Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests
The realisation that I was slowly falling in love with Harry changed my perspective on a lot of things. I know I claimed before that I loved him during sixth year but that was mere puppy love compared to what I was feeling now. I couldn't really describe it. I just knew my feelings for Harry were not the same as they had been a week ago. Something about spending a week with no memory of mine and Harry's relationship had opened my eyes to what life would be like if I'd hadn't have fallen for him and it just wasn't right. Now every moment I spent with him I valued a lot more as I knew eventually when Hogwarts finished, we wouldn't see each other everyday like we do now and so I had to make every moment count.
I shifted my position beside Harry so I could see the window. A shaft of sunlight was slowing creeping across the floor as the morning crept in. I lay there with my head resting on the pillow, staring at the soft beams. It was so nice to just lie here with Harry and have nothing to worry about. That wouldn't have been the case a couple of years ago. A silent sigh escaped me; Harry must've felt my chest move as moments later he also stirred.
'Jen?' he said, his voice quiet. 'What's up?'
I felt Harry's hand stroke my stomach. I placed mine on top of his and held it.
'Just thinking,' I replied.
Harry kissed my neck, his lips lightly brushing my skin. I smiled as he did so. I allowed him to continue for a couple of seconds before turning over in his arms. My chest pressed into his while Harry's hand that had been on my stomach stroked down my back. I contemplated him before replying.
'Just thinking about what will happen when we finish Hogwarts,' I muttered. I rested my face in the crook of Harry's neck. I took in a deep breath, noting Harry's scent. 'How it would be the last time we see a lot of people, people we've known for seven years. Don't you think it's scary?'
Harry thought about this, then said, 'No, not really.' I gave him a curious look. Harry smiled at me. 'What do I have to be scared of when I know I'll still see the most important people in my life?' A part of me hesitated. I made to say something when Harry continued. 'If anything, I'm more disappointed than scared.'
'How so?' I asked, curious, my previous reaction going unnoticed.
'Well, that I haven't really accomplished much during my time here,' said Harry.
'Are you kidding me?' I laughed. I sat up over Harry, pinning him to the bed. 'You've accomplished lots here. You've gotten into a scrap virtually every year we've been here and managed to come out the other side, faced countless enemies and creatures, been Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, defeated the Darkest wizard of the century, not to mention …' I leant closer, pressing my teeth lightly into his neck in a kiss, 'conquering the untouchable Black.'
'Oh, a nickname you received, I presume?'
'Blame McLaggen,' I shrugged. 'Noah told me he dubbed me that before our sixth year. But that's not the point. How have you not accomplished anything here?'
'Well when you put it like that then yeah, it sounds like I've done loads,' said Harry. 'But that's all stuff I was forced to do, apart from Quidditch. I didn't ask to get hunted by Voldemort.'
'I know you didn't,' I said. 'So what exactly do you mean?'
'I mean when you discount all the trouble I got into for just being me, I haven't done much at all compared to my Dad or Sirius.' Ah, so that's what was bothering him. 'When they came to Hogwarts, they were as normal as the next wizard. They made a name for themselves during their time here. I was famous before I could even walk all because some Dark wizard attempted to kill me, an expectation I couldn't always live up to. I was never normal.'
'No one expected you to live up to it,' I said.
'No, they just expected me to defeat Voldemort,' said Harry sarcastically. I rolled my eyes.
'Point is, Dad and James made a name for themselves by being a pair of troublemakers. Is that really what you want to be known for?'
'I'd have liked the opportunity and be who I wanted to be,' said Harry, 'rather than just be what people expected me to be.'
'Well, you never lived up to my expectations.' Harry's brow furrowed. He sat up on his elbows, making me slide off his chest, looking at me. 'Because I never had any for you to live up to,' I told him. 'I knew you before all this happened to us, back when you were just normal Harry Potter, and that has never changed. You never were the Chosen One or the Boy Who Lived to me. You always were and will always be just Harry Potter.'
Harry grinned. He lay back down and pulled me closer, kissing my forehead.
'Ah, I'm being stupid,' he sighed. 'Besides, I've left it a bit late if I want to live up to the Marauder name. Plus it makes a change to not get in trouble for once.'
'No it's not,' I said reasonably. Harry raised his eyebrows at me. 'It's never too late to be a little mischievous, but it depends on what you want to do.'
Harry thought about this, then said, 'It's not so much what I want to do, more with who I want to do things with.' Now it was my turn to raise my eyebrow. It appeared Harry had thought about this. 'Well, you have your fantasises. I might have one or two of my own as well.'
'Do I dare ask what they entail?'
The final week of term brought the final rounds of Professor Lupin's duelling tournament. There was only half of the class left now and the remaining eight of us were divided into two groups – those who'd won most of their duels and the best runners up – to determine our individual rankings and who would win the competition. Needless to say with all the experience we gained last year, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and I were still in the competition, as well as Malfoy (no surprises there), Blaise and Dean, who narrowly beat Seamus to the position.
I noticed throughout the duels that everyone had their own techniques in the way they duelled, even if they hadn't had much experience or practice beforehand. For example, in the preliminaries when I played Lavender, she favoured more flouncy spells like a Tickling Jinx to stop me while if you looked at someone like Terry's spell choice, he went for charms more than jinxes. I'd made notes throughout the competition on each person so I could work out how to beat them if I had to play them.
'So we have made it to the final rounds,' said Lupin in Tuesday's class. He flicked his wand at the blackboard. The chalk floated up and began to write out the final rounds of the duelling tournament. 'Having taken into account all of your previous duels and your wins, loses and draws from them, I have arranged your final duels like so.'
I read the board. Hermione, Dean, Neville and Blaise were duelling each other respectively, the winners then playing each other for fifth and sixth place and the losers playing for seventh and eighth. I had my bets on Hermione straightaway. She was a very strategic duellist and always had careful moves planned out depending on who she was duelling as she also had made notes during the competition. In the preliminary rounds, she was the only one who managed to beat Malfoy because of her strategy; Ron and Neville didn't come close to beating him while both Harry and I drew with him. I was pretty sure she was going to win this round.
Harry, Ron, Malfoy and I had won the majority of our duels throughout the competition, with Harry winning the most out of the four of us. According to the board, I was to now duel Malfoy while Harry and Ron were to duel each other. I glanced across at Malfoy. Last time I duelled him was back in the preliminary rounds and, as I mentioned, I drew with him and it had been a close draw at that. Malfoy had been seconds away from disarming me when Lupin stopped the duel because we'd reached the five-minute time limit and he'd determined it a draw. I expected Malfoy to argue his judgement as a draw was probably as bad as a loss but he merely turned away. Now that we were essentially having a rematch I had a feeling Malfoy wasn't going to give up until one of us was the clear winner. He was a skilled duellist, I knew that very well having duelled him before, but he was rash in his attack and relied on a bombardment of spells to overwhelm his opponent; he certainly overwhelmed me when he attacked me in the Room of Hidden Things back in sixth year. Whether he had changed his methods I wouldn't find out until tomorrow.
With today's duels up on the board, Professor Lupin instructed us to move our things to the side of the classroom while he set up the duelling arena. He flicked his wand making the desks form a pile at the far end of the classroom and a large circular platform appear in the centre of the room. The benches from our desks then arranged themselves around the platform for the rest of us to watch. No longer needing to make notes, I left my bag on the windowsill then went and sat down to watch, Harry and Ron taking the seats beside me.
Professor Lupin stood in the centre of the arena. First up were Hermione and Dean. On Lupin's signal, they started. The first round went quite quickly with Hermione managing to disarm Dean by using a combination of blocking Dean's Jelly Legs Jinx and making it rebound on him and Expelliarmus. Dean's sense of humour still dictated his moves by the looks of it. The second round took a bit longer but Dean managed to catch Hermione out with a Trip Jinx when she was halfway through her strategy using the Immobulus Charm. The final round was definitely the longest as both Dean and Hermione had wised up to each other from the previous rounds and both had changed their strategies. I watched as they fired and blocked each other's spells. The class ooh-ed and cheered at various points until Hermione pulled out her back up plan and used Levicorpus. Dean was hauled into the air by his ankle and his wand fell out his hand making Hermione the winner of the round and the duel.
Neville and Blaise were next to duel. Their duel was much tougher. Blaise was a very competitive duellist and he loathed losing. He was also very fast on his feet and took full advantage of the circular arena Lupin allowed us to duel in. He darted around it as he fired spells at Neville, never staying long in one place. It allowed him to win the first duel but Neville got the better of him in the second by catching him with the Full Body Bind Curse. It didn't deter him, however, and Blaise used the same strategy. He was ready though when Neville attempted to use the Full Body Bind Curse again and managed to block it. Neville, however, had another jinx up his sleeve. It was a Speed Jinx and it caused Blaise to go into slow motion. Next moment his wand was on the floor and Neville was the winner.
While Blaise lost against Neville, he managed to wipe Dean out relatively easily as he had no patience for Dean's clownish spells and charms, thus they came in seventh and eighth place respectively. All that was left to decide would be whether Hermione or Neville would get fifth place. For the majority of the duel Hermione appeared to have the upper hand. Her strategies would confuse Neville getting her into a position that would allow her to win the round unless Neville managed to decode them. Neville wasn't going to give up easily though and he fought back admirably, bringing the score to one all and the third duel a draw.
A final five-minute knockout round was held in the last few minutes of the lesson. Both gave it their all and in the last few moments it looked like Hermione would win. But then, from out of nowhere, Neville cast a Leg Locker Curse and caught Hermione mid-move. She toppled over and fell on the floor, her wand falling out of her hand. The class cheered at Neville's victory. I personally was more amused; the Leg Locker Curse was something you learnt in first year and Neville and the four of us were way past petty duels fought back then. It was simply amusing that such a basic curse managed to be Hermione's downfall.
'A well fought duel,' said Professor Lupin cheerfully. 'Let's see, five points to Dean and Blaise for their duels, ten to Hermione for a very well strategized duel and another ten for Neville for showing us even the simplest of spells can topple the best of duellists. Class dismissed.'
'Cheer up, Herm,' said Ron when Hermione came over to us. He handed her her bag then gave her a hug. 'You did really well. You're a great duellist.' Hermione smiled.
'Thanks, Ron,' and she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
'And at least it was Neville you lost against,' Ron continued. 'It would have been worse if you'd lost to Zabini.'
Harry and I stopped what we were doing. We shared a look then looked at Hermione and Ron. A while ago a comment like that from Ron would have resulted in a full scale argument between the two of them, Hermione shouting about him doubting her duelling abilities and Ron claiming he was only pointing out something which would be true. Hermione was giving Ron a stern look. Harry and I waited for the moment she'd explode but to our surprise it didn't come.
'Yes, we wouldn't have heard the end of it from Dean and Seamus,' said Hermione. 'But Zabini's duelling experience is minimal compared to ours, considering he was one of the first Slytherins in our year to run out at the Battle of Hogwarts.'
'You would have beaten him in straight duels,' grinned Ron, 'and I wouldn't expect anything less of my girl.'
'Is it me or did I just miss the argument between Ron and Hermione?' I whispered to Harry. We walked slightly behind the other two as we left the classroom. 'Shouldn't they be ripping into each other right about now?'
'No, you didn't miss it,' Harry replied. 'I think the two of them have just matured enough to not argue over silly things like they used to.'
'Either that or –' I stopped myself.
'What?' Harry gave me a sideways glance. He noticed the smile on my face. 'What's the smile for?'
'Nothing.' I shrugged though the smile on my face remained. I looked back at Ron and Hermione ahead of us. They walked hand-in-hand on our way back to the Gryffindor Tower. They'd been together as long as Harry and I have been and I had a feeling that Ron and Hermione finally had that "bond" Ron had mentioned to me that Harry and I had months ago. I just knew better than to mention the L-word before they were ready to say it. 'It's nothing.'
I watched the two of them as we walked. I remembered back to my conversation with Hermione back in November when she asked me about my relationship with Noah. It made me wonder how far in their relationship they were. I hadn't seen Hermione's unicorn hair bracelet for a while now. I wasn't even sure if she was still wearing hers. Mine was still currently on my wrist having not removed it yet since Harry and I had only slept together a couple of times since the beginning of the month. Had Ron and Hermione even got that far yet? Looking at them now I could see they were incredibly close and that the time they spent apart in the first term had definitely strengthen their relationship faster than mine and Harry's. We'd already said "I love you" to each other. Had Ron and Hermione?
A thought suddenly occurred to me. I stopped walking. Harry and I had said "I love you" for the first time to each other back in February but things had changed since then. I'd even thought it a few days ago. I glanced at Harry. Had the same thought occurred to him yet? I had a feeling that I was falling in lo – in L with him but I had no idea whether Harry was in lo – in L with me yet. Merlin, I couldn't even say the word now! It was only a flippant thought the other day but when I put everything that had happened in the ten months – ten months? Had it really been that long? – and what was going to happen in the following months after we finished Hogwarts, all of a sudden it felt so real. Now the only question is would I be able to tell Harry even though I wasn't sure if he was in the same place as me? It would be so embarrassing if I said it and he didn't reciprocate. Then there was the fact that I wasn't –
'Jenna?' I snapped out of my trance. Harry had noticed I'd stop. 'You coming?'
'Um, I …' The thoughts were still in my head. 'Harry, I –'
'What?' Harry came over to me. 'What is it?'
'There's something I need to tell you,' I said, 'about when we finish Hogwarts –'
'Harry!' I looked round when I heard Ernie's voice call Harry's name. I inwardly cursed him for his poor timing. 'Glad I found you. I wanted to talk to you about the next DA meeting. Justin and I were thinking –'
'Ernie, I was in the middle of something,' said Harry. He indicated me beside him.
'No, it's OK, Harry,' I said. 'The next DA meeting's in a couple of days so if Ernie's got some thoughts about it maybe you should hear him out.'
'What about –?'
'It can wait. It's nothing important. I'll see you in the common room.'
I turned away so Harry couldn't argue with me about it. I was reluctant to but Harry did have to arrange what was to happen in the next DA meeting so he might as well hear any ideas Ernie had. I would still tell him about it. This wasn't something I could just leave until it happened. Harry had to know. Unfortunately though the longer I put it off, the harder it turned out to tell him.
I said the password. The Fat Lady swung forwards and admitted me into the common room. Walking through I saw Hermione and Ron were already sitting in our favourite chairs in the corner. As my eyes scanned the room I noticed a small girl sitting in a chair by the bookcase, her legs pulled up and a torn piece of paper in her hand. It was Daniela, Noah's sister. I watched her for a moment or two. She looked … sad. I wonder what was wrong. Taking out my wand I pointed it in her direction. A couple of blue butterflies fluttered out of the tip and over to the young girl. She looked up when they floated around her. She giggled when their wings tickled her face. It was then she realised I was watching her and the butterflies had come from me. She instantly blushed and looked away. I walked over to her.
'Can I join you?' I asked her. Cheeks bright red, she nodded. I pulled up a nearby chair and sat opposite her. I waited for her to look at me but she seemed too embarrassed to. 'You're Daniela Oakley, aren't you?' I asked her. She nodded and finally looked at me. I smiled.
'You're the Head Girl,' Daniela responded quietly.
'That's right, I'm Jenna,' I replied. 'Jenna Black.' The girl's eyes took on a shocked look.
'You – you knew my brother,' she breathed. I nodded.
'I did.' I held in the sigh as I remembered Noah. 'I assume Noah mentioned me.' Daniela nodded again.
'He talked about you all the time. You two dated when he was in his final year.'
'We did.' It was then I noticed what was in her hands. I had the exact same clipping. It was the article from nearly two years ago that had told me Noah had died when he refused Ministry workers entry to his home when they were looking for illegal magic. 'It must be very hard on you and your family now he's not here.'
'We're managing,' said Daniela quietly. 'But everything's different now that he's gone.'
'Everything will be for a while,' I said. 'But things will get better. Our wounds heal when they're given the time to do so.' Daniela fell silent. I continued to watch her. This was the first time I'd properly met her having only caught glimpses of her when I went to her house over the summer and at her Sorting. I'd spoken to her mother and older sister Josie when I was there but Daniela had hid in her room. 'You know you're not alone here,' I continued. 'I miss your brother too, very much.'
'Your brother was very important to me, and no one regrets his death more than I do. I still feel partly responsible because my friends and I weren't able to act quick enough to stop that Legislation being passed, which essentially sentenced him to death. But just so you know, he didn't die in vain. He stood up to people many wizards would have run from and showed bravery of those beyond his age. You should be very proud of him. He wouldn't want you to be upset forever.'
'I know he wouldn't,' mumbled Daniela. 'It just isn't fair.'
'I know it isn't. I lost my parents because of the War as well, so did my best friend.' A little white lie wasn't going to hurt Daniela if in the long run it would show her she wasn't alone; she was still too young to understand all that happened in the Wizarding Wars and being a Muggle-born, parts of it will never be explained to her or she'd never find them out. I put my hand on hers and held it. 'You're the spitting image of your brother. You have his eyes. I reckon you'll have all the boys after you when you reach my age.'
Finally a smile came to Daniela's face. The same shine was in her eyes that used to be in Noah's.
'I'll even let you in on a little secret,' I added, moving closer. 'Noah had me falling at his feet on more than one occasion. Both a gentleman and a charmer.'
A voice called me from across the common room. I looked round. Harry was walking over to me. Daniela instantly blushed again.
'Am I interrupting?' he asked politely. Daniela shook her head.
'Harry, this is Daniela, Noah's little sister,' I told him. 'I was just talking to her about him.'
'Oh.' Harry looked down at Daniela. 'Well it's lovely to meet you. I didn't know your brother but Jenna told me a lot about him. My sincerest condolences to your family. He didn't deserve to die.'
'Thank you,' said Daniela quietly. 'That means a lot coming from you. I mean, you're Harry Potter, aren't you?' Harry nodded. 'You were the Chosen One, you saved the Wizarding World from You-Know-Who.'
Harry and I shared a look. Harry then knelt down so he was level with Daniela.
'It wasn't just me,' he told her. 'I couldn't have done it without the help of all my friends and those who believed in me, like your brother. I'm nothing more than another wizard like you. I'm not even the top of my year when it comes to exams and I got into a lot of trouble here at Hogwarts. Trust me when I say being the "Chosen One" is not what all the media makes it out to be and it doesn't mean I can just breeze my exams so I'm afraid I'm going to have to steal Jenna away as we have our N.E. to study for. I hope you don't mind.'
'No, not at all.' Harry smiled and stood up. I gave Daniela a last smile then turned away with him to join Ron and Hermione. 'Wait!' Daniela called suddenly. Harry and I stopped. 'Can I ask you something, Jenna?'
'Yes, anything,' I replied.
'Did you … love my brother?' She was cautious as she asked it. Her question took me back. I hadn't expected such a bold question to come from such a young girl.
'Why d'you ask?' I asked back. 'If don't mind me asking.'
'It's just – you said he was important to you and he always said you were important to him.' Daniela shifted awkwardly in her seat. 'I didn't mean it to be rude or anything. I know you're with –' she indicated Harry with her eyes, '– it said so in the Prophet. I just wanted to know if you loved him when he died.'
Harry and I shared a second look. It wasn't the sort of question I wanted to answer in front of Harry but I couldn't not give her one.
'Yes, I did love your brother,' I said. 'I still love him now even though it's been well over a year since he died but in a very different way to how I love Harry. Noah will always have a special place in my heart, Daniela, like Harry's first girlfriend will in his, but he would have wanted me to move on. He wouldn't have wanted me to grieve for him forever but he'll always be in my heart.'
'I know he wouldn't,' said Daniela. 'Thanks.'
'No problem, and remember, if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask.'
'That was a kind thing you did for her just then,' Harry said to me as we walked away. 'I can't begin to imagine how overwhelming it must be for her coming into the world which killed her brother.'
'She'll be fine,' I replied. 'She's a good kid so I doubt she'll get in as much trouble as we used to get in to.'
Harry laughed, 'Yeah, you're probably right.'
I need not say the rest of the day was filled with, unsurprisingly, more revision. I felt like I was back in fourth year again when Harry, Ron, Hermione and I spent so much time in the library helping Harry find things to help him get through the Triwizard Tournament, the Second Task in particular. Tonight Harry and I also had patrols so we left the common room at eleven o'clock to patrol until midnight. They were pretty uneventful. When we finally got back to the Head's Tower we split as Harry had to finish an essay and I needed to get some sleep. I had my duels tomorrow and I was not exactly calm about it. A good night's sleep should help.
It didn't. When we got to Defence Against the Dark Arts my stomach began to turn at the idea I was possibly one duel away from the final of the competition. Luckily my duel wasn't first. Harry and Ron had their duel before Malfoy's and mine. It wasn't a calm duel either. Both were giving all they had and neither was going easy on the other. At some moments it even looked like they were goading each other on as they grinned almost jeeringly. It was certainly a healthy competition. Nonetheless Harry won in straight duels. His experience was just too much for Ron to compete with and he conceded defeat to his best friend. It kind of made me even more nervous; if I won against Malfoy that meant I'd be duelling Harry in the final. While that was all right in front of the DA, it would be completely different in class as this was for our marks, not for fun.
'Well played, Harry, very well done,' said Professor Lupin. Harry and Ron bowed to each other and jumped off the platform. Harry gave Ron a consoling clap on the back. 'Jenna, Draco, if you please.'
I started. I swallowed and stood up. I put my hand on the platform and jumped on to it, Malfoy doing the same opposite me. We faced each other and bowed with Lupin in between us. I drew out my wand. I stood in my starting position, my wand raised in front of me. Malfoy did the same, his own raised above his head. Lupin checked our stances then raised his wand above him. Two red sparks followed by a green spark burst from his wand.
Within seconds of the third spark Malfoy lunged forwards with his first attack. He was always first to strike in his duels allowing me to anticipate blocking it. I crossed my arms in the correct position and thought of the Shield Charm. Even if I lost the duel I would get marks for my use of the standard duelling positions. Malfoy's spell hit against it and was dispelled. I quickly retaliated knowing Malfoy would soon start a barrage of attacks. I threw a Trip Jinx at him to see if I could trip him up. Malfoy dodged to the right and threw three Stunners one after another at me. I jumped back from the first hitting the platform by my feet; the second I narrowly avoided by turning sideways; the third hit my side and I stumbled. A fourth spell, this time what I was sure was the Disarming Charm, flew at me. I swung my legs round and leant back so I was flat on the floor. The spell just missed me.
'Three minutes,' said Professor Lupin from the sidelines.
I forced myself to roll backwards when another spell hit the ground where my body had been seconds before. Malfoy was getting to the peak of his attack. Once back on my feet I pointed my wand at Malfoy and thought, Immobulus. The invisible spell shot through the air. It looked like it would hit him but Malfoy managed to produce a Shield in the last second. I counted three seconds in my head from the moment the Shield appeared before thinking, Levicorpus! Normally a duellist in a duel like this wanted quick protection that could instantly be dropped so they could attack straight afterwards so they typically lasted about three seconds unless the duellist was using a defensive strategy. Sure enough Malfoy couldn't cast a second charm quick enough and my spell grabbed his ankle and pulled him into the air. With his feet out of action Malfoy wasn't going anywhere. I stood up and pointed my wand at him.
With the short whistle of the spell Malfoy's wand zoomed out of his hand.
'With a creative use of acrobatics, the first round goes to Jenna,' announced Lupin. He waved his wand so all active spells were cancelled. 'Take your positions and prepare.'
Malfoy and I took up our stances once again. The three sparks and the duel started.
It seemed to me that Malfoy was intent on pushing my physical abilities rather than my duelling abilities. His opening move this time was the Incarcerous Spell. Ropes flew out of the end of his wand like whips and attempted to grab me. Malfoy flicked his wand and chased me round the arena. I leapt out the way of its attack until I turned enough to fire a Reductor Curse at them to destroy them. They shrivelled into ash stopping Malfoy's attack. Next I lunged forwards and pointed my wand at the carpet beneath Malfoy's feet. I thought clearly, Accio, and pulled my wand backwards. The carpet was pulled out from beneath his feet and he toppled over. If I disarmed him now I would win the round and the duel.
Unfortunately Malfoy wasn't going to give up that easily. In retaliation, he pointed his wand at my shoes causing the laces to tie themselves together with a Knotting Jinx. Crap. I tried to pull my feet apart but the knot only got tighter. Quickly I kicked my shoes off, narrowly missing Malfoy's next attack. It hit my shoes making them start to dance. If that had hit me while I still had my shoes on I would have fallen over for sure. But that little delay had cost me dearly. I barely had time to continue my strategy of trying to trip Malfoy up and I'd already used Levicorpus once; Malfoy would be on guard if I used it again even though Harry, Ron, Hermione and I were the only students who knew it. Like I said, Malfoy seemed intent on pushing my physical abilities and so I was trying everything to avoid his curses, being forced to take a more defensive approach to his offensive one. But Deflection Charms and Shield Charms were only going to take me so far. In a split second mistake, I mistimed and my right leg was frozen by the Impediment Jinx. It snapped straight at the knee and I stumbled to the ground. Next second my wand flew out of my hand from Malfoy's Disarming Charm.
'The second round goes to Draco,' said Lupin. He cancelled all the active spells out. I got back up now my leg had been unfrozen. My shoes finally stopped dancing and I put them back on. 'Take your positions and prepare.'
I took my position, wand at the ready. The moment the green spark left Lupin's wand I lunged forwards and aimed my wand at Malfoy thinking, Everte Statum. If I wanted to win this duel I had to attack fast and first. Malfoy only just managed to block the spell but its power still forced him back on the platform. Once the spell was dispersed it was his turn to attack but I was ready for it. I ducked left and sent another spell at him giving him barely any time to block it. Perhaps playing Malfoy at his own game could work. I threw as many spells as fast as I could think them at him while dodging any he threw at me. But then out of the corner of my eye I saw Lupin wince. He grabbed his arm and stepped back shakily. The expression on his face told me something was wrong.
'Remus? – argh!'
I recoiled as a Stinging Hex hit my hand. I snapped it back, dropping my wand in the process.
'Oh – er,' Lupin had noticed I'd been Disarmed. 'The third round and the duel goes to Draco,' he announced. 'Draco will proceed to the final round.'
The rest of the class didn't seem to agree with his judging. Some were shouting in protest while others were glaring at Malfoy. He merely ignored them. I rubbed my hand. It wasn't like Malfoy had intended to use a Stinging Hex to Disarm me. I'd got distracted and failed to block his hex. It hit my hand and caused me to drop my wand. He'd won fair and square. Lupin meanwhile had changed the classroom back to normal.
'So that means Jenna will duel with Ron tomorrow for third and fourth place while Harry and Draco will duel afterwards to decide our Champion,' said Lupin. It was like nothing had happened. 'An excellent set of duels today and I look forward to tomorrow's final. Class dismissed.'
The class began to file out. I remained where I was though. Lupin walked over to his desk, his back to us. He rubbed his face and pushed back his hair. I hadn't seen him like this for quite sometime. Was something wrong?
'Bad luck, Jen.' I looked round when I heard Harry's voice. He, Ron and Hermione walked over to me. Harry handed me my bag. 'That was sneaky of Malfoy using a Stinging Hex to Disarm you though. Lupin should have penalised him for it.'
'I got distracted,' I replied. 'Something distracted me during the duel and I failed to block the hex. It was my own fault for letting my attention slip. Malfoy won the duel fair and square.' We headed for the door. I, however, was still watching Lupin. 'I'll catch up with you guys.' I needed to talk to Lupin.
The others left the classroom. I shouldered my bag and turned back round. Hesitantly I approached Lupin.
'Professor?' Lupin looked round.
'Jenna, how can I help?' he asked mildly. 'Something about your duel?'
'No,' I replied. 'I just … during the duel I saw you wince and grab your arm. I was just wondering if anything was wrong.'
Lupin observed me for a moment then smiled.
'Oh that,' he chuckled. 'It's nothing for you to be concerned about, Jenna. Just an old war wound playing up.'
'Oh, right,' I replied. 'Aren't you a bit young for old war wounds?' I then added. Lupin laughed again.
'After what my body's been through, I stand by that statement,' he said. 'Why the concern?'
'It's the full moon tonight,' I said. Lupin's face changed. His brow furrowed.
'You still keep track of it?' he questioned.
'Well, I know there haven't been any problems up to now,' I muttered, 'but we don't know for sure if all the effects of the lycanthropy have gone. Your blood may no longer contain it but your body itself still might.'
'Jenna,' Lupin sighed. He walked over to me and placed his hands on my shoulders. He tilted my chin up so I would look at him. 'You carry the worries of people that are no longer yours to bear. You don't have to do so anymore, you have your own life now. Why do you still carry them with you?'
'Old habits die hard. I just wanted to make sure you're OK.'
'There is nothing you have to worry about,' said Lupin firmly. 'You have more important choices to make now than worrying about your old uncle.'
'You're not old.'
Lupin rolled his eyes, 'You know what I mean. Now, I believe Harry, Ron and Hermione will be waiting for you down in the Great Hall for lunch. You better hurry otherwise they'll have finished before you get there.'
Deciding that it was probably best to drop the conversation, I smiled and headed for the door. I glanced over my shoulder as I opened it. Lupin had turned away and was busying himself with returning the classroom back to normal. I left the room and headed down the staircase in the Defence Against the Dark Arts Tower. Though Lupin had told me not to worry, a part of me still couldn't help it. I'd defied all laws of magic when I brought him, my parents and Harry's back and to this day I still didn't know how I'd managed it; all I knew was you never got something for nothing and sooner or later I had a feeling there was a price I had to pay for doing it, something I ultimately didn't want to face.
That was a concern I was never going to let on to Harry that I had. I didn't want him to worry about the welfare of his parents, Lupin and mine too. He had to focus on his future if he wanted to become an Auror and I wasn't going to let my concerns get in the way of his goals.
The final of the competition was an intense one to say the least. When Harry, Ron, Hermione and I got to Defence Against the Dark Arts on Thursday morning the entire class had turned up on time in anticipation of the final duels between Ron and I, and Harry and Malfoy. Seamus and Dean were already confident at the result and gave Harry a hearty cheer when we got there. Malfoy and Blaise, the only Slytherins in the class, merely glared in our direction. While my duel with Ron was probably going to be quite light-hearted, as we had both performed as well as each other, Harry's duel with Malfoy was going to be an all-or-nothing fight. Their eight-year long rivalry was bound to come out today. And for once, I had no say in Harry not fighting with him.
My duel with Ron did end up being rather enjoyable. Though we both wanted to come third, I still managed to have a lot of fun while duelling Ron in comparison to the physical duel I had with Malfoy. We used a lot more comedic jinxes to try and stop each other than the more offensive ones traditionally used in duels but even so neither of us was going to go easy on the other. I was very impressed at how much Ron's duelling skills had improved over the course of the previous year and in combination with his strategic mind that he had playing chess made him a worthy opponent. However, Ron still had one major flaw in his duelling technique: the slightest mistake would make him fluster leaving him open for Disarming. We were very evenly matched throughout the three duels leading to a draw in the final match, much like Hermione and Neville's duel on Tuesday. But a misjudged Trip Jinx became Ron's undoing and I managed to Disarm him.
I hopped down off the platform, giving Ron a consolatory smile. He'd been a hard duellist to beat; his improvement since the preliminary rounds was evident. Harry was already up from his seat and approaching the platform ready for his duel. We shared a look as we passed each other.
'Good luck,' was all I said. Harry acknowledged it and climbed on to the platform. Pure determination was on his face. I took my seat next to Hermione to watch. This was going to be an intense fight.
Harry and Malfoy took up their positions opposite each other. Both were focused on each other while they bowed and raised their wands. The second the spark left Lupin's wand, Malfoy attacked. A side dodge and Harry retaliated. My hands clenched on my knees. This wasn't going to be easy to watch. Neither Harry nor Malfoy were going to go easy on the other and this was the perfect excuse to duke it out without being told off for fighting. A part of me suspected though that Professor Lupin was taking a bit of a blind eye to the offensive spells both of them were using. Impediment and Trip Jinxes; Stunners; Blasting Curses; Confusing and Banishment Charms; you name it; Harry and Malfoy used it. It was therefore no surprise that the first two rounds ended in draws much to their annoyance. They were very evenly matched.
By the final round, my hands were so tightly clenched that my fingernails had made deep grooves in my palms, I was that tense. Professor Lupin had called a brief timeout before the last duel as he repaired the damage caused during the previous two. A stray Blasting Curse had broken one of the cupboards and a couple of chairs had been set jousting each other from another rogue hex. Both had removed their outer robes and their shirts were untucked with their ties loose. My eyes briefly caught Harry's before he turned to get ready for the final round. I tried to look confident but I don't think I was very convincing. I was waiting for the moment when one of them would get hurt.
The round began with the flash of green from Lupin's wand. Malfoy didn't hold back and instantly attacked with a Blasting Curse. It appeared that he wanted it over as soon as possible; he probably didn't like the fact that the last two rounds had resulted in draws. Harry blocked it with a Shield Charm but the force Malfoy put behind it still managed to push him back. He barely gave Harry a chance to attack. He was slowly pushed further and further back towards the edge of the platform. The class watched with eager anticipation as Harry fought against Malfoy's spells. Then, with a sudden yell, Harry stood straight forcing back Malfoy's Stunner with such power that Malfoy too had to protect himself from his own spell. I jumped. I'd never seen such power come from Harry before. When the spell had been fully dispelled, both Harry and Malfoy were left panting, their wands still pointed at each other. I looked between the two of them. Why didn't Lupin just call it a draw? The way they were going, they could hurt themselves!
My eyes flicked between the two of them, catching Malfoy's for the briefest second. Next second, there was a clatter on the floor. Everyone looked around to see what had happened. Harry had Disarmed Malfoy.
'With an impressive use of magic on both sides, Harry wins the duel with one win out of three,' announced Lupin. 'Draco finishes in a respectful second place with Harry becoming the Duelling Champion.'
The class clapped the result, some being a little more enthusiastic than others. Malfoy brushed his sleeve over his face then turned and jumped off the platform. Harry watched for a moment or two before doing the same. Ron, Hermione and I got up to congratulate him. He looked very worn out as Ron slung an arm round his shoulders for him to lean on. Nonetheless, he seemed happy he'd won. As I hugged him though, I couldn't help but look over at Malfoy; Blaise appeared to be giving him a bit of a mouthful about letting his guard down but Malfoy didn't seem to be listening while he pulled his robe back on. He glanced back over his shoulder to see me looking at him so I turned away.
'Mate, that was amazing,' Ron was saying. We left the classroom and headed out of the castle for break. 'You could put the best duellists in the country to shame. You practically wiped the floor with him!'
Harry smirked, 'Nearly. I've got to admit, Malfoy was tougher than I thought. Still, he's too easily predictable and rash. If he thought I was going to let him beat me, he had another thing coming.
'It was very well fought,' agreed Hermione, 'but you did only win one round out of three. Malfoy did have the upper hand on several occasions, particularly in the last duel.'
'Harry would have won those rounds but Lupin kept calling time when Harry was winning,' said Ron.
'What d'you think, Jen?' Harry then asked me. I looked at him. 'You're quiet.'
'I thought you did very well,' I replied, attempting to be diplomatic in my answer. 'But I agree with Hermione. You were both very evenly matched. Either of you could have won that duel.'
Ron pushed open the door and we walked outside into the Transfiguration Courtyard. The start of April had brought about a new wave of sunshine and heat to the castle to which some of the students were grateful to finally relieve themselves of their school jumpers. The four of us crossed over the grass towards the tree in the Courtyard past a group of fourth years setting up a game of Gobstones. Ron dumped his bag at the base of it and grabbed on to the nearest branch, pulling himself into the tree. While he relaxed up there, Hermione sat herself in the shade with her Charms textbook in preparation for our next class, Harry followed Ron's example was leaning back against the tree and I settled down content to stare up at the sky.
'Only one more day's worth of classes,' mused Ron above me. My eyes flicked up to see his foot swinging above me off the branch. 'Only one more day then we're free,' he said, stretching his arms.
'Apart from the ten or so exams we have to sit next term,' said Hermione.
Ron groaned, 'Way to trample my dreams, Herm.'
I smirked when I saw Hermione roll her eyes at Ron's comment. Some things never change.
'Still, can't believe it's almost over,' said Ron. 'Three weeks revision when we get back, and two week's worth of exams, then we're all done. Free time for the rest of the term then we graduate.'
'With only the painful wait over the summer to find out whether we passed our N.E. or not,' I said. 'Then we're out in the big wide world.' I sat up, pushing back my hair. 'So I guess you guys are all going to be looking for places in London to live when we've finished?'
'Possibly,' said Hermione. 'Mum and Dad said I was more than welcome to stay at home until I decide to move out or they'd help me find somewhere to rent over the summer. Be easier to have a place of my own that having to Apparate to and from the centre of London everyday.'
'What about you, Ron?' I asked. 'Are you staying at The Burrow?'
'I'm tempted to,' said Ron.
'How come?' asked Harry.
'Because of Mum,' said Ron. He sat up on his branch and looked down at us. 'What with both Ginny and me graduating, she'll be losing us both at the same time, you know? Both of us moving out to pursue our careers. Though, saying that, I think Ginny said something about staying at home for the next year as she was going to be trying out for Quidditch teams so won't be earning much.'
'Ginny wants to be a Quidditch player?' said Harry.
'Yeah, wants to join the Holyhead Harpies,' said Ron, obviously amused.
'Better than the Chudley Cannons,' I muttered.
'Well, if you do decide to move out, you can always share a flat with Harry,' said Hermione. 'You're moving out of Godric's Hollow, aren't you?'
'Yeah,' said Harry. He was staring around the courtyard. 'Want to give my parents their own space. I would have moved out after Hogwarts anyway even if they hadn't died and all. Been looking for somewhere in London but haven't found anything yet.'
'You know, there's always Grimmauld Place,' I suggested. Harry looked at me. 'Well, I've got Mum and Dad's old flat from when they were our age to use if I want and Dad left you Grimmauld in his will. I know it's a bit big but it'd be all right for you and Ron to share, Hermione too if she can't find anywhere.'
'Apart from the creepy House-elf heads, the dank interior – oh – and, of course, your delightful grandmother,' said Harry. Oh yeah …
'I hadn't thought of that,' I replied. 'Well everything else can be sorted with some cleaning spells we can use now we're of age. As for my grandmother, I guess I don't blame you for not wanting to live there after last time.'
'No thanks.' came Ron's voice from above.
'Seconded,' added Harry.
'It's a thought,' said Hermione bracingly. 'But we'll all just have to keep looking until then.'
The bell went. We needed to get to Charms. Gathering our stuff we crossed the courtyard back into the castle to go to the second floor.
It was actually quite sad as we had our final lessons though some were more upset than others. Parvati and Lavender were both in tears when we saw them at lunch on Thursday having just had their final Divination lesson with Professor Trelawney. Harry, Ron and I still couldn't work out what it was about her that had the two of them so entranced with the subject. Even some of the teachers got a bit emotional too. Professor Flitwick was squeakier than usual when he gave us his last encouraging words and that he was available to go over things with us whenever we needed next term before our N.E. ; Professor Sprout insisted her eyes were watering from a case of hay-fever and not from the fact it was the last time teaching one of her favourite year groups; Professor Slughorn also had a slight case of the runny-nose, blowing it loudly as we left his classroom for the final time; and Professor McGonagall, in her own special way, wished us all luck while reminding us if we chose not to revise over the Easter, it was only ourselves we were disappointing.
On Saturday morning Harry and I met Hermione and Ron down at breakfast in the Great Hall as usual. Both had their trunks already waiting in the Entrance Hall for the House-elves to take down to Hogsmeade Station for the train journey back to London. Ron was returning to The Burrow so he could revise without distractions as he put it and Hermione had wanted to go so she could find all her old revision material from previous years in case she needed any of it. At quarter to eleven they gathered their things and we said goodbye. Both Harry and I had decided to stay at Hogwarts for Easter. My main reason was so that I wasn't locked up at home for the entire holiday in order to avoid being hounded by the media. In contrast to Ron, Harry was staying to revise away from the distractions at home he'd have, not that I couldn't fill that role very easily.
Of course, with most of the castle now void of students, I revelled in finally being able to have some time with Harry outside of the Head's Tower without pairs of eyes staring at us and following us wherever we went. Granted, for the most part of the holiday we did spend it revising but every now and then we ventured out into the grounds instead of remaining cooped up the entire time. The beech tree proved to be a perfect place to lounge under with notes and be able to relax in the sun at the same time. On some occasions, however, the sunny weather was too nice to resist and our books would lay forgotten on the grass.
I glanced back at Harry, unsurprised that he'd put down his book yet again. I'd been testing him on potion ingredients about twenty minutes ago when he said he needed a break because his brain was hurting from an information overload. I'd left him be and started practicing my Conjuring by the lake while he resumed his revision on his own. Now he was leaning against the beech tree in the shade, happy as anything, with his eyes closed. I shook my head. Despite his procrastinating attitude, I knew Harry would pass his N.E. . I just wished I didn't have to keep nudging him to do his revision. Still, we'd managed to get a bit of work done today. A little snooze wouldn't do him any harm.
I turned away. Seeing him sleeping was making me want to do so too. Even the weather was making me feel a bit dozy. It was sunny out in the grounds and reasonably warm, a gentle breeze coming in from over the lake. It blew my hair in all directions as I stood at the lakes edge, the grass tickling my bare feet as I'd dispensed with my shoes a while ago. Around me small blue butterflies, like the ones I made to cheer up Daniela a few weeks ago, fluttered about; the results of my Conjuring practice. I admit, I've never been that artistic or creative in these sorts of situations so my imagination had run a little dry as I'd tried to think of something to Conjure. They floated around me, tossing in the breeze through my hair, their wings tickling my face as they brushed past.
The grass behind me rustled. I looked round.
'You were watching me again, weren't you?' I muttered.
Harry smiled. He walked over to me and wrapped his arms round my waist to pull me into his body. My fingertips touched his cheek then moved to his chest. The thin chain holding the silver key I'd given him was lying over his shirt. I looked at it, my finger touching the delicate pendant, the Key to my heart.
'You know I can't take my eyes off you,' said Harry. He moved closer to then whisper, 'You know how beautiful you are to me.' I couldn't stop the shiver at the tone in his voice. 'And nothing's going to change that.'
The heat began to build in my cheeks. I lowered my eyes and focused on the pendant. My lower lip started to tingle from my teeth biting into it. I would have thought by now that these girlish nerves would have left me but they were still here. What was it about Harry that could make me feel like this? I felt my hand get taken by Harry's so I looked up. Harry held it in his and I quickly understood what he was doing. We began to dance the routine we'd learnt back in fourth year for the Yule Ball; Harry had always partnered up with me in practice and he'd seemed like a natural whenever I danced with him, a big contrast to how awkward he looked dancing with Parvati back then. It didn't matter that there wasn't any music. We were just content dancing with each other, moving across the grass in small circles with Harry lifting me up every so often as he was meant to.
'Harry,' I said after a while, 'I'm getting kind of dizzy.' I looked up, my head tilted to one side, and smiled at him. Harry chuckled.
Harry released my hand and returned his to my waist. I snuggled into his grip, glad that the spinning had ended. I was just the right height to be able to rest my cheek in the crook of Harry's neck. It was like I was made to fit in there, like we were two pieces of a puzzle that could only go with each other. Even our breathing seemed to be in sync. I could feel Harry's breath on the back of my neck as he held me close to his body, his face touching mine. A part of me wondered what was going through his head at this moment, what he was thinking right now. Whatever it was, I knew it would be vastly different to what would have been in his thoughts a year previous.
Without much warning, I was suddenly lifted up by Harry. I squealed and grabbed on to him as he spun me around. I had my eyes shut so I didn't get dizzy. I was relieved when he finally stopped and put me back down, only to take my face in his hands and kiss me deeply.
'If only there was a spell to freeze time,' Harry said, pulling back. 'I'd freeze this moment and not let it end.'
'You never know, there might be,' I shrugged.
Harry laughed. He brushed back my hair to stroke my cheek.
'Jenna …' His eyes seemed to scan my face, as if he wanted to ask me something. 'I just …'
'What?' I asked.
'There's … there's something I've been wanting to say to you,' started Harry. He took my hands in his, holding them between us. 'Something I've been wanting to say for quite some time now.'
'What is it?'
'Well, I … I just wanted to say –'
Harry looked back over his shoulder while I looked round him to see who had called his name. Hagrid came striding across the grounds, his beetle-black eyes gleaming as he strode over to us, his thumbs hooked into the thick belt of his trousers.
'Blimey, Harry,' chuckled Hagrid, 'the year's almost through and this is the first time I've seen yeh. Guess being Head Boy an' all's been keepin' yer very busy, eh? Anybody'd think yeh'd forgotten me since yer defeated You-Know-Who.'
'Hagrid,' said Harry. 'No, course I haven't. I've just been very busy.' Harry stepped back so he was beside me, putting his arm round my waist. Hagrid's large smile suddenly dropped.
'Oh, er, didn' see yeh there, Jenna,' he said. His tone had also changed. Harry and I looked at each other.
'Hi, Hagrid,' I replied. 'Long time, no see.'
'So, er,' Hagrid cleared his throat, 'I was wonderin' if yeh wanted ter come round fer a cuppa tea if yer not too busy with yeh revision. You know, in case yeh don' get the chance before yeh graduate.'
'Yeah, we'd love to,' said Harry. 'We'll just grab our books.'
Hagrid nodded and turned on his heel. Harry bent and picked up our books, handing me mine. Hagrid strode across the grounds with us following behind. Fang instantly started barking when Hagrid opened the door. He rushed out of the hut and jumped up at Harry and me, attempting to lick our faces and almost knocking us down at the same time. Hagrid took hold of his collar and hauled him away so we could get inside. We sat down at the table while Hagrid started making the tea. Even eight years on, Hagrid's large furniture still made Harry and I look like a couple of human dolls. Fang came over to us and placed his head on Harry's leg so he would stroke his ear. There was a plate of cupcakes the size of my hand on the table he told us to tuck into. Warily we took one to share between us. We'd had more than enough experience of Hagrid's cooking and we weren't entirely sure if it he'd improved or not.
'So, Ron and Hermione returned home for the holidays?' Hagrid said. He placed a large teapot and three massive mugs on the table then proceeded to pour out the scolding tea. 'Haven' seen those two in a while now.'
'They've been busy,' I replied, sending a sideways smirk at Harry at the other meaning of that sentence. 'Ron was working with Fred and George at the joke shop during the first term and Hermione's been working harder than ever, what with it being our N.E. .'
'I can imagine,' said Hagrid. 'What about you two? I s'pose we'll being calling yer "Auror Potter" soon, eh, Harry?'
'Not for another three years, but hopefully,' said Harry. 'Kingsley's kicked off the change at the Ministry, but it's up to the future Aurors to continue it.'
'Tha's the spirit!' boomed Harry. 'Wouldn' expect anythin' less from yeh. Besides, yer got more than enough experience under yer belt, what with what yeh lot been through since yeh first came here to Hogwarts. I still remember when yeh were all first years followin' me over the lake fer yer Sorting. Never thought I'd be watchin' yeh grow into the wizarding world's saviour. Yeh've all been through more than most wizards yer age, and shown more bravery than ones twice yer age too!'
'A lot has changed in that time,' I said bracingly. I looked across at Harry. He smiled back and took hold of my hand. 'We've all changed from what we've been through.'
We sat there for a moment in silence. It was strange how much we'd all changed in the last seven years, Harry in particular. This wasn't the Harry I thought I'd know ten years ago when I first met him. Hagrid cleared his throat. Harry and I looked at him.
'So – er –' Hagrid started, 'been keepin' up with the Daily Prophet recently ter see what's bin happenin' with the Ministry an' all. Tha' Skeeter woman's bin writin' again.'
Harry and I looked at each other. Had she? Neither of us got the Prophet while we were at school now we were in our final year. We always borrowed Hermione's if we wanted to read it and she hadn't reported anything about Rita Skeeter since we got back after Christmas.
'Has she?' asked Harry.
'Yeh,' said Hagrid darkly. 'Bin writin' 'bout yeh, Harry. Sayin' some pretty mad things. Absolutely mad some of the things she's bin sayin'.'
'They couldn't have been that significant,' I said to Harry. 'Hermione would have told us if – oh.' I think I knew what Hagrid was getting at. 'Hagrid,' I said slowly, 'did you by any chance read an article in the Prophet Skeeter wrote at Christmas?' Hagrid looked at me. His beetle eyes widened. 'About Harry and me?'
Hagrid looked away uncomfortably.
'Hagrid,' sighed Harry. 'You didn't take what that Skeeter woman wrote seriously, did you? You know she's a liar and twists everything she writes!'
'Well I didn' wan' ter believe it!' said Hagrid. 'I know tha' Skeeter's no good. But –' Hagrid took a sideways look at me, '– I've met more than enough Blacks ter know tha' if they wanted somethin', they'd go ter any length ter get it. Yeh need only look at Bellatrix ter know how manipulative Blacks can be.'
'But then you also know that I'm nothing like that,' I said. 'My father and I are nothing like our family. You shouldn't have assumed from what the rest of my family's like that what that horrible woman wrote was true and I'd done what she'd written.'
'I know yer not,' said Hagrid heavily. 'It was jus' a bit of a shock, yer know? Her accusin' yeh of what she accused yeh of. I mean, it is a bit ridiculous an' all, yeh two an item. Must've been one hellova spell on that photograph for it ter do tha'.'
'Not all of that article wasn't true, Hagrid,' said Harry. Hagrid raised his eyebrow. 'Jenna and I, we are an item.'
Hagrid's mouth fell open with a comical, 'Oh.' He stared at us. 'Oh,' he repeated. 'So … so how long –?'
'Since the day Harry defeated Voldemort,' I answered. Hagrid flinched slightly at the mention of the name. 'Almost been a year now, hasn't it?'
'Yeah,' replied Harry, 'and a great one at that.'
I felt my cheeks flush when Harry gave me a quick kiss in front of Hagrid as if to prove we were telling the truth. He was a teacher after all. But it was only Hagrid. It wasn't like he was our teacher anymore or that we were in class.
'Well I never,' said Hagrid. His worried expression turned into a wide beaming one. He let out a booming laugh. 'Of all the people ter end up together! I'd never had thought,' he chuckled. 'Jus' like yer mum and dad, Harry. Those two spent most of their time at Hogwarts at each other's throats and they got together. Surprised me when I heard from Sirius that those two had finally stopped arguing with each other. Yeh two, the complete opposite, best of friends, and yeh end up together. Next thing yeh'll be tellin' me would be Ron and Hermione are a couple.'
Harry and I shared another look. This was going to be fun.
It was late in the afternoon when we finally left Hagrid's hut. He'd kept us talking for most of our time there, asking us questions about what had happened during the year since we got back, how our lessons were going, what we were planning to do after Hogwarts etc. Still, it was great to finally catch up with him. The first time we saw Hagrid again after being on the run from Voldemort was during the Battle of Hogwarts in the Forbidden Forest and there was certainly no time to catch up then, considering Voldemort was feet from us and was seconds from killing Harry at the time. But having only eaten half a rock hard muffin between us because we'd missed lunch had left us both rather hungry. Our books had remained forgotten by the door.
We walked back to the castle and went straight to the Great Hall to wait until dinner. With so few students here for the holidays they were once again using only one of the House tables for the teachers and who else had stayed. Harry and I grabbed a couple of seats just down from the doors. I sat down and poured myself a goblet of orange juice then dug out my diary to check some things. All my important dates for the next few months were there: the Harvest Dance, graduation, getting my results. In amongst the sheets of paper were also other forms I'd stuffed in there for safekeeping, including a letter Dad had sent from home containing all the details about the flat he'd left me in his original will.
I took out the letter and opened it. My eyes scanned the documents. The flat itself was located in Camden so it wasn't too far from the Ministry or St Mungo's. The bills weren't too much either but the letter warned me to be wary of the landlord Mr Harding. According to what Dad had written, the flat had two rooms but one could easily be used as a study instead of a bedroom, a big-ish living room with the kitchen and dining area at the back of the room. It was fully furbished for whenever I decided to use it.
'What are you looking at?' asked Harry. He looked over my shoulder. 'Is that the flat Sirius left you?'
'Yeah,' I replied. 'From what it says, it sounds like it's still in the same condition from when they left it. I'd be able to move in as soon as I finished Hogwarts.'
'Least you've got somewhere to live when you finish,' said Harry.
'James and Lily aren't going to kick you out anytime soon, Harry,' I joked. 'They probably relish the fact they can spoil you now.'
'I won't deny that Mum's cookies are her best form of bribery,' shrugged Harry.
'And there's still Grimmauld Place, Harry,' I reminded him. Harry pulled a face. 'It's legally yours. My grandmother's portrait has no power over it now.'
'I'm serious! There's plenty of room there, it's one ride on the Underground away from the Ministry and St Mungo's, you're a stone's throw away from Diagon Alley. What more do you want?'
'Not to live in that dark and dank house and get verbally abused by a portrait,' said Harry. He gave me a pointed look.
'At least have a look at it? Before you say "no" completely, just go to Grimmauld and have another look at it. If you still don't want it and there's nothing we can do about my grandmother then I won't argue with you.'
'Jenna, there's nothing there that could possibly make me want to live there, even more so as long as that portrait is still there.'
'What if we could get rid of the portrait?' I said. 'If there was a way to get rid of her, then clean up the house, would you think about it?'
Harry thought it through.
'Only if the old bat goes will I consider it, all right?' said Harry. I nodded. 'Urgh, how do I let you talk me into these things?'
I wrapped my arms round his neck.
'Because I'm your girlfriend and you love me,' I whispered.
'I'm going to start counting how many times you use that against me,' muttered Harry, despite the smirk that was visible on his face.
Harry really didn't like the idea of living in Grimmauld Place so after I'd convinced him to think about it, he got me back by dragging me into London the next day to go there. His reasoning was that if he had to make a decision about it, he'd rather do it sooner than later and what better time than when we were both free during the holidays and wanted a day off from revision. As I said to him when we left the castle on Thursday morning, this wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind. Having gotten permission from Professor McGonagall to leave the castle for the day, we walked down to Hogsmeade at ten o'clock and Disapparated, reappearing in the all too familiar street in London seconds later.
'Cheerful neighbourhood,' said Harry, looking around once we'd appeared. I noted the deliberate sarcasm in his voice. There was no one on the street, the houses looked as dank as each other, and rows of bins lined the railings that I assumed to mean that it was bin day.
'You're not going to let me forget this, are you?' I asked.
'Not a chance,' said Harry flatly. 'Now, let's go visit granny.'
I rolled my eyes as Harry walked off towards Number Twelve then followed reluctantly afterwards. I was beginning to regret persuading him to do this as I could see he was going to be sulky on purpose about it.
Just up the road from us, a row of house stood silent in the quiet morning. The inhabitants had got accustomed to the fact that their local council must have numbered them wrong when they were built as there was no Number Twelve between Numbers Eleven and Thirteen. However, as Harry and I approached it, unbeknownst to the Muggles, the houses began to shift. Pushing its way through between them, Number Twelve Grimmauld Place steadily appeared. First its roof, then the walls, the stone steps, the front garden and the gate. It looked as dank and as unwelcoming as always. It had been a year since Harry, Ron, Hermione and I had last set foot in here.
Harry walked up the steps and unlocked the front door with a tap of his wand. I was about to walk in when I noticed Harry had stopped.
'What is it?'
Harry didn't look at me. His eyes were scanning the empty street across from us.
'Nothing,' he said. His eyes were narrowed though. No one could see us. We were within the protection barriers of the house. What was he suspicious about? 'Come on,' he then said, brushing it off. 'Let's get this over with.'
Grimmauld Place hadn't changed. The interior was still dark and rotten. When we entered we were stopped by Moody's spells that he'd set-up when Professor Dumbledore died in case Snape ever came back here. Once they had been dispelled, Harry and I had a look through the house. It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. The remnants of our cleaning effort back in fifth year were still evident but over the past year a fine layer of dust had gathered on the surfaces as Kreacher no longer lived here. He still worked at Hogwarts ever since Harry first sent him there. The kitchen was the only room that seemed to be habitable as it had been the one we'd used most; the living room had never been touched; the hallways needed some more light in them; and the bedrooms were very moth-eaten. When we went inside the room with the Black family tapestry, Harry's focus immediately went on it, his eyes scanning the names listed; if he did live here, I presumed that would be one of the first things to go. The longer we were here, the more I began to side with Harry.
'Still think I could live here?' he asked me quietly, walking back downstairs to leave.
'All it needs is a couple of Cleaning Spells,' I said, feigning optimism. Harry gave me a look. 'All right, I'll admit, I wouldn't want to live here anymore than you would.'
'I think I won that one,' said Harry cheerfully. I glared at him.
At that moment Harry stepped carelessly on to a particularly creaky floorboard. A loud creak echoed in the empty house. Within seconds of that happening, a pair of ragged curtains on the landing just below us flew open and a loud scream similar to a banshee's ripped through the silence. We had woken the portrait of my grandmother and, after a year of slumber, she was in a very bad mood.
'Who dares enter the House of Black!' she screamed. Her appearance was exactly the same as the last time I'd seen her; her hair was falling out of it's bun and her face seemed distorted from having been Stunned by the Order of the Phoenix too many times. 'Who dares desecrate my family home?'
Reluctantly I approached her portrait. Harry followed behind me. My grandmother saw me. Her eyes bulged. She did, however, stop screeching.
'Well, who do we have here?' she sneered. 'I thought I'd scared you off the last time you were here. Didn't like hearing how much of a disgrace my eldest was, did we?'
'That's because he wasn't a disgrace,' I replied. 'You were just so wrapped up in your own blood purity morals that you were blind to everything else.'
'If we Blacks hadn't maintained our pride in our purity, we would have died out years ago from in-breeding and you wouldn't be here,' sneered Mrs Black. Says she who married her cousin but that probably wasn't the sort of "in-breeding" she meant. 'Not that that would have been much of a problem, being the disgusting half-breed that you are.'
'I suggest you watch what you say,' said Harry beside me. He drew out his wand and pointed it at the portrait. 'That's my girlfriend you're insulting.'
Mrs Black's eyes turned sharply at Harry.
'Who are you to order me about in my own house!' she screamed. 'Another filthy wizard with dirty blood besmirched by Muggles! I do not take orders from you in my house!'
'Well now that you mention it,' said Harry, 'this isn't your house anymore. Sirius, you see, left it to me in his will. This house rightfully belongs to me, as does everything inside it. So, if I wanted to get rid of you, I could do so without your consent and have you thrown into the rubbish bins outside.'
To our surprise, Mrs Black didn't shout Harry down about that. Instead, she smiled.
'You believe just because my eldest left you this house when he died you have the right to remove me from it?' she sneered. 'Then I'm going to have to inform you that both you and my son have overlooked one little detail in his flawed plan.' And she pointed at me. 'While my eldest failed to produce any male heirs to the Black family name and my youngest, Merlin bless him, died before he could marry into a respectful pure-blood family, there is still one living descendant baring my name. My half-breed granddaughter.' Harry glared at her when she called me that again. 'As long as she is alive and is baring my name, Grimmauld Place will most certainly not be yours, nor will you be able to remove me from it. Your ownership of this house is null and void.'
'Is that so?' shrugged Harry. 'Well then all Jenna has to do before control is relinquished to me is get married, I suppose? Then she won't have the family name.' Mrs Black nodded. Harry turned to me. 'How about it, Jen? Fancy getting married to rid us of this old bat?'
'A tempting offer,' I muttered. 'Anything to get rid of the in-bred toad.'
'How dare you!' screamed Mrs Black. 'How dare you insult –'
'Oh, shut up!' Harry flicked his wand and the curtain drew itself back over her portrait.
Harry put his wand back in his trouser pocket and went downstairs. I remained where I was for a moment looking at the curtains covering Mrs Black's portrait then followed after him. He was waiting by the front door when I found him. Taking that as a sign to leave, Harry opened the door and we walked back outside, Harry closing and firmly locking it behind us. He then took my hand and we walked out of the protection barriers of Grimmauld Place. I looked at Harry out of the corner of my eye as we walked down the street, a question burning on my lips.
'So,' I began, gaining his attention, 'what would you have done if I'd said "yes"?'
Harry stopped. He gave me a strange look.
'"Yes" to what?' he asked.
'You realise you essentially proposed to me just now, right?'
Harry stared at me for a moment then smiled, chucking to himself.
'Yeah, maybe,' he shrugged. Harry carried on. I followed. 'But that wouldn't be how I would propose.'
I remained quiet for a few seconds before braving asking, 'How would you?'
Harry stopped again and turned to face me.
'Well,' he said, taking my hand, 'I s'pose I'd start off by telling whoever I was proposing to how beautiful she is,' Harry gently touched my cheek, 'how happy she makes me feel, and how much I'm in love with her. Then I guess you can't beat the traditional way of doing it, so I'd get down on one knee,' Harry did so. I felt my heartbeat suddenly increase and my eyes widened slightly. His eyes never left mine and his hand was still holding mine. 'Take out the box with the ring and complete it by asking them, "Will you marry me"?'
My heart jumped. I just stood there staring down at Harry not knowing what to do or say.
'But you know,' Harry then said, breaking the tension of the moment. I jerked back to reality as he stood up and continued up the street. I followed. 'Flip side of the Galleon is I wouldn't want to make it too obvious. I'd want to surprise her, perhaps even literally sweep her off her feet. Either way, if I was proposing, she'd know it.'
I fell quiet. I didn't really know how to respond to that. I knew very well that family was very important to Harry after all he'd been through in the last seven years but I hadn't realised how much Harry had thought about these things, like knowing how he was going to propose. It made me wonder if he'd also thought about who he'd propose to. I was only his third girlfriend though this was his longest relationship to date. Next month would be our first year anniversary as well as it being the first anniversary since the Battle of Hogwarts. Whose to say other girls wouldn't follow after me and become his "one"? I mentally cringed at that thought.
Hang on … Harry just told me what he'd do to propose, and just did it. Harry didn't just –?
'Oh, excuse me.'
I was pulled from my thoughts when I realised I'd bumped into someone. I looked up at the passer-by to apologise.
'Sorry,' I said, 'I wasn't –'
I stopped. My eyes widened as they met the dark eyes of the man I'd walked into. It felt like time slowed down as we passed each other. The man's eyes didn't leave me until he turned away, his sleek black hair sweeping behind him. I watched as he walked off. That was strange, I could have sworn I –
I felt my hand get tugged as Harry hadn't realised I'd stopped. He looked back at me.
'Jen? Something wrong?'
I glanced at him then back at the man only to find he'd vanished.
'No,' I eventually said. I turned away. Harry put his arm around me and we turned into the alley to Disapparate. 'It's nothing.'
Taking a firm hold of my hand, Harry span us and we Disapparated back to Hogsmeade. I opened my eyes expecting to see the familiar jaunty street before me when we re-materialised seconds later. That was why I was so surprised when I saw we were standing outside Harry's home in Godric's Hollow.
'What are we doing here?' I asked, confused. Harry walked off leaving me no choice but to follow. I walked down the footpath and round the side of the house to see Harry opening the door to the garage. I say garage, it was more like a bigger version of Arthur Weasley's shed with a load of junk in it. Or so I thought. 'Harry, what are you doing?'
I pulled back the door and went inside. The sight that met my eyes was not what I expected.
'Yeah.' Harry grinned. He tapped his wand on the axel joining the sidecar to release it. Harry pulled it to one side then proceeded to mount the bike. 'Thought we could take it for a spin.'
'Harry, do you even know how to ride it?' I asked. I walked round it, eyeing it carefully. 'This isn't going to be like an ordinary Muggle bike of which, I'd like to add, you don't know how to ride either.'
'Jen, I've ridden this thing dozens of times,' replied Harry. I gave him a pointed look. 'All right, I've ridden it twice, and once was when I was a baby, but it's powered by magic. How hard can it be?'
'I don't know about this …'
'It's perfectly safe. And you said yourself you wanted to ride it too.'
Admittedly, yes, I did want to ride that motorbike but that had been months ago. It didn't change the fact it was an old, rackety bike that had been put back together by magic after almost being destroyed when Hagrid moved Harry from Privet Drive two years ago, and that there were no helmets of any kind so the only protection was whatever spells were still on it from when Dad bought it, which I assumed to be very few.
'Jen?' I looked at Harry. He was holding his hand out to me. 'You coming?'
I sighed and relented. I took Harry's hand and he helped me on behind him. The bike was huge, considering it was big enough for Hagrid to ride. Keys in the ignition, Harry kicked the bike to life. It let out a roar so loud that someone down the opposite end of the street probably heard it. Harry gave the throttle a rev and released the break. The bike wheels span and we shot out of the garage straight into the air. I instantly grabbed Harry around the waist as we ascended higher and higher, my eyes tightly shut. I didn't even open them when I heard Harry's whoops of joy. Sure, I loved flying on a broomstick but at least I knew they were safe unlike this bike.
'Whoo!' Harry cheered. Well, at least someone was enjoying it. He gave the bike another rev and we sped up. I buried my face into his back and held on tighter. 'Jen, come on! Open your eyes! You're missing the view!'
Cautiously I glanced down. Godric's Hollow was rapidly disappearing behind us. I didn't know how high up we were but the houses below looked tiny. It looked like a little toy village from up here, the fields around it like a large patchwork quilt. The clouds skidded past us like wisps of smoke. We were going so fast that the wind was making my eyes water, not to mention what it was doing to Harry's hair. The bike levelled out finally and I braved loosening my grip on Harry. Now the initial fear had worn off I began to relax. I had to admit, the view from up here was amazing. I could see for miles all around us.
'Where are we going?' I shouted over the noise of the bike. As nice as this was, I didn't really know what Harry was planning.
'Does it matter?' Harry shouted back. He glanced over his shoulder. 'Just enjoy the ride!'
If this wasn't a Marauder-ish attitude, then I didn't know what was.
I had no idea where Harry took us, nor did he I think. We just sped through the sky for ages before Harry finally decided to land the bike. All I knew was that we were in the middle of nowhere on a hill near the coast and that we were alone. It was completely silent here apart from the crashing of the waves on the shore. And I loved it. The peace, the seclusion, it was perfect, and the fact I was with Harry just made it even more so. Being some of the most famous wizards in Britain, these moments away from the public were something I relished. Harry and I had never really done anything particularly romantic together before, to be honest we weren't really that sort of couple, but for a first try, I had to admit Harry had done pretty well.
It was very late by the time we got back to Hogwarts. We'd fallen asleep on the hill and it was starting to get dark by the time we left to return the bike to Godric's Hollow. How we managed to sneak that bike both in and out of the shed without James and Lily noticing I have no idea. I guess Dad must have put some kind of Silencing Charm on it years ago to avoid his parents finding the bike when he first got it. With the bike safely back at Godric's Hollow, Harry and I Apparated back to Hogsmeade and walked back up the footpath towards the castle. We were aware that the school gates were going to be closed by now and we'd have to send a message to Hagrid to get let in without drawing attention to ourselves, so we didn't rush as it made no difference ultimately. We didn't talk much on the way, happily enjoying the silence as in a few days the castle would once again be busy with students. As we reached the gate, Harry stopped just long enough to enjoy a quick kiss in the lamp light. It was probably a bit quicker than he anticipated, however, when we heard a voice clear her throat.
Harry and I sprang apart to see Professor McGonagall's piercing eyes upon us.
'Good evening,' she said, her voice quiet and sharp.
'Nothing, I repeat, nothing, Potter, gives a student the right to flaunt curfew times, Head Boy or not,' said Professor McGonagall sharply, her eyes narrowed at Harry and I as we sat in front of her desk in her office. It was like we were in first year again, being told off for being out of bed when we shouldn't be. 'Curfew times are in place for the protection of our students, including those who are of age and older, and those curfew times remain enforced during the school holidays. After eight years of being at this school, I would have thought you and Black would know that by now.'
'Seven,' Harry muttered under his breath. I gave him a sharp nudge in the ribs as McGonagall glared at him. Now was not the time to split hairs.
'I gave you and Black permission to leave the school grounds believing the two of you were old enough to be responsible and return well in time for when the school gates close,' continued McGonagall. 'You two returned over two hours after the gates closed so how you proposed getting into the school without being noticed I am intrigued to hear, considering some of your previous methods.'
The Flying Car in second year, a Hippogriff and the Whomping Willow passageway in third year, Thestrals in fifth year, Apparition in sixth year and a secret passageway to the Room of Requirement from a portrait of Dumbledore's younger sister last year to name but a few.
'We lost track of time,' said Harry, in a vague attempt to defend our lateness. 'We didn't mean to return so late.'
'And yet you didn't attempt to hurry when you were coming up the footpath to avoid being even later?' countered Professor McGonagall. Reluctantly Harry nodded. This was an argument we weren't going to win. 'Whatever the excuse may be, Potter, you and Black have still broken some of the school's most basic rules. It reflects badly upon the Headmaster or Headmistress when the Head Boy and Girl fail to follow the rules set out and set an example for the younger impressionable students, and I need not remind you just how much of an impression you have among them, Potter. Therefore, I am deducting ten points each from Gryffindor and giving you a week's worth of detention starting Monday.'
Considering Professor McGonagall's history of firmly dealing with rule breakers, losing twenty points for being late and a week's worth of detention was a walk in the park. In comparison to the detentions Harry and I had with Dolores Umbridge in our fifth year, it was practically tame. I subconsciously rubbed my hand as I remembered, the words I must not tell lies now only faint silver lines. Still, with a week's worth of detention at the start of the summer term and our NEWT exams in the second week of May, that was going to make quite a dent in our revision time depending upon what Professor McGonagall has in mind for us. Hermione was not going to be pleased.
'You got detention?' snapped Hermione in disbelief when we told her.
For some reason, Harry and I had thought it better to leave telling Ron and Hermione about our detentions until Monday night just before we needed to leave the common room for Professor McGonagall's office. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest idea but at least telling her at the last minute meant we weren't going to get as much of an earful as we would have had we told her when she and Ron had arrived back this morning.
'Harry, these are some of the most important exams you're ever going to face!' Hermione chided us. 'How is it going to look on your record to the Auror Department when they read you got detention in your final year and for something as stupid as missing curfew.'
'It's not like we haven't had detention before,' said Harry. 'I don't think the Ministry is going to care that much about one detention.'
'A whole week's worth!' snapped Hermione.
'Hermione, as much as you'd probably like to continue scalding me and Harry for losing track of time,' I interrupted, also starting to push Harry towards the portrait hole, 'Harry and I are gong to be late for our detention so we better get going.'
We arrived at Professor McGonagall's office at ten to nine, partly at my insistence. It would have been quite ironic to show up late for a detention we'd originally got for being late. By showing up early, at least it showed McGonagall we were capable of being responsible. To say I wasn't looking forward to this was an understatement; it wasn't out of habit that I liked getting detention and Hermione's reprimand hadn't helped how annoyed I already was about getting it. A part of me did dread what exactly McGonagall had planned for us. Beside me, Harry wasn't looking particularly pleased either. Stopping outside her door I knocked on it. A voice from inside instructed us to enter so I pushed open the door. Professor McGonagall had her back to us as we entered, busily lighting the floating candles in her office as the daylight outside faded away into darkness. She indicated for us to sit until she had finished. Sending some scrolls flying into a dresser, McGonagall finally faced us.
'Oh, don't look so despondent, you two,' she sighed. 'You're not first years anymore. You're not going into the Forbidden Forest.'
'First years aren't meant to go in the Forbidden Forest anyway,' said Harry.
'Indeed, they're not,' said Professor McGonagall, straightening her glasses. 'But if there's one sure way to spell a new first year into shape, sending them into the Forest with Hagrid normally does the trick to discourage them from any further rule breaking in their following years. Only some, however, it seemed to have no effect on.'
Professor McGonagall peered over the top of her spectacles at us. She did, however, have a wry smile on her face as she said it.
'Meaning us?' I ventured.
'Only five students were as brave and as foolish as you, Potter, Weasley and Miss Granger, Miss Black,' said Professor McGonagall, 'and it doesn't take a genius to know whom the pair of you take after.
'Now, your detentions.' Professor McGonagall flicked her wand at a piece of parchment on her desk. It floated over to us. I took it and began to read what it said, Harry looking over my shoulder. 'Now, as you can see, I have taken into account the fact the pair of you have revision to do for your NEWT exams, therefore your detentions for the week are all listed on that piece of parchment.'
Harry and I looked at each other, sharing the same look of surprise at what was assigned for us to do.
'Is this it?' Harry asked.
'You were perhaps expecting to muck out the Thestrals?' said Professor McGonagall. 'Potter, for all the comparisons made between you and your father, a troublemaker is not one of them, and both you and Miss Black have demonstrated yourselves to be very capable Heads of the school. Your punishment is fitting for your misdemeanour.'
In truth, I don't really know what I had been expecting for my detentions. What Harry and I did get was certainly not what we had anticipated.
'So this is it?'
I looked around Professor McGonagall's classroom, my eyes scanning over shelf upon shelf of books and jars and miniature machines that lined them. Cleaning; that's all our detentions were, cleaning. A list of classrooms were all that was written on that piece of parchment Professor McGonagall had handed us, hers being at the top for Monday's detention, with a single instruction at the bottom of the page: "ALL MUST BE CLEANED WITHOUT THE AID OF MAGIC". Sitting just to the left of the doorway was a pair of buckets, mops and small piles of sponges, dusters and cleaning fluids. Those buckets had better be self-filling, I thought to myself, otherwise we'd be here for hours just going back and forth to refill them. I glanced around the room again.
'McGonagall knows that this is going to take us ages without magic, right?' said Harry.
'Yup,' I said. I guess it really was a fitting punishment. 'We took ages to return to the castle after all.'
'Yeah, but what about our revision?' said Harry. 'It's going to take a good couple of hours just to clean this classroom.'
'I'm sure we'll be able to do some as we clean,' I shrugged. 'We'll just have to bring along our textbooks and quiz each other while we'll work.'
I went over to the buckets and tapped one with my wand tip to set it filling, then placed my wand on one of the stone arches in the wall. I picked up a cloth and dunked it into the now soapy water. I handed another cloth to Harry. He gave a resigned sigh.
'Well, better get started.'
It turned out that Harry severely underestimated just how long it was going to clean McGonagall's classroom. Without the aid of magic to even be able to move furniture and books, we had to move every desk, empty every shelf and pile every chair around the room ourselves which made the whole thing take a lot longer. Dividing the jobs helped; while I dusted all the individual pieces McGonagall had in her classroom, Harry dusted and polished the shelves before emptying the next while I replaced the first lot. Once all those were clean, we set about moving all the furniture to the side of the classroom with the entrance so we could start moping. Doing it in sections, we scrubbed the floor down first with scrubbing brushes before pushing all the dirty water to the small drains at the edges of the room with the squeegee mop then redoing over it with the other mop to clean it before using the squeegee again to clear the water a second time.
It took us over three hours just to start the mopping and we still weren't anywhere near finished. Harry and I had worked in silence for the most part only saying the occasional instruction or request for help to each other. I sat back on my knees and wiped my arm across my forehead; sometimes having thick long hair was a pain in the neck as it made you really hot while you worked. I put down my sponge, wiping my hands on my skirt, and pulled my hair out of its ponytail. I got up and went to retrieve my wand.
'What are you doing?' I looked round to see Harry had noticed I'd stopped working.
'My hair's getting in the way again,' I said. 'It's too long to be kept off my back in a ponytail so I'm going to spell it into a braid.'
'But we can't use magic,' said Harry.
'I'm not using it to clean, just get my hair out the way,' I replied. I picked up my wand and tapped my head. Instantly my hair became animated and began to tie itself, strand upon strand weaving itself into an intricate braid reaching from the crown of my head to the tips of my hair. Once finished I ran my fingertips over the front to release my fringe and tied my hairband around the end. 'My hair really is too long,' I commented offhandedly, holding the long braid. 'I probably should get it cut.'
Harry, who had gone back to cleaning, stopped again.
'What?' he asked. 'You're going to cut your hair?'
'Maybe,' I shrugged.
I got back on my knees and picked up my sponge. I started scrubbing the floor again.
'But I love your hair,' said Harry. 'It suits you having it long. You wouldn't look right with short hair.'
'There's long and there's long, Harry,' I said.
'But I like it when –' Harry cut himself off. I looked back over my shoulder at him.
'Like it when what?' I asked curiously.
A red tinge had started in Harry's cheek; he hurriedly looked away and continued scraping up the water with the squeegee. I sat there silently waiting for his reply.
'I – er –' Harry cleared his throat, 'I like it when you kneel over me and it falls over your shoulders. It's … sexy …'
I raised my eyebrow. What was sexy about my hair falling over my shoulders? Shrugging it off, I started scrubbing again. We fell back into silence, the only sound being the squeak of the sponges and rustle of the scrubbing brushes. Another ten or so minutes must have passed when all of a sudden I let out an "oof" when I felt something soft and wet hit the back of my head. I looked round but Harry had his back to me. I peeled the wet cloth off my shoulder.
'What was that for?' I asked.
'What?' he asked.
'You're the only other person in here, Harry, I know you threw that.'
Harry shrugged, 'Was bored.'
He was bored? What did he think I was? This cleaning was mind-numbing but it was what our detentions were.
'I'm as bored as you are, you know,' I said, throwing the cloth back at him. 'The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go.'
I returned to the patch of stone I was currently scrubbing. Five minutes passed before I was hit once again on the back with the same wet cloth. Behind me I could hear Harry was attempting to stifle a laugh. I frowned; now was not the time to start messing about when we'd already been here for hours. I chucked it back at him and for the third time attempted to finish the bit of floor I was on. Barely a minute later and the cloth hit me for a third time. I squealed upon contact as the cold water soaked through my shirt causing Harry to burst out laughing. I glared at him.
'That's it, you asked for it,' I said.
I held out my hand towards the bucket nearest me and concentrated on the image of a ball of water. I'd been doing research into wandless magic for the past year in my spare time having had experiences of performing it while on the run. The few times I'd attempted it had never gone to planned to date and had resulted me either causing a spell to go awry and breaking something or it happening way to fast for me to control and, again, breaking something. Across the room, Harry was carefully watching me. I focused my magic and flexed my fingers, trying not to put too much effort into the magic I was trying to perform. The water began to swirl before a small round orb of liquid finally lifted up into the air from the bucket. The corner of my lip turned up into a grin. With a quick flick of my wrist aim at Harry, I threw the water ball at him. Harry ducked for cover. The ball missed him and hit the wall.
'How did you do that?' he gasped.
I gave him a wry smile, 'Magic.' before creating a second one and throwing it in his direction.
As I expected, Harry wasn't going to take this new challenge I'd presented him lying down even though I was still a complete novice at wandless magic. He grabbed the cloth he'd thrown at me previously and dunked it into the bucket of water as fast as he could to start his counter-attack. He lobbed it in my direction and broke my concentration, forcing me to drop the new water ball I'd made and resort back to the tradition method of a water fight. I grabbed a sponge and retaliated. The added obstacle of the wet floor caused Harry and I to slip and stumble around the room as we attacked each other. In a matter of moments we were both covered in soapy water and our clothes were soaked through.
I pushed the wet strands out of my eyes and readied myself for my next shot at Harry only to find that he had stopped his assault. He was staring at me from across the room, panting heavily from the sudden exertion. It was then I noticed I too was out of breath. I let my hand holding the sponge drop to my side, glad for the respite. I could feel the water dripping down my neck from the loose strands of hair from my braid and my shirt was clinging to my skin. Harry too was soaked, his shirt starting to go see-through. Water was dripping down his fringe and into his eyes of which were still focused on me. In fact his eyes were focused on me with such attention it was slightly unnerving. I saw them flicker. I noted where they moved. I glanced down; my shirt was practically see-through, my dark purple bra just visible through the saturated material. I looked back at Harry. It was then I noted the slight change in his own physicality.
'You guys are back late,' said Hermione when we finally returned. She and Ron had been waiting for us in the common room to return from our detention. Her eyes roved over our dishevelled appearances. 'So what did McGonagall have you do?'
'Oh, it was just some cleaning,' I said.
I glanced at Harry out the corner of my eye. His eye caught mine. A small grin was appearing at the corner of his lips; I felt mine too lift up at the edges.
All in all the detentions weren't truly that bad, just time consuming and boring. The next day after McGonagall's classroom we had the Potions basement; Wednesday we were cleaning out the teaching supplies cupboard across from the Great Hall; we were based in an old disused classroom on the fourth floor on Thursday; and our final detention was to clean the entire Astronomy Tower from top to bottom. We ended up taking my suggestion of bringing our books along to study at the same time so we got at least some revision done while we worked (and avoided any more distractions). Our N.E. were creeping ever nearer and every free moment we had needed to be spent revising; it made me regret our outing that landed us in the detentions in the first place.
The school was a buzz with the same nervous exam atmosphere that always descended upon it at the start of May. The difference between the year groups was always clear. The first years were all frantically reading their textbooks in the corridors and outside their classrooms so as to cram in as much last minute revision they could, panicking at the thought of impending exams being the only obstacle between them and moving on to the second year. The middle year groups were all much more relaxed, laughing and joking about their upcoming tests and still finding time to take advantage of the ever improving weather outside. The fifth and sixth years were a mixture of the two; they were calm enough having taken four or five years worth of exams previously but studying hard enough because they knew that one bullet point might be all the difference between an "E" and an "O". The only year group which was rarely seen were the seventh years as all were either locked up in the library or hiding in their dormitories buried in their textbooks.
The N.E.W.T exams were the first exams to take place during the exam period due to the fact they needed to be assessed and graded with the final results released at the end of August whereas first and second year exams, which results were posted at the end of term, were done last as they were the quickest and easiest to mark. The Great Hall was once again to be transformed into an examination hall for all the N.E.W.T and O.W.L students for the coming month for them to do their written papers while all the practical exams were to be taken in a large classroom on the first floor. As we went for dinner on Sunday night we saw the familiar faces of Professor Tofty and his cohorts from the Wizarding Examinations Authority being greeted by Professor McGonagall and the other Heads of Houses, an indication that our exams were truly upon us.
Monday morning came. There was a tense silence among all the seventh years students from both our year and the year below at breakfast as we awaited our exam timetables. I hesitantly stirred my cereal from my seat next to Hermione, who unsurprisingly had her nose buried in her Arithmancy textbook; opposite us, Harry and Ron were talking quietly to themselves. They knew better than to try and disturb Hermione when exams were barely an hour away. Professor McGonagall made her way up the table handing out the timetables. I looked up from my soggy food when she finally reached us. Silently she hand Harry, Ron, Hermione and I a piece of parchment containing the NEWT exam timetable for this year on it.
'OK,' I said bracingly, reading the parchment. 'It doesn't look too bad. None of us have an exam till midday today which is good.'
Just down from us we heard a small squeal from Lavender and Parvati as they read that their Divination NEWT was the very first exam. Next second they were running out of the Hall.
'Charms written today,' said Harry scanning the parchment, 'Herbology and Transfiguration written tomorrow. And most of our practicals seem to be next week apart from Transfiguration which is at lunchtime on Thursday.'
'Could be worse,' muttered Ron. 'Potions could have been our first exam.'
'Well now that we have our timetables, we can reorganise our revision around them,' said Hermione. She was already gathering up her things. 'We better not waste any time and get to the library. Any last minute revising we can do now before the exam could make all the difference.'
After six years of exams, we knew Hermione was right and so Harry, Ron and I didn't argue. We gathered our stuff and headed out of the Great Hall.
At quarter to twelve the two sets of seventh years studying Charms for their N.E. gathered outside the Great Hall waiting to be admitted inside. Those studying Divination (all of thirteen students in the two groups) were just coming out having finished their paper. Parvati and Lavender were amongst them. They were talking quickly to each other and comparing their answers. Those who didn't have Charms next were heading up the Grand Staircase while the rest joined the group the four of us were standing in. I looked around; for a group of students who were about to face the most important exams in our lives, we all looked surprisingly calm. After the quick rearrangement inside, the doors of the Great Hall opened again and we were beckoned inside.
'This is it, guys,' said Harry. Students began to file past us into the room. 'Good luck.'
'Yeah, good luck,' agreed the rest of us.
Hermione and Ron put their things with the rest of the year groups and went inside. Harry gave me one last reassuring smile and touched my arm before following on. Stirring myself, I placed my bag in the pile and went inside. Finding my desk near the front of the room as they were set out alphabetically I settled myself in my chair and awaited the exam paper appearing in front of me. With a quick announcement from Professor Tofty regarding Anti-Cheating Spells on the parchment and quills and the amount of time we had, he too wished us luck and instructed us to start. The parchment appeared, I picked up my quill, and started the first of my final exams of Hogwarts.
As expected these exams were the hardest I'd ever sat in my time at Hogwarts. Every question was ridiculously precise in what it was asking to the point where I was double and triple checking my answers before I dared moved on to the next one to make sure I hadn't missed anything that could possibly be on the Ministry's mark scheme. As for the practical exams, each one had its own twist that increased its difficulty and really put our knowledge and skills of spells to the extreme. I came out of our Transfiguration practical feeling like my wand had burnt the tips of my fingers slightly from my attempt at Transfiguring myself into as an accurate replica of the chest they'd placed in front of me as I could manage. I could still feel a couple of splinters in the back of my leg after I'd transformed back.
Whenever one exam was over, it was on to revising for the next. The two hours we had for each written exam seem to tick steadily by until you felt you'd written as much as you could where they'd begin to drag as you waited anxiously the moment you could leave and get started on the preparation for the next. The time between exams never seemed to be enough though and I found myself soon dreading the moment the voice of Professor Tofty would announce the Hall was ready for us to enter because I felt there was something more I could re-read, something else I should have practiced.
'Students, you have ten minutes left,' announced Professor Tofty.
I looked up from my Defence Against the Dark Arts paper, my quill poised above the last word I'd written. The large clock that floated above where the staff table usually was position was ominously ticking down. I returned to my paper to finish my answer to the final question on Sensing and its uses in battle; around me the sound of hundreds of quills scratching as students frantically finished their answers before their time was up increased with Professor Tofty's warning. I glanced back towards where the others sat to see how they were doing. Hermione was racing to write down everything she could; Ron had his tongue between his teeth as he eyes re-read his answers; while Harry had his head down in concentration as this was the only exam he ever truly cared about.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Second by second our time drained away. I wrote as quickly as I could to finish my answer before –
The bell of the Clock Tower rang out.
'And that is time, witches and wizards,' said Professor Tofty. 'Please put your quills down.' A release of breath went round the room as the students finished their answers. With a flick of his wand our parchments rolled themselves up and zoomed up to the desk at the front of the Hall. 'That is your final exam finished,' intoned Professor Tofty. 'Congratulations to all of you for making it through your N.E. and I hope to see many of you again on results day. You are dismissed.'
'I can't believe that's it,' said Hermione as we left the Hall and collected our things. 'We're finished.'
'I know, it's weird,' agreed Ron. 'We've actually finished Hogwarts. No more classes or homework. No nothing.'
We made our way out into the grounds. All around us the other students were kicking off their socks and shoes in excitement that they had finished while the younger years looked on enviously knowing that with our exams finished theirs were about to begin. Dumping our stuff Harry, Ron, Hermione and I sat down beneath the beech tree. We sat there for a few moments in silence as we stared out over the lake.
'Seven years,' said Harry. 'Seven years we've been here. Do you think we'll ever come back?'
'I think so,' I replied. 'Hogwarts has been a big part of our lives. I know I'd come back if I had the chance.'
'Yeah,' said Ron. 'We'd come back, wouldn't we, Hermione?' She nodded.
'What about you, Harry?' Hermione asked him.
Harry thought for a moment, then smiled, 'Perhaps. But we've got our whole lives ahead of us now, and our careers. It's time to move on. But Hogwarts will always be home and that will never change.'