Part X: May 1992 (III)
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Gryffindor first-year dormitory, dawn.
“I shouldn’t have left them!” said Ron, probably for the tenth time. “I should have stayed!”
It was still a little early to be up and dressed, on a Saturday of all days, but when Ron and Neville had returned to the dormitory, Seamus and Dean had been awake and couldn’t even think about going back to sleep until they’d heard what had happened. So, Ron had given them a brief recap of the events of the night, minus certain Fae-related details. It had been a frustrating story to tell… especially since it ended with returning to the broom shed with reinforcements in the form of Hagrid and Dumbledore, only to find that Harry and Hermione were gone.
It hadn’t made things better that Percy and McGonagall had also shown up to “escort the students back to Gryffindor Tower,” effectively putting a stop to any chance of joining the search for Harry and Hermione.
“Well, look on the bright side,” said Seamus. “At least we didn’t lose any house points.”
“Who cares about the fucking house points!” Ron snapped. “Harry and Hermione are missing! Maybe they’re dead!! And I just left them!”
“Oh, they’re probably not dead,” said Dean hurriedly. “I mean, why’d they be dead? They’ve probably just been… kidnapped or something. Or Snape ran off and they followed, and they’re chasing him down right now…”
“And we’re stuck here in the dorm!” Ron raged. “I shouldn’t have left them!”
“Ron,” said Neville. “It’s… it’s awful that Harry and Hermione are missing, but if you hadn’t left them… wouldn’t you have gone missing too?”
“At least then we’d be together! I just —” Ron stopped mid-sentence and perked up. There was a knock on the door. Someone was at the door.
“Harry?” Ron exclaimed, rushing over to the door and flinging it open — and then staring in disappointment. It wasn’t Harry.
“Can I come in?” said Lavender. “Parvati still won’t wake up… that sleeping potion’s going to keep her asleep for a couple more hours at least… and I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Oh,” said Ron. “Yeah, sure, c’mon in.”
“Oy! Ron!” said Seamus. “What are you doing, inviting a girl in here! What if we’d all been walking around in the nuddy?”
“But we’re not,” said Ron, annoyed. “Relax, Seamus, it’s just Lavender, not a… succubus or anything.”
“No, I told you, I’m human,” said Lavender as she stepped into the dormitory. “Oh, this is a nice dormitory. A little messy, but nice. Is that your football poster, Dean? I remember you were talking about those West Ham people… Oh, you have a mirror too!”
“Of course we have a mirror,” said Seamus. “You thought girls were the only ones who needed to fix their clothes and hair in the morning?”
“Well… no…” Lavender fidgeted. “Apologies. I’m just worried about Hermione and Harry…”
“We all are,” said Neville. “But… we have to keep positive, right? Hagrid and Dumbledore and everyone are out looking for them. If Dumbledore can’t find them then, well, nobody could.”
“Was that supposed to be encouraging?” said Ron.
“What I don’t get,” said Dean, “is why you were all out there in the first place. What possessed you to go outside in the middle of the night?”
Ron, Neville and Lavender looked at each other.
“We just had to,” said Lavender vaguely. “Haven’t you ever had that feeling? That there’s something you just have to do, and you don’t know why you have to do it, but you know that you do have to?”
“Not that I can remember,” said Dean carefully. “Are you saying you were enchanted or something?”
“No!” said Lavender. “It was just… oh, I don’t know! We woke up and we had to get down to the forbidden Forest! Right? It was impossible not to do it!”
“It was impossible not to get out of bed, break curfew and go to a place that’s has the word ‘forbidden’ in its name?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” said Neville. “It doesn’t really matter anyway. Harry and Hermione —“
“Hello?” a voice suddenly sounded.
Everyone looked around. They couldn’t see whoever it was that had spoken.
“I know I heard voices,” came another voice. “Hello?”
“Hermione?” Lavender looked around.
“Harry?!” Ron looked around too, but he couldn’t see Harry or Hermione anywhere… and yet, that had been their voices. “Harry! Hermione! Are you there?!”
“Ron?” That was definitely Harry’s voice. It sounded strange, with an odd echo to it, but it was Harry. “I can’t see you… where are you?”
“I’m right here! Where are you?!”
“Ron, the mirror!” Lavender shrieked. She stormed over to the mirror, pressing her hands against it. “Hermione! Harry!”
“Lavender!” said a voice that, even with the echo effect, was clearly identifiable as Hermione’s. “Oh, thank goodness!”
“Wait, is that the boys’ dormitory?” came Harry. “What are you doing in the boys’ dorm, Lavender?”
“Never mind that,” said Lavender. “What are you doing in the mirror?!”
“Not a whole lot, really,” said Harry’s voice. “Is Ron there?”
Ron stormed over to the mirror, followed by Dean, Neville and Seamus. And instead of seeing their own reflections, they saw the Harry and Hermione looking out at them. Alive and well and not at all being tortured by Snape or anything like that… though what were those strange clothes? Instead of their school robes Harry and Hermione were both wearing deep red tunics that left their arms and legs bare, with shiny silver belts around their waists. Neither of them was wearing shoes, but Hermione had flowers in her hair.
“Ron!” said Hermione. “Are you all right? You must have been so worried!”
“Where… what happened to you?!” Ron managed to say. “Where are you? What are you wearing?!”
“Er… our school robes are being cleaned, so we borrowed these,” said Harry, looking a little embarrassed. “Is everyone okay?”
“Of course we’re okay!” said Ron. “We’re not the ones who were kidnapped by… er…”
“Quirrell,” said Harry. “It was Quirrell, Ron. We had him all wrong. He was working with You-Know-Who all this time.”
“But, er, we’re fine now,” said Harry hurriedly. “Sorry we didn’t try to contact you before, but, er… we kind of fell asleep.”
“Adrenaline drain and the fact that we’d been up all night,” Hermione added. “We even overslept…”
“Overslept?” said Ron. “You’ve only been gone for a couple of hours.”
“What? No!” Hermione protested. “We’ve been here for at least a night and a day. We slept for a really long time… they have some really comfortable beds here… and I took a really long bath too… it can’t have been just a couple of —”
“Time gets a little confused between realms,” a third tinny voice interrupted. A new figure appeared in the mirror between Harry and Hermione, placing an arm around their shoulders and smiling.
Ron had never seen the tall, green woman before, but knew instantly who she was: Lady Vidia, the Fae Lady who owed Harry seven favours, Jenny’s mother, and the Mistress of Yellow, Magenta and Cyan.
“Fae!” Seamus backed away from the mirror in fear.
“Godmother!” Lavender squealed, her face lighting up with joy.
“Hello, Lavender,” said Lady Vidia. “Are you enjoying magic school?”
“It’s all right,” said Lavender. “But I miss you! I haven’t seen you since Christmas! Why are you in the mirror?! Have you been able to do this all the time and I just never knew?!”
“Wait, hold on!” said Harry, looking from Lady Vidia to Lavender and back again. “Lavender’s your goddaughter? You’re the godmother she was talking about?”
“Yes!” said Lavender. “Didn’t I tell you? Oh, wait, no, I suppose I didn’t mention her name. I would have, but so many things were happening at once. Er… Harry, my godmother is Lady Vidia, of the Spring Court of Faerie.”
“You don’t say,” Harry sighed. “Lavender, no offense, but you really need to work on your timing.”
“So… Lavender has a fairy godmother?” said Dean, who was clearly trying and failing to keep up. “Like ‘Cinderella, you shall go to the ball’ and all that?”
“What? No! This isn’t a Muggle fairy tale!” Seamus exclaimed. “Don’t you remember what I told you, the Fae are dangerous!”
“Dangerous?” Lady Vidia wrinkled her brow. “You’re right, I am dangerous. Very dangerous. More dangerous, I’d wager, than most people you will meet… but you won’t meet many people who aren’t dangerous in some fashion. Harry here is dangerous too. And so is Hermione.” She ruffled both their hair. “And my darling Lavender, she’s very dangerous. And young Ron Weasley. Every single person around you is dangerous in their own way. How did that quote go, again? ‘You are surrounded by dangers, young wizard, for you are dangerous yourself.’ Something like that, anyway.”
“Wha — don’t try to confuse me!”
“It doesn’t seem like I would need to try very hard.” Lady Vidia rolled her eyes. “Oh, all right. You have nothing to fear from me, as long as you are a friend of Harry. Is that clear enough for you?”
“Seamus, it’s all right,” said Hermione. “She saved us! Quirrell would have killed us if it wasn’t for her! She brought us to Faerie by sending us through the mirror… er… there was a mirror there, it’s a long story. We’ll tell you all about it when we get back to Hogwarts.”
“Oh yeah? And when’ll that be?” Seamus snorted. “In fifty years, just in time to start your second year together with our grandkids?”
“Seamus, shut up!” said Ron. “If she saved them…!”
“No! I know your family’s all Fae-touched, but some of us have to keep a clear head here!” said Seamus. “What about all those stories where people are lured to Faerie and think they’ve only been gone for a day, but it’s really been decades?! She said it herself, time flows differently between our worlds!”
“Someone doesn’t trust me, I see…” Lady Vidia sighed dramatically. “Well, to appease the young man here, I suppose I can pull off another little trick.” She patted Harry and Hermione’s shoulders. “Tell you what. As an extra little add-on to my third favour, you can keep the clothes… just so I don’t send you back to your friends in your underwear. Lavender… I’ll contact you as soon as I can. Harry, Hermione… so long for now.” She gave them a gentle push.
The glass rippled, and Harry and Hermione came stumbling out of the mirror, all real and solid, and almost colliding with Ron and Lavender. They were still wearing those tunics and silver belts, not wearing any shoes, and Hermione still had flowers in her hair, but otherwise they were exactly as they’d been the last time Ron had seen them.
Behind them, the mirror was solid and smooth again, and there was no sign of Lady Vidia or anything other than their normal reflections.
“Oh,” said Harry, looking around. “Er… we’re back. Hey, guys.”.
“Is there any point in me asking what the hell just happened?” said Dean.
“It’s a long story,” said Harry. “I don’t think we have time for it right now. Hermione, you still have the Stone, right?”
Hermione held up a small, blood-red stone.
“Whoa,” said Ron. “Is that…?”
“It is,” said Hermione. “Oh, Ron, so much has happened, we have such a lot to tell you… but we have to get this Stone to Professor Dumbledore… and shoes. We need shoes.” She looked down at her bare feet.
“We need our wands!” said Harry. “Hermione, our wands are still back at Dewberry Grove, with our robes and… everything!”
All of a sudden, the mirror rippled again, and a big, black boarhound leaped out into the room. In his mouth he held a cloth bag, which he immediately dropped at Harry’s feet, before he tried to jump up on Ron to lick his face.
“Ah — what the — Fang?!” Ron tried to push away the enthusiastic dog. “Yeah, yeah, happy to see you, Fang — gerroff!” Hermione and Lavender came up to help and together managed to pull the enthusiastic dog off of Ron.
“She must have decided to send him back,” said Hermione, scratching between Fang’s ears. “Well, Hagrid’ll be happy.”
“All right, that’s it,” said Seamus, who had backed off even further, as if he was afraid he was under attack. “We’re throwing out that mirror! I’m not sleeping in the same room as a fecking portal to Faerie!”
“I don’t think it’s like that,” said Hermione.
“It’s exactly like that! We just saw that it’s like that! Back me up here, Neville!”
“Er…” Neville looked like he most of all wanted to run and hide. “I don’t really think… I mean…” He glanced down at his bracelet. “She’s Lavender’s godmother, how bad can she be?”
The discussion was interrupted by an exclamation from Harry: “It’s our wands!” He’d picked up the cloth bag Fang had dropped and rummaged through it, pulling out a pair of wands. “She sent Fang after us with our wands — here, Hermione, here’s yours. And our shoes are in here too. But… our robes aren’t.”
“Lucky I have spare robes in my dormitory,” said Hermione, clutching her wand in one hand and the Stone in the other. “These tunics are completely against the school dress code. Before we do anything else, though, we need to get this Stone back to Professor Dumbledore.”
“Couldn’t agree more,” said Harry. “Here’s your shoes.”
“Dumbledore’s gone looking for you,” said Ron. “Together with McGonagall and Hagrid and everyone. And I don’t care what Percy or anyone else says, you’re not going looking for him without me! Last time I left you two alone you got kidnapped!”
“I think we’ll be all right now, Ron,” said Harry. “Quirrell and You-Know-Who are gone. But… yeah, you should come along. If we do meet Percy on our way out, we need someone who can handle him. Er, Lavender, could you get Fang back to Hagrid, you think?”
“Not a chance. I’m coming with you.” Lavender wrapped her arms around Hermione.
“I’ll do it,” said Neville. “I don’t think there’s anything I can tell Dumbledore that he doesn’t already know, anyway.”
“Is anyone listening to me here?! We’re getting rid of that mirror!” said Seamus. “Or at the very least we’re putting iron bars around it!”
“Oh, whatever, Seamus!”
Saturday, 16th May 1992
Dumbledore’s office, early morning.
“It seems I owe you all an apology,” said Dumbledore, holding the Philosopher’s Stone in his hand. “Clearly my tactic for hiding the Stone had a rather glaring flaw. I wasn’t counting on Quirrell taking hostages.”
They were all gathered in his office — Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Lavender. Luckily, no House points had been taken and no detentions given; the Headmaster had just calmly listened to what Harry and Hermione had to say. He had stopped the telling a couple of times to ask a question or two, but otherwise had just let them speak. Now he was looking thoughtful.
“It seemed like such a clever idea on paper,” he said. “Anyone who wanted to use the Stone wouldn’t be able to get it, you see. They would just see themselves making gold or Elixir of Life… but Hermione just wanted to find the stone, not use it. And so, the Mirror of Erised provided.”
“Professor,” said Harry. “There’s something… I don’t know if I should ask, but…Was Hermione right, down in the chamber? All those trials and safety measures… was it all just a trap? Was You-Know-Who supposed to get past all the security measures and then be stuck in front of the Mirror?”
“Harry!” said Hermione. “You know I was just stalling for time. I would never seriously accuse the Headmaster of —”
“Actually, it wouldn’t be an entirely unfair accusation.” Dumbledore looked at the Stone in his hand and then put it down on the desk.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he added at their confused looks. “I wasn’t trying to lure Voldemort. But I did know he was going to try getting at the Stone. I did not know when or how. But I knew that no matter where we tried to hide it, Voldemort would find it. He always had an uncanny way of finding things he wasn’t supposed to find, as well as getting into places he wasn’t supposed to get into… you need only look at last year’s break-in at Gringotts to know that.
“I needed to find a place that was close enough that I would be able to step in and confront him when he did try… but safely out of the way so that no innocents would be caught in the crossfire. Under ground seemed like a safe enough place, especially since I was certain Fluffy would keep anyone who wasn’t Voldemort from actually going down there.”
“Yeah, hard to go anywhere when you’ve been eaten by a three-headed dog,” said Ron.
For the first time, Dumbledore smiled. “You do Fluffy a disservice, Ronald,” he said. “Like so many Fae creatures, he is not quite as he appears… he may have seemed savage, but that was because he had orders to frighten away any students who got curious. He wouldn’t have hurt you. At most, he may have snapped at you, but it would have been for show.”
Lavender, who had mostly been silent, looked up. “So… when you said, at the welcoming feast, to stay away from that corridor unless we wanted to die a painful death…?”
“I may have exaggerated a little for dramatic effect.” Dumbledore’s smile faded. “But there I go again, getting too caught up in my plans,” he said. “It’s a troubling fact that it was only luck — and Lady Vidia — that kept this night from ending in tragedy.”
“But we’re fine,” said Harry. “We saved the Stone and Lady Vidia saved us. Nobody got hurt… well, apart from Quirrell… and Lady Vidia said she’d banished You-Know-Who. That means he’s gone, doesn’t it?”
“For now, certainly,” said Dumbledore. “I have no doubt it’ll be quite a while before we see him again, but I also have no doubt he will be back. I do have to ask, though, are you certain you’re fine? You’ve been through a traumatic ordeal, after all.”
Harry and Hermione looked at each other. Truth be told, even though it had all been awful while it happened… being bound and gagged and in the hands of two disturbed psychopaths… it wasn’t nearly as terrible to think back on. It was as if the long sleep they’d had in Dewberry Grove had erased the trauma and made it feel more like a book they had read or a movie they had watched than something that had happened directly to them.
“We’re fine,” said Hermione. “We had a lovely night’s sleep. I’m more worried about Ron and Lavender, who have been up all night.”
“We’ll sleep later,” said Ron flippantly. “Right now I’m too flustered to sleep! I can’t believe Quirrell was the bad guy all along!”
“That’s what’s flustering you?!” said Hermione.
“Well, yeah,” said Ron. “The worst part is that I stood up for that bas — that villain!” he corrected himself, apparently deciding that he shouldn’t swear in front of the Headmaster. “I defended him when people made fun of his stutter! And all the while he had You-Know-Who on the back of his head!”
“The act was noble, even if it was undeserved,” said Dumbledore. “By the way… normally I would tell you to use his name. In general, it’s always a good idea to use the proper name for things… after all, fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. But since all four of you are tied to the Fae, it might be a wiser idea to be careful with names… to the Fae, names have power, for good or evil.”
Hermione blinked. “What do you mean, ‘all four of us,’ Professor?” she said. “I’m not tied to the Fae. I know Harry and Ron are, and Lavender definitely is, but I’m not.”
“Hermione,” said Dumbledore. “you were saved by a Lady of Faerie. You have, however briefly, been a guest in her home. And she seems to have taken a liking to you…”
“She likes me?!” said Hermione, a little too eagerly… and then blushed as her words reached her brain. “I mean. Um.”
“I think you’ve been Fae-touched, Hermione,” said Harry… and discovered to his surprise that he didn’t really mind.
“But what does it mean?” said Hermione, eagerness and embarrassment giving way to worry. “Am I going to change? I… what if I become so addled I’m not me anymore?”
“It’s okay, it happened to me too,” said Harry. “It’s not that bad.” And then, before he could stop himself, he added; “She’s really pretty, isn’t she?”
“Yes…” Hermione sighed, looking oddly starry-eyed. “I mean, er. I’m very grateful to her for saving me. Saving us, I mean. Saving us and the Philosopher’s Stone.”
Lavender giggled. “Hermione’s in lo-ove,” she sang.
“I am not!”
“And so is Har-ry!”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you a-are!”
“Professor Dumbledore, make her stop!”
“Lavender, please,” said Dumbledore calmly. “I have been meaning to talk to you about your connections to Lady Vidia as well…”
Lavender stopped giggling. “I know I should have told Professor McGonagall about my godmother,” the murmured. “But… I was just…. I knew wizards didn’t like Fae, and I thought if I said anything Professor McGonagall wouldn’t let me into Hogwarts, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Lavender,” said Dumbledore gently. “I understand your concerns. But let me make it clear: Tied to the Fae or not… you belong here, just as much as any other student. You are a wizard. Your name is down in the Book of Admission. No one can take your rightful place at Hogwarts away from you — not even Professor McGonagall. Not that I believe for a moment that she would. Minerva may not be overly fond of the Fair Folk, but she wouldn’t let that keep you from getting an education.”
“It’s just…” Lavender swallowed. “The other first-year Gryffindors know now, and I think… I think Seamus is afraid of me.”
“He’ll come around!” said Ron. “And if not… well, you don’t have to share a dormitory with him. And Parvati accepts you, right?”
“And we do too,” said Harry. “Silly, really, to not accept someone just because of who their godparents are.”
“An admirable attitude,” said Dumbledore. (Was it Harry’s imagination or did the Headmaster not meet his eyes when he said that?) “There is still the mystery of your original family, though. You don’t remember them at all?”
Lavender shook her head. “But maybe it’s a good thing I don’t. Maybe they were mean. Maybe they beat me every day. Or… er… maybe they beat the boy I used to be every day. Since I used to be a boy.” It had taken a bit of goading from Hermione before she’d admitted this detail to Dumbledore, but luckily he hadn’t reacted negatively to it.
“It does explain why the Ministry couldn’t find your family, even in the Muggle world,” said Dumbledore. “They were looking for families who were missing a daughter, not a son.”
“Don’t tell the Ministry about me!” Lavender pleaded. “They’ll hate me because of my godmother, or… or they’ll insist on turning me back into a boy, and I don’t want to be a boy…!”
“The flitlings!” said Harry. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of this before.
“What?” said Lavender, confused. “Flitlings?!”
“You haven’t met them yet,” said Harry. “It’s okay, Hermione hasn’t either. But Ron… you remember how secretive they were at Christmas when we asked them about the Fae girl? I think they know exactly who Lavender used to be!”
“Oh yeah!” said Ron. “Plum forgot about that.”
“I really need to meet these flitlings,” said Hermione. She looked at Harry. “If I’m Fae-touched, like you say… I might as well start associating more with Fae. At least some Fae. It really does seem like wizard society has an unfair bias against them.”
“The relationship between Fae and wizards is complicated at best,” said Dumbledore. “I have known many Fae in my time… In many ways, they are exactly like wizards. Not as bad as they seem, but not as good as they think. It’s usually wise to be careful around them… an ill-timed remark or a thoughtless word can have dire consequences… but Fae on the whole are not evil. They just have a different way of looking at the world. And sometimes, they don’t understand that we mortals don’t share their worldviews and morals. A lot of the classic Fae curses did originally start out as a Fae sincerely wanting to help…or unfortunate bystanders getting caught in the crossfire.”
“Yeah,” said Harry, thinking about some of the stories he’d heard… not to mention some of the things Yellow, Magenta and Cyan said and did. Like when Magenta had cursed Piers, back at Privet Drive. She’d done it to help Harry and hadn’t been able to understand why he hadn’t appreciated that she had addled the boy’s mind completely. Or, for that matter, Lady Vidia transforming the Dursleys into flitlings to begin with. It had led to a lot of trouble, but…
Something clicked in Harry’s head. He felt a sense of unease as the thoughts flowed. Magenta. Piers. Curses. Lady Vidia. TRANSFORMATIONS.
Harry looked at Lavender. “Oh, no,” he said.
“What?” said Lavender, looking confused.
Sunday, 17th May 1992
The Forbidden Forest, dusk.
“You knew!” Harry glared at Magenta. “You knew she was Piers! And you didn’t tell me! You didn’t tell anyone!”
“We couldn’t!” said Magenta. “Mistress told us that we couldn’t say anything before Lavender had told you about herself! Now she has, so now we can talk all we want. Besides, she may have been Piers once, but she isn’t anymore! She’s Lavender! Just like Yellow, Cyan and I aren’t Dursleys. Those were our old lives.”
“But it’s all because of you that she’s even here,” said Harry. “You and that mind-addling curse of yours —”
“Well, I’m glad,” said Lavender, holding out her hand so that Magenta could land on her palm. “If she hadn’t, I would never have become me. I would have been a boy, and I would have had to go to that school… Smeltings? Sounds awful. And what kind of name is ‘Piers,’ anyway? I’m grateful I don’t have to be him! I get to be Lavender, I get to be a girl, I get to be a wizard, and I get to go to Hogwarts! And I get to have the world’s best godmother!”
“You’re both ignoring the important part here,” said Hermione. “Lavender, we know who your family are now! And we know they didn’t beat you! They didn’t, did they?” She looked at Harry.
“Not that I ever knew,” said Harry. “Piers was… er… well.”
“I don’t know who Piers was, but he’s not anymore,” said Lavender firmly. “Not me, I mean. I’m Lavender. Piers is dead. Well, not dead dead, but he’s not here anymore. I am. And I’m Lavender.”
Much like Yellow, Magenta and Cyan, Lavender seemed not to care overly much about her old life. She had been mildly curious about what her old name had been, but she’d quickly lost interest after Harry had told her about Dudley’s gang and Smeltings. Trying to compare her to Piers only annoyed her.
“But don’t you want to get to know your parents?” Hermione pressed. “When we had our ‘girl days’ you were so eager to find out who you’d been and who your parents were!”
“Yes, but… I didn’t know then,” said Lavender. “It was a mystery. The answer could have been anything. And then it turns out the answer was just… someone named Piers Polkiss, from Little Whinging. I’d much rather be Lavender Brown, if you don’t mind.”
“But your parents…” Hermione repeated.
“Piers’s parents, not mine.” Lavender sighed and stroked Magenta’s hair with a careful finger. “I know I’m going to have to meet with them … they deserve to at least know what happened to Piers. But… I don’t know. I don’t remember them. I don’t… I don’t know how to have parents.” She looked helplessly at Harry. “You get it, right? You don’t have parents either!”
“No, but you do!” said Harry. Truth be told, he didn’t get it. If he’d found out that his parents were alive, he’d have been overjoyed.
“I don’t have parents!” Lavender insisted. “Piers does! Or he did! I don’t know!”
“Will you save this conversation for later?” Percy hissed. “It’s starting!”
“Oh!” Lavender fell silent.
Together with Harry, Hermione and Magenta, she re-joined Percy and the rest of their small group. Ron, Neville, Fred and George were gathered around Hagrid, who was standing there sombrely with Yellow and Cyan perched on his shoulders. Next to him, towering over even Hagrid’s massive form, sat an unusually docile Fluffy, all three heads fixated on the centre of the forest glen.
When Harry had first heard the words “Forbidden Forest” he had imagined it as a dark, hostile and unwelcoming place — and it certainly looked that way from the outside. But actually being allowed inside, he’d discovered that it was lush and green and inviting. And, at least for the moment, filled with Fae of all sorts.
Lady Vidia wasn’t here now, but Leeney, Lam and Lucky were… along with a veritable legion of house-elves, all wearing similar togas (which turned out to be Hogwarts tea towels), several of them sobbing. Harry also recognized Firenze the centaur, together with a number of other centaurs, and the hobgoblins, Maggot and Badran, together with an entire flock of other goblins and hobgoblins. Surprisingly enough, Flitwick was there together with them, comforting a sobbing female goblin.
And that wasn’t all. A few satyrs — at least Harry assumed they were satyrs, since they had the upper bodies of humans and lower bodies of goats — were scattered among the other beings. There were people with various animal traits, like ears or tails or wings; a few flitlings and pixies were hovering among them, and Harry could even see a few trolls and what he could swear was a giant spider, somewhere in between the trees.
In the centre of the glen, on a large rock, lay the dead body of a shining white unicorn. Around the rock, a small herd of unicorns were gathered; most of them white but a ser of them gleaming silver… and two of three of them were tiny little foals who were pure gold in colour.
“I’ve never been to a unicorn funeral before,” Neville whispered.
“I don’t think anyone here has,” Ron whispered back.
“Shh,” said Hagrid. “Here’s Dumbledore.”
Everyone fell silent as Dumbledore stepped up to the rock. On his shoulder sat a large bird with beautiful red and orange feathers. The unicorns parted to let him through, and he stopped at the foot of the rock.
“Friends,” he said. “I am not here as the Headmaster of Hogwarts… nor am I here as any sort of ceremony master. I will not make a speech… after all, what is there to say? I am merely here with my friend Fawkes, who has agreed to help return the dearly departed to the elements that once birthed us all. Fawkes?”
He nodded to the bird on his shoulder, which spread its wings and rose high up in the air. It started to sing, a beautiful and haunting tune that went straight to the heart. It spoke of death and rebirth, of sorrow and loss, but also of comfort and joy. Harry had the strangest feeling… like he was on a ship or something, watching the shore vanish behind him and knowing with a heavy heart that he could never return to it… but in front of him, the open sea and the clear blue sky promised new beginnings and continuations…
The bird circled high in the air, and all of a sudden burst into flames. Below it, the body of the unicorn also burst into flames — white flames that rose high in the sky and met the yellow flames from the bird. For a moment, it was as if Harry could see the spirit of the unicorn rise up and gallop across the sky….
Then the fire was gone, as was both bird and unicorn.
For a brief moment, all the gathered creatures stared in silence. And then, it was as if a spell had been broken, The unicorns all turned and trotted off, and a number of the animal people turned to leave. Harry could no longer see the trolls and the giant spider in between the trees, and the house-elves looked around and, one by one, started to vanish in brief flashes of light.
“All right,” said Hagrid, blowing his nose loudly. “S’ppose that’s that, then. C’mon, I’ll walk yeh back ter the school grounds.”
“Can’t we stay a little longer?” Lavender pleaded. “I like this place. It feels like home, in a way.”
“Yeah, isn’t there a wake or something?” said Ron. “Funerals usually have wakes, right? I remember we had one for Granddad.”
“Ah, well, yeh wouldn’t wanna be at a Fae wake,” said Hagrid as he looked down on them. “They tend ter, y’know, turn inter orgies… Prolly better give those a miss, leastways ‘til you’re a little older.”
“We’d better go then!” said Neville.
“I’m with you!” said Ron.
“Yeah, Ron, you know the Weasley code,” said George. “No doing the deed until you’re sixteen at least.”
“How about it, Percy?” said Fred. “You’re sixteen. And then you can come back with tales of your great conquests.”
“You two have no sense of tact, you know that?” Percy huffed. “This is supposed to be a funeral.”
“That’s exactly why there must be an orgy!” said Yellow. She flew down from Hagrid’s shoulder and hovered in front of Percy. “First you grieve the loss of what is no more, then you party hard in honour of what was!” She stopped, hovering above Harry’s head. “I think I might join in. Some of those other flitlings looked pretty hot. Maybe I’ll even try a pixie, just to see how —”
“I don’t want to hear about this!” said Harry. “Can we just go?!”
“Yeah, good idea,” said Hagrid. “Wanna come with us, Professor Flitwick?” he called over to the flock of goblins.
“Ah, no thank you, Hagrid,” the diminutive teacher called back. “My relatives here have invited me to join them at their own wake, and I said yes… have a good walk back to the castle, children! I’ll see you tomorrow… or at least at the next Charms lesson!”
“Flitwick’s getting some tonii-i-ight…” said Yellow in a singsongy voice. “Magenta, Cyan, want to come with me and join the party?”
“I’ll come!” said Cyan.
“Me too!” said Magenta, rising up in the air and looking at both Harry and Lavender. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Harry raised his hands. “Go ahead. Just… promise you won’t tell us about it afterwards.”
“Or ever,” Ron agreed hurriedly.
“Before you leave, Magenta,” said Dumbledore, who came walking up to them, “could I have a few words? I promise not to keep you for long.”
“Er…” Magenta looking at Dumbledore. “All right.”
“Excellent. Hagrid… children… if you could wait for a minute, I’ll accompany you back to the castle.” Dumbledore was close enough now that Harry could see the little bird in his hands… an ugly, wrinkled little thing that squinted out at them all and let out a weak-sounding chirp.
“That’s a phoenix!” said Hermione. “They’re extremely rare, they burst into flames and are reborn from the ashes….”
“Quite right, Hermione,” said Dumbledore. “This is my old friend Fawkes. You’ll have to forgive him for not looking his best right now… burning tends to take a lot out of him.” Dumbledore smiled at them, then looked at Magenta, and then Lavender. “I was wondering if I could trouble the two of you to come to my office tomorrow?”
“What, me too?” said Magenta.
“Indeed. I give you special permission to enter the school grounds for this occasion. I need you to tell me about the Polkisses. And then we need to discuss Lavender’s situation.”
“You’re not going to send her back to the Polkisses, are you?” said Yellow. “I mean, they’re not as nasty as the Dursleys, but they’re so dull. Mr Polkiss works in an office, can you believe that?”
“Some people must,” said Dumbledore. “And the Polkisses should at least be informed what has happened to their son… or, well, their daughter.”
A little reluctantly, Magenta agreed to come over to the castle the next day to talk about the Polkisses, before she flew off together with Yellow and Cyan.
As the rest of them began moving towards the edge of the forest, Hagrid added: “Er… Abou’ that thing I tol’ yeh earlier…”
Dumbledore smiled. “Yes, the little dragon currently living in your house,” he said. “Quite a feat, managing to hide it from me for a whole month. You’re more devious than anyone gives you credit for, Hagrid.”
“Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to sort it all out,” said Dumbledore. “Before I forget, though… Harry, this belongs to you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a familiar, neatly folded bunch of silvery-grey fabric. “I found it on the floor in the underground chambers.”
“My Invisibility Cloak!” said Harry.
“My apologies for not returning it to you sooner. I had to make certain there was no Dark magic on it of any kind. Now, let’s return to the castle… I need to get Fawkes back to my office, and unless I’m mistaken, you children all have class tomorrow.”
“Oh — right!” said Hermione, concerned. “Exams are in two weeks! I can’t believe I almost forgot! Oh, I hope this won’t mess up my study schedule! Harry, Ron — tomorrow we really have to study!”
Ron groaned. “And she was worried being Fae-touched would change her…”