Lee swore loudly and Professor McGonagall tried to yank the magical megaphone away from him. “Sorry, Professor, it won’t happen again. Gryffindor back in possession, still in the lead, thirty points to ten.”
It was easily the dirtiest match Harriet had ever seen. The Slytherins were going to any length to get the Quaffle after Gryffindor’s early lead. Bole hit Alicia with his Beater’s club and tried to say he thought she was a Bludger. George elbowed Bole in the face in retaliation. Madam Hooch awarded both teams penalties and Wood managed another amazing save while Angelina took the Gryffindor penalty and scored, making the score forty points to ten.
Shortly thereafter, Katie Bell scored once more, taking the score to fifty-ten. Fred and George flew either side of her with their clubs raised, ready to fend off any retaliation. Instead, the Slytherin Beaters hit the Bludgers at Wood who wasn’t expecting it and they hit him one after the other in his stomach. He doubled over and flipped, hanging upside down from his broom as he clutched his stomach, trying to catch his breath. Harriet flew down to him as Madam Hooch’s whistle blew and she began shrieking at the Slytherin Beaters.
“You alright?” Harriet asked as Wood returned to an upright position on his broom.
“Fine,” Wood grunted before giving her a stern look. “What are you doing? Get back out there and look for the Snitch. Don’t worry about me.”
Harriet flushed. Yet, she did not know what inspired her to do it, a surge of emotion welled up inside Harriet and she snapped back. “I’ve got to worry about you, if you can’t block Quaffle’s we’ll never get to sixty points up! Plus it’s time out for penalty anyway!”
Wood looked dumbstruck for a moment. Harriet expected him to get angry with her but then unexpectedly he grinned. “You know Potter, you’ll make a great Captain someday, just like your dad. Now get back up there. Go!”
Harriet nodded and climbed once more above the pitch. She heard rather than saw Angelina successfully score, making the match sixty to ten. Only moments later after play had resumed, Fred managed to hit Warrington with a Bludger and knock the Quaffle from his hands, which Alicia caught and scored, taking their lead to seventy-ten.
The crowd was screaming louder than ever. Harriet could feel every eye on her now. They were sixty points in the lead, which meant that if Harriet caught the Snitch now, they would win the match and the Cup. This was not lost on Malfoy, who was tailing her closer than ever.
Then, she saw it. There was the Snitch, some twenty feet above her, glinting brightly in the mid-day sun. Harriet leaned forward, urging her broom upwards, her hand reaching out when the unthinkable started to happen. Her Firebolt was slowing down.
Harriet looked at her broom in shock and then behind her. Malfoy had thrown himself forward on his broom, managed to catch hold of Harriet’s broom’s tail, and was pulling her back.
“Why you—!” Harriet shouted.
She tried to give her Firebolt a shake to throw Malfoy off but he clung on. She expected to see him sneering but was again surprised. His eyes were closed, his face set in concentration, as if waiting for lightning to strike him.
“PENALTY!” Madam Hooch cried out, “Penalty to Gryffindor! I have never in all my years seen such tactics!”
Malfoy finally let go of Harriet’s broom and slid back onto his own. He’d opened his eyes and was just staring blankly as Madam Hooch shouted at him. He didn’t even react as Marcus Flint flew up beside him after Madam Hooch flew down to oversee the next Gryffindor penalty shot and patted Malfoy on the back, beaming at him proudly. Harriet couldn’t believe it. Was Malfoy… ashamed?
“YOU CHEATING SCUM!” Lee Jordan was shouting down below, calling Harriet’s attention back to the game. “You filthy, cheating bastards!”
Professor McGonagall didn’t even try to tell him off. In fact, she too was on her feet, shaking her fist in Malfoy’s direction, shouting furiously. Alicia took the penalty, but was so angry over Malfoy’s foul that she missed by several feet. The Slytherins’ ploy was working, the fouls were wearing down the Gryffindors’ concentration.
“Slytherin in possession, heading for goal—Montague scores,” Lee groaned dismally. “Seventy to twenty; Gryffindor.”
Harriet kept listening as she kept as close to Malfoy as possible. She was not going to let him anywhere near the Snitch if she could help it.
“Get off, Potter!” Malfoy grunted as Harriet blocked him trying to make another turn.
“Angelina Johnson gets the Quaffle now and races for goal, come on, Angelina, come on! Oh no, look out!”
Harriet looked back. Every member of the Slytherin team but Malfoy, even their Keeper, was zooming down on Angelina to block her. Harriet reacted instantly. She flattened herself to her broom handle and rocketed towards the Slytherins as fast as she could. She gave a battle cry as she bore down on them and the Slytherins panicked and scattered, leaving the path wide open for Angelina who scored easily. Eighty points two twenty.
Harriet’s momentum carried her far, just managing to pull up in time to skim the grass with the tips of her shoes as she climbed skywards once more. Then, Harriet saw something that made her heart freeze. Malfoy was diving, a look of manic concentration on his face. There, just above the grass at the other end of the pitch, was the Golden Snitch.
Harriet flattened herself to her broom once more but Malfoy was so far ahead. Harriet was panicking. It was going to be the match against Hufflepuff all over again.
A Bludger hit by one of the Slytherin Beaters barely nicked her elbow but she kept going. The Snitch was skirting the edge of the stands, curving around giving Harriet a bit of a reprieve on distance as Malfoy slowed down to keep pace. Harriet was gaining now, fast. She reached Malfoy’s ankles, then was level with him. He gave her one glare, the hints of the old rivalry finally returning as he leaned forward, trying to urge his broomstick faster but it was no use. Harriet edged ahead of him and Malfoy reached out, his fingers inches away from the Snitch but Harriet threw herself forward, taking both hands off her broom and snatching it from him.
“NO!” Malfoy cried.
“YES!” Harriet shouted as she pulled back, holding her fist high in the air, the buzzing wings of the Snitch beating against her hand as her team sped towards her. Wood reached her first, blinded by tears he yanked Harriet almost off her broom into a tight bear hug, sobbing without restraint into her shoulder. Fred and George reached her next, followed by Angelina, Alicia and Katie. The team became a single, jumbled hug as they floated back to the ground.
The crowd cheered and roared in delight and all of Gryffindor house vaulted the barriers and rushed onto the pitch. There was a rain of hands coming down, patting them all on their backs and shoulders. Fred and George lifted Harriet up on their shoulders, holding her up over the crowd. From her new perspective she saw Hagrid waving at her. He had been plastered all over with scarlet rosettes by enthusiastic Gryffindor fans.
“Yeh beat ‘em, Harriet! Yeh beat ‘em! Wait till I tell Buckbeak!”
Percy was leaping up and down, waving his arms in the air like a maniac. He embraced his girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater, tight as she caught up with him and kissed her long and hard. There was Professor McGonagall as well, sobbing harder than Wood and wiping her eyes with the corner of a Gryffindor flag.
Finally, Harriet’s friends managed to make their way up to her. They had probably been held up by Kieran’s leg, but the looks on their faces were more than enough. They were positively beaming as Fred and George carried her toward the stands where Professor Dumbledore was waiting with the Quidditch Cup. She saw Mr and Mrs O’Brien, still with Mr Dusk and Professor Lupin, cheering her and the team, beaming at her.
Wood was still sobbing as he took the Quidditch Cup and embraced it as a lover. Then, he smiled up at Harriet and held the Cup up to her. It was heavy but Harriet didn’t care as she hoisted it up for everyone to see. Fred and George lowered her down and the crowd began to make its way towards the school. Harriet could only imagine the size of the party Fred and George must have planned.
“Why don’t you just do it already?” Harriet heard Fred ask George as she was buffeted along with them in the wave of cheering students.
“I could but the moment’s passing, I’d just seem like a prat now,” George said back.
“Why does there have to be a right time?” Fred retorted.
“Hey, pot-kettle there, bro,” George grumbled.
Harriet wanted to turn around and ask them what they were talking about but she was again distracted. They were exiting the stadium and heading towards the school when Harriet caught sight of Draco Malfoy walking off alone. Something made him stop and Harriet saw Kenley walking up to him. He didn’t look at her, just stood as she stomped up, clearly upset. She was waving her hands animatedly. As with Madam Hooch and Flint, Malfoy gave no response. It was as if he’d shut down completely, unable to respond in any way. He turned and walked away, still not saying a thing.
“That’s our girl!” came a voice from behind Harriet, calling her attention.
It was Mr Dusk along with Harriet’s friends and Mr and Mrs O’Brien. Mr Dusk jogged forward, laughing joyfully and caught Harriet under her arms, lifting her in the air and spinning around. Harriet gave a shriek of surprise but laughed. Harriet felt something strange and new deep inside her as she looked down at the beaming pride in Mr Dusk’s eyes.
“That was amazing; bloody amazing flying,” he said exuberantly. “You’re your father’s daughter, Harriet! The way you dive bombed the other team to clear the goal for your chaser and still caught the Snitch. Your father couldn’t have done it!”
Harriet felt her face flush and on instinct she wrapped her arms around his neck hugging him tight. Mr Dusk hesitated for a moment before he finally hugged her back. Harriet held it for as long as she dared, before she finally let go and Mr Dusk put her back down.
“He’s right, I never saw your father pull off saves like that,” Mr O’Brien said, stepping up beside Daniel and beaming down at Harriet.
“And you two,” Mrs O’Brien said turning to Fred and George. “I see you take the title “Beater” quite literally.”
“Aye, though it was deeply entertaining,” said Mr O’Brien. “Have to say I never thought of throwing the bats…”
Fred and George both bowed, flourishing their hands wildly. Kieran rolled his eyes as he stepped up between his parents.
“Mum, Dad? This is Fred and George Weasley,” Kieran said introducing them.
For some reason, Fred and George both gaped.
“Wait,” Fred said, pointing at Mr O’Brien. “You’re not Sean O’Brien, are you?”
“The Sean O’Brien,” George said, looking star-struck. “Gryffindor Beater, nineteen-seventy to nineteen seventy-six?”
“And then you’re… Irene Droobles?” Fred asked turning to Mrs O’Brien.
“I was, yes,” Mrs O’Brien replied, eyes twinkling.
“Kieran… why… why did you never tell us?” George asked, gaping in awe at Kieran’s parents. “You two are Hogwarts legends.”
“I… hardly ever talk to you two?” Kieran said though Fred and George didn’t seem to notice he’d spoken.
“We have so many questions for you two,” Fred said.
“So many…” George added.
Mr O’Brien laughed. “Well, lucky that it’s time for lunch then. Been a long time since I’ve had a good, square Hogwarts meal.”
* * * *
If Harriet didn’t know better, she would have said even the weather was celebrating Gryffindor’s victory in the Quidditch Final. The skies were clear and cloudless for almost the entirety of May. Unfortunately, no one had any time to take advantage of it. Final exams were approaching.
The entire school seemed to be suffering from revision fever. Even Fred and George put aside their usual antics and gave in to studying. It was even more critical for them, as they would be taking their Ordinary Wizarding Levels (OWLS), the baseline examinations to determine what Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests (NEWTS) students could take. NEWTs were important in determining careers that students were qualified for after graduation from Hogwarts.
Unfortunately for everyone else who didn’t have to take their OWLs or NEWTs, Percy Weasley did have to take his NEWTs, and presided over the mandatory silence imposed upon the common room with an iron fist, handing out quick punishments to anyone who violated the policy.
The only person who looked worse than Percy, was Hermione. Despite dropping Divination, she was still taking several more classes than anyone else. She spent almost every waking moment in the library. Her hair was getting bushier and wilder than ever, which was saying something. She hardly ever smiled, and snapped angrily if interrupted.
Scott was nearly as bad. Even if he never talked about it, Harriet was sure that he was still carrying on his investigation of Black on top of his own extensive homework and revision. He wasn’t quite as irritable, but he was getting withdrawn to the point he was even talking to Atsuko less and less.
Harriet, meanwhile, now that the Quidditch season was over, had thrown herself headlong into helping Ronnie, Dora, Kieran, and Marcus in looking up material for Hagrid to use for Buckbeak’s appeal. The more and more Harriet looked, the worse and worse she felt about their prospects. She was starting to see why Hagrid had been so distraught at the news the case had gone to the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. Harriet was starting to get the impression that any case brought before the Committee was as good as a death sentence.
While Hagrid had been cheered up by the Gryffindor win, and had resumed teaching his classes himself, after a couple weeks the looming appeal was starting to wear on him once more. Erica wasn’t exactly teaching with him anymore, but she was certainly doing the bulk of the work. This made Harriet nervous about Hagrid’s future prospects as a teacher. Erica was only helping teach their Care of Magical Creatures class, so she couldn’t imagine how he was doing in the rest of the classes he taught.
“Hagrid’s doing okay,” Erica reassured them one night in the common room, two weeks before final exams were set to begin.
Harriet gave her a sceptical look and Erica rolled her eyes.
“Okay, well enough,” she corrected. “He’s miserable but I’m helping out. He’d be better if those two little—” she referred to Pansy and Pixie by a very rude word indeed “—didn’t keep sniping at him all the time and reminding him about the appeal… in his other classes he’s doing okay. We’re almost to the end. We have our class tomorrow, then just one more week and it’s final exams.”
“That’s true,” Kieran said. “Almost there…”
“Has a date been set on the appeal yet?” Marcus asked.
Erica shook her head. “Not that I know, so I doubt it. He’d probably have told you guys first thing if he had.”
Harriet felt oddly reassured about that and couldn’t help but give a soft smile.
“How’s studying for OWLs going?” Ronnie asked.
Erica shrugged. “Alright. It’d probably be easier for everyone if Fred and George were still up to their usual tricks.”
“Yeah, though if they were, they probably wouldn’t be able to anyway,” Harriet said, glancing across the common room to where Percy sat, working feverishly. “Percy’d have them in detention every night.”
Erica laughed, drawing a dirty look from Percy. “That’s true,” Erica said. She looked at her watch and stood up.
“Well, I’m gonna turn in. We’re studying billywigs tomorrow, so I wanna get an early start getting ready.”
“Are they that much trouble you’ll need that much prep time?” Kieran asked raising his eyebrows.
“Nah, well, kind of,” Erica said. “Not dangerous or anything, but distracting. Well, night ya’ll, see you in class.”
She headed off to the staircase to the girls’ dormitories. “Night,” Harriet called after her.
“I’m really getting worried about Hagrid,” Marcus said dismally.
“Yeah,” Harriet agreed. “I don’t think Dumbledore would ever sack him, but he can’t even work up the courage to teach anymore…”
“Well, all we can do is keep working on the appeal for him,” Kieran said, trying to sound reassuring.
Ronnie sighed closing her book on Hippogriff brutality. “Beaky’s doomed, isn’t he?”
“Of course not,” Kieran said, a bit too quickly.
Everyone looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Well… okay, yeah… probably…” he said, slumping in his chair.
* * * *
“And that’s why, as pleasant as it is, you always want to wear gloves while handling billywigs.”
The Care of Magical Creatures class was almost over. True to form, Neville had forgotten to put on his dragon-hide gloves when it finally came time to transfer the billywigs to larger enclosures and got stung. Instead of anything painful, he ended up floating lazily up into the air, with a euphoric expression on his face, giggling.
“Is he going to be okay?” Basheera asked. She and Tori were each holding onto one of Neville’s ankles to keep him from floating away.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine,” Hagrid said. For some reason, the incident had actually made him laugh instead of feeling worse. Perhaps it was helped by Jackson, Dean and Seamus all making jokes about wanting to get stung now too in order to get over their final examination jitters. “Just get him ter the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey’ll set him right in a jiffy.”
“Hey Basheera,” Neville said, giggling madly.
“Y-yes?” Basheera asked, looking up at Neville with trepidation.
“I can see your house from here,” Neville said, giggling more loudly still as he pointed at Gryffindor tower. “Get it!”
A wave of sniggers swept over the Gryffindors. A few of the Slytherins joined in, though it was quickly stifled amongst their ranks as Crabbe and Goyle looked around at them all darkly.
In the aftermath of the match, Malfoy seemed to have gone back to normal. He wasn’t taunting Hagrid anymore, but Crabbe and Goyle had gone back to doing his bidding seamlessly. Harriet noted that Zabini in particular was looking mutinous about this. Harriet was sure he’d gotten used to his time as being “top dog” of the Slytherin third years, and she doubted this was going to be the end of it.
The bell rang for the end of class and the students began making their way up to the castle. Aurochius re-joined them, having been off to chat with Epeius while the class went on.
“Well, you see why I wanted some extra prep time,” Erica said, also joining them. “But, somehow you never can quite account for Neville, no matter how hard you try.”
Erica shook her head though her smile was kind as she looked at the floating figure of Neville ahead of them as Basheera and Tori took him to the hospital wing.
“He always tries though,” Kieran said. “You gotta give him that. He’s terrified of everything, but he does it anyway.”
“That’s true,” Harriet said, smiling affectionately after Neville.
Just then, Erica paused.
“What is it?” Harriet asked.
“What’s Emma doing?” Erica asked.
Harriet followed Erica’s gaze. Emma Flamel was walking back towards the school, carrying a small hand-basket. She was smiling and skipping every other step, looking happier than Harriet had ever seen her. Harriet’s heart skipped a beat. She was sure that Emma had just been to see Snuffles, probably bringing him food by the look of the basket.
“I’ll go find out,” Dora said in an ever suffering voice and stormed off after her younger sister.
“Well if she’s that happy it can’t be anything too bad,” Rachel said. “Honestly, it’s good to see her smiling for a change.”
“Dora has been more protective than usual since the first time Sirius Black broke in,” Hermione said.
Aurochius sighed. “Yes, I heard about that. And to someone already delicate, I imagine that would have been a very traumatic experience. It is an understandable reaction, if perhaps misguided.”
“Yeah…” Erica said, rubbing her cheek. “I’m gonna go check something out.”
At once she set off in the direction that Emma had come from. Harriet shifted from foot to foot anxiously. She didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, if Emma had been visiting Snuffles, and Erica found him, Harriet knew Erica wouldn’t care. But how would the staff react? Especially if they found out Emma had been sneaking out to feed him? She didn’t want to get Emma in trouble any more than she wanted her to lose her friendship with the dog, especially seeing how happy it made her.
“Erica, wait!” Harriet called out.
Erica paused looking back. Everyone was looking at Harriet as she beckoned Erica back. Erica walked back, a confused look on her face. Harriet turned to Aurochius.
“Aurochius, can I um… talk to Erica in private for a minute…?”
Aurochius considered her for a moment before slowly nodding. “Alright, but stay in sight.”
“Thanks,” Harriet said with relief before grabbing Erica’s wrist and pulling her away from the group.
“What are you on about?” Ronnie asked, but Harriet waved a hand at her as she took Erica out of earshot of whispering distance.
“I have something I gotta tell you, about Emma…”
Erica narrowed her eyes. Harriet bit her lip. “She um… she found a dog… in the grounds.”
“A dog?” Erica asked.
“Yeah, a big dog… a really big dog… big and black. She’s drawn pictures of her and the dog together, I saw her and the dog together at the first Quidditch match back in November, and then I saw the dog again last night running across the grounds.”
Erica’s eyes widened.
“A black dog? You don’t mean it’s like a Black dog, black dog?” she asked, obvious interest showing. “The magical kind?”
“I… I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s a Gurt Dog.”
Erica’s expression went from bemused interest to four-year-old on Christmas morning. “A Gurt Dog?! Seriously?” she asked, breathless with excitement. “Oh I’ve so got to see it!”
“Wait!” Harriet said. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?” she asked anxiously.
“Heck no,” Erica said. “But a Gurt Dog, a real one, that I so have to see. I hope it’s still there! See you later, Har’,” she said and rushed past the rest, heading off to the other end of the castle.
“Okay, what was that about?” Ronnie asked.
“I… can’t say now,” Harriet replied. “I’ll tell you all tonight.”
Harriet noticed Aurochius looking after Erica. He seemed uneasy, and Harriet felt a little bit annoyed by the realization that he must have overheard.
“Well, let’s get lunch anyway,” Marcus said. “I’m famished.”
“Great idea,” Ronnie agreed.
They started off and Harriet held back.
“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?” Harriet asked Aurochius. It was difficult to keep accusation out of her voice.
“No,” Aurochius replied, overlooking it. “I just remembered the smell is all, the smell I detected when we caught Emma out of bounds the last time. It was dog. Though a strange dog. It must have been the same, though I never saw the dog the last time.”
“Oh, sorry,” Harriet said. “I’m just…”
“On edge, understandable. I know you don’t exactly like me following you around between classes, but it’s my job, and there are serious dangers still, even if neither have reared their head for a while.”
Harriet nodded. “You are a good—well I mean, not like human person but—you are a good person, even if I’ve probably been a pain,” Harriet admitted.
Aurochius snorted. “Your father and his friends gave my father a similar hard time.”
“Your father was watching out for my father?” Harriet asked.
“No, no,” Aurochius waved a hand dismissively. “But they were masters at sneaking out. At least once a month I remember my dad complaining about another escape of theirs. So for that I suppose I owe you.”
“How so?” Harriet asked.
“Because for once I finally understand my father.”
“Har-har,” Harriet grumbled. Harriet had to cover her ears as Aurochius broke out in booming laughter.
* * * *
Harriet flipped another page in a book she’d already read through three times in their quest to help Hagrid with his case. Neville had been mostly returned to normal by Madam Pomfrey and Miss Momori, though he was still a bit more giggly than usual as he studied with Basheera, Tori and Rachel at a nearby table.
“What is it about him?” Dean asked nearby, looking at the group.
“Yeah, it’s like all the sudden he’s gone from being ‘mister loser’, to ‘mister ladies man.’ But he’s the same bumbling idiot he always was,” Seamus added.
“Oh shut up,” Harriet said, balling up a piece of parchment and throwing it at Dean.
“Yes, you know maybe if you spent more time actually talking to girls and being pleasant instead of about them and feeling sorry for yourselves, maybe you wouldn’t be sitting there alone,” Hermione chimed in.
Dean and Seamus rolled their eyes and went back to studying in silence. Harriet sighed and was about to go to bed when George walked up to their table, looking uncharacteristically worried.
“Hey, question for you lot.”
“Yeah?” Ronnie asked, stretching and groaning wearily.
“Erica was helping with your Care of Magical Creatures class today, right?”
“Yeah,” Kieran said. “Billywigs.”
“Have any of you um… seen her since?”
The group of third years all looked at each other. By the looks on their faces, it was clear none of them had.
“Yeah, she wasn’t in classes all afternoon, and she wasn’t at dinner either,” Angelina said, walking up beside George with Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell.
“That’s… that’s weird…” Harriet said. She was getting a very deep, sinking feeling inside her.
“We checked the hospital wing and she wasn’t there either,” Alicia said.
“Last we saw her was after class, she went to check on something,” Marcus said. He was starting to look worried too.
“She’s not in the dorm is she?” Harriet asked.
George, Angelina, Alicia and Katie all raised an eyebrow looking at her. “Right, sorry, stupid question,” Harriet said.
Just then the portrait hole opened. Everyone spun around to look, and Harriet felt a strong pang of hope that it would be Erica finally climbing through the portrait hole. It vanished instantly. It wasn’t Erica who climbed through the portrait hole. It was Professor McGonagall.
“Harriet Potter,” Professor McGonagall called.
Harriet rose slowly. Professor McGonagall’s tone was not angry, but it was very grave. Professor McGonagall swallowed. “Please, come with me. The Headmaster has requested your presence.”
Harriet felt her knees trembling. She didn’t know how to feel, she didn’t know what could have happened. Had the dog attacked Erica? That didn’t fit with what Professor Howe had told her about Gurt Dogs, but what if it wasn’t a Gurt Dog after all? But if it wasn’t, why was it being nice to Emma?
She finally managed to walk towards Professor McGonagall. No one spoke as she awkwardly climbed out of the portrait hole after the taller Professor and it shut loudly behind them. Or perhaps the otherwise overwhelming silence made it seem louder than she’d ever heard it. It was then Harriet noticed something odd. The usual guards standing outside the entrance to the Gryffindor common room were no longer there.
“I… I have some terrible news, Potter,” Professor McGonagall said as she immediately started down the stairs.
She was moving so quickly Harriet was having a hard time keeping up. Her insides felt frozen. How could this have happened? She had just been trying to keep one of her best friend’s little sister happy, how could something this terrible have happened? She couldn’t be dead. Erica just couldn’t be dead. She’d been so excited to see the dog, and it was all Harriet’s fault. She should have told someone. She should tell Professor McGonagall right now, but her own internal turmoil was giving her a severe case of lock-jaw.
“It concerns Miss Quoy… I assume you have noticed she’s missing.”
Harriet didn’t answer, and Professor McGonagall did not wait for a response.
“It… how this can have happened two years in a row… with all our new security measures… but—” Professor McGonagall finally stopped and looked at Harriet.
As Harriet looked up at her, she saw deep pain and worry etched into every line of Professor McGonagall’s face. “—Miss Quoy appears to have been kidnapped… by Sirius Black.”
*Niamh is pronounced “nee-iv” or “neev”.