At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry five key events are taking place. Albus Dumbledore is engaged in a battle of wills with a furious Minerva. A greasy, hook-nosed man is watching a potion going horribly wrong. A clumsy house-elf is about to drop a key ingredient. Peeves is dropping a water bomb on Sprout just as she takes her foot off the top step...

...And as night coddles the dozy earth, a screech that would make cheese from a nosebleed sweeps through the night air, making one Rubeus Hagrid very happy.

"YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE SERIOUS ALBUS?" There is a smash and tinkling of glass as something delicate is hurled across the room.

"Quite serious Minerva," replies Dumbledore calmly. "She will arrive tonight."

"Arrive? Arrive? ARRIVE HOW PRECISELY?"

"In the usual manner for a Bannisher Witch."

"THE PROPHET WAS RIGHT! YOU'RE SENILE!" shrieked Mcgonagal. "IT-IS-NOT-A- WITCH!!!"

Mcgonagal winces suddenly and sits down. Four stunners in the chest have taken their toll. Panting slightly, she opens her mouth to argue some more when a feral wail from outside pierces her heart.

Snape scowls at the hissing grey liquid as though it's lack of co-operation is a concious act of spite. Maybe it is. When one of the main ingredients is Sapient Pearwood it becomes hard to tell.

Dobette must be bringing him the last flaskful of Dryad blood. If he botches this potion like he did the last three it will take months to get more. Then he might have to teach the boy Occulmency again. God forbid.

He closes his eyes and wrinkles his hooked nose as a deeply unpleasant odour from his potion invades his nostrils. Perhaps he will leave the last attempt till morning. He is very tiered.

Just as he relishes the happy idea of forcing some of the powerful yet corrupt potion down Dobette's throat just to see what it does he hears a resounding, ear splitting wail. Worse, much worse, the sound of breaking glass just outside his door.

Dobette hurries along as fast as she dares, the potion clasped tight in her skinny hands. She hurtles to her master so fast you'd think it hurts to be away. It does. She is in such a hurry that she doesn't notice thick grey fumes rising menacingly from under the potion master's door until after she has inhaled a lungful. There is a moment of pretty flowers far away.

"Dobette is a happy happy elf," she observes vaguely. "Happy happy happy..."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIII

The bottle slips from her hand and smashes.

Snape is not the only tiered teacher tonight. Sprout's mandrakes are menopausal, has Devil's Snare has declared war on the venomous tentacula and the bobotubers have cross pollinated with the whomping willow, producing some rather unpleasant saplings.

As she starts to wearily descend the flight of stairs leading to the dungeons to ask advice, circumstances conspire against her.

First the staircase shifts slightly. Then, with a cry of "BONSAIIIIII!" Peeves the poltergiest drops a water bomb on her head. She hovers for an unpleasant second, one foot in the air, the other slipping.

A scream, so intensely horrible that it makes the hairs on her arms stand on end, freezes her insides. She lets go of the banister and

Falls and

Falls and

Falls.