AN: Whew! I almost thought I wouldn't have readers anymore, it's been so long since I updated. Luckily, there were still quite a few of you around, so thanks a million. Of course, I have to single out my wonderful reviewers: Guest, Jmw, serialkeller, ILoveGeorgeEads, alantalexander, Ari989, Jon, ShinigamiRae, Lady Sabine of Macayhill, ultima-owner, Tellur, Fibinaci, magitech, MariusDarkwolf, Majerus, Cosmyk Angel, and Zaion Indulias. I loved hearing your feedback!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter franchise.
That night, before any of the Gryffindors went to bed, Professor Burbage came by the Common Room, dressed in her pajamas. Whispers broke out among the students, wondering what she was doing there.
"Hello Gryffindors!" She called out cheerfully. "I have a special request to make. Tonight, I was thinking that we could all sleep down here for a change. Just this once." She smiled at them hopefully.
The first years agreed immediately, but some of the older kids took a little more convincing.
"You mean like a sleepover?" One girl wrinkled her nose.
Charity tilted her head to the side. "Sort of, yeah. It'd be a good way to get to know each other."
Percy wasn't stupid. He knew why she was doing this, and to be honest, he kind of agreed with it. "Alright everyone, go change as fast as you can and bring down some pillows and blankets. You don't have to go to sleep right away."
"Do we have to do this?" A boy moaned.
"Yes," Percy said firmly. "Now go!"
Charity sat on a loveseat and waited patiently. Maybe she should've grabbed another teacher to help out. There were an awful lot of Gryffindors. Then again, she could always ask the seventh years for assistance. "Harry!" She reached out and touched his arm.
The bespectacled boy turned around, confused. "Yes, Professor Burbage?"
"Listen," She began uneasily. "What happened last night was very serious for the whole school, but especially for you. I want you to stay safe, Harry."
Her wide, blue eyes were full of compassion, and somehow managed to make Harry feel just a little bit guilty. "Um, thanks, Professor."
"It's just that—practicing Quidditch in the evenings seems very risky, especially when it's just you and your teammates out there. Maybe it's not such a good idea for you to—"
"But Professor!" Harry protested. "Our first match is on Saturday. I can't just go without training. How are we supposed to beat Hufflepuff?" He pleaded.
Charity battled between keeping him safe and making him happy. On the one hand, leaving Harry out there in the open with only students for protection was practically asking for a disaster. But she didn't want to force him to miss practice and be miserable. "Well, I suppose I…what if I were to be out there when you're practicing? Just to make sure nothing happens."
Harry considered this. "Are you sure? Oliver makes us get up really early, and we practice for hours, even in the rain."
She smiled. "I should be able to handle it. Now hurry up and get changed."
Harry grinned at her and dashed away. Just before he reached the stairs, he turned back. "Thanks Professor Burbage!"
She beamed back at him and waved.
"You handled that fairly well."
Charity whirled around. "Remus! What are you doing here?"
He smiled sheepishly. "I dropped by your office to talk to you for a bit, but you weren't there. Your portrait hole told me where you were."
Charity scowled. "Honestly, Daisy Dodderidge doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut."
Remus rubbed the back of his neck. "I hope it's not a bad time."
"No, no, of course not. Here, sit down." She patted the seat next to her. "We're having a huge house-wide slumber party. Some of them aren't too happy about it but," She lowered her voice. "I'd just feel better if I could keep an eye on all of them tonight."
Remus nodded knowingly. "You're worried. There's nothing wrong with that. It just shows that you care."
She sighed in relief. "I'm glad you understand. How are you holding up?"
He blinked innocently. "What do you mean?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Remus…"
He exhaled and glanced around. "We'll talk later," He whispered, noting how many kids had already come back down. "So, the new Gryffindor portrait is…interesting." He spoke at a more normal volume.
Seamus bounded down the stairs with a glare on his face. "Sir Cadogan is the worst!" He declared dramatically.
"He's not so bad," Dean lied, coming down behind him.
"Yes, he is!" Seamus argued. "He's so annoying."
"Couldn't you get anyone else, Professor Burbage?" Leann wanted to know.
"Sir Cadogan was the only portrait brave enough to volunteer for the job. And since we're Gryffindors, we should be proud of his bravery." She stared them all down with a frown.
"Got it!" Colin cheered.
"Colin!" Charity admonished, rubbing her eyes. "What have I told you about taking pictures without permission?"
"But I got one of your frown," He insisted. "My dad really wanted this one."
"Put the camera away," She ordered.
Colin drooped and put it in a corner.
Charity stood up and got the Gryffindors' attention. "Listen up, everyone. Find a spot to sleep, and stay there. I understand that asking you not to talk isn't going to work, but try to keep it quiet. I would hope that you get at least a little sleep tonight. If you need anything, I will be on this loveseat right here, so come and get me. Lights out at ten. Got it?"
There was a general murmur of assent from the kids.
"Okay." She sat back down.
Neville was just about to find a good spot to lay down when he noticed a dark-haired first year girl approaching him. He'd seen her before, he was sure of it, but he still didn't know her name. It almost felt like he should know her, but he could safely say that he'd never had a conversation with the girl.
"Hello." She stuck her hand out in front of her. "I'm Romilda Vane."
"Er, Neville Longbottom." He shook her hand and could feel the blush creeping up his neck.
"It's nice to meet you." She leaned against the back of a squashy chair and watched him.
"Uh, you too." Neville couldn't think of anything to say that would move the talk along.
"Your grandmother teaches History of Magic, right? That's how you're related."
"Um, yeah." Inwardly, Neville winced at how stupid he sounded. It was like he was the old Neville again, the one who didn't know how to stick up for himself and always had to have his friends protect him.
"You must try to stay away from her during the summer holidays."
"Actually, I live with her, so that's kind of difficult." Neville cringed. He had been trying to sound strong, but it had just come across as rude.
"Oh. I'm sorry." Romilda took a few steps away from him.
"No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to sound like that," He apologized quickly.
She blushed. "It's fine. I don't really like it when people assume things about my family, either."
It was then that Neville thought about her last name. "Wait a minute, you're part of the Vane family."
She giggled. "Took you a while, didn't it?"
Neville flushed again. "Er, yeah. Did you know that our families used to be allies?"
"Really?" She lied with a gasp. If this was what she had to do to become friends with Neville Longbottom, then the ends would justify the means.
"I could help you with that!" Colin offered eagerly.
Harry groaned, more than a little annoyed at this point. "I think I've got it, Colin."
"Are you sure?" Demelza pressed.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Harry was doing his best not to snap, but the second years had been swarming around him for a while now, offering to help with some of the oddest things. One of them had even asked if he needed assistance with brushing his teeth. To make it worse, their constant hovering made it nearly impossible for him to move towards his friends. "Look guys, I really appreciate all this, but I can handle it."
"Okay," Ginny said doubtfully. "Come on guys, let's go sleep over here."
Finally, Harry thought, dragging his stuff away.
"I really think he needs more help," Bailey mumbled.
"We don't want to injure his pride," Demelza argued logically.
"I wish Luna were here," Colin muttered morosely. "She'd know what to do."
"That reminds me, I haven't seen her lately. Have any of you?" Ginny asked.
Most of the second years shook their heads.
"Actually, I saw her a few days ago. It was the oddest thing. She wasn't wearing any shoes!" Ellen Dowling exclaimed. "When I asked her about it, she said the Nargles had stolen them."
Demelza frowned. "I don't understand. I mean, clearly Nargles don't exist. Luna believes in them of course, but she's never done anything like that to prove their existence."
"Unless it wasn't the Nargles that stole them," Philip Baker speculated.
Ginny's eyes narrowed. "What are you implying, Baker?"
"Just that maybe someone else in Ravenclaw stole them. It'd make more sense than the Nargle theory," He replied.
"Who would steal Luna's shoes?" Kristen Dahl asked, troubled.
"It'd have to be someone with access to her shoes," Lukas Raine pondered.
Bailey shifted in thought. "So, the Ravenclaw girls?"
"Most likely," Colin agreed. "And it's probably the second years."
Ginny scowled fiercely. "I need to confer with Bradley and Cadwallader. They better not have known and deliberately withheld information."
Ellen shook her head. "They don't seem like the type of the people who would do that. Maybe they didn't know?" She suggested meekly.
"Still, we need to make sure," Demelza decided firmly.
Colin groaned. "Too bad it looks like we're stuck here."
The HHPC was starting to feel incredibly discouraged. They were failing in their attempt to aid The-Boy-Who-Lived, and one of their own was being attacked directly in front of them. Plus, all of their quests had led to very little time left over to recruit new members. Something needed to happen to take them out of their slump, and fast.
"Heeeyyy, Alicia." Fred moved towards his girlfriend, and stretched out his arm to rest comfortably over her shoulders. He felt surprised and hurt when she huffed and pushed it back.
"What?" She folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot impatiently.
"I just wanted to hang out, y'know." He flashed a charming smile.
Her lips thinned. "No thank you. I'm going to go talk to Angelina." She whipped around, and her hair almost smacked him in the face. "Don't bother coming after me!"
He blinked, took a deep breath, and tried to shake it off. She'd come around…eventually. Instead, he went off in search of George, who looked truly upset.
"You okay?" Fred asked worriedly. George wasn't really a down in the dumps kind of guy.
"No," He whispered quietly. "Angie just told me to leave her alone."
Fred shrugged. "S'okay. Alicia did the same thing to me. They'll get over it."
George still appeared bothered. "But what if they don't? What if they stay angry with us forever?"
Fred laughed weakly. They wouldn't. Would they? No, of course not. That was good ole' emotional George talking. Sometimes he got in moods, where he thought everything looked bleak and hopeless. It was Fred's job, as the better, more handsome twin to cheer George up. "Don't worry. We'll go talk to Lee. The guy's never even been in a serious relationship and he knows the ins and outs of women. With his help, getting their forgiveness'll be a piece of cake."
George nodded, reassured. "Alright, that sounds like a good idea. Hey Lee!"
A head full of dreadlocks turned their way before quite pointedly turning away again.
"Lee!" Fred shouted. "Get your butt over here!"
"Boys, please keep it down," Charity requested.
"Of course, Professor Burbage," They told her. "We will as soon as Lee GETS OVER HERE!"
Lee glared, but skulked over regardless. "What is it?"
"Listen, the girls aren't all that happy with us right now—"
"—and we were hoping you would know how to fix it!"
Lee glowered. "Seriously?"
"I can't believe this." He let out a long, suffering sigh. "Do I have to spell it out for you, 'cause I think Penny did a pretty good job earlier. They're angry because you kept those passages a secret, and Black got in the castle, and you still act like you don't care!" He burst out. "I don't know what's going on right now, but my best friends wouldn't act like this. So until they're back, don't even bother talking to me."
"Oh, come on!" Fred shouted after him.
George slumped down in a chair. "I knew it. They're never going to forgive us, none of them!"
"Is something wrong?" Professor Lupin asked kindly, dropping down in a squashy seat across from them. He looked so out of place, still in his professor clothes, surrounded by children in pajamas. Fred had to wonder what Professor Lupin had been like as a student. Probably super smart, but fun. The same way he was now, really, just fewer lines on his face.
Fred shuffled his feet. "Remember when we told you that we'd figured out how Black got in the castle?"
Lupin chuckled. "Well, seeing as how it was only a few hours ago, yes, I do."
Fred blushed. "Um, see, we've kind of known for a while now, it's just that we didn't think about telling anyone until one of our friends was…kind enough to point it out."
Lupin nodded, lips twitching upwards. "I'm sure your friend was very polite in how she let you know that what you had done was wrong."
"That's one way of putting it," George grumbled.
Fred coughed. "Right, well, the problem is, even though we've told McGonagall, no one's forgiven us."
Lupin stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I can see how that might happen."
"But we fixed it!" Fred protested. "Now she knows, and the castle's safe again, so they shouldn't be angry anymore. Everyone's safe."
Lupin smiled sadly. "Sometimes fixing the problem isn't enough of an apology."
George sat up straight. "It's not like we did it on purpose. It was an accident!" He stressed.
"I'm sure it was," Lupin said calmly. "Just like I'm sure your friends understand that. Let's try this from a different angle. Why did you keep it a secret in the first place?"
Fred and George considered this for a moment. George squirmed in his seat.
"I guess it was because it was cool that there was a part of the castle that only we knew about. It was just like a thing between the two of us."
"Plus, it helped for setting up pranks," Fred admitted sheepishly.
Lupin threw his head back and laughed. "I bet it did. Listen boys, you're getting older now. When you get older, not knowing something is wrong is no longer a suitable excuse. People start expecting you to seek out knowledge on your own, and to really think stuff through before you commit. Most adults aren't as spontaneous, because a certain amount of responsibility is expected of them."
"We can be responsible," George huffed.
Lupin smiled again. "I'm sure you can. But when you're an adult, you're expected to be responsible about all of your choices and actions, even the ones that don't seem all that important. You have to start looking at everything a little more closely. You kept it a secret so that you could have something just between the two of you. You didn't realize that doing so might jeopardize lives. As an adult, you would have to think thoroughly and logically about such things. Ask yourself questions beforehand. Will this harm someone if they don't know about it? Will it harm someone if they do? Not just physically, but emotionally too."
Fred groaned. "We have to do that about everything?"
Lupin scratched his head. "Not everything. But you do have to be more cautious, especially considering current circumstances. It can be hard to adjust to at first, but after a while it should become a little more natural. You just have to consider how things can be taken—and that includes pranks."
"What?" The twins exclaimed, ogling him.
He sighed. "I know you probably won't like hearing this, but you need to look at your pranks a little more objectively. If you're targeting a mass group of people that all have something in common, such as pranking the Slytherins, think about why you're doing it and how you're going about it. If it's something deeply offensive, it's most likely not a good idea. But, if you're targeting a group of people that don't really have much in common, and it's just a little bit of harmless fun, then it's probably a better idea. Don't ever try to aim for just one person. That's bound to end in disaster," He advised seriously.
"We only do it if they deserve it," George pointed out.
Lupin rubbed his eyes. "Pranks on an individual can often be viewed as an attack. Think about it: if you're singling out someone, especially in a public place, you're essentially humiliating them in front of their friends, their enemies, and people they don't even know. It can stick with them for a long time. It's tough, not to mention tiring, to make the call on whether something is funny or hurtful. To answer your original question, your friends might not forgive you for a while. But I'm sure if you show them that you've changed, and you're being more careful about how you deal with things, then it will only be a matter of time."
Fred grimaced. "Being an adult sucks."
Lupin laughed. "Yes, it does. And I'm afraid that's only the beginning. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to Professor Burbage."
Fred whistled. "You go for it, Professor Lupin!"
"Yeah, charm that lady," George chimed in.
Lupin froze. "Excuse me?"
"Too soon?" Fred guessed, face burning.
"No, I just—there is nothing going on between Professor Burbage and I," He told them stiffly.
"Doesn't mean there can't be." George shrugged.
Lupin tugged at his collar. "Having a relationship with a colleague would be highly inappropriate."
Fred waved a hand. "Excuses, excuses. C'mon, Professor. She likes you!"
Lupin shook his head. "I highly doubt that."
"Oh yeah?" George challenged. "Then why is she looking over here right now?"
Sure enough, Charity was gazing at him, almost longingly. When she was caught, she glanced away as her cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink. She dared to glance back and waved him over.
Lupin cleared his throat. "Excuse me, boys. I have to go settle something."
The twins whooped and cheered him on, grinning as he tripped on his way over to the blonde.
Oliver Wood was officially pathetic. He was stuck in between a group of third years while Percy hurried around the Common Room, admonishing various Gryffindors. What did it say about him that Percy and Penny were the only friends he had around his age? It had never bothered him before, but the fact was that he had nothing to do right now.
Lavender and Parvati were trying to tame Hermione's hair enough so that they could plait it. The boys were trying all the different flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Three years ago, Oliver would've been into it, but after an accident at a Quidditch match landed him in the Hospital Wing with a slew of sweets surrounding him, he'd become more than a little sick of them. So Oliver was rewriting his Quidditch drills, again.
He'd taken his team's advice, and had removed the fancy tricks and plays. That didn't mean he wasn't still stressed out about the match. It was this Saturday, and he'd never felt so frightened in his whole life. Well, that wasn't exactly true. He'd been absolutely terrified every time any of his friends ended up in the Hospital Wing, and he wasn't afraid to admit that he'd felt incredibly nauseous upon seeing the Basilisk. But this was different.
Why didn't Summers like him? Why didn't anyone on Puddlemere like him? Oliver had tried, he really had. At first, he'd just been himself, but that hadn't worked. They clearly didn't like the real Oliver Wood, so he'd scrapped that plan and changed. They didn't like funny Oliver, or serious Oliver, or smart Oliver, or any of the various Olivers he'd practically thrown at them. Practicing with Puddlemere felt less like playing Quidditch and more like being forced to sit through unbearable pain with a smile. He just wanted to know what he was doing wrong. If he knew what the problem was, then he could fix it.
Being signed to Puddlemere was supposed to solve all of his problems. He had made it, managed to work his way onto THE team. Tristan Wood would've been so proud. Oliver could just imagine what his father would've said. Tristan would've bragged to all of the glen, shouted it from the rooftops and declared to total strangers that his son was a professional Quidditch player. As it was, Oliver's mother Annabelle had just patted his cheek and told him good job.
What was he going to do? He couldn't stay on a team full of people who disliked him, not when he'd always championed a strong, united team in his own practices. But he was on Puddlemere United! The team of his dreams. He had worked so hard, and come so far, and achieved his dream. He had really done it. But it shouldn't have been like this. He wasn't exactly expecting them to worship him, as he was the new guy, but surely they shouldn't have been so perfectly ambivalent about the whole affair?
"Hey, Oliver, what's the worst flavor you've ever gotten?" Seamus asked eagerly.
Oliver started. "Um, I dunno…I guess earwax?"
Harry leaned in closer. "Are you okay?"
Oliver nodded, swallowing nervously. "Yeah, yeah, of course. Hey listen, I was hoping to talk to you about some new drills I thought of…"
Oliver had worked his tail off to make it to Puddlemere. If they didn't like him, then he'd just have to deal with it. He wasn't going to give it all up now just because of some washed up star's jealousy. It was his dream, and he was going to make it, no matter what.
Replies to anonymous reviewers:
Guest-I understand that people like the twins because they're funny, and they're sad because of Fred's death in DH. I was a little upset too. But none of that means that they were perfect. Sometimes, like a lot of pranksters, they took things too far, probably without realizing. Now, they could follow the same path for the rest of their lives and not understand that they're hurting people, or they could gain some emotional maturity. It's an issue that they probably covered in canon, but we didn't get to see because we were restricted to Harry's point of view, and it's one that I think is important enough to touch upon. Don't worry; things will turn around soon. Thanks for reviewing!
Jmw-I've already thought that out. Even though they'll have graduated, Oliver, Penny, and Percy will still keep in touch. You might not see as much of them, but they'll be hanging around for help and support. Thanks for reviewing!
Jon-I'm glad you liked the Quidditch scene. I'm not much of a sports fan, to be honest, but I make an exception for Quidditch. I tried my best to make it feel authentic, so I'm happy it paid off. Remus is one of my favorite characters, probably because I feel like there are so many different sides to him. He's going to be around a lot this year. It's hard to balance Harry with all of the other characters, just because everyone has so much going on. I like to make sure that everyone gets a little chance to shine here and there, without too much of one person, if that makes sense. Thanks for reviewing!