Chapter 1 - Year Six, Easter

"Professors McGonagall and Moody kept them working until the very last second of their classes too, and Snape, of course, would no sooner let them play games in class than adopt Harry." — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


Harry scowled at the parchment before him. With his elbow he flattened the curling end of it and read his Potions essay over again.

Hermione leaned in close and said quietly, "I don't think boar's teeth is correct in the second part, nor honeydew correct in the last part."

"Thanks," Harry muttered and pulled out his textbooks.

He really wanted to be done with it. The temptation to decide it did not matter enough warred with the notion of giving Snape the pleasure of marking him wrong. With the hundredth sigh that evening, he flipped to the relevant chapter. Sixth-year Potions was much more interesting than previous years, but much more tedious as well.

"More tea?" Ron asked him.

Without looking up Harry held out his cup. "Thanks."

"You shoulda done like I did and not taken anything hard this year," his friend pointed out, not for the first time.

"Second term exams will be over soon enough and it will get a little easier then, for a little while." Hermione said this as she packed her books away. She stretched, sat back in her chair and stared at the fire while Ron and Harry bent farther over their assignments.


"Hand your essays forward," Snape said as he strode into the dungeon classroom the next morning. He glared at the students as they obeyed in silence. "Today and the rest of the term we are going to cover lichen-based potions. These are unique because the lichen will assist us in synthesizing key ingredients of the potion. It is also time-consuming as lichen are sensitive to eutrophication. So the process is extremely difficult to speed up."

He paced once in front of the classroom. "Who can tell me the three main species used in potion making?"

Hermione raised her hand along with one of the Ravenclaws.

"Mr. Potter?" the teacher asked airily even though Harry's hands were firmly clenched together on the bench top.

Harry cleared his throat to stall, delved into his memories of the readings, and said, "Usnea, Lungwort, and Parmeliacia…aceae."

"Tantalizingly close, Mr. Potter. But incorrect," Snape sneered.

Harry rubbed his neck as Dean leaned over and whispered, "It would have been good enough for a Slytherin answer."

"Five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Thomas, for speaking out of turn."

Snape waved his wand at the blackboard, making the day's potion instructions appear. He glared at Harry and Dean, daring them to complain. Harry put his head down and copied the board into his notes with a frown.

"Hmf," Snape murmured, as though he believed their giving in to be pathetic.

"Four more terms," Harry chanted under his breath. "Or maybe Voldemort will discover he's a spy before then."

"Harry!" Hermione whispered sharply.


"You're coming to our place for Easter holiday, right Harry?" Ron asked as they walked to the Gryffindor tower at the end of the day. He tilted his head back and walked with loose arms. "I'm so so so very much looking forward to getting a break."

Hermione's brow furrowed and she poked Ron. "A break from all those easy classes you said Harry should have taken too?"

Ron put an arm out to block Hermione out of their group and the two of them fake fought until Hermione laughed.

"I don't think Dumbledore is going to let me," Harry said. "I think my choices are here or the Dursleys. That isn't a difficult choice…believe me."

"If not, do you want me to stay here with you?" Ron asked as they reached the staircases.

"I'm sure your mum and dad want to see you," Harry said.

"They want to see you too." Ron made a face. "Maybe even more than they want to see me."

"Tell them to convince Dumbledore it's safe then," Harry said with little hope.

Ron brightened. "Hey. What if I stayed for two extra days and then went home? There is another train on Sunday."

"I'd really like that, Ron. We spend all day together everyday, but it is just working, it seems." Harry said. "It's not fun things."

"I'll owl my folks then and tell 'em," Ron said.

"I'd love to stay too," Hermione said, "but my parents really are expecting me for dinner on Sunday with my grandparents. I wouldn't make it home in time."

"I appreciate the thought, Hermione," Harry said. "But we'll be all right. We are just going to sit around and do nothing…and enjoy every minute of it."

"Every minute, wizard chess," Ron said deviously. "I don't think we've played all term."

"One game, maybe, Ron. My ego can't take more than that."

"Oh, your ego, Mr. Hero, would be just fine after losing ten in a row," Ron said, giving Harry a punch on the arm.


Without their fellow students, the castle was quiet enough to hear its old stones shifting in the heat of the day. Harry and Ron grew restless in the strange stillness of the Gryffindor common room.

"Shall we go out on the pitch and toss a Quaffle around?" Ron asked.

Harry was sitting back with his feet up on one of the low tables. "I wouldn't say that's 'doing nothing'."

Ron tugged on his arm. "Come on, you. You need some sun—you're almost as pale as I am."

Brooms in hand, they stepped out onto the lawn. Cloud shadows moved over the grass which danced and raced in the cool breeze. Down at the pitch they took the Quidditch locker off the shelf and removed the Quaffle before stowing it again. As they kicked off, the cold wind bit Harry's hands, and he wished he had worn gloves.

"Pass it!" Harry shouted, flying out ahead. Ron obliged and soon they were dodging in and out of each other's flight path, passing the Quaffle back and forth.

"Bad pass!" Ron said as he was forced to scoop the Quaffle off the lawn and kick off again. He passed it behind his back more accurately than Harry had done.

"Show off!" Harry shouted. He did a sloth roll and tossed it back.

"Look who's talking!" Ron laughed. He made an extra effort to catch that pass, then tossed the Quaffle up and hit it with the tail of his broom over to Harry.

"Not reg!" Harry ducked low and wide to fetch the Quaffle before it could plummet to the ground. "Let me try that."

With a look of deep concentration, Harry tossed the Quaffle straight up and turned the broom one way, then fast the other. His just grazed it on the back swing, sending it into the trees.

"Ugh, I'll get it," he said.

Ron laughed as Harry zipped away and landed just at the edge of the forest. He waved an Accio into the trees, then shook his head and tossed up his hands. He dropped his broom and stepped into the darkness. Ron flew a few loops and barrel rolls before heading over there.

"Need help finding it? It could be stuck up in the branches, it isn't very heavy," he shouted.

Ron flew low over the tree tops and looked around at them. "Harry?" he called out after getting no response. Immediately, Ron dropped to the ground beside Harry's broom. "Harry!" he shouted. He started to charge into the trees before he realized that because of the bright day, he couldn't see in past the brush at all. "Harry!" Ron yelled again. "So help me, if you are funning me, I'm going to thrash you."

A breeze rustling the leaves was all that answered him. Ron took up his broom, kicked off hard, and flew around the side of the castle to Hagrid's cabin.

"Hagrid!" Ron pounded on the door.

"Whacha wan'?" Hagrid asked, stepping around from the pumpkin patch beside the cabin.

"Harry went into the forest after the Quaffle and he isn't answering me," Ron said. His voice had gone all quavery and he felt a little silly for it.

"Wha' the hell'd he do tha' fer?" Hagrid said and opened the door. "Fang!"

"It wasn't far in, really, just a few trees in," Ron insisted as he jogged to keep up with Hagrid. "I'm going to kill him myself and leave the rest for Mrs. Norris if he is joking around."

As they approached the edge of the forest, Ron said, "There, where his broom is." Ron felt expressly relieved that at least it was still there.

They stepped into the forest at that spot, Fang leading the way. As their eyes adapted they began circling.

"Harry!" Hagrid called out with his deep bellow.

The boar hound snuffled around a few trees then dug in one spot before he began mewling piteously.

"What is it?" Ron asked, stepping closer to Hagrid.

"Fang?" Hagrid asked. The hound dug more fiercely and sniffed again before releasing another howl. "Didjer see anyone, Ron?"

"No," Ron answered despairingly. "Harry landed and went in. I flew around a couple of loops and came over to ask if he needed help in case it was stuck in the tree. He didn't answer."

"Fang?" Hagrid repeated. The hound stepped over with the quaffle in his great teeth. "This wha' yeh looking fer?" he asked Ron as he took it from Fang.

"Yes," Ron said, his voice breaking.

"Best ge' up ter the castle. Come on."

"Where is he?"

"Jus' as well you took your time coming ov'r, I think."

"Haaaagrid?" Ron insisted, pained.


"What happened?" Dumbledore asked sharply when Hagrid told him Harry had gone missing. Ron recounted the tale again as accurately as he could, even his stalling, which he badly regretted.

"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't think…" He frowned miserably.

"Hagrid, take Mr. Weasley up to the Gryffindor Tower and meet me back here." More thoughtfully, he said, "I will need to send you to negotiate with the Centaurs, I think. With what good will come of that."

"No! I want to help!" Ron cried.

"I am afraid not this time, Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore said with finality.

Face scrunched up, Ron stomped after Hagrid.