AUTHOR'S PRE-NOTE: So… it's been a year. Yeah that's on me. I have written a few other things in the meantime, but it's been a few months since I've updated. I'll do my best to keep it going, but the only thing I can promise is that it'll take me far less time to update next time around.
Previously: The Heir of Slytherin has been terrorizing the school and Sirius Black is also on the loose. Susan has decided to work against the Slytherin girls because she has decided "Harriet" isn't so bad after all, and the only other ones who know are Harry and Parvati. And after Lisa Turpin gets petrified, Mandy attacks Harry in fury. So now Harry is off for the winter holidays at the Lovegoods, and perhaps a spot of experimentation is in order:
Harry and the Mysterious Curse of the Girl-Who-Lived
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: AN EXPERIMENTAL HOLIDAY
"I thought we'd start with something simple," said Luna. "Like trying to say your real name."
Harry nodded, feeling a sense of anticipation and excitement. It felt almost like being happy.
"Okay," he said. "Let's get started."
"First," said Luna. "I don't really want to try anything too creepy or weird, if that's alright. I don't particularly like weird things." She made a kind of fluttery motion with her hand. "You know what I mean."
"Oh no?" Harry asked, slightly amused by Luna's gesticulations. "I'm okay with weird. Creepy, though, I quite agree with you on that part."
Luna smiled. "Of course! I'm very agreeable." She flipped open a book with a few pieces of parchment stuffed in them. "So I have this list of ideas to check. We can try what we want, and skip what we don't." Luna pulled out a single piece and handed it to Harry.
On it, in carefully stylized handwriting, Luna had written a few lines.
Experiments to Try
One: The name! Me, Daddy, maybe Ginny if there's time.
Two: That hair!
Three: A camera
Four: Find a Muggle?
Five: Gradually changing something describing H as a girl to not that
Six: Storytelling! Write your own
Harry laughed as read the last one. "Storytelling? What do you mean by that?"
Luna sighed. "Not-Harriet, that's meant to be a last resort. But I mean you writing a story about a fictional person with your real not girl name, and then reading it to people. Or see if I can read it out loud."
"Oh." Harry scratched his chin. "That's kinda interesting."
"I tried writing by myself," Luna said. "But I couldn't write down your true name. I guess because I knew it was your name? I don't know, really. Anyway, let's talk about your name."
"Sure," said Harry, and he sat down on the floor. "Maybe we could try something like saying each piece of my name at a time."
Luna nodded. "Okay!" She sat at the edge of her bed. "Haa-" She pronounced this like the syllable from 'hat'. Then she paused before saying, "ree". She made a face. "I couldn't say them close together."
"Is there a name like 'Harry' that's more like a girl's name? You could try that."
"Um." Luna looked up at the ceiling, seeming to be thinking about it, and then she looked back at Harry. "I mean, daddy might know. But nothing's coming to mind. Let me try again. Haa. Rrr..." Suddenly Luna's face turned red and she began to cough.
Harry shot up in alarm. "Luna, stop! Are you okay?"
Luna nodded and rubbed her eyes. "Well, I suppose that's a failure," she said in a now scratchy voice. "Maybe I can try later. Can we move on to something else?"
"Of course," said Harry. "How about this hair thing? What were you thinking?"
"Well, how long is your hair?"
Harry held up a hand to the top of the hair sticking up from his head.
"No, no," said Luna, shaking her head. Her voice seemed to be almost back to normal. "I mean the end of it. Not the top of your head."
Harry looked at his hand and frowned. "I don't have long hair," he said. "It just sticks up, like a boy's short hair."
"Hmm." Luna frowned and walked over to Harry. "Do you mind if I try something?"
"Go ahead," said Harry.
And then Luna grabbed at the hair at the back of Harry's neck, but not enough to hurt.
"Where am I holding your hair?"
"Near my neck," said Harry. "Where do you think you're holding it?"
"Close to that, but it seems longer to me," Luna said and released the hair. "Maybe we could try cutting some of it off?"
Harry shrugged. "It's been ages since I got a haircut, so that's okay."
It took Luna a few minutes to find a small set of shears, and Harry sat nervously as she carefully cut off a bit of his hair. Luna stared at the black hair for a minute and frowned.
"I don't understand," she said finally.
"What colour is it?" Harry asked curiously.
"I don't know," said Luna. She made a pained face. "I can't tell!"
"That doesn't make any sense," said Harry and he took a second look. "Looks black to me. Just like when I look in the mirror."
"Black," Luna repeated slowly and she said it again, drawing out the word. "Blaaaack. No, it still looks like hair to me."
"It is hair."
"No, I mean the colour is a hair colour," said Luna in frustration. "It's the colour of hair! Bother, I sound mad! I don't even know what I'm saying!"
"Yeah, well." Harry didn't want to say that he had been thinking the same thing. "Maybe we should move on. This is upsetting you."
"But why can't I say a colour? Your hair on your head, it's red," said Luna. "So why can't I figure out this stupid hair?" She frowned and then sighed. "Oh, I'm being too cross. The hair isn't being stupid, I am."
"Luna, stop that." Harry shook his head. "This Curse is frustrating to both of us, so just toss the hair in the bin, and let's try something else."
"Well." Luna scratched her chin. "Maybe we can try find a camera. I think Daddy has one, but it's a magical one."
"Do you think that'll make a difference?"
"Maybe," said Luna with a shrug. "I was thinking we could try taking a normal picture and then a Muggle one. See if there's any difference. Of course, I don't know if we have a Muggle camera."
"Okay, so ask your dad, and we can try that later. We have plenty of time, right?"
"Not so much," said Luna. "We'll be meeting at the Weasleys for dinner on Thursday and exchanging gifts the next day. After that, we'll only have a week before we have to get back to school."
"It's not a big deal," Harry said and sighed. "Really, it's not the end of the world if we don't figure it out this holiday. There's always summer."
Luna smiled. "Unless we die," she said brightly.
"Yes, that too," said Harry dryly.
"So this is boring, let's find a camera."
Unfortunately it turned out that although the Lovegoods had five cameras in the house, none were working. Mr. Lovegood claimed that pictures were only 'a third of the story', which confused Harry. Luna later admitted she didn't really understand the math either, but was certain her father knew what he was talking about.
"I like your Muggle idea," said Harry as they sat outside drinking some sort of hot fruit drink. It tasted a bit like a combination of coffee and berries, which worked surprisingly well in the chilly evening air. "But I don't think Dumbledore would be too keen on the idea of us leaving a Magical area. I think we're safe here, but out in the open?"
"Yes, I suppose you're right," said Luna with a frown. She sighed. "Maybe we can talk about something more interesting. Like maybe our guesses about the Heir of Slytherin! Or who's doing all the petrifying? I think it's probably some sort of Phasic Grimalkin. Supposedly they all died out centuries ago, but maybe one was hiding in the bowels of Hogwarts."
"I've never heard of that monster," said Harry. "Creepy name, though, 'Grimalkin'. I can tell you that there's a bit of a debate with my friends. Padma thinks it's a person using Dark magic, probably You-Know-Who, but Hermione was saying before we left it might be something called a basilisk."
Luna tapped her chin. "That sounds familiar. It's like some sort of lizard right? Kills on sight? Hasn't been seen in over a thousand years?" She grinned. "We should ask Daddy about it, I bet he knows."
"Let's finish our drinks first," said Harry. "And maybe wait until the sun sets. It's already quite close." The sky was already a brilliant collection of warm colours, and the combination of that, the warm drink, and the homey location was leaving Harry quite relaxed. More than he could remember feeling in a while. "For now, let's calm down, okay?"
"Okay, Hrrprr," said Luna and she giggled. "I get it, you don't like talking as much as I do."
Harry grunted but didn't say she was wrong.
After the stars began to come out, Harry yawned. "It's almost time for supper, I think. We can ask your dad about the creature stuff over dinner."
It didn't take long for the two of them to throw together a simple but tasty meal. Harry found that using some of the Magical cooking devices were a bit odd at first, but quite fun to learn.
Mr. Lovegood didn't say anything for a few minutes while they ate, so Harry decided to wait for a good opportunity. Eventually, he looked up and said, "Luna, please pass the salt."
"Speaking of salt," said Luna as she reached over the table. "Daddy, are they any Grimalkins left in England?"
"Undoubtedly," said Mr. Lovegood. "After they lost phasic permanence three hundred years ago, you never know when you might see one."
"Um, Mr. Lovegood," said Harry slowly. "Luna said you were an expert on exotic creatures."
"Did she?" Mr. Lovegood smiled at his daughter. "I'm glad I've raised such an honest young lady."
"Right, so we were talking about basilisks and -"
"Basilisks?" Mr. Lovegood interrupted and suddenly looked annoyed. "Why is it that there are no good translations of Herpo's notes? Suspicious if you ask me."
Luna nodded in agreement. "They could mean anything."
"Precisely," said her father and sprinkled half the salt shaker on his plate.
"But could a basilisk petrify someone instead of just killing them?" Harry asked quickly before the two could derail the conversation.
Mr. Lovegood blinked and sat back in his chair. "What a fascinating question. I wonder... Let me go check my notes!" With that, he got up from the table and bolted away.
"He didn't finish his salt," said Luna sadly. "After we worked so hard on the meal."
"We weren't responsible for the salt," said Harry dryly.
The Weasley home was bright and cheery, just as Harry had remembered it. Mr. Lovegood had been muttering to himself as he scrawled on parchment during the walk, but Harry had chosen to ignore it.
After just one knock on the door, it immediately to reveal Ron, who appeared a bit out of sorts. "Harriet! It's about bloody time! I'm going spare here. Oh, yes, um, hello Luna."
"Hello, Ronald," said Luna and she nodded her head. "This is my father."
Mr. Lovegood frowned. "Luna, dear, must I stay for supper? I have a great deal of work left to complete."
Harry tried not to sigh. The Lovegoods had been having the same argument for two days.
"Yes," Luna told her father without looking at him. "We've discussed this, you need to be more social. Hrrprr agrees with me, right?"
"Yes, sure," said Harry quickly. "Let's go inside."
Mr. Lovegood grumbled again but followed them.
"Harriet!" A loud shriek pierced the air and Ginny Weasley barreled over to grab Harry in a hug. "I'm so happy to see you, my family has been utter pains. I've barely slept." She did in fact look quite tired, which worried Harry, who had been hoping the holiday would give her a chance to rest.
"Well, you need to get more sleep," said Harry and he gave a mock glare at Ron.
"Don't look at me," said Ron holding his hands up in protest. "I've been sleeping fine, haven't bothered Ginny at all."
"Harriet, you're here!" This time it was Mrs. Weasley, and she also rushed over to give Harry a hug.
Harry felt like he had already received more affection in two minutes than he had in ten years at the Dursleys, and he couldn't help but laugh a little at the thought, which confounded the Weasleys.
Luna laughed too, but Harry wasn't sure if she really got it.
"Well," said Mrs. Weasley after a moment. "Well it's good to see you, looking quite well, dear. Oh, and of course, Luna, lovely to see you. And, um, Xeno, it's been a while."
"Yes it has," said Mr. Lovegood with a frown.
"Right," said Ron. "Shall we head to the table?"
Harry wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but in a lot of ways it was much like a smaller version of a Hogwarts feast. The room seemed to be magically enlarged and table full to the brim with all manner of holiday treats. The other Weasleys were already sitting at the table, and when they saw Harry arrive, each acknowledged it in their own way. Fred and George each held up a turkey leg while Percy gave a polite nod.
"Harriet Potter!" Mr. Weasley beamed and he quickly got up from his chair. "Delighted you could join us, Molly's been working herself to bits about it."
"Mum likes to pretend she barely spends any effort at all," said Ron in a loud whisper to Harry. "That way she can act like she doesn't deserve any real thanks."
"Well I'll say thank you in advance," said Harry to Mrs. Weasley. "Everything looks and smells excellent."
Luna nodded, having coming up next to him. "Yes, it's a lot of food!"
At this, Ginny made an odd choked sound, but she just smiled, albeit tiredly, when Harry looked at her. Harry felt a bit awkward at first sitting around the table, although the addition of the Lovegoods helped it to feel like a group of people instead of just the Weasleys and him. Soon enough, he had settled in and was quite enjoying himself.
"So how's Hogwarts?" Mr. Weasley asked. "Ron tells us you've had quite a few dramatic incidents lately."
"You mean the petrifications?" Harry asked and Ron winced.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley shared a look.
"That wasn't quite what I meant," said Mr. Weasley finally. "We were a bit concerned to hear about all that, although we received an owl from the Governors that everything was under control."
"Other than that it's fine," said Harry. "Nothing too dramatic at all."
"Except for how Mandy Brocklehurst hates you," said Luna while chewing on a piece of pie.
Nobody said anything for a minute and then Ron laughed in an obviously forced way.
"Birds, who can figure them?" He elbowed Ginny. "You're one, so you know I'm right."
Ginny groaned and rubbed her forehead. "Mum, Dad, I'm not feeling too good. May I be excused?"
"Oh, dear," said Mrs. Weasley. "Of course, take as much time as you need. We'll save food for you."
"Thanks," said Ginny and she punched Ron in the shoulder. "That's for being a git."
"Sorry, Mum," Ginny said with a smile. "Harriet, Luna, I'll talk to you later." And with that, she got up and walked back to the winding staircase.
"It's honestly nothing to worry about," said Harry with a frown. "Mandy is kind of a pain, but there are bigger problems." After a moment of thought he said, "I mean, what about Sirius Black? He's still on the loose."
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley exchanged a look.
"That is concerning," said Mr. Weasley and he sighed. "The Ministry has been doing their best, but for some reason Black has been able to evade all the normal ways to locate an escaped prisoner. If Dumbledore wasn't there, I'd give serious thought to keeping you all from Hogwarts until he's caught."
Ron gasped. "Dad, that's ridiculous! Where would we be instead? Here?" He made a face. "No offense Mum and Dad, but I prefer a bit of time to myself occasionally, you know?"
"The lad makes a great point," said Fred with a nod. "Sometimes it gets a tad crowded here."
George glared at his twin. "Just because I borrowed your hair brush and transfigured it into a frog..."
"My hair's a mess!" Fred shouted, although it seemed fine to Harry. "I can't use a frog to brush my hair."
"Settle down Fred," said Mr. Weasley softly and his son calmed down instantly. "I know we're all tense. It was difficult for us at Hogwarts too, although for us it was the war. Being in peril is familiar, sad to say."
Mrs. Weasley sighed deeply and dabbed at her eyes. "Oh, Arthur, I hoped they'd never have to live through the same troubles."
"Unfortunately we can't control the future," her husband replied.
Mr. Lovegood perked up at this, changing from his very glum face into a near maniacally happy one. "Arthur, did you read our piece on Refogging the Future: How to Obfuscate What May Come? We found a quite disreputable Seer that was not at all happy to have an interview." He laughed. "My, but she was quite angry at my questions."
"I, uh, I must've missed it," said Mr. Weasley. "I've been very busy at work these days, of course."
Mr. Lovegood nodded. "Of course, of course. I also have been very busy at work too."
"Daddy works so hard," said Luna with a proud smile. "And I read that article, Daddy. I didn't understand a word!"
Her father wiped a tear from his eye and patted his daughter on the head. "You make me so proud, Luna."
"Harriet, you sure you're okay over there?" Ron asked Harry in a whisper that was probably a touch too loud.
"I like staying with the Lovegoods," Harry said in a normal voice. "Luna has been great, and she's a pretty good cook."
"If you ever need any help," said Mrs. Weasley. "I am sure I can find time to bring over some meals."
Mr. Weasley laughed. "Oh, leave them be, Molly. You're getting the chance to fill them up now, aren't you?"
"It's never enough for Mum," said Fred and he held up a mug which George clinked against. "To everyone's health," he said and took a deep sip.
Ron looked back at the stairs. "Is it just me or has Ginny been kinda tired a lot lately?"
"She looked very tired to me," said Luna. "Although I usually only see her in class."
Mrs. Weasley clucked her tongue. "She just needs some rest. All this stress and worry can't be good for her."
"Well," said Percy and he sat up in his chair a bit pompously. "If you ask me-"
Before he could finish his sentence, a loud knock was heard at the door.
"I don't believe we were expecting anyone," said Mrs. Weasley and looked at her husband. "Arthur?"
"I'll see who it is," he said and got to his feet, but Harry could see that Mr. Weasley had a hand on his wand. They could hear him open the door and make a sound of surprise, but it wasn't particularly negative.
Sure enough, Mr. Weasley walked into the dining area followed by Professor Dumbledore.
"Albus!" Mrs. Weasley started slightly. "We weren't expecting you. Please, won't you sit down?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "Thank you, Molly, it is greatly appreciated. But I won't be here long.."
The Headmaster had an unusually serious expression, and Harry felt a hitch in his throat. He suddenly realized he had clenched his hands into fists.
"I am afraid I have some bad news," said Dumbledore. "Dementors will be at Hogwarts."
Harry didn't recall what that meant, but it certainly didn't sound good.
Mr. Weasley frowned, looking nearly angry. "Albus, that's ridiculous. The students will be put in danger!"
"The Minister has been put under a great deal of pressure to deal with the Sirius Black situation," Dumbledore explained. "All that said, I have told the Minister that any and all Dementors must stay entirely outside the grounds. At the very least, it may serve to prevent Sirius Black from finding his way to Hogwarts."
"Oh, wait," said Harry, suddenly remembering. "Dementors are the guards at the wizard prison, right?"
"More than that, Harriet," said Mr. Weasley and he looked at her with worry. "The Dementors are dark creatures. They are used in Azkaban to keep the prisoners in line, hardly the most humane idea, but it's an old British tradition over nearly two centuries."
Dumbledore sighed deeply. "It is truly one of the worst aspects of our society. The precise origin of them are unclear, but I do wish to press this on each of you: Do not approach any Dementor. They cannot tell friend and foe apart, and their ardour to find Sirius Black will push them to attack without cause."
He looked around the room. "One thing we have learned is that the Dementors are jealous, spiteful creatures. The escape of Sirius Black was infuriating for them."
Nobody in the room spoke for a few moments.
"Professor, are you going to tell the other students about this?" Harry asked.
"We are spreading the word," said Dumbledore. "Not to worry. But I did wish to at the very least inform you in person. Speaking of which." He turned to Mr. Weasley. "Arthur, would you mind if I had a word with your guest?"
Mr. Weasley looked over at Harry with a mildly confused expression on his face.
"Right," Harry said and got up from his chair. "Be back in a bit." He and Professor Dumbledore stepped outside the house, and then the Headmaster waved his wand to trigger something.
"I had wanted to tell you something in particular," Dumbledore said, looking quite serious. "I have reason to believe that Dementors will have an especially harsh effect on you. You see, the presence of one causes those around it to recall their very worst memories. For most young folk, this would unlikely be little more than an embarrassing time of little note, but for you..."
"I see what you mean," said Harry and he felt a sudden chill. "I might remember the business with Volotredi last year."
"Or worse still, when she came to kill you as a babe. Do you have any memories of that horrid day?"
Harry thought for a minute but then shook his head. "No, sir. I mean, maybe something about a flash of green light. Really that's it, though. Do you think I'll be okay?"
Dumbledore stroked his beard in thought. "I have an idea, but I will need to think it over. In the meantime, stay near others that are unlikely to be as affected. Oh, and keep some chocolate with you."
"Chocolate?" Harry wasn't sure if the Headmaster was joking.
The old man's eyes twinkled slightly. "Indeed. It is not a cure, but it serves to lessen the aftereffects of a Dementor's presence, provided that they are no longer in proximity." He pulled a pocket watch out of nowhere and frowned. "It would seem I am behind schedule, so I must bid you adieu, Not-Miss Potter. Have a good evening and I shall see you at Hogwarts."
He nodded at Harry and walked off into the night.
"Yeah, you too," said Harry slightly absentmindedly and walked back inside the Weasley home.
"Is everything alright?" Mr. Weasley asked him as soon as Harry closed the door.
Harry nodded. "This may sound strange," he said. "But do you have any chocolate?"
Mr. Weasley laughed. "I think we can help you there."
The next few days passed quickly, with one failed experiment after another.
"Unicorns!" Luna said excitedly. "They only let girls approach them."
"Do you know where to find any?"
"I think they're in the Forbidden Forest. Your friend Hagrid would know."
This made a lot sense, but the timing wasn't exactly ideal. "So we'll try back at Hogwarts."
The next two ideas were equally disastrous. First, Luna tried drawing on "BOY" Harry's face, but she kept somehow writing "BOO" which was unhelpful as Harry wasn't a ghost. After that, she tried saying things almost but not quite like his name.
"Okay, I'm going to start by saying that you have a lot of hair," said Luna. "In fact, one might even call by the nickname 'Hairy-ette'." She winced. "No, I mean 'Hairy-ette'. No, no! Ah, my head hurts." They took a break after that.
"I feel like I should be suffering for all that these things are hurting you," said Harry as Luna recovered with a warm mug of spiced pumpkin chocolate.
Luna giggled. "Don't be silly, Hrrprr. It's not that bad. We've stopped before it gets too far. Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you draw a picture of yourself?"
"I'm a bit pants at that," Harry admitted. "Especially compared to you."
"That shouldn't matter," said Luna. "I had an idea that you might try drawing a picture of a boy, and then a picture of yourself as you know, not a girl. But then don't tell me which is which and see if I can guess."
"Wow," said Harry, very impressed. "I can see why you were put in Ravenclaw." He ended up drawing two near identical stick figures that looked nothing like him, but they certainly seemed visibly like boys, at least to Harry.
"Hmm," said Luna as she looked them over. "Well, you weren't lying, you aren't very good."
Harry laughed. "I prefer to be honest with you, Luna."
She nodded, still distracted as she inspected the drawings. "Yes, that's smart of you. You know, I can tell that one of these is a boy," she said. "But the other one is...well, I can't make it out. It's clearly a terrible drawing, but I can't figure it out at all."
Luna gasped and held up the one Harry had meant to be himself. "That must mean this one is you! But it looks nothing like you."
"You're right," said Harry with a big smile. "So what does it look like."
"Um," Luna looked back at the parchment. "I don't know." And then she laughed herself. "Well, at least we're getting consistently annoying results, right Hrrprr?"
Harry sighed. "Yeah. Maybe I can tell Dumbledore about all this back at Hogwarts, he might have an idea."
"Great idea," said Luna and nodded. "Why didn't you tell him back at Christmas?"
"He was in a hurry," said Harry and he looked at the picture of himself. "Luna, can you teach me how to draw better?"
Luna shrugged. "I don't know. But I'm happy to try! Then you show me what you think I look like."
Harry nodded slowly, but the only thing he could think of was the girl he had some once in the Mirror of Erised over a year earlier. He could barely remember what she had looked like, but perhaps if he could reproduce it, maybe that would help. Somehow.
A loud, happy shriek pierced the air. Parvati rushed over and grabbed Harry in a fierce hug. "It's so good to see you Harriet," she said, and seemed to really mean it. "Padma was the worst, I mean the worst over the holidays."
"I think she can hear you," said Harry in a whisper, as the other Patil twin was standing fairly close.
"Oh, I don't care," said Parvati and she made a dismissive gesture. "If she won't consider my feelings, I won't consider hers. You hear that, Padma!" She nearly yelled this last part.
Padma shook her head. "Parvati, I have already apologized. You are being ridiculous."
"That..." Parvati closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she opened her eyes and smiled widely at Harry. "Anyway, it's great to see you, a true friend." She gave Padma slight side eye as she said this. "Let's find a place on the train. I think Hermione and the rest haven't gotten here yet."
"Ron, you mind?"
The tall boy rolled his eyes but then laughed. "Nah, I'm okay Harriet. I'm gonna help Ginny with her stuff anyway. See you on the train."
"Um, wait a second Parvati, is it-" He leaned closer and said softly, "is it okay if Luna sits with us? She doesn't really have many friends?"
Parvati's expression visibly softened. "Oh, Harriet, you are far too nice. Of course, I don't mind. I know you two are friends. And I think that's lovely."
As it turned out, Lavender was already on the train and sitting with Susan Bones. But when Susan saw Parvati, she started slightly, although she tried to hide it."
"H-Harriet, how were your holidays?" She asked in only a mild stutter.
"They were quite nice, Susan. Yours?"
"Well," Susan started to say.
"Mine were lousy," said Parvati and threw herself in one of the empty seats. "Padma was an utter pain. More than usual, if you can believe it."
Susan giggled loudly and then stopped suddenly. "Oh, sorry. I wasn't trying to be rude."
Parvati gave her an unreadable look. Even though Harry thought he knew what Parvati thought of the Hufflepuff, he wasn't sure exactly what she was thinking at that moment.
"I think I'm going to go find Hannah and the others," said Susan, quickly getting to her feet. "Harriet, nice seeing you. Lav, we'll catch up later." And she hurried out of the cabin.
"Goodness," said Luna who had followed them in. "I think she was nervous about something. Did you say something to offend her Hrrprr?"
Lavender giggled. "Harriet Potter, offend someone? Perish the thought!"
"Exceptions exist," said Harry with a grin. "Any number of Slytherins and one or two Ravenclaws come to mind."
"She's got a point," said Parvati and laughed. She yawned and stretched her body over the entire back of her seat. "My, but I'm looking forward to Hogwarts, Heir and all. Aren't you?"
Harry nodded. "I had a great time over the holidays, but it'll be good to be back."
"Hrrprr helped me cook," said Luna with a big smile. "She was better than I expected. Even better than me."
Lavender raised an eyebrow. "Better than Luna? Harriet, you shock me. I never would've guessed you for such lowly, womanly pursuits."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Please. Anyone can be good at cooking."
"She's right," said Parvati. "My Mother's brother, my Uncle Praj is the best cook I know."
Lavender groaned. "Can we not talk about cooking? I still feel full from my Mum stuffing me."
"Where is Padma?" Luna asked. "Is she with any of the other odd people?"
Parvati's mouth twitched up. "Not sure what you mean by that, Luna, but I bet she's with Hermione and Anthony. Couldn't stop talking about those two, and I must say, my parents weren't pleased."
"Are they still cross about Anthony even now?" Harry asked. "It's been so long. Is that why you're annoyed with her?"
"Ha!" Parvati shook her head. "No, that part was actually a touch funny. She was saying quite insulting things, acting like she didn't realize it." She frowned and looked at the window. "Oh, sure, she apologized later, but only because Mother forced her to. I think she doesn't really believe she did anything wrong."
Harry sighed. "Yeah, well. Family. You're stuck with them."
Parvati turned back to him and nodded. "Fair point, Harriet. I suppose you're right."
After a little while Ron showed up with Neville in tow. He confirmed that Hermione was indeed in a lively debate with Padma and Anthony, likely something about the Heir.
"Luna and I were trying to find out information about basilisks," Harry said. "Her dad knows a lot, but he said that there wasn't much useful info out there about them."
Ron shrugged. "I'll leave that to the smarter folk. You just tell me where to aim my wand and I'm good."
"That goes for me as well," said Neville. "Although I suppose I do want to know what I'm pointing my wand at."
"Classic Neville," said Ron and laughed. "I know exactly what you mean."
"Shut it," said Neville, his face turning red for some reason. Harry had a feeling Ron had made some sort of off-colour reference but couldn't puzzle it out.
"Nothing else happened after you and Luna visited," said Ron, sitting down with a loud huff. "Although Mum and Dad weren't happy about the whole Dementor thing, but they made sure we packed like fifty pieces of chocolate."
"You have chocolate?" Lavender perked up. "I'll have some."
"Thought you were full, Lav," said Parvati with a grin. "But I'll take some too if you're offering Ron."
"It's meant to be in case of Dementor attack," said Ron. "Not sure why it works, but they said it helps."
"Hey, we're moving," said Harry, realizing they had already left the station a few minutes earlier. "Missed it."
"Next stop, Hogwarts!" Parvati smiled widely at the others. "I can't wait."
Nothing much happened for a long while, until it did. When they had gotten only an hour away from Hogwarts, something went wrong. Neville was the first to notice.
"Say," he said, looking out the window with a frown. "Is it just me or are we slowing down?"
"I don't-" Parvati started talking but then stopped. "You know, you may be right. And is it... is it getting colder?"
There was soon no doubt, as with a series of terrible shuddering jolts the train halted. The windows began to fog and frost, until it became difficult to see. And all throughout the cabin, an awful chill began to grow, stronger and stronger until it was near unbearable.
"What's going on?" Harry asked in alarm. "Guys, what's happening?"
"I don't know!" Parvati wrung her arms in a near panic. "Harriet, we need to find a prefect."
Harry nodded. "Good idea. We should all go together, just in case."
"That's smart thinking, Harriet," said Ron. "Got my wand ready."
The six of them left the cabin and began to walk in search of a prefect. But the students they passed seemed just as clueless. Eventually they came to a cabin with a few familiar faces. Ernie, Hannah, Justin and Susan shivering together, looking just as puzzled.
"Harriet Potter!" Ernie stood as they entered the room. "Excellent to see you," he said and gave a short bow. "I suppose you lot are searching for the cause of this nonsense?"
"We're sticking together," said Susan, rubbing her hands together. "One of the older Hufflepuffs was here and went looking for a prefect."
"I don't like this," said Harry. "Something's going on. Maybe it's the Heir? We need to be on our guard. And we need to stick together."
"Safety in numbers, eh?" Ernie scratched his chin. "Suppose you have a point there, Harriet. Shall we?"
Now ten strong, they walked forward, with Harry and Ron at the lead. After passing another two cabins, both empty, Harry began to have an odd feeling.
"Do you hear that?" There was an odd echo, something familiar but unfamiliar at the same time. "It sounds odd."
Parvati tilted her head. "I hear something, but I dunno what it is."
Lavender began to shake and she began to blink rapidly. "I hear something too."
And then Hannah, was at the back with Neville, began to scream. Something was there, right behind them.
With horror, Harry realized it had been near them all along, a tall, thin, grasping thing, in a tattered cloak. The cold increased sharply and became nearly impossible to bear. He saw the thing reach for Hannah.
"Look out!" Harry shouted and he leaped forward, his wand raised high. But then he heard the voices. And he felt the cold inside his mouth, inside his heart, inside his mind.
"No! Stay back!" A voice of horror and warmth, a paradox that warped Harry's mind.
"Stand aside, girl!" A shriek a rumble an oddness that Harry couldn't understand.
And then a wind rushing past and then nothing.
Harry felt nothing and fell into blackness.
END OF CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Next time, Harry wakes up and is not particularly happy about it.
"That's odd," said Harry as he fished the valentine out of the toilet.
For among the sodden papers, there was a small book that was completely dry.
Hey, thanks for sticking with it! I know that's a bit of a mean cliffhanger, but I think we all know the real one will be next chapter. Appreciate all the reviews/feedback/views everyone!