Chapter 4: The Boggart in the Wardrobe

Malfoy didn't reappear in classes until late on Thursday morning when the Slytherins and Gryffindors were halfway through double Potions. He swaggered into the dungeon, his right arm covered in bandages and bound up in a sling, acting, in Harry's opinion, as though he were the heroic survivor of some dreadful battle. John immediately centered his gaze on Draco and didn't waver from staring at the brat.

"How is it, Draco?" simpered Pansy Parkinson. "Does it hurt much?"

"Yeah," said Malfoy, putting on a brave sort of grimace. But Harry saw him wink at Crabbe and Goyle when Pansy had looked away.

"Settle down, settle down," said Professor Snape idly.

Harry, John, and Ron scowled at each other; Snape wouldn't have said "settle down" if they'd walked in late, he'd have given them detention. He would've also taken points from Ravenclaw house as well because he hates John much more than he hates Harry. Unfortunately, Malfoy had always been able to get away with anything in Snape's classes; Snape was head of Slytherin House, and generality favored his House's students above all others.

They were making a new potion today, a Shrinking Solution. Malfoy set up his cauldron right next to Harry and Ron so that they were preparing their ingredients on the same table. He was as far away from John as he could be though. John must still terrify the git.

"Sir," Malfoy called, "sir, I'll need help cutting up these daisy roots, because of my arm…"

"Weasley, cut up Malfoy's roots for him," said Snape without looking up.

Ron went brick red.

"There's nothing wrong with your arm," he hissed at Malfoy.

Malfoy smirked across the table.

"Weasley, you heard Professor Snape; cut up these roots."

Ron seized his knife, pulled Malfoy's roots toward him, and began to chop them roughly so that they were all different sizes.

"Professor," drawled Malfoy, "Weasley's mutilating my roots, sir."

"Et usque ad radices!" John quickly muttered behind his hands.

Snape approached their table, stared down his hooked nose at the roots, and frowned. He proceeded to turn around and walk off. Draco was taken aback by that and when he looked down, he saw the roots were now even with one another. He then looked up at John who was busy working on his potion, but he wasn't fooled. He had a gut feeling that John had intervened with his attempt at bullying Ron.

"Sir," Malfoy said loudly, "I need this shrivelfig skinned."

"Constantine," Snape said looking up with absolute hate toward John, "Skin them for Malfoy."

John frowned, but he did as requested anyway. However, he didn't do it the traditional way. Instead, he pulled out an item that looked like tweezers. In five seconds flat, every shrivelfig at their table had been skinned. Draco glared at John angrily.

"Seen your pal Hagrid lately?" he asked them quietly.

"Piss off," John said as he returned to his potion.

"I'm afraid he won't be a teacher much longer," said Malfoy in a tone of mock sorrow. "Father's not very happy about my injury-"

"I healed that injury, Malfoy," John said darkly, "and I return it just as easily. Unless you want to be injured for real… shut your goddamn gob."

"Father's complained to the school governors. And to the Ministry of Magic. Father's got a lot of influence, you know. And a lasting injury like this," Draco paused as he gave a huge, fake sigh, "who knows if my arm'll ever be the same again?"

"So that's why you're putting it on," said Harry, accidentally beheading a dead caterpillar because his hand was shaking in anger. "To try to get Hagrid fired."

"You want me to return the injury…" John realized, "That way your father will win…"

"Well," said Malfoy, lowering his voice to a whisper, "partly, Potter. But there are other benefits too. Weasley, slice my caterpillars for me."

"Looks like you're not as dumb as you look, traitor," Malfoy added to John.

A few cauldrons away, Neville was in trouble. Neville regularly went to pieces in Potions lessons; it was his worst subject, and his great fear of Professor Snape made things ten times worse. His potion, which was supposed to be a bright, acid green, had turned-

"Orange, Longbottom," said Snape, ladling some up and allowing to splash back into the cauldron, so that everyone could see.

"Orange. Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn't you hear me say, quite clearly, that only one rat spleen was needed? Didn't I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?"

Neville was pink and trembling. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears.

"Please, sir," said Hermione, "please, I could help Neville put it right-"

"I don't remember asking you to show off, Miss Granger," said Snape coldly, and Hermione went as pink as Neville. "Longbottom, at the end of this lesson we will feed a few drops of this potion to your toad and see what happens. Perhaps that will encourage you to do it properly."

Snape moved away, leaving Neville breathless with fear.

"Help me!" he moaned to Hermione.

"Hey, Harry," said Seamus Finnigan, leaning over to borrow Harry's brass scales, "have you heard? Daily Prophet this morning… they reckon Sirius Black's been sighted."

"Where?" said Harry and Ron quickly. On the other side of the table, Malfoy looked up, listening closely. John also directed his attention to Seamus. While he had been believing the same as everyone else concerning Black, something didn't sit right with him. Why wait three years to go after Harry instead of doing so the moment he resurfaced in the Wizarding World? He's been thinking about that a lot lately.

"Not too far from here," said Seamus, who looked excited. "It was a Muggle who saw him. 'Course, she didn't really understand. The Muggles think he's just an ordinary criminal, don't they? So she phoned the telephone hotline. By the time the Ministry of Magic got there, he was gone."

"Not too far from here…" Ron repeated, looking significantly at Harry. He turned around and saw Malfoy watching closely. "What, Malfoy? Need something else skinned?"

"Thinking Of trying to catch Black single-handed, Potter?"

"Yeah, that's right," said Harry offhandedly.

Malfoys thin mouth was curving in a mean smile.

"Of course, if it was me," he said quietly, "I'd have done something before now. I wouldn't be staying in school like a good boy, I'd be out there looking for him."

"What are you talking about, Malfoy?" asked Ron roughly.

"Don't you know, Potter?" breathed Malfoy, his pale eyes narrowed.

"Know what?"

Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.

"Maybe you'd rather not risk your neck," he said. "Want to leave it to the dementors, do you? But if it was me, I'd want revenge. I'd hunt him down myself."

"And then you'd either die or run with your tail between your legs, you boastful git," John said rolling his eyes.

"What are you talking about?" said Harry angrily, but at that moment Snape called, "You should have finished adding your ingredients by now; this potion needs to stew before it can be drunk, so clear away while it simmers and then we'll test Longbottom's…"

Crabbe and Goyle laughed openly, watching Neville sweat as he stirred his potion feverishly. Hermione was muttering instructions to him out of the corner of her mouth so that Snape wouldn't see. Harry and Ron packed away their unused ingredients and went to wash their hands and ladles in the stone basin in the corner.

"What did Malfoy mean?" Harry muttered to Ron as he stuck his hands under the icy jet that poured from the gargoyle's mouth "Why would I want revenge on Black? He hasn't done anything to me… yet."

"He's making it up," said Ron savagely. "He's trying to make you do something stupid…"

The end of the lesson in sight, Snape strode over to Neville, who was cowering by his cauldron.

"Everyone gather 'round," said Snape, his black eyes glittering. "and watch what happens to Longbottom's toad. If he has managed to produce a Shrinking Solution, it will shrink to a tadpole. If, as I don't doubt, he has done it wrong, his toad is likely to be poisoned."

The Gryffindors watched fearfully. The Slytherins looked excited. John just had his usual grim expression. Snape picked up Trevor the toad in his left hand and dipped a small spoon into Neville's potion, which was now green. He trickled a few drops down Trevor's throat.

There was a moment of hushed silence, in which Trevor gulped; then there was a small pop, and Trevor the tadpole was wriggling in Snape's palm.

The Gryffindors burst into applause. Snape, looking sour, pulled a small bottle from the pocket of his robe, poured a few drops on top of Trevor, and he reappeared suddenly, fully grown.

"Five points from Gryffindor," said Snape, which wiped the smiles from every face. "I told you not to help him, Miss Granger. Class dismissed."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione climbed the steps to the entrance hall. Harry was still thinking about what Malfoy had said, while Ron was seething about Snape.

"Five points from Gryffindor because the potion was all right?!" Ron said angrily, "Why didn't You lie, Hermione? You should've said Neville did it all by himself!"

"If she had, Snape would've taken more points," John said having caught up with them, "Everyone knows that Neville's an idiot. Genius in herbology, but an idiot in everything else."

Hermione didn't answer. Ron looked around.

"Where is she?"

Harry and John turned too. They were at the top of the steps now, watching the rest of the class pass them, heading for the Great Hall and lunch.

"She was right behind us," said Ron, frowning.

Malfoy passed them, walking between Crabbe and Goyle. He smirked at Harry and disappeared.

"There she is," said Harry.

Hermione was panting slightly, hurrying up the stairs; one hand clutched her bag, the other seemed to be tucking something down the front of her robes.

"How did you do that?" said Ron.

"What?" said Hermione, joining them.

"One minute you were right behind us, the next moment, you were back at the bottom of the stairs again."

"What?" Hermione looked slightly confused. "Oh… I had to go back for something. Oh no-"

A seam had split on Hermione's bag. Harry wasn't surprised; he could see that it was crammed with at least a dozen large and heavy books.

"Why are you carrying all these around with you?" Ron asked her.

"You know how many subjects I'm taking," said Hermione breathlessly. "Couldn't hold these for me, could you?"

"But…" Ron was turning over the books she had handed him, looking at the covers, "You haven't got any of these subjects today. It's only Defense Against the Dark Arts this afternoon."

"Oh yes," said Hermione vaguely, but she packed all the books back into her bag just the same.

"I hope there's something good for lunch, I'm starving," she added, and she marched off toward the Great Hall.

"D'you get the feeling Hermione's not telling us something?" Ron asked Harry.

"I know I do," John said staring after her, "and I am going to find out what she's hiding."

"Hey," Ron said realizing something, "Where's your girlfriend?"

"I don't have a-" John began bluntly.

"He means Fleur," Harry interrupted.

"She needed to go back to the French Embassy for a bit," John replied, "She'll be back in time for DADA."

Later, in the DADA classroom…

Professor Lupin wasn't there when they arrived at his first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. They all sat down, took out their books, quills, and parchment, and were talking when he finally entered the room. Lupin smiled vaguely and placed his tatty old briefcase on the teacher's desk. He was as shabby as ever but looked healthier than he had on the train, as though he had had a few square meals.

"Good afternoon," he said. "Would you please put all your books back in your bags. Today's will be a practical lesson. You will need only your wands."

A few curious looks were exchanged as the class put away their books. They had never had a practical Defense Against the Dark Arts before unless you counted the memorable class last year when their old teacher had brought a cageful of pixies to class and set them loose.

"Right then," said Professor Lupin, when everyone was ready. "If you'd follow me."

Puzzled but interested, the class got to its feet and followed Professor Lupin out of the classroom. He led them along the deserted corridor and around a corner, where the first thing they saw were Geeves and Peeves the school Poltergeists, who were floating upside down in midair and stuffing the nearest keyhole with chewing gum. Peeves had been released from the vial John had trapped him in, which John considered to be a bad idea. Now they had two insane poltergeists to deal with.

Peeves didn't look up until Professor Lupin was two feet away; then he wiggled his curly-toed feet and broke into song. Geeves sang along.

"Loony, loopy Lupin," Peeves and Geeves sang. "Loony, loopy Lupin, loony, loopy Lupin-"

Rude and unmanageable as he almost always was, Peeves and Geeves usually showed some respect toward the teachers. Everyone looked quickly at Professor Lupin to see how he would take this; to their surprise, he was still smiling.

"I'd take that gum out of the keyhole if I were you, Peeves," he said pleasantly. "Mr. Filch won't be able to get into his brooms."

Filch was the Hogwarts caretaker, a bad-tempered, failed wizard who waged a constant war against the students and, indeed, the poltergeists. However, they paid no attention to Professor Lupin's words, except to blow a loud wet raspberry.

"Why is Geeves still around?" Ron asked confused but quietly, "When we first saw him, it was after Peeves was captured."

"Once a poltergeist rears its ugly head," John said grimly, "it doesn't ever leave willingly."

"One was bad," Seamus muttered, "but two… that's just…"

"This is a useful little spell," he told the class over his shoulder attracting their attention, "Please watch closely."

He raised the wand to shoulder height, said, "Waddiwasi!"

He then aimed it at Peeves and Geeves both.

With the force of a bullet, the wad of chewing gum shot out of the keyhole and straight down both Peeves and Geeves' left nostrils; they whirled upright and zoomed away, cursing. The wad of gum hadn't even split in half. They were now connected by several stubborn strings of gum.

"Cool, sir!" said Dean Thomas in amazement.

"Thank you, Dean," said Professor Lupin, putting his wand away again. "Shall we proceed?"

They set off again, the class looking at shabby Professor Lupin with increased respect. He led them down a second corridor and stopped, right outside the staffroom door.

"Inside, please," said Professor Lupin, opening it and standing back.

The staffroom, a long, paneled room full of old, mismatched chairs, was empty except for one teacher. Professor Snape was sitting in a low armchair, and he looked around as the class filed in. His eyes were glittering and there was a nasty sneer playing around his mouth. As Professor Lupin came in and made to close the door behind him, Snape said, "Leave it open, Lupin. I'd rather not witness this."

He got to his feet and strode past the class, his black robes billowing behind him. At the doorway, he turned on his heel and said, "Possibly no one warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear."

Neville went scarlet. Harry glared at Snape; it was bad enough that he bullied Neville in his classes, let alone doing it in front of other teachers.

Professor Lupin had raised his eyebrows.

"I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation," he said, "and I am sure he will perform it admirably."

Neville's face went, if possible, even redder. Snape's lip curled, but he left, shutting the door with a snap.

"Now, then," said Professor Lupin, beckoning the class toward the end of the room, where there was nothing but an old wardrobe where the teachers kept their spare robes. As Professor Lupin went to stand next to it, the wardrobe gave a sudden wobble, banging off the wall.

"Nothing to worry about," said Professor Lupin calmly because a few people had jumped backward in alarm. "There's a boggart in there."

Most people seemed to feel that this was something to worry about. Neville gave Professor Lupin a look of pure terror, and Seamus Finnigan eyed the now rattling doorknob apprehensively.

"Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces," said Professor Lupin, "Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks… I've even met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock. This one moved in yesterday afternoon, and I asked the headmaster if the staff would leave it to give my third years some practice."

"So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a boggart?"

Hermione put up her hand.

"It's a shape-shifter," she said. "It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most."

"Couldn't have put it better myself," said Professor Lupin, and Hermione glowed. "So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears."

"This means," said Professor Lupin, choosing to ignore Neville's small sputter of terror, "that we have a huge advantage over the boggart before we begin. Have you spotted it, Harry?"

Trying to answer a question with Hermione next to him, bobbing up and down on the balls of her feet with her hand in the air, was very off-putting, but Harry had a go.

"Er… because there are so many of us, it won't know what shape it should be?"

"Precisely," said Professor Lupin, and Hermione put her hand down, looking a little disappointed. "It's always best to have company when you're dealing with a boggart. He becomes confused. Which should he become, a headless corpse or a flesh-eating slug? I once saw a boggart make that very mistake… tried to frighten two people at once and turned himself into half a slug. Not remotely frightening."

"The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing."

"We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please… Riddikulus!"

"Riddikulus!" said the class together.

"Good," said Professor Lupin. "Very good. But that was the easy part, I'm afraid. You see, the word alone is not enough. And this is where you come in, Neville."

The wardrobe shook again, though not as much as Neville, who walked forward as though he were heading for the gallows.

"Right, Neville," said Professor Lupin. "First things first: what would you say is the thing that frightens you most in the world?"

Neville's lips moved, but no noise came out.

"Didn't catch that, Neville, sorry," said Professor Lupin cheerfully.

Neville looked around rather wildly, as though begging someone to help him, then said, in barely more than a whisper, "Professor Snape."

"Professor Snape," Lupin chuckled along with the class, "yes, he frightens all. And I believe you live with your grandmother?"

"Er… yes," said Neville nervously, "But… I don't want the boggart to turn into her either."

"No," Lupin shook his head before he glanced back at the wardrobe, "It won't. I want you to picture her clothes. Only her clothes very clearly in your mind."

"She carries a red handbag," Neville said slowly.

"We don't need to hear," Lupin said shaking his head, "As long as you see it. We'll see it."

Neville nodded not entirely understanding.

"Now," Lupin said, "when I open that wardrobe, here's what I want you to do."

He then walked towards Neville and whispered something in his ear. The entire class strained their ears, but they couldn't hear anything.

"Can you do that?" Lupin asked in his normal voice. Neville nodded.

"Yes," Lupin said as he pulled out his wand, "Wand at the ready."

"One," Lupin counted as he checked to see if Neville had pulled out his wand, "Two. Three."

He then flicked his wand and the wardrobe's door suddenly opened. They all widened their eyes as they saw Snape exit the wardrobe and striding towards Neville.

"Think," Lupin said behind Neville, "Neville, think."

"Riddikulus!" said Neville as he flicked his wand at 'Snape'.

Suddenly, Snape's black clothes transformed into a long dress, a fox-fur scarf around the neck, and a tall hat with a stuffed vulture on top. In his hand was a big red handbag. That caused everyone to roar with laughter. Even the Slytherins burst out in laughter. Draco didn't but he had his tongue poking the inside of his cheek.

"Wonderful, Neville," Lupin said laughing, "wonderful. To the back Neville."

"Form a line," Lupin said as he walked towards a record player, "Form a line. I want everyone to picture what they fear the most and turn it into something…"

"Funny," Lupin finished as he turned on the record player.

Parvati walked forward, her face set. Snape rounded on her. There was another crack, and where he had stood was a bloodstained, bandaged mummy; its sightless face was turned to Parvati and it began to walk toward her very slowly, dragging its feet, its stiff arms rising…

"Riddikulus!" cried Parvati.

A bandage unraveled at the mummy's feet; it became entangled, fell face forward, and its head rolled off.

As soon as Seamus walked forward, there was a loud crack! Where the mummy had been was a woman with floor-length black hair and a skeletal, green-tinged face - a banshee. She opened her mouth wide and an unearthly sound filled the room, a long, wailing shriek that made the hair on Harry's head stand on end…

"Riddikulus!" shouted Seamus.

The banshee made a rasping noise and clutched her throat; her voice was gone.

Crack! The banshee turned into a rat, which chased its tail in a circle, then… crack! It became a rattlesnake, which slithered and writhed before… crack! It had become a single, bloody eyeball.

"It's confused!" shouted Lupin. "We're getting there!"

Dean was now at the front of the line.

Crack! The eyeball became a severed hand, which flipped over and began to creep along the floor like a crab.

"Riddikulus!" yelled Dean.

There was a snap, and the hand was trapped in a mousetrap.

"Excellent!" Lupin shouted.

"Ron, you're next," Lupin added when Ron didn't move.

Ron slowly walked forward as he didn't want to do this.

Crack!

Quite a few people screamed. A giant spider, six feet tall and covered in hair, was advancing on Ron, clicking its pincers menacingly. For a moment, Harry thought Ron had frozen. Then…

"Riddikulus!" bellowed Ron.

Suddenly, the spider somehow had roller skates on its feet. It began frantically trying to stay upright. However, as soon as John was at the front of the line… it vanished in a loud crack.

Now it was a balding man in a priest's uniform. In his hand was a bottle of alcohol and in his other were prayer beads with a cross at the end. He was glaring furiously at John and he was unsteady on his feet. Harry noticed that John wasn't doing anything. For John… that's abnormal. He's usually the first to react, and would normally deal with this quite easily. John just stood there as the man walked drunkenly towards John. Lupin looked up and grew concerned as John had genuine terror on his face. John was so afraid he couldn't do anything.

"Here!" shouted Professor Lupin suddenly, hurrying forward to place himself in front of John. Just as the man had raised his arm with the alcohol bottle it vanished in a loud crack.

For a second, everyone looked wildly around to see where it was. Then they saw a silvery-white orb hanging in the air in front of Lupin, who said, "Riddikulus!" almost lazily.

It suddenly turned into a balloon that suddenly flew around uncontrollably, and as it flew back towards the wardrobe Lupin flicked his wand which caused the door to open just enough to allow the boggart to fly in. As soon as it was in, the wardrobe locked.

"Excellent!" cried Professor Lupin as the class broke into applause. "Excellent, Neville. Well done, everyone… Let me See… five points to Gryffindor for every person to tackle the boggart… and five each to Hermione and Harry."

"But I didn't do anything," said Harry.

"You and Hermione answered my questions correctly at the start of the class, Harry," Lupin said lightly. "Very well, everyone, an excellent lesson. Homework, kindly read the chapter on boggarts and summarize it for me… to be handed in on Monday. That will be all."

Talking excitedly, the class left the staffroom. Harry, however, wasn't feeling cheerful. Professor Lupin had ended the class before Harry could have a go at the boggart. He wasn't overly disappointed, but still. Harry stopped once he realized that John hadn't moved an inch. John was still staring where the Boggart had been.

"Don't worry about him, Harry," Lupin said when he saw that Harry was lagging behind, "I'll see to him. Go on."

Harry reluctantly left the room, but as he did, he noticed that Fleur was the only other person not leaving. She had a concerned expression on her face.

"Hello," Lupin said when he noticed Fleur, "Can I help you, and what time did you get here?"

"Just now," Fleur replied, "I 'ad a feeling something was wrong, and I sort of teleported here."

"Oh, yes," Lupin said realizing who she was, "You're Fleur Delacour. I'm Remus Lupin. Nice to finally meet you."

"What 'appened?" Fleur asked as she walked towards John slowly.

"A boggart," Lupin replied as he walked back to John, "I don't know why, but his reaction to the boggart was severe. He just froze. I have never seen anyone else do that. Ron Weasley was close, but even he didn't freeze."

"He was terrified," Fleur said, "and he still is. I can feel it."

"John," Lupin said as he stared at him, "it's over now. The boggart's back in the wardrobe."

When John didn't respond, Lupin frowned out of concern. He and Fleur just stood there in silence for what felt like minutes.

"I think we need to get the headmaster," Lupin said finally, "Whatever it is, it's clearly psychological."

"I'll stay with him," Fleur said, and Lupin nodded feeling that it was best John wasn't left alone.

"You can use some chairs if you want," Lupin said as he headed towards the staff room's exit, "I may be a while."

Days later…

In no time at all, Defense Against the Dark Arts had become most people's favorite class. Only Draco Malfoy and his gang of Slytherins had anything bad to say about Professor Lupin.

"Look at the state of his robes," Malfoy would say in a loud whisper as Professor Lupin passed. "He dresses like our old house-elf."

But no one else cared that Professor Lupin's robes were patched and frayed. His next few lessons were just as interesting as the first.

After boggarts, they studied Red Caps, nasty little goblin-like creatures that lurked wherever there had been bloodshed: in the dungeons of castles and the potholes of deserted battlefields, waiting to bludgeon those who had gotten lost. From Red Caps they moved on to kappas, creepy. water-dwellers that looked like scaly monkeys, with webbed hands itching to strangle unwitting waders in their ponds.

Neither John nor Fleur had been seen for days. According to Lupin, John had been exempted from any Hogwarts classes due to something he had to do away from school. Fleur wasn't enrolled in the school, so it wasn't surprising that she also had gone MIA. Besides, now that she could go back and forth between Hogwarts and wherever she's staying she can just stay at home most of the time except for classes. However, with Fleur unable to concentrate due to John's condition she was also exempted. Anne was less than thrilled at how close John and Fleur seemed to be getting. However, her concern for John outweighed her jealousy.

Harry only wished he was as happy with some of his other classes. Worst of all was Potions. Snape was in a particularly vindictive mood these days, and no one was in any doubt why. The story of the boggart assuming Snape's shape, and the way that Neville had dressed it in his grandmother's clothes, had traveled through the school like wildfire. Snape didn't seem to find it funny. His eyes flashed menacingly at the very mention of Professor Lupin's name, and he was bullying Neville worse than ever.

Harry was also growing to dread the hours he spent in Professor Trelawney's stifling tower room, deciphering lopsided shapes and symbols, trying to ignore the way Professor Trelawney's enormous eyes filled with tears every time she looked at him. He couldn't like Professor Trelawney, even though she was treated with respect bordering on reverence by many of the class. Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown had taken to haunting Professor Trelawney's tower room at lunchtimes and always returned with annoyingly superior looks on their faces, as though they knew things the others didn't. They had also started using hushed voices whenever they spoke to Harry, as though he were on his deathbed.

Nobody really liked Care of Magical Creatures, which, after the action-packed first class, had become extremely dull. Hagrid seemed to have lost his confidence. They were now spending lesson after lesson learning how to look after flobberworms, which had to be some of the most boring creatures in existence.

"Why would anyone bother looking after them?" said Ron, after yet another hour of poking shredded lettuce down the flobberworms' throats.

"Their mucus can be used for potions," said Professor Scamander as he passed by when the students were preparing to head for Hogwarts, "Not many to be fair, but the potions they're used for can be essential to an Auror's survival. My brother was an Auror and he was poisoned once. Only a specific potion that requires the mucus of a flobberworm could save his life."

Ron immediately looked disgusted at that which made Newt chuckle.

At the start of October, however, Harry had something else to occupy him, something so enjoyable it more than made up for his unsatisfactory classes. The Quidditch season was approaching, and Oliver Wood, Captain of the Gryffindor team, called a meeting on Thursday evening to discuss tactics for the new season. John and fleur had also returned, but John didn't really do much except get private lessons with Remus Lupin. Specifically centered on dealing with whatever PTSD he acquired from when he lived with his dad, but only Remus and John knew that. Fleur and Anne became friendlier, sort of. In reality, Anne wanted to find out what about Fleur appealed to John so much.

There were seven people on a Quidditch team: three Chasers, whose job it was to score goals by putting the Quaffle (a red, soccer-sized ball) through one of the fifty-foot-high hoops at each end of the field; two Beaters, who were equipped with heavy bats to repel the Bludgers (two heavy black balls that zoomed around trying to attack the players); a Keeper, who defended the goalposts, and the Seeker, who had the hardest job of all, that of catching the Golden Snitch, a tiny, winged, walnut-sized ball, whose capture ended the game and earned the Seeker's team an extra one hundred and fifty points.

Oliver Wood was a burly seventeen-year-old, now in his seventh and final year at Hogwarts. There was a quiet sort of desperation in his voice as he addressed his six fellow team members in the chilly locker rooms on the edge of the darkening Quidditch field.

"This is our last chance… my last chance… to win the Quidditch Cup," he told them, striding up and down in front of them, "I'll be leaving at the end of this year. I'll never get another shot at it."

"Gryffindor hasn't won for seven years now. Okay, so we've had the worst luck in the world… injuries… then the tournament getting called off last year," Wood swallowed, as though the memory still brought a lump to his throat. "But we also know we've got the best-ruddy-team-in-the-school," he said, punching a fist into his other hand, the old manic glint in his eye. "We've got three superb Chasers."

Wood pointed at Alicia Spinner, Angelina Johnson, and Katie Bell.

"We've got two unbeatable Beaters."

"Stop it, Oliver, you're embarrassing us," said Fred and George Weasley together, pretending to blush.

"And we've got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match!" Wood rumbled, glaring at Harry with a kind of furious pride. "And me," he added as an afterthought.

"We think you're very good too, Oliver," said George.

"Spanking good Keeper," said Fred.

"The point is," Wood went on, resuming his pacing, "the Quidditch Cup should have had our name on it these last two years. Ever since Harry joined the team, I've thought the thing was in the bag. But we haven't got it, and this year's the last chance we'll get to finally see our name on the thing…"

Wood spoke so dejectedly that even Fred and George looked sympathetic.

"Oliver, this year's our year," said Fred.

"We'll do it, Oliver!" said Angelina.

"Definitely," said Harry.

Full of determination, the team started training sessions, three evenings a week. The weather was getting colder and wetter, the nights darker, but no amount of mud, wind, or rain could tarnish Harry's wonderful vision of finally winning the huge, silver Quidditch Cup.

Harry returned to the Gryffindor common room one evening after training, cold and stiff but pleased with the way practice had gone, to find the room buzzing excitedly.

"What's happened?" he asked Ron and Hermione, who were sitting in two of the best chairs by the fireside and completing some star charts for Astronomy.

"First Hogsmeade weekend," said Ron, pointing at a notice that had appeared on the battered old bulletin board. "End of October. Halloween."

"Excellent," said Fred, who had followed Harry through the portrait hole. "I need to visit Zonko's. I'm nearly out of Stink Pellets."

Harry threw himself into a chair beside Ron, his high spirits ebbing away. Hermione seemed to read his mind.

"Harry, I'm sure you'll be able to go next time," she said. "They're bound to catch Black soon. He's been sighted once already."

"Not likely," said the voice of Chas as he suddenly appeared next to them. He had gained a fair amount of weight while he was gone, and it was all muscle. He had also grown quite a lot. He was a little taller than John now. "Black escaped Azkaban. He'll be able to avoid any authorities and even the Dementors."

"So, you're Chas," Prue said from nearby as she looked him up and down, "I heard quite a bit about you."

"Black's not fool enough to try anything in Hogsmeade," said Ron feeling uncomfortable just by how Prue was staring at Chas. "Ask McGonagall if you can go this time, Harry. The next one might not be for ages-"

"Ron!" said Hermione. "Harry's supposed to stay in school-"

"He can't be the only third-year left behind," said Ron. "Ask McGonagall, go on, Harry-"

"Yeah, I think I will," said Harry, making up his mind.

"He won't be," Chas spoke up.

"What do you mean?" Ron asked confused.

"John's not going either," Chas said, "Not only is his legal guardian a jerk, but he's a muggle that hates magic. Hogsmeade being full of magic would immediately put him off. Also, John avoids him as much as possible. Why else do you think he went to stay at your place after our first year, Ron?"

"And after the second year," Ron said realizing Chas was right.

"According to Phoebe," Prue spoke up, "John actually has an exorcism job planned for around that time. She didn't say what exactly, but John hasn't told anyone. I don't think he's in the mood for friends right now. Whatever happened in the first class of Dark Arts Defense, clearly shook him completely."

"I think he just needs to feel strong enough to handle a demon solo," Chas suggested, "maybe that will help him handle his internal demons?"

Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment Crookshanks leaped lightly onto her lap. A large, dead spider was dangling from his mouth.

"Does he have to eat that in front of us?" said Ron, scowling.

"That's my cue for bed," Prue said disgustedly. She then walked off and stared at Chas as she did so. Chas couldn't help but get red in the face.

"Clever Crookshanks, did you catch that all by yourself?" said Hermione.

Crookshanks; slowly chewed up the spider, his yellow eyes fixed insolently on Ron.

"Just keep him over there, that's all," said Ron irritably, turning back to his star chart. "1've got Scabbers asleep in my bag."

Harry yawned. He wanted to go to bed, but he still had his star chart to complete. He pulled his bag toward him, took out parchment, ink, and quill, and started work.

"You can copy mine if you like," said Ron, labeling his last star with a flourish and shoving the chart toward Harry.

Hermione, who disapproved of copying, pursed her lips but didn't say anything. Crookshanks was still staring unblinkingly at Ron, flicking the end of his bushy tail. Then, without warning, he pounced.

"OI!" Ron roared, seizing his bag as Crookshanks sank four sets of claws deep inside it and began tearing ferociously. "GET OFF, YOU STUPID ANIMAL!"

Ron tried to pull the bag away from Crookshanks, but Crookshanks clung on, spitting and slashing.

"Ron, don't hurt him!" squealed Hermione; the whole common room was watching; Ron whirled the bag around, Crookshanks still clinging to it, and Scabbers came flying out of the top-

"CATCH THAT CAT' Ron yelled as Crookshanks freed himself from the remnants of the bag, sprang over the table, and chased after the terrified Scabbers.

George Weasley made a lunge for Crookshanks but missed; Scabbers streaked through twenty pairs of legs and shot beneath an old chest of drawers. Crookshanks skidded to a halt, crouched low on his bandy legs, and started making furious swipes beneath it with his front paw.

Ron and Hermione hurried over; Hermione grabbed Crookshanks around the middle and heaved him away; Ron threw himself onto his stomach and, with great difficulty, pulled Scabbers out by the tail.

"Look at him!" he said furiously to Hermione, dangling Scabbers in front of her. "He's skin and bone! You keep that cat away from him!"

"Crookshanks doesn't understand it's wrong!" said Hermione, her voice shaking. "All cats chase rats, Ron!"

"There's something funny about that animal!" said Ron, who was trying to persuade a frantically wiggling Scabbers back into his pocket. "It heard me say that Scabbers was in my bag!"

"Oh, what rubbish," said Hermione impatiently. "Crookshanks could smell him, Ron, how else d'you think-"

"That cat's got it in for Scabbers!" said Ron, ignoring the people around him, who were starting to giggle. "And Scabbers was here first, and he's ill!"

Ron marched through the common room and out of sight up the stairs to the boys' dormitories.

"It's like I was sent back in time," Chas remarked. The last time he was in Hogwarts was when Ron and Hermione hated each other after all. Of course, they became friends after Harry and Ron saved her. However, he doesn't know how much they've grown on a personal level due to being unable to go to Hogwarts for his second year. He had to go to Ilvermorny instead.

Ron was still in a bad mood with Hermione the next day. He barely talked to her all through Herbology, even though he, Harry, and Hermione were working together on the same puffapod.

"How's Scabbers?" Hermione asked timidly as they stripped fat pink pods from the plants and emptied the shining beans into a wooden pail.

"He's hiding at the bottom of my bed, shaking, " said Ron angrily, missing the pail and scattering beans over the greenhouse floor.

"Careful, Weasley, careful!" cried Professor Sprout as the beans burst into bloom before their very eyes.

They had Transfiguration next. Harry, who had resolved to ask Professor McGonagall after the lesson whether he could go into Hogsmeade with the rest, joined the line outside the class trying to decide how he was going to argue his case. He was distracted, however, by a disturbance at the front of the line.

Lavender Brown seemed to be crying. Parvati had her arm around her and was explaining something to Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who was looking very serious.

"What's the matter, Lavender?" said Hermione anxiously as she, Harry, and Ron went to join the group.

"She got a letter from home this morning," Parvati whispered. "It's her rabbit, Binky. He's been killed by a fox."

"Oh," said Hermione, "I'm sorry, Lavender."

"I should have known!" said Lavender tragically. "You know what day it is?"

"Er-"

"The sixteenth of October! 'That thing you're dreading, it will happen on the sixteenth of October!' Remember? She was right, she was right!"

The whole class was gathered around Lavender now. Seamus shook his head seriously. Hermione hesitated; then she said, "You-you were dreading Binky being killed by a fox?"

"Well, not necessarily by a fox," said Lavender, looking up at Hermione with streaming eyes, "but I was obviously dreading him dying, wasn't l?"

"Oh," said Hermione. She paused again. Then…

"Was Binky an old rabbit?"

"N-no!" sobbed Lavender. "H-he was only a baby!"

Parvati tightened her arm around Lavender's shoulders.

"But then, why would you dread him dying?" said Hermione.

Parvati glared at her.

"She didn't," said a Liverpudlian accent, "she's just one of those patsies that fall for a Carny's tricks."

They turned to see John Constantine standing there in his muggle clothes, and he looked like he hadn't had a wink of sleep which was proved by the circles under his eyes. His hair was also all over the place.

"What the bloody hell you looking at?" John growled.

They all looked away except for Hermione who stared at him with disapproval.

Professor McGonagall opened the classroom door at that moment, which was perhaps lucky for John; Hermione was about to tell John off for being an ass. When they got into class, Ron and Hermione sat on either side of Harry and didn't talk to each other for the whole class.

"Am I boring you, Mr. Constantine?" McGonagall asked less than happy when she saw John with his eyes closed.

"Huh?" John said slowly looking at her as he wasn't paying attention.

"Five points from Ravenclaw," McGonagall said immediately in reaction to his rudeness.

"A hundred points, zero points," John grunted. "Couldn't care less."

"Ten points from Ravenclaw," McGonagall said.

When John didn't do anything, McGonagall raised her wand and flicked it. That forced John to sit straight and with his eyes magically held open for the duration of the class.

"Whatever issues you have, Mr. Constantine," McGonagall said, "don't bring them into my class, or you'll receive detention. Consider that your final warning."

Harry still hadn't decided what he was going to say to Professor McGonagall when the bell rang at the end of the lesson, but it was she who brought up the subject of Hogsmeade first.

"One moment, please!" she called, as the class made to leave. "As you're all in my House, except for you Mr. Constantine, you should hand Hogsmeade permission forms to me before Halloween. No form, no visiting the village, so don't forget!"

Neville put up his hand.

"Please, Professor, I - I think I've lost-"

"Your grandmother sent yours to me directly, Longbottom," said Professor McGonagall. "She seemed to think it was safer. Well, that's all, you may leave."

"Ask her now," Ron hissed at Harry.

"Oh. but-" Hermione began.

"Go for it, Harry," said Ron stubbornly.

Harry waited for the rest of the class to disappear, then headed nervously for Professor McGonagall's desk.

"Yes, Potter?"

Harry took a deep breath.

"Professor, my aunt, and uncle… er… forgot to sign my form," he said.

Professor McGonagall looked over her square spectacles at him but didn't say anything.

"So… er d'you think it would be all right mean, will It be okay if I… if I go to Hogsmeade?"

Professor McGonagall looked down and began shuffling papers on her desk.

I'm afraid not, Potter," she said. "You heard what I said. No form, no visiting the village. That's the rule."

"But… Professor, my aunt, and uncle - you know, they're Muggles, they don't understand… about Hogwarts forms and stuff," Harry said, while Ron egged him on with vigorous nods. "If you said I could go-"

"But I don't say so," said Professor McGonagall, standing up and piling her papers neatly into a drawer. "The form clearly states that the parent or guardian must give permission." She turned to look at him, with an odd expression on her face. Was it pity? "I'm sorry, Potter, but that's my final word. You had better hurry, or you'll be late for your next lesson."

As he sullenly turned to leave, McGonagall spoke up.

"However," McGonagall said, "If you would, please help John get over whatever it is that has him acting so unlike himself. I heard about the Boggart incident from Professor Lupin, but I didn't get the particulars."

There was nothing to be done. Ron called Professor McGonagall a lot of names that greatly annoyed Hermione; Hermione assumed an "all-for-the-best" expression that made Ron even angrier, and Harry had to endure everyone in the class talking loudly and happily about what they were going to do first, once they got into Hogsmeade.

"There's always the feast," said Ron, to cheer Harry up. "You know, the Halloween feast, in the evening."

"Yeah," said Harry gloomily, "great."


Latin to English translation:

Latin: Et usque ad radices!

English: even out the roots!

A/N:

You know what you need to do if you like this story. Constructive criticism is welcome... as long as it's not 100% negative. don't know when I'll complete the next chapter, but it has recently been started.