Chapter 13: Sakura and the Forgotten Memory
Despite Syaoran's recovery, Sakura found herself just as distracted as she had been prior to him waking up. She was now preoccupied with making up for lost time with him. During class she would count the minutes until she would be free, and once they ended she would rush to Syaoran's side just as quickly as she had rushed to the hospital wing in the past. The difference was that Sakura wasn't fretting over his condition all day, and thus was far less likely to accidentally squeeze a pusbulb fruit without the protection of her dragon hide gloves.
The sharp delight of Syaoran being restored to health had finally faded after a couple of weeks. The blaze of elation mellowed to a simple warmth, and Sakura could once again spend time with him while still concentrating on academic studies. And to a lesser degree on her experiments as well. Syaoran had been impressed with the results of her skating experiments during his prolonged unconscious state. Gloria and Lisa were too, albeit less enthusiastic, which was understandable seeing how neither of them were able to get the things to work for them.
With Syaoran's return Sakura had less time for her independent projects. Instead the majority of her free time was spent helping Syaoran catch up with his coursework. He was noticeably behind in his studies, so most of the time they were together found Sakura tutoring him. Not that she minded in the least. Any time she could spend with her boyfriend counted as a good thing. It was also helpful for Luna as well as for Roger and Giles, all of whom were studying the same material as Syaoran. Sakura wasn't sure if Roger and Giles had received a formal invitation or not, but half of the time they could be found tagging along behind Syaoran wherever he went around the castle. For Gloria, Lisa, and Wayne these tutoring sessions were far less useful, although they made good use of the time themselves by studying their own second-year materials.
Everything had fallen into a semi-regular pattern in time for Easter, which was marked by a key question: what classes should they register for for the following year?
"That's easy," Gloria declared at one of their study sessions. "Muggle Studies, of course."
Lisa nodded in agreement while asking, "Of course, but what else? I suppose my father would expect me to take Arthmancy as well."
"Oh. Divine Accounting sounded interesting as well," Gloria said.
"How about Narrative Theory? My parents use it all the time," Wayne suggested. "How about you, Sakura?"
"I wasn't planning on taking anything," Sakura said. "I think this is going to be my last year here."
"Not this again," Lisa said, shaking her head.
"You said that last year, Sakura," Gloria said.
"For real, this time," Keroberos said.
"Yeah," Syaoran agreed. "Me too, probably."
"You too?" Roger asked. "Why?"
"We talked about this before," Sakura said. "I'm not learning as much in the classes as I did my first year. The libraries are nice, and the space to play around with my magic is good too, but I can buy books and figure out some place to experiment back home in Japan. I'm falling too far behind in my muggle classes, and I don't expect to stay in the United Kingdom when I graduate."
"Same here. I've learned some stuff here, but classes aren't at all what I expected," Syaoran agreed.
"But you were out of it for like a month. You missed a lot of stuff then," Giles disagreed.
"Maybe, but did you learn how to teleport or anything else useful while I was out of it?" Syaoran asked.
"You mean apparition? Obviously we haven't. You got to be like seventeen to even get a license," Roger said.
"Exactly. There's a lot of interesting things to learn here, but it's so... confined. I think I'd probably have more luck if I just did it on my own. Now that I know a bit about Western magic, I think maybe we could hire some tutors to come to Hong Kong for a few months to help teach. That way everybody in the family could learn some stuff. Besides, I'm not sure how much I'd want to keep coming here if it was just me," Syaoran said.
"I see," Wayne said.
The group remained silent for a bit after that. The announcement that Sakura and Syaoran had no intention of returning the next year had the effect of deflating all of the enthusiasm for planning next year's schedule. Nobody knew how to react.
The silence was finally broken when Syaoran changed subjects, returning to the nominal reason for their meeting. He returned to his potions book and asked Sakura, "Why do we need to add gillyweed before the fish liver?"
"It's the same reason you need to use a glass rod to stir. 'Stability first,' remember?" Sakura asked back.
The rest of the study session continued in a similar muted way.
The topic of the next year never came up again for the rest of the month. For the most part school life had quieted down again. There were three key exceptions, though: Sakura, Keroberos, and Syaoran. They never let down their guard. Sakura wasn't sure about the others, but she still couldn't shake the feeling of being watched from time to time. It kept her on edge, always ready to seize the Key at a moment's notice. Syaoran likewise always had the gem which would expand into his jian in easy reach whenever Sakura saw him. It was only with the arrival of May that the rest of the school caught up with them, taking on a similar posture.
Sakura and Syaoran, and oddly Luna as well, were with Gloria in the spectator stands for the Gryffindor Quidditch match with Hufflepuff. Sakura's and Luna's Ravenclaw blue along with Syaoran's Slytherin green stood out in stark contrast to the reds and golds all around them. By this point Syaoran had been seen with Oliver Wood enough times that even the Slytherin was able to make his way into the Gryffindor stands unchallenged, so long as he was being unsubtly escorted by somebody from Gryffindor. However, that didn't prevent the dirty glares, loud whispers, and "accidental" jostles.
Right when the game was about to start, Professor McGonagall half-marched and half-ran onto the Quidditch pitch. Much to Keroberos, Syaoran, and Gloria's disappointment, Professor McGonagall used a giant purple megaphone to announce to the crowd that the game was being canceled. Not only that, Professor McGonagall instructed all students to return to their common rooms. This part of the announcement disappointed Sakura as well as it meant that she would not be able to spend the rest of the day with Syaoran.
The reasoning behind the announcements quickly became clear.
Penelope was absent in Ravenclaw Tower. Some questioning around, growing in volume and urgency, resulted in the determination that she was in fact missing. Given the seriousness of how the professors were treating the situation, to the point of canceling the remaining Quidditch games for the year, all thoughts snapped immediately to the Heir of Slytherin. Suddenly it was like it was December all over again. Huddled groups of worried students gathered together and spoke only in hushed whispers.
Professor Flitwick arrived an hour later and officially confirmed that there had been another attack. Penelope had been the latest victim. Both Penelope and Hermione.
All of the speculation from January sprang to mind again. Prefects weren't safe. Friends of The Boy Who Lived weren't safe. Nobody was safe. No, wait, nobody in Slytherin had been attacked yet. It was just a matter of time. No, of course the Heir of Slytherin wouldn't attack Slytherin. What did the lack of Slytherin causalities mean? The professors must have noticed. So what were they going to do about it?
Professor Flitwick's next announcement devastated Sakura. In light of the latest attack some new rules were being put in place. Nobody was to leave the dormitories after 6:00 every day, all evening activities were canceled, and students were to be escorted everywhere. Compounding the situation, the next day, Professor McGonagall announced to the school that the 12 governors of Hogwarts had voted to suspend Professor Dumbledore. As Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, effective immediately Professor McGonagall would be leading the school.
At this point, everybody within Hogwarts became just as twitchy as Sakura herself had felt for the past two months. Students only traveled in large groups, and they spent all of their time searching every nook and cranny for anything which might be out of place. It was like the troll attack the previous year, only now all day every day.
This left Sakura with little to do in the evening except study. There wasn't enough space in the Ravenclaw dormitories to do any serious experiments without disturbing others, and Sakura had never been much for chess, exploding snap, or any of the other games played in the castle. That left a serious dearth of things to do besides study. It was very much like her first year at Hogwarts, when Syaoran had been half a world away. Sakura was accustomed to it by this point, not that that made things any easier or any more exciting.
Sakura was tempted to do something drastic, like use The Mirror and The Illusion to sneak around the castle to secretly meet Syaoran, but she would never do that. Having already faced a giant deadly magical serpent once before she had absolutely no desire to do it again. Especially on her own. Exposing the cards and her other magic would certainly be imprudent as well.
One brief bit of excitement occurred in Ravenclaw Tower when Luna had asked to borrow Sakura's skates again. Not seeing the problem, Sakura had let her. A few minutes later Luna was literally skating around on the walls. Richard, one of the prefects, had quickly put a stop to it. He had also tried to get the skates confiscated again. However, upon bringing it up with Professor Flitwick, they ran numerous tests which supposedly conclusively demonstrated that the skates weren't magical, and so Sakura got them back a second time. Having learned her lesson, though, when Luna asked to borrow them yet again Sakura politely declined.
The days went by with these new procedures and policies in place. Some professor, usually Professor Flitwick, would show up in the morning to escort the Ravenclaw students to breakfast. This eliminated any early morning meetings with Syaoran, to Sakura's disappointment. Then throughout the day the different groups of students would be handed off from one professor to another until after dinner, at which point they'd be brought back to their common rooms again. This eliminated any evening meetings with Syaoran, to Sakura's dismay.
Throughout the day a teacher was always in sight, not that she would have dreamed of skipping classes to meet up with Syaoran. Well, she would dream about it but she would never actually do it. With the current atmosphere her absence would be instantly noticed, and who knew what would happen in the school if a student suddenly went missing? Sakura imagined the loss of who knew how many points for Ravenclaw and Slytherin would be the least of their worries. All combined it meant that the time Sakura could spend with Syaoran was limited to the scant hours during meals and between the end of classes and dinner.
The new procedures made even little things difficult, like using a bathroom. Sakura would need to wait for the few times there would be multiple professors with the second-year Ravenclaws between classes so one of them could escort her to the bathroom and while the others could continue on their way to the next class. The staff outnumbered the number of classes by enough that this was possible, but not so much as to make a second professor's presence a guarantee.
Sakura could barely wait for Defense Against the Dark Arts class to end. Professor Lockhart regaled the class with the story of how he had faced a werewolf and forced it back into human form. Again. Sakura found it hard to even pay attention and found herself daydreaming about this or that as the Professor rambled on. He was a capable story teller, but after hearing the story six times already Sakura felt it hard to pay that much attention.
Once class came to an end Professor Flitwick was already waiting at the door to escort them to his classroom for Charms class. There seemed to have been some disagreement between him and Professor Lockhart, based on the formal and terse greeting he gave his fellow professor. However, as always, the dirty laundry of the adults was kept behind closed doors so none of the students knew what it was about. It was still a relief to have a second escort, though.
Sakura approached Professor Flitwick and asked in a quiet voice, "Do you think we could... go to..." She was hesitant to ask with the entire class around her.
"You need to go to the loo, Sakura?" Professor Lockhart asked loudly and eagerly from behind Sakura. Sounding quite heroic, especially given the banality of the trip, he continued, "Of course I can keep you safe from any monsters."
A flush of embarrassment immediately came to Sakura's face, and she could feel the stares and sniggers from the rest of the class behind her. She did her best to keep her head down and follow Professor Lockhart as he led her to the nearest bathroom, which was a relatively normal one to her relief. Not the bathroom with a certain weird ghost girl, or the one with the headache-inducing mirror, or the one with the backwards ceiling.
Sakura didn't dare turn around to see her classmates laughing at her, but she could hear the rest of the class starting to follow Professor Flitwick as she hurried past the first corner to follow Professor Lockhart. The time between the classes was a bit short, especially given they would need to get to the Charms classroom afte
Sakura's head felt weird. Not exactly a headache, but certainly not normal. It felt kind of like she had bumped her head, but she couldn't remember doing so. Maybe as she had had been sleeping? She tentatively felt around, but couldn't feel any particularly sore spots. She would have visited Madam Pomfrey in the hospital but it had been closed to everything except emergency cases ever since Penelope and Hermione had been found petrified, and she doubted a weird headache would count as one.
She took the privacy of the bathroom to adjust her clothing before leaving. It had gotten a bit rumpled and twisted in a few uncomfortable ways. Once she had done so, as well as finished all her business there, she rejoined Professor Lockhart and they both took a brisk walk to Professor Flitwick's classroom.
Sakura was able to rejoin her class with a bit of time to spare. She felt somewhat bad for Professor Lockhart as he strode away. He'd have quite the trip to get back to his classroom from the Charms classroom, even if he took the direct path rather than the detour they had followed in making their way to Professor Flitwick's class.
What followed was one of the best Charms classes Sakura could ever remember having. Charms which she had struggled with for weeks seemed to naturally flow. She couldn't even remember why she had had so much trouble in the past. Somehow what she remembered as being counterintuitive flowed naturally from her wand. Everything just made sense this time. She hoped it would stay that way for the final exams.
As class progressed her headache subsided. Subsided but didn't disappear. She still felt a bit weird, like there was an itching behind her eyes or she had a bump somewhere outside of her head or something. She thought and hoped it would go away eventually.
Once classes finished, Professor Flitwick escorted them back to the Ravenclaw dormitories. From there, there would be various mini-caravans departing to the various other locations around the castle under staff escort. It was far less convenient as compared to the month prior when the time between classes and dinner had been completely free. The escorts also made it so that Sakura and the others could only go to the most popular areas of the castle. There was no chance to go to an unused classroom to practice a bit of wandwork, and visiting a professor to get additional assistance with a subject was much trickier than normal.
Sakura already knew her destination. The Great Hall. Dinner was some time away yet but it was the easiest meeting place to get together with Syaoran. They could have instead met in the library, but the silence enforced by Madam Pince made doing anything there difficult. Gray Lady also still looked upon Syaoran with suspicion, and looked upon Sakura with disapproval anytime she was with him.
Once inside Ravenclaw Tower, Sakura quickly made her way to her dorm room to swap out her various books and supplies. As she approached, Keroberos flew over to greet her.
"Welcom..." Keroberos started saying, before abruptly asking, "What happened to the cards?"
The question confused Sakura for a second. What cards? She couldn't remember Keroberos asking about any cards before she had left Ravenclaw Tower in the morning.
"Cards? You wanted to play cards?" Sakura asked.
"What?" Keroberos asked.
"You asked for some cards. Did you want to play something? Maybe a game of wizard's trump?" Sakura asked. She wasn't about to suggest they try exploding snap again. They had tried playing it once before, but it hadn't gone well. Keroberos was too small relative to the cards used in the castle to effectively compete. That plus two unfortunate explosions and one very accidental slap had resulted in him swearing to never play again until they had a more appropriately sized deck.
Sakura was already half way to Linda's truck. Linda had a deck of cards and had an open offer to let others borrow it. However Keroberos interrupted, saying, "No. Not cards. I meant the cards." He had switched to Japanese, for some reason.
"What cards?" Sakura asked. She naturally switched languages as well to follow Keroberos's lead.
"The Sakura Cards. The one that are normally there," Keroberos said, pointing at one of the pockets in her uniform.
Sakura reflexively reached into the pocket, but didn't feel anything there. She pulled it open, turning it out as she did so. She said, "There's nothing there."
"I know that! Where are they?" Keroberos asked. He was getting more excited.
"Where are what? If you want cards, I think Linda has a deck," Sakura said, getting progressively more confused and frustrated as well.
"The cards that Clow made. Ya remember Clow, don'tcha?" Keroberos asked.
"Clow Reeds? You mean the wizard who created you," Sakura said. As if she could ever forget him. He had been the one to create Keroberos. He was also the past incarnation of Eriol who, along with Kaho and Keroberos and Syaoran, had been the one to introduce her to the world of magic and arrange for her to come to Hogwarts. But why was Keroberos bringing him up now?
"That's right," Keroberos said, somewhat mollified. "The cards he made, and ya converted. What happened to 'em?"
"He made some cards too? Were they special somehow?" Sakura asked. She wasn't sure how special one could make cards. Certainly not special enough to justify the big deal Keroberos was making of them.
"Ya mean ya don't remember 'em at all?" Keroberos asked. He was looking increasingly panicked.
"That's what I keep saying," Sakura said.
"How could ya forget 'em?" Keroberos asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sakura protested. "Stop making things up."
"I'm not makin' it up. Wait here," Keroberos said, and then flew out the door.
While Keroberos was out of the room, Sakura went back to her desk and went through the various books she wanted to bring with her for the afternoon. With a professor escorting them everywhere the knocker to Ravenclaw Tower wouldn't be an issue. That meant there was no need to bring the wandlore book she had found. She already had her Transfiguration book with her because of the classes she just had. Defense Against the Dark Arts would be silly, given the type of exams Professor Lockhart had been giving throughout the year. Charms might be valuable, but it would be difficult to practice in an open area like the Great Hall. In the end Sakura settled on her Astronomy book and her Potions book when Lisa came into the room.
"Here. You tell her, Lisa," Keroberos prompted. He was back to speaking English, as could be expected given Lisa's presence.
"Is it true you do not remember your cards?" Lisa asked.
Sakura felt really funny for some reason. It made her feel somewhat uncomfortable. For that reason as much as anything she protested, "You too? If this is a joke, it's not very funny."
"It's not a joke," Keroberos said. "How could just forget them after everything, with Syaoran, and Yue, and Eriol?"
Of course she remembered Syaoran, Yue, and Eriol, and the common thread of magic that linked them. Them along with Keroberos, Kaho, and herself. No cards were involved with any of that.
"And what about what happened last year, with Wayne in the greenhouse," Lisa added.
"You mean that weird banshee thing with Wayne? There weren't any cards with that," Sakura protested.
"Yes there was," Keroberos and Lisa both said.
"No there wasn't," Sakura disagreed. She was sure of it. Wayne had been playing around and had run into some kind of dangerous creature in the greenhouses. It was fortunate that she and the others had been around to help take care of it and then to escort him back to the hospital wing. There weren't any cards involved there, either. "Let's go ask Wayne. He'll remember."
The three of them hurried to catch the tail end of the group heading to the Great Hall. Lisa didn't have time to grab anything, but Sakura had enough to share. Lisa usually ended up reading with Wayne anyway, even when she did bring her own books.
When they reached the Great Hall, Syaoran and Wayne were already there and sitting in an open area at the Hufflepuff table. Keroberos flew ahead, and Sakura quickly gave chase to ensure they weren't conspiring for some joke against her.
"Big problem, brat," Keroberos said in Japanese, then lowered his voice. "Sakura-chan's forgotten all about the cards."
"What?" Syaoran exclaimed. He turned to Sakura and asked, "You forgot? How could you just forget about them?"
Sakura got that uncomfortable feeling again, but it was overshadowed by a feeling of worry. Keroberos on his own might be playing some sort of elaborate prank. He might have even been able to bring Lisa into it somehow. But Syaoran too? What if she had really forgotten something. Something really important, based on how they were all acting.
Desperately hoping, although for what Sakura wasn't sure, she asked in English, "There weren't any cards or anything involved with... what happened last year, near the greenhouses, were there, Wayne?"
"Huh? Of course there were. That's what started the whole thing to begin with," Wayne said. "That song thing and everything. I'm still bloody sorry about that."
"Hoe..." Sakura said.
"This is a big problem. What are we supposed to do about it?" Syaoran asked.
"We could go to see Madam Pomfrey," Lisa said.
"Or maybe the Headmistress. Too bad Professor Dumbledore's gone. He'd know what to do," Wayne added.
"No!" Syaoran and Keroberos both said simultaneously. In the tense environment of the Great Hall, the combined volume of their voices carried a lot further than normal. Sakura suddenly noticed the attention and the stares of the people around them.
Sakura waited for the impromptu audience to lose interest again before asking in a low voice, "Why not?"
"They might confiscate the cards as a dark artifact if they find them," Syaoran said in an equally low voice.
"What? I've been using a dark artifact?" Sakura almost exclaimed. She knew enough from Defense Against the Dark Arts class, albeit from Professor Quirrel, that such things were not to be trifled with. Maybe that was what had resulted in her current discomfort and apparent memory loss. But Keroberos, Syaoran, and the others seemed more worried about the cards' disappearance than their existence so that didn't quite make sense either.
"No, but she might think that. She might have gotten the wrong impression back when you transformed into that half-cat-thing back in January," Keroberos explained.
"You what?" Wayne exclaimed, re-drawing the attention of people around them.
"That..." Sakura started saying, but noticed the stares again. She paused. It took longer this time, but when nothing happened the spectators and eavesdroppers eventually lost interest again.
"That was related to these cards?" Sakura asked, still in a very low voice. The more she heard about them the more more convoluted these cards seemed. She decided to ask, "What can these cards do, anyway?"
"You said that they..." Wayne started saying.
"Shh..." Keroberos said, cutting him off. "I'll tell you later. There's too many people here."
"I can't study now. This is much more important. We've got to do something," Syaoran said, pushing himself to his feet and looking around.
"If we can't go to Madam Pomfrey or Professor McGonagall, maybe we can go to Professor Flitwick? He is the head of your house," Wayne said.
"No, we can't go to him either," Keroberos said. "He was there back in January."
"How about Professor Snape? He seems to treat you nicely," Wayne suggested.
Sakura knew the answer to that one too. She didn't remember anything about any cards, but she did remember his presence back in the hospital wing in January. She asked, "No, he was there too?" Keroberos and Syaoran both gave tiny nods at her question.
"Was everybody there besides me?" Wayne asked, giving a sign of exasperation. "How about Professor Sprout?"
"She's... she's nice... but I don't really think..." Sakura hesitantly said, not sure how to phrase what she felt politely. If this was really such a dire secret then she didn't really feel comfortable talking to Professor Sprout about it. She was the head to one of the houses, and she seemed like a nice enough person, but Sakura didn't really know the witch and so didn't feel that comfortable confiding in her. Not that she really knew what needed to be confided.
"Come on. Let's go see if Kaho's around. She might be able to help," Keroberos suggested. Of course. Kaho was always there for Sakura to go to.
"Maybe Eriol's back too," Syaoran hoped.
It took a bit of time, but there was enough traffic in the Great Hall such that they were able to find a professor who was willing to take them to visit another professor. Professor Sinistra's attempts at small talk on the way there made them exceptionally uncomfortable. It was an innocent enough question, asking why a group of first and second year students would be wanting to talk to the Muggle Studies professor, but it set them on edge. It was like Professor Sinistra already knew something was wrong. She seemed to accept Sakura's explanation that Kaho was just a friend she regularly visited, which was true but belied the real purpose of the visit.
Not that it did much good. Kaho's concern for Sakura, once Keroberos made it clear that Wayne and Lisa already knew a fair bit about the cards, was if anything even more dramatic than Keroberos's and Syaoran's. She was of the opinion that it should be escalated to Professor McGonagall immediately, although Syaoran and Keroberos were able to dissuade her in a similar manner as Sakura and the others earlier. Syaoran's hopes that Eriol had somehow made a return were not proven true either, as a quick check in the floo proved.
Kaho asked a couple of questions of the situation. They spoke in Japanese, to the consternation of Lisa and Wayne, and even then they still kept their voices down. While Sakura was able to follow the question and answer session somewhat, they exchanged references which left Sakura confused. Some of the references seemed utterly unrelated to the topic at hand, such as bringing up a series of unsolved vandalism cases from back in Japan. Other references she didn't even recognize, such as some trial that had occurred at some temple. Kaho clearly got more out of the discussion with Syaoran and Keroberos than Sakura herself did.
Of course Kaho promised to do what she could, but there was an undertone they all heard that she probably wouldn't be able to do very much. She suggested that maybe Keroberos might be able to assist. Apparently he could somehow feel the presence of these strange cards. Sakura was quite confused about what it all meant, but figured it would be explained to her at some point.
That would have to come later, though. Time was a limited commodity, and they were out of it. They had to cut the meeting off early if they were to be back at the Great Hall in time for dinner. Keroberos actually suggested skipping the meal, which more than anything hit home to Sakura at how big a deal this all was. However Kaho said that that wasn't an option. With the heightened security around the school, their absence would be quickly noticed and the few minutes they bought would overcome by the extra scrutiny they would incur thereafter.
Dinner was an understandably subdued affair. Gloria had joined them, as had Rogers and Giles. The former seemed to not notice the mood and instead spent a majority of time holding a half-hearted conversation about how unfair it was to cancel the remainder of the Quidditch season, especially with Gryffindor in the lead. The latter two were more perceptive and kept looking oddly at the rest of the group, but didn't raise any questions for the older non-Slytherin students. Sakura expected some interesting questions to Syaoran once the door to the Slytherin dorms closed.
The student body broke up after dinner, everybody going to their respective dormitories for the early evenings which had started being enforced throughout the school previous week.
Upon returning to Ravenclaw Tower, the first thing Sakura did was find a quiet alcove to talk to Keroberos about the cards. He had curtly dismissed Lisa from the discussion. Sakura didn't see what the problem was and wanted to include her friend, but Keroberos had been insistent and Sakura yielded to his judgment and superior knowledge. The pout on Lisa's face still stabbed at Sakura.
Once he was sure they were alone, Keroberos quietly started weaving a tale of magic for Sakura's ears. A tale of gigantic birds and bears, of rainbows and whirlpools, and of earthquakes and darkness. Sakura wasn't sure what to make of it all. Parts of it dovetailed cleanly into things she could remember from years past, but other parts diverged in wildly dramatic ways as well. It was all very fantastic and very different than any of the magic she had seen or even heard about at Hogwarts. Truth be told she was skeptical of it all, but given the big fuss from the past few hours, she was willing to give Keroberos the benefit of the doubt.
At the end of the explanation Keroberos announced that because he could sense the cards, although only some of them for some reason Sakura still didn't quite understand, he was going to start searching the castle. Sakura thought this was dangerous to say the least, given the situation with the Heir of Slytherin, but was so overwhelmed with everything that she didn't say anything. By the time she had composed herself Keroberos had already flown out of a window.
At this point, bereft of anything else to do, Sakura approached Lisa. Lisa had a large stack of books in front of her. She explained that she thought they should go through a quick review of everything they had learned in the past year. It would be good to check if Sakura had any other mysterious memory gaps, and regardless it'd be a good review in preparation for the final examinations coming up in a few weeks.
To Sakura's relief there didn't seem to be any other holes in her memory that her companion could tell. At least her academic standings were secure. That didn't stop her night from be troubled by nameless fears plaguing her thoughts.
Breakfast was better attended than even the start of the year. Undoubtedly the nervous tension of the recent attacks had caused everybody to have trouble sleeping. The hope of safety in large numbers must have helped too. Combined together, it resulted in basically the entire student body now showing up for breakfasts. Despite that the meal was a much more subdued event than before as well. People only spoke in whispers amongst themselves. Animated whispers, but quiet whispers nonetheless. The warm murmur of human activity was all but absent from the Great Hall.
There was a commensurate increase in mail as well. It was so much that at times the huge flock of owls blacked out the sun as seen through the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. From this large collective mass one of the owls emerged and descended upon Gloria. It never had a problem locating her, even when she sat at the Ravenclaw table. What was a surprise was Gloria's reaction. She opened the letter normally, eating a piece of toast with one hand while reading the letter with the other. Then her hand holding the toast froze and she stopped chewing. She then dropped the toast on the table and grabbed the letter with both hands.
Gloria gave a hard swallow, stood up, and declared, "They can't be serious. They can't do that."
Her voice drew the attention of a few of the Ravenclaw students surrounding them. She had spoken quietly enough, but the declaration still carried in the hushed room.
"Of course they can't," Luna said in agreement, holding a copy of the Quibbler in her hands. Sakura was getting adapt at this, and barely had a problem reading the upside down headline "MINISTRY COVERS GERMAN VEGITABLES SOUR".
"I'll be right back," Gloria said. She stepped over the bench and almost ran over to the Slytherin table, letter clutched in her hand.
"What do you think that was all about?" Sakura asked.
"It looks like... yeah, she's talking to James. It must be some family thing," Syaoran suggested.
Sakura turned to look around, watching as Gloria had some animated conversation with her brother. Although their voices didn't raise enough to be heard, Gloria's gesticulations were clear evidence that her emotions were running high. Gloria shoved her letter into James's hands. More sedately, he took out a letter as well and showed it to Gloria. She read it for a bit, threw it back at James, snatched her own, and then stormed back to the Ravenclaw table.
"What's wrong?" Sakura asked.
"Here. Read this," Gloria said, shoving her letter into Sakura's hands.
"Dear Gloria," Sakura read out loud for the benefit of the others at the table. The poor handwriting meant that she had to read slowly. "Your dad and I were horrified to hear about what happened to your classmates. We're only glad you weren't hurt. I hope..."
"No, no, no. Here," Gloria interrupted, pointing to a section about a third of the way through the letter.
Sakura dutifully skipped forward, reading, "... so we are... transferring you to Fairyward Academy?"
"What?" Lisa and Wayne asked.
"My parents were starting to think that Hogwarts was getting to be too dangerous. Now that Hermione and Penelope were petrified and Professor Dumbledore's suspended they're sure of it. They're transferring me to Fairyward Academy. It's the same school my dad went to," Gloria said.
"That's nice. I wonder if fairy wards are different than wizard wards," Luna said, looking like she was addressing her bowl of porridge.
"Nice? Are you kidding? They don't even play Quidditch there," Gloria protested.
"But it's not all bad. I'm sure it's a lot safer than Hogwarts. They probably don't have all these dangerous attacks," Sakura said.
"I don't need to be kept safe," Gloria protested. "I can handle anything here."
Syaoran sent a meaningful glance to Sakura, but it fell flat. Sakura wasn't sure what it was supposed to mean.
"Oh, this is just terrible," Gloria said. She pushed away her plate and said, "I'm not hungry anymore."
She spent the remainder of the meal with her head in her hands. As she was sitting in the middle of the group it soured the mood even more, not that the tense atmosphere of the Great Hall was very conducive to socializing in the first place.
The rest of the meal passed by in near silence. Sakura wasn't sure what the others were thinking about, but for her part she was reflecting with longing upon the simpler time she had had her first year at Hogwarts.
Professor Flitwick moved his wand with the ease and confidence of years of experience. At his command, all of the practice books in the room obediently flew across the room and lined up on the table on the other half of the room.
Once they had settled in place, Professor Flitwick commanded, "Again."
Almost as one, the class pointed their wands and recited, "Accio practice book."
The brown tome with golden lettering Sakura was using for her practice snapped forward neatly into her hand. Anthony likewise had his book promptly respond, as did Mandy Brocklehurt. Lisa's book landed at her feet, forcing her to reach down to take possession. Her summoning was better than Terry Boot's, whose book landed only half to him. He belatedly cast a second summoning charm to retrieve it.
"Well done, Sakura, well done. I see you finally started applying yourself to your wandwork," Professor Flitwick said to Sakura.
She wasn't quite sure how to take that statement. It seemed like a complement, but it seemed like an insult as well. She muttered out a halfhearted, "Thank you."
Over the past few days, Sakura's Charms had remarkably improved. Even Lisa had commented on it in Ravenclaw Tower during practice. With nothing else to base it on, she could only attribute her new found proficiency to the mysterious ailment which had caused her to forget about those equally mysterious cards. If so, whatever else it might have been the disappearance of the cards wasn't all bad. It also meant that she wasn't exceptionally enthusiastic to re-find the cards. It felt good to actually be able to perform well in Charms class. She knew she should have been more worried about the loss of those strange cards, but she wasn't. She remembered having so much trouble with her wandwork throughout the past two years. It felt so nice for it to finally just work.
Not that Keroberos or any of the others let it be. During the free time between classes and dinner Kaho escorted Syaoran, Sakura, and Lisa through the halls of the school. Lisa guided them through what she remembered of that fateful day. They started at Ravenclaw Tower, where Keroberos was sure Sakura had had the cards before breakfast. Sakura and Lisa couldn't be sure of the path they had taken, though. The mutability of Hogwarts Castle meant that on any given trip the most convenient path from point A to point B would change, and neither Sakura nor Lisa had paid too much attention to where they were going that day. Combined with the fact that a professor had been leading them so they took less usual paths through the castle meant that there was no way to be sure they were on the right track.
All of their searching was in vain. No bright pink book or bright pink cards were visible in any hall. Some subtle questioning of the professors they had had that day revealed nothing either. Nobody had found a misplaced book in their classroom or seen anything unusual.
Keroberos was making an additional effort in his searching. He would disappear for hours on end, usually during the day but sometimes at night, and search through the hallways. As a non-student, his presence was much less tracked than the others. In fact, the only people who really noticed his absence were Sakura's roommates, especially Deborah, and it was easy to give them a good excuse for his prowling. His fake form made sneaking around the castle relatively simple too. He might have been a vivid yellow, but he was also small. However his searches were equally in vain. He hadn't found anything of note either.
School coming to an end in a few weeks at which point all hope would be lost. They were getting to the point of considering asking Professor McGonnagal directly for some help. They would need a good cover story.
"Accio practice book," Linda said, a third time, finally retrieving her book.
"You'd better practice more before the exams, Linda," Professor Flitwick chastised, earning a look of embarrassment from the girl as the rest of the class looked at her in amusement.
"All students to return to their House dormitories at once. All teachers return to the staffroom. Immediately, please," Professor McGonagall's voice rang out, interrupting the session. Her magically conducted voice seemed to come from all corners of the room. It startled everybody, including Professor Flitwick.
Immediately the pit fell out of Sakura's stomach. There had been some cautious optimism ever since Professor McGonagall had announced that the mandrake restorative droughts were finally finished and all the petrified people might be recovered. Despite not having any real proof that this announcement was related to that one, Sakura couldn't help but feel that this announcement was somehow evidence that things had not gone to plan. She chanced a glance at Lisa. She had a frown on her face which matched Sakura's own.
"All right, everybody, class is over. Return to your dorms, right now," Professor Flitwick's voice followed Professor McGonagall's with authority. "No, no, leave the books. Just gather your own things and go."
Without waiting to see if his instructions were followed, Professor Flitwick left the classroom. The students followed shortly thereafter to return to Ravenclaw Tower.
It was getting to be something of a habit. The huddled group of students made their way through the wide stony corridors of Hogwarts Castle while all eyes automatically searched the dark corners in the nooks and alcoves of the once cheerful hallways. They hadn't looked so ominous since the supposed discovery that Harry was the Heir of Slytherin.
Despite the lack of specific danger, Sakura was more nervous than she could ever remember being for such a trip. Sakura kept nervously clutching at the necklace hanging around her neck. It was the same one Syaoran had given her the previous year on White Day. It somehow didn't quite feel right, either around her neck or in her hand. That was probably because up until about a week prior she hadn't worn it much at all. She couldn't remember why she hadn't.
Like always, her nerves were wholly unnecessary. The group made it back without incident. The large group of students made it easy to answer the knocker's question despite the tension, and everybody was able to enter without anything of note occurring.
The third-year and fourth-year Ravenclaw students were already back in the dormitories when Sakura entered it. The other years entered shortly thereafter. The last ones to return were the first-years, who trailed just behind the sixth-years.
With nothing else to do, everybody stayed clustered in the common room, wondering what was going to happen next. With such a high student to space ratio it was inevitable that the Ravenclaws started the school pastime of gossiping. Quietly. The atmosphere pressed down harder than the library under the watchful glare of Madam Pince.
Not that it did much good. Nobody knew what had happened. It was quick to verify nobody new had gone missing. If, for example, Linda had disappeared, everybody in the second-year class would know it and it would be the talk of the house. There was no such rumor, which was evidence enough that nobody had disappeared from Ravenclaw.
Professor Flitwick showed up several minutes after the last student had appeared and announced that everybody should pack up and that the Hogwarts Express would be arriving tomorrow to bring everybody home. The remainder of the school year, including exams, was being canceled.
This prompted a flurry of questions, but Professor Flitwick was short on answers. He wouldn't say why classes were being canceled. He wouldn't say if there had been another victim. He wouldn't say if the Heir of Slytherin had been discovered. He wouldn't say if school would be re-opening the following year. He wouldn't say what would happen with grades, or to their O.W.L.s, or to their N.E.W.T.s. He really wouldn't say anything at all. He wouldn't even say what would happen for dinner that day.
The gossip and speculation continued for the rest of the afternoon, but nobody had any answers to give. Ravenclaw could invent stories with the best of them, but there had to be at least a kernel of fact to work off of, and the only facts they had were that classes had been canceled and that everybody would be returning home on the Hogwarts Express the next day. They didn't even know if their parents had been notified so as to pick up their children. It was hard to imagine that they hadn't been, but still the students with owl familiars were suddenly very popular in Ravenclaw Tower.
Sakura wasn't sure at all what was going to happen. She had assumed at the end of classes she would use the floo network with Kaho to return to Clow Manor like she had the previous year and for the Winter Holiday, but the topic hadn't come up yet. Now, there was no way for her to communicate with Kaho to find out. It worried her. She expected and hoped that she would run into Kaho at some point to verify this, but that was only that: an expectation and a hope.
It was one of the longest afternoons Sakura had ever had.
Several hours later, a sharp rap came at the door. It caught the attention of everybody in the hushed Ravenclaw common room. After a few seconds the door swung open, revealing the small form of Professor Flitwick again. It must have been the announcement for dinner. It felt like it had been days since they had been left in the Ravenclaw dormitories, although a check of the time showed it was still late afternoon.
He somberly announced, "The Heir of Slytherin has been found and dealt with..."
A spontaneously bout of cheering and applause made it impossible for the rest of his statement to be heard. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief, and joined in the clapping as well.
Questions immediately started flying. Who was it? How did all those people get petrified? What was the Heir trying to do? How did they catch the Heir?
Professor Flitwick held up his hand, quieting everybody down. He continued, "Like I was saying, the Heir of Slytherin has been dealt with, and Professor Dumbledore has returned to the castle..."
Another spontaneous bout of cheering and applause. Another round of questions. All of these were fended off a second time as Professor Flitwick raised his hand for quiet again. He continued again, "We will be finishing out the school year as normal. Professor Dumbledore will explain everything at dinner, which will be held in its usual time in the Great Hall."
Dinner was as different to breakfast as Hogwarts was to Tomoeda.
The professorial escorts had ended. The silent oppressive gloom of the Heir of Slytherin was gone. The previously petrified students were being restored. Professor Dumbledore was back front and center in the Great Hall. All was right with the world.
The only thing which was odd was that Professor Lockhart was missing. His absence stood out almost as much as Professor Dumbledore or a head of house's absence would have. Despite not having such a prominent role in the staff, his celebrity status and eye-catching dress and behavior meant he couldn't help but draw attention. Normally his absence would have been immediately remarked upon, but today all the students were more interested in Professor Dumbledore's return and the story behind the Heir of Slytherin.
Once everybody had settled, Professor Dumbledore began his explanation.
He claimed that somehow Voldemort, whose name Sakura didn't recognize but caused everybody around her to wince, had been the source of the problem. The source of the attacks had been a basilisk, who had been defeated in the Chamber of Secrets through the brave actions of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. At the naming of the pair, everybody turned to face them. Ron slightly preened in the attention. The Boy Who Lived had a satisfied look of relief on his face as well, and excepting some dirt and grime looked none the worse for the wear.
For Harry's and Ron's remarkable bravery and achievement, Professor Dumbledore was awarding Gryffindor 400 points. This easily let Gryffindor leap past Ravenclaw and take a decisive lead in the house cup, causing the Gryffindor table to break out in wild celebration. The announcement was received with much more muted applause from the other tables, especially Sakura's own. Professor Snape looked like he was in physical pain, and Professor Flitwick looked fairly cross. Even Professor Sprout looked mildly upset. It was the first time Sakura had ever seen the normally jolly witch take on that particular facial expression.
After the cheering, mostly from the Gryffindor table, died down, Professor Dumbledore then announced that that Professor Lockhart would no longer be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. Apparently some accident had befallen him to cause him to lose his memories. He would be leaving the school while he attempted to recover his memories.
The comment about Professor Lockhart's memories couldn't help but catch Sakura's attention. Her own memories had been lost as well. It was a rather large coincidence. Maybe they were related. With Professor Dumbledore's restoration to Hogwarts, at least one avenue of pursuit had opened. It sounded like this might be a second.
The final announcement Professor Dumbledore said was that he would be canceling exams for the year. This announcement was met with near universal approval from the student body.
Professor Dumbledore then brandished his wand and gave a grand wave, causing a feast to appear at each table unlike Sakura had ever seen before. It was larger than the Halloween feast, grander than the feast after the sorting ceremony, and more opulent than anything Sakura had ever seen before.
The nominally normal dinner quickly devolved after that. Despite the bountiful feast, it could have been a snack tray for how people treated it. Nobody was in a mood to eat. Instead there was much socializing, joking around, and general partying.
As could be expected after Professor Dumbledore's announcement, Harry and Ron was the men of the hour. People flocked to them, especially Harry. A large number of Gryffindor students cheered him on or apologized to him. In all of the houses there was a single question, and only two people had the answer to it: what had actually happened?
Ron claimed to not know very much, having been separated before the actual confrontation in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry for his part was close-lipped and provided very few details. In fact, there was every reason to suspect that he wasn't even telling the truth. Based on how Hogwarts gossip traveled, chances were that they both would only tell the truth of what actually happened to their fellow Gryffindors in the safety of Gryffindor Tower. From there, select details would spread out to the other houses through informal channels of friendship. Maybe.
The party went on all night. With no exams, no classes the next day, no reason to go to bed, and no inclination to study, there was no reason to stop the so-called dinner. The teachers left all the students be as well, making no move to herd everybody out of the room. The teachers ate their dinner, and then started mingling as well, primarily with each other.
Sakura had the time of her life. She could tell that Syaoran and Kaho were worried, though. Probably because the year was coming to a close and these strange cards had never reappeared. Not only them, either. Keroberos, who had surreptitiously sneaked in to dinner, was worried too. Even the plethora of tasty treats wasn't enough to distract the perpetually hungry guardian beast.
Just one day after the feast life in Hogwarts had once again returned to normal yet again. Normal normal, this time. All of the petrified students and ghost had been restored, and the fear of the Heir of Slytherin had evaporated faster than a nightmare against the morning sunlight.
Classes continued on, but it was a half-hearted affair. With the Summer Holiday right around the corner and without the threat exams everybody just went through the motions. It was obvious the students didn't care at all, and it was equally obvious that the professors didn't want to force them to care. It was substantially less obvious that the professors didn't care either.
This new-found apathy meant that interactions between teacher and students were at an all-time low. Even detentions were down despite student behavior being a bit more exuberant since the announcement that the Heir of Slytherin had been dealt with. About the only person regularly giving detentions now was Professor Snape.
It was thus something of a surprise to Sakura when she looked up at Penelope's announcement. The restored prefect poked her head into Sakura's dorm room and said, "Sakura? Professor Mizuki is looking for you."
"Hoe?" Sakura asked. She wondered what Kaho had wanted with her. Her thoughts immediately turned to Syaoran, and with that the dread in her stomach was seeded.
"She's out in the common room," Penelope added, gesturing behind her.
The dread in Sakura's stomach grew. She could count on two hands the number of times throughout the year when a professor besides Professor Flitwick had visited Ravenclaw Tower, and most of those were by the head of one of the other houses. Sakura could only worry, wondering what had happened that was so bad that Kaho had come to visit her in person.
Sakura flashed over to her bed, her dresser, and her trunk, verifying that Keroberos hadn't sneaked back into the room while she had been working at her desk. Just like the week before, Keroberos was still wandering around the halls of Hogwarts Castle in search of those strange cards. At least since Professor Dumbledore's wonderful announcement that the Heir of Slytherin had been dealt with the level of danger Keroberos faced had dramatically decreased.
Then again, Keroberos hadn't returned. Maybe something had happened to him. Maybe something had happened to both him and Syaoran.
Sakura left her books where they were and hurried out to the common room.
As Penelope had said, Kaho was standing near the main entrance to the common room. All around the room, the various Ravenclaw students were subtly and not-subtly staring at her. The unusual nature of a random professor visiting had presumably piqued all of their interest as well.
"Professor Mizuki," Sakura greeted, her moderate voice carrying in the relatively silent common room.
"Heya!" Keroberos called out, flying out from behind Kaho. His much more exuberant voice carried much more than Sakura's more tense greeting. The simple word did a lot for Sakura. It was obvious that Keroberos was safe. And happy. And excited. And generally being Keroberos. Whatever Kaho's news was, it couldn't be that bad. If anything, it was probably something good. But it was weird. Despite knowing that, Sakura's feelings of dread didn't change that much.
"Kero-chan? You're here too?" Sakura asked.
"We should probably go somewhere quieter, Sakura. Why don't you come with me to my office?" Kaho suggested.
Sakura naturally agreed and followed the two of them out of Ravenclaw Tower. As she walked, Sakura felt weird. She had thought her feelings were those of unease, but she couldn't think of what she should be worried about, so it must have been something else. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it was subtly different as well.
She was still thinking about that when Kaho closed the door behind her, and allowed Sakura to take a seat.
"We found them," Kaho said, reaching into a pocket and pulled something out.
The flash of something went through Sakura at the sight of what appeared to be a book with a bright pink cover.
"The cards?" Sakura asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah, we found them," Keroberos said. Sakura only half heard him, being distracted by something.
"Professor Lockhart had them. We searched his..." Kaho started explaining, not that Sakura heard her. She felt more than heard the rush in her ears.
She knew, just knew, that the cards were inside that book.
"The Windy," Sakura whispered to herself, surprising herself as much as anything. Images of a dusty basement, and translucent chains of wind surrounding Yue.
"The Fly," Sakura whispered a bit louder. Chasing down a magical bird on her skates. Facing a giant stuffed bear.
"The Shadow," she said more confidently. A sports field bathed in light and a cloaked figure hovering along the ground. They were coming faster now.
"The Watery," she said faster.
"The Rain. The Wood. The Jump," she continued. The images, her memories, sped up more. Faster and faster until she could no longer keep up. It began as a trickle, became a flood, turned into a deluge, and was now closer an ocean. She felt lost in time and space as they surrounded and immersed her.
She felt exhausted. Not physically tired, or even emotionally tired. It was quite unlike anything she had felt before. No, not quite unlike. It did feel somewhat similar to January, when her transformation into that strange cat hybrid had been reverted. There was a relief for that pressure she had felt but not realized for the past week, and it felt like there was some bump which had finally been removed from her head.
Kaho and Keroberos were both watching her in concern as she came to. She found herself sitting on a chair. She weakly said, "I remember."
"You do? The cards and everything?" Keroberos asked.
Sakura nodded as she picked up the book and the Key from Kaho, returning them to the rightful place in her robe and around her neck. The Key settled down next to the necklace she had received from Syaoran, bumping into it. The two necklaces around her neck were mismatched and they kept banging into each other. That had been why she hadn't been wearing Syaoran's necklace very often.
"It was Professor Lockhart," Sakura explained quickly. "He got me alone and cast something. Obrarilate or something. He then took the cards and the Key."
"I see. I had suspected as much when we found them hidden in a trunk of his," Kaho said.
"'I see.' Is that all you can say? He attacked Sakura and stole the cards! He should be punished!" Keroberos said, staring down at Kaho from above.
"And he knows about the cards. He might try to take them again," Sakura added. Her decision to not return to Hogwarts the next year was feeling more and more correct all the time. Kaho and Eriol had warned about the cards being a target for theft, but she hadn't fully appreciated what that had meant. As it was, she would be counting the days until she could leave.
Kaho held up her hand to forestall any protests. Once Sakura and Keroberos became silent, Kaho explained, "He's already been punished, in a manner of speaking. He tried to erase the memory of some other students too, but the spell backfired and he erased all of his own memory."
So she hadn't been his only victim? Sakura wasn't sure if that made her feel better or feel worse.
"Se he can't remember anything? No cards, and no attacking me?" Sakura asked to make sure.
"He can't remember anything, from what we can tell. Total amnesia. He can't even remember any of the books he wrote," Kaho explained.
The punishment might be appropriate, but it felt so inadequate somehow.
A loud knock on the door interrupted them. Sakura double checked that her cards and the Key were out of sight as Kaho opened the door. Syaoran was standing outside of the door, out of breath. He asked, "You called?"
"Syaoran-kun," Sakura said, bursting with the good news. It must have been what Keroberos had felt earlier in Ravenclaw tower. She grabbed her boyfriend's hand and pulled him into the room. She excitedly gushed out, "We found them. I remember now."
Last Updated: February 17, 2014