“Sometimes we just have to accept that no matter the circumstances, some of the events of our lives were probably always going to happen, and no matter of variables will change the outcome.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
The days following the attack on Justin and Nearly-Headless Nick were something of a blur. Panic gripped the students, and Harriet had a hard time fighting her irritation at all the talk going around. Hardly anyone was acknowledging that Justin had been attacked. All anyone was talking about was how Nearly-Headless Nick had been petrified as well. Harriet supposed it was rather unsettling to think of something being so magically powerful it could petrify a ghost, but that didn’t mean that they should ignore one of their fellow students.
Harriet realized just how frightened everyone was that morning when the four heads of house were nearly bowled over at breakfast by panicked students who had not yet booked passage home on the Hogwarts Express for the Christmas Holidays. In fact, from what Harriet could see the only ones who would be staying were now her, Ronnie, Hermione, Kieran, Scott, Dora, Fred, George, Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Wendy Aarons, and Isabella Martinez. There would also be a prefect staying from each house, which unfortunately included Percy. That also wasn’t including most of the refugee students who were also staying. Some of them, the ones whose families had also escaped the attacks, would be leaving to spend the holidays with those family members. Perhaps, Harriet thought, it was a blessing that so many had requested to leave on short notice.
The increased fervour to leave had its positives and negatives. The positive was that the school would be fairly empty for this Christmas holiday. This meant that there would be less people to spot them carrying out their plan. The negative was that Pansy and Pixie were now leaving. Harriet did have to laugh darkly at the fact that while she usually wanted nothing more than for Pansy and Pixie to be gone, now that they were going to be leaving, she really wished they were staying. However, not having them around complicated their plan to question the two, using Wendy, to see what they knew about the Heir.
Instead, Harriet would masquerade as Wendy and go with Kieran and Scott, disguised as Crabbe and Goyle, to interrogate Malfoy. However, since they couldn’t investigate Pansy and Pixie, Hermione had come up with a backup plan. She would get a hair from one of the older Slytherin refugees and investigate them instead. As with Pixie and Pansy, they didn’t really suspect any of them of being the Heir, but the chance they may have heard something was too good to pass up.
The older Slytherin refugee girls had actually managed to fit in quite well with the normal Slytherin students. However, they couldn’t just have Kenley or Dora question any of them, as neither was very close to the older Slytherin refugees. But using Polyjuice, Hermione would hopefully be able to get close enough to at least ask a few questions.
Even though Kenley was going to be leaving with her sister Katy, she had still managed to come through for them by procuring a hair from another of the Slytherin refugee girls in her year, Danielle Waterman. She had also put them in touch with the Grace twins, who shared Wendy Aarons’ dorm. Hermione was disinclined to trust the task to the twins who none of them had spoken to before, but Harriet wasn’t worried. They were very good friends of Lexi and Lola, who were family with Isabella Martinez of Hufflepuff. After overhearing Isabella sticking up for her in the library, Harriet felt more positively inclined towards her than before.
“Right, here you are then, one genuine Wendy Aarons hair,” Kim said the Friday afternoon before most of the students would be leaving for home.
“Wow, that was fast,” Scott admitted, sounding impressed. They had only asked the twins to get them a hair from Wendy that morning.
Dora smiled. “Never doubt us Slytherins, if there’s something in it for us, we’ll come through every time,” she said with a proud grin at the twins, who beamed back.
Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “‘Something in it for us’? Just what exactly is in it for you?” she asked the twins.
The two girls looked affronted. “Well gee, getting our names cleared for one,” Leslie said rolling her eyes.
“Wiping the little Muggle-hating grin off Wendy’s little face for another,” added Kim.
“And… nine sickles and a dung-bomb final payment,” Leslie finished.
An odd silence followed this pronouncement.
“A-a dung-bomb? What for?” Ronnie asked.
Kimberly crossed her arms. “We have plans; that’s all you need ta know.”
“Fair enough,” Kieran said, raising his hands in a sign of peace. “Thanks for helping out, really.”
“You’re very welcome,” Leslie said. “For that… we’ll settle for skipping the sickles, we’ll take four dung-bombs instead.”
“Heh, more than fair,” Scott chuckled.
“Here you go,” Dora said, drawing a package of six of them from her book bag.
“Why were you carrying those around?” Hermione asked.
Dora shrugged. “Never know when they’ll come in handy.” She handed the package to the twins. “Keep the change,” she said with a laugh.
“Deal.” The twins said in unison and ran off down the hall, grins of mischievous glee on their faces.
“I don’t know if that was such a good idea,” Hermione said.
“Nah, those two are good kids,” Dora said closing her book-bag. “It’d be their friends Lexi and Lola who I’d worry about.”
“Why’s that?” Harriet asked.
Dora rolled her eyes. “If I know Kim and Leslie, it’s bound to be something to get them more power in the school. They’re more… manipulators and enablers… Lexi and Lola on the other hand would probably have used them in some prank or something.” She laughed and looked at Ronnie. “Think your brothers, but smaller and girls.”
Everyone laughed at this except Hermione, who didn’t look at all as though either option had been any better than the other.
Dora didn’t help when she added: “That being said, since they are enablers, I really can’t guarantee a few of those won’t find their way into Lexi and Lola’s hands anyway…”
Later that night, they all got together in the Ravenclaw common room to play Exploding Snap, Gobstones, and Wizard Chess. They went to the Ravenclaw common room because Percy was currently in the Gryffindor common room, and while the Ravenclaw prefect who had stayed behind, Penelope Clearwater, was strict, she at least stuck to enforcing actual rules, not “traditions.” So while Percy would have probably kicked Dora and Scott out, Penelope let them all stay. They invited Rachel and AJ along as well, as Tori had gone to stay with her mother in Hogsmeade.
All the while, Harriet couldn’t help but smile. It was the most relaxed she had felt since the attack on Mrs Norris. No one was worrying about being attacked, or talking about the attacks. They were all just laughing and playing. She felt like it finally had gone back to the start of the year, when everyone was just concerned with issues like making new friends and getting all their homework done.
Things became even more fun when some of the Ravenclaw refugees who were in their year also joined in; Kelly Werner, Christina Clark and Sasha Brewer. Sasha it turned out was very good at Gobstones, while Kelly proved herself to be a very good chess player.
Indeed, excluding the giant game of Wizard Chess they had played while attempting to get to the Philosopher’s Stone last year, Harriet had to admit the match that went on between Ronnie and Kelly that night was the most riveting she had ever watched. It lasted for hours until finally Penelope informed them all that it was nearly curfew and they had to return to their respective dorms. They left the board where it was and both girls vowed to finish the game later.
They bid Scott goodnight before they all headed down to the Slytherin common room with Dora. Harriet had said it was to show the rest of them where the Slytherin common room was, but Harriet secretly had another reason. Even if the Heir of Slytherin had possibly left, and even if Dora was a pureblood, Harriet did not want her walking around the castle alone.
They said goodnight to Dora as well before they all headed back to Gryffindor tower. They made it just in time before curfew, which Percy was obviously displeased about, but he couldn’t very well tell them off for only almost breaking a rule. They then joined Fred and George for more games and listened to Fred and George’s tales of past misdeeds and adventures. Hermione didn’t join in for this part, and instead decided to turn in early.
Harriet however loved every minute of it. She loved laughing and smiling again. And just as much, she loved seeing Fred and George laughing and smiling again. The two had been much more subdued than normal after the night of the attack on Colin. Having them be back to their usual joking selves was reassuring to her, and perhaps that made her feel even more back to normal than laughing herself.
Little by little, everyone went to bed; first Percy, then Ronnie, then Kieran. When the clock finally chimed midnight, Fred, George and Harriet all agreed to go to bed. However, as Fred and George went off towards their dormitory, Harriet stopped to stretch and yawn. When she finished, she paused just long enough to look down at the dimly glowing ashes in the fireplace. Harriet blinked, and then crouched lower. There was something odd in the ashes, with hard edges. It looked like a box.
Harriet walked over to the fireplace and crouched low, trying to see what it was. She tried to reach in, but the ashes were still too hot. Harriet looked around and spotted a poker nearby. She took it and gingerly moved the object around, pulling it towards her. As the object came closer, some of the ash fell off, and Harriet was surprised to see that it was a book. A thin book, and even through the powdered ash, Harriet could see that it had a black cover.
She blinked, studying it carefully. Something was very wrong about this book, but Harriet wasn’t quite sure what it was. There was the obvious of course. The book should have been burned up with the fire, yet it didn’t look the slightest bit singed. And yet, Harriet felt an odd draw to the book; a strong urge to pick it up and read it. She tentatively reached a hand out for the book. It looked harmless enough, and to her surprise, it was quite cool to the touch, despite having been in what a few hours ago was a roaring fire.
Harriet blew on the cover and the rest of the ash puffed off, making Harriet cough a little as it got in her face. She blinked and inspected it closer. It was a diary. On the cleaned cover she could make out the numbers, “1942,” clearly the year the diary had been made. Who would throw out a fifty year old diary? Harriet wondered. She flipped it open.
On the first page, Harriet saw a name written. “T.M. Riddle.” Harriet thought hard. She’d never heard that name before. She flipped through the pages, scanning them. There was nothing written on any of the pages that she could see. Now Harriet was even more confused. Why would someone throw away not just a diary fifty years old, but one that had never been written in? And who was T.M. Riddle?
Despite herself, Harriet actually gave the tiniest snort of laughter. Here she’d found a riddle involving someone named Riddle. She laughed more at her own silly amusement before she stood up again. It did seem fairly harmless. Maybe it had been tossed in the fire earlier in the day by accident? Harriet simply sighed, pocketed the diary, and headed up the stairs to her room to sleep.
* * * *
Harriet was jolted awake. She sat up, slowly pulling the curtains to her bed open and squinting into the bright sunlight coming through the window. Hermione was standing in the middle of the room, grinning at them in a triumphant way, her arms full of presents. Harriet blinked.
“Oh, good morning, Hermione,” Harriet said stretching.
Hermione’s eyes twinkled. “Morning,” she said setting all the presents down on her bed.
“What were you doing up so early?” Ronnie asked.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Well first of all, it’s Christmas morning, so I was excited about that. Second of all, I was just checking on the potion with Dora.”
Hermione turned back to them all and beamed. “The potion’s ready!”
“Really?!” Ronnie asked, sitting upright in bed.
“No, I just wanted to get you all excited to see the look of disappointment on your face when I told you it wasn’t actually done yet,” Hermione said in a snippy tone as she sat down on her bed.
Harriet blinked. Something about that seemed off to her. Hermione was often short-tempered with Ronnie, but she was never usually that sarcastic.
“Okay, okay,” Ronnie muttered. “Sheesh.”
“Everything alright, Hermione?” Harriet asked. “You don’t seem yourself.”
Hermione suddenly looked anxious. “Oh yeah, fine, just, well, I guess because Dora and I decided we should use the potion tonight, so, I guess I’m just a little on edge.”
Harriet nodded. That was certainly understandable. As she thought about using the potion tonight, she was starting to feel nervous herself.
Harriet was then distracted by a tapping at the window. Hermione got off the bed and crossed to the window and beamed as she looked outside.
“Well hello, Pretty,” she said opening the window.
In flew Hedwig who went straight for Harriet. Harriet smiled and let Hedwig up onto her shoulder where the owl nibbled and preened Harriet’s ruffled-hair affectionately.
“Hey Hedwig!” Harriet said eagerly. Hedwig had been giving Harriet the cold-shoulder most of the year so far after their disastrous trip to Hogwarts. “Talking to me again, huh?”
Hedwig merely responded by puffing up her feathers and cuddling closer to Harriet’s head. Harriet took the envelope Hedwig had been carrying and suddenly wondered if Hedwig's newly rediscovered affection was her trying to make up for the present she had brought. It was from the Dursleys, and consisted of a toothpick and a note simply telling Harriet to see if she could stay for the summer holidays as well.
“Well, that was thoughtful of them wasn’t it?” Hermione asked, barely suppressing laughter.
Ronnie laughed out loud and Harriet stuck her tongue out at them. As she did, she remembered the pending use of Polyjuice potion.
“So, how do you know the potion’s done right? I mean… it is a dangerous potion… are we going to test it somehow?” Harriet asked, cautiously.
Hermione grinned in a way that didn’t quite suit her. “Oh, I don’t think we need to worry about testing.”
“Why not?” Ronnie asked.
Hermione’s grin widened. “Because Hermione and I already did.”
Harriet and Ronnie both stared. The door to their dormitory opened once more and to Harriet’s bewilderment, another Hermione walked in.
“I told you they wouldn’t figure it out!” the Hermione who was already in the room said with a triumphant grin at the new Hermione.
The Hermione who had just walked in rolled her eyes. “Well, Harriet was at least a little suspicious; you weren’t that good an impressionist.”
Harriet blinked and the reality of what was going on hit her like a train. The Hermione who had just walked in was the real Hermione, and the one who she had been talking to was—
“Dora?” Ronnie asked, clearly having just made the same connection.
The first Hermione beamed the most self-satisfied smile Harriet had ever seen and nodded. In spite of herself, Harriet fell back on her bed, laughing.
“That was perfect! Okay I noticed something was a little off but that is just perfect!” Harriet declared sitting back up.
Dora-Hermione actually blushed a little, but kept smiling. “Thanks,” she said simply. “Only downside is I’m stuck like this for another half hour until it wears off,” she muttered looking down at herself.
Hermione glared and Dora rolled her eyes. “Oh relax, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Okay, okay,” Hermione said, smiling again.
“Did you test it on any of the others?” Harriet asked, excited.
Dora nodded. “We did a sort of spur of the moment test on Percy as I was heading up here. Hermione hid while I pretended to be her. He didn’t have a clue, just asked what I was up to, I said I’d taken some presents to some of my friends, and he went on his way.”
Ronnie grinned. “Wicked… you know… this is so going to work…”
Dora put on another mischievous grin that didn’t suit Hermione’s face.
They chatted for another half an hour until the potion finally wore off on Dora. Despite her confidence that the plan would work, the visual of Dora turning back into herself was less than pleasant, and did not help her own worries over taking the potion. It looked like it was just as painful as the illustrations had made it look. Dora’s skin bubbled and moulded, her hair shortened and lightened in colour, straightening out into her curtain of shoulder-length blonde hair. Her eyes changed back to blue and she lay back on Hermione's bed, panting.
“Okay, that was fun and all… but yeah I’m not signing up to go through that again…”
“Yeah, doesn’t help me feel bad about not wanting to take the potion either,” Ronnie agreed, looking squeamish.
Harriet and Ronnie finally got dressed and they all headed down with their presents to the common room. Kieran, Fred, and George were already sitting around the fire, waiting for them. As Harriet looked at the fireplace, she suddenly remembered the strange diary she had found in it last night, but the looks of excitement on everyone’s faces combined with everyone’s surprise at how Dora had got in and Hermione and Dora’s less than convincing cover-story forced it from her mind once more. They gathered up their presents and all made their way down to breakfast.
Scott was already waiting with his presents and they sat together, taking it in turns to open the presents. Most of the gifts were universal. For instance, Mrs Weasley had made everyone jumpers this year, and given them all the usual piece of home-made fudge.
Marcus had sent everyone home-made Christmas cookies, while Scott had given almost everyone owl treats, except for Hermione and Ronnie who didn’t have owls. Instead he gave Ronnie some rat treats for Scabbers and Hermione a knitted beanie hat. Hermione seemed particularly interested in the hat, though not in wearing it. Instead she seemed mesmerized by the pattern of the knits, studying them closely. She blushed when she noticed everyone watching her and thanked Scott before putting it on.
Harriet received a poster from Ronnie for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team, much like the one Ginny had back at the Burrow. In return, Harriet had given Ronnie a book called The Glory Game, which followed one of Ronnie’s favourite football teams, the Tottenham Hotspurs. Harriet had never seen Ronnie look so excited for a book before, and it made her feel almost as good as she had felt during Ronnie’s last birthday party.
She gave Kieran a nice bottle of broom-handle polish for him to use on his shillelagh. In return, Kieran gave her a hairband made of a green silk scarf, and unlike Hermione, Harriet wasted no time putting it in her hair.
Her favourite gift however was from Dora, who got her a copy of Quidditch through the Ages.
“Wow, thanks Dora!” Harriet said as she flipped through it.
Dora smiled in her usual proud way though her cheeks did get a little pink. “Don’t mention it, it’s a good read and knew you didn’t have a copy.”
The real big surprise was for Scott. Scott’s barn owl, Alba, landed in front of him with a letter.
“Well there you are, missed you this week,” Scott said as he took the letter. “Had to fly all the way home and back to get my present on your own to show off, didn’t you?”
The owl hooted in a dignified way as Scott opened the letter. The moment he did, a tiny kestrel flew down and landed in front of him too, twittering excitedly.
“Well hello, where did you come from?” Scott asked.
The little kestrel twittered and hopped onto Scott’s plate before nibbling the edge of the letter. Scott pulled the letter away.
“Hey, that’s mine,” he chuckled.
He opened the letter again and finally read it. As he read his eyes got wider until he finally gasped.
“I… I know I’d asked a million times but… I never thought they actually would!”
“What?” Hermione asked leaning over to look closer at the bird.
“I… well… I was always… I mean… don’t tell him… but I was always kinda jealous of Marcus with his falcon, Adal… so… I asked Mum and Dad if I could have one too…” he blushed brightly.
“Awwwwww, that’s so sweet,” Hermione said.
Scott blushed sheepishly, but smiled. Hermione smiled more and reached over slowly as if to pet the bird. To her surprise, the little kestrel hopped on her hand and twittered louder.
“Friendly though, isn’t he? What’s his name?” Hermione asked.
Scott looked back down at the letter. “Uhhhh says here his name’s ‘Ayr’.”
“Well, he’s not really a falcon though,” Ronnie said, inspecting the little raptor carefully.
Hermione glared at her. “That’s not the point,” she retorted before smiling at the bird again. “I bet you feel like a falcon inside, don’t you?”
The kestrel twittered louder and took off, soaring around the ceiling of the Great Hall as if showing off his speed.
Kieran chuckled. “Eager to show off, too.” He said smiling at his friend reassuringly.
Scott smiled brighter.
However, Harriet suddenly felt much of her happiness ebb away when she looked a little ways down the table. AJ, Rachel and Erica were sitting in a little group together, and further down the first year refugees who’d stayed, Annie Gilberts, Alexis Richardson, Sarah Hollins, Savannah Walters, and Becky Wright were sitting together too. None of them looked upset, or jealous, but Harriet couldn’t help but notice how almost not a single one of them had any presents at all. Harriet sighed, feeling a little guilty all the same.
* * * *
Despite the guilt she’d felt that morning at getting presents when the refugees didn’t, and despite her growing anxiety over finally using Polyjuice that night, Harriet couldn’t help but feel more and more excited as dinner-time neared. Christmas dinner at Hogwarts was one of the most enjoyable things to happen the entire school year.
She actually felt bad for the many students who did go home for what they missed. Harriet’s favourite part was the crackers. Instead of usual cracks and trinkets, wizarding crackers gave off loud bangs and puffs of smoke, leaving behind real presents. Last year she got a whole Wizard Chess set from one, even though she hardly ever played it. She was also curious to see if Professor Dumbledore was going to get and wear another flowered bonnet as he had last year.
The meal was different this year than last year. Last year there had been so few people that everyone sat around the same table. This year with the refugees, they were all sitting at their normal house tables. Harriet didn’t mind very much, she wasn’t all that anxious to share a table with Malfoy.
As they arrived, Harriet noticed two new girls sitting at the Gryffindor table she had never seen before. They looked to be around first-year age, and they beamed jumping up from the table as the Gryffindors entered.
“Rachel!” the girls called excitedly and ran towards them.
Rachel beamed back and ran forward hugging them both. “Hey you two! Didn’t think I’d see you again so soon!”
“Mom brought us!” one of the girls explained.
As Harriet looked on, she noted how the girls were twins, though not quite as identical as Fred and George or the Grace or McGee twins. The one who had spoken had darker hair than the other, and was about a half an inch taller. Thinking hard, Harriet thought she knew who the twins must belong to. They must be Professor Sinistra’s daughters, as Rachel had described meeting them over the summer.
Rachel turned and smiled at everyone else.
“Hey everyone, this is Rosie and Nanette Sinistra, Professor Sinistra’s daughters,” Rachel said, confirming Harriet’s theory.
Harriet found their energy infectious as they greeted everyone. They showed the customary gasps of astonishment at meeting Harriet, but otherwise seemed very friendly and good natured. At the staff table, Professor Sinistra smiled warmly at them all, clearly pleased to see her daughters getting on so well with the rest of the students.
To Harriet’s surprise, the Sinistra twins showed equal excitement when Isabella Martinez walked in as they had shown meeting Harriet. The two wasted very little time in rushing over to the Hufflepuff table to talk to her and inviting her over to sit with them at the Gryffindor table instead. Percy looked as though he was about to protest when the sound of a throat clearing came from the Ravenclaw table. The Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope Clearwater, was giving him a disapproving look, and Percy blanched and didn’t say anything more about it. Encouraged by this, Scott and Dora quickly hurried over to join Harriet, Hermione, Ronnie and Kieran.
Fred and George on the other hand seemed to have other designs. Rather than sit with the rest of the Gryffindors, they made a bee-line for the Hufflepuff table to sit with some of the older Hufflepuff refugees. Fred also made a show of inviting over Lindsey Gallifrey from Ravenclaw, though she simply turned up her nose as she walked past to sit with AJ’s older brother, Ben, at the Gryffindor table instead. Fred then looked as though he was going to invite over Peyton from Ravenclaw too, though he stopped when Peyton gave him a glare that Professor McGonagall would have been proud of.
As the dinner passed on, Fred made more than a few attempts to strike up a conversation with Ari Miller, though she seemed thoroughly disinterested, which Harriet found amusing. The reason for her disinterest became apparent the moment the Hufflepuff prefect, Cedric Diggory, walked in. Ari wasted no time moving to sit with Cedric instead. Reluctantly, Harriet had to admit that she didn’t blame Ari very much as she watched Cedric sit down.
As much as she liked Fred and George, Harriet did think it was probably a good thing for Fred’s head in particular to get shrunken a little bit. However, Taylor Middleton did seem interested in Fred, while Michelle Masters seemed to have taken a shine to George.
Fred did manage to get a good bout of giggles out of the girls as he gave a little nod towards Percy. Harriet looked at Percy closely and almost let out a snort of laughter as well. Apparently Percy had not yet noticed that Fred had transfigured his prefect badge so it read “Pinhead” instead of “Prefect.”
It was then that Harriet noticed something odd about George. Though he was laughing, he wasn’t talking nearly as much as he usually did, mostly letting Fred run the show. Instead, he kept stealing glances back towards the Gryffindor table, right over at Erica, and looking away any time she looked back.
Something about this bothered her, but she just couldn’t quite put her finger on what. She supposed Erica was nice enough. Rachel looked up to her like a big sister, she knew, but somehow every time Harriet saw George stealing glances at Erica, or Erica waving warmly to Hagrid at meals made Harriet feel a strange tightness inside. Harriet furrowed her brow, but was distracted from pondering this mystery further by Hermione nudging her in the ribs.
Harriet looked at her and seeing the serious look on Hermione’s face, realized that it was time. She gave a short nod and nudged Ronnie. They gave the others a significant look and they all rose as one, though trying to look as casual as possible as they did. They bid the other Gryffindors farewell and made their way out into the Entrance Hall. They kept an eye out as they hurried along, making their way to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
“So, you actually tricked Harriet and Ronnie into thinking you were Hermione?” Scott asked now they were sure they were out of earshot of anyone.
“Yep, worked like a charm,” Dora said, trying not to grin.
Harriet, Ronnie, and Hermione all rolled their eyes before they finally entered the bathroom. Myrtle was crying in her usual way and they ignored her as they made their way to the stall. The potion was bubbling away and Hermione grinned around at them all.
“Alright, Kieran, Scott, you take these,” she said handing them two chocolate cakes.
“What are these for?” Kieran asked.
“For Crabbe and Goyle,” Hermione explained. “Set them someplace those two are bound to see them. I’ve made them with a sleeping draught. Crabbe and Goyle won’t be able to resist them, no doubt about that. Once they’re out, take some of their hair and hide them in a broom closet.”
Kieran and Scott both exchanged nervous looks, but neither voiced any apparent doubts about the plan.
“Okay, that handles Crabbe and Goyle then, what about Aarons and Waterman?” Ronnie asked.
Dora grinned. “Kim and Leslie are taking care of them as we speak, I should think.” She said looking at her watch.
Hermione now was the one looking sceptical, but as with Kieran and Scott, Hermione didn’t say anything and turned back to the two boys.
“Okay, you two, go find Crabbe and Goyle. They’re probably still eating in the Great Hall, so you’ll have time to get in position.”
The two boys nodded and after receiving some good luck wishes left the bathroom. Harriet sighed, the same helpless feeling she always got when important things were happening that she wasn’t involved in bubbled in her stomach.
To everyone’s surprise, Kieran and Scott returned only fifteen minutes later. Both looked equally perplexed at how well it had gone as they handed Crabbe and Goyle’s hairs to Hermione.
“That was fast,” Dora said, impressed.
“Y-yeah… that went… surprisingly well,” Scott said, sounding out of breath.
“Aye, hardest part was getting them in the closet,” Kieran said. He sounded just as winded as Scott.
Hermione filled four glasses she had smuggled out of the Great Hall with the glutinous potion. It did look exactly like the instructions had said it should, and it had clearly worked as Dora had proven that morning. Despite those reassuring signs, Harriet was still nervous as she took her glass then the hair that the Grace twins had taken from Wendy. Hermione took her glass and Danielle’s hair, while Kieran had Goyle’s hair and Scott had Crabbe’s.
“Right, now, we each drop the hair into the potion,” Hermione said, her voice shaking.
Kieran nodded and bravely dropped his hair into the potion. The potion frothed and gurgled in the glass before turning the colour of a bogey.
“Oh god that looks revolting…” Ronnie said, cringing.
“Are you sure the rest is right?” Dora asked, looking on. “That looks nothing like how yours looked, yours looked and tasted really good actually.”
Hermione blushed. “I-uh… I think it varies based on the person…” she said and dropped her hair into the potion.
It hissed and frothed like Kieran’s had, but this time it turned almost neon yellow.
“Ugh, well if it’s based on whom the hair belongs to… I don’t fancy getting to know Danielle better,” Ronnie said.
Dora glowered. “I don’t know… I don’t think she’s so bad as others…” she said defensively. Harriet remembered how they had spent an hour arguing with Dora that they were only using Danielle’s hair to ask questions, not because they thought she was a suspect. “She never really talks usual anti-Muggle-Born gibberish, think she just fits in with the others because she is a Pure-Blood and seems stuck up. She’s definitely better than Wendy is… maybe it tastes like banana or something?”
Scott dropped in his hair, turning his potion into the colour of mud. Everyone looked at Harriet. She took a deep breath and dropped her hair into the potion. Unlike the others, however, instead of turning some gross colour, it turned into a silky-smooth crème colour. Everyone looked at it confused.
“That’s weird… you sure you didn’t mix up Danielle and Wendy’s hairs?” Dora asked.
Harriet shrugged. “Well doesn’t really matter either way who gets what potion, does it?”
Hermione nodded. “Right, as long as we get all the people into place, that’s what matters. Now, I got us all changes of robes and clothes, so we can pass as Slytherins and because you two obviously won’t fit into your normal clothes after you become Crabbe and Goyle.” She said directing the last to Kieran and Scott.
They all nodded nervously, took the clothes Hermione offered them and stepped into stalls to change. Harriet put on the clothes which felt a little tight for her and listened for the others to stop changing.
“Everyone ready?” she asked.
There were three affirmative replies and she took a deep breath. “Alright, bottoms up.”
Harriet closed her eyes and drank. To her surprise, the potion did taste just like crème. However, she didn’t get much time to enjoy it. The moment she’d swallowed, she felt like her entire insides began to writhe. She dropped her glass, clutching her stomach and slumping down onto the toilet seat in pain. By the sound of it, the others were going through the same sensations she was.
She felt as though her insides were now on fire, and the heat was spreading through her body. To her horror, her skin bubbled just as Dora’s had done when she turned back into herself. She then felt as though she was shrinking, her clothes starting to fit better. She groaned as her skin stopped bubbling and became much paler than her normal shade.
She put her hands to her face and felt it had stopped changing too, though it was much rounder than she remembered her face being before. She also could barely see. At first she was worried something had gone wrong when she realized it was her glasses. She took them off and was amazed at being able to see without them. Then she remembered Wendy didn’t wear glasses, and obviously did not need them.
Harriet jumped at the voice. It was Crabbe’s voice, though it sounded gentle and caring, unlike any time she had ever heard Crabbe before.
“Yeah,” responded Goyle’s voice. “I’m… I’m fantastic!”
Harriet furrowed her brow. Fantastic? How could being Goyle be fantastic?
Harriet pushed the stall door open and stepped out. Ronnie gaped at her but Dora merely grinned and gave Harriet a thumbs up.
“Looks great,” Dora said. “You’re Wendy, alright.”
Harriet quickly went to a mirror and looked at herself. Dora was right; she did look just like Wendy. Harriet turned to see other stall doors opening, and Kieran who was Goyle, and Scott who was Crabbe, came stumbling out. However, the reason Kieran had said it was fantastic was obvious at once. He actually jumped a few times, and laughed with excitement.
“Scott! Look! I can stand! I can walk!” He said sounding almost childish despite Goyle’s deep grunting voice.
Scott gave a laugh that didn’t suit Crabbe’s voice. In spite of herself, Harriet couldn’t help but beam at the sight of Kieran balancing on his usually bad leg, showing off.
“Hermione, everything okay?” Ronnie asked, bringing Harriet’s attention around to the stall Hermione had changed in.
“I-uh… I’m… not coming!” Hermione said through the door.
Something about this struck Harriet at once. Kieran and Scott both sounded like Goyle and Crabbe, yet Hermione had still sounded like herself. The only difference was, her voice was now shrill and panicky.
“Hermione, something wrong?” Harriet asked. Her voice too had changed so she sounded like Wendy.
“Yes, I’m fine, you three get out of here, you only have an hour! Get to Malfoy!” Hermione said. Her voice was still a bit shrill and panicked.
The others merely shrugged.
“We’ll meet back here,” Kieran said. “Come on Harri-er-Wendy, Crabbe.”
Harriet smiled and followed him out of the bathroom.
“Remember the password’s ‘pure-blood’!” Dora called after them.
Kieran led most of the way, Harriet and Scott close behind. As they went, they made little suggestions to each other on ways to look or act more like the people they were pretending to be. They also laughed loudly when Kieran pointed out this as being the first time in his life he’d ever wanted to punch his best friend in the face. However, as he said this, Harriet couldn’t help but ponder two of the mysteries of her friend. How had his leg been hurt, and what did it have to do with Crabbe, if anything?
Finally, after five minutes they’d arrived at the stretch of stone wall that held the concealed doorway to the Slytherin common room.
“Pure-blood,” Scott said confidently and the door slid open.
They stepped inside and Harriet did her best not to look surprised by what she saw. The Slytherin common room was mostly walled and ceilinged in rough stone. Round, green lamps hung from the ceiling and lit the room in an ominous way. The fireplace was carved with elaborate snake designs, and was glowing with a crackling fire.
“Oh there you two are,” came Malfoy’s voice from a nearby door.
They turned to see him walking towards them from what Harriet took to be the Slytherin boys’ dormitory.
“Uh yeah, just got carried away eating,” Scott said.
Malfoy didn’t question this story and looked down at Harriet. “Hello Aarons, good dinner?”
Harriet was taken aback a little at Malfoy’s kinder tone. He’d never spoken to her that nicely before.
“Oh yes, fine, thank you,” Harriet said, feeling nervous.
Apparently Wendy was usually this nervous around Malfoy, because he didn’t seem to notice.
“Well, join us if you like, must be lonely without Pansy and Pixie around,” Malfoy said.
He turned and headed for some nearby couches and chairs. He gestured for Harriet to sit on a couch and for Kieran and Scott to sit in two chairs. They sat and to Harriet’s horror, Malfoy didn’t just sit on the couch with her; he flopped down on it and rested his head on her lap. Harriet gave Kieran and Scott a horrified look, but all they could do was give her surreptitious looks of comfort back.
“Got some bad news today…” Malfoy muttered darkly.
“O-oh no,” Harriet said, doing her best to sound concerned. “What happened?”
“The stupid Ministry searched our house again… that’s why Father didn’t want me coming home,” Malfoy replied, ripping up a piece of paper absent-mindedly.
“You’re kidding?” Kieran asked, quick on the uptake.
“Of course I’m not kidding, Goyle, I already told you that’s why I couldn’t go home,” Malfoy snapped.
“Oh, sorry,” Kieran muttered.
Malfoy sat up now, much to Harriet’s relief, though it was short lived because all he did was grab a pillow to punch angrily before lying right back down again.
“Wh-why are they searching your house?” Harriet asked, hoping Malfoy hadn’t confided that to Wendy.
Malfoy growled. “Father’s got some really expensive old dark arts stuff. We sold a lot of it, but some of it’s just too valuable, family heirlooms and stuff. Fortunately we keep that all hidden in a secret chamber under our drawing room.”
Harriet shot a look at Kieran and Scott, who both gave her little grins.
“That’s clever,” Harriet said, trying to sound flattering.
“Thanks, Aarons…” he said and actually gave her a smile. “Don’t these people have anything better to do? You’d think they’d be investigating Dumbledore for all these attacks. He’s probably keeping it quiet somehow… but they’ll sack him for sure if the attacks keep going on.”
Malfoy grinned at the thought. “This place needs a real headmaster, one with proper pride and priorities… like old Phineas Nigellus Black. Heh, still can’t believe people actually thought Black was the traitor… still funny to think one of Dumbledore’s little stooges is sitting in Azkaban for a crime he didn’t commit. Anyway, Phineas Nigellus though, now that was a headmaster! He never would have let vermin like that little Creevey in… following Potter around everywhere. Jumped up little mud-blood…”
Harriet looked up at Kieran and Scott again. They both looked just as perplexed as she felt.
“Too right, Draco…” Harriet said, feeling disgusted with herself. “But the Heir will take care of them all, right?” Harriet went on, trying to grin down at Malfoy knowingly, hoping it would trigger Malfoy into either a confession or at least into saying something more incriminating.
However, Malfoy glared and sat up again.
“He probably will… I just wish I knew who it is!”
Harriet felt her face fall. Malfoy’s statement had been too blatant and upset to be acting.
“I could help them! Point out who to attack and hints for how to go about it! If the Heir really knew what he was doing he’d have gone straight for Granger or Van De Lakk! Good for nothing mud-bloods too big for their britches…”
Harriet glanced at Kieran and Scott again, and noted to her horror that rage that was starting to show on Scott’s face. Kieran put a calming hand on Scott’s and Scott seemed to regain his senses enough to ask.
“Come on, Draco, you gotta have some idea?”
“I’ve told you I don’t, Crabbe. Father told me to keep my head down while this is all going on. He won’t tell me anything about it either, he said it’ll be suspicious if I know too much about it, but I do know it’s been fifty years since the last time the chamber was open. And the last time it was, a mud-blood died. It’s only a matter of time before it’s another one killed this year.”
Malfoy grinned darkly again. “I hope it’s Granger… or Van De Lakk… maybe especially Van De Lakk… mud-blood or not at least Granger is somewhat pleasant to look at… even with her beaver teeth.”
Scott was starting to look dangerously angry again. Kieran thought fast and changed the subject.
“Did they catch whoever had opened it before?”
“Yeah,” Malfoy replied. “It was a student I think, because they were expelled. Whoever it was probably died in Azkaban by now.”
Kieran glanced at his watch and his eyes went wide. He gave Harriet and Scott a significant look and they both knew what he meant. Their hour was almost up.
Scott winced and held his stomach.
“What’s wrong with you, Crabbe?” Malfoy asked, noticing.
“Uh, stomach-ache, must have et too much, think I’ll go to the hospital wing,” Scott replied.
“I’ll take him,” Kieran said and rose with Scott.
“Well, give all those petrified mud-bloods a kick for me…” Malfoy said lazily.
Harriet thought fast, looking around.
“What’s up with you now, Aarons?” Malfoy asked as Kieran and Scott moved slowly towards the door.
“Oh, I just realized, I think I left something in the Great Hall!”
“Oh, alright then,” Malfoy said.
To Harriet’s surprise, Malfoy actually looked a little hurt they were all leaving at once, but Harriet was very relieved to get away. She caught up with Kieran and Scott in the hallway and they tried to make their way as best they could back towards Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Their pace was impeded when Kieran suddenly let out a gasp and stumbled, grabbing his leg. As Harriet watched, he was slowly beginning to turn back. Scott was also beginning to return to himself. Harriet winced as she felt herself starting to change back as well.
They quickly made their way into a nearby classroom. Harriet groaned as she felt her skin begin to bubble once more, and the heat move through her. She also could no longer see, and had left her glasses behind in the bathroom.
“Well, that was almost a complete disaster,” Scott muttered, trying to hold up the oversized trousers.
“I wouldn’t say complete… we did learn a few things,” Kieran said, trying to sound bolstering even though he was obviously still in pain.
“Yeah, we learned it’s not Malfoy, and the last time the Chamber was opened was fifty years ago… that gives us a place to start looking,” Harriet said.
“Yeah, and about that secret chamber, I’m sure Ronnie’s dad would love to know about that,” Kieran added, his eyes twinkling.
Harriet and Scott helped Kieran to his feet and each put one of his arms over their shoulders and helped him down the hall. It was even more awkward because as Scott had to hold Kieran and his own trousers, and Kieran had his arms over their shoulders, Harriet had to hold Kieran and Kieran’s trousers up as they finally made it to the bathroom.
However, when they opened the door, no one was there. Not even Moaning Myrtle.
“What do you suppose…?” Kieran asked as Scott helped him back into his stall so he could change into his normal clothes.
“I don’t know…” Harriet said looking around.
Almost everything had been cleared away. The cauldron and the ingredients were gone. All that was left was their clothes they had left behind in the stalls.
“Wait, what’s that?” Scott asked pointing at one of the nearby sinks.
He hurried over and picked up a piece of parchment. He read it out loud.
Dear Harriet, Kieran and Scott,
Had to take Hermione to hospital wing. No time to explain. Meet us there.
Scott looked up at them blinking.
“Well, let’s get changed and head up,” Harriet said.
Scott agreed and a couple minutes later they were back in their normal clothes, on their way up to the hospital wing. Kieran was looking much better on his leg now he had his shillelagh back, though the pain of having had to walk on it without it was clearly still gnawing at him. Again, Harriet felt she had to know the truth, but once more, she didn’t feel it was the right moment.
They opened the door to the hospital wing and immediately saw Dora poking her head around a drawn curtain, looking at them. The three hurried over.
“What happened?” Harriet asked. “Is something wro—”
Harriet was cut off as Hermione gave a soft wail of despair. Harriet felt her jaw go slack. In the bed was Hermione, but a Hermione unlike Harriet had ever seen her. Her hair had shortened and turned black, and now covered her whole face and hands like fur. Her eyes had gone yellow with black slit-like pupils, her nose pink and flat, and her ears had grown long and pointed and moved to the top of her head. Out of the side of the bed covers, Harriet could see a long, thin, black tail.
“It was a cat hair!” Hermione wailed. “Danielle must have a cat and Kenley must have taken the wrong hair by mistake!”
Ronnie grimaced and gave Hermione’s furred hand a consoling squeeze.
Hermione wailed again. “Polyjuice Potion isn’t supposed to work with animals! I could be stuck like this forever!”
* * * *
It was a very sullen group that sat around the Gryffindor fireplace that night. It was just Harriet, Kieran and Ronnie. Most of the refugees had gone to bed already, except for Erica who was sitting at a study table alone, reading a book about magical horse breeds. Fred and George had apparently snuck out to try and stage a party somewhere, while Percy had left to track them down and put a stop to it.
Harriet sighed. Almost nothing had gone according to plan from the beginning. They hadn’t found out who the Heir of Slytherin was, or where the Chamber of Secrets is, and on top of that, Hermione was now in the hospital wing, turned into a half-human, half-cat.
As Harriet sat, she once more felt her eyes being constantly drawn to Kieran’s leg. When would she ever find the time to ask? To Harriet’s surprise, it happened almost instantly.
“Well, I think I’m going to turn in,” Ronnie said in a defeated sounding tone.
She didn’t stop to see if Harriet was going to follow, just headed off to the dormitory, stretching and yawning. Harriet watched her go before turning and finding Kieran looking back at her. She blushed and looked away, though as she did, her eyes again found themselves on his bad leg.
“Kieran… okay, I finally have to ask… what happened to your leg?”
Kieran grimaced but did not look surprised.
“I’ve been waiting for you to ask that…” he muttered, looking at the fire.
“Oh… sorry… I’ve meant to for a while… there’s just never been… well… a good time…”
“Yeah, I can imagine,” Kieran replied. He sighed looking down at his leg. “When I was just a baby… a little after You-Know-Who attacked you… his followers were looking for him everywhere, and interrogating anyone who might know anything about where he was…”
Kieran paused to take a deep breath before he continued. “Well… some of them came to our house…”
Harriet put her hands to her mouth without realizing it. Somehow she knew the rest of the story before Kieran told it.
“Well… my folks wouldn’t cooperate or tell them anything, so they attacked. My folks fought back, and they actually did pretty well… They managed to get the upper hand. One of the death-eaters though, Crabbe’s father… realized they were outmatched and I guess he saw my crib.”
“Oh Kieran…” Harriet said into her hands. “So that’s why you and Crabbe hate each other so much…”
Kieran didn’t look up at her or stop. “He fired a curse at my crib… it just grazed my leg but the damage was done. My parents broke off the attack and the Death Eaters escaped. Been to St Mungo’s countless times, but nothing can fix it. I actually had figured the potion wouldn’t work tonight because it would still hurt while I was Goyle… but it didn’t… guess I just got carried away once I figured it out…”
Kieran looked up at her and gave a grimace. “But at the same time, it’s why I wanted to do it, in case it did work. And it did. I’ve never felt that before… being able to stand on my leg without leaning on something. As much as I hated being Goyle, for that hour, it was wonderful…”
Before Harriet could stop herself, she flung her arms around Kieran’s shoulders and hugged him tight.
“H-hey!” Kieran said in surprise, but he made no attempt to dislodge her.
“I’m so sorry I never asked sooner,” Harriet said, hugging tighter.
“It’s fine, Harriet, really, it happened a long time ago, and I’ve grown to live with it. I’ve got my stick and I’ve got the best friends in the world. I can live with a bum-leg.”
In spite of herself, and in spite of everything that had happened. Harriet finally smiled. They talked a little while longer about their lives growing up. Harriet told Kieran all about her life with the Dursleys, while Kieran explained his own childhood. He told her about how his family had moved to Scotland when he was six, and happened to move onto the property right across the road from Scott’s family manor.
Harriet felt a little awkward at this. She had always known Scott was well off compared to the rest of their group, with the exception of Dora, but she didn’t know he lived in a manor. Either way, Harriet was touched hearing the story of how Scott and Kieran had become friends. How Kieran had always appreciated how Scott had never treated him as though he were any less than anyone else because of his leg, and how much he appreciated that Harriet and the rest made him feel that way too.
Twenty minutes later, when Harriet finally slid under her covers, she was still smiling. She sighed contentedly and closed her eyes. Yet despite how tired she felt, sleep did not come right away. Harriet ended up tossing and turning. Despite the relief of having finally learned the truth about Kieran, she was still worried about Hermione. And her disappointment over not learning the truth about the Heir of the Chamber was still nagging at her as well.
Finally, Harriet felt she was just about to drop off to sleep when she thought she heard the sound of bed curtains being drawn open. Harriet listened but didn’t hear anything else. The door didn’t open, and Harriet didn’t hear anyone getting a drink. Had she just imagined it?
Harriet rolled over and almost screamed. It hadn’t been the bed curtains of another bed; it had been the curtains to her own bed that she’d heard. A small figure was standing at the edge of Harriet’s bed, holding the curtains open. Even in the nearly pitch-black, and without her glasses, Harriet recognized the silhouette of Rachel.
Rachel’s shoulders were moving up and down rapidly. She sounded as though she was panting. The sight somehow put Harriet over her initial shock very quickly and she sat up.
“Rachel…?” she whispered quietly. “Are… are you okay?”
Harriet didn’t really expect an answer. She was wondering if somehow Rachel was still asleep, another form of her night terrors. To Harriet’s surprise, Rachel shook her head.
“Do… do you… um… need help with something?” Harriet asked, still trying to keep her voice down and sound calm.
Rachel didn’t answer. Instead she climbed onto Harriet’s bed and hugged Harriet tight around the chest. Harriet was taken aback, not only at what Rachel did, but also by what she felt. Rachel was trembling as badly as if she’d been standing outside for the last hour with no coat.
“Rachel!?” Harriet gasped and put her arms around Rachel in return. She was hard pressed to sound concerned and yet keep her voice down. “What’s wrong?”
Harriet wasn’t sure, but it seemed the moment she put her arms around Rachel, the smaller girl’s trembling seemed to subside, and her breathing started to slow down. Harriet wasn’t sure how long it took, but finally Rachel spoke.
“I want to go home…” she said in a tremulous voice. “We were supposed to be safe here… now bad things are happening… people hate us… I’ve never been away from home for Christmas before…”
Harriet didn’t know how to respond. She just began to stroke Rachel’s hair and rock her gently.
“Shh… it’s okay…” Harriet said, trying to think of anything to say. “You’re safe right here… nothing’s going to get you right here…”
“I miss my dad…” Rachel said. “I miss my mom…”
Harriet just nodded and rocked Rachel more. Rachel had never talked about her family before.
“I miss my brothers… I want us all to be home again…”
“I know, sweetie… I know…” Harriet whispered, feeling lame.
Despite not feeling very helpful, Rachel was starting to calm down. She wasn’t trembling nearly as much and her breathing was getting under control.
Harriet blinked, caught entirely off guard by the statement.
“What?” she asked.
“Mom… Dad… they’re dead… gone… I’m alone…”
Harriet felt her heart sink. Rachel was another just like her; another orphan.
“Oh sweetie… I’m so sorry… really… but… what about your brothers…?”
Almost the moment she asked, Harriet wished she hadn’t. What if they were dead too?
Rachel just shook her head. “They’re in the war…” was all she said.
“Oh,” Harriet said and stroked Rachel's hair a little more. “Well… at… at least they’re trying to do something good, right…?”
Again Rachel did not respond right away. Instead, Harriet felt her arms tighten around Harriet’s chest and she trembled once more, but this time it felt less like fear, and a lot more like anger.
“Aaron and Blaine are…” she muttered. “Not Sean… and they abandoned me… all of them… they sent me away and stayed to fight. They just threw me away…”
Harriet definitely had no idea what to say to that. She didn’t have to ask what Rachel meant either. One of her brothers was fighting for the secessionists. Harriet couldn’t possibly imagine how the tiny figure hugging her must be feeling. Harriet hugged Rachel a little tighter and once more Rachel seemed to calm down. She wasn’t breathing so hard, and she wasn’t trembling.
However, just as Harriet was about to loosen her hold on Rachel a little, Rachel gripped her tighter. She gave a little spasm, then another. Rachel buried her head into Harriet’s shoulder and Harriet felt two wet spots starting to grow on her nightgown where Rachel’s eyes were. Soon Rachel broke down into deep sobs, great heaving sobs that shook Harriet with each one.
Harriet wondered if she had talked to any of her other friends about this, or if she’d ever told anyone about it. And if she hadn’t, why was she telling Harriet? Although, as she thought about it, for once Harriet thought she understood what Rachel was feeling and why Rachel really was telling this to Harriet. Harriet was an orphan too.
Harriet gently lay back on the bed with Rachel. Rachel continued to sob and Harriet just let her. Eventually, Rachel’s sobs stopped, and her breathing slowed to the deep, steady rhythm of sleep. Harriet tried to move her arm but Rachel was laying on it, and Harriet didn’t really want to wake her. She shifted just enough to where Rachel wasn’t putting quite so much pressure on her arm and she felt a little more comfortable. Satisfied that Rachel was sleeping soundly and her arm wasn’t going to fall asleep, Harriet smiled, closed her eyes, and finally fell asleep.