Part 10: May 1992 (I)
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Gryffindor first-year boys’ dormitory, just after midnight.
For the next few weeks, between Baby Danny, Quidditch practice and Hermione’s study schedule, Harry didn’t have too much time to spend on either Philosopher’s Stone, Fae girl or Malfoy.
Luckily, nothing seemed to happen on the Philosopher’s Stone front, or on the Malfoy front. Quirrell had returned, looking as timid as ever but apparently he was still resisting Snape. Malfoy seemed to be leaving Neville alone and contented himself with glowering at Harry… no doubt he was plotting his next move, but Harry was fairly certain he’d be ready for him.
The dreams about Lady Vidia continued, but Harry was getting used to them now. He had started to look forward to bedtime, because that meant a chance to see her. Even if he hardly ever remembered any details afterwards, he did always wake up with a good feeling inside.
Until that one night.
Harry opened his eyes, staring out into the darkness. He didn’t know what time it was, or what he had dreamed about, but he knew that something was wrong. Something was deeply wrong. It was like a mild feeling of nausea, but not in his stomach… it was more like… something out there. Something was wrong, something that needed to be set right…
The Forbidden Forest. That was where he needed to be.
He sat up in bed and saw to his surprise that Ron was on his feet and in the middle of getting dressed.
“Harry!” said Ron. “Ah, sorry, did I wake you?”
“What’s going on?” Neville was sitting up in his bed, rubbing his eyes.
Harry reached out for his glasses and put them on. “I just have this feeling that something’s wrong… that I have to get down to…”
“The Forbidden Forest?” Ron’s eyes widened. “You’re feeling that too?”
“You’re feeling that too?” said Harry.
“Yeah, I started having these weird dreams and then I woke up and was feeling like shit, and all I know is that I have to get down to the Forbidden Forest.” Ron fidgeted. “I don’t know what’s wrong, I just know that something’s wrong.”
“I… I think I’m feeling it too,” said Neville. “B-but Ron, we can’t go down to the Forest now, not in the middle of the night. We’ll get in trouble.”
“I don’t care!” said Ron. “We have to!”
“Shhh!” Harry looked around at his other dorm mates, but neither Dean nor Seamus showed any sign of stirring or waking up. “Ron’s right, Neville,” he said. “We’ll take the Invisibility Cloak, it should be big enough for the three of us.”
“But…” Neville bit his lip, then looked down at his bracelet. He hadn’t taken it off even once since Jenny had given it to him. “Oh, all right. But we have to be quiet.”
Five minutes later, covered by the Invisibility Cloak, they moved out the door and down the stairs towards the common room.
But just as he was about to start down the final set of steps, Harry stopped and listened. Voices were coming from the common room, hushed but impassioned.
“…It doesn’t matter what you say,” one voice hissed. “You’re not going out to the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night!”
“Am I crazy, or is that Percy?” Ron whispered.
“But we have to! Come on, you feel it too!” came a second voice.
“Something’s going on there right now! Something is wrong!” a third voice insisted.
“And that’s Fred and George!” said Ron. “What’s going on here?”
“And we’re going to investigate, but not this way!” said Percy. “You seem to have forgotten that I’m a prefect.”
“We didn’t forget, we just don’t care,” said Fred (or possibly George, Harry still hadn’t learned to tell their voices apart).
“Well, you should!” said Percy. “Because as a prefect, and unlike you two, I’m allowed out after curfew. So I’m going out. You are staying right here. If Ron shows up too, tell him I’m on the case!”
“If you think we’re just going to — hello, what are you doing here?” George’s (or possibly Fred’s) voice cut itself off in surprise.
For a brief moment, Harry thought he and Ron had been discovered, but then he heard a fourth voice. “Well, this is going to be a little hard to explain…”
“Hermione?!” Ron exclaimed… unfortunately a little too loudly, because the voices from the common stopped talking.
Then, a little more loudly, Percy’s voice sounded: “All right, Ron, we know you’re there. You can come down.”
Harry, Ron and Neville looked at each other. Harry sighed and pulled the Invisibility Cloak off them, and without further ado they walked down the final set of steps to see… not only Fred, George, Percy and Hermione, but Lavender, of all people, as well.
“Harry? Ron? Neville?!” said Hermione. “What are you doing out of —”
“All right, let’s get this straight,” said Percy, straightening himself and looking as prefect-like as he could. “Everyone here woke up and came down because they sensed there was something unpleasant going on in the Forbidden Forest, and felt compelled to go and check. Am I right?”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Lavender. “But something awful is going on in the Forest. I can’t sleep, It’s terrible, it’s like something’s calling to me, and Parvati won’t wake up because she’s taken one of her sleeping potions, and Hermione…”
“Okay!” said Percy. “Here’s how it’s going to be. I’m going out and reporting this to Professor McGonagall. You lot are going to stay right here. If either of you set a foot outside this common room before morning, I will dock house points.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Ron!”
“You can’t go to Professor McGonagall with this!” said Lavender. “She doesn’t care about anything other than her lessons and her discipline. Why would she care about us having strange feelings?”
“She doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to listening to concerned students,” Hermione agreed.
“Why does everyone keep ignoring that I’m a prefect?” Percy huffed. “Professor McGonagall might not listen to you, but she’ll listen to me!” With that, he turned on his heels and marched out of the room.
He hadn’t been gone for more than five seconds before Fred turned to the others. There was something serious in his expression that Harry had never seen before. “I don’t care what Percy says. We’re going. Everyone with me?”
“With you all the way, brother,” said George.
Harry hadn’t known the Weasley twins to have a serious bone in their bodies before, but it looked like they could be very grave when they wanted to. “I’m coming too,” he said,
“We’re all coming,” said Hermione. “Maybe Percy’s right and Professor McGonagall will listen to him, but I’m not willing to take that chance. Something’s going on, and if nobody else cares enough to find out what, then we have to do it! Some things are more important than curfews!” She shot Ron a furious look. “And if you were thinking about saying something like ‘who are you and what have you done with Hermione Granger,’ I’m sure we’d all appreciate it if you didn’t.”
“I wasn’t!” said Ron, a little too quickly. “I was just thinking about the last time we talked about going out after curfew, back in September…”
“Well, that was different, wasn’t it? Back then you were going out to fight a silly duel that Malfoy had tricked you into. This might be something serious. Besides…” She softened a little. “Back then we weren’t friends.”
“Touching as this friendship moment is,” said Fred, “we’re not getting anything done just standing here. Come on!”
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Hogwarts school grounds, after midnight.
Of course, with seven of them, they couldn’t use the Invisibility Cloak. But Fred and George’s uncanny ability to find all the hidden passageways and exits of the castle was almost as good — and soon, they all were hurrying across the school grounds towards the Forbidden Forest.
“So how come we’re the only ones who felt that something was up at the Forbidden Forest?” said Harry as the Forest loomed up in front of them.
“No idea,” said George. “Fred and I always felt drawn to the Forest, but we thought it was mostly because it was forbidden, you know? Can’t call a place ‘Forbidden’ and then not expect us to try and go there. But since Percy felt it too, that’s clearly not it. I just hope —”
He didn’t get any further, because all of a sudden their path was blocked by an oddly familiar bat-eared creature.
“Stop!” it said, in a frightened, but insistent tone. “Students mustn’t go into the Forest!”
Everyone instinctively backed off… apart from Ron, who looked at the creature with a surprised expression. “I know you!” he exclaimed “You’re one of the house-elves we met at Hagrid’s, aren’t you? Er… what was your name again? Lucky? Lam?”
“Leeney,” the house-elf answered. “Lucky and Lam are Leeney’s friends, but… don’t try to distract Leeney!” he interrupted himself. “You mustn’t be here! Too dangerous for students!”
“What’s going on here, Leeney?” said George, who seemed to recognize the house-elf as well. “You’ve never cared about us going to the Forbidden Forest before! Well, Hagrid keeps stopping us from entering, but that’s because it’s his job —”
“The Forest is angry. The Forest is in pain.” Leeney spoke in a near-whisper. “A unicorn killer is on the loose.”
Harry didn’t know why these words sounded so wrong to him, but they did. It was as if he was being told someone was eating human babies or something. He could see that Ron looked nauseous, and Lavender was close to tears.
“Unicorn killer?” Fred’s voice was weak. “Who would… who would kill a unicorn?”
“Leeney doesn’t know,” said Leeney. “The unicorn was found dead in the forest glen. The forest calls for all connected to Faerie; find the killer, stop the killer. All the kitchen elves, everyone is in the forest looking for the killer. Headmaster Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid and Professor Filius, they’re in the forest looking for the killer too. Centaurs, flitlings, everyone. Even the big three-headed dog.”
“What?!” Harry exclaimed. “Fluffy’s in there?! But if he’s there, who’s guarding the… er…. “ he stopped. There were too many people around who didn’t know about the Philosopher’s Stone.
“Students should not be here!” Leeney insisted. “Not safe. Go back to the castle.”
“Not if there’s someone in the forest killing unicorns!” Neville suddenly burst out. “We’ve got to — we’ve got to —” he faltered, probably realizing that if the forest already had a lot of elves, flitlings, and Dumbledore roaming about looking for the killer, there wasn’t a lot seven students could offer. “Anyway, I won’t be in danger, I’ve got this.” He held up his bracelet.
“Still no,” said Leeney. “Leeney is very sorry, but even Neville Longbottom and his bracelet cannot be in the forest. Please. Go back to the castle.”
“Hagrid’s hut,” Hermione suddenly said. “That should be safe enough, right? We’ll be close by in case something happens, but we won’t be in danger.” She looked at Leeney. “We can talk to Hagrid about it afterwards, I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“That’s not a bad idea!” said Ron. “Besides… Baby Danny’s probably home alone right now! No way Hagrid would have taken him out in the Forest if there’s a killer on the loose!”
“Wait, who’s Baby Danny?” said Hermione.
“Someone we can look after while Hagrid’s out in the Forest!” said Ron.
Leeney looked uncertain, but then finally nodded. “But don’t leave the hut. Leeney means it. Don’t leave the hut.”
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Hagrid’s hut, a good while after midnight.
The introduction of Fred, George, Lavender and Hermione to Baby Danny had gone surprisingly smoothly. The baby dragon had been sitting in one of the windows, looking out towards the forest and whimpering, either because he missed Hagrid or because he was feeling the presence of the unicorn killer as well. But he’d calmed down when Harry and friends had entered and even seemed happy to see them. After greeting Harry and Ron, he’d given everyone else a few courtesy sniffs, before apparently deciding they were all right… and then he’d climbed up on Lavender, draped himself around her neck like a scaly fur stola.
“What’s he doing?” said Lavender, sounding like she couldn’t decide if she should panic or squee in delight.
“I think it means he likes you,” said Ron.
“So this is the secret you’ve been keeping from me!” said Hermione, looking at Harry and Ron. “I knew there was something going on here in Hagrid’s hut, but I thought you’d share when you were ready. But that Hagrid had a baby dragon… I thought they were illegal to keep as pets!”
Harry pondered for a brief moment to tell her the entire story, flitlings and Fae sleep and all, but then decided this probably wasn’t the time.
Ron seemed to have reached the same conclusion. “It’s a very long story, and it’s not what’s important right now,” he said, glancing out towards the Forest. “Unicorn killer. There is one here in the Forest. Someone… some monster is there right now, killing unicorns. No wonder we’re all feeling so rotten!”
Harry felt a shiver go down his spine. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Obviously killing unicorns is bad, but why am I so, er, disgusted by just the thought?”
Fred sighed. “Can only mean you’re connected to Faerie,” he said. “That’s why us Weasleys are feeling it, at least. What about the rest of you? Did your families befriend one of the Fae courts too?”
“My Gran would never,” said Neville. He looked down at the bracelet. “I suppose it’s because I’m wearing this.”
“What is that, anyway?” Fred looked curiously at the bracelet. “Why’d you show it to Leeney?”
“My family doesn’t have a connection either,” said Harry hurriedly, to spare Neville some awkward explanations. “Far as I know, it’s just me. But, er, I know the unicorns are supposed to be revered by the Fae and all, but I’ve never met one before. I know Ron has a wand with unicorn tail hair, but other than that…”
Hermione took a deep breath and went on, in that voice she sometimes used when quoting from a book: “Of the Fae creatures that might decide to roam the mortal plane, the unicorn is the only one with no natural enemies. All Fae creatures revere it, non-Fae animals tend to leave it alone, and even to a wizard harming a unicorn is a great crime. Although unicorn tail hair has great magical properties and is coveted by wand makers, these magical properties will fail if great care is not taken to avoid harming the unicorn… why are you all looking at me like that?” she added in a more normal tone of voice. “It’s all in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.”
“That book’s on the third year curriculum!” said Fred. “It’s the book George and I use for our Care of Magical Creatures lessons!”
“You’re a first-year!”
“I like to read!”
“It’s more than that,” said Ron, exchanging glances. “We know you like to read. You collect trivia like others collect Chocolate Frog cards. But with everything you know about these things… nobody could learn all that just by reading!”
“Just because some of us actually pay attention to what we read…” Hermione began.
“No, he’s right,” said Harry. “Only people who are connected to Faerie could feel the Forest being angry about the unicorn killer,” said Harry. “And you’re here. And you’re Muggle-born, but you know more magic than anyone else… Ron and I aren’t the only ones who have been keeping secrets, are we?”
Hermione looked at him. Her eyes darted around the room, resting on Ron, Lavender, Neville and Baby Danny. “Are you on about that again?!” she said. “I promise you. I’ll swear any oath you like. I’m not your precious Fae girl…” She trailed off. Lavender had placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Hermione,” she said. She looked more serious than Harry could ever remember seeing her, even with Baby Fanny still draped around her neck. “I think… I think we can tell them. It had to come out sooner or later.” Taking a deep breath, she looked straight at Harry. “Hermione’s telling the truth. She really isn’t your precious Fae girl. I am.”
“Wait!” said Neville, looking at Lavender. “Are you saying you’re a Fae?!”
“No, I’m human,” said Lavender. “Mostly human, at least. I think. It’s complicated. Um. My godmother’s a Fae. I have mentioned my godmother, right?”
“You don’t have to tell them if you don’t want to, Lavender,” said Hermione. She gave the boys a fierce glare. “Lavender’s had a hard time, she’s been through a lot and she doesn’t need a lot of people asking a lot of prying questions, okay?”
“And don’t be angry at Hermione for not telling you about me!” Lavender hurried to add. “She figured it out, but I made her promise not to tell anyone. I was scared. I mean… you’re all here, so I guess you’re all right, but I’ve found out that wizards really don’t like the Fae. Remember what everyone was like at the welcome feast?”
Harry nodded. That welcoming feast had scared him as well. If he’d known about Lavender back then… Though, really, what could he have said? ‘Don’t worry, I have three annoying flitlings as guardians and I dream about a pretty Fae lady at night’?
“Yeah, wizards get tetchy about the Fae,” said George. “And if they know you have a connection to the Fae… Why do you think Fred and I always play the class clowns? Or Percy’s so obsessed with being Prefect? Everyone knows the Weasleys are ‘filthy Fae lovers.’ We’re just trying to show them that there’s more to us than that.”
“It worked too!” said Fred, with a certain satisfaction. “When people talk about us at Hogwarts, they hardly ever mention Fae at all. But how did you end up with a Fae as a godmother, Lavender? Your family do some great favour for some high-up Fae person or something? That’s why we’re aligned with the Summer Court.”
“I’m Spring Court,” said Lavender. “Or my godmother is, so I suppose that makes me Spring Court too. I don’t know about my family. I think they’re Muggles.”
“I didn’t know you were Muggle-born!” said Ron.
“I didn’t know I was Muggle-born either,” said Lavender. “I didn’t know much of anything, at first…”
“What do you mean?” Fred looked at her curiously.
Lavender took a deep breath. “I mean that the earliest memory I have is from last August. The first thing I remember is that I woke up in a hotel room in Somerset, and had no idea who I was or why I was there. I knew how to walk and talk and dress myself, I knew what words meant and how to do sums, and I knew that London is the capital of England… but I didn’t know anything about me. I couldn’t remember my name or my parents or where I lived or anything. Neville, are you okay?”
Neville was oddly pale. “I… er. It’s nothing, this just reminds me of… I mean… it’s obviously not the same thing.”
“Not the same thing as what?” It was Lavender’s turn to look curious.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
“Not the same thing as nothing?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with this. I think. Er. You woke up and you didn’t know who you were. That sounds scary.”
Lavender looked at him, but then just shrugged. “It really wasn’t. I mean, it sounds scarier than it was. I was mostly just confused. So my godmother — oh yes, I forgot to tell you that my godmother was there. She was sitting by my bed. She asked if I’d slept well and I said I thought I had. It was then I realized that I realized I didn’t know who I was, so I asked her what my name was. She asked me what I wanted my name to be. I thought it over and said I thought Lavender seemed like a good name… I don’t know where I got it from, it just seemed right to have a colour name. She said Lavender was fine with her, and that we could find a surname that matched. So in the end I was Lavender Brown.”
“And that’s it?” said George, trying to keep up. “You don’t know anything else?!“
“I only know what my godmother told me,” said Lavender. “She told me that she’d brought me there, and that I’d used to be someone else, but I’d been given a new lease on life and from now on I would be a wizard and a girl, She said that I liked I could go to magic school, and that sounded like a good deal, so I said I’d like that…”
“Hold on!” said Fred. “From now on you’d be a girl? Does that mean you’re really a —”
“Don’t!” Hermione snapped, glaring at him. “She’s a girl, okay?!”
“I… I was just asking,” said Fred, a little taken aback.
“You weren’t just asking!” said Hermione. “I know you! You were going to make fun of her! If I didn’t stop you, you would be making tasteless comments about girl’s showers or Polyjuice Potion or what have you. We’re not having any of that! Lavender is a girl, and that’s all we’ll say about that. All right?!”
“All right, all right!” Fred raised his hands. “It doesn’t really matter anyway. Sounds like some kind of Fae enchantment. They’re masters of transformations… far beyond what any wizard could manage. Turning a boy into a girl would be easy for them.”
Harry nodded, thinking of Yellow, Magenta and Cyan. They were all girls… but two of them hadn’t used to be. Their transformation certainly had been total… he still had no clue which flitling had been which Dursley, because none of their original character traits remained. Lavender was really the girliest girl he’d ever met. but that didn’t mean she couldn’t have been a boy once upon a time. “So… you really don’t remember anything about your life from before? Nothing about your parents or siblings or… anything?”
Lavender shook her head. “I know I was human, and that I wasn’t a wizard. And I think I was a boy. That’s it. But I did get the feeling that my godmother had saved me from something, so maybe my human family were bad people. Maybe they beat me or something. I don’t remember.”
“While we’re confessing anyway,” said Hermione, “that’s what all the ‘girl days’ we’ve had have been about. Lavender, Parvati and I have been trying to find out more about her previous life.”
“So… Parvati knows too?” said Harry.
“Yes, and Padma,” said Hermione. “It wasn’t that hard to figure out after that Halloween fiasco, Harry. Snape was talking about a Fae girl, Lavender had been gone for a bit and was crying when she came back. Of course there was a connection.”
“He was so horrid to me,” said Lavender. Baby Danny nuzzled her cheek comfortingly. “He accused me of letting in the troll as a prank. I didn’t have anything to do with the troll, I really didn’t. But he wouldn’t believe me. He told me he knew I was tied to the Fae… he said he’d have me expelled if he ever got the proof…”
“What a bastard!” said Ron. “But why am I surprised, it’s Snape.”
“You remember I told you I met up with Lavender, Parvati and Padma during the Christmas holidays?” said Hermione. “Well, that was when Lavender finally told us about her godmother and her background. We’ve been trying to find out who she was before, but since she doesn’t remember anything…”
“Parvati and Padma were very shocked to learn about me,” said Lavender. “But they took it well… And luckily Hermione doesn’t have the… er… the…”
“Cultural bias against the Fair Folk that seems to be one of the staples of wizarding society,” said Hermione.
“Yes, that,” said Lavender sheepishly. “That’s what all our girl days have been about lately… they’re trying to help me find my Muggle family, but since I don’t remember my old name, there’s not a lot we can find out… but I didn’t want too many people to know. I don’t think even the teachers know, apart from Snape… Maybe McGonagall. I don’t think she trusts me.”
“Well, Dumbledore knows,” said Harry. “Or at least he suspects. He told me as much. But I don’t think he cares.”
“He told you about me?” said Lavender, surprised.
“He didn’t mention your name, but… it must have been you he was talking about,” said Harry, and couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of triumph. The mystery about the Fae girl was solved. All right, he hadn’t actually done much to solve it himself, but… a lot of things made a lot more sense now that he knew.
There was only one thing that still puzzled him.
“But Hermione,” he said. “If you really aren’t tied to the Fae at all… how come you’re here now? How is it that you’re feeling the Forest calling?”
“I’m not,” said Hermione simply. “I just woke up when Lavender panicked. She insisted that she had to get down to the Forbidden Forest and wouldn’t listen to a word I said. So in the end I just decided to come with her… I couldn’t let her go out alone.”
“Oh,” said Harry, feeling a little silly for not having seen the obvious explanation. “So you really aren’t feeling anything.”
“No,” she answered. “What does it feel like?”
The others all looked at each other. The feeling was weaker, more bearable, here in Hagrid’s hut, but there was still the sensation of grief and anger, and a feeling that they really should go into the Forest…
“Sad,” said Lavender. “Angry. Frustrating. I don’t know.” Still with Baby Danny draped around her shoulder, she walked up to the window to peer out towards the Forest.
“It’s kind of like feeling I have to do something, but knowing I can’t do it,” said Ron. “Never felt anything like it before. It’s…” He searched for the words and then gave up. “You’re not missing out.”
“I don’t think they’ve caught the killer yet,” said George. “Everyone’s still feeling it, right? Apart from Hermione, I mean?”
“What’s that?!” Lavender suddenly exclaimed. She was staring out the window.
Everyone else rushed over to the window to look. Outside, the Hogwarts grounds were dark and quiet.
“…What are we looking for?” said Fred.
“I don’t know,” said Lavender. “A shadow. Or something. It was headed towards the castle. I only caught a glimpse of it, but I know it was there.”
Something clicked in Harry’s head.
“The killer.” he said. “Of course. Of course! Guys — I know who the unicorn killer is! And I know why he killed that unicorn! Neville… you have to go into the Forest.”
“I — what?!” Neville yelped.
“It’ll be fine, you still have your bracelet, you won’t get hurt!” said Harry. “Find Hagrid, find Dumbledore, find anyone. Tell them that the Philosopher’s Stone is in danger.”
“The what?!” Neville looked flabbergasted.
Harry took a deep breath. “Remember what Leeney said: The three-headed dog is in the Forest. That means Fluffy has left his post. And if that was the killer Lavender saw running towards the castle…!”
Hermione gasped as it sank in. “…it’s Snape! It must be! He’s been trying to get past Fluffy for months, but if he found out that Fluffy would be drawn to the Forest if he felt the murder of a unicorn…!”
“Exactly!” said Harry. “He finally found a way to get past Fluffy! Now that he knows Fluffy isn’t there, he’s going straight back to the castle!”
“Excuse me,” said Fred. “Would you mind telling us what the hell you two are talking about?”
“No time.” Harry dug into his robe pocket and fished out the Invisibility Cloak, beginning to put it on as he made his way through the small crowd towards the entrance door. “Neville, you go get Dumbledore. I’m going after Snape. Maybe I can cut him off or something.”
“You’re crazy!” said George. “He’ll see you! You don’t have a chance!”
“He won’t see me, I have my Invisibilty Cloak!” Harry tried to sound more confident than he felt. He was aware that this was probably the stupidest thing he had ever done… but he had to do it. Snape was a unicorn killer. He couldn’t be allowed to get away.
Harry was halfway to the door when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “You’re not going out there alone,” said Ron. “Cloak’s big enough for the two of us.”
“For the three of us,” said Hermione, who came hurrying after them. “I still say this is stupid and dangerous, but if I can’t stop you, I’m going with you. You’ll need someone with half a brain along.”
Harry thought about protesting, but only for a moment. Both Ron and Hermione looked so earnest that he just couldn’t turn them down. Besides… he’d felt it before, back during Halloween, and now the feeling returned stronger than ever. The three of them, together… it just felt right.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll take you two. But I think that’s as much as my Invisibility Cloak can handle, and Neville’s bracelet’ll only work for him. The rest of you’ll have to stay here. Er… just make sure Baby Danny doesn’t get out.”
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Hogwarts grounds, still a few hours before dawn.
The school grounds were dark and quiet. A few faint noises could be heard from the Forbidden Forest, probably from the many people and creatures who were searcing for the unicorn killer, but the school grounds themselves were as peaceful as you’d expect school grounds to be in the middle of the night.
Harry, Ron and Hermione huddled under the Invisibility Cloak. It was big enough to cover all three of them, though they had to stay close to each other, and it got a little awkward to move around like that. If they’d had more practice in walking around in a huddle it would probably have gone easier; as it was there were a certain amount of accidental pushes and feet being stepped on.
“Ow!” Hermione yelped. “That was my foot!”
“Sorry,” Ron whispered. “Can you see anything?”
“No… wait, I think… yes, there.” Harry peered out into the darkness. It was kind of like trying to spot the Snitch at a Quidditch game; you just had to keep looking out for movement where movement shouldn’t be. “He’s moving towards the castle… no, towards the Quidditch pitch. He’s not moving very fast. I’m not sure why. Maybe he’s hurt or something. Come on, I think we can catch up with him. ”
It wasn’t the easiest thing to move quickly when you were three people under an Invisibility Cloak, but they made the best effort of it. Harry kept his eyes fixed on the figure. Snape the unicorn killer. It was as if Harry was being pulled towards it now, but whether it was his Faerie connection, his hatred for Snape, or just some sort of morbid fascination was impossible to say.
Snape had stopped moving. He was standing by the broom shed… the very same broom shed where the Quidditch teams kept their broomsticks… even Harry’s beloved Nimbus Two Thousand was there…. Did Snape want to steal a broomstick too? Or maybe he just needed to hide while fixing up whatever injury he had?
Silently as they could, they crept closer to the broom shed. Harry wasn’t surprised at all to see that the door was open.
“He’s inside the broom shed,” he hissed, hoping that they were still too far away for their whispered voices to be heard. “If we can sneak up to the shed, we can lock him in!”
“That won’t slow him down for long,” said Hermione dubiously.
“Maybe long enough!” said Harry. ”Ron, you’re the fastest of us. Run back to the Forest, call for Neville, tell him that we have Snape locked in the broom shed. Then get Fred and George, get everybody. Just hurry!”
Ron seemed like he was about to protest, but apparently thought better of it. He nodded and ducked out from underneath the Invisibility Cloak. Seconds later, he was speeding across the school grounds towards the Forest, faster than Harry had ever seen anyone run.
Harry and Hermione were left, still under the Cloak. It was a little easier to stay hidden with just two people under the Cloak instead of three, but they still had to stand so close together that he could feel her body against his, tense and anxious.
“All right,” he whispered. “Are you ready?”
“Yes, but be quiet,” she breathed. “The closer we get, the more likely he is to hear us.”
Silent as a shadow, thankful that their feet didn’t make any sound against the soft grass, they moved closer towards the shed. And, to their surprise, as they got closer they could hear hushed voices from the inside.
As they moved even closer, Harry started to be able to distinguish between two distinct voices. There were definitely two people in there, and they were arguing about something… well, maybe not arguing so much as one voice berating the other.
He frowned. Neither of the voices belonged to Snape. But… if it wasn’t Snape in there, who was it?
“…I will not tolerate weakness!” the one voice was saying. Harry felt a chill down his spine as it spoke – it sounded harsh, cold, inhuman. ”I admit that you have been of use to me… but do not overestimate your value. You are in no way essential. And if you prove a liability… I will not hesitate to abandon you to your fate.”
“Forgive me, my Lord,” the other voice said. It was much softer, barely a murmur, and Harry thought it sounded familiar somehow… like a voice he had heard before and should know well, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “I thought we had more time before everyone showed up to hunt for us… but we did get out, didn’t we? Everyone reacted just like you thought they would.”
“I suppose that is true…” the first voice considered. “The Fair Folk are like Dumbledore, driven by their emotions… vengeance for a dead horse, what nonsense. That unicorn was of no use to anyone alive… at least its death serves a great purpose. The Stone is unguarded… and the blood seems to have revived you somewhat as well.”
“Yes, my Lord,” the second voice murmured. “I… I feel better. I just need to regain my strength.”
“You had better regain it quickly,” the first voice demanded. “I told you… I have no use for the weak… I will give you one more minute, then we are going.”
“Thank you, my Lord.” The first voice didn’t sound overly grateful. ”I will be strong…”
“You had better be.”
Under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and Hermione exchanged glances. Harry’s mind was in chaos, still reeling from the revelation that it wasn’t Snape in there… but he realized that he’d been right about the motivation for the kill, if not the identity of the killer. And now they only had a minute until whoever it was left the shed…
They crept the final few feet towards the open door, took a deep breath, and then, fast as they could, slammed it shut.
“What —?!” the voice came from inside, startled and outraged.
“Colloportus!” Hermione had her wand out in a flash, pointing it at the door, which locked itself with an audible click.
“Well done, Hermione!” Harry panted. “Now let’s just hope they don’t –”
And then the door exploded. Harry and Hermione were thrown off their feet by the force and landed on their backs, the Invisibility Cloak flung off them and ending up in a crumpled silvery heap on the grass.
Harry looked up to see a figure standing in the now empty door frame. It was wearing a cloak with a hood and was pointing a wand at him.
“Potter?!” The figure said in a tone somewhere between surprise and outrage.
And Harry suddenly realized where he had heard that voice before. “Professor Quirrell?!”
Harry barely had the time to reflect over how the hapless Defence teacher seemed to have lost his stutter, before thick ropes suddenly appeared out of thin air and wrapped themselves around him. Next to him, Hermione was getting the same treatment.
Bound and immobilized, they could only strain against their ropes.as they stared up at the most unlikely unicorn killer they could have imagined. Quirrell was carrying himself differently than normal; he no longer seemed timid and uncertain, and even seemed to have grown a little taller… though that was probably just because he’d stopped flinching and trying to take up as little space as possible. “I don’t know what you two are doing here,” he said. “But, with the situation we’re in, I suppose a couple of hostages would be useful.”
“What are you doing?!” Hermione cried, wriggling on the ground as she fought against her ropes.. “Let us go! A lot of people are on their way, they’ll get you, you don’t stand a chance —”
Quirrell pointed his wand at her. “Say ‘aaaah,’ Granger,” he commanded.
“You’ll never get away with this, Dumbledore’s going to — aaaaaaaaaaah…” Hermione opened her mouth wide. “Aaaaaaaaah — mmmph!” A cloth gag had appeared out of nowhere, muffling her voice.
“And now for you, Potter,” Quirrell pointed his wand at Harry.
“Wait!” The other voice called. It seemed to come from Quirrell, even though the teacher hadn’t moved his mouth at all. “The boy… Let me talk to him.”
“My Lord, we have no time!” Quirrel protested. “Unless Granger was bluffing, people will be here any minute… and you’re not strong enough…”
“I have strength… for this.” The other voice replied. “Harry Potter… is it true? Are people on their way?”
“I… yes.” The words just escaped Harry’s mouth. It was as if he couldn’t lie to this strange voice. “Probably. Ron ran to get help, Neville went into the Forest to find Dumbledore, someone’s going to come…”
“I see.” The cold voice made a hissing noise. “In that case, it appears our cover has been blown… We could probably modify your memories, make you forget you ever saw Quirrell… but that’s a little too risky. Instead… Let’s make a bargain, Harry Potter.”
“A bargain?” Something about that seemed weirdly familiar to Harry.
“The Philosopher’s Stone. I want it… You’re going to help me get it. And in return… I’ll let your girlfriend here live.”
“She’s not my —” Harry began, and then decided he was focusing on the wrong thing. “I don’t even know how to get to the Philosopher’s Stone,” he said. “I can’t get past that big dog!”
The voice laughed. It wasn’t a nice laugh. “The dog is busy chasing shadows around the Forbidden Forest,” it said. “Not that it was the only security measure, but it was the one that gave the most trouble… Other than Dumbledore and Severus watching Quirrell here like hawks, of course… but Dumbledore is distracted, and you’ve brought me the perfect tool to escape Severus’s detection… Quirrell… pick up that Invisibility Cloak. Then Levitate the children and cover them up.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“No!” Harry exclaimed as Quirrell reached down to grab the Invisibility Cloak.
“Thank you, Potter,” said Quirrell. He clutched the silvery Cloak and pointed his wand at Harry. “And now, say ‘aaaah’. Can’t have you crying out while I’m smuggling you into the castle.”
Harry tried to fight it, but his mouth opened wide and his voice sounded all on its own. “Aaaaaaaaaah… Mmmmhhh!” A cloth gag similar to Hermione’s had formed, silencing him.
Neither Harry nor Hermione could do anything but struggle helplessly against their ropes and grunt against their gags as they were levitated up in the air and covered by the Invisibility Cloak.