|SIYE Time:7:20 on 18th October 2017|
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
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Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Summary: Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry's foot hadn't sunk into the trick step, when he went to investigate Barty Crouch's sudden appearance in Snape's office in his fourth year? Read on to find out! Compliant till a part of the chapter "The Egg and the Eye" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Chapter 10 up - please read and review!
Hitcount: Story Total: 12668; Chapter Total: 974
Post a re-read of Chapter 1, I noticed that the year should be nineteen ninety-five, not nineteen ninety-four. While I have changed this in the earlier chapters, I still considered the day / date reference as per the calendar for nineteen ninety-four, rather than that for ninety-five. This means there is a mistake in the dates referred to earlier – the story should have begun on Friday, January the twenty-seventh, instead of January the twenty-eighth. I’m considering the revised dates from this chapter onwards – I’m a bit lazy to rectify the earlier ones, but I will get down to it.
Now, on with the story…
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
Chapter 5: The Patronus Revisited
Previously on “When Harry Missed the Trick Step”…
The volume died down almost instantly, however, when Dumbledore got to his feet at the staff table. His silver beard and hair shone in the light from the candles and the stars from the enchanted ceiling above. Harry absently noticed that there was no moon visible in the sky tonight.
‘Now that we are well-fed and watered tonight, I shall, as promised, announce the successor to the position of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.’ He smiled as he gazed upon the eager faces of the students.
Dumbledore waved his hand towards the doors of the Great Hall, which swung open to reveal a rather tall figure silhouetted against the dark sky. As the figure crossed the threshold, the light from the candles and the stars illuminated his light, brown hair flecked with grey strands, and his tired, grey face, prematurely lined, was thrown into sharp relief. Gasps of shock, followed by cheers of delight, and then thunderous applause echoed around the Great Hall as people realized who it was.
Professor Remus John Lupin had returned to Hogwarts once more.
The days leading up to the fourth-year Gryffindors’ first Defence Against the Dark Arts class with Professor Lupin were nothing short of torture — mainly due to the fact that the most of the student population were gushing about how amazing his lessons were. It seemed to be the topic of conversation almost everywhere they went — in the corridors while walking to classes, during lunch in the Great Hall, and in the common rooms, where older students chattered excitedly about Lupin’s prowess, while the first years looked on in fascination.
It was also of no surprise that his appointment generated quite a stir — both within Hogwarts and outside it. Harry walked into the Entrance Hall on Tuesday morning to find Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson holding court to a sizeable crowd of students, most of whom appeared to be Slytherins. As he passed them, he caught a few words of what ‘his ferret-ness’ (Ginny had come up with the nickname) was preaching to his audience.
‘…could attack any one of us! They’re dangerous creatures, surely your parents must have told you about the viciousness of werewolves,’ said Malfoy, to general nods of approval.
‘He’ll either kill you, or make you into a werewolf just like him!’ screeched Pansy, a girl with a pug-like face who was backing up every single word that Malfoy said.
Harry couldn’t help it. ‘He especially likes ferrets, didn’t you know, Malfoy?’ he shouted, causing everyone in the Entrance Hall to look at him. ‘Says they’re easy to catch, because they always make the same mistakes.’
Malfoy’s eyes narrowed with undisguised fury and hatred, as the audience began to chuckle. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had taken every opportunity they could get to remind Malfoy about his brief episode as a white ferret (transfigured by Professor Moody); Ron, in particular, was making sure that the blonde Slytherin never forgot about it, and seemed to getting a lot of pleasure in doing so.
Still chuckling, Harry headed inside the Great Hall for breakfast. The enchanted ceiling reflected a bright blue sky, with the sun threatening to peek out from behind a stray floating cloud and warm the area — but Harry knew it would be just as chilly as the previous day, if not worse. Appearances were rather deceptive after all…
Harry shook his head sharply, startling a passing group of small second year Ravenclaw students. He didn’t need a reminder of Barty Crouch Junior this early in the morning.
Speaking of Barty Crouch Junior…
Just as it had happened the previous day, several heads turned as Professor Snape walked into the Great Hall and proceeded down the aisle to his seat at the staff table. His return to the school on Monday morning had wrought several reactions from the general student populace — groans from almost three-quarters of the students, and a loud, storming applause from the Slytherins when he was spotted at his usual seat during breakfast on Monday morning. Only Harry, Hermione, Ginny — and to a slightly lesser extent, Ron — were quite relieved that he had returned without any lasting damage.
Of course, that was a matter of opinion, as they found out quite soon enough.
Groans and criticism usually formed the agenda for any discussion around the topic of Severus Snape, but these were replaced by curiosity, and in some cases, even concern, for the greasy-haired Potions Master. It began after the first Potions class on Monday morning, when Colin Creevey exited the dungeon classroom looking thoroughly shocked — an expression Harry thought he would have been wearing had he been Petrified through any means other than his camera in the boy’s first year at Hogwarts.
‘Snape just awarded Colin ten points!’ said Colin and Ginny’s classmate, Ian Rosenthal, looking quite surprised himself, after they had returned to the common room for the first mini-break.
Silence — absolute silence — pervaded over the common room at that proclamation. Then —
‘He WHAT?’ exclaimed Fred.
‘You’ve got to be joking!’ shouted George.
‘Snape giving points to Gryffindors? What’s up with him?’ yelled Lee Jordan.
Harry turned to look questioningly at Ginny, who was wearing a bewildered look — as though she couldn’t be sure if whatever had happened was real or not.
‘He — he did give us points,’ she said, her brown eyes large with amazement. ‘Colin’s potion was brilliant, mind you, and he did deserve the points, but even so…it’s Snape. Snape, of all people!’
‘About time, if you ask me,’ chipped in Ron, who was stealing in a quick game of wizards’ chess with Dean before their History of Magic lesson. ‘Checkmate!’
Dean swore loudly, causing a few first-year girls to look around in alarm. The bell rang just then, signalling the start of the next period. There was a great scramble as the occupants of the common room made their way to their respective classes. Through the crowd, Harry noticed Fred pocketing a rather long piece of parchment as he exited the portrait hole.
For his part, Harry had not forgotten how secretive the twins had been behaving, and had given it a good deal of thought — even if it was only to distract himself from thinking about Crouch Junior and the Tournament. If he remembered rightly, they had been like this ever since their return to the Burrow from the Quidditch World Cup — but he couldn’t think of anything that could have happened during the World Cup that could have wrought such a change in their behaviour. Secrecy of this manner from the Weasley twins didn’t bode well.
‘I do hope he’s okay,’ said Hermione quietly next to him, causing him to start slightly. ‘We’d best be off, Harry. Come on, Ron.’
Harry looked up into the concerned face of Ginny, realising just then that he had been reminiscing about the previous day’s events, and he was now sitting in the Great Hall for breakfast, with absolutely no idea as to how his plate had been filled up. Slightly disoriented, he looked at his plate of food, and back at Ginny again, who shrugged.
‘I filled it up for you, since you seemed lost in your own world there.’
‘Oh,’ said Harry. ‘Thanks.’ He gave a grateful smile to Ginny, who reciprocated it before returning to her own meal.
That day, and the next passed relatively without incident — unless you counted a notably subdued Potions class conducted by Snape on Wednesday. He didn’t hurl his usual insults at the Gryffindors — Neville in particular — nor did he pass loud remarks on the exceptional quality of the Slytherins’ potions. In fact, he was quite silent for the majority of the period, only addressing the class to tell them the name of the potion they were brewing that day, and then to call them out to submit their samples at the end of the period. Harry, who was quite used to working in what he termed as “the silent treatment” — chiefly due to what he’d experienced in Privet Drive from the Dursleys — performed rather well: his Girding Potion was almost the required shade of gold, although the odour was unbearably foul. His classmates, however, were quite put-off by this ‘indifferent’ version of Snape; poor Neville, despite his increased knowledge of the subject, was constantly afraid of Snape suddenly appearing at his side, resulting in his shaking hands ultimately knocking over his bowl of dragonfly thoraxes.
Harry did, however, get his golden egg back. He had completely forgotten about leaving it in the Potions classroom, on what he had begun to refer to as “the night”, what with the confessions of Crouch Junior, and the subsequent worry he had had for Snape’s and Moody’s recovery. Snape had called him to the side at the end of the class; when Harry had done so after everyone else had left, Snape had produced the egg, thrust it into Harry’s hands, turned and walked off without another word. Harry supposed he should be grateful that Snape had returned it to him, and had not created a scene or deducted points from Gryffindor for leaving it behind, but this new version of Snape was definitely unnerving.
Finally, however, Thursday arrived, and with it, the anticipation for their first lesson with Lupin for that year increased tenfold. The excitement was palpable, and clearly evident even at breakfast; there was a great deal of chatter and laughter during the meal, which continued to their lessons. Of course, for most of Gryffindor, that meant an hour and a half of sitting in the sweltering Divination classroom while the batty old Professor Trelawney droned on and on about the interesting angle created by Jupiter and Saturn in the sky, and what that meant for black-haired people who wore glasses.
‘Well, at least I’m well informed,’ quipped Harry in a whisper to Ron, and Neville, who was sharing a table with them; the other two had to stuff their knuckles in their mouths to stop themselves from laughing out too loudly.
Charms was next — Professor Flitwick correctly capitalized on the cheeriness of the students by asking them to revise Cheering Charms for a while, before moving on to Banishing Charms. Not surprisingly, not a single person went wrong with either of the spells — even Neville’s aim had drastically improved in terms of the target object, although he was still unable to find the box in the corner of the room.
At long last, after a fidgety and hurried lunch, the Gryffindor fourth years lined up in the corridor outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, a good ten minutes before the bell signalling the start of the period was due to ring.
‘I wonder if it’ll be a practical lesson,’ mused Seamus out loud. ‘Just like what he did last year, you know?’
‘We’ve only learned the Unforgivable Curses though,’ said Fay with a slight shiver. ‘I don’t suppose he’s going to have us practice them though.’
‘Don’t be stupid, of course not!’ exclaimed Christine. ‘I’m not doing that, even if he does ask us to do so.’
Hermione opened her mouth, presumably to point out that it would be illegal for them to perform those curses, but just then, the classroom door opened, and Lupin stepped out into the corridor.
‘Inside, please,’ he said, gesturing them to file in to the classroom with a smile. He winked at Harry as he passed, causing Harry to grin widely at his favourite professor.
Lupin shut the door once everyone was inside, and strode up to the front of the classroom. It was a mark of just how eager the students were, that they had all occupied the first few rows of the seats in the classroom — none of the seats at the back were being used. Lupin seemed to notice this, for he smiled even wider, providing a nice contrast to his lined, worn face.
‘Good afternoon to you all,’ he began, his hoarse voice slightly echoing in the vast room. ‘I scarcely need to introduce myself to you once again, but for those who aren’t aware, or who have forgotten me, I am Professor Remus Lupin, your Defence Against the Dark Arts for this year.’
‘Are you not staying for next year, then?’ exclaimed Dean loudly, and with a slight tinge of disappointment laced into it.
Lupin smiled once again — but Harry noticed it was a bit forced, and a little less natural than his previous smile.
‘Circumstances permitting, I may stay on to teach next year,’ said Lupin. ‘But until then, we have a lot of work to do.’ He straightened up from where he had been leaning against his desk, and gazed around the classroom. ‘Dumbledore tells me that you’ve covered the Unforgivable Curses in your earlier classes, is that right?’
There was a general murmur of assent from the students; a few of them did not want to be reminded about their very first lesson with Moody, while a few others were quite embarrassed about their antics during the class when Moody had insisted on putting the Imperius Curse on all of them, to test their tenacity to throw it off.
‘I see,’ said Lupin, pursing his lips. ‘Well, I think you will be pleased to know that we will not be covering those Curses ever, for the rest of the year.’ The students’ faces brightened up considerably. ‘However, they will still form a part of what you will be tested on during your end-of-year examinations,’ warned Lupin, ‘so do not forget them entirely.’
Harry, who was exempted from the year-end examinations due to his status as a Triwizard Champion, was not too bothered by this piece of news, but paid attention nonetheless.
‘Personally, I think Moody had the right idea in demonstrating those Curses in front of you,’ continued Lupin. ‘He’s always been a big advocate of “know thy enemy” — best if you know what you’re facing, instead of being utterly clueless when you’re an inch from dying.’
‘Do you two know each other, then?’ asked Christine.
‘We’ve met, in the past,’ said Lupin evasively; Harry recognized the response as what Lupin had told Harry himself, when he had asked his professor if the latter had ever met the makers of the Marauders’ Map. Christine looked impressed with his answer, but Hermione, predictably, had narrowed her eyes slightly, as though she knew he was trying to avoid answering the question outright. Apart from a slight frown, however, Ron’s expression gave nothing away.
‘Dumbledore, however,’ resumed Lupin, as he paced down the aisle between the two columns of seats, ‘feels that it would be better for me to teach you some advanced spell work. And by advanced,’ he added, as the class became visibly more excited, ‘I mean quite advanced. Possibly beyond even NEWT level spells.’
The entire class sat up a little straighter in their seats, intrigued. Never had any of their professors spoken about increasing the difficulty level of their lessons — not even Snape. Lupin’s proclamation that they would be trying to learn some particularly difficult spells was both foreboding, and thrilling, at the same time.
‘Sir, what will we be learning?’ asked Parvati, her eyes slightly wide.
Lupin had evidently noticed their eager reaction, and seemed rather pleased with it, as he turned from his position near the end of the aisle, opposite his desk, to smile at Parvati.
‘Today, you will be trying to learn the Patronus Charm.’
There was a stunned silence that greeted this statement. The Patronus Charm! Surely not! Everyone knew that the Patronus Charm was probably the only tool in a witch’s or wizard’s arsenal that could repel a Dementor, the guards of the wizarding prison, Azkaban. It was terribly difficult to master, so much so that even fully-grown witches and wizards struggled with the charm.
For his part, Harry had sat up straight in his chair — but it was from curiosity, rather than shock. Lupin had taught him the Patronus Charm last year, solely because he had needed help with the Dementors, and the effect they had on him. But that was on an exception basis — extra lessons which Lupin had taken for him after regular classes. Why was Dumbledore suddenly eager for all of his classmates to learn the Charm? Especially now, at this time?
He looked over at Hermione and Ron, who were both wearing expressions of surprise and intrigue at Lupin’s announcement. Unlike Harry, neither of them had learnt the Charm the previous year — although Hermione did try casting it on the night they almost apprehended Wormtail. Harry could almost see the gears shifting in Hermione’s brain, no doubt trying to figure out the reasons for introducing an exceedingly difficult charm to a bunch of fourth-year students.
‘Does anyone know what a Patronus Charm is?’
Lupin’s hoarse voice broke through the thoughts in Harry’s mind; mentally shaking himself, he refocused on the class and the professor’s words.
‘Yes, Miss Maxwell?’
‘It’s a sort of guardian, I think — that’s what my uncle told me,’ said Christine, stuttering slightly as the attention of the entire class focused on her. ‘The caster summons a guardian that helps in driving back Dementors.’
Lupin smiled warmly at her. ‘Succinctly put, take five points for Gryffindor,’ and Christine, visibly relieved, grinned back. ‘The Patronus Charm is a defensive spell, which when performed correctly, summons a silver guardian to protect you against Dementors. Now, I’m not sure if anyone knows how this works, so I’ll give you all a brief explanation.’
The rays of the afternoon sun caught the lines on Lupin’s weary face, throwing them into sharp relief. Just like how he had felt when seeing Dumbledore’s aged face, Harry thought Lupin looked a lot older than he really was — a side-effect, he supposed, of the monthly transformations into a werewolf. He felt a sudden wave of sympathy for the man standing before him, one of his father’s true and loyal friends.
‘Dementors are one of the foulest creatures ever to walk upon this earth. They infest the darkest and filthiest places, glorying in decay and despair. Most of you would have felt the numbing effects of a Dementor while at school last year.’
The class nodded grimly, some of them with morose and disturbed expressions on their faces at being reminded of the wraith-like creatures. Harry could distinctly remember the screams of his mother, the shouts of his father…on the fateful night when Voldemort had killed them.
Don’t think about that, he told himself forcefully, just don’t think about that.
‘That is because a Dementor drains its immediate vicinity of peace, hope, and happiness,’ continued Lupin, drawing Harry’s attention back to him. ‘A Dementor’s diet is, in essence, the happiness of humans. Get too near a Dementor, and every happy memory, every good feeling and thought, will be sucked out of you. They leave you with your worst memories and experiences, forcing you to replay them inside your mind over and over again…’
Lupin paused as the class took in every word of his explanation. Harry saw him shake his head slightly.
‘It is here where the Patronus Charm comes into play,’ said Lupin at last, turning to his desk and picking up a rather old, worn-out book. ‘I have here —’ he indicated the book in his hands ‘— the description of the Charm given by Miranda Goshawk. You may wish to write this down, as this book is the only copy in existence, and is in the Restricted Section of the library.’
The sound of chairs scraping the floor and bags being opened filled the room, as the students quickly looked to pull out their quills, parchment, and ink to write down the description of the Patronus Charm.
‘"This ancient and mysterious charm conjures a magical guardian, a projection of all your most positive feelings. The Patronus Charm is difficult, and many witches and wizards are unable to produce a full, corporeal Patronus, a guardian which generally takes the shape of the animal with whom they share the deepest affinity. You may suspect, but you will never truly know what form your Patronus will take until you succeed in conjuring it.”’ Lupin finished dictating it, shut the book, and waited till the sound of quills scratching against parchment died out.
‘This seems to be pretty self-explanatory, if I may say so. Yes, Mr Thomas?’ said Lupin, pointing out Dean who had raised his hand.
‘How exactly is it conjured, Professor? The description isn’t quite clear regarding that.’
‘Right you are, Dean, well spotted. Well then, it’s probably best if I show you, and then explain.’
Lupin rolled up the sleeves of his robes, picked up his wand from his desk, and waved it in an almost complete circle in front of him.
‘Expecto Patronum!’ he shouted, keeping his wand pointed towards the back of the class. Harry, along with the rest of the class, watched enraptured as the silver wolf burst from the end of Lupin’s wand, landing lightly on all fours in front of Lavender and Parvati, who shrieked in surprise. The wolf padded along the aisle, reaching the door of the classroom before dissipating into thin air.
The class burst into applause — even Harry, who knew that Lupin could cast the Charm, having learnt it from him only a year ago, was awed at the sight of a proper Patronus. Harry realised that he had never seen Lupin’s Patronus until now; he wondered why the Professor had not shown it to him earlier…
And then it hit him — Lupin’s Patronus was a wolf; he would have been afraid of people recognising his condition, his lycanthropy. Considering how Lupin had wanted to keep that a secret for the entirety of last year, it was not hard to deduce his reasoning.
‘The Patronus Charm is, as Miranda Goshawk explained, a projection of your positive memories and thoughts. You need to focus on your happiest memory: the happier the memory, the better the charm will work. The memory need not be the same for everyone — each of you should choose whichever thought gives you the most happiness. I’d like all of you to stand up please, I’m going to create some space in the classroom.’
The class did so, and with a wave of his wand, Lupin pushed all the chairs and desks to the back of the classroom, leaving them with a huge empty space between the door and his desk. He then indicated that they should spread out, leaving at least three feet of distance between each of them.
Once they had all settled down, Lupin continued. ‘Please, take out your wands. Now, close your eyes, and focus on the happiest memory that you can remember. Oh, hold on,’ he said suddenly. ‘Harry, if you could please join me in the front.’
Harry exchanged a look of surprise with Ron and Hermione, who were standing next to him after they had spread out — although Hermione seemed to know why he had been called in front. Feeling slightly apprehensive, Harry made his way to stand next to Lupin, his expression not at all mirroring that of his professor.
‘Right, as I said, try and recall the happiest memory you can remember. Done? Now focus on that memory, and while doing so, wave your wand in a circle, and say ‘Expecto Patronum’. Got it? Go on, go ahead, try it.’
There was a chorus of ‘Expecto Patronum’s echoing throughout the class as the students repeated the incantation, their faces screwed up in thought. Harry, however, turned to Professor Lupin.
‘Why did you call me up here, Professor?’
Lupin did not immediately respond, even as he continued to look around the remaining nine students in the classroom for any signs of mist or vapour.
‘I know you can produce a proper Patronus, Harry,’ he said at last in a soft voice, but he still was not looking at Harry. ‘I didn’t want the other students to gawk over it — you receive enough of attention as it is, or so Padfoot tells me.’
Harry, who had shifted his gaze to watch Ron and Hermione, turned his head so fast he almost cricked his neck. ‘What?’ he said; his voice, slightly louder than usual, caused Fay’s concentration to break, and her to glare at him in annoyance. ‘Sorry,’ he hissed hastily, now whispering in excitement. ‘You’ve spoken to Padfoot? When? Where?’
‘Calm down, Harry,’ admonished Lupin, now frowning slightly at Christine. ‘Yes, I have spoken to him — last Tuesday, if I remember correctly. Yes, he’s fine,’ he added, just as Harry opened his mouth once again, ‘and no, I can’t tell you where he is.’
Harry’s face fell slightly, but he reasoned that it was for the best: such information had to be kept a complete secret for Sirius’ safety. This did not quell the twinge of disappointment in him, however: he really wanted to see his godfather, soon.
‘You’ll be able to see him soon, Harry, don’t worry,’ said Lupin, almost as though he could read Harry’s thoughts. ‘Ah, I think Miss Maxwell has got it.’
Indeed, it looked as though Christine had managed to produce…something. It was not a full Patronus by any means, but it was still something: a few wisps of silvery vapour were shooting out of the end of her wand, in intermittent bursts. Harry glanced at her face, and was quite amazed to see the wide grin on her visage — as though she could feel what she was doing.
And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw another stream of silvery vapour filling the room; contrary to his expectation — and indeed the expectation of his other classmates — it was not Hermione who had achieved it. Rather surprisingly, it was Seamus Finnegan who was grinning madly, just like what Christine was doing. His wand, however, was emitting the vapour in a steady stream, quite unlike the girl’s wand.
The sight of their identical, beaming faces triggered something in Harry’s mind, and he turned at once to Lupin.
‘Can I try it now?’
Lupin gave him a sceptical look, but acquiesced nonetheless. He took a few paces back from where Harry stood, so as to give him enough room to produce his Patronus.
Harry had had what he would later describe as an epiphany — a sudden brainwave regarding the Patronus Charm and the way it worked. His private lessons with Lupin during his third year had established the theory that he needed a happy memory — a really strong, happy one — to produce the Patronus. His initial training had been all about focusing his mind towards that memory. But now, as he stood in the same Defence classroom, almost a year later, he realised that focusing on the memory was not the only thing that mattered. His reasoning for this was, in essence, two-fold.
Firstly, as far as he remembered, he had not thought of any happy memory when conjuring his first solid Patronus in June the year before, when saving Sirius, Hermione and himself from the Dementors. His only recollection was the thought that he was eagerly waiting for his father to show up and conjure the Patronus, only to realise that he had seen himself before fainting beside Sirius. Clearly not a happy memory, by any means.
Secondly — and this was what triggered the brainwave — was the description of the Charm that he had just written down in class: ‘…a projection of all your most positive feelings…’ Feelings: that was the word used by Miranda Goshawk — feelings, not memories. Not once had she said anything about a memory to be used by the caster — the Patronus, instead, would be a manifestation of the caster’s feelings. Indeed, this made sense, since the Dementors would not feed on memories, but the feelings of happiness and hope; while the Patronus was a projection of those very feelings, it could not feel despair, so the Dementors have no effect on it.
Then why would Professor Lupin instruct everyone to think of a happy memory? Why not the feelings? Why not just ask them to be happy, and then conjure the Charm?
And almost instantly, the answer came to him — so simple, and yet so brilliant…Memories were easier to dredge up from one’s mind and remembered — even happy ones for that matter — far easier than trying to remember the feelings themselves. It would be insanely difficult for someone to automatically become happy, despite how cheerful their demeanour usually was. Plus, the recollection of such memories would easily help them in remembering how they felt at that time — the power of association was far less complex for the mind to comprehend and harness.
Technically, one would need to be able to remember how they felt in a particular memory, and focus on that feeling, that sensation of joy and glee, of real happiness. That would help them in producing a Patronus, much more efficiently than if they focused only on the memory.
Feeling quite proud of himself for having figured this out on his own, Harry drew his wand from the pocket of his robes, his eyes shut tightly as he tried to recollect a happy memory, and with that, the emotions he had felt at that time…
And slowly, imperceptibly, the image of a petite, fiery, red-headed girl arose in his mind’s eye; her warm, brown eyes filled with spark and laughter; her easy smile, with the small dimple on her cheek; the unforgettable moments he had spent with her along with his two best friends; the way she would always make him roar with laughter, or smile with irrepressible delight…
Harry smiled inwardly, and he could feel his mouth stretching to grin as well; without preamble, without letting go of what he was feeling, he shouted, ‘Expecto Patronum!’
He knew he could conjure the Patronus, knew that the silvery Prongs would erupt from the tip of his wand, ready to charge down those Dementors and foes that could harm his caster…
What he did not expect — and certainly could not have expected — was the sound that accompanied the arrival of his stag guardian: the sound of hooves.
Harry’s eyes snapped open, and so did nine other pairs of eyes. Shock, awe, surprise, incredulity…each one of these emotions were now reflected on the faces of his nine classmates and Professor Lupin, as they stared at him. He looked at each of them, moving from one person to another, to finally arrive at Ron’s expression of shock, Hermione’s look of incredulity, and Professor Lupin’s visage of, surprisingly, curiosity.
His gaze finally fell on his beloved Patronus — the stag, Prongs, was slowly cantering along the space between the students, its hooves clip-clopping against the solid stone floor. Harry gaped at it, marvelling at the fact that he had somehow summoned a semi-solid Patronus — for while its hooves were impacting against the floor, the rest of its torso seemed to pass through the students like vapour, as it should be doing — and simultaneously being overwhelmed at the sheer ludicrousness of the situation. What on earth had he just done?
Prongs finished his trot and returned to Harry, who instinctively reached out his hand to pat the stag’s nose; almost immediately, it vanished, leaving behind a stunned silence that stretched on...
‘Class dismissed,’ said Lupin, at last.
‘You never do things halfway, do you, Harry?’ said Ron in an awed voice, as they returned to the common room ten minutes later.
The boy in question could only shrug; he dropped his bag next to his favourite armchair near the fire and sank into it unceremoniously. He felt inexplicably tired and drained; his eyes closed of their own accord as the warmth from the fire enveloped him.
‘I never knew you could produce a Patronus, Harry,’ said Fay, sounding equally impressed. ‘How long have you been able to do this?’
‘Was this your first try, Harry?’ asked Parvati eagerly.
‘Who taught you how to do it? Was it Lupin?’
‘Enough!’ came a sharp voice, and at that moment, Harry was filled with an immense amount of gratitude towards Hermione. ‘Leave him alone, he’s not going to tell you anything right now.’
‘Oh get off it, Hermione, don’t tell me you aren’t curious —’
‘She also possesses something called tact — something which none of you seem to have. You heard Hermione, leave him alone.’
For the second time in fifteen minutes, Harry’s eyes snapped open — this time at the sound of the second person’s voice. Ginny Weasley had squeezed herself into the small circle that had formed around Harry, and was now glaring at Seamus, who had the grace to look abashed, and even a little afraid. Harry couldn’t blame him — Ginny’s skill with her wand was quite well-known, even for her age.
‘Bugger off, all of you,’ came Ron’s voice from somewhere to his left. Slowly, with a slight amount of grumbling, the rest of the class went off to their dormitories, leaving Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny.
‘What happened to him?’ asked Ginny worriedly, sitting on the armrest of his chair.
‘Well…’ Hermione bit her lip, clearly unsure as to what to tell the younger girl. ‘He — err —’
‘He managed to conjure a semi-solid Patronus,’ said Ron.
‘Yes,’ said Hermione. ‘That.’
Harry saw Ginny look from Ron, to Hermione, to Ron again, and to himself, evidently lost for words in her shock. ‘He — you — what?’
‘Yes,’ said Hermione. ‘Our reaction, exactly.’
‘We knew he could do a fully formed Patronus,’ said Ron slowly, ‘but a semi-solid one is unheard of. I remember Bill telling me so — if a fully formed one is difficult, a semi-solid and solid one is ten times as hard.’
Ginny gaped at him. ‘But — he — how?’
‘Now, that’s a question we’d like to know the answer to,’ said Hermione, suddenly reverting to her ‘study and revision mode’. ‘How did you do it, Harry?’
Three pairs of eyes stared at him, as Harry stared into the crackling flames in the grate. He felt exhausted — more than usual for someone post their Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. He supposed it had something to do with the energy he had expended in conjuring the semi-solid Prongs.
Should he tell them? Should he divulge his reasoning, which would be the most plausible explanation for his conjuration? The theory would be easy to explain — it made sense, was logical enough for the two girls, and it had worked. But his actual thoughts…no, he would not tell them about that — it was private, precious, and incredibly mortifying all at the same time. He would not explain that he had thought of Ginny Weasley, and the way she had made him feel. He could not understand it himself — what on earth was this supposed to be? — so how could he explain it to his friends?
Harry had the desperate desire to meet Sirius and speak to him about this — Sirius would understand, and would be able to help him understand and sort it out.
He looked up at Ginny — a concerned expression on her face — and smiled almost automatically. They were his friends, the three of them — he had to tell them, at least.
He stood up suddenly, grabbing Ginny’s arm to prevent her from falling as he almost unseated her from her perch on the armrest. ‘Come on, let’s go and discuss this with Professor Lupin.’
The rest of the week, and the weekend, passed without much incident. Their discussion with Professor Lupin was, for Harry’s friends and the professor, enlightening in more ways than one. Lupin and Hermione, in particular, seemed quite intrigued by the possibility of focusing on the happy feelings — by associating them with the memories — thereby conjuring a more powerful Patronus. Ron and Hermione, who had yet to conjure any vapour in Thursday’s class, naturally struggled with this new method. Lupin, too, seemed to have some difficulty in adapting to this alternative, but he did not give up hope.
‘It’ll take a bit of practice, that’s all,’ he had told them reassuringly.
Lupin had also asked for Harry’s permission to research into this, which Harry readily granted — although he did not see the need for him to do so. Naturally, this got Hermione extremely excited, and she could barely contain her glee when Lupin asked her to help with the research. The professor and the student had been so engrossed in their subsequent discussions that Ron and Ginny had to physically drag Hermione away so that she could join them for dinner.
With Hermione now immersed in the research on the solid Patronus Charm, Ron — along with Harry himself — had taken over the responsibility of looking through Neville’s book for a way to survive the second task. Harry had thought of asking Ginny for help as well, but she, along with Ian and Demelza Robins, a fellow third-year, had been put into detention by Snape for two weeks for pasting dead Flobberworms on the ceiling of the Potions classroom.
‘It’s a shame,’ said Ginny when she told the three of them about her punishment, ‘but at least this means he’s getting back to normal.’
And so they searched — during their mini-breaks between classes, at the end of the day, and after finishing their homework over the weekend. The book was not enormous, but large enough for Ron and Harry to spend a considerable amount of time in poring over its glossy pages. Harry supposed that Hermione would have taken half the time in this research, but she was too busy with helping Lupin in his research. He thought of calling her out on the fact that she had promised to help him with this, but thought the better of it — after all, how often did one get a chance to do some ground-breaking research with their favourite Professor?
In any case, it was Hermione herself who brought it up the following Thursday in the common room. Harry and Ron were, as usual, seated at the table in front of the fire, hunched over ‘Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties’. Ginny was out with some of her friends in a walk around the lake — or so she had told the boys when they had entered the common room.
‘Harry?’ said Hermione in a small voice when she reached them.
‘Hmm?’ came Harry’s distracted response; Ron, who seemed to be completely involved in the paragraph he was reading, merely waved absent-mindedly in greeting.
‘I — I’m sorry, Harry,’ stuttered out Hermione, causing both boys to look up in alarm at their bushy-haired friend.
‘Sorry? What for?’ asked Harry, bewildered.
‘For not being able to help you with you research,’ she replied, and to their immense surprise, she looked on the verge of tears. ‘I know I promised to help you, but I couldn’t do it earlier, and now —’
‘Is that what this is all about?’ said Harry, exchanging an incredulous look with Ron, relieved to have cottoned on so early. ‘I thought you had told us off to Snape or something.’
‘I — no —what? Of course I wouldn’t!’ said Hermione, indignant at the unfounded accusation.
‘Hermione, it’s all right,’ said Harry, half laughing at her sudden outraged expression as he patted her comfortingly on the shoulder. ‘We’re almost through half the book, see?’ He pointed at the volume on the desk, where they had indeed covered around half its contents. ‘We’ll find an answer, don’t worry. I mean, yeah, it’s just us two blokes, and you know Ron’s research skills —’
‘Thanks a lot, mate,’ came the instant response, causing Hermione to giggle.
‘— but I think we’re almost there. We’re not blaming you — like we’d keep you from joining a revolutionary research project. To be honest, I would have loved to participate on it myself.’
At this, Ron looked up from where he had gone back to his paragraph, staring at Harry in shock. ‘Really?’
Harry nodded. ‘Yeah, wouldn’t you? It sounds fascinating — I mean, we’d actually have a chance of discovering a method to destroy Dementors.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ shrugged Ron. ‘I’m fine with this, thanks.’
Harry gave him a friendly punch to the arm. ‘And I appreciate it. See?’ he said, turning to Hermione. ‘Nothing to worry about.’
‘Well…’ began Hermione hesitantly. ‘If you’re sure… I mean, I could always help you later in the evening, once I’m done with my research for Professor Lupin —’
But Ron cut her off almost immediately. ‘Hermione, remember what happened last year?’
The reminder of her Time-Turner influenced year, and the immense workload she had taken up, was enough to convince her to stick with Lupin’s research. Of course, she did state that if she had a day off from Lupin’s work, she would help them without a doubt, something they were both very pleased about.
Half an hour later, the three of them — Hermione had finished her work early, and was now helping them move along at a faster rate — were still clueless; the book had not provided any answers yet. Throughout their search, Harry had to keep reminding himself that he had two weeks to go to the second task, and that he would definitely find a solution to breathing underwater by then. Right now, however, he felt utterly hopeless.
‘This is hopeless!’ he exclaimed loudly, after another ten futile minutes. ‘There is absolutely nothing in this that is going to help me breathe underwater for an hour — nothing!’
‘Maybe we should try a charm,’ suggested Hermione, but even that seem half-hearted.
‘I wouldn’t be able to master it in two weeks, Hermione,’ shot back Harry irritably.
‘Err,’ came a small voice, ‘there actually is something that could help you, Harry.’
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked up to the slightly nervous visage of Neville, once again puffing slightly with the weight of his schoolbag on his shoulder. His round face was damp with sweat, and was quite red, presumably from exertion.
‘What happened to you, Nev?’ asked Ron curiously as Neville sat down in the closest chair.
‘Got onto a wrong staircase,’ shrugged Neville sheepishly. ‘Ended up on a different floor and wing of the castle, with no idea about how to get back.’
‘Right,’ said Harry, a bit too impatiently, earning him a reproachful look from Hermione. ‘You were saying?’
‘Oh, right, yeah,’ said Neville. ‘Well, you could always use Gillyweed.’
Silence. And then —
‘Of course!’ said Hermione excitedly, snatching the book quickly from Harry’s grasp and flipping through the pages.
Seeing Harry’s and Ron’s confused expression, Neville elaborated. ‘It’s a plant that, when eaten, gives you gills, allowing you to breathe underwater. It also gives you webbed feet and hands.’
It took Harry a few moments to process what Neville had said. ‘It gives me gills?’
By this time, Hermione had found the appropriate page in the book — almost towards the end — and had shoved it back onto the desk in front of them. ‘Read!’ she said, and Harry and Ron read.
‘Gillyweed is a magical plant native to the Mediterranean Sea. When it is eaten by a witch or wizard, one grows gills and webbing between the fingers and toes, allowing them to process oxygen from water and navigate underwater more easily. There is some debate among Herbologists as to the duration of the effects of Gillyweed in fresh water versus salt water, but the effects of Gillyweed in fresh water seem to last about an hour.’
Harry looked up at Neville, excitement coursing through him. ‘Is this easily available? Here, in school?’
‘Professor Sprout has some in her private stores. So does Professor Snape. But you can easily get it in Hogsmeade — Dogweed and Deathcap definitely has it.’
Poor Neville had no idea why Hermione had kissed his cheek, or why Harry and Ron had hugged him fiercely, after that statement. It was only once the second task of the Triwizard Tournament ended, that Neville understood just how much he had helped Harry Potter.
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