The large room hadn't changed at all since Sirius's last visit; even the sky outside was still pearlescent, sending a muted glow through the tall windows. Also the same was the author, who sat at the same wooden table, now reclining in his chair with his feet propped on the table, his eyes furiously scanning the manuscript he held in front of him. Occasionally, his face would give a small twitch, lips quirking in a smile or frown, nose crinkling in apparent disgust, eyebrows raising a fraction, before returning to the same neutral expression.
"Is that the first chapter?" Sirius asked, and the author gave a small jerk, looking quickly up at Sirius. Sirius noticed for the first time that the young man had shaved, his scruffy facial hair replaced by a light stubble. "You shaved."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," the author said. "I'm proofreading," he said in response to Sirius's question, holding up the manuscript, which was held together with a small binder clip. "It's hard when everyone you know has worse grammar than you. I have to proofread my own stuff, and that means I miss things."
"So, you're finished with the first chapter?" Sirius asked eagerly, plopping down across from the author, who nodded. "Can I see it?" he asked, reaching across the table.
"Not yet," he said defensively, clutching the papers against his chest. "I need to fix my grammar first. And some of the wording needs changed."
"Well, can you tell me what happens?" Sirius asked, and the author shook his head with a small smile.
"It'd spoil the surprise," he said. "You'll have to read it along with everyone else."
"Am I in the story, at least?" Sirius asked, and the author glanced at the manuscript still clutched to his chest before nodding.
"You don't have a speaking part yet, but you'll make an appearance," he said.
"And do Harry and Hermione get any action yet?"
"Actually, they're snogging almost right out of the gate," the author said with a satisfied smirk, which faded to panic as Sirius leapt across the table.
"All right, just lemme see it!" he said, snatching at the paper, but the author leapt up, running behind his chair.
"It's not done yet!" he said, and Sirius aimed his wand at the author.
"Accio!" the manuscript flew from the author's flailing hands and into Sirius's.
The sky was just beginning to glow a soft, pale blue, the slightly illuminated grounds covered in the all-too-common morning mist, when a lone barn owl swooped towards a rather large castle next to a lake. As it dipped low over a large round hut on the edge of the nearby woods, it let its customary hoot of thanks as a large, hairy man tossed a dead rat up in the air as he exited his front door.
Somehow, the bearded one always knew when the owl had managed to miss its prey that night.
Ascending once more, the owl banked along the castle walls, flying past darkened windows covered in condensation, eyeing its own reflection as it moved. It spotted a ledge directly in its path and landed for a moment to enjoy its feast in peace, away from the prying eyes of the others in the owlery. The tiny gray one in particular had an annoying habit of twittering nearby until the owl relinquished a scrap of meat for his tiny stomach.
The owl looked contemplatively at the fast approaching sunrise. The castle was more active once again; for a while, the many children had left, and life had been pretty boring, especially without the nice ones in yellow who occasionally came to give treats to the ownerless owls like itself. Now, they seemed even more generous than usual, so much so that the owl eyed the rather large remainder of its meal with something akin to distaste. Perhaps the tiny gray owl would be so surprised with his meal, he would leave the owl alone for a while.
Voices from inside the ledge it had perched upon….
"Rise and shine, Har—OI! Oh, bloody hell! Seamus! Dean! Look at this!"
"Aw, they look so cute!" another voice laughed.
"Harry and Miney sittin' in a tree…!"
"I dare you to finish that sentence, Finnigan," a female voice said, and there were sounds of a scuffle. Before the owl could get out of the way, a shoe flew out the window, knocking it off the ledge. It managed to right its flight, but the half-eaten mouse flew down to the ground below.
Carving a direct path to the owlery, the owl heard a few more snatches of conversation.
"Hermione, you nearly walloped that owl!"
"Is it okay?"
"Yeah, but it doesn't look happy with you…."
The owl began to contemplate becoming a permanent houseguest of the hairy one….
"Oh, now you're not speaking to me, Hermione?" Ron asked, and Hermione steadfastly ignored him, as she had been doing all morning. "C'mon, that's no way to act."
"Harry, can you tell Ron that rudely waking up your friends and then bringing your other mates to laugh about it is also no way to act?" Hermione asked, still looking steadily forward, and Harry held up his hands in surrender, grinning.
"Hey, I'm staying out of this," he said. "I claim neutrality."
"Yeah, you can laugh about it," she said. "You didn't almost…bare all to Seamus and Dean. And poor Neville looked ready to faint."
"That's what you get for sleeping without a shirt on," Ron said, and Hermione reached for her wand, but Harry placed his hand on her arm and leaned into her ear.
"I love you, Hermione," he whispered, and Hermione went still, a smile appearing on her face, and she sighed. Harry slid a hand around her back and she nestled her head into his shoulder.
"Promise?" she asked, looking up at him, and Harry grinned, eliciting a blush from her.
"Forever," he said, leaning in to kiss her and waving off Ron just out of her sight. Ron gave him a thumbs up and mouthed, "Thanks mate," before hurrying off to the next class to tell Flitwick the pair might be a little late.
"I saw that," Hermione whispered as she pulled away, and Harry smiled sheepishly.
"Saw what?" he asked. "I was completely absorbed in the beauty that is my Hermione Jane Granger."
"Oh, you are so full of it," Hermione said with a smile, taking his hand. "But, I love you anyway."
It had been a month since their initial confessions of love to each other, and Hermione's words still made his heart leap and do a back flip. He pecked her on the nose, and they joined hands, making their way to Flitwick's class.
"By the way, we're on patrol duties tonight," Hermione said as they walked, and Harry groaned. "Oh, don't be a baby. You accepted the prefect badge, so you have to take the responsibility with it."
"Yeah, but McGonagall won't even let me take Padfoot on patrols," Harry said, and Hermione rolled her eyes. Padfoot had become an instant celebrity among the Gryffindors after being allowed to stay by the new headmistress, McGonagall (the image of Harry clinging to Padfoot's neck and staring forlornly up at McGonagall still made Hermione laugh; McGonagall had had no chance). One thing the headmistress had drawn the line on was Sirius accompanying Harry during prefect duties.
"I made the mistake of letting James and Sirius help Remus one night," McGonagall had said. "Needless to say, they caused more trouble than they stopped."
"He gets so bored on my patrol nights," Harry said with a sigh, and Hermione laughed.
"You know as well as I do that he spends every patrol night at the Three Broomsticks making passes at Madam Rosmerta," she said. "Besides, aren't I company enough for you?" she said, pouting at him, and Harry grinned, kissing her once more before stepping into Flitwick's room.
"Ah, Mister Potter, Miss Granger," Flitwick said, smiling at them. "Do try not to make a habit out of tardiness. It won't help in the future."
"Sorry, Professor," Hermione said, and Harry nodded at him. They took their seats, ignoring the mutterings and giggles of their fellow classmates (though Harry had to work hard to tune out the happy sighs of Lavender and Parvati as they watched the couple).
Professor Flitwick proceeded to teach them about the supersensory charm, which would give the subject vastly improved senses.
"Extreme caution must be used when casting this charm," he told them from atop his desk. "If you are too enthusiastic and overdo it, every sound will be deafening, every sight blinding, every smell the most pungent ever, every touch too painful to endure, and even the slightest taste in the air will linger for hours."
"Gross," Ron said. "Can you imagine that in the quidditch locker room? All that sweat and dirt? Be like eating old gym socks."
"Thank you, Ron," Hermione said with unmasked sarcasm. "Dinner's going to be so much more delicious with that thought in mind."
Harry chuckled as he raised his wand. "Eligere cognosceri," he muttered, and the room instantly got louder. It wasn't overbearingly loud, but he could pick up snatches of nearly every conversation in the room.
"…think I might have the movement a little off…"
"…put on two different colored socks by accident…"
"…think Ron really has a girlfriend in America?"
"…heard you had a little surprise this morning…"
Thinking it best if he didn't hear any more, Harry waved his wand once more, and muttered, "Finite," the word almost deafening to his own ears.
"Learn anything new?" Hermione asked as next to her, Ron clapped his hands over his ears, wrinkling his nose in disgust.
"Our classmates are just plain weird," he said, waving his wand in Ron's general direction. "Finite."
Ron sighed in obvious relief. "Oops," he muttered.
Their next class was Defense Against the Dark Arts, where they were taught by an old acquaintance, Sean O'Hara, who had decided to keep the position originally offered him by Dumbledore (when asked if this had anything to do with the fact that Nymphadora Tonks was the new History of Magic teacher, he merely grinned and replied, "S'possible."). Harry particularly enjoyed Sean's lessons, as the professor seemed to share his best friend Leon's disdain for books; as such, nearly all of his lessons were practical, and reading was tacked on as an assignment before the next lesson.
"Alright, kiddos?" Mr. O'Hara (he refused to be called "Professor") greeted the class in his usual manner. "How we doin' this mornin'?"
The class chorused various statements to the effect of "All right", though Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas pointedly yawned.
"Not enough sleep, you two?" Mr. O'Hara chuckled, and gave them a grin. "We'll I got somethin' that'll get the blood pumpin'. Blasting hexes."
"That man knows how to teach a class," Dean said about an hour later as the Gryffindors headed for lunch, most of them sporting enormous grins. Through the collective effort of the whole class, every piece of furniture in Mr. O'Hara's classroom had been reduced to rubble. Even Neville had managed to obliterate the teacher's desk, easily the largest piece in the room.
The group sat down to lunch, Ron piling a sample of every platter within arm's reach onto his plate. Harry chose a simple meal of corned beef and potatoes, while Hermione had a salad.
"Today's Potions is a double, right?" Ron asked, taking a massive bite of an equally massive pork chop. Hermione nodded as she consulted her schedule.
"Yes," she said. "Our first double with Professor Flamel. Should be interesting."
"Ugh," Ron grumbled, a sound that was made a thousand times worse by the fact that his mouth was full of half-chewed potatoes. "'Ay 'at 'lash 'ow."
Harry and Hermione merely stared at him as he swallowed his mouthful of food, Hermione shaking her head slowly from side to side.
"I don't believe I've ever met a boy more disgusting than you," she observed as Ron took a swig of pumpkin juice, belching loudly. "How you managed to get a girlfriend is just…inexplicable."
"Must be my good looks," he said with a grin, and Hermione rolled her eyes.
"And humility," she added under her breath. Ron didn't seem to hear her, moving on to a large dish of chocolate pudding.
"Anyway," he went on. "I can believe they let that Flamel teach classes here. I mean, how old is he anyway?"
"Well, he's certainly qualified," Hermione said. "I don't think he's ever been unable to answer a question about potions."
"Yeah, but he's…odd," Ron said. "Ever try to hold a conversation with him? He asked if Ginny and I were related once, and I barely understood a word he said."
"That's because you don't listen," Hermione said. "You don't understand a lot of what I say, either."
"I understand everything you say," Ron said defensively, taking another swig of his juice. Hermione cocked an eyebrow.
"It would be judicious to depart expeditiously in order to convey to the next seminar," she said, and Harry couldn't help but burst out laughing as Ron's eyes widened significantly, a small trickle of pumpkin juice escaping and dribbling down his chin. "There. Now your statement is officially false."
Still, chuckling, Harry stood, offering a hand to Hermione. "C'mon," he said. "Let's depart expeditiously. The seminar starts in ten minutes."
The potion master was already waiting in the classroom when the trio entered, which didn't surprise them in the slightest; the professor rarely left the dungeon at all.
HI Unit Mk. 1, designation 000-11214, or Nick Flamel, as he liked to be called, was the only remaining HI unit left in the castle, the rest having been relocated to Azkaban prison to guard the fortress. Six of the units had gone missing shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts was declared a victory. Five were later located in the Forbidden Forest, stargazing with the centaurs (where they remained to this day), while the Flamel unit had been discovered in Severus Snape's private library, having pored through every potions book the professor had amassed in his life (3,972, to be precise) in the course of four hours and given himself the name Nick Flamel, after the famous alchemist. After checking the robot for programming aberrations and carefully removing his incendiary units, the TanakaCo engineers released the unit into Hogwarts's custody, where he took up the potions post due to his now in-depth knowledge of the subject and the fact that Severus Snape had yet to be found.
"Good day, students," Flamel said, his cybernetic voice not as jarring as the first HI Units', though still more monotone than most humans'. "Open textbooks to page 634, please. Today, you will be learning how to brew the draught of living death."
"Oh, they usually save this one for N.E.W.T year," Hermione whispered to Harry. "I guess they really are updating the curriculum this year."
"As usual, if you have any questions, you may ask your fellow classmates or myself," Flamel said, raising large, three-fingered hand to point at the ingredients cupboard. "Any ingredients that you do not have on hand at the moment can be found in the storage cupboard. You may begin."
They were ten minutes into the class, when Ron first tapped Harry on the elbow, nodding across the room.
"Malfoy's giving you the evil eye again," he muttered with a small laugh. "That's, what, the third week in a row?"
"Well, by his logic, I'm wholly responsible for his dad getting chucked in prison, aren't I?" Harry said with a roll of the eyes, and Ron grinned, going back to his brew. Harry went back to his own cauldron, sparing Malfoy one more look. If Harry had ever hoped that the final and ultimate defeat of Riddle would soften the blonde's attitude toward the world in general, he was sorely mistaken; if anything, Lucius's recent imprisonment had made Harry's nemesis even more vindictive than ever before, particularly toward Harry himself. This didn't bother Harry as much as it would have at one time. He couldn't even bring himself to reciprocate these feelings anymore; it was much too tiring to devote his energy to disliking someone, especially when he had a wonderful girlfriend to devote himself to in much more positive ways.
The rest of Potions passed mostly in peace (Crabbe somehow managed to ingest a small portion of his unfinished potion and nearly drowned after falling face-first into his cauldron). Harry actually found that he had quite a knack for the subject without Snape breathing down his neck; it was not so different from cooking, a subject he knew plenty about from living with the Dursleys, though the experience was made infinitely more enjoyable with Hermione next to him, squeezing his hand and occasionally bumping him playfully with her hip.
"So, we have an hour before patrols start," she said as they made their way back to the common room after dinner (Ron was on his third helping of dessert). "What do you say we get started on that reading assignment from Mr. O'Hara?"
"Hmm," Harry said, sticking a finger to his chin as though deep in thought. "I was thinking of something a bit less academic." As he said this, he placed a hand on the small of Hermione's back, rubbing slow circles. She shuddered, turning to look nervously behind them.
"Harry, what if someone had been there?" she whispered, and Harry grinned, causing her to blush.
"Then they'd've gotten quite a show," he said, leaning in to kiss the side of her mouth. She sighed contentedly and turned to meet his lips as he kissed her a second time. He guided her to a wall and gently pushed her against it, his right hand cupping her face, his left trailing along her side.
The two had just jumped apart when something large, black, and hairy collided with Harry's legs, sending him flying to the floor, which was less than welcoming. Before Harry could even think about getting up, the large black dog had draped itself across his legs.
The dog's tail began wagging as soon as Harry said his name, and he stared at Harry, tongue hanging out of his mouth.
"He's happy to see you," Hermione giggled. She'd managed to escape the furry cannonball and was now watching the scene amusedly from the wall.
"Well, he has the worst timing ever," Harry said, attempting to extricate himself from under Padfoot's massive form, but the dog was so heavy that it was proving difficult. "Padfoot, move."
Padfoot chose to ignore this, instead glancing up at Hermione and cocking his head. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"It was just a snog, Padfoot," she said in exasperation. "Nothing more."
Padfoot made a small whine, and the message seemed to be clear to Hermione. "Harry's made me quite aware of his opinion on the matter, thank you."
Padfood did what could only be called a canine approximation of a shrug and crawled off of Harry, who bopped the dog in the nose, causing him to flinch back and sneeze.
"By the way, we're going on patrols tonight," Harry said, dusting the dog hair off of his jacket (robes were now an optional uniform piece), "so you're free to check out Hogsmeade…and all that that implies."
The dog gave a gleeful bark, which echoed throughout the corridors, but Hermione made no move to shush him; the sight of Harry smiling down at his friend while the dog skipped in joy was so adorable it would be almost criminal to put a stop to it.
"Look, Ginny we can't keep covering for you like this," Hermione said in a low voice as she escorted her sheepish friend back to the Gryffindor common room at five past ten that evening. "I know you like stargazing with Luna, but one day, Malfoy will be the one to find you, and he won't go easy."
Ginny nodded. "I know, Hermione. I keep telling Luna to let me know when curfew rolls around in case I forget, but she's worse than me at remembering things."
"You could always spend time in one of your common rooms," Hermione suggested. "Then the other students would be there to remind you."
Ginny shrugged noncommittally. "I suppose, but…. It's more relaxing when it's just the two of us. She doesn't…stare," reflexively, it seemed, she wrapped her left arm around her right, which was currently missing its usual covering of a thin black glove, leaving the abnormally pale skin exposed to the moonlight. Hermione smiled gently and hugged her friend as they reached the portrait hole.
"Well, we'll just get you a watch with an alarm on it," she said. "Or you can learn the countdown charm. I'll teach you sometime."
"Thanks, Hermione," Ginny said as the portrait swung forward. "G'night."
"'Night, Ginny," Hermione said, turning back to head down the corridor. Harry had gone ahead to check out the fifth floor while Hermione escorted Ginny back to the common room.
As she descended the staircase to the sixth floor, hurried footsteps met her ears. Two sets of them, she noted, increasing her speed. Perhaps some students had heard her talking to Ginny and were trying to escape the "Strict One" as she was referred to by more than a few younger students.
Wait, she thought as she reached the sixth floor, looking in the direction of the footsteps. They're getting louder….
"Hermione!" Harry's voice called, and Hermione gasped as she saw Harry and….
Draco Malfoy was directly behind Harry as they both ran toward Hermione. Her first instinct was a chase, but she quashed that immediately; Harry could flatten Malfoy with all the effort it took her to raise her left pinky. No, from the identical looks of alarm on their faces, they were both victims, but of what?
"You won't believe what just happened!" Harry said, skidding to a halt in front of Hermione, Malfoy looking fearfully in the direction they'd just come.
"You don't think it's coming after us?" he said, and Harry rolled his.
"Right coward, he is," he muttered to Hermione. "I'm positive, Malfoy. I told you, I've had experience with trolls before."
"Harry what happened?"
Harry sighed, shuffling slowly down the steps to the fourth floor; patrols were no fun without Hermione. Ginny and Luna had been their first bust of the evening, and it was Wednesday night, meaning almost no one would even have the energy to sneak out. Checking his watch, he let a groan when he saw that he still had two hours left. He rounded a corner and –
Bumped into a tall figure with unmistakable blonde hair.
"Watch where you're going, Potter! Great, now I have to wash my robes…."
"Malfoy, you're supposed to be patrolling the second floor," Harry said, fixing his jacket. "What are you doing up here?"
"My business is my business," Malfoy said contemptuously. "I don't remember having to answer to you."
With a shrug, Harry made to move past the blonde; he really didn't have any patience for dealing with Malfoy when he was in his bitchy mood, which was ninety percent of the time.
"Hey, don't just walk away from me," Malfoy said in annoyance, moving to block Harry, who cocked an eyebrow.
"I'm leaving you to go wash your robes," Harry said. "Y'know, me and Hermione were just snogging before we split up, and she was alllll over me."
He delighted in the revolted look this produced from Malfoy. "You're digusting! I don't want to hear about what you've been doing with the mudblood."
"Better a mudblood than a mudbrain," Harry said, and Malfoy snarled, reaching for his wand, but he stopped when the floor beneath them shuddered slightly. Harry turned, reaching for his own wand and looking around. The floor shuddered again, then again, then once more…. Footsteps. Big footsteps. Coming towards them.
"This way," Harry said, making to grab Malfoy's arm and lead him away, but Malfoy jerked away.
"Get out of it, Potter," he grumbled. "It's probably just Peeves breaking….some…thing…" he trailed off as an enormous figure came around the corner, and Harry had a brief flashback to his first year.
A mountain troll stood there, filling up the entire corridor with its girth. Despite having grown quite a bit since his first year, Harry felt even more dwarfed by this troll than the last for one simple reason: it was huge. There was no club in its hands, which were big enough to cause significant damage alone, but someone had seen fit to attach an approximation of brass knuckles to its fists, which it was now banging together while glaring at them.
Run? Harry pondered to himself. That thing would catch us in an instant. Mountain trolls are pretty fast. Fight. Go for the eyes. What's that spell Sirius taught me? The conjunctivitis curse!
"Conjunctivo!" he yelled, raising his wand at the troll's eyes. The troll reeled back as the spell hit it in the eyes, bellowing in rage. Blinking through the swelling in its eyes, it lumbered forward, raising its massive fists. "Malfoy, run!"
Malfoy seemed frozen in fear, watching the troll as its knuckles collided with the ceiling.
"Malfoy move it!" Harry ran forward, grabbing Malfoy by the shoulders and tugging him backward. The two fell in a heap as the troll's fists fell, landing right where Malfoy had been. The shock of the fall seemed to jar something in Malfoy, and he rolled off of Harry and shuffled backward, shakily climbing to his feet as the troll moved forward, impeded by the cramped surroundings. Harry followed, turning back and freezing in terror as he saw the troll's right fist flying directly at them. Grabbing Malfoy's shoulders once more, he pulled them both to the side as the troll punched the wall, shattering it.
"In there!" Harry shouted, shoving Malfoy toward the hole the troll had created. Now seeming beyond rational thought, Malfoy did as Harry told him, stumbling through the hole. Harry followed, aiming his wand.
"D'you know how to do a stunning spell!?" Harry said, and Malfoy nodded bleakly, staring at the troll as it bellowed furiously, seeming incensed that it couldn't reach them. "Aim at its head! On three! One…two…three!"
"Stupefy!" they shouted in unison, and twin red beams shot at the troll, connecting with its head. The troll immediately slumped, falling in a heap on the floor.
A ringing silence followed, in which the two stared at the troll, Harry with his wand raised, ready for another stunner, just in case, Malfoy with his knees shaking. The blonde backed up, falling limply against the back wall of the destroyed classroom.
"That was…we could've…" he looked up at Harry, his expression disbelieving. "How can you just…stand there!?"
Satisfied that the troll was sufficiently knocked out, Harry lowered his wand, glancing at Malfoy. "What?"
"We just…almost died!" Malfoy said, his expression hysterical. "That thing could've killed us! It almost did kill us! And you're just standing there like it's no big deal!"
Harry shrugged. "Well, this isn't my first time taking on a troll. Mind you the last one was a lot smaller, and Ron dealt the final blow, but we were first years."
"First years…?" Malfoy shook his head.
"Also, we didn't almost die," Harry corrected him, sparing the troll a glance before looking back at Malfoy. "You did. I saved your skin. Twice."
"You…" Malfoy sneered at him, huffing as he realized the irrevocable truth of the statement. "All right. Fine. What do I owe you?"
"Huh?" Harry said, moving for the classroom door. Malfoy followed, walking as though he'd had a jelly-legs jinx cast on him.
"You saved my life," he said. "That means I owe you, and a Malfoy always repays his debts. What do you want? Money? Status? The Malfoy name is still influential in some circles – "
"Let's be friends," Harry said with a grin, and Malfoy stopped dead in his tracks.
"Let's. Be. Friends." Harry enunciated each word, turning to face him, and Malfoy blinked uncomprehendingly for a moment, shaking his head slowly.
"You just save my life," he said, "and in return you want me…to be your friend?"
"Yeah," Harry said, his grin growing. He turned and opened the door, holding it for Malfoy. "I have enough money to buy a small country, and I don't need status. I'm the Boy-Who-Conquered. They'd probably give me a small country. I think you have good friend potential, though."
"Potter, you are barking mad," Malfoy said, moving through the door, and Harry shrugged.
"Hey, you said you owe me, and that's what I want," he replied, following. "Now, come on. We need to find McGonagall."
"She'll want to know that a troll got into Hogwarts…again."
Amelia Bones had thought that the defeat of Riddle would bring about some modicum of peace, if only for a year or two, and then some other event that paled in comparison to the Riddle Wars (as they were being dubbed) but was no less urgent would crop up, and she would swoop in and solve it, glad for the break in monotony.
Sadly, she never accounted for Harry Potter. The boy's mere presence seemed to cause even the most meticulous plans to be chewed up and spit out like so much tobacco.
"'DMLE Investigation File HRQ-60233'," she read to the assembled officers. "'Shortly past 2200 hours on 29 October, 1995, a Cairngormian mountain troll was discovered on the fourth floor of Hogwarts School of Magic. The troll attacked the two students who discovered it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter.'"
At the mention of the second name, muttering broke out among the officers, but Madame Bones silenced them with a severe look.
"'The pair incapacitated the troll'," more mutterings and another severe look, "'which is now being held in the myrtle chamber of Hogwarts for further testing until such a time that the Department of Magical Creatures can claim it.' So reads the case file. Now, Headmistress McGonagall would like to know how a mountain troll found its way into the castle. Think you can find out?"
The officers of the newly formed Department of Magical Investigation nodded, exiting the room and leaving Amelia Bones wondering if she would ever get to take that vacation time that had been accumulating for quite a while.
"Oh, intriguing," Sirius said, dancing out of the author's reach once more before allowing him to snatch the paper back. "And you make me seem so lovable as a dog!"
"I wasn't finished proofreading yet," the author huffed, attempting to smooth the manuscript against his chest.
"It looks fine to me," Sirius said with a shrug. "Better than anything I could do. You should post it as soon as possible. They'll devour it."
"Think so?" the author asked, glancing back down at the still rumpled manuscript. Sirius nodded vigorously.
"Yeah, let's get this show on the road!"
"Yeah," the author nodded. "Yeah, now that Riddle's gone, I can take this at my own pace. Harry can move at his own pace, now that his life's not in danger."
"Exactly," Sirius said. "That's what I've been trying to tell you for ages! New bad guys, new rules, new everything! C'mon, let's go!"
He grabbed the author's arm and proceeded to drag him to the posting point, shouting as he went, "Say the disclaimer!"
Skidding to a halt just before the exit point, the author took a deep breath. "I don't own Harry Potter or any of its affiliated characters, settings, or any associated creative property. The aforementioned is the sole property of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Publishing Company. Any characters, settings, or creative property mentioned within this story and not associated with Harry Potter are the sole property of me unless otherwise specified, and use is limited to my permission. Thank y-AHH, MY ARM!" The author vanished from sight as Sirius grabbed his arm, tugging him away.