(AU) Set in PoA. Amber is just another supposedly muggleborn Hogwarts attendee. Twelve years old, plays guitar and likes chocolate and bubblegum. She'd almost be completely normal, actually, if she wasn't blind.

Blind Faith

Chapter One

September, 1993

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be blind?

Well, some of us don't need to wonder.

'Cause it's all we know.

"Hurry up, Amber," my Mum said. I rolled my eyes. I was going as fast as I could without running into a wall. And it wasn't like we were in a rush.

I pushed the trolley, my left hand also holding my stick. I never went anywhere without my stick. Never. It was my guide, even now, when Mum was guiding the trolley for me. The wheels rattled loudly, adding to the overwhelming noise of people chatting pointlessly, feet pounding the ground, and the occasional train announcement. And this one owl hooting.

Are you surprised? I would be.

I'm a witch. I completely blind one, at that. You wouldn't believe all the trouble the teachers went through to allow me to attend Hogwarts. Had to get books written in Braille and everything. The charms professor found a charm to translate Braille into normal English. I had to write all my essays in Braille and everything. But, well, it's not like I can write normally, or anything.

"Where's the barrier?" I asked, hoping that she wouldn't let me go through without knowing where it was, like she did in my first year. Course, I hated the idea of running into a wall. Me more than anyone. It really hurts.

Don't laugh. I was five.

"Ten steps from here, straight ahead," she said. That was how I found my way around mainly. If I really trusted my guide, I'd let them take my hand. But only three people had that right.

The thing about being blind is that you don't judge people on their appearance. You can't, really. I mean, you can't see them! How are you supposed to take a look at them and go, Oh look. He's cute. He must be really nice.

Because I had it on good confidence that it often wasn't the case.

The only beauty that you see is the inner beauty. And to me, my Mum was the most beautiful person in the world. She didn't deserve a blind girl as a burden. Because that was what I was. A burden. For everyone.

Back at my muggle school, after I had learnt the basic skills that a blind person needs to know, such as reading Braille, as well as writing it, using the stick to navigate etc. the vice principal (the biggest bitch I've ever met) said I was a sinner. That I was blind to pay for my sins in my past life.

What I didn't get was that, if I was a sinner, why was I being punished for things I couldn't even remember? If God was so great and all-forgiving, why was he cursing me, rather than giving me a chance for redemption?

And why, oh God why did he do this to Mum? She never did anything to deserve this! Why was she-

Sorry. Got carried away.

Anyway, mum was great. She was a muggle, like my excuse of a father, making me muggleborn, so it was so much harder to cope with that it would have been if she'd been a witch. But she still did everything she could. She never moved the furniture in the house, which allowed me to get around easily. She put away my clothes when I wasn't at Hogwarts, she even learnt to read Braille!

The second person was, if possible, even better. She didn't judge me, and I didn't give up on her. It was a two way thing, though I knew I'd never be able to repay her for what she'd done for me. My best friend had sent me a letter over the holiday, on what had happened while she was on holidays in Egypt.

And it was written in Braille.

Ginny Weasley was a saint in the body of a witch.

But the third person was even more interesting. I didn't know why I trusted him, really. It was really weird, actually, since I'd only talked to him twice in my life, other than in speeches. And that wizard was Albus Dumbledore.

To tell the truth, I thought he had a loose screw somewhere up there, but there was just something about him that said 'good guy.' You could truly trust Albus Dumbledore. And after all he'd done for me, and many others, I could guess, I knew I would lay down my life for him.

Not that a blind girl's life is worth much.

The ten steps I took were perfectly even, perfectly balanced, and in a straight line. I actually took fifteen steps, because I'd wanted to get clear of the barrier. Platform Nine and Three Quarters was almost completely silent, with only my footsteps, the wheels of my trolley turning, and the driver talking to the food trolley lady.

It was really early in the morning. Mum had wanted to arrive really early, so I wouldn't be bumping into people. And she could help me get settled on the train, with a book and everything.

Another set of footsteps joined me, but I could instantly tell they were not Mum's. These footsteps were muffled, and not clicking like Mum's stilettos. They sounded like male work shoes, and suddenly, I knew that this person was not a student.

It was intuition. Everyone has it, but they usually counter it with no-proofs and often decide otherwise. And end up wrong.

But not being able to see meant I had to trust my instincts, or I'd live forever in fear of my shadow that I'd never seen. Which would just be weird.

Mums stilettos suddenly joined the fray. It was starting to get a bit difficult to distinguish which footsteps belonged to who. Thankfully, Mum then started talking. "Amber, I'm going to get the driver to help with your trunk-"

I rolled my eyes. I don't know why people do this. I mean, it hurts and all. But it's not like my eyes can get any worse. It was kind of a pointless action, because I was wearing my sunglasses, to hide my eyes, which no matter what anyone said about them being a really nice blue-grey, the must look ugly and unfocused. "Mum, I'm not five. I can carry my own trunk."

"You're always so independent, Amber, why can't you let people help you sometimes?" Her voice was vaguely distressed, but in another intuitive jump, I knew that it wasn't because of my independence at all, but her own worries about me going away again for another nine months. I rolled my eyes again.

"Cause that would ruin the whole independent thing, wouldn't it? Mum, I survived all of last year, I'll be fine this year."

I felt Mum's hands push mine gently off the trolley. I willingly let go and didn't make a fuss when she took my hand. She was worried about me. I guess I could understand that. I did get in trouble a lot.

She pulled me forward, chatting about everything and nothing in particular. That's what Mum does when she's freaked. Except when Dumbledore came to our house and told us that I was a witch. She passed out then! She went 'Oh... my... god...' and just fell out of her chair! I had just gone, 'Dude! That is so clich├ęd!'

My stick came in contact with the side of the train. I could tell because if made a clanging sound. However, I couldn't find the door.

I glared at some random spot, muttering furiously, "Where is the bloody door?"

"It's to your right," an slightly hoarse voice said. I jumped. I hadn't heard anyone approaching.

"Uh, thanks," I said automatically, on autopilot in my shock. Checking that I wasn't about to fall into a hole, I managed to find the door and step onto the train. Managing to get through a carriage door, I called out for my Mum.

"Amber..."

"Yes Mum?" I said, raising an eyebrow as she shoved a book into my hand.

"Please be careful!" Her voice had a note of desperation in it. I could understand that she was worried, but seriously!

I rolled my eyes. "Aren't I always?"

Suddenly, a pair of arms wrapped around me, and I was pulled into a bone-breaking hug. "Mum- need- breathe-"

I gasped in breath. I shook off her apology, and gave her a gentler hug. "Bye Mum," I whispered, pulling back.

"I need to get to the radio station. I've got the news report at ten." Mum's a TV news reporter. Muggle, of course. She is on one of the major channels, can't remember which, since I can't exactly watch it. I did sometimes listen to her, though. She has that whole indifferent calm voice, even when she announced that mass murderer, Serious Blake or whatever.

I ran my fingers over the Braille title as the compartment door slid shut. The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Two. I was pretty good at reading Braille. Of course, it takes longer than reading writing, but I read at the rate of and average English reader. At some point while reading, I pulled out my wand and started turning it over in my free hand. The wand was ebony (whatever that is) core was a phoenix feather and was twelve inches long. It was my pride and joy, and I had taught myself a couple of charms to make life easier for me.

For example, I knew a wandless summoning charm, since last year, people kept stealing my wand and hiding it. I could also throw of the silencing charm. People did that too, so I couldn't call for help. I knew it was fourth and fifth grade work, but Charms was my best class.

I didn't know how long I'd been reading for when people started filling onto the train. I had finished the book when the bell outside tolled that there was five minutes 'till we departed. After that I started fiddling with the ring on my right ring finger. It had belonged to my father.

Not that I knew who he was.

But whatever.

The bell promptly tolled, and train started to pick up speed. I ran my fingers over my leather jacket. It was my pride and joy, black, like most of my clothing, excepting my jeans, which were always blue.

I heard the compartment door sliding open, and that a very familiar cry of "Amber!" and for the second time that day, I was pulled into a bone-breaking hug.

"Hey Gin," I said shocked, hugging her back, "Nice to hear you too.

"So, how was your holiday?"

She proceeded to tell me all about Egypt, about her helping her twin brothers Fred and George put beetles in her older brother Bill's soup, and about Harry Potter. At about the same time as the food trolley came, it started raining. The wind howled and rain whipped against the window as I chewed the Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, debating with Ginny about Harry Potter, arguing that although he was a hero, he had a really bad saving people thing. Although at some point Ginny got sidetracked and instead started talking about how nice he was, and how brave, and why she liked him.

"He is just so nice," she finished, sighing. "You know Percy? He got Head Boy, and at the station he was all pompous and showing it off, and me and Harry looked at each other. His smile was so nice." We changed while we talked.

"Gin, you should hear yourself," I commented, chewing the gum, and fastening my tie loosely "You sound like one of those sappy love struck teenagers in those muggle movies."

"Shut up. Is the train slowing down?"

The train was slowing down. "Are we almost there?"

I could almost see the frown Ginny's face. But only almost. "No, we shouldn't be there for at least another half hour..."

The train stopped suddenly, and I was jolted out of my seat, landing on the floor with a thump and an "Ow." The rain and wind seemed to be suddenly magnified. There were several loud bangs coming from carriages further up the train, probably of trunks falling out of the racks.

"Are you-" Ginny cut of with a squeak.

"What?" I said? I hadn't noticed any change.

"The lights just went out. I can't see a damn thing."

"Welcome to my world," I said, grinning, "Do you plan to stay?"

Thud.

"Ow!"

"I don't want to stay here," Ginny said, her voice a little nervous. "It's too quiet."

"How about we go find your 'hero'?" I said sarcastically, referring to Harry Potter, and rolling my eyes. I seem to do that a lot, don't I?

"Great idea!"

I didn't think she'd picked up my sarcasm. Sometimes, Ginny can be really thick. Maybe it runs in the family.

"So, let's go!"

I bit back another sarcastic retort and pushed myself to my feet, summoning my wand and my stick to my hands and sticking my wand in my pocket. We hadn't taken twenty steps down the corridor when Ginny fell over again.

For the fifth time.

"I never knew it was so hard for you," Ginny growled. She pushed herself to her feet roughly, sending light tremors through the ground. "I think they're in here-"

I then heard the sound of the door sliding open, a thud and two squeals of pain.

"Who's that?" I heard an unfamiliar female voice say.

"Who's that?" Ginny retorted.

"Ginny?"

"Hermione?"

"Who?" I put in.

"Amber, this is Hermione, Hermione this is-"

"What are you doing here, Ginny?" a distinctively male voice put in.

"I was looking for you, Ron."

"Come in and sit down-" Hermione went, or at least who I thought was Hermione.

Ginny took my hand and pulled me into the compartment.

"Not here!" a hurried male voice said quickly, "I'm here!"

My stick stomped down on something squishy and I heard another male voice go, "Ouch!"

"Sorry!" I said automatically.

"Quiet!" a hoarse but authorative voice commanded.

And before I could stop myself, I had gone, "Hey, you're that dude from the platform!"

I heard Ginny groan from next to me and felt her hand slap over my mouth.

There was a quiet crackling sound and I heard about five different voices sigh with relief. I was pushed onto a seat, landing heavily, the seat going down next to me indicating that Ginny had sat down too.

"Stay where you are," hoarse dude-from-the-platform went. I heard his quiet muffled business shoes move across the carpeted floor.

But before he took more than two steps, the compartment door slid open on it's own accord.

Being a blind idiot, I had no idea what was going on. So when Ginny let out a sharp intake of breath and latched herself onto my arm, I whispered, but my voice carried across the compartment because of the complete silence, "What's happening?"

Then the thing, whatever it was, drew in a breath.

I had heard a wide variety of breathing; rasping, healthy, wheezing, gasping, panting... but none like this. This breath was rattling, as though it was trying to suck something other than oxygen out of the room...

And suddenly, a wave of icy cold rushed over me, and suddenly, I couldn't hear, I couldn't breathe! There was an overwhelming presence in my mind, instead of the nothingness, there was things, I didn't know what! Suddenly, I wasn't deaf anymore, but instead I heard cruel, maniacal laughter, and the things were changing positions, and suddenly, a fear so deep that it clutched at my heart consumed me, and there was no happiness, not warmness, only icy, icy cold, like that time when I was pushed into the lake in winter and I fell through the ice-

"AMBER!"

Ginny's terrified voice tore through my head and suddenly, everything was back to the normal nothingness, but the same horrible feeling, the fear, the despair, was still in me. But I could breath again, and my eyelids lifted (not that it made a difference). On instinct, the words crossed my lips "Are you OK?"

"Me?" Ginny said, her voice suddenly very high pitched? "I'm fine! You collapsed! Are you OK? So did Harry, and he still hasn't woken up yet-"

She sounded so scared, and suddenly I was pulled into another hug by Ginny and realized she was shaking violently. And suddenly, a sob crossed my throat and I shivered. I had felt so cold, so alone, and so dark...

That was when I heard the slapping sounds and the calls of "Harry! Harry! Are you alright?"

"W-what?" Dude No. Two went. I guessed this was Harry.

"Are you OK?" Dude No. One said nervously. Ron, I thought, intuition jumping in again.

"Yeah," Harry said, sounding distracted, "What happened? Where's that- that thing? Who screamed?"

I pulled away from Ginny, but put an arm around her shoulders. Although I felt like I was about to throw up, something about the way Ginny was whimpering quietly told me that it was her who needed comfort, not me.

"No one screamed," said Ron, even more nervously.

"But I heard screaming-"

Suddenly there was a loud snap and I jumped. "Here. Eat it. It'll help." Something small was shoved into my hand.

"What is it?" As soon as the words were out of my mouth I wished I could stuff them back in. I hated sounding so stupid.

There was a pause. "You don't know?" His hoarse voice sounded dubious.

I stiffened. If he had a problem with me being blind, then he was a closed minded jerk-off. "Amber! Calm down! Don't jump to conclusions."

Ginny's sensible voice jolted through my wall of resentment, but I still replied awfully hostily. "I'm blind," I stated shortly. I wanted to add something sarcastic to that, but I didn't know who this guy was. He might have been my father for all I knew.

But I highly doubted it.

"...Ah."

His shocked tone was exactly what I expected. I rolled my eyes. Nobody noticed, unless I walked into a wall or something. It's amazing how unobservant people are.

"You're blind?" Ron's startled voice cut into the silence.

I felt Ginny stiffen next to my. "Do you have a problem with that Ron." It wasn't a question. It was a demand. I could feel the tension in the carriage.

"What was that thing?" Harry said hastily, breaking the tension.

"A Dementor," said Platform Dude. I was starting to doubt my title. He didn't sound anything like a dude. He was more like a professor. "One of the Dementors of Azkaban."

I could feel everyone staring at him. I took the opportunity to say, "Your starting to sound like a teacher."

And as He said, there would be silence!

"Oops."

Ginny and Hermione giggled weakly. I brought my hand to my own mouth to hide my own half-smile. I couldn't forget the cold that the... Dementor had brought into the compartment.

"Eat, Harry. I need to speak to the driver, excuse me." I heard his fading footsteps, and the door click shut.

"Are you sure you're OK, Harry?" Hermione said.

"I don't get it... what happened?" I felt so sorry for him. He sounded so lost, and sounded just like I felt. I was starting to stop thinking that he had a saving people thing.

"Well- that thing- the Dementor- stood there and looked around- I mean, I think it did, I couldn't see its face- and you- you-"

"I thought you were having a fit or something," said Ron, who still sounded scared. "You went sort of rigid and fell out of your seat and started twitching-"

"And Professor Lupin-"

"Oh God." I lowered my head to my knees and groaned loudly. How stupid could I get!

"-stepped over you, and walked towards the Dementor, and pulled out his wand," continued Hermione, as though I'd never said anything. "And he said, 'None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go.'"

I mumbled under my breath, "Sounds to me like Dementors have bad grammar."

Ginny snorted.

"But the Dementor didn't move, so Lupin muttered something, and a silvery thing shot out of his wand at it, and it turned round and sort of glided away..."

"It was horrible," said Dude No. 3, who hadn't spoken up until now. His voice was a lot more high pitched than before. "Did you feel how cold it went when it came in?"

"I felt weird," said Ron, his voice coming from the other side of the compartment, "Like I'd never be cheerful again."

I couldn't have agreed more. I closed my eyes, and although things didn't 'darken', the pressure on my eyelids stopped me from crying and instead reduced my tears to a small sob. An unfamiliar arm wrapped around my shoulders from my other side. Hermione, my intuition said, and, although normally I didn't like people touching me, I let it slide. It was comforting.

"But didn't any of you- fall off your seats?" said Harry awkwardly.

And as awful as I felt then, I felt like I had to speak up. "I did," I muttered quietly. I had never felt so ashamed in my life. Why had I collapsed? I know Harry had too, but why! Did this make us weaker than the others?

The door slid open again. The familiar work shoes entered the compartment. He paused for a moment, then said, with a hint of humour, "I haven't poisoned that chocolate, you know..."

I instantly brightened at the mention of chocolate. "It's chocolate!" I said, my entire self now smiling brightly. I threw the chocolate into my mouth and instantly felt a rush of warmth run over me. "So good..."

"You shouldn't have given her that, Professor," Ginny said solemnly, "She'll be hyperactive for the next twenty-four hours now."

"You know you love it, Gin," I said with a exaggerated wink, laughing. She was right. Chocolate did make me hyperactive. But it was so good, I couldn't give it up. I loved the high it gave me, not blurring my judgement, but rather reversing my normal pessimistic attitude.

"We'll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes," said Professor Lupin, ignoring me. "Are you all right, Harry? Amber?"

He said my name as though as an afterthought. My ridiculous grin faded into a thoughtful expression. He didn't seem to like me. I couldn't figure out why. Was it my being blind? I felt a sudden rush of resentment. He felt somewhat more familiar to me than he should have, having only met him today. I didn't know why, but for some reason, I really wanted him to like me.

"Fine," Harry muttered. He sounded really embarrassed. Another rush of shame washed over me. Why did I go to pieces?

I couldn't stop myself from responding sarcastically this time. Resentment and shame caused me to go, "Absolutely spiffing," darkly.

No one talked a lot during the last ten minutes. After my brief high while the chocolaty goodness melted in my mouth, I was left not feeling at all cold, but I had gone into a somewhat meditative state.

When the train stopped, I summoned my stick to my hand wordlessly and wandlessly. I heard Hermione squeak as exclaim, "How did you do that? It must be some sort of summoning charm, but how can you do it without your wand and saying the incantation?"

I softened at Hermione's excitement. "Lots and lots of practice," I said with a small smile. "I kept forgetting where I put my stick, and I obviously couldn't look for it, so Flitwick taught me how to summon it wordlessly. I figured out how to summon it without a wand when I lost it. I went to classes for a week without a wand. McGonagall took ten points away when I told her that I didn't have my wand on me, so for the rest of the week I just brought a short stick. Thing was, it ended up being a stick from the Whomping Willow, so during Potions..."

I found it was really easy to talk to Hermione. She turned a very good listener, and didn't seem to care that I was blind. She laughed at all the right places and gasped at the rest. Occasionally Ginny would put something in, but the three of us had a very nice conversation while walking up... somewhere. I didn't know where. Ginny led me, holding my hand, and when Ginny told me that I needed to climb up into the carriage. I did, of course, manage, but it wasn't easy.

Partway to the castle, the now familiar sensation of my cold terror happened while in the carriage. Ginny squeezed my hand, which helped a bit, as did the thought that I wasn't the only one feeling like that. When Ron went, "You OK Harry?" I knew that Harry was going through the same thing as me.

When the carriage finally drove to a stop, a vaguely familiar, drawling voice sounded outside the carriage where I knew the door was. "You fainted, Potter? Is Longbottom telling the truth? You actually fainted?"

Hermione gave out a small cry of pain and her shoes (school ones, I guessed) made a couple of quick paced noises, those of someone stumbling. Ginny helped me out of the carriage without falling and breaking my neck, but stopped abruptly.

"Shove off, Malfoy," Ron's voice growled, his voice sounding clenched. That was who he was! Draco Malfoy, the infamous bully of Hogwarts. He'd been one of those who'd teased me the most. My cheeks flushed, and I tightened my fist not holding Ginny's hand. What I wouldn't give to hit Malfoy then...

"Did you faint as well, Weasley?" Malfoy continued loudly, "I know you did Hart, but it's obvious that a Mudblood like you would. But did the scary old Dementor frighten you, Weasley? What about you, Weaslette?"

"Is there a problem?" said a mild voice. Professor Lupin had arrived, probably out of the next carriage.

THWACK.

My palm stung as it collided hard with Malfoy's chin. I heard him curse and stumble back. It felt so good to hit him finally. "Not anymore, Professor," I replied-

I snapped out of my brief daydream when Malfoy answered with a hint of disrespectful sarcasm. "Oh, no- er- Professor." I could practically hear his smirk, before his footsteps, along with his thugs Dumb and Dumber swaggered- isn't that a funny word, I got it from Hermione- up to the castle.

Ginny led me off, muttering darkly under her breath about what she'd like to do to Malfoy, and when I suggested that we ask her twin brothers, she gave a slightly evil laugh that I could tell attracted most of the people surrounding us' attention.

"Potter! Granger! Hart! I want to see all of you right now."

My head spun around, surprised, facing the general direction of where the Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor, McGonagall stood. She was perhaps the strictest teacher at Hogwarts. Ginny helped my fight my way through the crowd to where she stood. Not that I could tell. But Ginny could.

"I didn't do it," I blurted out. For some reason, a lot of the time, I'm accidentally creating havoc. I could feel the withering glare she gave me.

"There's no need to look so worried- I just want a word in my office. Move along there, Weasley. Yes, you too, Miss Weasley."

I followed McGonagall's clicking heels, barely able to make them out from the chattering crowd. I almost walked into a suit of armour at one point, Hermione grabbing me by the tie and pulling me out of the way at the last second. My stick stopped my falling flat on my face when it collided with the first stair of the marble staircase. Other than that, I made it up to her office without incident, an amazing feat for me, one who was always knocking over suits of armour and causing masses of people to fall like dominos.

"Take a seat, Hart." I rolled my eyes. Again. I would bet a galleon that she'd motioned for me to sit. Had she forgotten that I was as blind as a bat?

I thought hard. It made my head hurt, but whatever. If Harry had taken the chair closest to the door, and Hermione had taken the next one along then...

I navigated my way expertly behind Harry and Hermione's chairs, my stick hitting the back of them, before finding the empty chair, walking around it and sitting down.

Amber Hart is now officially seated.

Round of applause please.

Abruptly, McGonagall said, "Please remove your sunglasses Hart."

I'd been expecting she'd ask that sooner or later. I reluctantly reached up and slipped off my sunnies, lowering my head so my long bangs fell over my eyes, hiding them from view.

"Professor Lupin sent an owl ahead to say that you both were taken ill on the train, Potter, Hart."

I opened my mouth to object to this unfair statement, but before a single word could leave my lips, three solid knocks on the door indicated the matron entering the room.

It's funny, isn't it? How much you can tell by someone's knock. You can tell a bit about their personality, who they are and what they're doing. Madam Pomfrey's knock was confident and businesslike. She was confident, and not at all shy. She was on business, and her knock was typical. Three evenly spaced knocks.

But enough on the fascinating wonders of knocks, back to the subject on hand.

I scowled angrily. It was bad enough that we'd passed out in the first place, without this big drama happening!

"I'm fine," Harry said. He sounded somewhat embarrassed. "I don't need anything-"

"Oh, it's you two, is it?" Madam Pomfrey's businesslike tone went, ignoring Harry's protests. "I suppose you've been doing something dangerous again."

"It was a Dementor, Poppy," said Professor McGonagall.

Pomfrey started muttering darkly, "Setting Dementors around a school. They wont be the first who collapses. Yes, he's all clammy. Terrible things, they are, and the effect they have on people who are already delicate-"

"I'm not delicate!" me and Harry said at the exact same moment, with the same cross tone.

"Of course you're not," Madam Pomfrey said with a distant tone. Someone (Madam Pomfrey) lifted my long bangs out of my eyes and pressed her hand against my forehead. I heard Hermione gasp.

"Oh my," her voice whispered. I shut my eyes tightly. I hated how everyone did that when they saw my eyes. It wasn't that they were disfigured, and the pupils weren't white, only unfocused. It's incredible how easily people are shocked.

"What do they need?" continued Professor McGonagall, sounding crisp, "Bed rest? Perhaps they should spend the night in the hospital wing." Madam Pomfrey was now pressing two fingers to my wrist.

"I'm fine!" we both shouted at the same time. The sound of a chair scooting back and a pair of feet sent light tremors through the stone floor. I turned my face towards Harry's direction in puzzlement. It was kind of odd, don't you think? how we kept saying things in unison?

"Well, they should have some chocolate, at the very least," Madam Pomfrey huffed.

"We've already had some," we chorused again. I stopped talking, thinking we'd branch off now, but Harry had seemed to think the same thing so I went, "You talk."

"Professor Lupin gave us some," Harry continued at my request. "He gave it to all of us."

"Did he, now?" Madam Pomfrey's voice sounded approving. Whoa, I thought, reality shock. I'd never heard her sound approving before- only disapproving. "So we've finally got a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who knows his remedies."

That was when I first though that there had to be a catch somewhere. It was all too good to be true. OK, so he didn't like me. I could deal with that. But everybody (Malfoy doesn't count) seemed to approve of him. He knew his stuff, he was generous, and he'd proved that with the chocolate, he actually cared about the students...

"Are you sure you feel all right, Potter, Hart?" Professor McGonagall's voice was sharp as usual.

"Yes."

What was it with the unison thing?

"Very well. Kindly wait outside while I have a quick word with Miss Granger about her timetable, then we can go down o the feast together."

I stood up quickly so I could follow Harry's footsteps to the door, my stick barely hitting his chair before I walked right into it. When the door clicked shut, Madam Pomfrey's voice and footsteps left down the corridor. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Harry spoke up.

"So... have you always been blind?

"Yep," I said, shoving my sunglasses back on, and pushing my long bangs of hair behind my ears. "I've been blind as long as I can remember."

I hesitated for a moment. I really wanted to ask him if he was OK, but I had a feeling that he'd gotten really impatient with everyone going 'You OK, Harry? Are you sure, Harry? How about you go lie down, Harry?'

I knew I would have. Gotten impatient, I mean.

Instead I said, "So... you heard screaming?"

"Yeah, did you hear it too?" he asked eagerly.

If I hadn't been blind, I'd have shaken my head no. But I'd never seen someone shake their head no, so instead I said, "No, I didn't, but..." I hesitated again. Should I tell him? Or would he find that just weird.

"Yes?" he prompted.

Very quietly, I said, "I heard maniacal laughter."

There was another very awkward silence. We didn't speak again.

The office door opened, and both Hermione's and McGonagall's footsteps came out. There seemed to be a bounce in Hermione's step that hadn't been there before.

I followed their footsteps down to the Great Hall. Then Hermione's voice, sounding awfully disappointed went, "Oh. We've missed the Sorting."

A new pair of footsteps came up and I heard Ginny's quiet voice whispering as she took my hand, "C'mon. I saved you a seat."

We sat down fairly close to the doors, and although I could feel peoples gaze on me, I stuck my chin out stubbornly and held my head high. Let them stare, I thought viciously. I knew just how fast rumour travelled.

Dumbledore's voice suddenly filled the hall, and I felt suddenly calm, for the first time since the Dementor. "Welcome!" he said. If I could have pictured him, he would have been very tall, with a long silver beard and hair and a nice smile. A smile you could trust. "Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious-" for some reason, at that second, my mother's voice echoed through my head- "-the public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special hotline has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately." "-I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast..."

I heard him clear his throat before continuing. "As you will be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the Dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business."

He paused. I had a feeling the he was just about as happy as me about the Dementors being here.

In other words, not at all.

Ginny's voice sounded in my ear, "Serious Black. He killed twelve muggles and one wizard, right after You-Know-Who fell."

"They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds," Dumbledore continued, "And while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises- or even Invisibility Cloaks." His tone sounded bland, but something about his tone gave me the impression that he knew that someone had one. "It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs foul of the Dementors."

"Percy is such a pompous git," Ginny muttered again.

"You know Serious Black was on the muggle news," I whispered back as Dumbledore paused again. "I feel kind of sorry for him. Imagine being named Happy or something."

"No, it's Sirius, like the Dog Star," Ginny hissed back, "Spelt S-I-R-I-U-S."

"Oh, and that makes so much difference."

"On a happier note," Dumbledore continued, "I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year.

"Firstly, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."

There was some somewhat unenthusiastic applause, though me and Ginny, and I suspect the rest of the people who had been on our carriage on the train as well, clapped hard. "Is he really weird looking or something?" I asked Ginny.

"No, his robes just look really old," Ginny whispered back, "And he looks kinda tired. Merlin, Snape looks so constipated!"

I snorted. It was common knowledge that Snape wanted the Defence post. Maybe this was just one year too many.

"As to our second new appointment," Dumbledore continued continuing, when the lukewarm applause for Lupin died away, "Well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy his remaining limbs."

"That sounds ominous," I muttered, causing Ginny to make an odd noise halfway between a cough and a laugh.

"However, I am delighted to say his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties."

"Go Hagrid," Ginny and I screamed while applauding loudly. Hagrid was another one of my friends, and had helped me a lot during last year. The noise from the Gryffindor table was particularly loud. From somewhere down the table, I heard Ron screaming something about him assigning a biting book. I grinned. It was so like Hagrid to do that. He didn't really have a good grip on what was dangerous and what wasn't.

Nor did I actually.

"Well, I think that's everything of importance," said Dumbledore. "Let the feast begin!"

"D'you want potatoes, Amber?"

It was somewhat difficult for me to eat, but over the years, I'd gotten fairly good at it. I preferred toast- no forks or knifes to skewer yourself on. But I managed very well, I thought.

We discussed Sirius Black, the Dementor, and the unfairness of not being able to go to Hogsmeade. All in all, by the time I'd finished, I had completely shaken off the feeling the Dementor had given me. After dinner, Ginny took my hand and let ourselves be pushed by the crowd up to the Gryffindor common room.

But sometime during my happy daze of being back at Hogwarts, a nagging feeling hit me about Lupin. There was something about him, not as though he was untrustworthy, but there had to be a twist somewhere...

But as Percy said "Fortuna Major" to the Fat Lady and we climbed the girls staircase, I shook off the feeling. I had nine months to figure it out.

"'Night Amber," Ginny went, "'Night Elle, 'night Sammy."

"'Night y'all," I said sleepily.

And after that, I drifted off into a deep slumber.

A/N I am very proud of this chapter- 6700 words! Review please, and I'll get the next chapter up as soon as I can.

Poll:

Do you think that Amber is:

Paranoid

Clever

Or

Intuitive (just so you know, that means perceptive, insightful and spontaneous)

Let me know!