AN: Hello again! So, I'm currently suffering through a horrible sinus infection, while everyone around me has a cold. Yay. I have a high tolerance for pain, but I'm pretty bad with sickness. I'd just like to say that I am so grateful for all of you out there who are following, favoriting, and especially reviewing! So I'd like to extend a special thanks to reviewers mworth1019, Dark Neko 4000, mndstjohn, becuzitswrong, MuggleCreator, twilightxxpotterxxvampirexxx, serialkeller, Wonderbee31, TheWickedTruth89, Lady Sabine of Macayhill, Beside Moonlight, ILoveGeorgeEads, MaeSilverpaws1, ultima-owner, Fibinaci, magitech, Zaion Indulias, MariusDarkwolf, Kairan1979, Ari989, Majerus, ptl4ever419, Susan M. M, geetac, elmoryakhan, Blenda73, Tellur, and ElementKitsune. Wow, that's a huge list.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter franchise.
Harry had, at long last, been released from the Hospital Wing and was making his way to the Common Room, ready to surprise his friends. He rounded the corner, only to be pulled back by four insistent hands and yanked into an empty classroom.
"Woah! Who—oh, it's you two." Harry wasn't quite sure how to speak to the twins. It seemed as though half of his friends were furious at them, and the other half were strangely ambivalent.
"Normally, we would express how offended we are at that greeting—" George began.
"—but we really don't have time for that," Fred cut in.
"Why? What's going on?" Harry was pretty sure that whatever it was, it wasn't all that important. The twins tended to exaggerate most things, and while he definitely thought their antics were amusing, he'd much rather be in the Common Room, hopefully talking to the other third years.
"Harry, mate, this is serious!" George stressed, looking him in the eye.
Fred unfurled a worn, battered piece of parchment. "You're the only one who can help us, seeing as how the girls still seem to think we're evil."
"What you're about to see can't leave this room, got it?"
"Erm, okay," Harry agreed, still a bit unsure as to what, exactly, was going on.
"I solemnly swear I'm up to no good!" The two chanted.
"Alright?" Harry questioned, wondering what he was supposed to do with this information.
Black ink slowly started spiraling out from the middle of the parchment to form what appeared to be a map of Hogwarts. Stranger still were the tiny footprints making their way around the many corridors of the castle. Peering closer, Harry realized that each set of footprints had a name underneath it. He tilted his head and found three pairs clustered together which read Fred Weasley, George Weasley, and Harry Potter. Deciding to test a theory, he took a step back and watched as his footprints moved back as well.
"It shows where everyone's at in Hogwarts?" Harry asked, eyes widening.
The twins nodded. "Didn't take you long to catch on, did it?"
"But that's not what we wanted to show you."
"Here, take a look at this."
Another piece of parchment was shoved into Harry's hands. This one had flowing, elegant cursive from top to bottom, finishing with a flourished signature. Harry scanned the letter quickly, before doubling back and slowing down. Oliver's mum wanted him to quit?
"But this is his dream!" Harry protested out loud.
"And that's where you come in," Fred spoke quickly.
"We need your help to convince Oliver to stay on the team."
Harry frowned, confused. "But what am I supposed to do? I don't think I'd be very good at it."
"Well, you're all we have—"
"—so you'll have to do."
"All you need to do is get him to play a relaxed, fun match with you and the rest of the team. We'll handle everything else from there."
"It would also probably be a good idea if you got him to forgive us," George added wryly.
"But how am I supposed to—" Harry started.
"You'll figure something out," Fred assured him. "Now, according to the map, Oliver's moving from the field indoors. We have no idea where he's going, so you'll need to take this with you while we get things set up."
"Wait, you want me to do it now?" Harry exclaimed.
"There's no time to waste. Who knows when he'll send in his resignation?" George made a shooing motion with his hands. "Best get to it, Potter."
Harry groaned. "Can't I just wait until—"
"No!" They chimed.
"Ugh." Would he ever get a second to rest?
"Hey Oliver!" Harry called, racing down the hall.
"Hey Harry," Oliver greeted him easily. He tucked a Quaffle under one arm and waved his hand lazily. His cheeks were tinged pink from the cold, and he was shivering slightly, but his eyes were bright and happy. He certainly didn't look like someone who had just had their dream ripped to shreds, but Harry surmised that he was simply an excellent actor.
"Oh, did you just get back from the field?" Harry asked, pretending to be disappointed.
"Yeah, why?" Oliver had a puzzled expression on his face.
"Uh, I was just thinking that we could have a pretend match. Y'know, like practice or something?"
"Oh." Oliver paused, thinking it over. "Yeah, we could do that. Are you sure it'd be a good idea though, after yesterday?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Harry told him quickly. "Er, I can go find the girls, if you want."
"Wait, you want to have it now?" Oliver appeared baffled, scratching his head.
"Uh, yeah. No time like that present and all that. Anyway, you should go look for the twins and Lee." Harry shuffled his feet, eager to get away so he could stop this charade.
"I dunno, Harry. Maybe you should go find the twins instead of me," Oliver said slowly.
"I've been thinking!" Harry burst out. "Um, why are you still angry with them? I mean, normally people forgive them by this time."
Oliver's expression soured. "Probably because they don't normally do something this stupid. They endangered everyone in the whole castle. That's not something that can be easily forgiven."
Harry wished he had thought of something to say ahead of time. "Er…but they seem really sorry about what they did. They apologized and everything." Noting Oliver's skeptical expression, he rushed ahead. "Plus, I forgive them, and wasn't I the one in the most danger?" He hated playing that card, but it was sort of necessary.
"You forgive them?" Oliver recoiled. "Well, I guess if you think it's been enough time I could be a little more lenient—but things aren't going back to the way they were," He added quickly. "They can't just keep huge secrets like that."
Harry shifted, thinking of the giant secret currently in his pocket. The twins had told him how to clear it, but he couldn't help but check to make sure it was still there. He wanted to look at it some more.
"Oh yeah, of course," He agreed. "But you'll go look for them now, right?"
"Er, yeah, I guess so. I'll meet you back here in half an hour, alright?" With that, Oliver jogged off in search of two devilish gingers and an announcer.
Rather than search for the girls immediately, Harry spent some time pouring over the map, examining every inch of it. There were rooms on the parchment that he'd never even heard of before. This was clearly where the twins had gotten their extensive knowledge of the castle from. There were several passageways leading out of the castle, which Harry investigated with interest. Those might come in handy!
Bored of looking at the castle, Harry tucked himself in a corner and began reading the names. McGonagall and Sinistra were sitting in McGonagall's office. A large cluster of girls, including Parvati and Lavender, were gathered near the third floor girls' bathroom. Hermione was in the library, most likely finishing more of her endless pile of homework. Seamus, Dean, and Neville were in the Common Room. Upstairs in the boys' dorms, Ron was sitting on his bed, along with a dot named Peter Pettigrew—
Harry froze and read the name again. Peter Pettigrew was in the boys' dorms. Peter Pettigrew, his father's friend and the man that Sirius Black murdered along with a bunch of muggles. But that was impossible! How could Peter Pettigrew be in the dorms if he was dead? The map must've been wrong. Maybe it was broken, some sort of strange malfunction where it showed what was going on now and what had been happening twenty years ago.
But maybe he should check. Yes, Harry decided. He should double check, just to make sure. Dashing out of his corner and down the hall, Harry chose to ignore the niggling thought at the back of his mind; that maybe the map wasn't broken, and Peter Pettigrew really was in Hogwarts.
Romilda Vane sat on a stone bench in the courtyard, practicing her perfect posture. Ankles crossed, knees pressed firmly together, hands clasped in her lap, chin tilted up just a little more than was strictly necessary. She couldn't afford to fall behind at school, especially not when she was trying to catch the attention of a pureblood. She wasn't stupid enough to think that 13 year old Longbottom would instantly fall in love with her, but she was hoping for him to regard her as a friend.
Neville Longbottom was an enigma to Romilda. He was very kind and polite, but he only seemed to use his pureblood manners in the presence of his grandmother, who was a very intimidating elderly woman. Romilda had been very careful to impress Professor Longbottom in History class, with her thorough understanding of the subject, her impeccable penmanship, and her knowledge of traditional pureblood customs. The woman wasn't a blood supremacist by any means, but she held a certain appreciation for the old way of doing things.
Romilda supposed she could achieve her goal simply by schmoozing the grandmother, but she didn't want to do that. It would be a lot easier, of course. Showing a slight amount of interest in Neville and being as perfect as possible would probably get her a marriage offer. She knew her parents would agree; they often lamented the fact that Radella had received seven offers by the time she was Romilda's age. But if she was honest with herself, Romilda didn't just want to leave her family. She wanted Neville to like her, not just put up with her because his grandmother forced him to.
"Good afternoon, Miss Vane." A sharp voice came from directly behind her.
Romilda twisted around slowly, before standing and dipping slightly upon seeing who it was. "Good afternoon, Professor Longbottom. How are you today?"
The older woman gave a sharp nod of approval. "Wonderful. I've just finished grading the second year's essays. And yourself?"
Romilda smiled lightly. "I'm doing fine, thank you. I've just been working on my posture. I can't allow it to suffer while I'm away from my tutors, you know."
Longbottom eyebrows rose slightly before she graced Romilda with a tight smile. "It's good to see a young lady interested in her etiquette lessons. When I was a girl, it was all we thought about. Now, girls seem to be running about with not a care in the world. It's quite…scandalous."
Romilda bobbed her head complacently. "Oh, I absolutely agree, Professor." She chose to omit the fact that she wasn't all that worried about her etiquette unless it served a purpose. She also chose not to reveal that her tutors found her manners utterly appalling.
"Come to think of it, it's not just the young ladies that have been misbehaving lately. All of the young children are positively horrendous these days. Very few families seem to realize the importance of instilling right manners in their offspring. I've tried very hard to teach Neville the suitable customs, but he's having a strange amount of trouble with them."
Romilda felt a fierce stab of anger at her words. Couldn't she see how hard Neville tried to impress her? He wasn't half bad, either. Certainly better than some of the boys her sister had brought around. "Actually, he seems very good at them. I was very impressed with some of the conversations we've had. Perhaps you just have unrealistic expectations."
She had done it again. Merlin, what was wrong with her? She'd just ruined yet another valuable opportunity by opening her mouth and spitting out whatever came to mind. Maybe her family was right. Romilda was a difficult daughter!
Longbottom pursed her lips for a moment, as though expecting an apology. Romilda wasn't about to extend one though. She had said what she thought, and to go back on that now would be humiliating and shameful. Why should she apologize for having thoughts? Romilda tilted her chin up even further and pushed her shoulders back, waiting for the rebuke that was sure to come.
Romilda was surprised when Longbottom began to smile again. "Perhaps you're right. I knew you were a good sort of girl from the start, Miss Vane."
Romilda blinked rapidly. "I—Thank you very much, Professor Longbottom. I suppose I'll see you in class on Tuesday."
The woman's smile grew just a tiny bit, and she nodded again. "I suppose you shall. Have a good day, Miss Vane." She glided away with a slight spring in her step that Romilda had never noticed before.
Romilda sat back on the bench, stunned. It was a test, of that she was sure. Yet this was a test that Romilda had passed, unlike every other one given to her previously. She had been expected to say precisely what she thought, which made it a very easy test, really. Romilda stopped attempting perfect posture and let her shoulders slump as she mused. This was all very strange, very strange indeed.
Romilda stood again and resisted the urge to pace. She needed to speak to Neville. It could be that she had been going about this all wrong. Maybe Neville wasn't looking for a perfect pureblood girl. With new resolve, Romilda took off to the Gryffindor Common Room. She was going to figure the Longbottoms out, one way or another.
Penelope Clearwater was in the Ravenclaw Common Room, carefully surveying her house members from behind A History of Magic. Parvati Patil had approached her in the library, looking positively frazzled. The girl had taken forever to calm down and speak slowly, but Penny finally managed to understand that a second year was being bullied by Patil's twin sister and two other Ravenclaw girls. Patil had begged Penny to put a stop to it, and to change her sister's mind about how the house system worked.
Penelope wasn't entirely sure how she was supposed to accomplish this, so for now, she was just observing. Roger Davies sat next to her, chattering away about…something. Penny felt slightly guilty for not listening to him, but—
"Hey, Penny, is there something on your mind?"
Penny jumped a foot in the air, sending her book flying through the air. "What? Who, me? What would I have to worry about? Nope, I'm fine. Ha, ha…" Dimly, Penelope registered that this was probably why Oliver didn't want her to investigate the Chamber last year.
Roger frowned and leaned down to scoop up her book. "Penny, you're not even really reading this book. You haven't turned the page in fifteen minutes. You didn't yell at me when I made a crack at Percy, and I've had my eyes crossed for the past thirty seconds."
Penny squirmed. Was she really that obvious? "Hey Roger, can I ask you something?"
Roger leaned back and propped his feet up on the coffee table. "Yeah, sure. Fire away."
Penny fiddled with her tie anxiously. "Alright, well…what do you think about the house system? I mean, what role does each house fulfill? I just…want to have a second opinion."
Roger flashed her an easy grin. "Well, of course Ravenclaw's the best, Slytherin's at the bottom, and Hufflepuff and Gryffindor are somewhere in between."
Penelope sighed. "Roger, seriously."
"Okay, okay….That's a loaded question. Why do you want to know?"
Penelope tried to smooth out her expression and adopt an innocent look. "It's just for research on school relations. Y'know, since I'm Head Girl, and all."
Roger eyed her suspiciously before shrugging. "Right. Um, I'd say that each house is equally important. I mean, each one represents a good character quality, and each house also has their flaws."
He seemed to find this a sufficient answer to her question, but Penelope wasn't even close to being done. "Could you go into more detail about this, please?"
"I should think it's fairly obvious. Slytherins are ambitious, but sometimes the only thing they see is power, and they don't care about anything else. The Gryffindors are brave, but sometimes they just go rushing off into danger without thinking. Hufflepuffs are loyal, but they're also a bit naïve in a way. They believe that no one could ever betray their trust. And us Ravenclaws…we're intelligent yeah, but most of us don't end up using that intelligence, just storing it until forever."
Penelope frowned, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "I s'pose that makes sense."
Roger grinned. "Of course it does. I'm the one that said it."
Penny rolled her eyes. "You're so ridiculous."
Roger tossed his head and laughed. "Glad to be of service. Anything else?"
"Yeah, actually. Do you support friendships between people in different houses?"
Roger shrugged again. "I don't see why not. Unless it interferes with Quidditch," He added hastily. "Then I'd have to say no."
Penny shook her head. "Again, so ridiculous. Thanks for your help, Roger."
"No problem. See you later, Penny." He stood, stretched, and set off to find the rest of the team. He needed to go over some tactics for the match against Hufflepuff.
Penelope shoved her book in her bag. There was no use pretending to read anymore. Sighing, she pulled her Potions book out and yanked back her hair into a ponytail. Snape had assigned a giant essay on a N.E.W.T level potion of her choice, due the next class period. Penny hadn't even decided which potion to pick yet, because she and Percy were going to work together and help each other out, but she hadn't been able to meet with him yet.
She flipped through page after page, wanting to find something interesting and complex, without becoming so difficult that Snape would give her a terrible grade. He'd been less than kind after finding out that she and Percy were dating.
"I've always found Felix Felicis to be very intriguing," A dreamy voice whispered over her shoulder.
Penny started and slammed her book shut before staring at a tiny blonde girl with big, blue eyes. "Who are you?" She asked, heart racing.
"I'm Luna Lovegood." Luna offered her hand, and Penny shook it, feeling a bit foolish.
"Oh, you're Ginny's friend, right? I can't believe I didn't recognize you. I'm Penelope Clearwater."
Luna smiled and tilted her head to the side. "You're Percy's girlfriend."
Penelope felt her face grow hot. She never stopped feeling giddy whenever she was addressed as Percy's girlfriend. "I am. Um, would you like to sit down?"
"No, thank you. I prefer to stand." Luna offered no explanation for her odd behavior, but Penny sensed no ill intent from her statement, so she simply smiled in response.
"I hope you don't mind me bringing this up, but Parvati Patil told me earlier that some of the girls in Ravenclaw have been calling you names?" Penny didn't know why, but she felt hesitant saying this.
Luna's eyes became slightly less focused. "It's all in good fun."
Penelope frowned. "But—but they're making fun of you. Doesn't that bother you?"
Luna didn't blink as often as the average person, it seemed. "At least they're enjoying themselves."
Penelope couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Luna, it has to hurt your feelings," She protested.
Luna's eyes widened even further. "Why?"
Penny was confused. "What? I—Why aren't you wearing any shoes?"
Luna looked down at her bare feet and wiggled her toes. "It appears that the Nargles have stolen them. Don't worry, they'll give them back once it's warmer out. They just like to have somewhere cozy to sleep in the winter."
Penelope shook her head. "But Luna, it's too cold to go out without shoes. Maybe you could borrow some from Ginny," She suggested.
Luna clearly disagreed with that. "I couldn't. Then the Nargles would take her shoes too, and she'd be missing a pair. Felix Felicis is a very fascinating potion. I'm sure you won't have too much trouble writing about it. Goodbye, Penelope Clearwater."
"Wait, Luna!" But the girl was already gone. Penny huffed and flopped back onto the couch. What were Nargles, anyway? No matter. Obviously, some girls were stealing Luna's shoes, and Penny would bet a thousand galleons that those girls were Padma Patil and her shrieking harpies. She just had to find a way to catch them in the act.
Luna Lovegood was going to be accepted in Ravenclaw House, or her name wasn't Penelope Clearwater.
Felix Felicis, more commonly known as Liquid Luck, gives the drinker a high chance of success…