Disclaimer: If I happened to wake up one morning, and found myself given all rights and privileges to Harry Potter, the first thing I would do is buy a polar bear, train it to wear a top-hat and monocle, and ride it everywhere. The second thing I would do, is make at least a token effort to explain what kind of mass concussion struck each and every single member of the Order of the Phoenix that made having a grand, publicly known event like a wedding for Bill and Fleur right out where everyone could find them, including the psychotically murderous wizards who knew that they took Harry Potter, seem like a good idea.
The two girls ran down the corridor, Valefar running eagerly beside them, trying to catch up with the dot on the map so that they could see who this 'Severus Snape' was. Daphne was struggling to balance the need to move quickly against not being heard, and she held the invisibility cloak under one arm, ready to throw it around both of them in case the map showed this Severus turning back toward them.
They sprinted together, school robes flapping behind them with each step as they passed walls lined with paintings of slumbering subjects, a few of which grumpily called for them to be quiet. Yet Daphne's focus remained on the dot currently gliding across the map. Who was Severus Snape? What did he have to do with Harry Potter?
"This way." She turned down another corridor and sprinting down a short set of stairs to a narrow passage. "It's a shortcut. We'll get ahead of him."
"You realize... how stupid... this is...?" Sophie hissed at 'him' in between panting breaths as they raced on. "We can't remember the big bad guy's name. What if the big bad guy's name is Snerverous Snipe?"
"Snape," Daphne corrected. "Severus Snape." Ahead of her, Sophie's dog made a low growling noise. Apparently he was really getting into the act of chasing someone. She hoped Sophie could keep the big dog under control if they did catch up with the older wizard.
"Whatever, wizard names are weird." The other girl shook her head, slowing down. "Is chasing him down really a good idea? What are we gonna do, alohomora Wizard Hitler to death? You may be some magical prodigy with junior Auror training, but my idea of a bit of offensive spelling is still writing naughty words."
"I just want to see his face." Daphne assured the other girl. "If we can get close enough to see who he is, we might recognize him. We'll use the cloak as soon as—hold on, that's Neville."
"Huh?" Sophie was confused. "Snape is Neville?"
Daphne shook her head. "No, no. On the map. Snape is pretty much right on top of him."
"I like Neville." Sophie sighed. "Okay, fine, let's go. No abandoning Neville." Valefar gave a woof of agreement to her words and charged onward.
After three more steps, Daphne's eyes widened. "He's gone."
"What do you mean he's gone?" The real Gryffindor demanded. "I thought that map showed everyone."
Daphne hesitated, glancing at the map again. "It does. But his dot just disappeared. Maybe he apparated out somehow? But... that's supposed to be impossible. That or he found another secret passage that this map doesn't show, like the one in Myrtle's bathroom."
"And... and Neville?" Sophie asked slowly, as though she was afraid of the answer.
"He's still there." Daphne confirmed. The girls looked to one another as it dawned on them that the boy would have been there when Snape vanished, and then turned as one to sprint even faster.
They found him just crawling out from behind a tapestry next to a window that overlooked the cliffs. "Neville?" Sophie came to a stop next to Daphne, speaking the boy's name hesitantly as he straightened up.
He gave a loud yelp of fright, jumping as he spun around, literally flinging his wand into the air before it came clattering down onto the floor. "Oh... oh it's you. Hi, H-Harry. Hi, Hermio—wait."
Daphne saw the other girl roll her eyes at that before replying dryly. "Yeah, I'm not Hermione. Just plain old boring Sophie Roper."
"Err..." Neville shifted from foot to foot, looking even more nervous than he had before. "That's not what I... I didn't mean to... that is..."
"Forget it, I know." Sophie shook her head.
"Have you seen umm... somebody?" Daphne finally cut in.
"S-somebody?" Neville flinched, gulping uncertainly. "There was umm... there was somebody... I was hiding, because I didn't know who it was and I don't think we're supposed to be out this early and I didn't want to lose us even more points-"
"Never mind that." Sophie interrupted impatiently. "You saw them? Did you get a good look?"
The boy's head bobbed up and down. "He was right there." He pointed to the window next to the tapestry where Valefar was already sniffing intently. "I saw him right by the window. Then he looked back and I... I looked away, to see if I could hide any better, but when I looked back, he was gone."
"He was gone? He just vanished, and you didn't see how?" Daphne asked slowly, sorting that out.
After the boy nodded, Sophie sighed. "But you saw him, right? You still got a good look? Who was it? Who was the guy you saw?"
Looking between them, Neville shrugged, gulping nervously. "I got a good look. But... I dunno. I never saw him before." Trying to be helpful, he added, "He had long black hair that was kind of greasy, and he was really pale. He had sort of a... hooked nose?" Hopefully, he added, "Is he your... friend or... umm... maybe an uncle?"
Both girls deflated. "No." Daphne shook her head. "Apparently his name's Severus Snape, but if he's not anyone you recognize... then I don't have a single bloody clue what that means."
Hesitating, Neville asked, "Sh-should we tell the professors about him?"
Exchanging a look Sophie, Daphne shook her head. "Don't... ummm... don't worry about it right now, Neville. I promise, we'll take care of it."
Looking relieved somehow, Neville's head bobbed. "Oh, right. You can take care of it, Harry. I'll uhh, I'll see you later."
"Neville?" Daphne frowned. "What're you doing out so early again?"
The boy gulped at that. "Uhh, just ummm... just walking. Can't sleep, Harry. Maybe I'll sleep better tonight. Hopefully." He stood there awkwardly for a moment before turning to hurry off.
Sophie stared after the boy. "There is something weird going on with him."
"Yup." Daphne agreed. "But damned if I can figure out what it is."
"Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no." Susan Bones covered her mouth with her hands as she backed away from the chalkboard. "Not again."
She was staring at the words that covered the board all the way across, from top to bottom. The same two sentences over and over. The words that were burned into her mind by this point, since this was the fourth time she'd woken up this way, standing in the middle of a strange classroom with chalk on her hands and the words scrawled repeatedly over the board. There had even been a couple times in the last few weeks when she'd let herself daydream in class, only to look down at her parchment and find the same two sentences written there as well.
The castle believes what others may doubt. The teachings within while the teacher without.
Those same few words, stretching across the whole chalkboard. Eyes wide with fear, Susan pivoted on her foot and bolted for the door. It opened just as she got there, and the red-haired Hufflepuff ran headlong into the figure that was coming in.
Squealing as she collided with the other person and reeled backwards, Susan grabbed for her wand, only to realize that she didn't have it. Before waking up here, writing those sentences again, she had been sleeping in her bed.
Realizing belatedly that she wasn't the only one recoiling with obvious fear, Susan opened her eyes and blinked. "Neville?"
The Gryffindor boy stared back at her, a roll of parchment clutched tightly to his chest. "Umm. Susan? What... what're you doing here?"
"W-what am I doing here?" She stammered nervously, before realizing that he wasn't exactly going to get her in trouble. "What are you doing here? What time is it?"
Neville opened his mouth, then shut it, looking even more nervous. After a moment of this, Susan's eyes widened. "You don't know. You were sleepwalking too!"
"Err..." The boy blinked. "Too? I mean, what?"
She grabbed for the parchment, pulling it away before the boy could stop her. Neville let out a squeak of surprise and tried to take it back, but she turned away to look. If she was wrong, Susan was going to feel absolutely awful, but if she was right...
The castle believes what others may doubt. The teachings within while the teacher without.
All over the parchment, the same sentences.
Glancing back at the blushing, stammering Neville, Susan took his arm and pulled him into the room before pointing at the words on the chalkboard.
He stared. "You... you keep writing it too?"
"I keep waking up in different rooms, writing those same two sentences all over the place." Susan replied, scowling with frustration. "I dunno what it means." She cast a hopeful gaze at Neville. "Do you?"
He shook his head., and Susan deflated. "Of course not." Biting her lip thoughtfully as she stared at those words for another few seconds, the girl finally sighed. "Maybe we should ask a teacher?"
Neville blanched at the idea. "What if we get in trouble? We're not supposed to be out after hours."
She stared at him. "Neville, we're sleepwalking. I don't think that counts as breaking the rules." When he continued to look nervous, she sighed. "Okay fine, how about if I send a letter to my aunt and ask about writing while sleepwalking? And meanwhile, we can ask our housemates about it."
The boy shifted uncertainly then. "Are you sure that's a good idea? What if they make fun of us for it?"
Susan blinked at that, confused. "Why would they make fun? I said housemates. Housemates don't make fun of each other." Something occurred to the girl then, and she stared at him. "Wait, do Gryffindors make fun of each other?" Seeing Neville's expression, she gaped. "But you're housemates. Housemates are supposed to stick together, stand up for each other, be loyal and... err... uhh, I guess that's a Hufflepuff thing. Seriously, they make fun of you?"
"It's not so bad." Neville shrugged helplessly. "If I could do magic right, they wouldn't make so much fun."
Before Susan could even begin to respond to that, a lit wand was suddenly held directly in front of their faces, as a voice loudly announced, "Aha!"
Both second year students yelped and jumped backward. Susan could feel her heart thumping its way out of her chest as she looked up at... "Professor Lockhart?"
The man, face lit by his wand by then, gave them a dazzling smile. "The one and only. And what do we have here, eager students, soooo enthralled with my teaching that they're already waiting in my classroom?"
"It's not even dawn yet, Professor." Neville replied, before flinching when Susan nudged him hard.
"So it isn't." Lockhart's head nodded slowly. "Which would mean that... you two are out after hours..." He shook his head, making a few disappointed sounds. "I know what this is about."
"You... you do?" Susan asked, casting a nervous glance toward Neville.
"Of course." Professor Lockhart beamed. "You've heard that I'm turning my teaching this year into my new book!"
"You are?" Neville blurted in confusion.
"Yes yes, no need to play dumb with me." Lockhart gave them an exaggerated wink. "I know two eager students trying to get named status inside my book when I see them. And I know just how to help you earn that coveted wish."
"But... but really, Professor, we're just..." Susan tried to protest.
"Hush now, no need to involve anyone else." Lockhart assured them. "We'll just handle this privately. I'll tell you what, if you want a place in my book so badly, I do need a couple of people to help me answer fanmail." When both of the second year students opened their mouths to protest, the man held up both hands. "Easy, easy, I know. It's not much of a punishment. Here I am going on about you earning your way into the book, and then I give you an easy job like that. Trust me, it'll be our little secret." The man winked. "Can't have everyone thinking they can get as lucky as you two."
"But, Professor, we-" Again, Susan tried to speak.
He laughed. "All right, all right. You both drive a hard bargain. I promise you can have signed first editions as soon as it comes out. That enough for you? You get to help me with my fanmail, you get your names in the book, and you get signed first editions. I'm afraid that's the best I can do. Now-" His hand waved dismissively. "Off with you both."
Finding themselves ushered from the room, Susan and Neville stared at each other. The Gryffindor asked, rather hesitantly. "What... umm... what just happened?"
Susan shrugged helplessly. "I... I think we got detention. And... some sort of a... book deal?"
"Maybe he's been confunded."
"What, every single day?"
"Harry wasn't confounded, Ron."
Two days before Halloween, Hermione Granger sat in her chair next to the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room, trying not to blame poor Ron too much for his latest theory about why their friend was acting (in his estimation) oddly. It was understandable. The fact was, Harry was pulling away from them. That much she could tell, and it definitely wasn't just Ron's imagination. The difference between her and Ron was that she didn't think it was a spell. She just assumed Harry was trying to protect them after what had happened to Daphne Greengrass.
Besides, she had a lot of experience with friends leaving after she said the wrong thing, and much less experience with actually getting them back again. Her obsession with school hadn't simply materialized once she became a witch. Before then, she'd been focused entirely on academics.
As it turned out, being a nine or ten year old that could discuss subjects years ahead of their time and enjoy doing so was not entirely conducive to making friends. And even that was discounting the random little strange things that started happening around her toward the end of her normal education.
Then the lovely Professor McGonagall had come, along with her Hogwarts Acceptance letter, and those random strange things had suddenly made sense. Hermione was a witch. Once she'd accepted that, it made a lot of other things in her life much easier to understand.
She'd come to Hogwarts, initially excited at the brand new start, and at the idea that she wouldn't be seen as such a freak. It was magic, surely no one would fault her for being obsessed with studying that, right?
Wrong. Apparently children could find boredom in any and every setting. While Hermione had assumed that she'd have to beat her fellow students off with a stick in order to grab any of the books in the surely terribly busy magical library for herself, what she found was that hardly anyone did anything more than what was strictly required. And even that most of them complained about.
Worse, the fact that she had not only devoured every little bit of the wizarding books she could get her hands on before the train had even arrived, but also actively hunted through the library looking for more, made everyone treat her as just as much of a freak as her old school did, even though this time she was actually the right age.
She didn't get it. They hated her because she knew the answers? She knew the answers because she read the books. If they'd read the books, they'd know the answers too! What was she supposed to do, pretend to be stupid so that they'd like her? It was like they wanted to be lazy, but demanded that everyone else be lazy as well so that their own laziness wouldn't stand out so much. So the moment that someone came along and broke that illusion, it was clearly and obviously that person's fault.
The breaking point had come when Ron had said those awful things last year. She had run away to hide in the bathroom, just like she had in her old school. Only this time, it wasn't the custodian or a teacher who had come to kick her out, but a troll.
She would have died, if it hadn't been for Harry and Ron. From that point on, they had been friends. Real, true friends, the kind she hadn't had... pretty much ever.
"Honestly, Ron, Harry's just got more friends now. See?" Hermione lifted a hand to point across the common room. "He's talking to Sophie." Yes, she was a bit nervous that Harry was moving on after all that they'd been through, and that he was clearly hiding something, but the last thing she wanted to do was push him too much.
Ron was doing a fine job of that all by himself.
"He's always talking to Sophie." The red-haired boy complained, slumping back. "Hey, you think they're boyfriend and girlfriend or something?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and started to point out that Harry wasn't even thirteen yet, when a different voice spoke up. "Well of course they are."
Lavender Brown, who had been passing by on her way to the stairs, came back over to sit on the edge of the nearby couch, giving them a wickedly conspiring look. "Harry Potter and Sophie Roper are absolutely dating. I mean look at them," She waved her hand demonstratively toward the pair, who, as far as Hermione could tell, were simply looking at some book. If reading a book meant you were dating someone, Hermione would have been considered married repeatedly by then.
"You really think so?" Ron asked, sounding worried as he glanced that way, frowning uncertainly.
"I know these things, Ronald." Lavender replied authoritatively. "Harry's obviously matured a lot this year. And he's cute. Really cute. If Sophie hadn't been so quick to swoop in, I probably would have given it a go. I mean, he is the boy-who-lived. If I'd gotten dibs on that, my mom would've been so happy she'd scream."
"We're second years." Hermione pointed out, pragmatically. "No one's dating anyone."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Granger." Lavender replied with the kind of false sweetness that made Hermione's skin crawl. "I didn't realize you were still so immature. That's not your fault, honey. You'll understand these things in a year or so... maybe." Unable to repress her giggles, the awful girl rose and then hurried away while calling over her shoulder in a faux-whisper. "But he is cute, even you have to see that."
"Huh." Ron stared at Harry and Sophie for a few moments, head tilted thoughtfully. "Hey, Hermione, you think we-"
"No." She interrupted flatly.
"But I was just thinking. If Harry and Sophie can-"
"No, Ron." Hermione started to gather her books before rising.
"But I figure if Harry-"
"Oh honestly, Ron, they're not dating. They're twelve. They're friends. And Harry hasn't been spelled by anyone. He's just got more friends, like Sophie. He doesn't have to obsess over Quidditch to be your friend, and he doesn't have to be onlyyour friend. If you're lonely, try talking to other people. You know, like he's doing. Branch out. You two aren't joined at the hip."
Ron stared at her like she was speaking Gobbledegook for a long few seconds. Then he spoke slowly. "Sooo... you're saying we can't just-"
Making a frustrated noise, Hermione spun on her heel and stomped up the stairs, leaving a bewildered Ron behind, muttering, "Well you could've just said 'no'."
"Luna, why did you make yourself green?"
It was Halloween eve, weeks after the incident outside Myrtle's bathroom, and Daphne had been in the midst of what had been a good and proper bit of thoughtful pacing out by the lake. The last month had passed without any other sighting of the 'Severus Snape', or anyone else coming out of the bathroom. Besides that, she still hadn't found anything about using the stone to resurrect Harry. The fact was, she need to know how he-whose-name-should've-been-on-her-mind had resurrected himself, but every thing she researched about that kept leading to various restricted books that weren't actually in the places they were supposed to be in. All of which meant her investigation had stalled, until she could figure out her next move. Hence the pacing.
Now, she had paused to raise an eyebrow at the first year Ravenclaw, who was lying on her back in the grass under a nearby tree.
"You can see me?" Luna sounded a bit disappointed as she stood up. Her robes, shoes, socks, skin, and even her hair, had been color charmed to be green.
"I... umm... yes?" Daphne offered hesitantly, unsure of the question. "You do know that being green doesn't make you invisible?" Merlin, please let her know that.
Luna rose, blinking those perpetually wide eyes at the 'boy' a couple of times. "It's camouflage." She explained, gesturing back to the grass. "Green, green."
"Right." Daphne said slowly. "The umm... the trouble is that you're still human shaped. And you're sort of just... sitting in the middle of the grass. You're still a fully shaped and sized person, just sort of... sitting there."
"Oh no," Luna's head shook in disagreement. "That's not true. Some of the other Ravenclaw girls said that I'm flat and that no one would notice if I laid down and died." Her head tilted a little, those bright and owlish eyes blinking inquisitively. "I don't particularly want to die, but I thought that not being noticed could be useful for the next time Minister Fudge sends his Auror assassination squads. He really is quite panicky about anyone who might reveal the truth about the Rotfang-"
"Wait. Go back." Daphne waved her hand to stop the younger witch's newest conspiracy theory. "What Ravenclaw girls?"
"Apparently, exceedingly unhelpful ones." Luna replied, gazing down at the grass with a thoughtful frown, unbothered by the look on 'Harry's' face. "Or perhaps I should follow their suggestions more thoroughly."
"They did say that I should jump in the lake. It's darker, the green could blend well..."
Daphne sighed. "Luna, promise me you're not going to jump in the lake."
"Promise." She insisted.
Finally bobbing her head in easy agreement, Luna obediently said, "I promise."
Lifting her wand, Daphne cast the reversal for the color change spell on the other girl's face. "Still, did you do this coloring yourself? That's pretty impressive magic for someone who just started a couple months ago."
Luna just smiled faintly. "It sounded like a useful spell in the book."
"But you don't cover color change spells until..." Daphne trailed off, waving a hand. "Right, sorry, I forgot, Ravenclaw."
"You're not the first." Luna replied, her voice taking on a dream-like tone as she gazed somewhere past Daphne's shoulder. "I believe I know him."
Turning to see what the girl was looking at, Daphne blinked. "Professor Riddle? Of course you know him, Luna. He's a teacher. Sort of."
Luna raised a shoulder in a shrug. "Perhaps. Or perhaps I know him from a past life." Her head tilted thoughtfully. "Maybe he was a friend. Or maybe not. He behaves very oddly, after all."
"You... think Professor Riddle is odd." Daphne took a moment to process that. Luna Lovegood thought someone was strange. Sure, he was mean, self-centered, and clearly obsessed with punishing the real Harry—wait a minute. If they were looking for the bad guy, and Professor Riddle openly hated Harry Potter, then-"
Blinking a couple of times, Daphne looked back at Luna. "I'm sorry, I think I lost focus for a second. What were we talking about?"
"Nothing important." Luna replied with a soft sigh that confused the other girl. "Nothing you'd remember any better this time, anyway."
Before Daphne could question that, Luna started to walk away. "It's almost time for supper. I do hope I don't get one of the wandering-away plates again this time." The girl gave a wistful sigh. "It's such a bother to lose things every time one of the other girls wants to show me something. I've already had to stop bringing my books to read at the table. Perhaps that's why people keep forgetting that I'm a Ravenclaw."
"What do they think you are?" Daphne had to ask, as she followed after the younger girl.
"A house-elf, I believe."
Sophie sat at her end of the Gryffindor table, between Parvati Patil and Dean Thomas, staring at the pumpkins that floated overhead. "Wow..." She breathed, trying to take in all of the decorations and food at once. "Wizards sure know how to celebrate Halloween." The floating pumpkins had already been proven to be filled with sweets, though Dumbledore had insisted that they eat their regular meal before attempting to knock the pumpkins down to get at the treats inside.
Not that anyone was likely to ignore the feast itself anyway. Whoever had been making all this food was clearly going above and beyond. Sophie was pretty sure there was enough food here to feed six schools their size, with plenty left over. "This is kind of nutters."
"Well it's more than just Halloween." Hermione spoke up from across the table.
Realizing that the girl was talking to her, Sophie blinked. "It is?"
The bushy-haired witch bobbed her head, glancing toward Harry next to her. She looked like she wanted to say something, but was hesitant. "It's umm... I looked it up, and this is the anniversary of..."
Harry looked at Hermione, paused for a moment, and then started a little as though it had just occurred to him. "Oh. This is the night when h-" He coughed. "When my parents died. When... when the... evil wizard killed them." The boy made a face then. "I wish we could remember his name. If it is a he."
"I'm sorry, Harry." Hermione was biting her lip, face pale. "I didn't mean to bring up your mum and dad. I was just trying to explain to Sophie why wizards make such a big deal out of this night still."
"It's all right, Hermione." Harry said quietly. "I'm not upset." It looked like that was true, but then, Sophie was pretty sure that Harry never got upset. He was really good at not showing it, so if he was, would they notice?
Ron set his fork down then and nudged Harry. "Maybe if you girls would stop bringing it up and trying to get Harry to be all... girly about it, we could talk about something else." Clearing his throat pointedly, Ron looked at the other boy. "You're going out with us by the lake to watch the fireworks over Hogsmeade, right, mate? They're supposed to be bloody amazing this year."
Harry blinked at that, clearly not having planned on it. "I was actually..." He started to say. Sophie saw the boy hesitate at the look on Ron's face, before he relented. "Yeah, I'll go watch the fireworks."
Grinning at that, Ron started back into his food once more. "You'll see, Harry, the Halloween fireworks are great! It all started when these wizards decided to really get into the fireworks after..." Realizing that he had been about to bring up the subject that he'd just gotten on their cases about, the Weasley boy flinched. Clearly looking for any change in subject, he blurted, "You can bring Sophie too."
For her part, Sophie's head tilted curiously. "What do you mean, he can bring me?"
From his place next to her, Dean laughed. "Oh come off it, you two. Everyone knows you're dating."
Simultaneously, she and Harry ended up spitting out the gulps of juice they'd been taking. Sophie sputtered. "We're what?!"
Hermione scowled, folding her arms over her chest. "Oh honestly, I told you all, they're twelve years old. No one's dating anyone."
Blushing furiously, Sophie waved her hand that way. "What she said! Listen to the genius, she's smart and stuff. I'm not—we're not- oh jeeze." Sighing, she straightened from the table.
Before she could stomp off, however, one of the doors at the entrance into the Great Hall slammed open. The sound made everyone in the room jump, then look fearfully that way. They all remembered what had happened last year when this happened. Sophie half expected to hear a fearful voice call out that a troll had entered the dungeons... again.
Instead, it was Neville who came rushing inside, panting and out of breath. "Pro-Professor! Professor!" He called out toward the staff table while stumbling.
"Good heavens, Mr. Longbottom." Professor McGonagall had risen from her seat. "Compose yourself immediately. What in the world is wrong now?"
Panting as he leaned over, Neville waved back the way he had come. "Outside... above the lake... have to... see... fire..."
That was enough to make all the students jump up from their seats, though they froze when Professor Dumbledore stood, clearing his throat. "I believe," The Headmaster said into the silence that followed. "That only the faculty should let our dinner be interrupted this way. Please," He swept his hands out toward the tables. "The rest of you enjoy your feast." It was a thinly veiled order to leave well enough alone, and all of the students sat down again.
That, naturally, lasted all of three seconds once the teachers had left. As soon as it was clear, everyone bolted for the nearest window, clamoring to see.
Moving around bodies until she finally found an open spot, Sophie cupped her hands to her eyes and peered through the window.. "What's the big..." She trailed off then, finding what everyone was already staring at.
Giant, ten foot tall letters made of fire stretched across the sky just over the lake in the distance, forming a message.
WHAT DWELLS BENEATH, SOON SHALL RISE.
LEAVING CHAMBERS OF SECRETS AND GUISE.
TO BREAK AND TEAR GUILE, MYTH, AND LIES.
TIL ALL AND EVERY PUREBLOOD CHILD DIES.