Harry walked with the others back towards the castle, his wand gripped tightly in his hand and the Lumos spell glowing brightly. As they reached the top of the hill, he couldn't help looking back towards the area where he knew the headless carcass lay. The monster crab, if that's what the thing had been, could have killed them all. And it would have, too. But then that stranger showed up and had saved them all. Why he saved them he didn't know and he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. It was enough that he had, as Harry really didn't think he was capable of stopping something so big that it could knock down full grown trees as if they were matchsticks. But who was he, the man with the creepy red eyes? It was clear he was from the same unknown place as Palpatine, as he also had a red laser sword. Harry shook his head to chase the thought away. It didn't matter, not really. He had enough problems with Voldemort already and didn't need to worry about some new dark wizard. Palpatine was attending school and that was fine with him. Weariness crept over him and he lifted a hand to his mouth to stifle a yawn. Now that the threat of danger was over he felt tired, the adrenaline draining from his body.
His green eyes darted over to his platinum blonde classmate. Malfoy was walking alongside his father, the coward. Was Draco still planning on taking Palpatine on? The Boy That Lived hoped so, even if Hermione didn't agree. The simple truth was he was tired of solving everyone's problems and was more than willing to let the Slytherin handle this. And Palpatine was in Slytherin, too, right? So in a way it was nothing more than internal House politics. As a Gryffindor, it was none of his business really…
Excited voices could be heard from up ahead and as Harry stepped off the end of the long bridge he was pleased to see several professors, Hagrid included. All of them had their wands out and held at the ready, no doubt planning on tracking the creature down and destroying it. The big half-giant, not being allowed to use magic, gripped his strong crossbow in both hands. Even though it had proved ineffective against the beast, it was still the best weapon he had. A warm burst of relief and joy shot through his body, momentarily causing him to forget the fact that he was tired. "Hagrid, you're OK!"
Darting forward, Harry ran up to the half-giant and wrapped his arms partway around his thick waist. Ron and Hermione soon joined suit, hugging their big friend as well. Puling back slightly, Harry tilted his head back and gazed up at Hagrid warmly. "When I saw your house destroyed I fear that you've been killed!"
"Harry!" Hagrid exclaimed in a gruff voice. "You shouldn't be out here! That nasty beastie is about… And Ron, nor should you. The both of you belong safe in your beds."
"The creature is dead." Lucius calmly stated, one black-gloved hand resting on Draco's shoulder. The elder Malfoy stood there regally, his long pale hair trailing down his back. His long expensive cloaked flapped in a breeze, revealing the blood red inner lining. He appeared totally at ease even though moments before he had faced possible death from either a falling tree or the Acklay itself. His steel gray eyes showed no hint of emotion, his face the perfect mask. As a Death Eater, he had been in tense situations before and they didn't faze him as it would to certain others.
"Dead? How?" Hagrid asked as his dark eyes fell on the suspected Death Eater. It was no big secret that he didn't like Lucius and now he stared at the blonde man suspiciously. "Killed it with Dark Magic, did you?"
"I most certainly did not!" Lucius huffed, insulted. The Pureblood stuck his chin into the air and coolly glared at the large, hairy-faced man. His free hand tightened on his snake-headed cane as cold anger burned in his eyes. Normally anyone looking into his eyes would have had a hard time determining if they were blue or gray, but now they took on a definite steel gray color; dark and overcast. "The very idea of suggesting that I know Dark Magic…!"
"We know what you are!" Hagrid stated as he placed a big protective hand on Harry's shoulder as if that could protect him from the Death Eater. Something akin to hatred shone in his dark eyes. Normally the big man was extremely easy-going and was willing to overlook things, but some people just rubbed him the wrong way. And Lucius Malfoy just happened to be one of those people.
"Hagrid! Lucius!" Dumbledore cried as he stepped forward, his voice loud and commanding. The Headmaster's long white beard flapped in the wind, as did his pale bluish-purple robes. "We will have no squabbles! You are both on the staff now and I'll expect you to treat each other decently."
"But Professor!" Hagrid protested, a wild look in his dark coal eyes.
"Calm yourself, Hagrid." Dumbledore waved his hands in the air to emphasize his words and the half-giant reluctantly let the matter drop. "Everyone appears to be fine and that's all that matters. Hagrid, you'll have to spend the night in the castle, of course. Tomorrow we'll rebuild your home using magic and it'll soon be just as good as new. The students, meanwhile, need to go back to their respective common rooms. They've had a busy night and I'm sure they're in dire need of a good rest."
Professor Snape stepped forward, his dark eyes scanning the night around them. Satisfied that nothing lurked in the inky blackness, he focused his gaze on Lucius. "Is the creature truly dead?"
"Yes, it is." Lucius confirmed a second time. "Lord Vader lopped its head off with one of those red swords…"
Snape glowered at the news, his thin lips turning down at the news. "Palpatine is bad enough. The last thing we need is two of these red sword-wielding maniacs in the school! Where did this new one go?"
Lucius blinked, raising a dark brow. "I haven't the slightest idea."
Frowning even more, the Potions professor glared at the wealthy Pureblood. "I will not do your job, Lucius. You best keep an eye on Palpatine and don't go wondering off anymore. Merlin knows what he'll do next and since the Headmaster refuses to expel him, there is little that we can actually do I'm afraid."
Ron's eyes grew wide at this bit of news, his mouth gaping open. Turning his shocked expression from Harry to Hermione, he then settled his gaze on Dumbledore. "You're not going to expel him? Even after what he did? He knocked a bloody house down!"
Clearing his throat, Dumbledore spoke. Peering over his half-moon eyeglasses, he gazed at each person in turn. "Palpatine deserves a chance to explain himself. Perhaps he was unaware that Hagrid didn't know how to care for the creature. It may be common where he comes from…"
Disgusted, Snape turned on his heel and marched back to the castle, his long black robe furling out behind him like a pair of bat wings. "You let too many students get away with things! They need discipline, not coddling!"
Professor McGonagall stepped forward next, her hand signing to the three Gryffindors. Her pointed hat was fixed firmly upon her head and a long dark cloak trailed from her shoulders. "Come along you three! It's late and I'll escort you back to the common room. You're all extremely lucky you weren't killed…"
With a glance back at Hagrid, Harry started to follow the Head of his House towards the castle, Ron alongside him. Hermione smiled at the their big friend for a moment, the smile brightening her entire face and then she hurried after the others. Suddenly her brown eyes widened and she came to a halt. "Professor, our books! They were in Hagrid's house! How will we ever do our homework?"
McGonagall sighed but waved Hermione forward towards the castle. "We'll recover the books tomorrow. Until then you'll be excused from the various homework assignments, Miss Granger."
Horrified at actually being excused from assigned work, Hermione glumly trailed after the elderly witch and her two best friends.
A short time later Draco Malfoy stormed through the long torch-lit hallways of Hogwarts. Although he was pleased to be within the safety of the thick stonewalls, he felt as if the old zombie had bested him again. His pride had been rudely stung several times this day. In fact, the entire day had been one major tragedy right from the beginning. Not only had the old man effortlessly picked all the Snapper saw berries and saved Neville's life, but also it had been his freakish monster that had forced him into the Dark Forest. Like a frightened First Year, he had run for his life. Determination to beat Palpatine in his own game burned within him like a dark fire and his heels struck the floor hard, his stride increasing. "There has to be someway to get that old zombie. He can't know everything…"
The fact that he had no idea what Transfiguration was seemed to support this theory.
The doorway to the Dungeons was just ahead and Draco made for them, pausing when he heard a pair of familiar voices.
"Psst!" the voice called and he saw an old dusty tapestry on a nearby wall move slightly. To his utter shock, a pale hand poked out from behind it and waved in his direction. "Over hear!"
The blonde Slytherin hesitated, unsure what he should do. He knew that voice but couldn't pin it down to a specific person. It certainly wasn't Potter, Weasley or Granger; that much he was certain. So who was it and why were they hiding behind that dusty old rag? Not long ago the Golden Trio had preceded him into the castle with the old cat. Had McGonagall escorted them all the way to Gryffindor Tower or did she trust them to find their way by themselves? It was no secret she doted on them. It was down right sickening really. But Draco wasn't about to dismiss the possibility that this was some trap concocted by Potter. Perhaps Scarhead was angry with him about something? The moment with Granger came to mind. He had shoved her up against the wall angrily, demanding to know what an alien had been. He had been upset at the time; worried about his father's whereabouts. But Potter wouldn't care about that. Heart beating in his chest, he stood where he was and watched the tapestry in question. It showed some idealistic countryside, a long robed wizard with a unicorn.
The hand waved again, this time seemingly annoyed. "Do you want help getting rid of that zombie or not? If you do, step into our parlor…"
With that said, the hand vanished.
Draco felt his mouth go dry. Did someone really want to help him with Palpatine or was it just bait for a trap? His silvery gray eyes darted from the dust-covered tapestry to the doorway to the dungeon and back again. Was there a doorway behind that moldering rag? He had passed it thousands of times and never bothered giving it a second glance. The filthy thing was beneath his notice and if a hateful glare could start it afire, it would have been ashes long ago, First Year to be exact. Cornish Pixies twirled madly in his stomach and he uncertainly stepped forward. His desire for revenge against Palpatine glowed hotly and it soon overcame his common sense. Straightening his back and tossing back his shoulders, his swallowed the lump in his throat and marched forward. Reaching out, he gripped the grimy edge to the moth-eaten fabric and pulled it aside. A dark alcove waited just behind and within it sat two grinning Gryffindors.
"So you came." Fred stated with a broad smile.
"We thought you would." George finished the statement and held out his hand, a small white paper sack in it. "We invented these during the summer. Thought you might want to slip a few to that old zombie."
"It should be very hilarious." Fred's smile grew broader.
The blonde Slytherin stood there uncertainly, his cool gray eyes shifting from one twin to the other. A disdainful sneer appeared on his pale pointed face. "I don't need help from Weasleys…"
"Oh, don't be that way!" Fred replied good-naturedly. "We're not like our brother Percy. Everything has to be just so with him. It's downright annoying is what it is."
"And we admit our father has a bad temper at times…" George shrugged. "And our little brother has inherited it, but it's no reason we can be open-minded, is it? Just take it, all right?"
A dark brow rising, Draco peered at the white sack but made no motion to take it. For one, he had no idea what was within it. The Weasley twins were notorious pranksters and the last thing he wanted was to be at the receiving end. A spraying bladder of ink could be in there for all he knew – or something far worst. "What's in it?"
"Just some new inventions of ours." Fred explained as he took the bag from his twin and reached inside. A moment later he showed Draco a handful of sweets. "This, for example, is a Canary Cream. Eat it and your body will sprout bright yellow feathers! Imagine that old coot panicking when the feathers appear! He'll be totally clueless!"
Draco relaxed somewhat, relief flooding through him. Leaning backward slightly, he checked up and down the hall for adults. He suspected his father would be coming along soon enough and he didn't want to get caught associating with Weasels. Satisfied the hall was still clear, he accepted the sack of sweets and tucked it within his robe pocket. "All right. I'll try giving him one tomorrow at breakfast…"
"That's all we ask…"
"Different colors do different things…"
"So glad you'll test them!"
Turning on a heel, Draco hurried into the Dungeons without glancing back. The more he thought about it, the better the Canary Cream sounded. A sweet looked innocent and most old men liked candy. The chance of Palpatine eating it was extremely high, especially if Draco snuck it onto the table among the other food. A satisfied smirk soon appeared on his pointed face and his step had a zing to it. Turning the corner, his long black robe trailing out behind him, he soon reached the Slytherin common room and hurried within. If he were extremely lucky, the zombie would wet himself from fear.
The night passed and soon the sun rose over the horizon. Up in Gryffindor tower, Harry groaned and sleepily rubbed at his eyes. It was another day and that meant Potions. He hated Potions and the fact that it was the first class of the day. The potions themselves weren't really that bad, but it was the teacher. Snape had a grudge against him and always acted unfairly. Crawling out of bed, Harry knew his only hope was Palpatine. With any luck, the greasy-haired teacher would shift his hatred onto the new student and leave him alone.
After bathing and dressing, Harry wondered down to the Great Hall. Hermione was already at the Gryffindor table, a miserable expression on her face. The table itself was strangely empty and he soon realized what was missing: Hermione's over-stuffed bag of books. Seating himself across from her, he shot her a warm smile.
"I feel positively naked without my books! I do hope they recover them soon…" Hermione stated as she sat at the table drumming her fingers on the smooth wooden surface. "One would think they would have extra copies of all the text books in case of things like this…"
"You can share my books…" Harry offered. He hated seeing his friend so depressed. Within a few seconds he was rewarded with a cheerful smile, her warm chocolate eyes sparkling in merriment.
"Oh, Harry! You're so sweet!" Hermione cried in happiness, a slight film of wetness coating her eyes.
Her happiness was the only reward he needed.
Ron soon stumbled into the room and joined them at the table, the red head yawning loudly and sleepily gazing about. The table was rapidly filling up with their housemates and breakfast was about to be served. Just then owls swooped into the Great Hall from the numerous openings high in the walls near the ceiling, the birds carrying mail. One swooped low over the Gryffindor table and dropped a rolled parchment in front of Ron. It was his copy of the Daily Prophet and he shoved it aside, uninterested.
Chocolate eyes glowing eager for knowledge, Hermione's hand whipped out across the table and snatched it. Opening it, she quickly read the bold headline and gasped. "Look! This is just unbelievable!"
"What?" Harry asked, his brows wrinkling together in confusion. "What's unbelievable?"
"I can't believe they'd print something like this!" Hermione stated as her eyes rapidly scanned the front of the newspaper.
All across the Great Hall students were reading the Daily Prophet, loud exclamations filling the room. The word spread rapidly and soon the entire room was abuzz with the news.
Laying the paper flat on the table, Hermione started to read to her fellow Gryffindors. Soon they had a small crowd around them that included Seamus and Neville.
You Know Who Is Really An Alien!
By Rita Skeeter
Shocking events have recently taken place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which I have witnessed with my own eyes. The truth about You Know Who is that he is back – and attending school. The Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore has refused to speak to me on this matter and the Ministry claims the person in question is someone else, but I have uncovered the truth.
The Dark Lord is back and attending classes. His skin is decayed and falling off in pieces, evidence that he has only just recently crawled out of his hidden grave. His presence alone has created chaos throughout the school. During a flying lesson for First Years, he had the students running and screaming for their lives. Apparently he now suffers from a strange disease called Zombie Rot. This disease is said to be highly contagious and anyone that comes in physical contact with him will instantly catch it, causing his or her body to rotten while still alive. His eyes are red as blood, the color seeping into the skin directly under his eyes. I suspect he suffers from internal bleeding due to his half-alive, half-dead status. At least one student has already contracted the terrible disease and is being treated at this very moment. No word on the student's progress is available at this time.
Why Dumbledore allows this great enemy of the Wizarding World to attend classes at Hogwarts is unknown. His very presence threatens not only the lives and safety of our children but their morals as well.
Worst, the truth is that the Dark Lord is NOT OF OUR WORLD!
A strange metal craft descended from the sky and landed yesterday afternoon on Hogwarts property next to the castle. This Muggle-like object was the most strangest and frightening thing I have ever seen. From my hidden location I witnessed the door open like a giant mouth. A tongue rolled out and soon masked Death Eaters appeared! The Dark Lord was already outside, waiting the return of his loyal followers. He spoke with the lead Death Eater, a man dressed entirely in black with a black mask. They carried a huge floating box out and set it on Hogwarts property. What this box contains is unknown at this time, but it's sure to be a threat to our helpless, innocent children that attend the school. The Dark Lord would never bring anything good and wholesome, we all know that.
Word at the school is that under their masks, the Death Eaters are not human at all. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained to me what an alien is. The idea is hard to understand, it's that foreign, but we must try if we're to truly understand He Who Must Not Be Named. Out among the stars, there are other worlds just like this one. These worlds circle different suns. The Dark Lord has in fact come from such a world and has deceived us all these years. He didn't want us to know the truth of his origins, claiming he grew up in an orphanage. That is just another one of his lies. In truth they have pale gray heads with huge black eyes. One can only imagine what horrors will come now that he and his loyal followers have returned. What is his REAL purpose here? When will the killings start again? I feel it's only a matter of time before his Dark Mark appears in the sky again.
Another pressing matter is: Where is Harry Potter and what will he do about it?
"You're right." Harry remarked glumly as he stared with shocked eyes at the crude drawing of an alien. It was clear to the Boy Who Lived that they had stolen it from a Muggle tabloid. He had seen the trashy newspapers while waiting in the supermarket checkout lanes with the Dursleys. It was all bunk, of course. Muggles knew it was false yet some of them found the stuff fascinating. And there were the rare fruitloops that actually believed in aliens. They had websites and spent all their free time scanning the sky for UFOs. The funny thing was that for a change Rita Skeeter was partly right. Palpatine really was an alien. The problem was that he was not Lord Voldemort.
"This is going to cause huge problems…" Hermione predicted in a serious tone, her face not showing a trace of the happiness from a few moments ago. Her chocolate eyes rapidly scanned through the rest of the newspaper for more relating to the story. Such a story always was accompanied by smaller pieces. There were several in this case, one giving the well-known details of how Harry defeated Voldemort as a mere baby.
Even Ron seemed depressed. "I hope Mom and Dad won't want to pull me out of school…"
Harry could understand how many parents would want to do just that. "And the real Death Eaters, how would they react to this? Surely they'd see it as slander, wouldn't they?"
"There's no real way to be sure." Hermione commented as she finished scanning the paper and threw it onto the table. Reaching for her fork, she stabbed at a piece of egg. "Either they'll feel insulted and grow angry, or else they'll be thankful for the cover-up. Who really knows?"
Frowning, Harry picked at his breakfast. A bad feeling started to grow within the pit of his stomach and he knew things were just going to get worst…
To be continued…