Bryt and Mike were released from the hospital wing the next day—with Mike swearing he'd never eat anything that was not meant for humans again—but Ron wasn't released until Monday. Bryt had met Ron at the hospital wing and walked with him down to the Great Hall, passing a first year girl along the way who seemed so startled that she dropped the scales she was carrying.
"I swear they're getting smaller," Ron whispered after Bryt repaired the girl's scales and the two were on their way again. Bryt just frowned in response. She would be seventeen a little more than a month, but had only recently gone through enough of a growth sport it just barely reach five feet in height. Overall, she was at most about half a foot taller than most of the first and second years at Hogwarts.
Bryt and Ron made it down to the Great Hall and sat down across from Harry and Hermione when they were obviously in the middle of a conversation.
"Yeah, well, there was no reason for Ginny and Dean to split up over it," Harry was saying, "Or are they still together?"
"Yes, they are—but why are you so interested?" Hermione asked.
"I just don't want my Quidditch team messed up again!" Harry said quickly. Bryt stared at him, starting to think over how odd Harry'd been acting any time Ginny had been mentioned over the past few months. Seemed like there was more to Harry's interest than just keeping his Quidditch team together. Bryt couldn't help but wonder what Ron would think about this.
Bryt looked up to see Luna had come over to them, digging for something in her bag.
"Hey Luna," Bryt said. Luna nodded in reply as she shoved some green onion thing in Ron's hand, along with a spotted toadstool and some gray stuff that looked a lot like cat litter. Lastly, she pulled out a stained roll of parchment and handed it over to Harry.
"I've been told to give you this," Luna said. Harry took it eagerly, reading over it.
"Tonight," Harry whispered quickly.
"Nice commentary last match," Ron told Luna, handing back her belongings.
"You're making fun of me, aren't you?" Luna asked, "Everyone says I was dreadful."
"No, I'm serious! I can't remember enjoying a commentary more! What is this, by the way?" Ron asked, pointing to the green onion.
"Oh, it's a Gurdyroot," Luna said, handing it back to Ron as she put the rest of her things in her bag—Bryt vaguely wondered what the staff thought of Luna turning in assignments covered in litter stains, "You can keep it if you like, I've got a few of them. They're really excellent for warding off Gulping Plimpies."
Luna turned and left with that and Bryt shook her head.
"You know, she's grown on me, Luna," Ron said, "I know she's insane, but it's in a good way."
"I've told you that before," Bryt said, grinning at Ron.
Mike came over to them, slumping down in a chair and hiding his face in his arms he folded over the table. Bryt blinked at him in surprise. Mike rarely came over to her at meals unless he had something to say or if he was upset over something. Today looked like the latter.
"What's got you down?" Bryt asked, leaning forward to try—and fail—to get a look at her brother's face.
"Emma dumped him."
Bryt glanced up to see Jimmy sliding into the seat next to Mike, Natalie taking the spot on his other side. Bryt looked over at her friends and they seemed to take the hint. Hermione said they'd see her in class before leading Harry and Ron away.
"They got into a big row over the cockroach clusters thing," Natalie said, "He thought it was funny, she thought he was being immature and stupid."
"I can speak for myself, you know," Mike's voice was slightly muffled for he still hadn't raised his head.
"Well, you were a bit of an idiot there, Mike," Bryt said. Mike just groaned in response.
"It's Emma's loss," Natalie said, "If she can't take a joke..."
"Mike ended up in the hospital wing," Jimmy pointed out, "You can't really blame Emma for being mad over Mike being an idiot."
"I'm right here, you know!" Mike said, finally looking up.
"Why don't you two let me talk to Mike for a second?" Bryt asked his friends. Natalie opened her mouth to argue, but Jimmy took her by the arm and dragged her away.
"Going to say I deserved it, too?" Mike asked gloomily.
"You already know I thought you were an idiot for eating those cockroach clusters," Bryt said, then hurried on when Mike frowned, "But I don't think you deserved to be dumped over it."
"Too late to do anything now," Mike mumbled, "Emma was pretty pissed off."
"Trust me, you'll get over it in time," Bryt said, patting her brother on the back, "My breakup with Terry was rough and very loud, but we both got over it and we're still friends now."
"I don't think Emma plans on even looking at me again," Mike said with a sigh.
"She'll forgive you in time," Bryt said, "Even if you don't date again, I'm sure you'll at least be friends."
"You think so?" Mike asked, looking up at Bryt and pushing his glasses back up where they had slid down his nose.
"Yeah, I do," Bryt said, "And even if it doesn't work out that way, you'll move on and be better for it."
Mike grinned a little at that.
"Thanks," he said, pushing himself to his feet, "I should get going, I don't want to be late for class."
Bryt nodded and watched as her brother headed off. He had only made it about halfway to the door, however, when a brown-haired Hufflepuff girl suddenly got up and hurried over towards him, immediately chatting him up. Bryt sighed, shaking her head. Couldn't the Hogwarts girls at least waited a week before they realized Mike was single again?
"So, how was your lesson with Dumbledore?" Bryt asked that night when Harry had returned. Bryt was currently sprawled on the floor across from Ron, in the middle of a chess match, while Hermione was reading in an armchair. They were the only ones in the common room at the moment, as it was quite late.
"Interesting, as usual," Harry replied, sitting down in one of the armchairs and Hermione put her book away, "Apparently after Voldemort left Hogwarts, he started working at Borgin and Burkes—"
"You mean he actually worked at a shop?" Bryt asked in shock. It had been hard enough imagining Voldemort being a child, walking the halls of Hogwarts and learning like any other student. But finding out he did something as normal as work in a store for someone else?
"He did," Harry replied, "He worked there for a while after he was turned down to teach at Hogwarts."
"You-Know-Who wanted to teach?" Ron asked, confused.
"Dumbledore thinks he was actually after something else," Harry said, "He thinks Voldemort wanted to use the position to shape students into future Death Eaters and to find something in the castle. Maybe something of Godric Gryffindor's or Rowena Ravenclaw's. He already found Slytherin's locket and Hufflepuff's cup, he stole them from an old lady after killing her and framing her house elf."
Bryt glared at that. She thought back to the incident at the Triwizard Tournament and how people had treated Winky. She doubted it took much for Voldemort to convince people the house elf was guilty.
"He came back to Hogwarts after Dumbledore became headmaster," Harry went on, "Tried again to get the teaching post. He's the reason no one's lasted as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher more than a year, apparently. He put a curse on it after he was turned down."
"Voldemort doesn't take rejection well," Bryt said bitterly.
"No he doesn't," Harry agreed.
The next week passed by uneventfully, though Bryt noticed Mike was back to his old self fast enough, spending all his time with Natalie and Jimmy now—Bryt also noticed he didn't spend any time around the Hufflepuff girl from the week before. Maybe he didn't like a girl coming onto him right after he broke up. Bryt at least had to give him credit for not falling into a rebound relationship.
A notice board went up at the end of the week, announcing that additional Apparition lessons were being offered in Hogsmeade for anyone who would turn seventeen on or before April twenty-first. Bryt had been excited and worried at the same time. Excited for the fact that she literally just barely made the cut-off date, but worried for the fact she'd yet to be able to Apparate. She would have thought that going side-along as many times as she had, she would have been able to Apparate by now, but she and Ron were still among the many who hadn't yet.
Sunday night brought Bryt sitting with her friends in the common room, falling into their usual routine. Bryt and Ron were struggling through their Defense Against the Dark Arts homework, Hermione had her two-way diary in her lap, writing with Julio, and Harry was reading the Half-blood Prince's notes in his Potions book again. He had been going back to it a lot over the last week, trying to find anything that could help him get the memory from Slughorn—apparently, Dumbledore was discontinuing future lessons until the memory was acquired.
"You won't find anything in here," Hermione said sharply. Bryt glanced up from her paper to see Hermione glaring at Harry's Potions book.
"Don't start, Hermione," Harry said, "If it hadn't been for the Prince, Ron wouldn't be sitting here now."
"He would if you just listened to Snape in our first year," Hermione said, "I'm telling you, the stupid Prince isn't going to be able to help you with this, Harry! There's only one way to force someone to do what you want, and that's the Imperius Curse, which is illegal—"
"Yeah, I know that, thanks," Harry cut in, not looking up, "That's why I'm looking for something different. Dumbledore says Veritaserum won't do it, but there might be something else, a potion or a spell..."
"There's no potion," Bryt said, "None I can think of anyway."
"You're going about it the wrong way," Hermione said, "Only you can get the memory, Harry. That must mean you can persuade Slughorn where other people can't. It's not a question of slipping him a potion, anyone could do that—"
"How d'you spell belligerent?" Ron asked, "It can't be B-U-M-"
"No, it isn't," Hermione said, looking at Ron's essay, "And augury doesn't begin O-R-G either. What kind of quill are you using?"
"It's one of Fred and George's Spell-Check ones...but I think the charm must be wearing off..."
"Obviously," Bryt said, "Considering your essay appears to be on Dugbogs instead of Dementors."
"Don't say I'll have to write the whole thing out again!" Ron said with a groan.
"It's okay, we can fix it," Hermione said, pulling the essay over to her.
"Thanks a load, Hermione," Ron said in relief, sinking back.
Half an hour later, Ron's essay was corrected and finished with the use of Hermione's quill and Bryt had finished her own essay. She had just stretched and was about to say she was heading on to bed when a loud crack echoed through the room. Bryt jumped and stared in surprise as she noticed Kreacher standing in front of their group. He bowed towards Harry so low that his nose touched the floor.
"Master said he wanted regular reports on what the Malfoy boy is doing, so Kreacher has come to give—"
Another loud crack came and Dobby appeared next to Kreacher.
"Dobby has been helping too, Harry Potter!" he said happily, "And Kreacher ought to tell Dobby when he is coming to see Harry Potter so they can make their reports together!"
"What?" Bryt asked, staring at Harry, "Reports on what?"
Harry looked uncomfortable.
"Well...they've been following Malfoy for me," he finally said.
"Night and day," Kreacher said.
"Dobby has not slept for a week, Harry Potter!"
"What?" Bryt asked, horrified, "Harry, you didn't—"
"No, of course I didn't!" Harry said, then turning to Dobby, "You can sleep, all right? But has either of you found out anything?"
Bryt and Hermione both glared at Harry. His obsession with Malfoy was bad enough when it was affecting his daily life, but now that he was pushing it on to others?
"Master Malfoy moves with a nobility that befits his pure blood," Kreacher said, "His features recall the fine bones of my mistress and his manners are those of—"
"A rabid pig," Bryt muttered, causing Ron to choke next to her.
"Draco Malfoy is a bad boy!" Dobby said loudly, "A bad boy who—who—"
Dobby stood there for a second, then Bryt cried out as Dobby ran for the fire. Harry was quicker, though, and grabbed the house elf around the middle and held him back.
"Thank you, Harry Potter," Dobby said weakly when he settled down, "Dobby still finds it difficult to speak ill of his old masters..."
Bryt frowned, looking over at Hermione. It was clear her mind was turning, going back to SPEW and trying to think of new ways to stop the type of abuse Dobby had gone through. Bryt wished she could think of something, but nothing was coming to her mind. She didn't like that feeling.
"But Kreacher should know that Draco Malfoy is not a good master to a house elf!" Dobby said.
"Yeah, we don't need to hear about you being in love with Malfoy," Harry said sharply to Kreacher—Bryt glared at him again, wishing Harry would at least try to be kinder to the house elf, "Let's fast forward to where he's actually been going."
"Master Malfoy eats in the Great Hall," Kreacher said, bowing again, "He sleeps in a dormitory in the dungeons, he attends his classes in a variety of—"
"Dobby, you tell me," Harry cut Kreacher off, turning to the other house elf, "Has he been going anywhere he shouldn't have?"
"Harry Potter, sir, the Malfoy boy is breaking no rules that Dobby can discover, but he is still keen to avoid detection," Dobby said, sounding very proud to be giving Harry this information, "He has been making regular visits to the seventh floor with a variety of other students, who keep watch for him while he enters—"
"The Room of Requirement!" Harry slapped his Potions book against his head and Bryt just stared at him, "That's where he's been sneaking off to! That's where he's doing...whatever he's doing! And I bet that's why he's been disappearing off the map—come to think of it, I've never seen the Room of Requirement on there!"
"Maybe the Marauders never knew the room was there," Ron said.
"Or didn't exactly know what the room was. They could have used it without realizing," Bryt pointed out.
"I think it'll be part of the magic of the room," Hermione said, "If you need it to be Unplottable, it will be."
"Dobby, have you managed to get in to have a look at what Malfoy's doing?" Harry asked, leaning forward.
"No, Harry Potter, that is impossible," Dobby replied with a frown, looking as if he thought giving that news was worse than any punishment he gave himself while he was owned by the Malfoys.
"No, it's not," Harry said, "Malfoy got into our headquarters there last year, so I'll be able to get in and spy on him, no problem."
"But Malfoy already knew what we were using the Room of Requirement for," Bryt pointed out, "He knew what the room was because of Cho's friend. You have no idea what Malfoy's using the room for."
"There'll be a way around that," Harry said, waving Bryt off, then turning to the house elves, "You've done brilliantly, Dobby."
"And Kreacher," Bryt said.
"The Mudblood is speaking to Kreacher, Kreacher will pretend he cannot hear—"
"Get out of it," Harry snapped and Kreacher vanished with a loud crack—Bryt had to admit, sometimes it was hard feeling sympathy for someone like Kreacher when he acted so hateful about it, "You'd better go and get some sleep too, Dobby."
"Thank you, Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby said before vanishing himself.
"How good's this?" Harry asked, sounding as if he thought they had just won the lottery, "We know where Malfoy's going! We've got him cornered now!"
"Really great," Bryt said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. Truthfully, she didn't really care what Malfoy was up to. The more Harry obsessed, the less she wanted to know.
"But what's all this about him going up there with a 'variety of students'?" Hermione asked, "How many people are in on it? You wouldn't think he'd trust lots of them to know what he's doing..."
"Yeah, that is weird," Harry replied slowly, "I heard him telling Crabbe it wasn't his business what he was doing...so what's he telling all these...all these..."
Harry suddenly trailed off, staring at the fire. Bryt sighed, stretching back a bit.
"God, I've been stupid," Harry said suddenly, turning back to the others, "It's obvious, isn't it? There was a great vat of it down in the dungeon...He could've nicked some any time during that lesson..."
"Nicked what?" Bryt and Ron asked together.
"Polyjuice Potion. He stole some of the Polyjuice Potion Slughorn showed us in our first Potions lesson...There aren't a whole variety of students standing guard for Malfoy...it's just Crabbe and Goyle as usual..." Harry suddenly jumped to his feet and started pacing around, "Yeah, it all fits! They're stupid enough to do what they're told even if he won't tell them what he's up to...but he doesn't want them to be seen lurking around outside the Room of Requirement, so he's got them taking Polyjuice to make them look like other people...Those two girls you said you saw him with, Bryt, when he missed the Quidditch match—ha! Crabbe and Goyle!"
"And that girl Ron and I saw when he got out of the hospital wing?" Bryt asked, "Who dropped her scales?"
"Yeah, of course!" Harry said, "Of course! Malfoy must've been inside the room at the time, so she—what am I talking about?—he dropped the scales to tell Malfoy not to come out, because there was someone there! And there was that girl who dropped the toadspawn too! We've been walking past him all this time and not realizing it!"
"He's got Crabbe and Goyle transforming into girls?" Ron asked, looking like he was trying not to laugh, "Blimey...No wonder they don't look too happy these days...I'm surprised they don't tell him to stuff it..."
"Well, they wouldn't, would they, if he'd shown them his Dark Mark?"
"Which he most likely doesn't even have," Bryt said, fighting a strong urge to roll her eyes.
"We'll see," Harry said simply and Bryt sighed.
"Yes, we will," Hermione said as she got up, "But Harry, before you get all excited, I still don't think you'll be able to get into the Room of Requirement without knowing what's there first. And I don't think you should forget that what you're supposed to be concentrating on is getting that memory from Slughorn. Good night."
Hermione grabbed her bag and headed up the stairs for the girls' dormitories. Bryt stood herself, stretching.
"What d'you think?" Harry asked, turning to her and Ron.
"Wish I could Disapparate like a house elf," Ron said, "I'd have that Apparition Test in the bag."
"We'll figure it out," Bryt told Ron, "Maybe being outside of the castle will help. Anyway, I'm heading on to bed myself."
Bryt gave Ron a quick kiss on the cheek before she grabbed her mini backpack and headed up the stairs, eager for a good night's sleep.