(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
“I consider myself a man of peace. But I will always be prepared for war, because whatever ideals I hold, there are far too many people in the world who are not.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
It took a long time for everyone to fall asleep that night. Professors Dumbledore and Howe had managed to talk Madam Pomfrey and Miss Momori into letting the boys, Ronnie and Dora stay as well. The matron and healer finally relented when Professor Dumbledore pointed out that friends and laughter were even more effective at fighting off the effects of Dementors than chocolate, and one could never get full on them.
They had first gathered around George’s bed, waiting for him to wake up. Miss Momori explained that she expected George would be okay, but the curse’s effect would linger for a while. The curse had the potential to have been deadly, but apparently it had been cast silently by someone without enough skill.
This seemed to give Miss Momori some pause. Harriet and her friends all gave each other discreet looks as Miss Momori actually stood back and studied George intently, deep in thought. It was clear that Miss Momori was realizing that whoever had cursed George, it most likely wasn’t Sirius Black.
George finally awoke a little after one in the morning. He was greeted by a storm of hugs and kisses from a very relieved Erica.
“Blimey, if that’s what I get for waking up I need to get cursed more often,” George said. He gave a little laugh though he winced and held his ribs.
Miss Momori returned to give George a thorough check-up now he was awake and Madam Pomfrey ushered the rest of them off to their own beds to give George some space. Now that she was sure George was going to be okay, Erica seemed much more relaxed and regaled them all with the tales of her time with Sirius Black. As Erica told it, the experience seemed less a kidnapping and more a silly misunderstanding and a mini-holiday.
“Honestly, it was never that scary. Okay it kind of was at first, but once he finally explained what he was up to and who he was after, he was pretty cool. Basically I just hung out in the bedroom—well okay I was locked in but you know what I mean—while he was gone hunting for Pettigrew or sleeping at night. Other than that, he helped me study for my OWLs.”
“Except OWLs are over, aren’t they?” Ronnie asked.
“Somehow, I think “kidnapped by Sirius Black” will qualify with the OWL board as a valid excuse to sit them later,” Scott said, causing the group to break out laughing.
The conversation shifted to what the boys had done after leaving with Jeremy. This discussion was aided by Jeremy himself, who returned at around three in the morning. He had managed to turn himself back into a human after the moon had gone down.
According to the boys, after breaking off from the girls, they had helped Jeremy to Professor Stratton’s office to transform. There, Professor Stratton and Jeremy had explained about being true wolves, and their history. Much the same talk as Professor Lupin and Daniel had given the girls.
“So wait, you all knew he was a werewolf but you never told us?” Ronnie asked, clearly disgruntled.
“Well, yeah,” Marcus admitted though he looked quite sorry.
“Sorry,” Jeremy said. “It’s not their fault. I asked them not to… I… I wasn’t ready for everyone to know yet, and I was already pretty shocked to find out they’d all figured it out as it was.”
Just then, something occurred to Harriet. “Wait,” she said. “That’s why you lot were all hanging out so much last spring without us?”
“Aye,” Kieran said. He looked just as sheepish as Marcus did. “It wasn’t intentional really just sort of… happened…”
“Plus Bella worked it out way before any of you lot, so there’s that,” Jeremy chuckled. “She worked it out the end of last year.”
“She does care a lot about you,” Hermione said, smiling in a knowing way.
Jeremy gave a shy little smile and looked off into space. “Yeah, she does,” he said smiling wider.
For some reason Harriet felt a little pang in her stomach. It was similar to the pangs she would get over Erica and Hagrid’s friendship during her second year, but it was different. Was she jealous now of Isabella and Jeremy? Or jealous of Isabella over Jeremy? She didn’t know Jeremy terribly well but she would never forget the moment she had met him in werewolf form, and what he had written in the dirt. Maybe she was reading too much into it?
Harriet was distracted from her musings by the opening of the door to the hospital wing. This time, it was Hagrid. His face was very pale, and he had clearly sobered up from his celebratory drinking over Buckbeak’s escape.
“Yer alive!” Hagrid wailed.
Harriet was strongly reminded of Hagrid’s visit to her at the end of her first year after she’d stopped Voldemort and Quirrell from getting the Philosopher’s Stone. However, even if she was touched by Hagrid’s concern, she could have done without the rib-cracking hug that Hagrid gave both Harriet and Erica at the same time.
“Yeh all could’r bin killed and I was off drinkin’ an’ carryin’ on!” Hagrid continued, sobbing.
“Hagrid, calm down!” Harriet said, grunting under Hagrid’s crushing grip. “I was never in any danger, none of us were!”
“Yeah,” Erica said, sounding equally squished. “I’m fine, Sirius never hurt a hair on my head, not once. Never would have.”
“What?” Hagrid asked, stunned.
“Sirius Black’s innocent,” Dora said. “It wasn’t him.”
“Yeah, he really was upset that it was my parents who’d been killed the night you took me from my parents’ house,” Harriet said.
Hagrid looked staggered. “B-but all them people, li’l Peter Pettigrew—” Hagrid paused. “How did yeh know ‘bout Black turnin’ up at yer house?”
“It was Pettigrew who betrayed my parents,” Harriet said quickly, hoping this would distract Hagrid. “He was my parents’ secret-keeper. It was a bluff but it failed because they made the person who was the spy all along the secret-keeper. Pettigrew had pretty much everyone fooled from the start. Pettigrew didn’t track down Sirius, Sirius tracked Pettigrew down out of revenge.”
Hagrid finally let Harriet and Erica down, sinking into a chair which creaked under his weight.
“Also, Pettigrew was my rat…” Ronnie admitted, bitterly. “He was hiding out with us waiting for news of You-Know-Who coming back…”
“Yer rat?!” Hagrid stammered. He was clearly getting overwhelmed by this influx of information.
“Yeah,” Ronnie went on. “Sirius recognized him from the picture of my family in the Daily Prophet last summer. Pettigrew was on my shoulder.”
Harriet noted that Ronnie was no longer referring to Pettigrew as Scabbers anymore.
“I can’ believe it, I just can’ believe it,” Hagrid muttered, shaking his head.
“It’s true, Hagrid,” Erica said patting his arm. “I promise.”
“I can vouch too,” George said from his bed. “We were bringing him back to the school to turn him over to the ministry when Lupin transformed. Bastard tried to kill me and damn near succeeded before he scampered.”
Fred went noticeably paler at this statement. Hagrid meanwhile was dabbing his forehead with one of his massive handkerchiefs.
“Besides, the biggest threat we faced out there was the dementors,” Harriet said. “And Fudge has taken them away now. So they won’t have to remind you of Azkaban anymore,” Harriet said smiling warmly up at Hagrid. “And I won’t have to worry about falling off my broom anymore.”
Hagrid beamed. There was a high-pitched growl and Hagrid jumped.
“Oh, blimey, I fergot,” he said and reached into one of his massive coat’s pockets. From it, he drew a very disgruntled looking Crookshanks. He looked rather silly as his mid-section was wrapped tightly in a woven band that seemed to glow, and made the rest of his hair look even fluffier than usual. Harriet recognized the band at once as unicorn tail hair.
“Crookshanks!” Hermione exclaimed, jumping up from her bed and running over to take her cat from Hagrid’s hand. “You’re alive! You’re alive!”
Crookshanks gave a little yowl and Hermione loosened her grip. “Oh I’m sorry, you’re probably sore like George is.”
“Great, I’m brothers in arms with a cat now,” George muttered.
Fred finally laughed. He was suddenly looking happier than Harriet had seen him in quite some time.
“Yeah, heard him yowlin’ in the grounds on my way back ter my hut aft’ I got some good tea from the kitchens ter’ help sober me back up. Looked like he was put through the ringer, so took him in ter my hut and treated him up a bit. I should probably keep an eye on ‘im fer a little bit though ter get him back ter health.”
“Of course, Hagrid, thank you so much,” Hermione said, though she kept holding Crookshanks close. Crookshanks in the meantime seemed to have resigned himself to being cuddled by Hermione.
“So, what were you celebrating, Hagrid?” Scott asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Oh yeah!” Hagrid exclaimed. “Haven’t told yeh, have I? Beaky! He escaped!”
“That’s wonderful, Hagrid!” Hermione said.
“Yeah, mustn’t ‘ave tied ‘im up properly. Slipped away just b’fore the executioner went out ter, y’know.”
“Well, that was a lucky break then,” Harriet said, her lips twitching.
They chatted with Hagrid a while more until Madam Pomfrey came and told Hagrid off for keeping them all awake and shooed him out. Hermione had to run him down to give him back Crookshanks for treatment. With everyone finally feeling alright with the world, they didn’t bother fighting Madam Pomfrey as she sent them all back to their beds and told them to get some sleep.
Harriet felt as though the smile was etched on her face as she slid underneath the covers. She set her glasses on the bedside table, rolled on her side, and drifted off into a restful sleep full of happy thoughts of flying hippogriffs.
* * * *
It was noon by the time Harriet awoke. By the looks of it, Jeremy had already left, but the rest of Harriet’s friends had stayed. Miss Momori gave everyone a clean bill of health, including George who had recovered dramatically after a full night’s sleep. This made Erica very happy and the two quickly headed off to “make up for lost time” as they put it.
To Harriet’s surprise, Fred was actually smiling as he watched the pair walking away. Harriet waved her friends on and hung back to talk to him.
“You’re taking this well,” Harriet said.
Ever since she had known the twins they had done everything together. Yet since George had seen Erica at the start of her second year, he had become more withdrawn. Harriet had even felt a bit of resentment the previous year, like Erica was breaking up their friendship, whether Erica had realized it or not. Fred however simply shrugged.
“You know, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have been. It was weird seeing him being so quiet all the time, especially when she was around, but now… it’s like he’s his old self again. And if she makes him that happy, who am I to take that away from him? I guess that’s what I realized last night when I heard him laughing and joking again the way he used to. Guess I realized it wasn’t that she was changing him, it was not being with her that was burying him. Does that make sense?”
Harriet thought, chewing her lip. “Yeah, I guess I can see that,” she said and smiled up at him. “You know, you can actually be a pretty nice guy when you want to be.”
“Shhh,” Fred hissed, looking around furtively. “Not so loud!”
Harriet laughed. It was nice to see this more thoughtful side of Fred. As much as she appreciated the laughs he brought, she also liked the more serious, personal side that peeked out every now and then. Fred looked around a bit more seriously now and seeing they really were alone, he looked back down at her and smiled back.
“So hey, Harriet, you know I was kind of wondering…”
“Yes?” Harriet asked.
“Well, there is a Hogsmeade trip tomorrow, for the end of the year you know, and well I was wondering if you’d like—”
Harriet and Fred spun around to see Ronnie skidding around a corner. She actually grabbed hold of a hanging tapestry to stop herself, her face stricken.
“Harriet! It’s Lupin! He’s leaving!” Ronnie managed to gasp.
“What?!” Harriet exclaimed. “Why?!”
“Snape!” Ronnie said as the rest of the group came around the corner too.
“He told all the Slytherins this morning,” Dora added. Her eyes were burning with rage. “And they told the rest of the school.”
Harriet’s chest clenched. She didn’t need to ask what Professor Snape had told the Slytherins. There was only one secret that Professor Lupin had that could cause him to leave. The injustice of it burned inside her, brighter than Dora’s eyes.
“Is he still here?” Harriet asked.
“I think so,” Hermione said. Unlike Dora, Hermione looked on the verge of tears.
“I have to see him,” Harriet said.
She started running in the direction of Professor Lupin’s office. She heard Ronnie say something as she passed but she wasn’t paying enough attention to hear what she said. She didn’t stop until she reached Professor Lupin’s open office door.
The office was already mostly cleaned out. The Grindylow tank was empty on his desk, and his tattered briefcase was nearly full. Next to it was an old and familiar piece of parchment which Professor Lupin was leaning over.
“I saw you coming,” Professor Lupin said, smiling at Harriet in a very stiff, forced way.
“Hey, Harriet,” said a girl’s voice from the floor.
Harriet looked and blinked to see Isabella and Jeremy sitting on the floor. Well, Isabella was sitting. Jeremy was curled up awkwardly in a doglike fashion and Isabella was idly brushing back some of his hair. Harriet looked at Jeremy, who sighed and sat up normally.
“Some of the effects linger a bit after…” he said.
Harriet however turned back to Professor Lupin. “Ronnie just told me,” Harriet said. “It’s not true is it? You can’t go!”
Professor Lupin sighed and opened one of his drawers, moving its contents to the briefcase. “I’m afraid it is…”
Jeremy grunted as Isabella helped him to his feet. He gave her an appreciative smile and the two moved towards the door. Isabella gave Harriet an understanding grimace which left Harriet feeling a little overwhelmed. In spite of her upset feelings over Professor Lupin’s outing and leaving, several twinges hit Harriet as the two passed her.
The jealousy was obvious, and she grudgingly expected it. Though just what the exact cause of it was, Harriet still wasn’t sure. She was left in even less certainty because in spite of what had happened by the lake with Jeremy, as she looked back into Isabella’s almond-shaped, hazel eyes, Harriet was struck once again by just how pretty she really was.
But there was something more than that which seemed to be eating at Harriet. It had to do with what Jeremy had told them last night, about how Isabella had worked out Jeremy’s secret. Yet she had not abandoned him as a friend. She’d kept his secret, and she was still sticking by his side. Remembering the events of last summer with Aunt Marge, Harriet was struck by just how much she would like someone she could totally trust with that information as well. And in spite of that, the realization Jeremy also kept such a secret he was afraid of people knowing made her feel closer to him as well.
The two students left and Harriet was now alone with Professor Lupin. Harriet looked back at him, trying to push the awkward thoughts of Jeremy and Isabella from her head. The whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that had just surged through her left her feeling a little disorientated.
“Why…?” she asked, unable to keep the tone of betrayal from her voice. “It’s not because of what Professor Snape said, is it? You can’t leave just because of that.”
Professor Lupin gave a bitter smile. “By this time tomorrow, the owls will start arriving, Harriet. Parents are not going to want their children being taught by a werewolf.”
“But, Professor Stratton—”
“As far as the general Wizarding public knows, Desmond’s kind of werewolf does not exist, Harriet. And it is far more important he remains at this school to continue to watch over and guide Jeremy than I. But for what it’s worth, after last night, I have to say I agree. I could have bitten any of you last night, I very nearly did bite George or kill him. I could have killed Sirius, too. Or you. And I would have done had Professor Stratton not been here at the school. I cannot risk that happening again.”
“But you’re the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we’ve ever had!” Harriet said. “Please don’t go!”
Harriet felt her emotions rising. It was much more than Professor Lupin’s talents as a teacher that was speaking through Harriet now. She was all too aware that last night she got back three of the closest people to true family she had in the entire world. She didn’t want to give them all up so soon.
Professor Lupin’s lips tightened and he did not speak. Instead he carried on emptying his drawers into his briefcase. Harriet was about to say something more when Professor Lupin finally spoke.
“So, from what Professor Dumbledore told me this morning, you saved quite a few lives last night. Nothing makes me prouder than knowing just how much you learned. Tell me about your patronus!”
Harriet blinked. “How did you know about my patronus?”
Professor Lupin chuckled. “What else could it have been?”
Harriet explained. She ended up telling him everything, about running off to save Sirius, the dementors, being saved by the Patronus, about going back in time, saving Buckbeak, realizing she had cast the patronus, what the patronus had been, and how they had flown Buckbeak to Professor Flitwick’s office and freed Sirius. Professor Lupin was beaming by the time Harriet finished.
“Amazing, Harriet, simply amazing. You know, it’s funny that you thought your patronus was a stag for a moment.”
“Why’s that?” Harriet asked.
Professor Lupin chuckled. “Why, because your father was a stag when he transformed.”
“Really?” Harriet asked.
“Yes. That’s why we called him Prongs.”
Professor Lupin put his last few books into his case and pulled out a bundle of shimmering cloth from the final drawer. It was Harriet’s invisibility cloak.
“Here,” he said handing over the cloak. “I collected this from the Shack this morning. Good as new. And…” he hesitated, glancing at the desk. He took a breath and smiled as he handed over the Marauder’s Map too. “As I’m no longer your teacher, I see no problem with giving you this back as well. I suppose it is yours by right, anyway, and I’m sure you and your friends will find uses for it.”
Harriet took back the map. She smiled but it was very strained and she felt her lower lip give a little wobble.
There was a knock at the door. Harriet turned to see both Professor Dumbledore and Daniel standing there. Neither looked surprised to see Harriet. Professor Dumbledore did not look particularly sad, but Harriet felt a great heaviness emanating from him. Daniel looked exhausted. Harriet was sure he hadn’t gotten any sleep at all.
“Your carriage is here, Remus,” Professor Dumbledore said.
Professor Lupin picked up his briefcase and Daniel stepped forward, lifting the Grindylow tank.
“Well, goodbye, Harriet,” Professor Lupin said, shaking Harriet’s hand. “You’ve been a wonderful student, and I’m sure we’ll see each other again before too long. There’s no need to see me to the gates, Albus. Daniel and I will manage.”
“Goodbye for now, then, Remus,” Professor Dumbledore said.
Harriet got the impression that Professor Lupin wanted to leave as soon as possible. Daniel followed but inexplicably he paused in the doorway, gave Harriet a little smile and a wink, and left after Professor Lupin.
Harriet sank into a chair, looking at the cloak and map in her hands. Now that he was really gone, the fact of Professor Lupin leaving had really struck Harriet. She felt as if a massive weight was around her shoulders. The door closed and Harriet looked up, seeing Professor Dumbledore was still there.
“Now, why so miserable, Harriet? You should be very proud of yourself after last night.”
“It didn’t make any difference…” Harriet muttered. “In fact, I made it worse! Pettigrew got away, Sirius is still on the run, and now Professor Lupin had to leave because of me.”
“You did not.”
Harriet jumped. Professor Dumbledore’s statement had been so stern it caught her totally off guard. His face was set but suddenly softened and he walked over and sank into the chair next to Harriet. Somehow, close up like this, Harriet was struck by just how old Professor Dumbledore looked.
Professor Dumbledore sighed. “There was never much hope in Professor Lupin lasting as a professor longer than a year, Harriet. The discrimination and hatred for their kind in the magical world is so ingrained that the information was more than likely to get out anyway.”
“But you still hired him.”
“Yes. I still hired him. He’s a good and kind person; knowledgeable, and a good teacher. And the money he earned should help him last a little while until he gets properly on his feet working with Daniel in the town instead.”
“What?” Harriet gasped.
Professor Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Oh yes, Harriet. So there we see how you certainly did not make things worse. Instead, during the course of this year, you did your part to help reunite two old friends, helped them recognize the innocence of a third, and learn the true nature of the fourth who committed the true betrayal. So you did make a difference, and it certainly was not for the worse. Best of all, you saved a poor creature from a very unjust punishment and an innocent man from a terrible fate.”
At the word terrible, something clicked in Harriet’s mind. Something she had forgotten all about with everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours.
“Professor Dumbledore? Yesterday, during my Divination exam, Professor Trelawney went really… well… funny?”
“I see,” Professor Dumbledore said. Somehow, he did not seem surprised, but was listening intently. “Funny how, might I ask?”
Somehow, Harriet felt sure that Professor Dumbledore knew, or at least suspected, what Harriet was about to say.
“Well, her voice went really funny, and she tensed up and her eyes rolled. I thought she was going to have a seizure or something but then she spoke, and she said that Voldemort’s servant was going to return to him before midnight, and that the servant would help bring him back to power.”
Harriet trailed off, before slowly looking back up at Professor Dumbledore. “And then, she became normal again, and she couldn’t remember having said any of it. And then last night, Pettigrew escaped… do you think she made a real prediction that time?”
Professor Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. He seemed mildly impressed, but not entirely surprised. “You know, Harriet, I do believe she did. That would bring her count of confirmed real predictions up to two. I shall have to give her a pay rise for this.”
Harriet stared. How could Professor Dumbledore be taking this so lightly?
“But, I’m the one who stopped Daniel, Remus and Sirius from killing Pettigrew! That makes it my fault—”
“It does not,” Professor Dumbledore said, cutting Harriet off. He did not look or sound stern, as he had at first, but there was an edge to his voice all the same. “First and foremost, Harriet, do you really think you could have lived with yourself had you allowed them to do so?”
Harriet flushed. She felt just like she did her first year in the room with the Mirror of Erised all over again. She had not gotten that close to Professor Dumbledore over the last three years, but she couldn’t help but feel open around him.
“No,” Harriet admitted.
“Precisely,” Professor Dumbledore said. “Secondly, while I am sure you will not be pleased to hear it, unless I am much mistaken on the deepest matters of magic, if Pettigrew does indeed return to Lord Voldemort, you will have sent him a servant who is in your debt.”
“Sir?” Harriet asked.
“Yes, in saving Pettigrew, you established a bond between you—”
“But I don’t want a bond with him!” Harriet exclaimed. In her outrage she actually got to her feet. “He killed thirteen people just to save his own neck! And my parents! He betrayed them to Voldemort just to save his own neck too!”
“This is magic at its deepest and most impenetrable, Harriet. Please, hear me out.”
Harriet sat again and Professor Dumbledore continued.
“While I assure you, no one would truly want a bond with someone of Pettigrew’s ilk; often times the things that seem the darkest, the worst events in our lives, in the end are not truly so. Often through the lens of time even the blackest events, if we survive them, can actually be quite positive and teach us invaluable lessons.”
Professor Dumbledore paused. He looked off towards the door, though not as though he really saw it. Harriet waited and finally Professor Dumbledore gave a little sigh and returned his attention to her.
“Such, I think, is the case with you and Pettigrew. Whatever he is, Pettigrew will not forget that you saved his life. And Lord Voldemort will not, either.”
Harriet gave her head a little shake and looked down at the map and cloak in her lap. She didn’t have anything to say to that. They sat for a moment in a silence that was making Harriet feel increasingly awkward. She fished around for something to talk about and her mind landed on the subject of not being able to allow Daniel, Remus, and Sirius to kill Pettigrew.
“I… can I tell you something?”
“Of course, Harriet,” Professor Dumbledore smiled.
“Well, in the Shrieking Shack, before Professor Lupin and Daniel turned up… I had a shot at Sirius with my wand. When I still thought he was bad I mean. I wanted to do something terrible… I wanted to hurt him. But I couldn’t. When I got my chance… I just disarmed him.”
Professor Dumbledore did not respond at first. Instead he simply smiled wider.
“I see, well, that says a great deal about you, Harriet. A great deal of good. Though that is hardly surprising to anyone who has ever met you. So, it seems that you learned quite a bit about yourself last night, didn’t you? That unicorn patronus of yours for instance.”
Harriet blinked. “How did you know about that?”
Professor Dumbledore chuckled. “From Master Owens when he returned to the school last night. He seemed deeply impressed, if I do say so myself.”
Harriet felt her cheeks get hotter.
“As well he should have been. Our patronuses say a great deal about us Harriet; what makes us happy, what drives us, and our deepest, innermost thoughts. For most people it’s an expression of love. Your parents, for instance, had complimentary patroni. Your father’s was a stag, as was his animagus form, according to Sirius when I interrogated him last night. Your mother’s, on the other hand, was a doe.”
Harriet gave a little laugh. “For a moment I thought mine was a stag when it was coming back to me after I cast it.”
Professor Dumbledore chuckled too. “Well, it would hardly have been surprising if that was the case. But yours I think says something even deeper about you. Your greatest quality, Harriet, is love. And you have had some very emotional experiences with unicorns in your life. From the poor creature you found dead in the forest your first year, to the experience you had with the McIntyre herd this summer.”
“You knew about the visit to the unicorns?” Harriet asked.
“Oh alas, Harriet, you’ll find there’s very little I do not know, which incidentally is what makes your father and his friends’ accomplishment in becoming animagi right under my nose all the more extraordinary. But going back to the more important issue of your patronus, and what it says about you. Unicorns are creatures of peace and love, as I’m sure you know, and they contribute greatly to magical arts such as healing.”
“Yeah, Scott’s cousin, Jess, explained a lot of that to me last summer,” Harriet replied.
“Yes. And so can you see what your patronus, being a unicorn, says about you?”
Harriet slowly shook her head. She wasn’t being entirely truthful. She thought she knew what Professor Dumbledore was getting at, but she was having a hard time accepting it.
“It says just how much love you have inside you, Harriet. It says just what an extraordinary person you are. And that is something to be embraced, for so few people have it on the same scale as you. You are kind, modest, and care deeply about not just your friends, but everyone. And that is a quality that inspires great loyalty and friendship. It was that which brought your friends to your aid to fend off a troll. It was that which inspired your friends to follow you through the trap-door to keep Lord Voldemort from reaching the Philosopher’s Stone. It was that which caused three of your friends to allow themselves to be pummelled rather severely by the Whomping Willow last night in an attempt to save you. And it was that which caused all of them to run off after you, knowing that an entire horde of Dementors was closing in on you. So now not only have you learned a great deal about yourself, but you have also learned a great deal about your friends, and the type of people those of your character attract.”
Harriet stared at her knees, trying to digest what Professor Dumbledore was telling her. Another thought she had from the previous night came back to her.
“Professor Dumbledore? Last night, just before I passed out from the Dementors, I saw my friends across the lake; Kieran, Scott, Marcus, Dora, Ronnie, and Jeremy… I…” she flushed. “I thought they were my parents and their friends for a moment…”
Professor Dumbledore chuckled. “An easy mistake to make.”
“But, who would Dora have been… I mean Marcus and Ronnie looked like my mum and dad… Kieran kinda looked like Daniel, Scott looked like Sirius and Jeremy like Remus… but…”
“Ah, yes,” Professor Dumbledore said and his eyes twinkled brighter. “Sirius would be most interested in that, I’m sure.”
“Well, a common trait amongst young men, as I’m sure you’ve encountered, is a longing for the one thing in life they cannot get. Such was the tale in those days of Sirius Black. Sirius was, I dare say, a bit of a rebel, which made him very popular amongst the ladies of the school in those days. He may have dabbled in youthful promiscuity, yet he had eyes for only one.”
Harriet gave a snort and laugh in one. “Sirius fancied Dora’s mum?” she trailed off. “Well okay I guess I can’t blame him…”
Professor Dumbledore chortled. “Dora’s mother and Sirius had quite a bit in common. Both came from families with rather—well—dark histories. However, both chose to break away from their families to follow their own paths. Unfortunately, unlike your father, Sirius was never quite able to throw off his ego enough to appeal to an upstanding young woman who took her status as a Gryffindor much more seriously than most.”
“Okay… so now I know why Dora said she asked to be in Slytherin house to make her parents mad.”
Professor Dumbledore simply chuckled, but did not speak further on the subject.
“Well, Harriet, I suggest you take a little time to dwell on what we discussed,” Professor Dumbledore said, “but focus on the positive messages. Your actions saved Sirius’ life, you saved Buckbeak’s life, you helped lay the groundwork to prove Sirius’ innocence, you brought some old friends back together, you learned a great deal about yourself in the process, and you ensured that should Lord Voldemort return, it will be with an air of suspicion of those who serve him. I would call that coming out ahead, don’t you think?”
Harriet could only nod, but Professor Dumbledore did not seem to require a response. Instead he rose and made his way to the door. He paused just outside of it, said something too quietly for Harriet to hear, and left. There was a soft, wooden click and Kieran peered around the doorway, leaning on his stick.
“You okay?” he asked, slowly moving into the room.
“Yeah, I guess,” Harriet said.
Kieran moved over and sat in the seat Professor Dumbledore had just vacated. “Wanna talk about it?”
Harriet shook her head.
“Wanna just sit and think about it?”
“Want me to go?”
“No,” Harriet said quickly. “Just a lot to think about.”
“I bet…” Kieran said.
“Yeah...” Harriet muttered. Despite Professor Dumbledore’s kind words, she didn’t feel entirely reassured.
The two sat in silence until Ronnie turned up ten minutes later to inform them they would miss lunch.
* * * *
Despite her sadness at Professor Lupin’s resignation, several things did happen which increased Harriet’s morale considerably. The first was Aurochius finding her the evening after Sirius’ escape. He wasted little time informing her that in the wake of the aurors’ failure to prevent the events of that night, Aurochius and his crew were to be staying as a continued security presence at the school. He said that Mr Flamel was paying them personally to stay indefinitely, or until the Black and Kinney threat were neutralized.
Harriet and her friends wasted little time in filling Aurochius in on what actually happened, and Sirius’ innocence. Aurochius reacted much as Hagrid had, with disbelief at first but by the end of the conversation even he was convinced that Sirius was innocent.
Next was Professor McGonagall finding her that Saturday morning to inform Harriet that in light of Sirius’ fleeing and having been spotted many miles away from the school, Harriet was allowed to go into Hogsmeade once more, though Aurochius would still be required to be her guard, just in case. Harriet was most excited to see Daniel and Remus again, but was disappointed to discover that neither were there. Hyland explained that both had been called to the ministry again for further debriefings on what had happened the night Sirius escaped.
The third was George receiving a Medal for Magical Merit for his bravery during the night of Sirius’ escape. Another was the headlines in the Daily Prophet for the next few days as well. Fudge had been partly right in his predictions. While none of them were giving the Ministry any praise (quite the opposite, in fact), there was indeed a couple articles on Daniel’s bravery of the night:
Ex-Auror Redeems Self by Rescuing Kidnapped Student from Sirius Black.
Hero Ex-Auror Declines Award for Heroism
The last one in particular caught Harriet’s attention. The fact that Daniel had declined the Order of Merlin touched Harriet deeply. However, it had the opposite effect on Professor Snape. The morning that edition of the Prophet came out, there was a loud ripping noise from the staff table. Professor Snape had torn his copy of the Daily Prophet in half, his eyes burning, staring at the space in front of his face where the article had been.
“Ah, hubris,” Dora said, smugly before resuming eating.
The post-‘Night of Sirius Black’ development that puzzled Harriet the most was Draco Malfoy’s response. She wasn’t sure how she expected him to react to the news of Buckbeak’s escape in particular, but it certainly wasn’t how he actually seemed to take the news. Indeed, he seemed downright buoyant. Harriet attempted to corner Kenley to ask her about it but Kenley simply smiled enigmatically and suggested that Harriet ask Draco himself about it.
As Harriet had hardly engaged in anything but bitter, sniping insults with Draco of the past few years, she wasn’t exactly sure how to go about this. Particularly since Dora was still a well-known “spy” of Harriet’s in Slytherin house, so she was little help. Meanwhile Kenley’s little sister, Katy, who was quickly growing as the gossip queen at Hogwarts, flat-out refused to spill any secret that involved her sister in any way.
The following Monday, Hermione surprised everyone by informing them all that she had both handed in the time-turner, and dropped Arithmancy.
“But wasn’t that your favourite topic?” Harriet asked, raising her eyebrows in confusion.
“Well, yes, and no…” Hermione said. “It was either that or Muggle Studies. Dropping either would give me a normal time-table. That time-turner was driving me mad!”
“But you were raised a Muggle, what did you need to keep Muggle Studies for?” Dora asked.
“Well… it—it has less to do with the subject matter and more to do with the professor,” Hermione admitted. “The amount of fun I had in her class was about the only thing that got me through, what with everything else that was going on.”
“You, having fun?” Ronnie teased.
“Oh shut up,” Hermione snapped. “Just because I know how to work doesn’t mean I don’t also know how to have fun!”
“You know, we did talk about changing from Divination to Muggle Studies next year, didn’t we?” Harriet asked Ronnie, hoping to change the subject.
“Yeah, that’s true…”
“Oh do, please!” Hermione said. “Professor Spring is so much fun, and she actually manages to explain a lot of things that even I didn’t know.”
“Well, then again, getting good grades by just making things up is pretty hard to pass up…” Ronnie said, her lips curling teasing before laughing and ducking a pillow Hermione threw at her.
Regardless, Harriet and Ronnie both made their way to Professor McGonagall’s office the next day to discuss their class lists with her. To her surprise, they met Kieran, Scott and Marcus leaving Professor McGonagall’s office, all beaming though suddenly looking awkward at the sight of the girls.
“Oh, hey you two,” Marcus said trying to look nonchalant.
“What are you three up to?” Harriet asked.
“Oh just talking to Professor McGonagall about our timetables,” Scott said quickly.
“Oh, same as us,” Ronnie said, cheerfully.
“Oh good,” Scott said.
The boys hustled off and Harriet watched after them.
“You think there’s something they’re not telling us again?” Harriet asked.
Ronnie shrugged. “At this point, I’ve given up on figuring out who has secrets and who doesn’t.”
Professor McGonagall was very understanding, though to Harriet’s disappointment she did not allow them to replace Divination with Muggle Studies. However, they were still allowed to add Muggle Studies, which was still a victory in Harriet’s book, though Ronnie still grumbled over an increased class-load.
For the next week, it seemed only three topics were on anyone’s mind. First, and most predictable, was Sirius Black’s escape. Speculation was wild, but no theory came anywhere close to the truth. On the one hand, Harriet felt a compulsion to try and correct everyone, tell them all what really happened. On the other, the swirling theories and gossip were so amusing that Harriet was quite content to let everyone get on with it.
The second topic was also typical Hogwarts; the fact that George and Erica were now dating. Harriet found it amusing that so many people were so wrapped up in an issue that, while she liked it, she thought would seem so trivial in light of the escape of a man the entire school still considered a mass murderer. And yet, the fact that the school was able to find something like two popular students hooking up equal in gossip value to Sirius Black somehow made things seem right in the world to Harriet’s mind.
Rachel in particular was beside herself. Having her "big sister" back safe and sound, coupled with Erica and George finally getting together, made her the happiest Harriet had ever seen her. She could hardly go anywhere without a skip in her step, and kept making high-pitched noises of happiness everytime she saw George and Erica do something "cute" together.
The third topic was Professor Lupin’s leaving. Harriet was pleased, in a bitter-sweet way, to see that while many students did express outrage over Professor Lupin being a werewolf, it seemed an equal number of students were expressing dismay at his resignation.
The opinion that Professor Lupin was the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for some time was not isolated to Gryffindor house alone. Harriet overheard many Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws in particular bemoaning his resignation. Harriet noted that the bulk of those who were complaining were older students, who had gone much longer without a ‘proper Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher’ than Harriet and her friends had.
At last, the final night of school arrived. As with the previous two years, the end of year feast was held underneath the bright red of Gryffindor House banners. Thanks largely to the Quidditch team’s performance in the inter-house Quidditch match, Gryffindor had won the house cup as well for the third year in a row. The general good cheer helped Harriet forget that the following day she would be returning to the Dursleys once more, having so nearly escaped them to live with Sirius instead.
However, this sense of cheer faded rapidly the next morning as the realization set in. She had come so close to escaping once and for all, but now she was yet again packing her trunk for a return to the torment of Number Four, Privet Drive. At breakfast that morning, Harriet got a pleasant surprise from Ronnie as their aged family owl, Errol, landed in the porridge. Ronnie’s face burst into a wide grin as she read the note.
“Hey! I almost forgot! It’s the Quidditch World Cup this summer, everyone! Mum and Dad have been talking with all your parents and they’ve arranged for you all to come visit so we can all go!”
“Brilliant!” Harriet said, excitedly.
“Oh that will be wonderful,” Hermione said.
“Wicked,” Marcus agreed.
And so with happy thoughts of the Quidditch World Cup and a summer spent at the Weasleys’ to sustain her, Harriet felt much more cheerful. However, there was one last thing that Harriet felt she needed to take care of before they went down to board the train.
She and Dora headed to the Gryffindor first-year girls’ dormitory. There they found Emma in the middle of packing. Or at least she was supposed to be in the middle of packing. Instead she was sitting on her bed, surrounded by her belongings and more of her drawings. All of them were of her and Snuffles.
“Emma, sweetie?” Dora said sitting on the bed next to her sister. “We need to talk.”
“What about?” Emma sniffed. She’d clearly been crying.
“Well… it’s about… Snuffles…” Harriet said awkwardly.
Emma looked up at Harriet, her blue, bloodshot eyes wide.
“Did someone find him?!” she asked, hope written across her face.
“Well, yes, and no…” Dora said, putting an arm around Emma’s shoulder. “He’s okay… but… well… honey… prepare yourself for a bit of a shock…”
An hour later, Harriet and her friends had boarded the Hogwarts Express and the train pulled away from the station. It had been hard telling Emma the truth about Snuffles’ identity, but she seemed to take it well. She didn’t seem to like being deceived, but once they explained why Sirius had done what he’d done, she seemed to lighten up. She had joined them in their compartment and was now playing a game of Exploding Snap with Marcus when the thing that truly cheered Harriet up the most arrived.
It was Hermione who spotted it. Outside their window, being buffeted this way and that by the trains’ slipstream was a tiny brown Scops owl, carrying a letter that was far too big for it. Harriet opened the window and finally managed to catch the little owl in one hand, which felt like a fluffy Snitch. Harriet pulled the little owl inside and took its letter.
“O-mi-gosh-it’s-the-cutest-thing-ever!” Ronnie cooed quickly relieving Harriet of the owl.
“O-merlin-it-so-is!” Dora agreed.
The owl twittered happily in Ronnie’s hands as the two fawned over it. Hedwig, as well as Scott, Marcus, and Dora’s owls on the other hand were all clicking their beaks and looking at the owl with narrowed eyes. Clearly they did not approve of the little owl’s exuberance.
“It’s from Sirius!” Harriet said, reading the letter which was addressed to her.
“What?!” Dora exclaimed.
“Read it aloud!” Marcus said.
I hope this finds you before you reach your aunt and uncle. I don’t know if they’re used to owl post.
At the moment, Buckbeak and I are in hiding. But we won’t be for long. Daniel, Sherrod and Albus have been negotiating with the Ministry, and I am going to turn myself over to the Ministry to stand trial, while Buckbeak will go to Rathlin.
“What?!” Ronnie gasped.
“Shh!” Hermione hissed.
Harriet read on.
I will be placed under house arrest, which will be in the Shrieking Shack. So I’ll have a lot of cleaning work to do over the summer.
There’s something else I never got around to telling you when we first met. I was the one who sent you the Firebolt.
“Ha!” Dora said. “See! I told you it was from him!”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t jinxed, was it?” Ronnie retorted. “Ow!” She yelped as the tiny owl nipped her finger a bit too hard.
Crookshanks took the order to the Owl Office for me. I used your name, but used my Gringotts vault number. Please consider it thirteen birthdays’ and Christmases worth of presents from your Godfather.
If you ever need me, send word to me or Daniel or Remus. Being under house arrest I won’t be able to come myself, but both of them will.
I’ll write again, soon.
P.S. I thought your friend Ronnie might like to keep this owl, as it’s my fault she no longer has a rat.
Ronnie gasped and looked down at the fluffy owl in her hands.
“Keep him…?” Ronnie asked. She sounded uncertain.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, she held the little owl out to Crookshanks.
“What do you reckon? Definitely an owl?”
Crookshanks responded by purring and rubbing each cheek on the little owl's head.
“Good enough for me,” Ronnie said, grinning. “He’s mine!”
Harriet kept reading Sirius’ letter all the way to King’s Cross. She was still holding it when they exited the barrier of Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Uncle Vernon was there, standing a ways away and eyeing the group of Ronnie, Kieran, Scott, Hermione, and Dora’s parents along with Marcus’ father suspiciously. His worst fears seemed realized as Harriet ran up to give them all hugs.
“I’ll keep in touch with you all about the Cup this summer!” Ronnie called after everyone as they went their separate ways with their families.
Harriet waved back as she made her way to Uncle Vernon.
“What’s that?” he snapped, pointing at the letter in Harriet’s hand. “If it’s another ruddy form—”
“Oh no, it’s not,” Harriet said smiling. “It’s a letter from my godfather.”
“Godfather? You haven’t got a godfather!” Uncle Vernon spluttered.
“Yes, I have,” Harriet said smiling pleasantly. “He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s been in prison my whole life, but he broke out last summer, and he’s on the run. But now we’re back in touch, he’d like to keep up with me, check up on how I’m doing and make sure I’m happy and all that. Oh, and I got back in touch with another one of my parents’ friends who’d like to do the same. He’s not a criminal, but he is a werewolf.”
Harriet grinned broadly up at Uncle Vernon, whose face was full of horror and completely devoid of colour. Harriet turned and began pushing her cart off towards the parking lot, Hedwig giving a little hoot which sounded quite happy as well. Harriet gave a happy sigh and continued on towards the car as the gentle tune of a violin could just be heard somewhere in the distance.
* * * *
The man leaned back in his chair, sipping the strong, black coffee as cars and people bustled by in the early Parisian morning. The sun had risen and the city was alive. The man smiled to himself before he opened his newspaper and began to read. He had enjoyed his year in Paris immensely, touching up on his French and taking in the local colour, while keeping a close eye on the newspapers.
He was sitting at a table in the back corner of the café’s outdoor sitting area. The current newspaper he was reading, printed on thick, yellowish paper and entitled The Daily Prophet was being held at a slightly awkward angle as he read the article on the front page. This was to hide the fact that the image on the front page was moving.
“So here you are, after months of silence…”
The voice was brimming with snide anger. The thick, American accent stood out by a mile. The man lowered his newspaper and smiled pleasantly at the speaker.
“Good morning, Waterman. Glad to see you got my message,” the man said.
The newcomer, Waterman, sat and gave his order to the young boy who stepped up to him with a pad of paper. The boy didn’t look any older than ten or eleven.
“Should be at school,” Waterman muttered as he watched the boy head off to fill the order.
“Yes, indeed,” the man replied, lying down his paper on the table and setting his white wide-brimmed fedora on top of the moving image.
“Where the hell have you been, Kinney?” Waterman snarled now, leaning in close to prevent people from overhearing. “We haven’t heard a peep out of you since you blew up that damn newspaper—”
Waterman cut himself off as he caught the title of the newspaper and gave Kinney a look that had “are you serious?” written across it. Kinney simply smiled.
“Yes, dirty business, that. But effective,” Kinney replied, taking a sip of his coffee.
“And not the business we sent you here to do!” Waterman growled.
“No, it wasn’t,” Kinney replied casually.
“We hired you to procure those children to keep their parents’ mouths shut,” Waterman went on. “You have not done so, you have not even attempted to do so.”
“No, I have not, Mr Waterman. And to be frank, I have no inclination to do so.”
“What?” Waterman blinked.
“I have better things to do with my time and your money than the petty task of terrorizing a handful of teenagers,” Kinney replied. “Your ultimate goal was to weaken Britain’s resolve to get involved in the conflict. I did so. Can’t you see the pointlessness of the mission you gave me? The frivolity of it? ‘Oh poor us, a few parents are tugging people’s heartstrings. Whatever shall we do?’”
Kinney took another sip of his coffee. “Furthermore, the disappearance of those children would be more likely to spark further resentment among the public, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t look good in the papers of Britain, of France, of Canada… not to mention the fact the children are so well guarded that it would require a very dangerous operation to get to them and it would put the lives of the children in danger… including some of your own family members if I’m not mistaken,” Kinney said. “A young Miss Danielle Waterman, I believe?”
Waterman’s eyes burned. “They are no family of mine. Not anymore…”
“But…” Kinney continued, ignoring Waterman. “One single bomb, right at the source of a multi-national media hub, and a more than necessary amount of mistrust was sewn. ‘How could the Ministry have kept this from us? How could the Ministry have allowed him to escape?”” Kinney’s smile grew. “Please, Mr Waterman, leave the political subterfuge of your war to me.”
Waterman glared and was about to respond when the boy returned with the coffee.
“Merci,” Waterman grumbled in sloppy French but did not drink yet.
“So you ignored our orders completely and then just lived out a quiet life here for a year on our dime!?” Waterman growled even more angrily as they boy bowed and departed.
“Yes, it would seem I did. Not that I was needed. Britain had its own troubles going on while Black was on the loose, didn’t they?” Kinney said. “Unfortunately, it seems he has turned himself in and is going to stand trial. While the trial will distract the public, sadly their sense of fear will decline. And when that happens, their attentions will begin to drift elsewhere. So, at last, I will have to remind them that I am around.”
“What are you getting at?” Waterman asked.
Kinney lifted his hat. Underneath was a picture of a group of men and women in robes, shaking hands and smiling at the camera, underneath the headline:
Quidditch World Cup Final to be Hosted in Britain
Waterman blinked. “You’re going to do another bombing?”
“Funnily enough, no,” Kinney said, pleasantly. “They’ll be expecting it. I have something more… subtle… in mind.”
“Subtle, you?” Waterman snorted.
Kinney ignored the slight. “Your coffee is getting cold, Mr Waterman.”
Waterman grumbled and took a sip of the coffee. It was strong but surprisingly good for what he’d had so far in France.
“Almonds, interesting,” Waterman said studying and sniffing the cup before taking another sip.
Kinney smiled. “Anyway, as I said. I’m going to do something more subtle. I can heap a strong helping of trouble upon Britain with a single curse.”
“A single curse?” Waterman asked, astonished.
“Yes,” Kinney replied. “A famous Muggle writer once wrote, ‘It’s strange, I think, all of us have seen so many dead in the war and we know that over two million of us fell uselessly–why, then, are we so excited about a single man, when we have practically forgotten the two million already? But probably the reason is that one dead man is death–and two million are only a statistic.’”
Waterman shook his head. “I don’t get it.”
“Of course not,” Kinney said. “Remarque was the writer. It’s better known as being credited to a great Muggle leader, Joseph Stalin, as ‘a million deaths is a statistic, a single death is a tragedy,’ though that citation is incorrect. It does not exactly fit the context, but what Remarque was commenting on was human nature. We can forget millions of deaths in events like war, but kill one person, everyone can grasp the tragedy.”
“So you’re going to kill just one person?” Waterman asked. “At the World Cup?”
“Two, actually. One at the Cup, which I’m sure will cause a spectacle. The other will be more subtle, but necessary nonetheless,” Kinney said sipping his coffee, finishing it.
“Dare I ask, who?”
“Ah now, Mr Waterman… you don’t want me spoiling the surprise?” Kinney replied.
His smile and tone had not changed, yet somehow Waterman couldn’t help but get a bestial feeling from Kinney as he spoke.
“And now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr Waterman, I have to get my affairs in order for a return to Britain.”
Kinney rose, picking up his hat and newspaper with an almost cheerful flourish, swinging his hand over the table, passing it over Waterman’s coffee cup. He had a certain spring in his step as he placed his hat smoothly onto his head and tucked the paper under his arm. Waterman snorted and took another sip. Strangely, the taste of almonds seemed to have gone.
“Oh, and I’m afraid, Mr Waterman… your services are no longer needed.”
“What?” Waterman asked.
Kinney heaved a melodramatic sigh. “Yes, sadly I need to send another message to your leaders about what happens when I am not given free rein to carry out my missions. Your death will do nicely.”
“My death?!” Waterman stammered.
Kinney simply smiled as he watched Mr Waterman’s eyes widen and his pupils contract. He clutched his chest, his breathing becoming shallow. Kinney simply turned and without another word walked away as Waterman began heaving, unable to breath.
Kinney’s grin grew as he heard the crashing of chair and table, the smashing of glasses behind him as Waterman went into convulsions. People cried out but Kinney kept walking. The spectacle of Waterman’s death would distract everyone from his disappearance.
“Well done, Papa.”
The boy who had taken the drinks seemed to materialize at Kinney’s side.
“Ah, not as well done as you, my boy,” Kinney said putting his arm around the boy’s shoulder.
“The spring worked then?” the boy asked looking at Kinney’s wand-hand.
“Perfectly,” Kinney said, revealing his wand attached to a spring loaded mechanism.
It was one of his simpler assassinations, a single bitter almond placed in the bottom of the cup and transfigured into prussic acid with a single swipe of his wand. He favoured simplicity. There was a certain beauty in simplicity. That was largely why he didn’t like the original plan. Capturing a handful of kids, keeping them held, finding somewhere secret enough to hold them while still finding enough food and supplies to keep them alive, all the while hurting or killing those that he needed to if the parents didn’t listen. It was too tedious for too little of gains.
“So we’re off to Britain then?” the boy asked.
“Yes, we leave tonight,” Kinney said.
“Good,” the boy said. “Paris is boring.”
“Ah, Gideon, Gideon… someday I will get you to appreciate the finer points of life.”
Gideon rolled his eyes. Kinney chuckled.
“Now, get back to the hotel and begin packing. I’ll procure our passage.”
“Yes, Papa,” Gideon said and ran off.
Kinney smiled off after his son. He stepped into a nearby alley, gave his wrist a twitch to spring the wand into his hand, and swung his arm in a graceful arc, vanishing with a loud crack.