(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
Flying the Firebolt
“You may never be able to change who someone is, but it’s surprising how easy it is to give them a nudge in the right direction.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
The following weeks passed with little incident. The Ravenclaw – Slytherin Quidditch match ended with a narrow Slytherin victory. On principle, Harriet was inclined to count every Slytherin victory as a defeat; Wood reassured the team that this was good news.
“Well, I liked what we saw out there,” he told them during their postgame conference.
“The Ravenclaw seekers are top notch. The only reason they lost is that little Malfoy git has the faster broom. But that’s still a good thing for us. The points spread isn’t that far off anymore. All we need to do is beat Ravenclaw in the next match and we’ll take second place.”
His eyebrows knit together, lips puckering briefly in what Harriet assumed to be guilt, guilt that he hadn’t yet managed to talk Professor McGonagall into letting her have the Firebolt back. Much to everyone’s chagrin, Wood then increased the amount of practices to five a week. This meant that Harriet would only have one night a week to do her homework.
However, Harriet didn’t feel nearly as put upon as Hermione looked. It seemed as though Hermione’s heavy work-load was finally getting to her. She would spend every night camped out in a corner of the common room, all of her books and notes spread out over at least two tables. Scott would usually come to help Hermione with her work, but it was clear that Hermione’s pride wouldn’t permit her to accept too much help. So instead the two usually sat in silence.
Ronnie had another concern. “How’s she doing it?” Ronnie asked one evening.
Harriet and Ronnie were doing their homework by the fireplace with Kieran and Marcus, as Hermione was in one of her less pleasant moods and they were keeping their distance.
“What?” Marcus asked, distracted.
“Getting to all her classes,” Ronnie continued. “I overheard her talking to the Arithmancy professor this morning about yesterday’s lesson, but Hermione can’t have been there because she was in Care of Magical creatures with us.”
“That’s true,” Kieran muttered rubbing his chin in thought.
“And I talked to Ernie Macmillan in Herbology, and he said she’s never missed a Muggle-Studies lesson either, but half of them are at the same time as Divination, and she’s never missed one of those classes, either.”
Harriet didn’t have time to contemplate Hermione’s impossible time table. She had her own essay for Professor Snape to work on. However, she was distracted mere seconds later by Oliver Wood.
“Hey Harriet, bad news.”
“What?” Harriet asked, feeling her chest tighten. Wood hadn’t decided to force her off the team because of the dementors after all, had he?
“I finally had the chance to talk to Professor McGonagall about the Firebolt. She got a bit… well… shirty with me… told me how I’ve got my priorities all wrong, that I care more about winning the cup than your safety. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t have said I didn’t care if it threw you off as long as you caught the Snitch on it first, but—”
“No, you shouldn’t have.”
Harriet looked around. It was Kieran who had spoken. He had sounded so unlike himself that Harriet hadn’t recognized his voice. His hand was clenched so tight his quill broke.
Wood took a step back but still continued, “Well, McGonagall let me have it anyway, and long-story short, I think it’s time you ordered another broomstick to be safe. She said they were going to be keeping it as long as necessary. There’s an order form in the back of Which Broomstick, you could get a Nimbus 2001 like the Slytherins have.”
“I’m not getting anything the Slytherins think are good,” Harriet grumbled.
“Oi now, not the broomstick’s fault,” Wood said seriously. “Not like they’re advertised as ‘perfect for cheating gits’ or something.”
Harriet and her friends all laughed. In spite of Wood’s insistence that Harriet buy another broomstick, Harriet just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she would corner Professor McGonagall after every Transfiguration lesson to ask how the inspection was progressing. Eventually, Professor McGonagall got short with Harriet she finally decided to give it a rest.
To make matters worse, Harriet wasn’t doing nearly as well in her Patronus lessons as she’d hoped. Three sessions in and she still couldn’t produce a proper patronus, despite Professor Lupin’s assurances that she was still doing quite well. Harriet could not help but feel as though she was stagnant. What if the dementors showed up at the match with Ravenclaw and she couldn’t fight them off?
Harriet had a suspicion there was more to her lack of progress than inability. Something that was not lost on Harriet was the fact that this was the only time she had ever heard her parents’ voices that she could remember. She couldn’t help but wonder if part of her problem was that she subconsciously wanted to hear their voices.
But that was silly, Harriet kept telling herself in the lead-up to her fourth session. Sure, she was hearing her parents’ voices again, but why would she want to hear those particular moments? Sure if they were moments of great happiness she would want to remember and hear them. But then, if she could, she supposed she wouldn’t have such troubles with the dementors in the first place.
Finally, the night of their fourth lesson arrived. Harriet looked for Ronnie to tell her that she was off but to her surprise she couldn’t find Ronnie anywhere, nor Kieran or Marcus. Hermione was still in her corner studying, alone this time, and given the manic expression on her face Harriet decided against disturbing her.
Harriet set off for the lesson but was surprised when she neared to hear the sound of voices coming from the old History of Magic classroom. She pushed the door open and peered inside. There were Kieran, Scott, Marcus, Ronnie and Dora sitting on desks around the room, talking and laughing. And Jackson and Jeremy Owen from Hufflepuff.
“Hey you,” Dora said smiling as Harriet entered.
“What are you lot doing here?” Harriet asked.
Ronnie rolled her eyes. “We’re here to take patronus lessons with you, dork,” she said smiling.
Harriet blinked and blushed.
Kieran smiled. “Well, we knew you were having a hard go of it, so, we just wanted to show you that you didn’t have to do it alone.”
“And we thought you’d feel better knowing that there were a few of us in the stands, along with the staff, who could do patronuses to drive off Dementors,” Marcus said.
Harriet felt her lips curling involuntarily into a sheepish smile and her cheeks grow hotter. She turned to Jackson and Jeremy.
“But what about you two?” she asked, though immediately thought that question might have been rude?
Jeremy shrugged. “Professor Lupin thought it might help our confidence in Defence Against the Dark Arts to do a bit more advanced work,” he explained. Jackson nodded in agreement.
Just then, Professor Lupin entered with the trunk slung over his shoulder. “Ah, we’re all here, excellent,” he said as he put the case down on the desk.
“I don’t know how properly this will work, as we may confuse the boggart, make it harder for it to change into a Dementor. But, we can do our best. We will probably have to have Harriet right up front for the boggart to focus on her instead.”
Harriet nodded. While in general being the focus of a dementor’s attention gave her pause if not outright fear, the thought of all her friends arrayed around her gave her confidence she had never felt before. Even the prospect of failing to produce a patronus in front of them did not seem to dampen her new-found enthusiasm.
Harriet took a seat on a desk and watched as Professor Lupin walked the rest through the basics of conjuring patronuses. Marcus and Scott, who had affinities for Charms, were the quickest to produce the tell-tale silvery vapour.
The next were Kieran and Dora, then Jackson and Ronnie, and finally Jeremy. Harriet grimaced noting the look of disappointment on Jeremy’s face.
Harriet hopped off the desk and made her way to the trunk. She drew her wand and prepared herself. She tried thinking of leaving Privet Drive for Hogwarts, her usual happy thought, but other thoughts kept intruding. She wasn’t alone this time. Her friends cared enough to put aside their own studies to help her.
Professor Lupin counted down and whipped the trunk open. As Professor Lupin had hoped, when the boggart rose out from it, it had taken the form of a dementor. Harriet felt the cold, saw the lights flicker and die, heard the static in her ears that signified she was about to hear the sounds of Voldemort attacking her parents.
Harriet gritted her teeth, pointed her wand at the Dementor, and again, instead of thinking of her usual happy thought, the faces of her friends floated up into her mind.
“Expecto Patronum!” Harriet cried.
Harriet wasn’t quite sure what happened at first. There was a brilliant flash of silver-white light, completely blinding her. Then the next thing she knew, she was sitting on the floor, feeling dazzled and dazed, blinking spots out of her eyes.
“Harriet?” Professor Lupin asked.
Harriet blinked a few times and looked around as she regained her senses. Professor Lupin was kneeling in front of her, looking both worried and yet very pleased. Harriet’s friends were all arrayed behind Professor Lupin, though they all looked much more worried than anything else.
“What happened?” Harriet asked trying to get to her feet.
“Your best effort yet by far,” Professor Lupin said beaming as he helped her up. “The closest to a corporeal patronus you’ve done so far. I think I saw a leg and a head that time.”
Harriet blinked. “Then why did I black out again?”
Professor Lupin chuckled. “I think you did so well you surprised yourself,” he explained moving back to the trunk. “You didn’t keep your focus going so it faltered before truly driving off the boggart-dementor.”
Harriet digested the information. Her friends gathered around her solicitously, checking she was okay.
“I’m fine,” she reassured them, and for once, she really meant it. She was on to something now, she was sure of it. She just had to keep it going.
Professor Lupin now looked grim. “However, Harriet, given how advanced you are compared to your classmates, I have an awkward question.”
Harriet grimaced. She was sure she knew what Professor Lupin was going to ask. He wanted her to face the dementor without conjuring the Patronus for everyone else to get practice.
“I want you to hold back this time, Harriet,” Professor Lupin said. “To give everyone else a chance at conjuring a patronus under the effects of the dementor. Only retaliate when you feel you can’t take any more, alright?”
“Yes, sir,” Harriet said.
Professor Lupin sighed. Harriet gave all her friends reassuring looks before giving Professor Lupin the go-ahead to reopen the trunk.
An hour later, Harriet felt as though she’d run a marathon. However, she had managed to fight off the effects of the dementor every time and not pass out. She had still been forced to step in and conjure her own patronus every time, but even Jeremy seemed to be getting the hang of it by the end of the class.
Harriet and her friends were all sitting around the room, all looking as weary as Harriet felt. Professor Lupin had procured some bottles of butterbeer for them this time as well as Honeydukes chocolate. The butterbeer was just as effective as the chocolate at fighting off the effects of the dementor.
Harriet was staring at the trunk, a thought coming to her head that she hadn’t had before. “Professor Lupin?” she asked. “I… I’ve seen what their hands look like but, what does a Dementor’s face look like?”
Professor Lupin lowered his own butterbeer bottle looking thoughtful. “An interesting question, Harriet. Unfortunately, the only people who really know are in no condition to tell anyone.”
“How do you mean, sir?” Scott asked.
Professor Lupin grimaced. “Well, Dementors only lower their hoods to use their last, and worst, weapon, the Dementor’s Kiss.”
Dora shivered but everyone else looked morbidly interested.
“What’s the Dementor’s Kiss?” Marcus asked.
“It’s what Dementors do to those they wish to utterly destroy. There’s no chance of recovery once it’s performed. The dementors must have a mouth of some form under their hoods, and they clamp it down over the mouth of their victim, and suck out their soul.”
“You mean they kill them?” Jackson asked, aghast.
Everyone turned. It was Dora who’d spoken that time. She shivered again staring at the floor vacantly. She noticed everyone was looking at her and flushed.
Professor Lupin cut in to spare Dora the unwanted attention. “No, they don’t kill their victims. But perhaps it would be better if they did.”
“What’s worse than death?” Ronnie asked. Even if she was not Dora’s biggest fan of late, after the fiasco with the Firebolt, Ronnie was still very concerned.
“You can exist without your soul,” Professor Lupin said. “What the dementors take is more or less everything that makes you ‘you.’ All of your personality, your memories, your sense of self. All that’s left is your body as an empty shell, heart beating, lungs working, but that is all. There’s no chance of recovery. You lie in bed as a vegetable until your body finally gives out. Which is sooner rather than later because the body eventually stops eating.”
Professor Lupin’s lips tightened again. “It’s… it’s the fate that awaits Sirius Black should he be caught again. It was in the Daily Prophet this morning. The Ministry has given the Dementors permission to perform it if they find him. The same goes for Solomon Kinney. The Ministry just received permission from the standing American government to perform it on Kinney should they find him as well.”
“They deserve it.”
Harriet didn’t know what made her say it. The words just burst forth from her of their own volition as anger at both of the mass-murderers welled up inside her.
“You really think so, Harriet?” Professor Lupin asked. “You think anyone deserves such a fate?”
“Yes,” Harriet said bitterly. “For some things…”
All of Harriet’s friends were giving her uncomfortable looks. Harriet was worried the attention would make Professor Lupin suspicious and wished they’d look away.
They finished their butterbeers and bid Professor Lupin goodnight before heading back to their common rooms. Harriet was so distracted she barely noticed when Scott, Dora and Jeremy broke off from the group to make their way to their own common rooms. She also didn’t notice Professor McGonagall stepping around a corner walking towards them and walked right into her.
“Do watch where you’re going, Potter,” Professor McGonagall said sternly.
“S-sorry, Professor,” Harriet spluttered.
“I’ve just been looking for you in the Gryffindor common room,” Professor McGonagall said waving aside Harriet’s apology. “Well, here it is, we’ve done absolutely everything we could think of and there doesn’t seem to be the slightest thing wrong with it. You have a very good friend somewhere, Potter.”
Harriet’s jaw fell open. Professor McGonagall was holding out her Firebolt, and it looked just as magnificent as it had the moment she unwrapped it.
“I… I can have it back… you mean it?” Harriet asked. “Seriously?!”
“Seriously,” Professor McGonagall replied, the corners of her mouth twitching. “I daresay you’ll need some practice before Saturday’s match, won’t you? And do try and win this one, Potter, or we’ll be out of the running for the eighth year in a row, as Professor Snape kindly reminded me just this afternoon.”
Harriet took the Firebolt, thanking Professor McGonagall profusely before she and Ronnie tore off to the common room, so excited they left Kieran, Marcus, and Jackson far behind.
They reached the portrait hole and found Neville pleading with Sir Cadogan. “But I wrote them down,” Neville was moaning, looking on the verge of tears. “I must have dropped them somewhere.”
“A likely story!” Sir Cadogan declared, brandishing his sword. He spotted Harriet and Ronnie approaching. “Stay back, fair maidens! I’ve encountered a brigand attempting to gain access to the chambers within. Who knows what he may be capable of?!”
“Oh shut up,” Ronne snarled.
“I lost the passwords,” Neville confessed sheepishly. “I made him tell me what words he was going to use this week but I don’t know what I’ve done with them.”
“Oddsbodikins,” Harriet said and Sir Cadogan grudgingly opened.
The moment Harriet stepped inside, she was mobbed by excited Gryffindors who all wanted to get a look at her Firebolt.
“Fantastic!” Oliver Wood cried.
Fred and George both stooped to lift Harriet up on their shoulders so all could see her and the Firebolt.
“Ravenclaw’ll have no chance this time,” someone said.
“Yeah, they’re all on Cleansweep 7s!”
“Not Chang, she’s on a Comet 260.”
“Still has nothing on a Firebolt!”
Fred and George lowered Harriet back to the floor and Harriet managed to get a look at Hermione who was still in her usual corner, working away.
Harriet let the crowd, supervised by the ever vigilant Wood, inspect the Firebolt while she made her way over to Hermione.
“Hey,” she said gesturing to the parchment covered chair next to Hermione, “can I sit?”
“Hi,” Hermione said back. “Of course,” she replied and cleared the chair.
Harriet looked over the table in disbelief. There were two long essays, one for Arithmancy and another for Muggle-Studies entitled “Explain why Muggles Need Electricity.” At the moment, Hermione was poring over her rune translations.
“Oh Hermione, how are you getting through all this?” Harriet asked sympathetically.
“Oh, just, working hard,” Hermione said casually.
“Hey Harriet,” Ronnie said. “I’m gonna run up to the boys’ room to give Scabbers his rat tonic and I’ll be right back.”
“Yeah okay,” Harriet said before she turned back to Hermione and grimaced. “Come on, Hermione, you almost look worse than Lupin does. Why don’t you just drop a couple of these subjects, like Muggle Studies?”
“I couldn’t do that!” Hermione gasped.
“Why not?” Harriet asked.
“I… well…” Hermione flushed. “Because Muggle Studies is some of the closest I get to having fun.”
Harriet felt her heart sink and hugged Hermione tight around the shoulders. “Well think about it,” Harriet said. “If you’re this busy this year you won’t be able to find time for lacrosse next fall,” she said giving Hermione a shrewd smile.
Hermione flushed but actually smiled. “You’re… you’re right…I—”
Hermione’s thought was cuts off by an ear-piercing scream. The whole common room went silent, staring at the entrance. Harriet heard the sound of pounding feet and Ronnie hurtled into the room, dragging a bed sheet behind her. Ronnie’s eyes found Hermione, and pure rage was burning in them.
“LOOK!” Ronnie cried holding out the bed sheets as she stormed over, sticking them in Hermione’s face. “LOOK!”
“Ronnie, what are you—?”
“SCABBERS! LOOK! SCABBERS!”
Hermione was wide eyed. Harriet shared her shock and bewilderment, but looked down at the sheet Ronnie was holding. Harriet’s heart sank. There was a spot on the sheet that was clearly blood.
“Blood!” Ronnie shouted. “And there was this!”
“Ronnie, what’s going on, what are you doing with my bedsheet?” Marcus asked.
Ronnie rounded on him too. “You said you’d keep the door locked!” she shouted, “this is your fault too!”
Marcus looked as though Ronnie had punched him. Ronnie glared around at everyone angrily before she slammed her hand down on the table, leaving behind a small piece of tissue.
Inside was a single, disembodied toe. “I found this on the floor…” she said before storming up the girls’ staircase.
Marcus looked after her, his face stricken. Harriet wondered if Marcus would have gone after Ronnie, and realized he wouldn’t have got very far. Nothing broke the silence. Not even the sound of first years playing Exploding Snap.
* * * *
Harriet was sure this was the end of Ronnie and Hermione’s friendship. Ronnie was so angry with Hermione she didn’t see how Hermione could ever make it up to her. Hermione was so ashamed of what had happened she awoke with Basheera the next morning to make sure that she got up before Ronnie did, and when Harriet went down to the common room she saw that Hermione had removed all of her homework from its usual spot in the corner. Harriet supposed that Hermione had moved it all to the library instead.
At breakfast, Harriet saw Hermione sitting with Scott at the Ravenclaw table. Ronnie made no comment, simply sat and ate in silence. The rest of the day did not improve. Ronnie and Hermione made pointed efforts to sit on the opposite side of every class. Marcus, sharing Hermione’s shame, chose to sit by Hermione as well, but all this did was make Ronnie even angrier with him.
Finally, Harriet took matters into her own hands and invited Ronnie to that night’s Quidditch practice, the final practice before the match against Ravenclaw. She promised to give Ronnie a chance to fly on the Firebolt too. Even though she was not the biggest Quidditch fan, the opportunity to fly the most expensive and best made broomstick in the world was too much for Ronnie to pass up.
When they arrived, Madam Hooch swooped down upon them and at once began showering praise upon the Firebolt. Harriet found this amusing as Madam Hooch had spent almost a month and a half examining the broomstick for jinxes.
“Perfect balance, simply perfect,” she exclaimed. “Now Nimbuses are a wonderful design but they do tend to develop a drag after a few years; slight list to the tail end. Rather reminds me of the old Silver Arrow, wonderful old broom that was. Learned to fly one you know—”
“Uh, Madam Hooch,” Wood interjected awkwardly. “Don’t mind if Harriet has the Firebolt back do you? We need to get to practice.”
“Oh, right you are, right you are! Here you go, Potter.”
Madam Hooch handed back the Firebolt and headed off to the stands with Ronnie in tow.
For once, Wood didn’t have a long speech or a detailed training plan. It seemed his only concern was seeing the Firebolt in action. So not wasting any time, Harriet swung her leg over the Firebolt and kicked off.
It was the most exhilarating feeling of her life. It was better than her first flight. It was better than her Nimbus. Harriet felt as though she herself was flying rather than riding a broomstick. It seemed to respond to her thoughts rather than her changing grips.
The speed was remarkable. The world became a blur as she shot across the pitch, and yet never lost control as she pulled a high speed turn that she knew her Nimbus never could have managed. Wood was beaming down below as he readied to release the balls.
“Harriet, I’m letting the Snitch out now!” he called. He opened the box and the two Bludgers shot into the air, as did the tiny tell-tale glitter of the Golden Snitch.
Harriet tore after it. She shot past the Bludgers which turned and attempted to give chase, but Harriet was moving so fast they might as well have been standing still. After ten-seconds, Harriet skidded to a halt, the wriggling Golden Snitch tight in her hand.
Wood was beside himself. Harriet let the Snitch go once more and this time gave it a whole minute’s head start before giving chase once more. Yet again, the Snitch had no chance. Harriet spotted it hovering by Katie Bell’s knee and looped clear over her with ease, catching it neatly.
Harriet never remembered a better practice. By the end, Wood didn’t have a single criticism. George discretely informed Harriet that this was the first time that had happened since Wood took over as captain.
The team headed back to the changing rooms but Harriet stayed out to give Ronnie her chance on the Firebolt. Ronnie hopped back onto the pitch, running over excitedly. Madam Hooch had fallen asleep in the stands.
Harriet smiled watching Ronnie swoop and dive through the air, whooping happily. Harriet had to admit that even if Ronnie rarely flew broomsticks, her potential was there. Harriet wondered if it’d be possible to talk Fred and George into helping Ronnie practice flying. Ronnie was already a very good goal-keeper on her feet, Harriet didn’t think it’d take much to make her good at it on a broomstick.
It was dark by the time Madam Hooch awoke. She told them both off for having not woken her earlier and sent them both back to the school. As they walked back, talking excitedly about the Firebolt’s superb handling and speed, something on the edge of Forbidden Forest caught Harriet’s eye.
“What is it?” Ronnie asked.
“I thought I saw some eyes,” Harriet said, pointing at the gap in the trees.
Harriet and Ronnie both drew their wands and ignited the tips, shining the lights on the spot. Just below where Harriet saw the eyes was the fluffy, ginger form of Crookshanks staring back at them.
“You little!” Ronnie shouted and took a step towards the cat.
In the blink of an eye, Crookshanks vanished from sight. Ronnie scowled before pocketing her wand again. “Still letting that monster run around on its own… it probably just chased Scabbers down with a bird or two…” Ronnie grumbled.
Harriet was still inspecting the spot. The eyes she’d seen hadn’t been low enough to have been Crookshanks. She supposed Crookshanks could have been on one of the trees, but none were close enough for that to be realistic either. Harriet was forced to conclude that it had been her eyes playing tricks on her.
The common room was almost empty when they arrived. Kieran and Marcus had waited up for them but Ronnie turned her nose up. Clearly Ronnie had not yet forgiven them for their lapse in vigilance guarding Scabbers.
Harriet sighed sitting with the boys.
“How was practice?” Kieran asked.
“Great,” Harriet said honestly. “The Firebolt’s fantastic. Wood didn’t have anything to criticize by the end of practice.”
“Yeah, that’s what Gred said,” Marcus said.
“Gred?” Harriet laughed.
Marcus laughed too. “It was either that or Forge. Never can tell with those two.”
Harriet smiled and stretched looking around the empty common room. It was then she noticed that the room wasn’t as empty as she thought. Over in the corner, Hermione once lived in, was Emma. Unlike Hermione, who was always working feverishly, Emma was sound asleep. Her head rested on the table, which was covered in pieces of parchment and coloured pencils.
“Think someone needs to be put to bed,” Harriet chuckled.
Marcus jumped in surprise. “Blimey, didn’t even know she was over there.”
“Me either,” Kieran agreed. “She’s always so quiet.”
Harriet got up and walked over to Emma. On the one hand, she looked so peaceful; Harriet didn’t want to disturb her; on the other sleeping like that couldn’t be good for her. Harriet was about to put a hand on Emma’s shoulder when she paused.
On the top parchment was a realistic self-portrait, hugging a large, shaggy black dog. Harriet had to marvel at the young girl’s attention to detail. She certainly wasn’t that good at Emma’s age. A caption over the dog read “Snuffles.” At the bottom of the picture Emma had written:
Harriet couldn’t help but smile. She wondered if Snuffles was the Flamel family dog. She’d have to ask Dora tomorrow at breakfast. Harriet then felt a sense of sadness creep in as she looked down at Emma. If Snuffles was the family dog and her best friend, she had to be lonely. And then how sad it was that she was so shy that her best friend was in fact a dog. Harriet sighed shaking Emma awake, and leading her to bed.
* * * *
Harriet slept poorly that night. She usually did before Quidditch matches, the mixture of anticipation and worry always getting to her. However, by the time she went down to breakfast there was nothing in the world she wanted to do more than play.
Harriet found the trip down to the Great Hall a little more awkward than usual. On Wood’s orders, Harriet now had two ‘bodyguards,’ fourth year boys by the names of Cormac McLaggen and Chris Jerome. Harriet remembered them from the previous year when they offered similar services to Marcus. Now they had been ordered to guard not just Harriet but the Firebolt until the match. Harriet found she didn’t mind Chris quite as much as Cormac, but both were quite full of themselves.
Every head in the Great Hall turned as Harriet entered the Great Hall, necks craning trying to get a look at the Firebolt. Harriet didn’t even bother to suppress her smirk as she caught sight of the dumbstruck faces of the Slytherin team.
“Did you see the look on Malfoy’s face?” Ronnie smirked as they arrived at the table.
“Put it here, Harriet,” Wood said clearing a spot on the table for the Firebolt.
Harriet set the Firebolt down. Wood glowed and turned the broomstick so the gold-inlay shone brightly in the morning sun. The broom was irresistible and many students from both Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw came over to see it.
“Wow,” Cedric Diggory said breathlessly. “Never thought I’d see one up close! I gotta fly against one next year,” he said admiring the broomstick. “I suppose it’s what I get for not paying more attention to the really important things, eh?”
Harriet flushed and felt the usual butterflies rise in her stomach as Cedric smiled at her. He thinks I’m really important? Harriet thought to herself as Cedric headed back to the Hufflepuff table.
Harriet couldn’t help but notice that the rest of Cedric’s team did not look very happy with his friendly behaviour towards Harriet. When she looked back at her teammates, she realized they had the same expression for her.
Fortunately, Harriet was spared further uncomfortable attention by Percy and his girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater. Penelope was looking at the broomstick with a reverence. Harriet was surprised when Penelope asked to hold it.
“Now, now Penny, no sabotage,” Percy said in a hearty tone as Harriet handed Penelope the Firebolt. “Penny and I’ve got a bet on, ten galleons on the outcome of the match!”
The group of Quidditch players went quiet. “You’re making an actual bet, with money and everything, with your girlfriend?” asked Erica Quoy, who was sitting with Angelina, Katie and Alicia.
Percy went scarlet and spluttered awkwardly.
“Oh it’s just a little friendly competition,” Penelope said before thanking Harriet and handing her back the Firebolt. She headed back to the Ravenclaw table and Percy followed.
“Well isn’t this typical?” said an all too familiar, and entirely unwelcome voice behind Harriet.
“Special Miss Potter gets another special treat like always.”
It was Pansy Parkinson and Pixie Fanfarró, along with Wendy Aarons.
“Well, you see, it’s what happens when you’re a decent person,” Harriet retorted. “People tend to be nice to you.”
Pansy and Pixie scowled. Angelina reached across the table to give Harriet a high-five. Wendy looked back and forth between Pansy and Pixie, clearly hoping her heroes would come up with something clever to retaliate.
“Well it won’t matter much, unless it has a parachute or something built in, in case the Dementors show up,” Pixie taunted.
“Yeah, or a swooning bed to catch you,” Pansy added.
“Uh-huh, and you two do what for your team exactly?” Angelina asked shrewdly. “Sit in the stands and toss your hair and pretend to be pretty? Oh yeah, you two’re legends you are!”
Erica’s eyes glittered maliciously. “Besides, weren’t you two the first ones back to the castle after the dementors showed up on the pitch?”
“Well, her name is Pansy,” Alicia taunted.
Pansy and Pixie glared and stalked off, with Wendy following, a dispirited look on her face.
“You guys didn’t have to jump in like that,” Harriet said awkwardly. “I can deal with them.”
“Yeah, we know,” Angelina said grinning. “But we can’t let you have all the fun.”
Harriet beamed. Just then, Wood rose. “Right, let’s get down to the changing rooms.”
The team rose with him and Harriet hoisted the Firebolt over her shoulder. They passed the Slytherin table on the way out.
As the team passed the Slytherins, the unwelcome voice of Draco Malfoy broke the silence. "Oi, Potter!"
Harriet paused, and readied one of the insults she'd been working on. She noticed that Draco’s Quidditch team were all grinning at her like wolves, waiting for Draco’s taunt. Others around the table gave him disapproving scowls.
Kenley Tyler, who had been petrified the previous year for helping Harriet and her friend investigate Slytherin’s Heir, was glowering at Draco.
He opened his mouth, closed it, looked at the Firebolt and gave a feeble attempt at a smile that came out as more of a grimace. "Nice broom."
Harriet stared at him, as did the rest of the Slytherin team. Marcus Flint had frozen with his fork halfway to his gaping mouth, the food having fallen back onto the plate. Draco continued to look away from Harriet.
As she watched, he glanced down the table at Kenley Tyler and Danielle Waterman. Harriet was sure that he was looking at Kenley. And, even though fleeting, the smile on Kenley’s face could only be described as smug.
Harriet shook her head and hurried off to catch up with the team. She changed quickly and ran out to the pitch. The sky was a clear blue and not a cloud to be seen. It was going to be a much better match than last time. It was still chilly, but Harriet had the scarf Dora had given her for Christmas and the flying goggles she’d received from Hermione.
Underneath her uniform, hidden by the robes, were the elbow, knee, and shin guards Kieran had given her. She had told everyone she wore the hoodie Kieran had given her too because it was cold. In reality, she had stuck her wand in the pouch for easy access should the dementors make another appearance.
The stands were filling up. Harriet looked around, wondering if she’d be able to spot Professor Lupin. The Ravenclaws joined them; Madam Hooch striding out towards them carrying the crate. Harriet spotted Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, among their ranks. She looked to be about Harriet’s height, maybe half-an-inch shorter. Cho smiled back at Harriet but there was a definite mischievous glint in her eye. Harriet returned it, a sense of competitive spirit rising up inside her. Feeling confident, eh? Harriet thought as she smiled back. Let’s see how your Comet fares against my Firebolt.
Cho wasn’t the only one Harriet noticed. She also noticed that the Ravenclaws had a new pair of beaters. Harriet was amused to note that, as with Fred and George, they were a pair of twins. They looked quite as good natured as Fred and George as they smiled back at the Gryffindors. Harriet remembered they were a year younger than her, but she was having trouble remembering their names.
“Wood, Davies, shake hands,” Madam Hooch said.
Harriet watched Wood and Roger Davies shake hands. She couldn’t help noting that Wood held himself a bit straighter, his chin lifted a bit higher.
“Mount your brooms,” Madam Hooch continued. “On my whistle… three… two… one!”
The whistle shrieked and Harriet kicked off hard. She rocketed skywards, outpacing Cho. Harriet began scanning for the Snitch at once. As she did, she heard the cheerful commentary from Lee Jordan.
“—of course the real story of this match is Harriet Potter’s Firebolt. The folks at Which Broomstick say the Firebolt’s going to be the broomstick of choice for the national teams at this year’s world cup and who can blame them—”
“Jordan, would you please restrict your commentary to what’s happening in the match?” Professor McGonagall snapped.
“Right, right, sorry professor. Just some background information. Though I should add that unlike most brooms the Firebolt has a built in auto-brake which I’m sure is the same effect Potter’s having on the hearts of all the young lads out there as she—”
“Okay! Okay! Gryffindor in possession, Katie Bell of Gryffindor heading for Ravenclaw—”
At that moment Harriet streaked past Katie. Her trajectory threw off Roger Davies’ balance, forcing him to break his path toward Katie and the Quaffle.
Harriet scanned for the Snitch, noting as she looked around that Cho was tailing her closely. Cho was using a common Seeker ploy against a faster broom, letting the other Seeker do the work of spotting the Snitch. Well, if she thought she was going to let Harriet do all the work for her, she had another thing coming. Harriet had barely thought about accelerating when the Firebolt shot forward, leaving Cho far behind.
“Wow, would you look at that Firebolt go!” Lee Jordan’s voice boomed as Harriet rounded the Ravenclaw goal-posts. “It’s a beautiful broom and a beautiful lady to show it off—”
“Jordan! Gryffindor has just scored the first point of the match, would you focus, please!?”
Harriet smirked. There was a tiny glint of gold near one of the barriers lining the pitch. She’d spotted it. Harriet dived. Out of the corner of her eye, Harriet saw Cho dive too but it would be no good. Harriet was too far ahead and her broom was too fast.
Something else caught her eye. A Bludger was rocketing towards her, taking her by surprise. Harriet managed to dive out of the way just in time, missing the Bludger by mere inches. She corrected and looked around but to no avail. The Snitch had vanished again. A loud groan rose from the Gryffindor section, but a wave of cheers came from the Ravenclaws. The beaters may have been young, but whichever one of the twins had hit the Bludger was definitely a good shot.
George Weasley cracked another Bludger towards the beater in retaliation. The Ravenclaw beater almost got clobbered himself but managed to avoid it in time by rolling. He looked a lot less smug after that.
“Well it’s certainly turning into a one-sided match, Gryffindor leads by eighty-points to zero but did you see that manoeuvre there? Any lesser flyer or broomstick would have been dead meat for sure from that Bludger hit by one of the Argall twins. Chang seems to still be trying to keep pace but her Comet is just no match for the Firebolt’s sheer speed and acceleration. One can easily see just how precise the balance on the Firebolt—”
“JORDAN!” Professor McGonagall boomed. “Are you being paid to advertise for Firebolts?! Get on with the commentary!”
Soon Ravenclaw had begun to pull back, scoring three unanswered goals. This meant they were now only fifty points ahead over Ravenclaw, meaning if Cho caught the Snitch now, Ravenclaw would win.
Harriet kept her eyes peeled, frantic at that thought. She was not going to let Wood down, not this time. Finally, with a leap of her heart, Harriet spotted the Snitch once more. It was fluttering around the Gryffindor goal posts this time. Harriet shot off at once, her entire mind focused on keeping track of the Snitch.
Bump! Harriet was jostled sideways as Cho side-swiped her. Harriet glared and was about to retaliate by ramming Cho back when Madam Hooch’s whistled sounded.
“Penalty to Gryffindor!” Madam Hooch called. “Deliberate flying to collide!”
Harriet glared but Cho was grinning as Angelina flew over to take the penalty for Harriet. Angelina scored, but Cho’s ploy had worked all the same. They were down another ten points, but the Snitch had disappeared again.
Harriet scowled and climbed back above the pitch and the other players. She saw Cho climbing up to tail her again. Harriet grinned. So you want to play dirty?
Harriet dived. Cho bought it and dived too, thinking Harriet had seen the Snitch again. Harriet let Cho get close before she yanked back hard on the stick and shot almost straight upwards. Cho, unprepared for the move, continued to streak downwards toward the ground. It was as she climbed that Harriet felt her heart leap once more with excitement. She saw the Snitch again. It was hovering high above the Ravenclaw end. There was no way Cho would get there in time now.
Harriet rocketed forward on the Firebolt, Cho struggling to climb, being left far behind. However, Cho shrieked, causing Harriet to look around.
There were three of them. Three tall, black, hooded Dementors looking up at her, their long arms raised. Harriet didn’t think twice. She stuffed her hand into her robes and the pouch of her hoodie. She drew out her wand, pointed it at the Dementors and cried, “Expecto Patronum!”
Her wand bucked and a great, silver something burst from the tip of her wand and shot towards the dementors. Harriet returned her attention at once to the Snitch which was starting to move off again. Harriet gave chase, reaching out with her wand hand, still holding her wand and—
“YES!” Harriet cried as her fingers closed on the buzzing Snitch.
Madam Hooch’s whistled sounded. Harriet brought the Firebolt to a stop and was immediately set upon by the rest of the team. Everyone embraced in a tight, floating hug high above the pitch, shouting and cheering.
“Brilliant!” Wood cried holding Harriet tight. “That’s my girl!”
They floated back to the ground and what looked like the entire house came flooding onto the pitch to meet them. Ronnie was in the lead and greeted Harriet with a rib-cracking hug. Everyone was cheering and patting her on the back, even Percy was looking elated. Harriet wondered whether he was going to follow through on his bet with his girlfriend or not.
“Now that was a Patronus,” said a familiar, quiet voice in Harriet’s ear.
Harriet looked to see that it was Professor Lupin, who was smiling with unmistakable pride.
“They didn’t affect me at all,” Harriet said. “I didn’t feel a thing.”
“Ah,” Professor Lupin said looking both amused and awkward. “I’m afraid I have some bad news there. Follow me.”
Harriet looked confused but followed. They reached the edge of the crowd and Harriet felt her eyes go wide with surprise and amusement.
“I’m afraid you gave Misses Parkinson, Fanfarró and Aarons quite a fright,” Professor Lupin said.
Harriet gaped. There in a crumpled heap of billowing black robes was Pixie Fanfarró, Pansy Parkinson, and Wendy Aarons. They were all struggling to get out of the robes but not having an easy go of it. By the looks of it, all three had been standing on bar-style stools they must have taken from the Potions classroom. The icing on the cake was the furious look on Professor McGonagall’s face as she loomed over the three girls.
“An unworthy and childish trick!” Professor McGonagall bellowed. “Cowardly! Nothing more than a low trick in an attempt to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker! That’s a detention for all of you and fifty points from Slytherin! I’ll be speaking to Professor Dumbledore about this!”
Ronnie and Dora had fought their way over too and Ronnie actually fell to the ground laughing while Dora doubled up, hanging on Harriet’s shoulder.
“Come on, Harriet!” George called from the crowd. “Party in the common room!”
Harriet waved back and together with Ronnie and Dora they headed back to the castle.
* * * *
The party lasted the entire day and well into the night. If Harriet didn’t know better, she would have thought they had already won the Quidditch Cup. Fred and George snuck out at one point and didn’t return for two hours, but when they did, their arms were full of sweets like butterbeer, pumpkin fizz, and an entire box of Honeydukes sweets.
“Where do you two get this stuff?” Erica asked as the twins began throwing Peppermint Toads out to the crowd.
“Oh you know,” George said. His voice was strange, and Harriet wasn’t sure if he was trying to sound casual, or smug. “Just a magic trick.”
“And a bit of help from Mooney, Wormtail, Paws, Padfoot, and Prongs,” Fred whispered in Harriet’s ear.
Harriet giggled. Fred smiled but then looked curious. “Where’d you get that?” he asked pointing down at Harriet’s wrist. Harriet looked and saw the mystery bracelet she’d been given for Christmas.
“Oh yeah, someone gave it to me for Christmas,” Harriet said holding it up to show. “No idea who. Said it’s a prototype to detect when people are lying, kind of like a Sneakoscope. Except instead of squealing and deafening people, it turns red.”
“Really?” Fred asked, his voice full of interest. “How’s it worked so far?”
“I’m not sure,” Harriet replied. “It’s only turned red a couple times, but I’ve never been sure who could be lying around me when it does.”
“I see…” Fred muttered thoughtfully. “No one around you lying at all when it happened?”
“Not that I’m aware,” Harriet said. “Last time it happened was one of the times Hermione’s cat tried to eat Scabbers.”
Fred rubbed his chin thoughtfully and muttered to himself as he looked at the bracelet. Harriet was going to ask him what he was thinking when she noticed Hermione sitting in the corner by herself, working away at homework once more. Harriet excused herself from Fred and made her way over.
“You alright?” Harriet asked as she sat next to Hermione.
“Yeah,” Hermione said wearily. “I’m fine. Good flying today by the way.”
“Thanks,” Harriet replied. She took in Hermione’s baggy eyes and creased forehead. “Come on, Hermione, have some food, you need to relax.”
“I can’t, Harriet,” Hermione said, her voice starting to rise in pitch. “I’ve still got four hundred twenty two pages to read by Monday!”
“You know, if Scabbers hadn’t just been eaten he probably would have liked these fudge flies,” came Ronnie’s voice, full of accusation. “They were his favourite.”
Hermione broke down into tears at once and slammed her book shut, tucked it under her arm, and ran back up the staircase to the girls’ dormitory before Harriet could say or do anything.
Harriet scowled at Ronnie. This was getting ridiculous. Harriet felt bad about Scabbers too but there was no need to be that rude about it. Harriet made her way over and pulled Ronnie aside, holding Ronnie’s arm rougher than she’d intended.
“Can’t you give her a break,” Harriet asked Ronnie under her breath.
“No,” Ronnie indignantly, tugging her arm out of Harriet’s grasp. “If she just acted like she was sorry—”
“Running away in tears looks pretty sorry to me,” Harriet said, not caring to keep the accusation out of her voice.
Ronnie’s face softened. “I… well… I’ll talk to her tomorrow…”
The party ended at one in the morning, when Professor McGonagall turned up in her tartan dressing gown and night-cap. Harriet and Ronnie headed up the stairs together. Despite her excitement, the exertion of the day was starting to weigh on Harriet and her legs and eyelids felt heavy as she made her way into the room. Hermione looked as though she was already in bed.
Parvati, Lavender, Basheera and AJ were chatting, all sitting cross-legged on Parvati’s bed. Tori was sprawled out on her stomach on her own bed, reading a book while Rachel was crawling under her covers.
Harriet changed into her bedclothes, bid everyone goodnight, and climbed into bed, closing her curtains. She really was exhausted. She slid between the soft sheets, under the warm fluffy duvet and instantly fell asleep.
There was a sound of hooves. Harriet spun around trying to see where it had come from. She caught a flash of something silver-white through the trees and started making her way towards it. Whatever it was, it was winding its way through the trees with practiced ease, and Harriet could never get a good look at it. She sped up, trying to catch it but the silver-white creature sped up in turn. Harriet began running and saw that the creature was leading her towards a clearing. She’d be able to catch it soon. Her excitement built when—
“Harriet! Wake up!”
“Whuh?” Harriet blinked. She was vaguely aware she’d been sleeping and dreaming, but what the dream was Harriet couldn’t remember anymore.
“Something’s happened, come on!” Hermione was saying, shaking Harriet again. Harriet slid out of bed and followed Hermione from the dormitory and down to the common room. Everyone was milling about looking worried.
“What’s going on?” Harriet asked Tori.
“Not sure, Marcus and Percy are fighting about something,” Tori replied.
Harriet and Hermione muscled through the crowd to the boys’ staircase. Marcus was sitting on the bottom-most step, Ronnie next to him with an arm around his shoulder. Marcus looked white as a ghost, and was trembling head to foot.
“Nonsense, Van Der Lakk,” Percy said indignantly. “You probably hallucinated or had a nightmare or something.”
“It wasn’t a nightmare!” Marcus snapped back. “You just don’t want to believe me because you don’t like me and you want a good grade as Head Boy—”
“Now really!” Professor McGonagall’s voice said angrily from the portrait hole.
Everyone parted as she strode into the middle of the room, looking around imperiously. “I’m delighted that Gryffindor won but…” she trailed off as she took in the looks on the students’ faces. “What happened?” she asked, sounding more concerned.
“Van Der Lakk had a nightmare and panicked, professor,” Percy said. “I was just telling them all to get back to bed.”
“I didn’t have a nightmare!” Marcus shouted over Percy. “Professor! I woke up and saw Sirius Black standing over me holding a knife!”
Silence swept over the crowd. Professor McGonagall stared at Marcus. “Don’t be ridiculous, Van Der Lakk, how could Black have gotten through the portrait hole?”
“Ask that loonie,” Marcus said, pointing at the portrait hole. “Ask if he saw him.”
Professor McGonagall looked suspicious, but turned back to the portrait hole and pushed it open. “Sir Cadogan, did you just let a man into Gryffindor tower?”
“Of course, my dear lady!” Sir Cadogan cried cheerfully.
“You did?!” Professor McGonagall exclaimed. “But, the password?!”
“He had them!” said Sir Cadogan jovially. “Had the whole weeks! Just read them off a piece of paper!”
Professor McGonagall came back in through the portrait hole. She was white, but Harriet had never seen an angrier person in her whole life. And as she lived with Vernon Dursley, that was saying something.
“Which person…” Professor McGonagall asked looking around furiously. “Which abysmally foolish, careless, and irresponsible person wrote down this week’s passwords and left them lying around?!”
The silence that followed was almost deafening. There was a quiet shuffling noise and Neville Longbottom, trembling from head to foot, stepped into the open, and slowly raised his hand.