Disclaimer: I still don't own Harry Potter.

Author's Note: Sorry for the rather long delay with this, especially since it was mostly ready a couple of weeks ago but I wasn't fully happy with it and so went on a small editing spree. I'll also blame real life while I'm at it. Slightly linked, I actually did my first filling on a patient today – a composite class I for anyone who actually cares or even knows what that means. But the next chapter will take a while since I have exams in three weeks and really need to revise and learn about fun things such as endodontics and metabolic pathways. Also, I'm still in uni for a month after exams, so more delays are expected. And now I'm starting to sound like an old British Rail train. But this chapter is dedicated to all those who should be revising but instead end up reading fanfiction and also to my next year housemate Dela who was the only person I could find who would agree to go and watch Star Trek with me since I really want to see it again. On a final note, thank you to those who reviewed (especially those who I took an age replying to – sorry once again) and thanks to Diogenes for proof reading this chapter and that other snippet.

Chapter Fifteen

"Do you really think this is a good idea? I mean, what if we're caught?" Padma's concerned whisper filled the seemingly empty corridor.

"Screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail!" came Terry's response.

Harry could feel Padma shake her head as the Invisibility Cloak twitched. "You do come out with some nonsense, Terry."

Terry heaved a sigh. "My genius is lost on you, for which you must be eternally saddened. And don't call me by my name; people might be listening. I knew we should have come up with code names. It's bad enough you made me leave my deerstalker behind."

"It wouldn't have fit under here," said Harry for the second time that night. When he'd turned up at the Room of Requirements – their designated meeting place - at nearing midnight it had been to find Terry wearing a deerstalker hat complete with a magnifying glass in hand.

More surprising, however, had been Padma's presence. "I hope you don't mind," she had said with an apologetic smile. "It's just I want some answers, too. I want to understand."

Even though he'd been a bit dubious about the idea, Harry had found himself unable to say no to her. He'd made her promise, however, that should anything go wrong then she was to get away as quickly as possible.

"Well how was I to know you'd bring along an Invisibility Cloak? I figured when you said you'd take care of getting us around the school that you knew the Disillusionment Charm or something, or else managed to brew some sort of Invisibility Potion."

"You obviously haven't heard how bad I am at Potions," said Harry whose most recent potion score had been a resounding zero. Then again, having Pansy Parkinson knock his vial sample on the floor was probably the reason for that. He hadn't even bothered to argue with Snape, knowing that it was a useless cause.

"But you are good at Charms," Terry told him. "I should know."

He was, of course, referring to Charms Club where they usually ended up as partners. Harry was continually surprised by how much his spell work had improved since he'd joined. Flitwick had even commented on it.

"I think we're here," said Padma. They all came to a halt.

"Better check that map of yours to see if anyone's about," said Terry but Harry had already had the same idea and was unfolding it now.

"Lumos!" he whispered, pointing the tip of his wand at the battered piece of parchment. A small beam of light shone out, acting like a torch. He scanned over the map, looking for their position.

"It's just us," he told them after a few minutes, ending the spell.

"Are we sure we want to do this?" asked Padma nervously.

Terry sighed dramatically. "Frailty, thy name is woman!" But then he grew more serious. "Do you have a better idea?"

She remained silent, but Harry could still feel her concern even if he couldn't see her face. He felt around for her hand and squeezed it gently. "It'll be fine. I promise. I've done stupider stuff and they still haven't expelled me."

He felt her nod. "I trust you."

"So what are we waiting for?" said Terry, before drawing his wand and pointing it at the lock. "Alo-!"

"Wait! It might already be open," Harry said. He'd prefer to leave no signs that they had been there and that included magical residue. He had the distinct feeling that Abravan would be able to trace their magical signatures.

"Alright, but what teacher in their right mind would leave their office door open?"

The door creaked open. "Looks like Abravan does," said Padma, who had pushed it open.

They all shared a quiet laugh before moving inside; a task which took longer than expected as they all tried to stay covered by the cloak - it really wasn't made to fit three fourteen year olds underneath.

Harry carefully pushed the door till it was almost closed. He even placed a folded bit of parchment by the bottom of the door frame to insure it wouldn't fully close. He'd had a rather strange feeling that should he shut it completely they might end up being sealed in.

With that taken care of, they divested themselves of the Invisibility Cloak. Harry automatically handed it over to Padma, knowing that should they be discovered, at least she could get away easily.

"Lumos!" Harry whispered again. His wand provided some much needed light. The other two quickly followed his example. He had planned to bring a lamp along but the addition of Padma under the cloak had scuppered that idea and he'd left it in the Room of Requirements.

The room looked as cluttered as it had when he had last visited. Books lay haphazardly across the desk along with a bunch of broken quills and many scrap pieces of parchment. A pair of horn rimmed spectacles lay half-hidden under a marked essay collecting dust and a thin, silver crucifix chain had half-slipped off the edge. In the corner of the room, a large mahogany cabinet stood with one door slightly open and an old-fashioned leather bag, very much reminiscent of what a doctor would have once carried, had been plonked on top next to a pile of books that looked like they might topple over at any given moment. Thankfully there were no portraits hanging on the walls or else they wouldn't have dared to enter.

"Do you think we should draw the curtains?" Padma asked quietly, biting on her lip as she looked nervously at the window.

Harry shook his head. "We should be fine – it just looks onto the Quidditch Pitch so no one should see the light."

She nodded and moved away from the window.

"We ought to check for curses," Harry said as he glanced around the office. "And one of us should probably be in charge of looking at the map to see if anyone's coming this way."

"I don't mind doing that," volunteered Padma and so Harry handed her the Marauder's Map and briefly explained how to wipe it blank.

Turning around, he suddenly found himself looking up. Just above the doorframe, suspended by wooden pegs, was a crossbow. His eyebrows lifted in surprise before he shook it off as eccentricity and went to check out the cabinet while Terry was busy checking the desk.

"Aperio Arcana!" he said, pointing his wand at the cabinet. No curse was evident so he opened one of the doors fully.

It took him a moment to realise what he was looking at. Their long, thin bodies clung to the side of the thick glass container, an entangled mass of muddy brown with the odd green mixed in. Leeches.

He gestured to the others to take a look.

"Urgh!" said Padma, scrunching her nose in distaste. "I hate leeches."

"Talk about odd pets. I know I used to have a stick-insect when I was little, but blood-sucking leeches? No thank you," said Terry.

"What do you think he uses them for?"

"Medicinal?" suggested Padma. "I think there's a few potions which use them. They sometimes get a leech to take some of your blood so a potion is more attune to you. It's more for diseases relating to the blood. At least, I think it is."

"Open the other door," suggested Terry.

Harry did so. It revealed a small, rounded, black cauldron. Next to it sat a white mortar and pestle stained a pale yellow in places. A small collection of potion ingredients took up the rest of the space, all neatly labelled in glass jars: shredded bat wings, armadillo bile, nettle wine, rat tails, ground unicorn horn, fragmented dragon eggshell and dried billiwig stings.

"Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble," said Terry softly. "I wonder what potion he makes."

None of them could think of any corresponding potion so they went back to their search. They weren't searching for anything in particular, more just clues to see whether Abravan might be involved in the two deaths that had taken place since the beginning of the year.

Harry moved on to looking at the leather bag atop the cabinet. It wasn't cursed, however it wouldn't open. Not wanting to damage it in any way, he gave up.

Instead he moved onto the pile of books next to it. Not wanting to touch them for fear of them tumbling over, he tried to read the titles by tilting his head sideways and pointing his wand at the spines. Garlic and Silver: What to use and when... An Anthology of Basic Curses... The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection... A Guide to Dark Creatures... Curses and Counter-curses... The Art of Duelling. Overall, everything a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor would need.

"Er – Harry?" The sound of Padma's voice had him looking up at her. He accidently shone his wand's light in her face, making her raise a hand to shield her eyes. He quickly redirected his wand, noting her concerned expression. "I think Abravan's coming."

"What!?" He quickly sidled in next to her, looking at the area on the Marauder's Map that her wand had spotlighted.

A small dot labelled Hamish Abravan was making its way downwards from the third floor. When it reached the second floor, however, it turned right.

"Where's he going?" asked Padma aloud as she turned her head to look at him. Taking a right meant he was heading away from his office.

But Harry was still staring at the map, tracing his finger over Abravan's route. With a voice filled with a sudden certainty, he said: "He's heading towards Myrtle's bathroom."

"Moaning Myrtle's bathroom? But no one goes there."

He debated over whether to reveal the importance of Myrtle's bathroom and what it hid to her, but was distracted when Terry beckoned them over to by the desk.

"The desk draw's cursed but look at some of these books," Terry said, passing him a red, leather-bound book. The gold spelling out the title had been rubbed away over time on the spine. The musty smell of oldness clung to it. "Open it."

"It's not about to scream, is it?" Harry asked, remembering a scene from his first foray into the Restricted Area of the library back in first year.

"Just open it," said Terry.

Grinning slightly, Harry turned it overleaf. On a page yellowed by the years a small circle was half-overlapped with larger crescent. It looked slightly familiar; probably something from one of their history textbooks. Underneath, a curved, unknown script had been written by hand.

Flicking forward a few pages, he came to blocks of text written in that same undecipherable lettering. He leafed through more pages but all were filled with the unknown language.

"What language is it?" he asked.

Terry shrugged. "No idea."

"Can I have a look?" asked Padma.

"Oh, sorry," said Harry, realising that she had been trying to look over his shoulder to little avail. He hurriedly passed it over, his hand briefly touching hers.

"Do you recognise it?" he asked after a brief pause. He was very conscious of the fact that Abravan was on the same level as them, even if he was heading in the direction of Myrtle's bathroom.

She shook her head. "Sorry."

"Well pass it here, and I'll stick it back where I found it," said Terry.

As Terry replaced the book, Harry's eyes briefly flickered over the assortment of books that had managed to remain in the bookshelf instead of being scattered over the room. Mixed in between such volumes as Historical Annals: 1345-50 and the collected works of Great Wizarding Events that stretched back to the tenth century, were several more books titled in the same unknown language. Not only that, he noticed that more than a couple of the tomes were in foreign languages: French, German, Latin, Spanish, Greek and what he guessed was Russian. Added to that, on the bottom shelf was a collection of paperback fiction novels; he was surprised to see several well-known Muggle narratives side by side with their wizarding counterparts.

"Time to leave?" said Terry.

Startled out of his quick skim through, Harry turned towards him. "What? Oh, yeah; we better go. Have you got the map, Padma?"

She waved it slightly. "And I've got your Invisibility Cloak."

After one final check to make sure everything was left how they had found it, they once again charmed their feet silent. Localised spells were so very handy.

Harry relieved Padma of the Marauder's Map and, after a cursory check to make sure Abravan wasn't close by, he wiped it clean. He then quickly folded it and tucked it into his robes.

They all then extinguished the light of their wands and slipped under the cloak. Filtering carefully out of the office, Harry pulled the door closed as silently as he could having removed the impromptu wedge.

Hogwarts took on a strange quality at night. The almost reverent silence that descended on the castle seemed to emphasise its age, as though the echoes of the past whispered through the stone corridors, hinting at things that had come to pass: of friendships formed; of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalries; of mischief and heartbreak; and above all, the wave of wands as students discovered the magic that flowed through their veins.

Harry thought of his father; of how James Potter must have once crept around in the dead of night, unseen under the same Invisibility Cloak his son now wore. Footsteps lost in the passage of time.

It was only when they got to the fifth floor that they ran into a problem in the form of Peeves. The garishly dressed poltergeist was in the middle of pulling up the carpet that ran along the corridor. His solid form bobbed up and down as he cackled to himself.

Suddenly he stopped what he was doing and looked directly at them, his wicked, dark eyes glinting in the candlelight. "I know you're there. Better show yourselves to Peevsie."

The three of them remained silent, none of them daring to even move forward. Padma grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly.

There was a moment's pause before a broad grin stretched across his wide, wicked face. A squeal of delight tore forth from his mouth. He picked up the loosened carpet and gave a mighty tug.

The three of them toppled to the floor with an "Omph!" The Invisibility Cloak had partially slipped off both Padma and Harry, revealing the bottom half of their bodies. Terry, however, remained fully covered.

Thinking quickly, Harry pulled the Cloak off of himself and Padma, making sure that Terry wasn't visible. There was no point in all three of them getting into trouble.

"Give the rug a tug, and then reveal the thug!" cackled Peeves. He then zoomed towards where they stood, making Padma bite back a gasp. He encircled them once before facing them as he hovered mid-air with his legs crossed. "Students out of bed. Naughty, naughty. "

"Please don't say anything," said Padma.

Harry had run into Peeves after curfew before, however, and knew what was going to follow. He tightly gripped her hand and, trying to do his best ventriloquist impression, told her to run when he said so.

"Oh, but I should tell Filch. It's my-"

"But Ter-"

"Run!" Together they sprinted past Peeves, making him twirl in the air.

"STUDENTS OUT OF BED! STUDENTS OUT OF BED ON THE FOURTH FLOOR!" bellowed Peeves as they took a corner.

Left. Another left. Up the wooden stairwell. Through an abandoned classroom. Now a right. Harry didn't know where he was going as they twisted through the stone passageways.

Eventually they stopped in an empty corridor, hiding in the shadows behind a bulky suit of armour as they tried to catch their breath. His heart thumped madly and their gasps seemed ridiculously loud in the quiet setting.

Then he heard it. A slight clatter of footsteps in the distance. "Sniff around, my sweet. They can't have got far, the filthy little miscreants."

Padma turned to look at him, her eyes wide. "Filch," she squeaked.

"Quick," he said, grabbing her hand once again and pulling her into the corridor and towards the nearest door. "In here."

They bundled in through the door and Harry quickly closed it. "Lūcan!" he whispered with a flick of his wand, effectively sealing the door shut.

He sighed in relief and tried to move further in only to knock into something and end up half-falling against something soft.

"Lumos!" said Padma softly. The tip of her wand lit up providing the only source of light.

They were in a broom cupboard. Harry saw that it was a tin bucket that had caused his fall and that the top half his body was now resting against several rather dusty cloths that someone had hung up while one bent leg took the rest of his weight.

Padma let out a laugh at his precarious positioning before clamping her hands over her mouth. Her eyes danced with mirth.

You can laugh, he mouthed silently, trying to look affronted.

She removed her hands from mouth. I will, she mouthed back, smiling widely.

He couldn't help but smile back.

"We'll find them, my sweet. Oh, if only Dumbledore would bring back the days of real punishment. Then I'd show these filthy little beasts what for. None of them would dare cross me then." Filch's voice sounded nearby and Harry could almost picture his quivering jowls and his sunken cheeks as he prowled along the corridor with Mrs Norris, his dust-coloured cat.

Harry looked at Padma and raised an eyebrow. I think he wants to whip me, he mouthed.

She bit her lip before grinning wildly and giving him a slight whack. Don't make me laugh.

I don't think me getting whipped is a laughing matter.

She blinked in confusion, not having understood. What?

Doesn't matter, he mouthed back, dismissing it with a wave of his hand and a shake of the head.

They remained silent for a few minutes as they heard Filch walk passed their broom cupboard and further down the corridor.

After a while, Harry tugged on Padma's robes to get her attention. "Can you help me up?" he whispered.

Smiling, she grasped his arms and pulled him up. Overbalancing slightly, he tilted forward and ended up pressed against her.

"Sorry," he said quietly, moving back slightly. They were still only a few inches apart and he suddenly realised just how cramped the broom cupboard was. He also noticed that her hands were still on his arms.

She seemed to realise this too as she removed them. A pink blush spread across her cheeks and she looked down. She bit her lip slightly.

"Thanks," he said, his eyes focusing on her lips.

She looked at him then and smiled. There was a slight pause and then: "You've got some dust in your hair."

He pushed a hand through his hair trying to remove it. Nothing came out.

She laughed softly at his attempts before catching his hand. "I'll get it." She then turned his head slightly and picked out the cluster of dust. "There."

She smiled up at him and Harry found himself honing in on her lips. Then, as though it was the most natural thing in the world, his eyes slid closed and his lips were on hers.

It was a strange sensation. Strange but pleasant. Her lips were soft and tasted of strawberry lip balm.

After a few seconds he pulled back, swallowing nervously as he waited for her to open her eyes.

Her eyelids fluttered open and their eyes met. A small, almost secretive smile graced her lips as she pushed an imagined lock of hair behind her right ear.

Not wanting to ruin this moment with words, Harry pulled her towards him, wrapping his left arm around her tiny waist in a half-hugging action. She quickly buried her head against his shoulder.

They stood there for a while, just enjoying each other's presence, until the distant chiming of a clock reminded them of what time it was.

"We better get back," Harry told her somewhat reluctantly.

"Hmm," agreed Padma sleepily, her head still tucked into his shoulder.

Smiling over her, he placed a kiss on top of her forehead before manoeuvring his right arm to retrieve the Marauder's Map. Muttering a quick "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good," he checked for their position.

"We're all clear," he said, shaking her slightly.

"Alright," she said, removing her head from its resting place with a slight scrunch of her nose. She offered him a shy smile before turning her head away slightly.

"Come on," he said, cancelling the Locking Charm and pushing the door open. He stepped out first and then turned back to offer her his hand.

Once outside of the broom cupboard, their hands remained entwined. Hers a caramel brown and his a pale white.

They walked in silence, sharing looks and smiles. Somehow they went from holding hands to his arm around her waist.

There were no run-ins with either Peeves or the caretaker – Harry kept a close eye on the map - and they reached the spiral staircase which led to Ravenclaw Tower without incident.

"It's just up there," she told him as they came to a halt and broke apart from one another.

"Will you be able to get in at this time?" he asked. "It's just sometimes the Fat Lady – the portrait that guards Gryffindor Tower – leaves her frame. I don't want you to be stuck outside all night."

"I'll be fine," she reassured him. "I just have to answer a question."

"Oh, right," said Harry, suddenly realising that this was the end of their night time adventure.

"I'm really glad I came along," she told him with a small smile.

"So am I."

They stood there for a moment. Padma's eyes rested on the floor as she bit down on her lower lip. Slowly she raised her head and, giving him a shy smile, she went on tiptoes and kissed him, their noses almost knocking together in the process.

"I really like you," he blurted out as the kiss came to an end.

"I sort of hoped you did," Padma told him, blushing heavily. "I really like you, too."

He couldn't stop the wide grin that spread across his face. "So, are we - er, you know...? Because I'm sure the next Hogsmeade weekend will be better since it's not like Trelawney's around to jump again and I really shouldn't have said that." He decided it was best that he stop speaking having already made a total botched job of it.

But Padma was - remarkably in Harry's opinion - smiling at him. "I'd like that."

"You would? Really?"

She nodded, half-laughing at his incredulity.

"That's great," he said and, because it felt like the right thing to do, he kissed her again.

They were both smiling as the kiss came to an end. For a moment they merely stood, content to just look at each other.

"I better get going," she said, gesturing slightly to the spiral staircase.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then?" he half-asked, not making any move to go.

She nodded and started towards the spiral staircase. After the first couple of steps, she turned her head back to look at him. She gave him a small smile before ducking her head and disappearing up the stairs.

He stood there for a while in the now empty corridor, a slow grin spreading across his face.

Eventually, he started heading back to his own common room after checking with the Marauders' Map to make sure she had been able to get in alright. The journey was uneventful and he was relieved to find the Fat Lady in residence even if she was snoozing. After going through the trouble of waking her up ("Just what sort of time do you call this!?"), he gave her the password and entered the common room.

He had been expecting to find it empty – it had just gone three am – and so was taken by surprise when he noticed Colin Creevey was sitting cross-legged on the floor with twenty or so photographs spread out around him. As he got closer, he noticed that most of them were of Hogwarts but he then noticed a few that depicted Trelawney on top of the tower, her form swaying to and fro. More curious, however, was the half a dozen or so of Trelawney's dead body lying still against the ground.

Colin watched him with a stoic expression, nodding at him in greeting instead of his usual, cheery "All right, Harry?" Harry merely nodded back before walking towards the boys' dormitory stairs. If Colin wasn't going to question him about his night time wanderings then Harry wasn't about to question him on why he had taken photos of Trelawney's corpse.

Tiredness hit him as he trudged up the stairs to his dormitory. Suddenly, all he wanted to do was sleep.

Entering his shared room, the first thing he noticed was the unusual stink; a funny, rather unpleasant smell that he didn't recognise. Coughing slightly, he cast "Anosmia!" over his nose before sluggishly changing into his pyjamas and climbing into bed.

Making sure the Marauders' Map was fully covered by his pillow, he put his head to the cushion and immediately fell asleep with a grin on his face.